Volunteering for the Round Robin

IMG_0550Another one of my AWCZ volunteer duties involves working on the bi-monthly newsletter/magazine called the Round Robin. As the daughter of two English majors, I consider myself one of the Grammar Police, so I was happy to sign up as a Copy Editor. I never quite knew what that meant before now, but it involves a lot of patience and time.

I take an article and put it into the correct formatting, double-check the information (if applicable – like dates), spell-check, add hyphens (lots of those!), take out extra spaces, add italics, remove italics, and do some light editing.

This photo is of the first issue that I worked on, and no sooner than it was out, it seems that we start the next issue. I just turned in my second batch of copy-edited articles for the January-February 2015 issue. I also worked on proof-reading articles for this last issue which is a communal activity and ended up being more fun than I thought. Besides, I got a preview of the contents.

(Feel free to copy edit my blog posts. It takes more than one set of eyes to find all the errors!)


Volunteering in the Library

My theory is that if you belong to a group, you should give back to it, so I signed up to volunteer for a few things at the American Women’s Club of Zurich. I took two training sessions (about four hours total) to be able to take a once-a-month shift in the library. (The large English-language library is probably the main reason I chose the AWCZ over the International Women’s Club here.)

I have had one shift so far. My first day it was raining, so very few people came into the library. In fact, no one checked out any books (except for me). However, I learned that on Wednesday afternoons there is no school throughout Zürich, and parents are encouraged to have their children involved in extra-curriculars on Wednesday afternoons. The AWCZ rents out rooms for various clubs and activities, and it is very busy on Wednesday afternoons with English classes for children, so at least I had some entertainment every 50 minutes with the changing of the classes, watching kids and parents parade through the hall.

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Innere Enge and Marians Jazz in Bern

During our trip to Bern for the Onion Market, our group took a break in the day to have lunch at the Hotel Innere Enge. And while the food was very good, the service and ambiance excellent, I did not know that we had come to a treasure trove in the heart of Switzerland (a place of many treasures).

First of all, someone said that the name of the restaurant, the Josephine Brasserie, is called that because of Josephine (Napoleon’s wife) who stayed here. Then, the owner of the hotel, Marianne, sat with us for a bit and chatted – a delightful women. She offered to give us a tour of the hotel after lunch. Apparently one of the women in our group knows this woman, hence the special treatment. I had no idea that this hotel is the home to some excellent jazz. Marianne and her husband, Hans, bought the historic building and renovated it in 1992. Each week they feature the most impressive jazz musicians in their jazz club. Marianne said they fly the performers in on Monday, then the music happens on Tuesday-Saturday. Our tour began with some of the rooms which are dedicated to certain jazz musicians. We didn’t get to see the Louis Armstrong or Dizzy Gillespie rooms (I assume they were occupied), but we did see rooms for Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson, Wild Bill Davison and Ahmad Jamal. Marianne has worked with each of the musicians to decide which photos and pieces of memorabilia with which to decorate each room. Then when those musicians are staying at the hotel (if they are still alive….) then they have their own special room. IMG_6473 IMG_6475 IMG_6477 IMG_6480 So, seeing the rooms was pretty cool, but the part that I just loved was the jazz club in the basement. It’s a cozy place with seating for 120. IMG_6482 IMG_6483 IMG_6485 When Marianne deems it appropriate, she will invite the musicians to sign the wall. Not everyone who plays there is invited to do so. You can see Ellis Marsalis’ name right in the middle of this photo. IMG_6487I also learned that Marians Jazzroom sponsors an International Jazz Festival in Bern for 10 weeks from March-May. Something to plan for….

A Birthday in Switzerland

Here is what one expat birthday looks like.

Breakfast at Honold. These are the folks of the great Schoggi Tram. They have several confisorie (confectioneries) in the Zürich area, and what could be bad about a breakfast there? Nothing!


The seating outside scared us a bit, but there were plenty of tables inside. Here is a page from their breakfast menu. We enjoyed our Birchermüseli (which has way more yogurt in it than how we make it at home), our choice of rolls and hot chocolate. The birthday boy enjoyed the Mayan Chocolate which was a very intense flavor of chili and honey. My regular hot chocolate was liquid lusciousness. What a treat to allow for an hour of breakfast.


It would seem that there is a Swiss tradition for the birthday honoree to take a treat to work for the coworkers, and since I am just not a baker, and especially not here, we thought it would be nice to share some Swiss chocolate. After browsing through the offerings of Honold, we proceeded down Bahnhofstrasse (the high-end retail street) and looked at Läderach before we ended up at Zürich’s most famous confiserie, Sprüngli.

After minutes and minutes of browsing, H chose enough items for 20 or so lab mates, and we were on our merry way.

