Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Noah Willing

7 December 2011

In many households, you hear the phrase "God willing".
In Katie and Heath's house, the phrase is "Noah willing".
Truth be told, our wonderful grandson is a bit of a tyrant. He thinks the whole household exists to satisfy his every need and if his needs are not being met to his satisfaction, he lets you know it. He gets that from his father's side, of course.There's nothing stubborn about Greg or Katie or me.

Okay, I wasn't just struck by lightning so I'll continue.

The kids decided we would get professional pics of all of us done at Sears. It was a great idea but we misjudged our timing and Noah was not willing.

We love this picture. Noah is letting us know that he is not happy, I'm wondering how to stop the crying and Greg is serenely in his own little happy place. Om

Did you people not get it? I REALLY don't want to be here!

We arrived in Florida mid October. Greg stayed around for a couple of weeks but I got to stay until the end of November. When we were planning this stay, the kids had threatened to send me to Canada to visit my mother if I got on their nerves and so I tried to be very, very good. It worked. I wasn't sent to Canada.  In fact, after we got back, Heath sent me an email telling me what a big help I had been. I'm saving the email.

Thanks to FaceTime and the iPad, Greg was able to vicariously enjoy our grandson when he went back to Zurich.

 Heath and Katie are, as we had expected all along, awesome parents. They're also sleep deprived. Noah does pretty well sleeping through the night. Well, as well as a breast fed newish born baby can do. But he really doesn't see a need to waste time sleeping during the day unless he is in close proximity to his mommy ... very close proximity.

They're working on that.

Greg flew back to Florida so that we could fly out to California for our traditional Thanksgiving with Greg's family. Our Noah, who hates being confined to a car seat, proved himself to be a pro when it came to flying.

If they're not going to feed me, I'll just eat my arm ...
... or my Mom. Noah, we have to work on your kissing skills!

Who knew we'd need so many diapers on this flight? Diapers, diapers, WHERE ARE YOU?

In fact, they even let him into the cockpit to give the pilot a bit of advice on his landing!

Every Thanksgiving, we fight to keep Greg's mom out of the kitchen but she always seems to find her way back in and then she gets really tired from all the Thanksgiving preps. This year, our nephew Craig hosted the festivities ... but he left all the cooking to his mom, Chris. Just like her mom, Chris wouldn't let any of us help. Dinner with turkey and buffalo prime rib was delicious! Great job, Chris!

Noah meets Great Grandma & Grandpa Hill and Great Aunt Chris.

Of course, no visit to California would be complete without Pinnochle.

Back in Florida, we had a little more time to spend with the kids and our special wee boy.

Isn't he adorable? My hubby's pretty cute, too.

Back in Zurich, we're keeping ourselves occupied. My friend Kathy C told us about a wonderful Christmas market in Bremgarten, a lovely little medieval town an hour train ride from here. The town was beautiful but the crowds weren't. Greg compared them to Times Square on New Year's Eve. After shoving our way from one end of the town to the other, Greg declared he had had more than enough.

We've been enjoying wandering the streets of our wonderful city, admiring all the stunning Christmas decorations.

The Swarovski Xmas tree towers above Greg in the Christmas market in the Haupbahnhof (main train station). It's the largest indoor Christmas market in Switzerland.

Here is an ass. I wanted Greg in the picture, too, so I could say "Here is an ass. There's a donkey in the picture, too."

And here is an ass' ass. Aren't his Christmas stockings adorable?

Yesterday I went out on a quest for vaccuum cleaner bags. I didn't know the German for vaccuum cleaner so made sucking sounds with my mouth, earning startled and wary looks from the salesmen. After three stores, I finally bagged my prey and, better yet, I spotted some Christmas trees for only 25 francs: a bargain!  I hauled my trophy home on the tram.

Zurich rewarded my brave endeavors with a spectacular sunset.

And only two more weeks until the kids are here for Christmas!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


12 October 2011

We're not sure whether Vistakon will extend Greg's contract beyond December and, if it doesn't, whether we'll stay on here for awhile or reinvent ourselves somewhere else. So many decisions!

But one decision we don't have to debate is our love of traveling and we plan to squeeze in as much as we can in whatever amount of time is left for us here.

Which leads us to last weekend. Since we had only driven through Ticino, the Italian and most southern part of Switzerland, we decided it was time to pay it a visit. We chose Bellinzona because it is the terminal for transportation to the rest of Switzerland and Italy. We enjoyed our 2 1/2 hour train trip through the mountains in first class comfort and Greg was very happy not to have to drive through narrow mountain passes. We stayed in the Hotel International which was right across from the train station which in turn was right smack in the middle of the small medieval (what else?) town.

