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Monday, May 27, 2013

There's nothing devious about a garden plot

The other day my dear American friend sent me this picture stating how fortunate I was to be living in a cute little wooden house in a green country (indeed! We are leaders in the  Environmental Performance Index Rankings)

This was the plain cliché an average Swiss person has about their fellow citizens. And what is the job of any journalist who wants to be taken seriously? To rectify (or confirm) prejudices. OK, so I am a recreational blogger, but still, I wanted to find out more about this phenomenon and started asking around for people who own a "Schrebergarten" as we call it. 
The historical background goes back to the mid 1,800s when the German government gave poor people little patches to grow veggies. Schrebergarten on Wikipedia

These days nobody in Western Europe is starving - at least not from lack of food. But maybe from a little fresh air and downtime away from the busy city, which is true for many people. That's why associations who manage allotment gardens have to keep waiting lists and prioritize on who gets to lease a patch. Families with kids are in luck. It is considered especially important that children get in touch with nature. Why? 
Obviously these days the little ones seem to think milk comes from the supermarket even though in Switzerland there's even held  a "yearly milk day" - I have to confess, i missed it. What was I doing on April 20?
Back to the allotment gardens. Via friends I found two people who own one of them. This is what they have to say:

Yvonne and her husband have been renting their 2,000 square feet garden patch for 22 years. Since her husband died she shares the space with a friend. They enjoy some gardening: planting berries, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and herbs. But mostly they like to relax and bake a pizza in their special wood fired oven. Unlike in other garden patches, they have a water connection, a stove and a fridge in their cabin. Not that they would really need it - the wainscot paneled toolshed remains cool even on warm summer days, so they've got chilled wine at all times ;-)

Yvonne's garden is one of a dozen allotment gardens that belong to "die Post", yes, you remember, the one I talked about in Service Culture in Switzerland. Renting the lots to give people an opportunity to kick back instead of selling it to some conglomerate that would construct a parking deck or something equally soul-less is probably one of the best things I hear they do. 

Other, larger allotment gardens like in Zurich are governed by associations that set strict rules like the height of a fence, what kind of shrubs you are allowed to plant and even that you are only supposed to grow regional plants following eco friendly practices. It is also stated that you are not supposed to use your spot commercially. 

So no growing and selling of veggies, no renting out your spot as a parking lot (which would actually be lucrative as a garden patch lease is less than a parking spot, and I am not even talking about one in the city!), and no setting up of bulletin boards!

The village where I live rents garden patches as well. They are located next to the outskirts of the forest and the Frog Pond, and André and his wife have been leasing one of them for 5 years now. They grow a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers, but point out that they mostly like to come out here to take a break from the daily grind, and that after the hard gardening work, they are looking forward to the BBQ - be it with family and friends or just on their own. They have installed some solar panels for light generation and even a bathroom stall.

This way of living - even though you are not allowed to actually live here - makes me think of the Amish people we've come to know last fall in the Pennsylvania / Ohio region. Self-supporting folks doing without or with very little technology - at least as soon as the car is parked ;-)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Children's fun equals grownup's fun?

While moms are busy cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, nursing / changing the baby or taking a shower, the other kids get busy as well.
The other day I was listening to a conversation of a couple of moms and was surprised about their kids' creativity, because frankly, I don't have a lot of experience in that field. Colin, apart from shoplifting at the lollipop store or dissembling some of Daddy's keyboard buttons, hasn't been doing much so far. Good boy! I guess you get the children you deserve, lucky us ;-)

Pets are Kids best friends

  • 1.5 year old boy poured a glass of milk in the recently cleaned fish tank. He figured they were thirsty.
  • 4 year old girl dressed up in a carnival cat costume. After a while her mom thought it might be time to go to the bathroom and wanted to help her out of the costume. "Oh, I went already", the girl said. The mom hadn't noticed anyone going to the bathroom and asked her about it. "Well, I didn't use THAT bathroom" the girl explained. "I am a cat now, see, so I used the litter box!"
  • Feeding the dog with food they don't like themselves: broccoli, celery

Paint Job

  • Older sibling painted younger kid with permanent marker or waterproof lipstick
  • Young artists create wall art - I used to be one of them myself!

