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A Bouquet Of Peach Roses For Me

August 12, 2011

It was such a pleasant surprise. I had seen the bundle in the garden along with the other blooms but they stood out because of their color. Peach! They looked so beautiful and radiant as they moved with the summer breeze. Ah, they were quite a sight to behold.

Two hours after, I saw the same bundle in a vase on the table. I approached it and then saw the note. The bouquet of peach roses was for me. From J, my mom-in-law!

               

It was so sweet of her. I was speechless!

Thank you so much, J!

In this life, there are days for surprises. That day was one. The exuberant bouquet of peach roses was such a beautiful surprise.

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Switzerland In My Mind

August 8, 2011

Let me walk down memory lane today. On this day, two years ago, I first set foot here in Switzerland as a tourist. As the plane taxied slowly to the runway, I was one of those passengers straining my eyes to the windows (and wishing that I got window seats and not center aisle) and looking out to get a glimpse of what was waiting for me to unfold for the next 20 days or so. What I saw surprised me – an immense stretch of verdant hills and mountains. “And I’m in Zurich?” To me, it being one of the world’s largest financial centers, I must be greeted by skyscrapers and other tall structures. I obviously did not do my research well. I did not know at that time that in this Alpine country, urban districts can exist side by side with the countryside. It is made up of 3 distinct geographical regions: the mountains in the northeast to southwest (Jura mountains) and in the south (Alps), and the central plateau.

For the next 3 weeks after that arrival, I explored Switzerland and its surrounding cities like Venice, Italy, Freiburg in Germany and Colmar, France. It was a roller coaster ride, 1 or 2 days spent to discover a Swiss city, and 2 or 3 days for the neighboring place.

Two months before what would be the second year from coming here the first time, I came back once more albeit with sturdier intentions, that is, to establish a family and home.

Don’t get me wrong, but I can’t help but still feel like a tourist here. For example, when passing through the Chapel Bridge (Kapelle Bruecke) in Lucerne or walking along the Old Town of Bern, I still feel that nostalgia upon discovering the inscription and graffiti, the historic buildings and houses, the colorful painted fountains – almost like seeing them for the first time. I love visiting these 2 compact cities because they can easily be explored on foot.

Chapel Bridge is a footbridge, the oldest bridge in Europe. The tower called the Wasserturm has served as lighthouse and prison

Flowers line both sides of the wooden bridge. It has become the symbol of Lucerne.

Old Town Bern With The Zytglogge (central gate adorned with a clock that has bears and crowing cock. These figures start their procession on the clock's east face 4 minutes before the clock strikes the hour).

the old district of Bern as seen from the opposite bank of the River Aare

When my calves are tired from walking, I know I can always find a seat near the fountain where I can have my water bottle refilled. Yes, the water from majority of the fountains in the public streets in Switzerland is safe to drink. Those that are not potable are marked with the notice “Kein Trinkwasser,” “Eau non potable” or “Aqua non potabile,” or a picture of a crossed-out drinking glass is hoisted nearby.

Allow me to show you pictures of these fountains in Bern and Lucerne. Most of these water fountains bear historical figures.

A fountain in Lucerne with the statue of Fritschi, a legendary character associated with spring and joy. He is celebrated every year during Fasnacht, a spring festival.

A Fountain With the Statue of Samson Subduing A Lion

   

A Fountain Of Moses Holding The Ten Commandments

A nondescript fountain but equally important as the others

Swiss tap water is pure and safe. Thus, it may be considered as a silver lining for those who plan to visit the country but are a bit hesitant because they will be on a budget trip. Just bring a handy water bottle with you and your liquid consumption from Geneva to St. Moritz, Lugano, St. Gallen, Zurich, Basel, Bern and Lucerne, is assured. Find the public fountain yourself, and fill your water bottle there. Do not, however, order tap water in a restaurant for some of these commercial establishments charge you for it.

If you want your water to have fizzles or bubbles then it’s a different story, for you have to buy it.

One cannot have the same confidence in drinking water from public fountains in other countries. About 10% of a travel bum’s budget is for bottled water, or even more, depending on where you are going.  After all, who wants to get sick on a holiday from drinking contaminated water?

Switzerland continues to dazzle my tourist’s mind. I hope I can explore more nooks and places, events and cultural feasts, in the country that is now my new home.

Calia 31-07-2011

August 6, 2011

If you were in one of the neighborhoods of Switzerland and you see the title of this post written somewhere on a decorated piece of wood hanging either on one tall tree at the front yard or on a window conspicuous to passersby, you would immediately conclude that a baby named Calia has recently been born in that household. Oh yeah, I’m tempted to hang a similar sign on one of the apple trees fronting the farm. However, while Calia is a newborn, it is a heifer calf of a first time heifer. A heifer calf is a newly born female calf. Its mother is a first time heifer, meaning, it is its first time to bring into the world a calf.