IMG_4111 IMG_4113Funny thing, at lunch we were not hungry, so we waited until dinner to complete our personal celebrations. Time to pretend we were back in So Cal! I promised a Mexican dinner, and this is what I came up with.

Mexican Style Tortilla Chips (made in Belguim) from our regular Coop grocery store. These were actually pretty tasty. The salsa was Old El Paso, made in Spain. Hot variety. Also pretty good.


Black bean quesadillas which also had shredded zucchini (because I had some in the fridge). There are Old El Paso tortillas in the grocery store (about $6 for 8), and the cheese I used was called Pizza Mix. Instead of jalapeños, I used chipotles from the Mexican grocery store. I do not know the exact reason, but these quesadillas were delicious. Not exactly Mexican, but fabulous flavor.


And by some lovely coincidence, the birthday cards from both daughters arrived the day before yesterday, and we not only enjoyed reading them, but also talking to both girls and sharing our day with them. All in all, a great day.


Zibelemärit in Bern

Continuing on my adventure to find local customs, I went on an excursion with the American Women’s Club to the annual Bern Zibelemärit (Bern Zweibelmarkt or Bern Onion Market). Tradition has it that this market opens at 4 or 5 a.m., but we not only live an hour away by train, we are also civilized people and took the 8.56 train and arrived at the fair at a reasonable hour. Unlike the previous week, the weather was Perfect. Sunny, and upper 50s.

So, from what I can tell, this fall festival has several legends regarding its origin. Either it commemorates women from Murten coming around St. Martin’s Day (Nov. 11) to sell their onions, or, the more popular myth is that after a fire in 1405 destroyed most of Bern, the people of Fribourg came to help, and as their reward were given the right to sell their onions in Bern.

In any case, whatever reason is used for having a party on a Monday (always the 4th Monday of November), it doesn’t matter, as long as there are treasures for the selling, food for the eating and Glühwein for the drinking.

Bern is the capital of Switzerland and has a lovely town center steps outside of the HB.  The streets are fairly wide for an old town, and stalls and tents filled most of area with all kinds of stuff.


The Zytglogge – Bern’s Clock Tower.


The Federal Palace of Switzerland – the seat of the country government.


Many stalls had food to sell. Here are some Lebkuchen. The heart says, “i ha di gärn” which I assume is Swiss German for “Ich habe dich gern” which translates to “I like you.”


I do not remember the name of this, but the nuts and fruits are embedded in a marshmallowy creamy thing which is firmer than what you would imagine. It’s slightly sweet.


Of course, there are figures made from onions.

IMG_6440 IMG_6443And some made from felt.

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Onion baskets. I assume that after you enjoy them as a decoration you can use the onions in your cooking.


Of course, you can buy some Christmas items, too.

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What the kids like the most, I imagine is the throwing of the confetti. Confetti everywhere. In your hair, stuck to your jacket. First you buy a bag of it (one color per bag), but after a few hours, you can just pick up handfuls from the street which are a nice mixture of colors.

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Children of all ages liked these necklaces which looked like small onions wrapped in cellophane, but were supposedly different sweet flavors. Some of the women in our group bought these necklaces, but we did not open them to see what was inside. I will have to inquire.

IMG_6464I bought one of these onion pies to eat on the street.


Now that I have walked through Bern, I definitely want to go back with H and actually take a tour of the Parliament building, look at the historical clock a little more closely, and see what other things the Swiss capital has to offer. I will wait until they clean up the streets, though. It was pretty much a big mess by the time we left.

Zürich Christmas Market

Yes, glampers. If you are one of my American readers, you probably shiver to see the word Christmas in this blog title. After all, you’ve seen the Christmas stuff in stores since Halloween, but with Thanksgiving still hanging on as a special holiday, you are thinking about turkey and mashed potatoes. At least I am, even though we won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving this year.

So, without Thanksgiving to get in the way, the Zürich Christmas Market has been open since last Thursday, November 20. It is supposedly the largest indoor Christmas market in Europe. Yes, it’s inside in the HB (main train station). No cold wind.

The centerpiece of this market is the Swarovsky Christmas tree which stands really, really, really tall and is decorated with over 5,000 crystal ornaments. IMG_4085 IMG_4086With over 150 stalls, you can buy a wide assortment of stuff, from ornaments, sweets, toys, clothing, tchotchkes, to food and drink.

Here are clothes made out of alpaca wool.


Here is the Jack Daniel’s stall. There are also a few Glühwein stalls around. And raclette, wursts, cheeses, etc.


This was H’s favorite one – tool-shaped chocolates. Schokoladenwerkzeug.


I found this youtube video from last year which gives a little better view of this particular market. We didn’t buy anything this time. We may end up at other markets, and this one will be here until Christmas Eve, so we can always easily return.