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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Top Ten Thursday - Things to know about me

Welcome to Top Ten Thursday!

Today we're talking about things to know about me so we get along fine (in the morning, in traffic, at work, at the market,...)

1. I'm not a morning person. It's best to leave me alone and not talk to me until I've at least had my coffee. Also, please don't whistle, sing or do other cheerful things, it drives me crazy. Needless to say it's also not recommended to try and negotiate some screen time.
2. Pay attention to what happens on the street. Green means go, I don't have all day! Be aware that if I saw you cutting the line earlier, I'm sure as h*** not gonna let you squeeze in now!

3. Ever heard of a person's personal space? I value mine! Keep your shopping cart away from my butt; you'll get to put your purchases on the belt any second now!

4. I don't appreciate telephone marketers. I know you're just doing your job, but we have an entry in the phone directory that says "no advertising", and we mean it! I don't want to switch healthcare or phone providers, I don't want to subscribe to a magazine, and I don't want to participate in a survey. don't care what "internal database" you got our number from (actually I wonder who sold it to you, but I don't want to get into that discussion with you), just delete it and make sure not to call again. 

5. Doctors are busy people. So am I. If I have an appointment at 9am I expect to see the doc not later than at 9:15. If I want to sit around, reading magazines for an hour, I's rather go to Starbucks. 

6. Not only do I worry about time (as I am entitled to, being Swiss and all), I worry about service (this one must be the wanna-be American in me, according to Phil, a very wise Aussie mate) So if you're my cleaning lady, I expect you to do your job, and if a problem arises that is within your range of expertise, I expect you to solve it, or at the very least to call me. "Sorry, I couldn't finish" is not acceptable.

7. If you're a waiter and you take my order, please write it down and make sure to pass it on. It's the small things, you know? I'd like my ice cream without whipped cream, and I don't care that I don't have to pay for it, I didn't want it in the first place, and I don't want to scrape it off!

8. I love Facebook, and I spend quite some time going through people's posts. If I like it, I give it a thumbs up, if I have something to say, I comment. If people ask me a question on my post, I answer. It'd be nice if you did that, too, especially after some horrific status like "I can't believe this, I'm so screwed!" Of course people start asking what happened. No reaction from you? Not cool. 

9. If you specifically ask for my opinion or advice, have the courtesy to listen to what I have to say. Otherwise be fair and tell me that all you need is an outlet for your dumping crap need to talk.

10. I am an accommodating and helpful person, however if the only time you ever approach me is when you want something from me, it's not perceived well. I'm sure you can relate.

Phew, I feel like this did not come out the way it should have. I am usually a sunny person. Recently I have been irritated at work, though. 

If you expected to learn 10 random fact about me you'll find them here (actually those are 11, nicely wrapped around my life's soundtrack), there are 9 more here, and 7 - one for each day of the week - here ;-)

What are things we need to know about you so I won't drop the brick?

Would you like to join us for next week's Top Ten Challenge? The theme is gonna be "Top Ten Rules", (great, reasonable, ridiculous, asking to be bent/broken), and it posts August 25.

Please sign up here or send me a message!

But wait! Don't leave just yet - visit my fellow Top Ten Bloggers and see what they came up with! The linky-tool is up, please use it to link up your post!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Use Your Words - Back to School Business

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: 

Current ~ classic ~ bizarre ~ brave ~ outside the box ~ memory

They were submitted by Never Ever Give Up Hope - thanks, Carol!

Whenever I had a quiet moment (haha!), I tried to think of a cool story to use my words. There might be so many ways because those words are so versatile. The longer I kept thinking, the more time went by, and you know how it goes.... I had a super busy summer "break", well Colin was on summer break, I was at the office.

Let me tell you about a current project we have at work. 

