Saturday, August 29, 2009

So I picked up some Quark at the Grocery Store...

It was near the yogurt section- similar type of container. I am kind of on a kick of trying new different types of food (except meat - that grosses me out) so I said "Why Not?".

I was curious (and hungry) when I got home so I broke into it right away. And I was PLEASANTLY surprised! That stuff is good! The consistancy is thicker than yogurt but not as thick as cream cheese - pretty dense but still creamy - maybe whipped cream cheese? Anyway, it was sooo good! I have never heard of it in the States - if you have please let me know because I will definitely want it when I get back!

So of course I had to google "Quark" to find out what it was, what people do with it, etc. Here is the wikipedia definition. The cool thing I learned is that it has a very low fat content and can be exchanged for cream cheese in most recipes. I found it on several "weight watcher" type websites. They suggested mixing it with honey and dried fruit or nuts for a dessert 0r just to spread it on toast for breakfast. Yummmm! I read it was popular in the Netherlands - Vicki or Kristen - did you ever have it there?

So this morning, when I woke up, I was so excited to have some on my toast for breakfast- when I find Nathan had mixed the entire container with his cereal (we do this a lot with yogurt).

He looks up at me and says "This is disgusting - it doesn't mix well - don't buy this brand again".

Then I said "That's because it's Quark - can't you read!" (I was kind of pissed because I wanted to eat it - I would have shared a tiny bit)

Then he said "Quark? What the hell is that?"

Me: "What you are eating! Couldn't you tell when you opened it that it didn't look like yogurt?!"

Him: "Yes - but if they didn't want me eating it like this then they shouldn't have put it in a YOGURT CONTAINER!"

Me (to myself) "Well how do you argue with that... with a man?" So I gave up and made him finish eating his "cream cheese mixed with cereal" :) Good times:)!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wait - WHAT do we mop the floor with?

Last night I attended my first Zuri Cooking Club event! (Nathan and I went to the very first planning meeting in June but I have been out of town for the last two dinners so this was the first dinner I could actually attend - but no Nathan - he is in Finland:( .)

The premise of the club is just that a group of people who like to cook (you don't have to be good at it) get together and make dinner. Two or so people plan the menu, divide up the grocery list amongst the attendees, and then we all meet to cook and eat.

In the States we would probably meet at some one's house for something like this but not here because people's houses/apartments are usually very small. (Our kitchen here is smaller than my bathroom back home!) So we rented a kitchen in the Oerlikon Tezet - which I think is just a community house where people can gather, take classes, rent the kitchen, etc. And it is cheap! Who knew? Everything else is ridiculously expensive here! (I should seriously write a blog on just prices of stuff - did you know a Big Mac costs about $5.50 - not that I've eaten one - I just wanted to know - promise:)) I digress - anyway - I wish I would have taken my camera to get a shot of the kitchen and the group cooking! It was a lot of fun and I even signed up for the October Menu - any suggestions?:)

This time the menu was Creole/New Orleans (the couple planning the meal had just taken a trip there) - really HEALTHY meal:)! I think I gained 10 lbs! Myself and a guy named Wojtek were in charge of the "Smothered Green Beans" - the name alone screams heart attack. Because what else would it be smothered in but Bacon Grease Gravy - of course:) But Damn it was good! I am going to give you guys the recipe at the end of the post because I even went to bed dreaming about it:)!

Wojtek and I were also in charge of the Mint Juleps - surprisingly I never had one of these - although after I drank one I know why - can you say - let's just take shots of Bourbon! Oh and we can add some mint for good measure. I'll stick with the wine:)!

We had a 3 course meal for 19 CHF (with wine!) per person - now that is a Swiss Bargain!

The deal with renting the kitchen is that you have to leave it spotless when you leave. Which of course makes sense, but last time the group got in trouble for not mopping the floor - although they said it was sparkling when they left! But this is Switzerland and if they say mop the floor - they will check! I was wondering if it was some one's job to feel the mop to see if it was still wet from the night before:) Probably - because they told our group if we didn't mop this time then we would lose our 100 CHF deposit!

