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Sunday, February 16, 2014

The lonely Sock Thief from Paris

You know those association games? 4 pics, 1 word? What do the things in the picture have in common with each other?

This is the starter assignment to make you think you can do this. Just wait till you get mine:

The word is "lonely", but let me explain.

I was doing laundry. Yes, our new washing machine has quickly become a full-fledged  family member, hard working like all of us *cough*. It has almost double the holding capacity than the old one that broke, but it also has the same flaw: it grants access to the sock thief! 

I really can't explain how this happens. We lock our doors, we don't hear any strange noises coming from the basement, and still: upon folding the laundry I realize that AGAIN some socks are missing. Even some of hubby's which are clipped together.

So what happens if socks get separated? Where do the missing ones end up? Are they upset? Sad? Trying to find their partner? Or have they run off on purpose, leading the good life with some other sock from the neighborhood?

Just shut up!
At our house we call them "lonely socks", and I keep them on my nightstand for a while so at least they have company. Occasionally a stray sock makes it back and gets to reunite with its lost counterpart.

Now I'm not saying that stuff constantly disappears. Sometimes I actually find items.

Loose change (not enough to retire, though), blank scrabble tiles (at least that's what  I think the square thing is) and the other object comes from a new dress shirt, if anybody knows the proper name of it, please let me know.

The guys left to watch a youth play-off hockey game and I stayed home, lonely happy to have some me-time. That's just it. First you want a family, then you are glad to be alone. Not having to clean up after, make a meal for, say no to more gadget time, pick up, take to, get something for somebody… At least for a while. 

I was going to write about the lonely socks later, but first I wanted the use the quiet time to watch a movie of the kind I am the only one at house who can fully appreciate its content. I chose "Forget Paris" because I recalled the two people to be lonely when they were apart, but as time went by, also when they were together. Also you can't fail with a film that has Billy Crystal in it. 

The first scene is a lady with huge glasses getting ready to play the organ, and you think this must be a funeral, but it isn't. It is the intro for a basketball game! Genius. Men should watch it!! They could see Kareem Abdul Jabbar getting ejected from his own farewell game. But then they probably will go to the fridge for another beer because Liz, Andy's fiancée, is crying. 

Side note: What is it with guys and handling female tears? Just asking. Here's a tip: hold her, tell her you love her, and it's going to be OK. It's really not that hard.

Or just buy her those boots ;-)
So I was talking about loneliness. You can be alone and be perfectly happy, and the next moment you are in the middle of a crowd and feeling lonely because you (think you) don't belong there. 

People are lonely because they cope with the loss of a loved one, no matter if the other person broke up, or even worse, died. Or they moved away, hate their new job, the weather, the neighbor and have a hard time making new friends. I imagine senior citizens who don't drive anymore, and whose friends passed away, can get lonely.

I think the bottom-line is how you feel about yourself. Are you happy with who you are? Are you good company for yourself? Can you be alone and not do anything, no chores, no TV,  no Facebook? Can you go out and have lunch alone? 

You'd better. No matter how many family members and friends usually  are around you, you have to be able to deal with yourself in every situation. Nobody can really take the hurdles in life for you. Don't expect others to make you happy. Life has no remote control - you have to get up and change it yourself!

Sock thief - finally apprehended!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Use your Words - Mongolian Fire

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: 
egregious ~ performance ~ assumption ~ luxurious ~ bursting with pride ~ spicy
They were submitted by: My healing tomato - thank you!
I have to admit - other times when I get a prompt, my mind immediately starts racing, and I can see pictures and stories coming up, and it's just a matter of sitting down, capturing those thoughts and putting them on paper screen. 
Not today, though. I didn't even know all of those words. Egregious? 
same thing?
Blame it on last night. We went out and stayed up way beyond my bedtime.
It was our office "Christmas" dinner which usually takes place in January when people are less busy, and tables in restaurants are available easier.

