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Friday, January 30, 2015

Funny Friday - Chillin'

Today’s post is January’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month. Funny Friday is a collaborative project. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.

Here’s today’s picture. It was submitted by Baking In A Tornado:

  1. When you said you were buried I thought you had homework to do!
  2. Wasn't the whole "if I can't see you - you can't see me" mystery solved when you were 3 years old?
  3. Have you seen my car keys? - This one is for you, Karen :-)
  4. What would you like for dinner? (No answer, wow, he's really asleep)
  5. You don't mind if I switch off the TV, do you? 

Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile: 

Stacy Sews and Schools
The Bergham’s Life Chronicles
Follow me home

Baking In A Tornado
Someone Else’s Genius
Confessions of a part-time working mom

The Momisodes
Sanity waiting to happen
Spatulas on Parade
Juicebox Confession
Cluttered Genius
Eileen’s Perpetually Busy

So if you read this at 12 noon EST or later, I'll be at our Office Christmas Party.

No Mongolian BBQ this time. We're going to Andy's Place tonight.

And I am going, too, yay! Earlier today I thought I'd have to cancel.

My poor mom who was supposed to babysit has been feeling unwell these past days. Of course this morning she woke up having a full fledged flu.

"Couldn't you ask Eric's family?" She suggested. In theory a great idea. In reality Eric's family (=Colin's best friend) is skiing in the mountains this week. Same goes for our neighbors.

Damn! If one time I need a babysitter and my mom is not on vacation or hired to take pictures at a wedding, she is sick.

Should I ask Bettina, a student, whose parents are friends with my mom? She's always busy, and she's never been to our house. I think the last time Colin saw her was a long time ago, he might not even remember her.

I called our daycare and asked for Manuela, a girl who helped me out in 2013 when I was in a similar situation.

"I'd love to, but I'm afraid I can't tonight. My mom is going on vacation, and she has invited to whole family for dinner."

Can you believe lovely Manuela suggested she'd pass up on the dinner and join her family for dessert if I made it back by 10pm?


I talked to Colin on the phone. I felt so guilty. Like shipping him off from one person to the next so I could go out. I know that he doesnt't like my going out at all, and I really don't go often, 2 - 3 times a year, but still.

The half hour he's already tucked in bed and wants one more hug and urgently has tell me something that happenend last month, or the month before, is the most important and precious time of the day.

He took it easy. "That's fine" he said.
He rocks!
Isn't he just a sweetheart?


Thursday, January 29, 2015

How'd I do on the frugality challenge?

If you come here often, you are aware of my January pledge. I was trying to feed my family on 30 bucks per day. 

Unlike the folks who were being portrayed in that article I had the liberty to tackle my challenge in January, so I didn't have to face the scenario of not being able to afford a Christmas tree, gifts, baking goods, decoration items and a fancy Christmas eve dinner. 

Today is January 29, and with some creative bookkeeping - I will tell you about a list that contains items I could have done without in a minute -  I ended up almost making it. Spent 50 bucks* too much on essentials. Not too bad.

*Can you believe auto-correct wanted me to say "I spent 50 pucks too much"?! Does this computer know I am a hockey mom?

Let me tell you about my main findings, in a random order:

Frozen food is expensive! I have never paid attention. I won't abandon it, though. It's just too convenient to have ready to eat veggies in the freezer at all times. 
However I am not too impressed about buying a large package of ground beef and freezing smaller portions. Can't just throw it in the pan and expect it to thaw immediately! Frozen solid! Stubborn sob took 20 minutes!

Diced tomatoes go really fast! I bought two six-packs on sale and thought they would last for a long time. Well, they don't in a house where people like their Italian food!

Having a weekly meal plan that includes items which are on sale would be a good thing. It'd go hand in hand with ordering online. Only order what's on the plan. Maybe I should make February the "meal planner month", what do you think, give it at least a try? Blog about almost making it and including a bunch of excuses a month later?

The first thing I would have to give up altogether if things became tough financially, would be my Coke Zero addiction. I drink about a four days' worth per month. Remember 1 day = CHF or USD 30.

