Raclette Party

IMG_0894So, yeah. We knew we were going to have to buy a raclette machine for our house, and we ordered one with Christmas money (thanks Mom and Dad!), and it arrived last week. We didn’t buy one in Switzerland for several reasons. Mainly because it is very heavy. Also mainly because the European ones work on 240 volts. Also mainly because they are probably more expensive there.

With friends coming over for dinner, it seemed the perfect time to try it out. I waited too long to buy raclette cheese at Trader Joe’s. I learned that it is a seasonal item, out around Thanksgiving and gone by now. No worries, the Cheese Cave in Claremont carries it, and they will slice it for you. That’s a good thing since I don’t have that kind of slicer in my kitchen.

It’s fun to share our new traditions with friends, and we plan to have more raclette parties.




Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 2.25.45 PMIt wouldn’t be a true blog about Switzerland without a post about müesli.  We knew about this Swiss breakfast food before moving to Zürich, and once there quickly found our favorite brand of the stuff. Of course our favorite brand was not at our local grocery store, so every time I went down into town and was near a Migros at one of the train stations, I would be sure to pop in and pick up two packages.

If you get müesli at a Swiss restaurant or take away, it is drowning in strawberry yogurt, which tastes pretty good, but also runs the price up. So we always soaked ours overnight in the refrigerator in milk.

A welcome home gift from Lynn was a glass jar full of her homemade müesli which we ate through in the first week. She insisted that it was very easy to make, so I looked online at some recipes and decided that the best bet would be to go to the bulk food bins at Sprouts and start filling bags of rolled oats, nuts and fruit. I also decided to add flax seed and H decided to throw in some shredded coconut.


Here is what it looks like, and after having our own brand for two mornings so far, we think we will continue with this version. We will probably change it up a little every time we create a new batch.

A little Switzerland in our breakfast bowl. (We’re waiting for Lynn to claim her glass jar….)

Value Added Tax

palmI had a moment yesterday which showed me how I am still thinking European-style. We popped into a Tea Shop to buy a Boba Milk Tea, and I told H that I had the right change for the drink, handing him 25 cents to go with his bills. The price for the small was $3.25. Of course, the price ended up being $3.51 because, as we all know, there is sales tax to add on. (Well, except for those of you in Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Alaska where there is no sales tax.)

In Europe the VAT (Value Added Tax) is already figured into the price, so the posted price is what you pay. I appreciate that and it has apparently become a habit with me the past year.

Must adjust thinking.

What We Don’t Need to Miss: Or, What We Brought Back

Back in our first months in Zürich,Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 10.40.49 AM a friend asked me what we might be bringing back with us from sabbatical. I can’t remember what I said, but I’m sure it wasn’t very much, and I’m very glad that we did not come back with any additional suitcases. For everything that we added to our bags, we left something behind. Mostly.

Of course we did bring back a few souvenirs. I already wrote about our Freitag bags, and I have just ordered some Sigg water bottles here (which are Swiss, but much cheaper to buy here than there).


Not one of our bags. Just one I saw in Lucerne.

What we did bring back and required no additional space in the luggage are some attitudes and habits that I would like very much to keep up.

First, I got used to eating regular-sized portions of food and to not stocking our pantry with so much excess food (which would sometimes go to waste – and waist). Right now our refrigerator has enough stuff to last for the next few days, as does our pantry. Although they look pretty bare, they also look very clean and uncluttered.

Second, I want to continue to walk to many places. I didn’t have a bike in Zürich, but I was so happy to ride mine here the other day that I want to ride it more. To be fair, I did walk quite a bit here before since we live close to the library, post office, shops, etc., but I want to see if I can squeeze in some more calorie-powered transportation.


Scientific Progress Goes “Boink”

Third, I am still practicing German on Duolingo every day, and I look forward to speaking at German Table at Pomona College soon. To enhance our enjoyment, we bought a Calvin and Hobbes book (in Bern on our last full day in Switzerland) so we can read one page a day over lunch as we used to do.

Secret Place for Coffee, No Longer Secret!

IMG_6350It’s a good thing that packing to leave here doesn’t take as long as it took when we came. We have fewer decisions about what goes in the luggage. If we didn’t use it here, out it goes. If we are tired of it, out it goes. The rest goes in.

That gives us some time for final good-byes with friends – drinks, coffee, dinners, one a day. It’s all we ask.