We went to a Mongolian BBQ place. I had some sangria on an empty stomach - this alone should make for a fun night - and a lot of yummy food. What a luxurious choice of veggies, seafood and meat! And you haven't even seen the dessert buffet yet! I was certainly gonna bite off more than I could chew!

But let's start at the beginning. This is how it goes down:

You grab a plate, choose your carrots, broccoli, sweet corn and prawns, add a cup of broth and hand it to your chef who blanches it for you. 

Or you skewer your beef, kangaroo or scampi and barbecue it yourself on the hot stone grill.

Then you choose the sides and sauces.

It all went very well. Everyone enjoyed their food and made conversation, laughed and drank. 
Then I made a mistake. Actually I think I was the victim of some conspiracy. Although they might object to my egregious assumption, I am pretty sure that someone switched the location of the fruity sweet & sour sauce that I liked with my first course, with the one of the Mongolian fire (very hot). 

It took all of about a milli-second until I felt I was on fire! One of my coworkers laughed so hard about my desperately downing the whole glass of water. 
"A little too spicy for you?" 
That makes him a suspect, no? I urged him to taste it. He gave me this pitiful look, nonchalantly took a fork full, brought it to his mouth, chewed and swallowed. Bursting with pride he said: 
"See? I think it's actually quite mild! You know this Thai lady I told you about? Her food is much hotter!" 
Then he coughed and grabbed his napkin in order to dab some sweat from his forehead. Nice performance, dude!
For the next hour I was sitting there, cheeks all flushed, making conversation with my tongue slightly hanging out of my mouth. At least that's what it felt like. I wasn't quite myself. I was also convinced that somebody in the room was watching me.
So much for my night out. I'm done, I used all my words! Now I will share my chocolate mousse and fruit with you and let you check out the other posts as well.

PS: Remember Tim, the Toolman, Taylor? 

Yes, the one who thinks he can handle tools and power much better than he actually can! He loves Polish food and doesn't know better than to eat too much. Every single time.
So his stomach gets upset at night, and he has the strangest dreams. 

That's exactly what happened to me.

Mongolia and Poland must have something in common when it comes to their cuisine. 

While I was tossing and turning, I had this dream where I was picking strawberries and sneaking them into a hotel room. Then the lights went out, so I had to take my shower in the dark. There was an earthquake, and I collapsed. When I came to, I found myself on a deck chair near the beach, an empty champagne bottle in my hand. In the distance a Swedish rock band was playing, and no, it wasn't ABBA.

I'm telling you, try this Mongolian fire - but at your own risk!

Baking In A Tornado                   
Just A Little Nutty               
Battered Hope             
Juicebox Confession           
Black Sheep Mom      
Confessions of a part time working mom              
Evil Joy Speaks     
Spatulas on Parade                        
The Bergham’s Life Chronicles               
FBX Adventures (In Parenting)                      
Healing Tomato                    
Dates 2 Diapers 2                
Follow me home . . .               

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sleepless in Seattle

People, it's Valentine's Day tomorrow. Meg and Tom make great movies. And the Seahawks recently won the Superbowl. But that's not what I am going to tell you about. In February 2004, yes, that's 10 years ago, I spent some time in Seattle as part of my orientation with Starbucks  where I was going to have my most demanding and most fulfilling job as soon as I'd get back from the honeymoon immersion program. 

And if I was sleepless - and I was - it was from excitement and caffeine intake!

We were a group of international executives - mostly European, but also guys from Chile or Hong Kong - and we were supposed to increase our  knowledge about coffee and our job as such, build a network, but most importantly soak up the corporate culture and implant it into our organization back home. Back then SBUX was only beginning to grow internationally. When I joined my market, there were about a dozen stores in Switzerland and a handful in Austria. 

It was an unforgettable experience, a combination of camp, field trip, office party, shopping spree and just having coffee with new friends. A lot of coffee and a lot of friends! I saw some of them again when we attended international leadership conferences the following years. With others I am connected via FB or LinkedIn, and  if any of them would advise me of an upcoming trip to Switzerland I would pick them up at the airport and show them a good time around here. 