So a couple of us (all Americans) were searching every where for said mop and couldn't find it! How were we supposed to comply with the rule if they didn't have a mop?! So we were all freaking out, checking the closets, trying to find the mop, when the Swiss girl (thank goodness she was there), goes in a drawer and pulls out what looks like a dish rag. She says "This is a mop rag". A what? A mop rag. Supposedly it is very common. They basically wet the mop rag put it on the floor then push it around with a BROOM. Okay. I mean she did have a point - when you are finished mopping with a real mop it is hard to get the mop completely clean but with a MOP RAG you just put it in the washing machine. The Swiss are so efficient.:) I guess that is how they knew no one mopped - no mop rag in the "dirty hamper" last time.

I think I should introduce them to the Swiffer Wet Jet - just saying.:)

Anyway - great night! I just hope I fit in my jeans today! I don't think I need anything to eat for at least 24 hours.

The full menu was: Mint Juleps, Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, Smothered Green Beans and Potatoes, and Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce. Yum!

Here is the Smothered Green Beans and Potatoes Recipe as promised - Serving size 8
Tip - It was really easy to make but I would suggest cooking/boiling the potatoes a bit before putting them in the sauce. The recipe says it takes only 30 minutes but the potatoes weren't done. I think if the potatoes were cooking while the bacon was sauteing it would be faster - just my two cents.

Ingredients:

1 lb. (500 g) bacon, chopped
.5 cups (125 mL) flour
4 medium onions, chopped
2 teaspoon (8 mL) salt
.5 teaspoon (2 mL) cayenne pepper
.5 teaspoon (2 mL) black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
2 lbs. (500 g) green beans
4 medium potatoes, cubed


1. Saute bacon for 8 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. Add flour to bacon grease 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes.
4. Add salt, cayenne, pepper and broth. Simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add beans and potatoes. Simmer for 20 Minutes.
6. Add bacon and serve.

Ich liebe New Orleans Nahrung!
Mandy

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Glacier Express

Yesterday Nathan and I went on the Glacier Express - which is an 8 hour train ride from Zermatt to St. Moritz (or vice versa). I have to say it was an AMAZING ENGINEERING FEAT - the train crossed 291 bridges and went through 91 tunnels. The most amazing part - I thought - was that the first line of this train route was started in 1889. Wow! To see what they did without "modern" technology was unbelievable. I'm just glad that I wasn't the one blasting through the Swiss Alps or buidling the legenderary Landwasser Viaduct without the use of scaffolding!

Now with that being said Nathan and I kind of got that feeling like when a movie comes out and EVERYONE is all "OMG It's the best movie I've ever seen." or "It's so funny - it's better that Old School". You know - when the HYPE is so much better than the movie itself that you end up disappointed? We both kind of felt like that. So as not to piss off any of the Swiss who could possibly read this - yes it was a beautiful train ride - but so is the train ride to Luzern or Interlochen or really any where in Switzerland. Pictures from any train ride in Switzerland will probably include: Snow peaked mountains, beautiful lakes, rolling green valleys, cute little chalets, cows..... you get my point. So maybe if you have not traveled by train in Switzerland at all then this is the trip for you b/c you will get to see ALL of that! But if you have, then I vote being on a train for 8 hours might not be your best use of time. Of course, even as I write this, I feel like we must have miseed something monumental b/c the Glacier Express has been written up in so many books and magazines as "Unbelievable", "Amazing", "Top 1001 Things to Do before you Die" - so take our opinion for whatever you think it is worth.:)
The Glacier Express is a very busy train so you have to buy reservations several weeks in advance - and unfortuntately this means you get whatever the weather gods give you - so parts of the trip were less desirable than we would have liked for sightseeing (you'll see below:)). HOWEVER, we did have a great time on our trip (life is too short not to) and here are some of our pictures from the day! So without further ado:


Cute town of Zermatt! We will have to come back here to ski! When traveling to Zermatt you have to leave your car in the neighboring city - they don't allow any cars here!



All Aboard!

Nathan's little section of the world for the next 8 hours:)!

A map of the train ride - bottom left (Zermatt) to upper right (St. Moritz)

Looking back at mountains near Zermatt




Let me off here! Vineyards in Valais!