Before diving in, I have to explain about our school system once you're done with high school: An estimated third of the young people attend college and / or university, and two thirds pursue some kind of vocational training, meaning they have to find an employer that is qualified and willing to train them. They get proficient at a profession like hairdresser, gardener or carpenter by learning on the job during 3-4 days a week, and by attending vocational school for general education (math, correspondence, basic bookkeeping, etc.) for 1-2 days. They graduate after 3-4 years depending on the profession.

One of those vocational schools for our region is located at our neighbor town, and this school happens to be a client of ours, hubby's IT company I work for, too. 

Late this spring the school board decided to quit the classic way of teaching and keep up with the times, meaning, as of the new school year, apprentices need to bring their own notebook to class. They sat down to define specifications (hard drive, memory, software, accessories) according to the specific trade and asked us to take care of the operational handling. 

Photo Credit

So far so good. My brave and talented hubby set up an online shop in no time, it went live June 20, and the school sent out a letter to the future apprentices telling them they were free to get their laptop wherever they wanted, as long as the criteria were met, but they recommended getting it from us, the competent, friendly, local business. 

We were sceptical. You can purchase a computer at every corner, and our prices can't keep up with large retailers like Media Markt (comparable to Best Buy) even though we negotiated an OK deal with Dell (I wish they'd sponsor this post...) But hey, other than the hours that hubby spent programming that online platform and the interface to our business system, we had nothing to lose. 

For a week or two nothing happened. Hubby checked his inbox all the time, and coworkers and I started to place fake orders just for the fun of it, using silly names like Dagobert Duck. 

Then a guy called, claimed the school sent him and asked all kinds of technical questions. I transferred him to my coworker who explained everything. When he hung up he said "OK, so I just provided him with half an hour of free consulting, what if he won't order but will buy a comparable notebook someplace cheaper?" 

But then, on July 11, the first "real" order popped up, then another, then another. Even the guy who called, placed his order, phew. 

In order to minimize our risk, we asked for advance-payment which is unusual in Switzerland: usually you order, get your stuff and an invoice, and you pay within 30 days. If you don't, you'll get a reminder, and another, and another. Depending on the amount of money, the seller will decide (not) to take debt enforcement measures. We didn't want to get into that position, so we clearly stated "money first".

Needless to say this caused some turmoil. People called and asked to pay in monthly instalments. "We're only just learning about this requirement of bringing our own computer to school, it's bad enough how much work clothes, tools, books and commuting are going to cost us, a new laptop is not in our budget, we just spent our money to go on vacation" they claimed. Of course they were right. The people who decided that every apprentice needs to buy their own notebook, have a nice salary and didn't even think of the financial implications.

I had the most bizarre phone calls, mostly from parents. Can't 15 year olds do phone calls these days? 

Like the Mom who called and told me about some person called Knowreplay, something or other, who sent her a message, however she wasn't going to be home today, what was she supposed to do? It took a while for me to find out what she was talking about: The automatic dispatching system of the warehouse was advising her of the upcoming delivery. The e-mail message was being sent by noreply@...

A student suggested he'd skip the online process, hit the ATM and drove to our office to "cash and carry" his laptop immediately. I loved that he took charge, though!

Oh, and don't get me started on the people who ordered but didn't pay. I didn't want to lose precious time and started calling them. "We are sorry, this user is currently not reachable" and no possibility to leave a message. Landline numbers that kept ringing, but nobody home to answer, the list goes on and on. I asked my coworkers who are IT guys after all. We looked at the email addresses of those students. Of course 90% have an account with a free service, and some of those providers are known to send messages titled "your order" or "invoice" or that contain pdf attachments to the spam folder. So I sent another message with a harmless title telling them to check their spam folder and to please settle their accounts so we could initiate the order.

One Dad accused us of ripping off the poor students. He found the same type of notebook someplace else, and it was cheaper, he said. I was so tired of those calls. What did they expect? A discount? Does anybody ever call Amazon to tell them they found an item for a better price? "You know I work in Quality Management, and I can smell bad deals" he said. "Also I consulted my firm's IT Manager, so I know what I'm talking about." Good for him. As polite as I could I told him he was free to purchase wherever he pleased. He didn't stop. Between the lines he admitted that he wasn't 100% sure it really was the exact same item. Dude, just make up your mind!!!