We also had an opportunity to meet Howard Schultz. At the time he hadn't been involved in the operational business anymore, but he made time to talk to us and answer our questions. Most of us newbies had read his book and thought we "knew" him.

We were surprised to meet a regular guy, almost shy. Forget about him owning the Sonics or a private jet, he is one down-to-earth guy! If I had to take away just one thing from that encounter it'd be to "do the right thing". In business, in your private life, listen to your core values and let them guide you. 

I would learn later that the Mission Statement within SBUX was so much more than a framed piece of paper displayed at the reception desk. The fact that people lived and breathed it made it a fantastic place to work for. 

Annie, who had helped hiring me over the phone,
recognized me in front of the elevator.
We have been close friends ever since ❤
For several days we were showed around at places like the coffee roasting plant, taken to several stores to visit, including "Pike Place Market" the first Starbucks store which still features the original logo and of course led through countless coffee tastings.

I can't believe I forgot the name of the legendary ponytail guy at the roasting plant. He had been around forever and finished every third sentence with "that's our commitment to quality". I do, however, remember that Guatemala Antigua was his favorite coffee.

Our favorite beverages would soon become our distinctive mark, and we would learn how to mark the cups and call the drinks with all the attributes in the right order. 

How to Order Like a Pro at Starbucks:

Cup - Customers may request a ceramic “for here” cup, or take a drink “to-go” in their own travel mug
Iced - Is your drink hot or cold? Say this first so your barista can grab the right cup. 
Size - What size drink do you want? The sizes are Short (8 oz.), Tall (12 oz.), Grande (16 oz.), Venti (20 oz. for hot and 24 oz. for iced) 
Decaf - Do you want decaf? If so, then say this next.
Shots - How many shots of espresso do you want in your drink? All Lattes, Cappuccinos, and Macchiatos have the following shots:
  • Tall - 1
  • Grande and Venti (hot drinks) - 2
  • Iced Venti - 3
If you want more or less shots than what the drink comes with, specify it here. 
Syrup - Do you want a flavored drink? Here are the main syrups: Vanilla, Hazelnut, Mocha, White Chocolate Mocha, Cinnamon Dolce, Toffee Nut, Raspberry, Classic, Peppermint, Caramel and Chai. Sugar Free: Vanilla, Hazelnut, Cinnamon Dolce and Caramel. There are also seasonal syrups so check the menu ahead of time to see if there are anymore choices. 
Milk - What kind of milk do you want? Whole, 2%, Nonfat and Soy are your choices.
Custom - If there’s something else you’d like to specify say it here. Examples: No Whip, 180 degrees, No water.
Drink - What kind of drink do you want? (Examples: Latte, Mocha, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Americano, Hot Chocolate, Frappuccino, Tea, Coffee)

“I’ll have a tall, decaf Cappuccino"

I had the hardest time with the recipes when they actually let me make drinks. Yes, I was a Barista in training at the Queen Anne store! 

Legendary green apron!
The guys were very patient and kept showing and telling me how it's done. When I told them I was going to have an office job they let me alone and were happy to observe how I connected with the customers and recognized the regulars on the second and third day. 

May walked me through HR practices

SBUX HQ - I loved the fact that the whole building
smelled of coffee at any given time of the day!
Learning everything about employer branding from Carrie
The colleagues at the support center took care of briefing me for my corporate responsibilities. As instructional the performance review process, the HR matrix, labor cost budgeting and other topics were - I enjoyed meeting the nice individuals and was most impressed about the fact that there was a real Starbucks store just in the lobby of the building!

Christoph, my Swiss partner in crime, without a doubt the 
greatest CFO I have had the pleasure to work with!
Even though I didn't know that from the very beginning ;-)
A word regarding the "fact" that it's always raining in Seattle: Maybe I am just a lucky person, but whether I was there in February, May or September, I saw more blue skies than drizzle!
Of course we did some sightseeing, too 

I can't believe it's been 10 years. Of the 10 I have been gone 5. They call it "promoted to customer". And still SBUX feels like family! 

