Monday, August 30, 2010

Harbinger of fall.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light,
And to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a light dawned." (Matthew)

Hubby took this picture from the bedroom window this morning. It is one thing I've always loved about my Russian ... he loves the coming and going of the sun as much as I do. Now as I type, the sun shines bright on the green fields; the orange sunrise lasts but a fleeting moment as the sun sails fast across the sky!

I hope your Sunday is lovely.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Last night was pizza night! Do you know what that means in my ex-pat world? It means we eat in the living room (!). The first night we did this was a few years ago. Hubby was out at an office dinner and I thought, as the rain pounded on the skylight and I was left home with my four little sweethearts, "I wish we had Pizza Hut". I know... Pizza Hut is nothing more than an Italian Mc Donalds... but absence makes the heart grow fonder and Pizza Hut loomed.

It occurred to me that there is one restaurant in this town that makes take-out pizza. It's true that we need five to feed us and that the bill comes to sixty dollars (it isn't really Pizza Hut after all), but I decided to take the plunge. We ordered and then picked them up (no delivery to crown the event truly American, but we deal).

I cannot fully describe the feeling of running out in the rain with all those pizzas piled high. Liberating is the word that comes to mind. We stretched out a tablecloth in the living room and sat on the floor, unheard of in these parts. We poured Coke, and turned on War Games. Remember that? It's still a family favorite!

And then I sit contentedly, observing my little half-European-offspring-turned-American, on a rainy night and enjoy the moment. Ah.


Friday, August 27, 2010

This doorframe is so much like people. Once you chip away at the exterior facade the interior is so much different than you might have initially thought. Personally, I like the right side of this picture so much better; in the people I love the best, this is all I want to see.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning "no."

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all the other stars in the loneliness

We're all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. . . . It's in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, hold up all this falling.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Robert Bly)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When I first moved here, American foods were virtually non-existent. With time, one by one, my grocery store began to carry a few life support items, to the annoyance of the general population but to the elation of one bi-cultural shopper.

The first life raft? Cheddar cheese! I'll never forget the day the lady in the milk section pulled me aside... "I got this in just for you... but people are in a stir over it! They say we have enough good cheese in Switzerland without importing gross cheese like this. But I'm going to keep it in stock for you!"

We ate so much of it my kids don't like it anymore. But not to fear, the next item was even better... oreos. Oh! Just saying the word evokes a deep feeling of reverence. The Russian often comes home with four or five boxes for me (they're as expensive as gold!), and we eat them dunked in milk (the kids would tell you that I do most of the eating. hmmm).

And then there was the day that rice crispies appeared on the shelves. But marshmallows. My friends, I have waited for seventeen years to see marshmallows in the stores. I have brought them back smashed in my suitcase from the US, I have ordered them online for ten dollars a bag, I have begged family and friends to ship them to me, but this summer... oh this summer! I walked into my grocery store only to behold a gigantic pile of marshmallows on display. I nearly cried. Really!

And today... we are having rice crispie treats just like they used to make 'em for potluck dinners and birthday parties; they'd always be placed alongside the jell-o moulds and marshmallow salad (who ever named that a salad, anyway?).

If any of my European friends want the recipe for this, do let me know! You can get everything you need at Migros. yay!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For my birthday this year I received an envelope in the mail with books and seeds... books and seeds! I thought to myself, "They will die, Allison, because you can't keep anything alive!"

Well I planted them one afternoon and moved them up to my balcony where I could keep a close eye on them. I've been watering and talking to them for nearly three months. Ignorantly, I used the whole packet of lobelia for this one plant, so it is a full and thriving specimen (!), but what thrills me most is that they actually survived. And better yet, they have blossomed!

The wisdom of a distant friend blooms in my own intimate world, and I can't help but think that there never was a better gift...

Monday, August 23, 2010

I am officially knitting my first sock (yes, it's taken me years to finally do it and the yarn has been in my stash for ever so long shaming me!). So far so good, but I haven't reached the heel yet so that overt optimism may be premature.

This is an absolutely gorgeous yarn made in Wales by JitterBug. I bought it with my sister this February at Knitche in Downer's Grove (the best and most inviting yarn shop I've ever been in), after lattes and fresh scones served up at a cozy table surrounded by plenty of knitting books over which to sigh and squeal. It is 100% Merino easy care and is as soft as they come. The day I bought this was a yarn feast - five hours at Knitche with my sister, the knitting Master Kan... have a look here:

I actually broke one of these Lantern Moon Sox Stix trying out the Montana Wheat Pattern (anyone who knows the value of these will be as distressed as I was over it), which showcases teeny tiny cables that I have decided are not worth the effort, though beautiful and comfy in the extreme. Notice I've gone back to basic ribbing? Ahem...