I prepare snacks for Colin to take to school every morning. Why have I never made a box for myself, too? Most of the times on office days I purchase some salad bowls or sandwiches from the supermarket across the street, and it's not even yummy!

Socializing is what killed me the most. One day my neighbor texted me and asked if she could send over her three kids for an hour or so on Thursday. She and her husband needed to meet with their son's teacher at 5:45pm. 
They have been living next door almost seven years, and this is the third favor she's ever asked. I looked after two of her kids one time when she had a doctor's appointment with the youngest. Plus she rang my bell once when she was pregnant and sick and needed a Coke. 

Now myself… I don't know how many times I went over there to borrow an egg, some milk or flour, oh, and to use her washing machine when mine broke in the middle of a load and everything was soaking wet. 

So OF COURSE I texted back saying her kids were welcome to play and also have dinner at our house. She hesitated because she didn't want me to have extra work. She was kidding, right, I had to make dinner anyway!
"Don't be silly, and when the two of you are done there's gonna be food for you, too! Consider it our Happy New Year's Party!"

That did the trick!

So it it's a party there's dessert, right? That's not what got me in trouble. On the contrary! I took it as an opportunity to upcycle some Christmas chocolate. Poor choc Santa's cause of death was melting... In favor of brownie batter.


No, all of a sudden I realized I didn't have enough soup plates! I was going to make Spaghetti, and with kids at the table, flat dishes were not a good idea. Now of course I could have served the pasta on flat plates for the grown-ups and give the soup plates to the kids. Or ask the neighbors to BYO. But let's be honest, I was going to need a decent amount of proper plates sooner or later, and I kind of loved the opportunity. Only they cost more than two days worth of my budget, so they went on the list of "not absolutely necessary, spent the bucks anyway."

That list grew quickly. Meeting for coffee with a newly Swissed English speaking mom, gotta welcome the new kid on the block, right?

I bought two new pairs of jeans for Mr C. I could have gone to the second hand shop that belongs to my charity and probably spent half the amount than in retail. Opening hours are very inconvenient for me during the week so I would have to go on Sat morning which is my hang out in PJ time. I know, that's lame. On the other hand I bought them at the supermarket and not the mall. Because no mall this month!

He also unexpectedly needed sneakers in the middle of winter. Daycare wanted to spend an afternoon at the indoor climbing wall. 

Then Colin got invited to the movies by his friends. They went to see the Paddington movie.

He didn't spend the money I gave him. His friend's mom took care of everything and didn't want to hear anything. Planes movie, remember? Thanks, D, in the name of the money challenge!

Back to our Spaghetti Party! The kids had a blast as you can see!

The grown-ups had some time to connect. It's kind of terrible how in winter you can live so close-by and hardly ever see each other!

This is our regular plate:

This is our new, fancy plate aka budget buster:

A very prettty budget buster, though, right?
Especially when holding a chocolate orange marble cake, yum!

Speaking of socializing. Colin got invited to a birthday party. By triplets! Of which one boy is in his class. So what's the etiquette on gifts? One per kid, right? Now if THAT is not a case for the "not budgeted, spent the bucks anyway list". 

Then I had to introduce exception day. First day of school winter break. C needed a haircut. Which he  could get perfectly well just about anywhere. However, we like to make hair appointment day = day in the city. We had pizza, tried to catch snow with our tongues, played table soccer at the toy store, even went to Starbucks which doesn't go well with saving money. A haircut at the toy store kids' salon is on the pricey side, too. Well, if you calculate the popcorn and movie that is included, it ain't so bad anymore. 

All in all I am still pretty happy about my achievements. Even if I didn't lose any weight, not even after being sick for a week.

So with the money I saved I went shopping... for yet another purse.

Kidding. Remember - I didn't set foot in the mall the whole month! This alone is reason to be proud.

Instead I became a member with a Facebook group dedicated to help out families in need. There are more than 1,600 members who would be happy about any kind of support - and about 30 helpers (who are called angels which makes me feel embarrassed). 

Anyway. I sent supermarket vouchers, equivalent to cash, to three single moms. 