It was an easy delivery for the first time heifer last Sunday morning. First, Calia’s front legs tried to ease themselves out of its mother’s opening. With a little pull, half of its body came out, and very soon after, its whole body. The birthing (from the time the front legs were visible to the complete delivery of the calf) was over in 20 minutes. The moment it was completely delivered, the rest of the cows at the farm gave out a long “moooo” sound as if to welcome a new addition to their family.

Here’s a picture of Calia and the first time heifer right after its birth.

Why the name Calia? Well, weeks before its birth (the whole gestation period of a cow takes between 9 and 10 months, so much like humans), I coaxed TKP and his uncle that I liked to name the calf upon its birth. I would have wanted to name it “Philippa.” I was told, however, that a farmer usually names a calf closer to the name of its father, or the bull which sperm was used in the artificial insemination that impregnated the cow. He does it so that it will be easier for him to identify and to choose a successful bull when he needs to have another cow pregnant. According to the farm records, the heifer’s bull father is “Carlos.” Cara, Cala, Carla, and other names closed to Carlos came to mind, but they sounded mundane, well used by humans. Then I thought about “Calia” (pronounced as Ca-li-ya) – a short but rare-sounding name that would still be in close association with its bull father’s name (or at least pronunciation-wise).

So, Calia, welcome to the world of humans and bovines!

Here Comes A Day To Fly The Heli, Yay!

August 6, 2011

It’s a warm day today. The forecast says so. It’s still 8am but the sun is shining and no sign of clouds at a distance. Well, it’s Switzerland and it’ll not be surprising if after 30 minutes or so you see an overcast sky. It’s blue at this moment and I’m loving it.

I may not be the only one wishing it to be the same weather until the afternoon. Hubby wants the sun to keep its pace too for 10 hours at least. For that means he can fly his helicopter or his plane after his usual duties at the farm.

Nah, it’s not a Mosquito XE or a Cessna often used by pilots-hobbyists. Hubby flies a remote-controlled heli or plane in his leisure time. I used to think he was drawn to this hobby back in the US where he lived for 15 years, but when I arrived here, I realized flying a RC-heli or plane must be a Swiss thing. Males, young and old, form rc-heli/plane-flying-clubs together (like they do form and join cycling, running clubs), and on a clear day like today, they all troop to the open fields or to the vast grazing farms to fly their little birds.

I have joined my husband several times when he tries out his flying toys. One thing that I notice is that this hobby bonds Swiss guys regardless of age. From where I come from, clubs are composed of members belonging to the same age or to the same age bracket or to the same generation, most often than not. Here, it is the passion to do a common thing that brings people together, never the age.

Anyhow, TKP (that’s how I fondly call my husband here in my blog because “husband” or “hubby” sounds too formal) recently got an iPhone-controlled heli.

A Parrot AR.Drone! Yes, instead of a remote control, he uses Wi-Fi to control the flying pattern of the heli. The Wi-Fi mechanism is, of course, made possible by an iPhone app. Pretty cool, isn’t it? And here’s more: while the heli is up there and flying, he can take a picture of the surrounds because the Parrot AR.Drone has a camera on its snout and streams the footage on the iPhone screen! Here’s an example of a photo taken while the Drone was in flight.

Ahh, is TKP becoming a photo junkie like me? 😉

While my guy is busy flying, I am busy finding subjects for my photo shoots. The meadow is vast, and each blade of grass sways in different directions. To me, it looks like every speck of nature tells its own special story. I definitely find them worthy to take pictures of.

       

       

       

Here’s to more photos of picturesque sceneries on our next flying day. It can be today if the weather cooperates. Tschuss!

Happy National Day, Switzerland

August 1, 2011

Today is the Swiss National Day. It is said that today in 1291, the 3 cantons (or states), Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, signed the Federal Charter creating the Swiss confederation. The alliance was aimed at ending the reign of the Habsburghs of Austria who were the most prominent feudal dynasty in Europe at that time. The other cantons joined the confederation after 1291, and as a result, the Habsburgs suffered crashing defeats in succeeding battles against the confederates.

Family gatherings characterize the celebration in the present time. Spectacular fireworks can be seen from mountains and hills. Songs and dances can also be heard.

J’s brother and his fam are here at the house right now. Hubby’s brother and his fam are here too. It is a busy household at the moment, and I can hear fireworks from here and there too. I am told this will last until midnight.

Since I still have to help start the bonfire, let me greet my new world a happy National Day!

So Long, Baby Angus

July 30, 2011

I live very close to a farm. In fact, it is just across the street. It belongs to TKP’s family and he together with his uncle works there every day. It is dairy farm of cows and calves. About 400 liters of milk are produced there each day with the cows being milked twice – in the morning and in the late afternoon.