Hair affair

  • Older sibling washed younger kid's hair with mayonnaise - then cut it. A hair stylist in the making!
  • Other stuff to put in own or other's hair: vaseline, ointment, toothpaste
  • As I am writing this I remember giving my doll "perms"

What happens in the bathroom doesn't necessarily stay in the bathroom

  • "Mooooom? Do you know how much toothpaste is actually in the tube? "Oh, let me check, I think when it's full it's 4 oz." "No need to check, mommy! It's from the bathroom aaaall the way to your bedroom and back, that's how much!"
  • Putting clothes and hand soap in the toilet bowl - doing laundry
  • Sticking panty liners onto socks - for indoor skiing
  • Lotioning themselves or little sister with Vicks VapoRub - or Nivea

Scissors - open Sesame!

  • Cutting hair, clothes, curtains, towels - the possibilities are endless.
  • The most creative was the 2 year old boy who managed to cut open mom's nursing cushion containing millions of statically loaded little globes. When mom wanted to vacuum the whole mess, the vacuum bag exploded - more nano balls all over the place!

Naughty in the Kitchen

  • Stealing stuff from the fridge and pouring it into all around the glass and the floor - preferably sticky stuff.
  • Snatching some chocolate and hiding the wrappers in the garden
  • Creative eating: sausage with strawberry jam.
  • One boy told his mom that the "special milk" tasted much better than regular. It was the breast milk she had pumped for the baby.

Phones and other gadgets

  • Answering the phone and telling the person "I am home alone"
  • Scratching TV screen with nail file - ouch
  • Setting alarm at 3am
  • Pressing buttons on dishwasher, oven,...
  • Listening to the radio with earphones - just the headphones were plugged into the electrical outlet
  • Playing with the remote control - in the sandbox
  • You've got to love the 2.5 year old girl who climbed up mommy's chair while she went to the bathroom and purchased a fish tank by e-auction - well, it was just a mouse click!

Pour on the Floor
Again, endless possibilities: pouring flour, milk or baby powder, pricey anti-dandruff shampoo, paint, glue (yuck!)

Hide and Seek

Keys: the other day Daniela, a desperate mom, posted on a parental platform asking about other kids' hideouts for their parents' valuables. Over 100 other moms replied with creative spots like freezer, oven (real or toy), trash can, cereal box, tea pot, plant, shoe,... 

My friend, mother of two year old twins at the time, spent time on the terrace while having something boiling on the stove when the son closed the sliding door. Click. They were separated, and she didn't have a house key, not even a cell phone with her! All the windows were closed, and - as it turned out - shatter proof. A neighbor let her use the phone so she could ask hubby to come home and rescue her.

One Facebook Mom, 9 months pregnant got locked in the basement by her son who threw the key onto a cupboard and couldn't get it back. While she was holding out in her cage, Mr Son was helping himself to a snack, enjoyed playing, took off his clothes and ran around naked in the garden - until, finally, 5 hours later, Dad came home from work.


All the above were toddlers or preschoolers. Now brace yourself for what could happen to you once you've got a teenager on your hands who thinks you are not cool:

Trying to get rid of Dad Tabloid article on "Dad for free"
A 16 year old apprentice in Zurich thought his Dad was too embarrassing and decided to give him away. So he fixed up 40 flyers around town advertising his father's age, measurements and e-mail address:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

This is what we would have had the possibility to find out, had we actually applied for the job that being a mommy is. Considering the tasks include chef, taxi driver, nurse, comforter, psychologist, maid, and many more, it kind of makes sense that you don't get any breaks or days off. And even on regular working days the little people you work for have their own schedule:


OK, kidding aside. If there is only the one day, then let's thoroughly enjoy it!

Mom, what's for lunch?
What, we have to FISH OUR OWN?
 Don't worry, I've got it covered. Hired my sommelier for the day
And Grandma brings gift for little guy
I got a gift as well from little guy!
Cousin Liv from Israel is a good sport and plays some hockey
Happy Mother's Day!

PS: Taking these pictures is just one example of the many things my mom is doing for me. 

Thank you, MM :-)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Getting to know you

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for reading my posts! They are mostly about my life - so this is a post about you! 

When I publish my links on Facebook I get 80 - 100 hits on each blog post - but hardly any comments, so today I would like to know who YOU are!

I found this nice "visitor's interview" idea on Emily's blog:

All you need is love - getting to know you

Of course, as a former Starbucks coffee bean, I especially liked question number 4! 
And I took the liberty to add some more questions:

1. What is your name?
2. Where are you from?
3. Where are you living right now?
4.  What is your favorite store and/or favorite Starbucks drink?
5.  What is the name of your blog (if you have one)?  
6. What are you passionate about?
7. What else is there to know about you?