When I hung up I was exhausted and angry about people who strain my patience and waste my time. I was thinking I'd much rather have a day off and use it to take pictures for a photo blog challenge like the one themed outside the box - this month's theme is black and white. This guy on the phone certainly seemed a bit of a black and white kind of person. 

However with the orders pouring in, there was no thinking about taking time off. Just the opposite, I even went in on a Sunday to get everything done.

About a week later Quality Dad ordered. Not only did he order the rip-off notebook, he also went for the backpack, the backup hard drive, the wireless mouse, the pen, you name it. So I guess our deal wasn't too bad after all. Hahahaha!

(Speaking of backpacks, one Mom said she didn't like it and asked why there weren't any notebook cases, and could I please get one for her son? I might, but I am afraid she wouldn't like the zipper or the strap, so no...)

Photo Credit

Now these items come from different warehouses all over Europe, and Dell works with logistics partners, so this family got hit by a handful of deliveries over a couple of days, and Smart-Ass Dad called on my day off, so my coworker had to listen to his complaints about this logistical and ecological nightmare. 

Even though he was right, it is a nightmare (but for different reasons - don't get me started here) he should be happy he got everything he ordered, and he got everything in time. 

Delivery times for customized notebooks range from 7-14 days, which was stated in bold letters underneath every iteam on the webshop, and families who only just got back from vacation, called in a frenzy. Summer break is short around here, 

Colin went back to school this Monday, and the apprentices began their training as well. 

The ones who haven't received their goods yet, started to fire off nervous e-mails. 

A Mom called to tell me their notebook arrived. "Yay!" I said. "Nope" she went. "it's doa". She assured me that everything was plugged in properly. I asked hubby to deal with her. After the obvious (unplug, re-plug) he invited her to come to our office. She declined. "Too much traffic", she said. True. Friday late afternoon, not a good time. But then again, school started on Monday, and if we needed to initiate a warranty case,... Hubby suggested she dropped in tomorrow as he spends every Saturday at the office anyway. On Saturday he texted me "that notebook runs as smoothly as they come!?"

One Mom was totally taking the cake. She sent a rant message about late deliveries (geez, read, lady, read and do the math before you order! Ordering on 8/4 if school starts on 8/8 is not going to work out!), greedy big corporations that benefit from hard working people, and her poor son who was the only one who didn't bring a notebook on his first day of school. She wasn't happy with my answer explaining the process and giving her the conservative eta (8/18) so she called and told me she called Dell directly, and they said without an order number they couldn't help her, so she demanded the number from me... 

I felt bad for the boy. Not only was his start at the new school a bit rough, but he has to deal with his pushy Mom every day.

So I have roughly 7 more years to raise my sweet son to be able to look after himself once he graduates from high school. 

So far he's doing quite OK.

Remember his tooth incident and the LEGOs he wanted? It was a rare item that he wanted, and I told him I wasn't going to hunt for it at different stores on a Saturday, so he cold called toy stores in the area. "Hello, this is Colin Gerber speaking, I was wondering whether you carried the LEGO Speed Champion Ford Mustang?" 
"I wouldn''t know without an item number, sorry" the lame-a** sales assistant said. What is wrong with service providers??? 

He wasn't going to fold, though. "Hold on" he said. Ran to his room, got the LEGO catalog and told her the item number was 75871. Well done, and a well deserved gift, wouldn't you say?

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

Baking In A Tornado 

PS: This one just came in, I thought it was fitting...

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Top Ten Thursday - Italian Food

Welcome to Top Ten Thursday!

Today we're talking about our Top Ten Italian Foods!

There are different kinds of Italian cuisine, as I have learned the heard way. 