How was your January? Did you avoid the flu? Get some purging done? Work out? Smile a lot?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Use Your Words - Caribbean Cruise

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: 

Coverage ~ disclosure ~ lotion ~ window ~ deep pit ~ basket

They were submitted by 
The Momisodes  - thank you, Sarah!

Remember when a scientific quiz revealed I was a workaholic elf, and we all agreed I should take a vacation? Guess what? 

I am there! 

If I was going to fail my 30 bucks challenge, why not making it a big fail!

It all happened very quickly and totally unplanned, but here I am on a cruise in the Caribbean, and it's fantastic! I've never been on a cruise, and I always thought it was something for old people, but I have to say there is something to it. You don't have to worry about a thing, they take care of it all.

My suite has a large window door that opens to the balcony. The ocean view is something else! On my bedside table they put this huge tropical fruit basket. along with a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine plus some sun lotion. Good thinking! The amenities on that ship are incredible! Restaurants, swimming pools, sports courts, spa, gym, movie theater, library, you name it! Oh, and did I mention wi-fi and cell phone coverage all around?

What I probably like best is the piano bar. Very relaxing. I spend every happy hour there, sipping on a glass of (sparkling) wine, enjoying the fantastic atmosphere.

So apart from happy hour at the piano bar, how do I spend my time? 

As the name says, mostly we cruise ;-) Especially on day 1 and 2. 

Then we dock on exotic places like Labadee, Haiti or Ocho Rio, Jamaica. 

You can sunbathe on the beach, go on a bamboo river raft, soar down the world's largest zip line over water, bounce on trampolines and enjoy slides at the Acqua Park. 

One night there was a BBQ in a deep-pit fireplace at the beach, and some friendly locals were playing Twoubadou music.

I am soaking up those moments and hope to bring home a piece of that laid-back way of life. I really should tell myself from time to time to let it be and stop running around getting sh** done all the time, cause that's just too exhausting.


I got sick. Hard. It all happened very quickly and totally unplanned, but here I am, spending my days and nights in bed, going through several PJs a day. I've got to have hubs, Colin and my mom taking care of it all.

I don't know who would pay to get the flu, but hey, to each his own!
My bedroom has a large window door that opens to the balcony. I can see a bit of our neighbor's garden and their house. Hubby brought a small bowl with grapes that I keep on my nightstand, next to the tissues and the Chinese anti-headache oil. My entertainment, as far as I'm up to it, is my phone. Yes, full wi-fi and cell phone coverage at home ;-) Mostly I just want to keep my eyes closed and crawl under my bed cover.

I rediscovered a two hour long playlist I used to listen to when blogging:

So how do I spend my time? I try to sleep and sweat it off. I'm not hungry. I know, that's not my usual self. My only trips lead to the bathroom or the fridge for some water. 

The other night my muscles were so sore from coughing and because I've been lying all the time. It hurt to be in any horizontal position, back, sides, stomach, I was desperate. Also Colin who likes to join us in the middle of the night, was taking up a lot of space. 

I grabbed my pillow and went over to his room, and with lots of moaning and swearing I hefted his junior mattress onto the pullout couch (which is so uncomfortable I can't even sleep on it when I'm not sick), created an extension with extra pillows, covered myself with his junior duvet and some extra blankets and tried to sleep. 

My whole body was aching badly, and it was cold. I wouldn't have minded that deep-pit fireplace just about now! As it turned out the next morning, the heating had broken down once again, and I had to reboot it. Yay, a trip down to the cold basement. It's 38 steps, each way. 

Hubby thought it was time for me to go see a doctor, which in theory was a good idea. Only I don't have one. I have a dentist, a dental hygienist, a dermatologist, an optician I just saw the day before that awful headache hit me, a gynecologist and my iron doc whom I trust and whom I consider to be my general practitioner, only his office is a half hours' drive away, and I didn't think I could do that trip in my state. All the local doctor's offices are full and don't accept any new patients, I have tried that many times. 

"How about that phone doc organization?" 
Genius! My health care coverage includes Medgate - a medical phone support system that has been set up in order to prevent people from running to the doc for every boo-boo. 