OK, hit me! What's your favorite beverage, did you have to wait too long in line the other day, do you miss a certain pastry item? I can't help you, but you can tell me anyway ;-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My million dollar deal

Having a proud moment at work!

Yesterday the CFO, who is also in charge of IT with a larger client, called and said “the battery of our server is making whistling sounds.” First I was like what server battery, doesn’t it run on electricity, but then I took a wild guess and said “you mean, your UPS?” (=Uninterruptible Power Supply)

Called my coworker (the one I might go for a beer with if I drank beer and if he wasn’t moody), and he told me what button to push. Yes really ;-) And that the thingie was most likely dying from old age. So I forwarded this information to the client, and the device shut up. 

This morning he had to run and just handed me this illustration.

“Find out which symbol is either illuminated or flashing”, he said. “If it’s one of the pink ones tell them to buy a new device” and he specified a model to recommend. Then he left.

Phew. OK. This was the client where I had to pick up a hard drive the other week, so at least I “knew” those people as in “have seen them in person before”. Sadly, I don’t get out “to the field” much on account of not having any techie skills, so I never get to know the people for which I would have plenty of skills.

So I called the assistant and asked her to go to the server room.
”The thing I’m supposed to find – what does it look like?”

“It’s an HP device, rectangular” – Hahahaha, the minute I said that, I had to laugh myself.
“More specifically it’s rather smallish, and there should be an oval display, and if my coworker is right, at least one symbol is red?”

“Got it! Yes, a red symbol!”

“Which one?”

“The one in the middle.”

“That means BAD BATTERY. Obviously the condensers in the battery are kind of exhausted. You know how that feels.“

(Doesn’t that sound great? I had no idea there are condensers in batteries, I sucked big time in physics. I was so grateful the professor actually awarded points if you put your name legibly on the exam paper. I always made sure to write really neatly.)

“We could try and find a spare battery, but according to our records, the unit was purchased in 2006, so it isn’t officially supported anymore.”

“What should we do then? Buy a new one?”

“Yes. I will send you a quote.”

“Wonderful, thank you so much!”

I know. It ain’t much.

In another lifetime I saved double digit percentage in labor costs and hired hundreds of new people, promoted, trained, evaluated, coached, fired. Everything in three languages in two countries.

But possibly selling a 500 bucks device without knowing what I’m doing makes me happy today!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Things end...

Just a quickie, I am at work....

Remember how the other day I was being very grown up about acknowledging that not every relationship can last? Well it's easy to say these things when you are not immediately concerned. Today I am.

It looks like Colin's and my favorite breakfast item disappeared from the fridge at the market. I suspect it has been reomived from the product line. They already did that with the raspberry mini roulades. And the chocolate ones, too. They were not performing well enough, we were told. Man, they are pastry, and they put them under pressure to succeed?

Back to the issue at hand. Respectively not at hand.

It's a six pack. Yes, for breakfast!

6 miniature pre-baked pancakes. You pop them in the toaster for 2 minutes, done. Yum!

We came back looking for it three days in a row.

Today, its location was taken by a new product, some thin, pseudo-French crêpes that need to be warmed in a pan. I don't do smelly cooking in the morning. No pans! Also while I don't have anything against thin crêpes as such, I really like a thick pancake. And I want it back in the shelf!!!

Rant over. I posted it on the market's consumer platform. Will keep you posted.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What if we fall in love?

This new year has me all fuzzy and sentimental. A couple of days ago I came across this song by Sheena Easton and Eugene Wilde, and it has stuck with me, I'm singing it in my head all the time:

You laid your feelings on the line, I never stood a chance
We found the perfect love this time, why let little doubt turn us inside out

What if we fall in love, what if we can't get out
What if we're in too deep, guess we both got doubts
What if it doesn't last, what if the road gets rough
Only fools ask what if we fall in love

Life never gives a guarantee, love doesn't always last
Why worry 'bout our destiny, I'm with you tonight, let's not question why


If you ever find yourself confused, if you ever think of leaving me
Just remember how much I love you, love is never worry free

chorus repeats 2x

What if we fall in love?