Bellinzona is very pretty but also small so a weekend visit was perfect.  The town's main claim to fame are the three castles which were built to take advantage of the site's bottleneck for caravans traveling between northern Europe and Italy: lots of loot to be made from toll booths!  The castles are - are you ready for this? - a Unesco World Heritage site!

Saturday market with Castelgrande looming in background.

View of the middle castle.

The buildings were beautifully painted and adorned with other ornamentation.

The castles and other buildings were lit up at night. This was taken from our hotel room balcony.

Sasso Corbaro is the topmost castle. We took a bus up to it but there was still some hoofing to be done to get up to the rock outcropping on which the castle sits. Gorgeous old chestnut trees have managed to grow on the rock and we saw several people, sacs in hand, gathering the generous crop of chestnuts littering the ground.

The expression "hold onto your hats" took on new meaning as we climbed up to the castle. The wind was stronger than a nor' easter in Florida. Later, the hotel desk clerk told us that Bellinzona is usually very windy, the wind being channeled down through two valleys. Fortunately, the cloudy skies held onto their rain - no umbrella would have been a match for that wind!

Casso Corbaro was well worth the visit for the view alone. It also had a wonderful exhibit of photographs and relics of the way of life in Bellinzona at the beginning of the 20th century. I was amazed at the huge loads of flax that everyone - men, women and even young children - carried on their backs down from the steep mountain slopes. They also had a display of Singer sewing machines that were specially adapted to sew brims onto hats and to sew gloves.

This one is out of order but it shows the middle and uppermost castles taken from the Castelgrande in town.

Hold onto your hat

You can see all the way to Lake Maggiore in the next valley.

A view out to the vineyards.

Looking out at the church we passed on our walk down (see below).

Left: Castelgrande, the lowest castle. Ritght: Montebello, the middle castle.

Despite the wind, we enjoyed our walk down to Montebello, the middle castle. (Well, I did - Greg kept griping about the wind and how long it was taking me as I stopped and shot pictures all the way down.)

Church in the vineyards. Ticino is the warmest part of Switzerland, with a Mediterranean climate, so you see palm trees.

walking down to the middle castle

Great sense of priorities! "Hey guys, somebody might attack the castle. Let's make sure we have a wine press on hand!"

Inner fortifications - these guys were seriously paranoid!

looking at the castle in town

On the left is a seat with a hole in it set in the wall. Yup, it's the toilet!

More walking - this time down into town.

Lovely plants on a stone wall.

We stopped for lunch and then carried on to the final castle. The oldest and largest castle, Castelgrande is built on a huge outcropping of rock and the city grew up around it. We had to take an elevator to get to the top!

Castelgrande. The door at the end of the street leads to the elevator to the top. Can you imagine attacking this castle?

Looking up at Montebello and Sasso Corbaro.


Where were my Canadian Cousins? Check out the circle of new trucks!

Two valleys funneling into this one - no wonder it's windy!

For whom the bells toll ... they toll for me!

Elevator up ... walk down.

Our Friday night meal was just so-so but Saturday's meal at Osteria Mistral was one of the best meals we've ever eaten. The owner suggested we try the "Surprise Menu" which we did, choosing the four course option. It began with an "amuse bouche" (a pre appetizer not counting as one of the four courses). I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of it because it was the highlight of the meal: a zucchini blossom with a pinkie finger sized zucchini attached, the blossom stuffed with a very fine cheese polenta. The next courses are shown below.

Pumpkin soup with a scoop of pear sherbert in the middle. Sounds weird but it was delicious!

Fish from Lake Maggiore with a frothy beet sauce.

Braised beef you could cut with a fork with a wild mushroom sauce.

Poached apple filled with a creamy pudding. Mint leaf.

Sunday morning, we awoke to discover that a fine dusting of snow had covered the mountain peaks during the night. The train ride home was beautiful. I snapped a few photos but of course they didn't turn out very well.

Half of one of the first class cars had these really cool private compartments and we managed to grab one.

The pink part is the reflection of my camera in the window.

At the highest pass, the snow was right down into the village!

Lake Zug, near Zurich.

It was a wonderful weekend and it helped keep my mind off the very very wonderful thing that will happen tomorrow ...