After recovering from the exertions of a shower with only lukewarm water (heating was down the whole night, remember) I called, described my complaints to an assitant, had to wait 10 maybe 15 minutes for a call back, and the lady doc told me not to be stubborn and take some pain meds, because from what I've told her, my muscles around the thorax were severely tensed up and obstructing proper ventilation of my lungs. "You even could have fractured a rib from coughing. If you can't relax, you could end up getting pneumonia" she said. 

No thanks. I told her the meds my husband brought made me break out in a major sweat and dropped my blood pressure to a point I couldn't get up without getting dizzy. She told me what pills to get and encouraged me to call again if things wouldn't improve.

Fortunately they did. 

And I could resume my regular everyday life.

You know, the running around, getting sh** done kind...

Don't ask what your health can do for you  -
Ask what you can do for your health!

The cruise? Maybe next time!

Now go find out what my friends' words were, and what they did with them:

Baking In A Tornado 
Stacy Sews and Schools
Spatulas on Parade 
The Bergham Chronicles
Confessions of a part time working mom 
Juicebox Confession
Someone Else's Genius
The Momisodes
Battered Hope
Eileen’s Perpetually Busy
Evil Joy Speaks

Friday, January 9, 2015

January Secret Subject Swap - Toys

Welcome to January's Secret Subject Swap. Again 14 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  
Sit back, grab a cup and check them all out:

My subject is 

What was your favorite toy as a child?

It was submitted by Stacy Sews and Schools- thanks, Stacy!

I can tell you what my favorite toy would be today if I had it - that cool Lego Starbucks set above!

But let's rewind to my childhood. 

I did love Lego! My brother and I had Lego streets, so we built a city. He was in charge of all the vehicles, and I built the houses and gardens and named the characters. 

At Christmas and birthdays the ultimate test to determine if we were going to like a wrapped gift, was shaking the box. When there was this distinctive sound revealing it was Lego we ripped it open before anyone could say "take it easy!"

I also liked to play with dolls. I mainly did their hair. Once I painfully realized that dolls' hair didn't regrow I stopped cutting it. However I gave them "perms", tried out different hairdos, decorated it with jewelry, you get the picture.

When I was 9 or 10 I got disco roller skates that I loved. My girlfriend from the neighborhood had some, too, so weather permitting we were skating on the pavement, setting up road cones - they served as slalom poles - or just wore them, the skates, not the cones, sat down, chewed gum and chatted.

Mine were blue, white and red, too!
I liked to paint, draw, read, play Memory and other board games, but if I had to decide on my favorite, favorite toy I think it would be…

No, I'm not telling you just yet.

Instead you need to know that my parents had this 70s cabinet / rack thing that held the components of their stereo equipment, think record player, cassette tape deck, radio. The lower compartment stored vinyl discs, albums and singles. Kind of like this one here:

Now use your imagination - what does a stereo cabinet have to do with a girl's favorite toy? 

I was around 6 or 7 years old.

It's not that I was allowed to play records on my own. Also the hippest music my parents were listening to back then probably was Neil Diamond.

That rack became my doll house! The record compartment served as a parking garage for my wooden convertible car, comparable to this one, only mine had four seats.

The other compartments were rooms. Kitchen, living room, playroom, bedrooms,… I don't think I had much real furniture. I made my own using Lego, cardboard boxes and other packaging items that I painted. 

I wish taking pictures wasn't restricted to holidays and vacation back then, so I could show it to you!

Here are a couple of other pictures that I found, thanks to my Mom who put together a binder with important childhood memorabilia. My first school schedule, field trips, a list of books I read in second grade. 

Cute. Colin is going through it as I write. He is impressed to see me in a newspaper article. I didn't write it, I went to a book signing by my favorite author, and the picture they took shows the author and me plus some extras.

Wooden railway and dolls, ca. 1974
1976? Lego living room with a piano, even. I forgot that I had this!
Playmobil ambulance, Christmas 1977
Samichlaus and Schmutzli, I think 1978
A letter I typed for my Mom telling her that I was the boss at the office, 1978
Rubik's cube, 1980 or 81.
I was bored in school so I memorized the instructions.
I can still do it, so school paid off for me after all ;-)
1981, from book worm to blogger ;-)
Anyway, my cabinet / doll house. 