I am trying to figure out their story. 

Before you keep reading, humor me and ask yourself: what do YOU think is going on with that couple?

Are they gonna take the leap?

Here are my thoughts:

Have they been together before and are unsure if it is wise to reunite? 

If it's the perfect love THIS TIME, shouldn't they just go for it? 

Why didn't they make it the first time? 

And if the love is that perfect, why are they having doubts? Are there things that seem just too good to be true?

If they are in love, why would they WANT to get out? Not unless they had to, right?  Is one of them married, are they both? Do they have completely different political or religious values? Is one of them the other one's boss, teacher or doctor, or wait, a priest? I guess the forbidden apple tastes the sweetest. 

Maybe I am going overboard here. They may just have met on vacation and worry about a long distance relationship. Speaking of long distance… Eli's kids were asking about islands no one’s been to? Made me think of Tom Hanks as a FedEx employee stranding on a remote island, surviving 4 years eating Christmas cake from parcels and talking to his buddy Wilson, the volleyball. When he was rescued and wanted to reunite with his fiancee he learns that not only had he been declared dead, but also that she's gotten married and has a daughter. Talk about bad timing.

What if they're in too deep? If they have to ask this question, they probably are. 

Sorry to interrupt, Sheena and Eugene, Phil and the guys have something to say:

(To me, the most touching line of this Genesis song is "It's like we never knew each other at all" - in a relationship, romantic or business, you only get to really know each other when it ends. And that's not entirely the other person's fault. Well, it is, but I have to at least pretend to be  thoughtful about this here. Kidding aside, I am happy to tell you that most of my past loves send me happy birthday texts, call me for advice on their resume or even pass on their shoe shelf, so it probably wan't too bad. One has even become a family friend.)

She laid her feelings on the line. How many times in life does it happen that you can't help yourself but to expose yourself and be completely vulnerable? Wouldn't it be nice to get assurance that you are being rewarded for it and NEVER ever hurt? Well, Eugene said sang it: Life never gives a guarantee.

What if the road gets rough? Hope you got a 4WD, a GPS and no nagging passenger or a generous stash of Snickers - you should be fine.

What if it doesn't last? Chances are it won't, just look around. 
Should that stop you from enjoying it while it lasts? 
Spinster Snacks' "secret subject swaps" this month was IS IT BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST OR TO HAVE NEVER LOVED AT ALL? 

I guess you know MY answer. I am such a sucker believer in "love makes the world go round", and I have been known to follow my heart and cross oceans. Where there's light, there's also shadow, and I have cried and felt empty and lost. It's all part of the ride. 

What kind of a life would THAT be now?

Friday, February 7, 2014

February's Secret Subject Swap - Learnings

Welcome to February’s Secret Subject Swap. Again 15 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 I've learned most from blogging is...

It was submitted by Follow me home - thank you!

It's been a little over 18 months that I've started blogging. Looking back, a learning is to choose the name of the blog carefully, preferably with your marketing glasses on. It is your label. In other words: today I might use a different one. More personal and relevant.

If I was to take the whole blogging extremely seriously, I would probably need to do a SWAT analysis, define my target audience and brainstorm the first 100 post titles. Or not.

I called it "confessions of a part-time working mom" because I had been following confessions of a stay-at-home mom and overworked supermom for a while, and I figured I was positioned somwhere in between. Plus my first post was about a spur of the moment purchase of a purse, hence the confession. Starting my blog was an unprepared endeavor, by the way. The story of how and why I bought this handbag was too long to be posted as a Facebook status. So I needed a platform and a login - quickly!

There isn't much else that I have confessed on this blog since the beginning. People I know well and people I don't know well started reading it, and while I had no problem telling anything to strangers out there, I felt uncomfortable posting too much about my private life other than food and crafts. 