The one I knew growing up in my Swiss home is that there is a plate of pasta or a big slice of pizza or three, and I loved it. 

One day we were invited at Dad's Sicilian coworker's home. He was a bit older than my Dad but remained single for a very long time. Anyway, he liked to cook, and we were invited at his place. 

There was some soup and salad that I don't really remember. Then he served the most delicious home made lasagna. I asked for seconds. My Mom, just as naive, let me. 

Shortly after clearing the table, Franco disappeared in the kitchen again, only to return with a huge platter of saddle of venison, beautifully garnished with SpƤtzli (some sort of wheat gnocchi), Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, caramelized chestnuts and mushrooms. We sat there, with our wide eyes and full bellies, and we didn't know what to do! As we definitely didn't want to offend him but show our appreciation, we ate as much as we could. 

Needless to say we absolutely positively could not eat that piece of a gigantic Black Forest Cake that followed.

We had a similar experience, many years later, when we attended our Italian neighbour's daughter's wedding. On each table there was the menu so we knew what to expect. It said something like soup, salad, pasta, veal, chicken or beef, dessert. 

We were caught by surprise again when it turned out that of course it wasn't veal, chicken or beef, but veal, chicken and beef... Little word, big difference!!!

Anyway. The Italian kitchen has to offer so many great dishes, let me get to the ones I like best:

Of course every visit at an Italian restaurant or a great night with guests at our house has to start off with a glass of prosecco! I don't even have a favourite brand, as long as it's sweet and bubbly I'm completely happy!

Photo Credit
Insalata Caprese: tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. What is supposed to be just a starter, often is a much appreciated summer dinner at our house.

Tagliatelle Carrettiera: upon googling I discovered that there are different recipes out there. The one I like, that our favourite Italian restaurant serves, is a creamy tomato sauce with ground beef, funghi porcini and peas. Unfortunately Pasquale and his family and part of his staff moved to a new restaurant that is 40 instead of 10 minutes away from our home. We still eat there from time to time.

Risotto ai funghi porcini, a weekly fall dish at our house as soon as fresh funghi porcini pop up in the forest supermarket.

Lasagna, another weekly fall-winter-early spring meal at the Gerber house. Once upon a time BK (before kids) I made a home made lasagna for our Christmas dinner. I was slaving in the kitchen pretty much all afternoon for it. These days I am down to 1.5 hours, and my routine includes having a glass of wine while cooking. Why? I use some wine to deglaze the pan after browning the ground beef, so I'd better make sure it's a delicious one!

Meatball Spaghetti, I like them at Olive Garden or home made. It's really not that hard. Make a slurry, use the ice cream scoop to shape them, bake them for 12 minutes and let them simmer in tomato sauce for at least half an hour, longer is better. 

Linguine all' Astice (lobster): This one is a new favourite that I just discovered last weekend when we went out for dinner at "Sale & Pepe". Not sure how authentic this dish is. Is there any lobster in the Mediterranean? (Wikipedia says yes!)

Pizza! Who doesn't like wood fired brick oven pizza, right? Even frozen pizza is better than no pizza. Did you see the video in which a guy asks his not too bright girlfriend if she'd rather have her pizza cut into 8 or 12 slices and she says 8, because she couldn't possibly eat 12? 

The original Italian pizza dough is super thin and crusty, which is fine. My favourite one is American style, though: thick! However, I'm specifically not a fan of the Chicago-style pizza. I have tried twice and didn't like it. 

As far as toppings go, I don't need much, I'm fine with just Margarita, and I do like veggie pizza: roasted peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, sweet corn and (brace yourself) broccoli. I know! Five a day, right?

Saltimbocca alla Romana: veal with prosciutto and sage in a marsala-butter sauce

Full-bodied red wines like Brunello di Montalcino or Amarone della Valpolicella (I can't believe spell check wanted to change "Amarone" into "Amazon"!!)