There were lots of beautiful water falls!

So we went into a tunnel with beautiful Sunny skies and came out 15 minutes later (it was a really long tunnel) into this - FOG! I don't know if you can tell from the photo but we couldn't even see a foot out the windows for about 30 - 45 minutes. Is this a classic Nathan expression or what? WTF:)




When the fog cleared up in started raining:) Here is a picture of part the Rhine Gorge "The Swiss Grand Canyon". Cool huh?:)



Rolling green valley and cute little town



The Glacier Express ended in St. Moritz - very beautiful city on a lake - my picutres don't do it justice! I would love to come back here to ski too!




So there you have it! Most of the pictures didn't turn out that well b/c of the glare from the train windows:( But if you would like to see them all - click here!
Mandy

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wollishofen Park

Wednesday night we went out for another BBQ to Wollishofen Park -what a great little place! Nathan had been here before with friends while I was in the States but it was a first for me. We met some friends from our glocals group. I was most impressed b/c they had "Public" grills. And not the typical U.S. kind where there is a grill and you provide the charcoal - no GAS grills. In the park. For FREE! Pretty cool:)

However these grills provided American joke number 1 for the evening. I was commenting on how we don't have these grills in a public park any where in the U.S. - at least not that I know of. And this German guy - out of know where- goes "Well that's probably b/c if someone didn't cook their food properly on it and got food poisoning they would probably sue the city - and win." WOW! So THAT is the reputation we americans have - nice!

Which leads to American joke number 2. So while I was grilling I started talking to this guy from Venezuela. He asked where I was from and I said North Carolina. He said "Oh yeah - I know where that is. That's the state with the really dumb Miss America contestant - right?" Um HELLO - that was South Carolina - okkaaaaaaay! (If you haven't seen the video or have no idea what I'm talking about click here.) Geez - one of the first people that I meet that isn't like "Oh are you from NYC, LA, MIAMI, or VEGAS? Then I don't know where that is:)" And this is the CRAP I get! South Carolina? Really? (Sorry Erin:))

Tomorrow we are headed to Zermatt to take the Glacier Express - an 8 hour train ride across Switzerland form Zermatt to St. Moritz. I am very excited since it has been written up in lots of travel books including - 1001 Things to Do Before You Die. Check! Only 1000 more things to do:)!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Drunken Sailors - Zurich Street Parade 2009

So Friday afternoon Miriam and I went out to find costumes for the Street Parade on Saturday. I'll be honest - I was picturing blue wigs, neon leg warmers - you know - 80's Techno! But after finding out that wigs in this freaking country are 80 Francs a piece we quickly vetoed that idea! Since we knew it was going to rain (pour!) Miriam brought up the fact that we should incorporate hats and rain boots into our outfits! THANK YOU Miriam! We found an Army Surplus store and our Sailor theme was born!
Then Saturday morning Nathan and I went back into Zurich to pick up his hoola skirt and lei! I thought it would be cute with the Sailor theme (I rescued him from an island or something:)! I so wish I would have brought my camera for this early morning excursion, b/c there were already people in costumes (but only a few) so they looked really out of place and they were getting some crazy stares from unsuspecting tourists! Little did they know they would definitely get an eyeful later in the day! Final stop - Denner - to buy a bottle of rum for Nathan and a bottle of vodka for me - it WAS going to be an ALL day event - don't judge us:)!

Why are people staring at me....Haters

Zurich Street Parade - We Salute You!

It was still pretty nice weather Saturday morning (it was beautiful, sunny and 80 on Friday - of course) but AS SOON AS we were ready to walk out the door for the parade at 2 pm the skies opened up! We had an umbrella and tried to stay dry for a bit but then realized it was completely USELESS and just gave in! I mean -trying to weave your way through a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people really isn't all that easy when you are trying not to poke anyones eye out! And besides - we were getting wetter but all the water dripping off each others umbrellas then by the rain! Thank goodness for the SAILOR HATS or I would have looked reaaaaaaaaaaaally bad!