I'll start:

1. What is your name? Tamara 

2. Where are you from? Switzerland 

3. Where are you living right now? 
Switzerland - but I spent some time in San Diego, CA a couple of years back - still missing it! 


4. What is your favorite store and/or favorite Starbucks drink? Before becoming a mommy I used to work for Starbucks Switzerland & Austria as their head of HR, so I had many, many favorite stores and partners. One particular would be "Quai des Bergues" in Geneva - from the outdoor patio you can see Lake Geneva. Favorite drink: Pike Place Roast, prepared in a french press with a brownie as a food pairing. 

5. What is the name of your blog (if you have one)?
6. What are you passionate about? My family, traveling, baking, decorating, music, movies & series, taking pictures and writing
7. What else is there to know about you? I am on the board of a women's charity association: Gemeinnütziger Frauenverein Lenzburg

Now it's your turn, thank you!

PS: if you don't have a login to actually comment below this post, please send me your contribution via e-mail or Facebook message!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rrrrribit - the "just because" Frog Party

The other day when I was at work I noticed a group of little people walking past our office. We work in a building that used to be the village supermarket, so more or less the whole front is glass panels. You can easily get distracted because everybody walks to and from the train station, so usually I don't pay the passersby too much attention - unless one looks like our son! And in fact it was his daycare group coming back from an excursion. So I ran out to say hello. They were heading back for lunch, and Colin suggested they went to our place. "Are you going to cook?" I asked. Of course not.

"But mommy, one day, may I invite my friends over for lunch and you will cook?"

Sure, why not.

So "one day" was yesterday, and of course I couldn't just serve spaghetti with tomato sauce which everybody likes and is quick and easy to make. My theme was determined once I heard that they are going for weekly walks to a nearby pond in the forest to observe pollywog - of course hoping every time that there would be frogs by now! The warning sign has been set up for a while now.

Caution: amphibians at twilight! 

A new project was born! I found the idea and printables here Frog Craft Instructions 
And I didn't have any green and golden crafts paper left so I painted some and added glitter - took forever to dry!

Decoration: check 

Now on to the food. If we were French I could just go ahead and make cuisses de grenouilles, frog's legs. But somehow I didn't think the kids would appreciate it. Also I don't have the slightest clue on how to make them. Up until the morning I had to go groceries shopping I still wasn't sure what to make. I had a plan B though: open a bag of goldfish! Not healthy enough? You are right. Our daycare and their caterer have acquired a special label on integrated and balanced nutrition. It means all winter long they get to eat cabbage and stuff. 

If I was a good carver I could make those cute bell pepper frogs, wow, the internet is full of other people's perfect stuff: 

Just in case I had ordered some frog and fish cookie cutters. And turned out using them on veggies! I thought I'd give it an early start, but let me tell you, cutting out carrot fish and green bell pepper frogs is hard and time consuming work. Maybe I should have tried red peppers? Anyway, I was listening to empowering music such as Lady Gaga's "bad romance" and it was almost fun.


Fortunately they were a little late, and hubby was a little early, so he helped me set the table with disposable flatware in 10 different colors, each person would going to have their own color! Good idea? Maybe not, I thought all of a sudden. The other day we were invited at a friends's house, and it took a while until we were ready to eat because the kids were not happy about sitting in the sun or the shadow, having a white or red cushion,… 

Not Colin and his friends, though! We were so impressed by how well behaved they were! Went to wash their hands, took their seats without any fight and sat there patiently waiting for their food. Rainah and Yanik even found a plate that perfectly matched their T-Shirts! 

Some were a little irritated by the blue risotto - only until they found out it was supposed to be pond water. Others didn't like the root celery which was to be expected. One day they may host a pond party as well and will be surprised how hard it is to cut out fish from sweet peas or broccoli ;-)

A little bird aka hockey guy had let me in on a secret: It was going to be one of his buddy's birthday the day after! And suddenly the "just because lunch" became a "that's why party"! Yay, cake, chocolate candy, candles, singing!

Happy Birthday, Yanik!

After everybody had found the frog with their name written on its tongue they let me take a group photo,

 then they put on their sneakers,

grabbed their walking buddy and went their way!