Unfortunately I barely get to have dessert because I'm more than full from all the other yummy dishes. If I was to order one, though, it'd be Italian Cheesecake, made with ricotta or simply Gelato (ice cream)

Coming to an end I'd like to mention a couple of movie scenes happening at Italian Restaurants:

Rex II, Los Angeles, Julia Robert's character Vivian aka Pretty Woman, is having dinner with Edward and Mr. Morse senior and grandson. She's confused by the amount and variety of forks and knives, and she's having a hard time handling escargot - slippery little suckers!

Minetta Tavern, NYC, (in the movie it's called "The La Trattoria"), Hugh Grant is Mickey Blue Eyes, but let's fuggeddaboud id and get the h*** outta he'e, the really funny scene happens at a Chinese Restaurant where Mickey tries to sneak a marriage proposal into his girlfriend's fortune cookie. When she doesn't want to eat it, the waiter owner gets impatient and demands that she "eat the f***ing cookie!!!"

Parietti's, in "Analyze This", the restaurant where Robert De Niro's character Paul Vitti's father was shot to death. Paul still frequents the restaurant with his mafia buddies. As Paul's shrink Ben sits at the table, they speak in code about the first or the second thing. 

Unfortunately the best part of the scene was left out, probably for strong language reasons.

They see a member of their rival family walking in and bitch about him:

"Stevie Beef is over there"
"Fat piece of sh**!"
"Rat f***ing, c***s***ing scumbag"
"Garbage pail"

"Let's go say hi"

What are your favorite Italian dishes?

Would you like to join us for next week's Top Ten Challenge? The theme is gonna be "Top Ten Things to know about me", (so we get along fine, think in the morning, at work, in traffic), and it posts August 18.

Please sign up here or send me a message!

But wait! Don't leave just yet - visit my fellow Top Ten Bloggers and see what they came up with! The linky-tool is up, please use it to link up your post!

Friday, August 5, 2016

August Secret Subject Swap - Pets

Welcome to August's Secret Subject Swap. Again 13 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:

Coco the Labradoodle

Baking In A Tornado

My subject is 

We are coming up on the "Dog Days of Summer." Do you have a pet? If so, tell us about it. If not, tell us your ideal pet or why you don't care to have a pet.

It was submitted by The Lieber Family thank you, Rabia!

Dog Days??? I had to look up the expression, and when I did, I noticed that it exists in German as well, duh! "Hundstage", it's when you're panting like a dog because it's too freakin' hot! Feels about right these days, it's not just the heat though, what is actually worse is the humidity! I'm not at my best, let me tell you!

When asked about being a cat or a dog person I'd certainly have to say I prefer cats. I think they're cool. Independent, smart, elegant, cuddly when they want to be, bitchy when they need to be - kind of like myself ;-) Their life seems to consist in eating, sleeping and playing, What's not to love?

As a kid I've always wanted a cat. As we were living right by a busy street my Mom said we can't have one. We often discovered unlucky cats' bodies that didn't survive crossing the road, and she figured it'd be too hard if one day it was ours lying there. Plus she didn't believe when my brother and I promised to help cleaning the litter tray. Oh, and my Dad? He would always tell us those terrible stories of cats who ended up in people's crockpots.

On the other hand I get why people love dogs. Dogs are friendly, they seem to love you unconditionally, they are overjoyed to see you when you come home, they are loyal, and if you've trained them well, they do exactly what they're being told. 

I especially admire guide dogs for visually impaired people or individuals who suffer from epilepsy, diabetes or the like - so impressive how they can help make their owner's daily life easier, even prevent a person from going into shock or seizures! 

Nikolaj and Kalle

In Switzerland we have avalanche dogs that can find people who have been buried in snow. 

Still I wouldn't want to add a pet to my busy life. I just don't seem to want another family member to clean up after! The fact that having a pet seems more of a chore than a joy to me is probably a good reason not to have one! 