I met with two orchestra friends on Monday for coffee. Neither said they had any particular place in mind, so I suggested we meet in a sort-of central location, in Paradeplatz. This is a square with many banks along the Bahnhofstrasse – probably the most expensive real estate in Switzerland.

As we stood there contemplating whether we should go into Sprüngli (such a typical place), Robin pointed to the store Grieder and said that she’d heard there was a lovely café within (a secret tip!), so we decided to try it out. After a few false doors, we found our way to an upper floor and discovered a delightful garden setting with many tables. It was a perfect place to have a chat and a cappuccino. I’m sure there were no tourists there. So, there are probably many such hidden delights throughout the city.

Ballenberg Freilichtmuseum

Nestled into 163 acres of Alp beauty, IMG_1835Ballenberg Freilichtsmuseum immerses visitors into an ultimate Swiss experience. If you love the chalets, mountains, cows (and their bells!), flower boxes, cheese, and history of this country, this is your place.

Each living history museum I’ve been to has a slightly different take on making their history come alive. Plimoth Plantation recreates an exact replica of the community with actors playing roles of specific historical characters. Ballenberg reminded me more of Old Sturbridge Village where historic buildings have been moved from their original locations to the museum for preservation and education. Ballenberg buildings are just a few hundred years older than the Massachusetts museum (and Ballenberg is also a few dollars less expensive and quite a bit less expensive than Plimoth).

This being the height of the summer tourist season, the trains towards Interlaken are filled with tourists (many from Asian countries), but once my friend Wendy and I arrived at this gem of a place, we heard mostly Swiss German from our fellow visitors. Since we had gotten our tickets online through yet another SBB deal, we thought we would not need to stop at the counter, and that someone would collect our tickets as we entered the museum, but we saw no such entrance place as we walked past the first building.


After about 15 minutes, we noticed that people were wearing stickers with the date on them, and at first we thought they were with a tour group. But no, we saw that everyone was wearing a sticker. Even though no one had stopped us, we thought it best to return to the front desk and show our tickets. With our stickers now in place, we felt legal.

We arrived just after opening at 10:15 (at the East entrance) and spent a happy five hours wandering, watching demonstrations, eating lunch and tasting cheese, peeking in buildings, and admiring the scenery.

We watched weaving and rope-making demonstrations and wandered through the pottery shop.

The cheese-making demo helped us choose the Alp Macaroni (with potatoes and onions with a side dish of applesauce) for lunch. Many of the houses had tables set in a traditional way.

The basket weaver was my favorite guy (loved his mustache!) and the hat maker was on break, as was the wood carver and the lace maker.

No one was at the bone crushers place, and we didn’t linger too long there….

The water wheel powered the huge saw which was cutting planks and was very impressive. I’m sure the silk ribbon machine was also amazing in action.

Lovely Swiss animals.

Bells and horns

And just stunning scenery that I have not yet taken for granted.

Colmar, France

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 5.10.26 PMSwitzerland snuggles right into the middle France’s east side, making a trip from Zürich to Colmar (near Strasbourg) an easy 2-hour train ride. When our brother-in-law told us that he was going to be in Frankfurt for a conference and had a few days to meet us somewhere after the conference, a quick look at the map suggested Colmar and the Alsace region of France as a terrific mid-point. He booked a rental car, we booked an AirBnB and bought train tickets for a 2-day rendezvous.

The Alsace region, known for its wine (dry Rieslings and Gewürtztraminers), is a mélange of German and French culture, having been claimed by both empires at various times throughout European history. What a pleasant experience to wander the Old Town as well as Petit Venice (a canal runs through this section) and just enjoy the half-timber houses with unique tile roofs.

We were happy to hear German spoken by many (and with such a clear accent) and to read signs in German as well as French.


You can hardly get through town without seeing stork nests on top of tall buildings, stork souvenirs, paintings on walls featuring storks, etc. Nearly 30 years ago the iconic storks of this region had dwindled to about 9 nesting pairs, but have since made a comeback.

Colmar is also known as the hometown of Bartholdi, the man who created the Statue of Liberty.


For our first meal, I ordered the traditional sauerkraut (which tastes much less pungent than what we think of with fermented cabbage) which comes with five meats. Throw in a few boiled potatoes, and I had plenty to share with H and M.