And even that!! The other day I was part of a conversation between a mother I am friends with and her 16 year old son about who would take care of him, should she consider taking that weekend trip without him. I asked what a 16yo needed taking care of for. Compared to my 5yo he looked pretty independent. "Well, mostly meals" she laughed, "he's always hungry". That, I could relate to, and so I offered he could always come over for dinner if it wasn't too uncool. He flashed me a broad smile and said "not at all, I would actually love to! You post the most amazing food!" 

Learning: you can never know who reads your stuff (think neighbor, coworker, relative, old schoolmate, even someone's kid!) and what conclusions they draw. "There's cake and cookies every day at their house. Eating veggies is in fact fun over there!"
More learning: most people I know in real life don't comment. So unless they tell you in person, you will never know that they are interested in hearing about your daily life.

I try to be considerate when I point out someone. As a rule of thumb I will not write about others what I wouldn't want them to write about me. I may have gone a bit overboard with the political acitivites in my community, the lady at the mall kids' place or my declining enthusiasm about working on the charity board. I won't post the links here, but I also won't remove or sugarcoat them.
I don't worry about being judged or stalked when I write. I am who I am, - this is not a learning, I knew that before ;-) And reading my blog is totally up to everyone. 
I don't even post every contribution on Facebook anymore. People are busy, but those who are subcribers or followers - I prefer to think of them as friends - will read them if they want to.

I installed a live feed on the sidebar of my blog that tells me about traffic sources and audience. My son loves to discover that people from Romania, Italy, Brazil or India were visiting. Mulţumesc, Grazie, Obrigada and Dhanyavaad for reading my blog! And of course thank you guys from English speaking countries! A word to my writing in English: I do it so you can all understand. Swiss people's English is better than your German - I assume? So if I make mistakes with my prepositions or vocabulary, please bring it to my attention! Learning: even if I can speak fairly fluently, I can't always get it right in writing!

I get a kick from seeing the search words that brought you to my blog: "Einstein, school, failed", "frog party food" or "Tom Cruise, blonde".
When I started blogging, my husband used to read my posts and said "this is good fun. Can you make money with that, so I can retire?" I never pursued it. Maybe Louis Vuitton or Wolf Blass would like to sponsor my blog? But then they would probably slap me for wearing sneakers and drinking Coke Zero. 

I write purely for fun. I write about what is on my mind whenever it hits me. I guess if I had sponsors, I would need to follow certain guidelines like limiting subjects to fit my "label", presenting a certain word count and product placement as well as following a schedule on when to post. Probably I would have to hand in my weekly stats and lose ads if I don't achieve enough clicks.

One of my last posts was not something that many people were interested in. No biggie. I am kind of taking a break from crafts and baking, and it was a tough choice between two things that were on my mind: the wrinkle cream and the broken washing machine. Not sure if the appliance topic would have been any more exctiting. But hey, this is real life! No paint brushing! Speaking of, I saw my friend's "Writer B is me" #WhoAreYouWearingMom post and loved the idea.

As much as I strive to get more organized as in purging in our house, I've found that blogging is definitely not the place to be organized. Don't get me wrong, I try to structure my text so it all makes sense, but I learned that it doesn't make sense to finish one post before starting a new one. Even if that's how I grew up. No dinner, no cake, you know?
I allow myself to have several drafts sitting in that folder (after all that's what I have a draft folder for) until I feel like resuming a certain topic.

"You can't rush art!" (Toy Story 2)

Meeting a diverse crowd of blogger friends is probably the most surprising and pleasant learning! Let's take Michele whose prompt I got this time. Reading about when she was a little girl who ate a ginormous chocolate rabbit makes you want to play catch with her - and of course you'd hope to catch some of her chocolate as well. Or Karen who facilitates not only this "secret subject swap", but also "use your words" and "fly on the wall". She also manages to include a yummy recipe in each and every post. I could go on and on. 

This learning topic was a tough subject for me. The night I got this prompt, I had a date with a friend who writes for a living, and I had planned on picking their brain over a glass of wine. Getting some ideas on how to go about this. But then I fell asleep and arrived at the café too late. But this is a whole different story.