Speaking of Sailors - I highly recommend dressing up as one the next time you have the opportunity! It was SO MUCH FUN saluting people and having them salute back! (Maybe it was partly the minibar in Nathan's backpack but I think it was MOSTLY the hats!) And it was fun having a twin! Maybe not as much fun for Miriam after Nathan accidently spanked HER butt a few times, but I loved it! :) We got lots of attention, and had several people taking our pictures (even with the huge paparazzi like cameras) so I'm thinking we might end up on the internet today! But don't worry Mom - I swear I didn't do anything to embaress the family!:) Although Nathan did say several times that we were going to have to a "family meeting" today........ Good thing he drank his entire bottle of rum by himself and he can't remember what for! ......Maybe it was one of these photos:)

The back of their shirts said.......First Lesson Free. Probably good for them b/c I'm not sure who would have paid:)

Support your local drag queen!



The rest of our crew:)


The "mini-bar" backpack ROCKED!

I'm Proud to be an American!

So Nathan basically had the camera the whole time but here are a few of him too! I don't think he wanted any "evidence":)


Go ahead - get on stage - they WANT you to!

What IS that?

The people watching was some of the best I've EVER seen! Wow! It's amazing what people will leave the house in! I mean REALLY? REALLY? Actually I'm REALLY grateful b/c I have some AWESOME pictures and great memories for the rest of my life! :) It was basically like Mardi Gras on steriods with lots of Techno Music! Oh - and it was actually peaceful! They claimed it would be on the "Official Street Parade" website but, with all those people, pouring down rain, bouncers that kept backing us up away from the "lovemobiles", lots of alcohol, and I'm guessing a fair amount of drugs - I couldn't believe there wouldn't be any fighting, but I didn't see a single altercation! I guess they were right - Techno Musik does bring Love and Peace!:) Here is some of the "Love and Peace" we experienced:

This lady was "riding" a flamingo:)

Really? Well at least she had on most of her clothes....

Best use of a triathalon belt - cigarettes and mini bottles!


Not sure what they are supposed to be.....

AnnMarie - this one is for you!:)

Swine Flu!

Speaking of the Lovemobiles - Nathan got some good video! The Lovemobiles were basically "floats" designed by all the clubs in Zurich. I'm not sure how many there were but they started at 1 pm and were still going at 8 pm when we left the parade for the after party!


The Pirate themed Lovemobile coming through! Yeah - the people do get out of the way:)

Here is one video:

video


I just love this group photo but I don't think any of us remeber taking it:)!


There were a bunch of parties/concerts after the parade and we picked the one at the Main Train Station. Nathan and I didn't last very long though and although it is a huge debate on what time we got home (neither of us quite remember) I think it was around 10 pm.

The dance lights kind of messed with the pics but you get the idea.

L is for "Loser" b/c we were headed home!

Surprisingly though we were up by 9 am and ready to take on the world - okay not the whole world but at least our living room:) Total veg day (and I haven't been outside...yet) but no headache and no hangover! Yeah!!!! We might be over 30 but we can STILL party! Whoop Whoop

~mandy
You can click here for the REST of the story:)

The "official" website had some great pictures too - including more naked photos:)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zurich Street Parade 2009 - Still Have a Dream

Everyone is talking about the STREET PARADE that is this Saturday in Zurich. Last year over 800,000 people attended! It is the largest parade in Europe and the most peaceful!

Here is a little bit from the "Motto & Meaning" page from the Official Street Parade Website.
This was a long time before the birth of the Street Parade, but it has been fighting for the same goals for 18 years. Thousands of people – no matter what their religion, skin colour or sexual orientation – dance to electronic music that allows everyone to be together peacefully and without violence. Together, we will live the dream of another sensational, peaceful Street Parade in 2009!

Let's look forward to the 2009 Street Parade. Let's give the gift of joy and cheer – let's dance on the streets of Zurich! STILL HAVE A DREAM! The Street Parade is no dream – it's a gift from today to the future. A pulsating, peaceful messenger helping everyone to share, and a party with exciting electronic music and dance. Zurich vibrates to the spirit of the unique, magical Street Parade that's impossible to describe; it just has to be experienced! We're looking forward to another peaceful, colourful, fascinating occasion, and to welcoming you here in Zurich!