Aside of milk production, there are other interesting events in a dairy farm. One of them is veal production, or when a bull calf is sent to the abattoir to be butchered. Rather than raising a non-milk producing stock, a dairy farmer opts to have the bull calf butchered when it reaches a few months old (say 6 months old). Also, rather than selling the veal which is what other dairy farmers do, TKP and his uncle choose to keep them for daily consumption and “for the winter.”

That was exactly what happened early this week. They sent a bull calf to the butcher. He was an Angus with a little bump on his head. Hubby took a picture of it a few minutes before it was brought to the abattoir.

Three (3) days later, the butcher’s wife delivered bags of Angus beef to the house.

They were bagged according to what part of the calf they came from. Ribs, muscle meat, chuck, liver, loin, brisket, flank and tongue. All in all, they weighed 49.4 kilos.

              

              

Ah tongue! It was the only secondary part of the calf that was delivered back to us. No leg, shin, or tail. I think, most Swiss don’t eat them.

TKP even cannot imagine himself eating a calf’s tongue dish. His mom and uncle do eat it though. I already found a recipe for Lengua* Con Setas (Lengua With Mushrooms) from my Good Housekeeping cookbook. Let’s see if he can resist it 😉

(This reminds me that I still have to convince him to eat “balut” (fermented duck egg) when we’ll be in Philippines again, agh!)

J and I vacuum-packed the meat, weighed and labeled them before putting them in the freezer. They can be stored this way for a long time, for as long as 2 years, I am told.

         

        

       

So much for storing, I am ready to eat another bratwurst (grilled or panfried sausage) now.

*”Lengua” means “tongue” in Spanish. “Die Zunge” is German.

Cookin’ It Up

July 29, 2011

It all started when my husband, TKP, after another sumptuous dinner, casually asked what would be for lunch the next day. You see, I have been helping his mom prepare meals in the kitchen. It is apparently the most prudent to do when you are the only two women in the house. So when the clock strikes an hour before lunchtime, I am off to the kitchen where the elaborate preparations are done. I am fortunate to have inserted a Good Housekeeping recipe book in one of my boxes before sending them to Fed Ex when I relocated. I gamely flashed the same book to my husband.

 

Mom-in-law (let’s call her J)  digged in. That started our quest for what was lunch the next day.

The ladies (I and J) picked “Pork Roulade” when we noticed that it needs pesto sauce for its preparation. We had pesto sauce for the pasta dinner, and we had some leftover.

 

At 10:30 in the morning of the next day, we started our cooking adventure together. Again, I am referring to myself and  J because TKP works and barely has time for this chore on a regular working day.

 

          First, J cut the pork.

         Then I “punched” each slice to create shallow slits  on the meat to ensure          absorption of the marinade.

         

Then, I applied the marinade of herbs, pepper and lemon juice. The two bowls of pork cutlets were then put in the fridge.

                          

After 40 minutes, more or less, we took the bowls out and brushed a teaspoon of pesto sauce on one side of each piece. The pesto sauce is made up of blended fresh basil leaves, garlic bulb (both from J’s garden), Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper.

   

Next, we put 2 strips of bacon, rolled the cutlet and secured the edge with a toothpick.

       

Before searing it on high heat in a saute pan, J rolled each piece on white flour.

 

For the pork sauce, we followed the instructions in the recipe book. We heated 30 grams of butter and 1 tablespoon flour over low heat. After that, we added 1/2 cup of red wine and a cup of beef stock, and let the sauce simmer until J was satisfied of its consistency.

    

 

While J let me do the pork roulade, she boiled medium-sized potatoes.  When they were cooked, we peeled them and cut them in half. J then arranged them in a heated dish tray from the oven with butter underneath and over the top.

 

Then it was time to prepare the lettuce salad.  Since my arrival here, J has let me do the salads. It is no sweat really as I only have to pick one head lettuce from her garden (sometimes, she pre-picks them), separate each leaf and wash them carefully with running water, drain and put them in a bowl (cut them by hand and eliminate the not-so-good portions, if necessary). J has pre-prepared salad dressing in a bottle, so I just pour it over the lettuce salad bowl. This was what I did, and eureka, we had our lettuce salad for lunch.

 

J makes tea every day from mint or linden leaves in the garden. We had 2 pitchers on that day. TKP and I like to mix blue Rivella (it’s a popular soft drink brand in Switzerland produced from milk whey) with J’s tea.

And for dessert (well, one thing I learned in my more than a month stay here: you have to leave some space in your stomach for dessert :-)), we had grapes from the grocery store.

 

That was our lunch one summer day here. It seems like this Good Housekeeping cookbook and I will be good companions. Along with J, of course.