I played house. I was a SAHM taking her two kids - a boy and a girl - to school, going groceries shopping, cooking… Sometimes there were playdates and birthday parties, and I drove back and forth to pick up my children's friends. You remember, my car had four seats only. And my kids were popular!  

I can't remember if I did laundry, too. Everything else was pretty much the way it is today, except I didn't have an office job. It was the 70s, and none of my friends' mothers had a job outside the house. 

Let me comment on this picture I drew when I was about 8 years old. It shows the difference between country and city life, obviously. 

There's also a church in the mountains. I liked to draw churches, I have many more paintings of churches. I guess I preferred to sketch them instead of going there. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming. No chirping birds, though.

The most important building is a triple M supermarket with a restaurant on the top floor, fruit on the third and wool (Why? I have no idea!!!) on the second. 

I still like to shop there, btw. In Switzerland we have two main supermarket chains, Migros and Coop. Both holding a little over a third of the market share, Migros being a tiny little ahead in sales. Note how small Coop is in my picture. 

8yo me thought of a gas station for the cars. No parking lot, though. Where are the cars supposed to go, certainly not to the playground area! Maybe there's too much traffic in that city as it is. The poor tree doesn't have any leaves.

Colin immediately noticed that the hiker's white and blue flag representing the canton of Zurich was all wrong. It's supposed to be this way, for the record, hahaha!

Speaking of Colin, he was playing catering while I blogged. With his green Lego delivery truck he brought baked goods, specifically Lego (cup) cakes! The colorful paper stripes on the floor are toy money he made, so I could pay for my food! He also does pizza deliveries, along with wine :-)

Conclusion: No matter if it's the 1970s or the 2010s, basically the same thing applies: Lego, a couple of paper sheets, an old piece of furniture and a vivid imagination make for great playing memories!

What was your favorite toy back then?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Less is More - the 30 bucks challenge

HAPPY NEW YEAR! People, it's January, you know what that means! 

Time for Christmas trees to disappear.

Enjoying some snow!

Making resolutions about purging, purging some more, losing weight, eating more healthily, exercising, saving time and money…

And because I am really bad at committing to goals and sticking to the plan, this meme just about sums it up:

I read Meredith's post about the very subject the other day and remembered that I had a "to read pile" as well, and that the days between New Year's and back to work were perfect to actually do so. If I didn't read those magazines by January 5 I would throw them away, I said to myself. 

Today I am half way through. Of course I got distracted, but in the process I cleaned out Colin's room, and I did a good job at it!

I would like to share the best article I read, you are going to want to hear this:

Italian researchers conducted a study on eating pizza and  health issues. 

It's not what you think! 

They concluded that people who eat pizza at least twice a week are 56% less likely to end up with cardiovascular diseases.

Even though 2015 has only just begun, I think this is  going to make the list of the greatest recoveries of the year! Especially in combination with the fact that the daily glass of red wine is doing good things for your heart as well! 

Guess what was for dinner last night? ;-)

As I didn't have the necessary ingredients, somebody had to run to the market. I was hoping it'd be hubby (still in his PJs) or Colin (would love to take the car but can't reach the gas pedal… Plus he's known for making out of the box purchases) 

So it was me. 

On a rainy Saturday. Yes, sadly the snow is gone.

The first Saturday after the stores have been closed for two days. 2nd January is a local holiday around here. Parking lots are going to be crowded, and don't get me started on the aisles and checkout lines.

Did I have to go? Really?

Wait! There's the DRIVE I have been wanting to try out! It was built from scratch last summer and opened in September, is only a five minutes'  drive away, and I haven't been there yet, can you believe it? 

The two hours' wait between online order and pick-out prevented me from doing so. Also I was suspicious about the quality of fresh produce they would pack for you.

So today I signed up and placed my order. It was fairly easy, and they had most of the items I wanted. 