So dancing to Techno Music in the street (apparently without much clothing on and in costume) brings PEACE TO ONE AND ALL! Who knew? Somebody should tell America this.:) I can see Techno Dance Parties in NYC, Chicago, LA, Atlanta.....Raleigh?! Who wants to create the first "Lovemobile"?

Can't wait to show you guys pictures! I think they will be pretty interesting! Here is the official video for the event:

video

Peace Out,

Mandy

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Let's Reflect

So yesterday marked the 3 month anniversary of our move to Zurich! (Of course I was in the States for a month but we aren't going to count that:)) I thought I would reflect on how far we've come - thank God!

Recap of the first week:
1. I cried in a "grocery store"
2. Blew up my hair dryer and a $40 converter along with it
3. Ate Bologna and other nondistiguishable foods
4. Had to buy a sweatshirt that said "I love animals" on it
5. Couldn't converse with anyway and thought "no one in Switzerland spoke English".
6. I had no idea what stores sold what or where they were located or which trains/trams/buses took you there - I also used google maps to locate them once I found out what they were called
7. Stuck in Switzerland b/c of the "one time only entrance" on our Visas
8. Couldn't work the dishwasher or the clotheswasher. And the dishwasher needed salt and smelled like a sewer!
9. Could only watch CNN and MTV b/c all other channels were in German
10. And Finally, I thought I might kill Nathan b/c we lived in 650 sq ft and our stuff wasn't going to fit with the both us!

Well - just yesterday I:
1. I properly used both the dishwasher and clotheswasher
2. Mailed stuff to Swagger at the Post
3. Went to two different "real" grocery stores
4. Picked out a Birthday card for my sister and translated it all by myself
5. AND had a friend over for dinner - who showed us how to change every channel on our TV from German to English (at least it's only been 3 months not 12)!

LIFE IS GOOD!:)

Other proof we've come a long way:
1. I downloaded an app to my itouch that translates German to English. I now don't have to rely on the pictures to tell me what the meat is! Also - after eating the bologna I wouldn't eat the meat that was in the bins with the sign that said "Rabatt" - I thought it was "Rabbit" (they do eat horse so you never know) - but now know that means Rebate (or discount):)!
2. I bought ice cube trays but find we RARELY use ice! Never saw that one coming - Nathan used to get Tea with his ice!
3. Took back 100 lbs worth of clothes and stuff we didn't need back to the States in June. We are really learning about want vs. need - well at least Nathan is trying to teach me the difference;)
4. We both now carry a jacket wherever we go - you really never no when it will get cold - and a person only needs ONE "I love animals" sweatshirt!
5. We haven't purchase one bottled water or used a plastic/paper bag since we've been here. We are soooooo green:) We also recycle everything. Well.... our maids do - but same thing:)
6. Figured out that basically everyone in Zurich speaks English EXCEPT for the people in Oerlikon. This has actually hindered our German learning - b/c as soon as they figure out you speak english (doesn't take long I assure you) they start speaking in english. However, I do have to read German everyday (at stores) so I am building my vocabulary. Also, both of us can understand a bit more when people around us are speaking German. So we understand some stuff - but we answer in English:) At least I don't still FREEZE and give the BLANK STARE when spoken to in German:)
7. I don't have to convert (most) measurements any more. I now know what temp 20 degrees Celsius "really" is, know 20:00 is 8 o'clock without have to subtract 12 in my head, the trail is 20 km -no problem, 1/4 cup is 60 ml - I could go on! This makes life a lot easier - having to look everything up was a pain in the ass!
8. I am a whiz at using the http://www.sbb.ch/ (swiss public transport) website and no longer have to use google maps! I even got Nathan from Milan, Italy back to Zurich when he missed his train (and he had 2 connections!)
9. Realized 650 sq ft is actually pretty big and all we need in this world - yes it is still me talking! Well........okay - I would still like my walk in closet (and all my clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry;)) I think the good thing about a small living space is that it makes you want to get your butt outside and enjoy life!!!
10. And finally the most important thing we have both learned (really more Nathan as I wasn't that bad about this) is that there is more to life than just working and the computer! Life over here is just slower - people enjoy it more! Nathan has only had like 10 phone calls on his cell phone since we moved and often leaves it at home - it used to be permanently attached to his hip - good grief!