Just like I don't want to spend time planting flowers or veggies in my garden, I'll just enjoy other people's pets! So here's a gallery of my friend's beloved pets:

Betty (Queen Elizabeth)
Crotalus scutulatus salvini upon being born
Pixie and Piper aka Poopers
Cyrus who likes Halloween Candy
Thank you Judy, Eve, Grazia, Ursula, Doris, Daniel, Tobias and Beth for letting me use your pet's pictures!

I think it's great that people have a best friend in their pet, and looking at some seriously crazy human beings out there, a dog or a parrot, heck, even a hamster may certainly be a better companion than some flaky fake human friend. Also taking care of a pet gets you out of the house (at least if it is a dog or a horse), you meet like-minded people, and you have something to do, you're needed.

A dear friend of mine is a lawyer who spends insane amounts of time at work. Thanks to Libertine, his dalmatian, he takes break and gets out for some air. At this point we won't tell anyone that sometimes his assistant walks the dog.

However, in my personal opinion, some pet owners cross the line. An animal is an animal, so what's the deal with all the fuss? Furry baby really needs a coat and shoes at the first sight of raindrops? A diamond bracelet and a fancy designer purse to be carried in? Better and more expensive food than starving people? Really? 

A long time ago, when I had a summer job with a butcher's / deli shop I got to meet very different pet owners. The ones who purchased their chicken or beef for their family dinner and then asked "so is there anything you can give me for my buddy?" And the butcher would give them lung, kidney or something for almost no money. Then there were the ladies who would complain why there wasn't any salmon Sheba (super high end cat food brand that comes in varieties like tuna, duck, chicken, lamb, beef, "finesse mousse", "veal terrine" you name it) in the shelf because that was their princess' favourite? 

Or how about when the pet takes over the owner's life, and you can't meet for dinner because the dog is in school, competes in agility or isn't allowed at the restaurant, and can't be left home alone either.

And don't get me started on those fair weather pet owners! The ones who can't be bothered to really care for their pet? It takes work! Trips to the vet, groomer, dog school, and you have to pick up their (insert pc term for all kinds of bodily fluids or solids or in-betweens.) 

One minute they want a cute puppy, and the next they leave on vacation, and they need to get rid of the burden? 

A huge compliment and thank you to all the compassionate people who get a pet from the shelter and give them a good life!

Also, let's talk about training for a minute. 
I hate when unleashed dogs the size of a calf almost run you over, slobber all over you, don't stop barking, touch you with their dirty paws, and the owner just goes "oh, he doesn't do anything, he just wants to play." Back the hell off!


I know what you're thinking.

I'm a mom. 

This "I don't want a pet" is going to bite me in the butt.
My son is gonna wanna have a pet. Caring for an animal is educative. An only child may only benefit from having a companion. Then what?

Of course the subject has come up, especially when his friend's Dad made a life dream come true and got a puppy. 

Colin promptly wanted one as well. I told him he was welcome to offer his time to walk his friend's dog, sunshine or rain, early morning, during the day and after dinner, to pick up the dog's poop, to feed the dog and to clean up dog pee from the living room carpet - at the very moment that Robson-Kanu scores during Wales vs Belgium. 

I haven't heard back ;-)

Oh, and also... many things I said about dog owners applies to parents, I'm well aware of it. 

Many non-parents think children are messy, loud, annoying, spoiled, interfere with socializing and - unlike dogs - are actually allowed at restaurants, airplanes and shopping malls. Kids even get preferential treatment just because they are little and cute. For what it's worth though, they rarely poop into the neighbor's garden.

Concluding this post, I think that my ideal "pet" would be one that lives in their natural habitat, and that I could visit from time to time - think a dolphin in, let's say, Florida! It goes about their daily life, and when I take a walk at the beach, my dolphin and some of their friends are having fun chasing each other, dancing over the water and making those adorable clicking laughter sounds! 

Photo Credit

How about you? Pet? No pet? Why? Why not?