And for the ones they didn't offer there was a button "didn't find what you were looking for? Suggest an item!" So I basically sent them my wish list, hahaha, let's see if I will ever hear back or discover the stuff within their range of goods.

Out of curiosity I searched for items I didn't really need. I found a section "international cuisine" which sounded promising. Guess what...

No USA / Canada section! :-( 

No graham or peanut butter crackers, allspice or pumpkin puree. 

They did hide some Oreos in the Great Britain section though, surrounded by a gazillion varieties of tea and beer.

Upon completing my order they sent me a text message with a code that I was going to need for the pick-up. Also they told me to bring a credit or debit card, no cash. Fine with me, but why can't I pay up front online?

First things first though. Reheated lunch for the family. Mushroom risotto, sweet peas, carrots. Checked off two three items from my list: healthy food, time and money saved. 

Then off to recycling paradise

Again? I know, right? Unbelievable how much stuff can accumulate in a short amount of time. Not only at my house as it turned out! The place was busy today!

On my way back I stopped at the gas station and enjoyed the remarkably lower gas prices, also I remembered to remove the nozzle. It was going to be a good day!

It was just about time for my grocery pick-up. 

I was excited! 

My first impression was a bit of a slap in the face. They make you stop at the pay station. Which is not covered to protect you from the pouring rain. 

Why would it be? In Switzerland we only average about 160 rainy days a year?!

I had to enter the code they gave me. The touch screen wasn't working very well. Probably because it was wet. I had to start over several times.

As the driver you naturally use your left hand which isn't helping when you are right-handed. 

Once the machine accepts your code you have to insert your credit card. Enter your pin. Wait for the receipt. By which time your left arm - or both your arms if you were desperate enough to use your right one - as well as part of your seat and dashboard are soaking wet, and you are really upset. 

Arriving at your assigned platform I waited for six minutes. Just about enough the calm halfway down.

The rest went very well. 

A friendly guy brought my purchases. A bag of chilled stuff, a bag of frozen stuff, a bag of other stuff, and then there was a container with the stuff to go through with me: fresh veggies, fruit and an egg carton - to make sure it was full, and none were broken.

He also offered to pass along my feedback on building a roof in order to protect convenience seeking customers from annoying precipitations. 

So I think I will do it again soon. With practice, the online ordering process will take less time, and I'll only order what we really need. Because I am one of those people who walks through the aisles and not only discovers things but puts them in the cart when at a store. 

I read an article the other day (it was actually online, not from a magazine on the to read stack) portraying a family of four who had to live off CHF 30 a day in December. They are debt-ridden, and the Dad's (= only) income was pounded, so they ended up not being able to afford a Christmas tree and only bought small gifts for the kids. 

Now we are in Switzerland, and an article like this makes people reach into their pockets and donate some money, after all it's Christmas. Also if the numbers that are mentioned in the article are true, that family actually got screwed by the authorities because there is such a thing as a minimal subsistence level, so I'm sure their social worker will help them getting what they're entitled to… in January, when the authorities' office are open again.

Also this family is good company. An estimated 590,000 people in Switzerland share a similar situation. That's 7% of the population, about twice as much as are listed as unemployed.

It got me thinking. 30 bucks for the whole family! 930 a month. Would I manage? 

I think I should try.

Now I am not sure if that covers gas for the car, too, because this alone would screw up my week completely! Sorry, no lunch or dinner today, I had to stop at the gas station!

If you don't live in Switzerland you may think 30 bucks per day isn't so bad. Here are a couple of prices for you:

Subject to correction. How can American apples be that pricey?

That is crazy, right? Do we really make twice as much as our neighbors so we can afford our own groceries? No wonder so many Swiss people go shopping in Germany!  

Sources: Le Shop, Kaufland, Mein Metzger BLS and others

So in order to make it official here is my pledge: I will try the 30 bucks per day challenge during the month of January. My trip to the DRIVE almost used up 15% of my budget:

If I run out of money before the end of the month, luckily I've got a backup plan: 

Colin's Delivery Service: Pizza and a glass of wine, plus a smile!

PS: this is my 200th post! Have a glass of wine with me!