I know we still have a lot to learn and we definietly still LOOK like Americans but WE'VE COME A LONG WAY BABY!

Auf Wiedersehen;)
Mandy

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rimini Bar

Yesterday we went to the Rimini Bar to meet a bunch of people before the fireworks started for Swiss National Day. This place was VERY cool! It is located on the river (very secluded though) and had a great atmosphere. Great place to hang out during the day for a swim (although the water was REALLY cold) and at night the lighting made it really cool . I wish Raleigh had a place like this! Here are some pics:


Outside the Rimini Bar




Inside Rimini



The group we were with (about 50 people) - pretty nice!



When it got darker we moved to the "floor seating" - we will definitely have to go bar to this bar -great vibe!


About 9:30 we went down to the lake for the fireworks. We were with a bunch of Italians who decided the fireworks were "shit" and definitely from China - apparently Italian fireworks are the best on the planet - who knew? I'm pretty sure in America we grew up with Chinese fireworks - b/c Nathan and I thought the show was pretty nice:). What do we know?! Here is a pic of our smaller group at the lake - but there were thousands of others - very crowded!

The link for my sister who can't see the pics in the blog:)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm going to start bringing my SUIT CASE to the grocery

Seriously. How is one person supposed to carry a: case of beer (tall boys mind you), 2 bottles of wine, stuff to BBQ, ice creams cones (for nathan not me), and food for the rest of the weekend by themselves for 1/2 a mile - UP HILL! Okay so it is downhill in that direction but still FAR with all that heavy stuff!

Normally I wouldn't try to get all that in one trip BUT today is Swiss National Day so I had to buy everything yesterday b/c stores are closed on a national holiday and nothing is ever open on Sunday. (We got burned by this last week trying to buy beer for our cricket game - which Nathan had a fit over b/c we ended up paying 4 CHF (Swiss Francs) per beer at a Kiosk instead of about 1 CHF at the grocery store. Blah Blah Blah - throwing money out the window - Blah Blah Blah). Hence the case of beer this weekend - fool me once - don't fool me twice.

One thing that I needed for the BBQ was a grill. Which of course we don't have, but here they have these Einweggrills. Basically a one time use grill. So cool! I've never seen one of these in the States (of course I've never looked for one either). Have you guys ever seen one? So you can basically have a BBQ anywhere! This would be perfect for Tailgating!


So last night we had a BBQ at Zurichhorn Park. I posted something last minute on glocals.com (a local english speaking meet up group website) to see if anyone wanted to join us b/c it was such a beautiful night. We had a great time - it was a small group (only 6) so we really get to know each other. Have I mentioned how much I love hanging out with such an international group? I do. I love it! Countries represented were: Germany, England, Holland, India, and of course the US! At one point we recapped the "swimming fiasco" last weekend with all the naked men and that turned into every one sharing their "War Stories". HI-LAR-I-OUS! The guy from Holland even told a story involving going to the gym, hair dryers, drying below the belt - you see where I'm going with this! So damn funny! I guess us Americans aren't the only ones that are uptight:) For being so conservative the Swiss are TOTALLY fine with nakedness! Who knew?

Not sure why Ehsaan had his butt in the air - but this was our group!:)

After the BBQ we went to the Bar at Lakeside Casino. Very posh with "beds" as some of the seating (kind of like that episode of Sex and the City) and a sand floor. Very cool but I guess I'm to old for that crap b/c after my back wasn't supported for an hour and we had sand in our bed - I had to go home:) Who thought that would be comfortable anyway? Posh? Yes. Comfortable? o. Me Old? Hell yes.:) Anyway, here's a pic of our group on our bed:



Today we are just chilling around the house trying to plan our travels for Italy & Austria/Germany in September. Tonight we are heading to another open air bar/"pool" on the river - the Rimini Bar. We heard it was pretty cool so I'm excited to see it. Then we are headed to the lake to see fireworks for Swiss National Day! I'll have pics tomorrow!
~mandy

Pics located here if you can't see these.

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