Well, wish me luck! Is anyone else out there knitting anything of interest? Give me a link, I'd love to see what's on your needles... xoxo

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I don't know about you, but to me there is simply nothing nicer than the smell, and taste and sight of homemade chocolate chip cookies. I really do believe they make life's difficulties easier to bear; they make homework easier to endure; they make coming home feel right.

As I was taking them from the oven yesterday I poured myself a glass of milk and, feeling eight years old again, sat down and gobbled up two cookies along with it. A comfortable sigh followed, and that was when I realized that chocolate chip cookies are magic, and a plate of them with milk is nearly heaven.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I woke up this morning to this. The kitchen flooded with the yellow light of morning, and after nearly two full weeks of rain, I was overcome with gratitude. Sunshine has filled the valley, sheets are drying on the line outside, and the windows have been thrown open. Relief.

I walked out into the soggy green fields early this morning and drenched my eyes and senses in the glory that comes with the dawn. It is simply beautiful.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Her first homework assignment! Tiny hands learning tiny letters.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Have you ever been at a place in your life when you've wondered which way that is?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All this week we will have our book-covering factory spread out over the hall table. Yesterday afternoon I cut, folded, taped, cut, folded, taped ... the Russian took over as evening came on (when he saw the look on my face!) and I sat in the living room listening to him cutting, folding, taping, cutting, folding, taping.

After twenty or so books, it isn't over yet! My 9 year old has predicted that tonight's onslaught will be worse. And you have to wonder... why do workbooks that will be thrown out at the end of the year need to be covered? So many of life's existential questions come out as you cut, fold and tape. Anyone want to come for coffee and philosophize with me?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Today is Back to School for everyone, which means the sight of new backpacks, the smell of new pencils, erasers; newness in general. The world feels light and easy on the first day of school; everything is neat and orderly; and it seems as if nothing could mess up the school year. Ah, if only life were like that!

In the first grade, safety gear is a must. You walk down the street as a thousand tiny yellow Vs pass you by, giggling, smiling, running, shouting. The little kids make school-going cheerful like nothing else can!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Still no guesses?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This cannot possibly be medieval European... where is this window into my heart? Take a guess?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ode to the Russian

I cannot take credit for the horn of plenty we harvested from our garden yesterday. Let me start with the blueberries, which hubby planted years ago in response to my deep craving for the American mid-west. We special ordered the native bushes and then watched them dry up after two years. Not to be thwarted, he researched blueberries, dug them out, lined the trench with special cloth and then replanted them in pure peat. Now they thrive. A miracle? He waters them regularly and weeds them out. He picks them, cuts them back, nurtures them; and I ... well, I eat them! (yes, I hear how this sounds).

In fact... it is my Russian who tends to all the fruit in our Garden of Eden; blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries, elderberries, red current, black current, grapes, abricots, apples, plums, the list goes on...

The apples, you ask? Also my beloved. He planted the tiny trees years back and cares tenderly for them, watching them daily to pluck the first ripe one and then generously share it with me or the kids who, shamefully, never lift a finger to tend them.

Last night he said he was going out to pick beans (he planted the upright variety for easier picking - I think in an attempt to lure me into the process). I had nothing else to do. "I could pick with you if you want." A sweet but unmistakable smirk... "That would be fun!"

So if you had looked toward northern Switzerland just before sunset, you would have seen me out there picking these beans (which hubby blanched for the freezer...bless his heart). You would also have seen me picking the blueberries - just opposite my faithful other half, who sits efficiently on a chair while I huff and puff in my amateur squatting position. But I had to think as I spied him through the thick leaves... this is the love of my life...could it get any better?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My littlest girls had a chance to visit a local hospital recently, and as I waited for them I wandered through St. Imier alone, thinking of Wendy and all the roaming we'd done together, but also trying to keep my spirits up by discovering my surroundings.

I happened upon a simply gorgeous building with all its windows knocked out, but no trace anywhere of vandalism. I wondered what could have happened.

As I stood staring at all the majestic detail this place has to offer, a soccer ball rolled down the street toward me. I ran toward it, kicked it back up to a waiting boy, and called out a greeting. A few minutes later another ball and another boy ... were they wondering who this stranger was staring at an abandoned building?

I ran and kicked him the ball, but not before probing him for a bit of history. He was all too glad to comply. The building had once been an equestrian center where the best horses were trained. It had succumbed to fire and been locked up for good.

Its history is noble enough, its past exciting ... but why hasn't anyone bothered to revive it? It stands in stately shame with the pride of what once was, as its tethering rings hang in regal silence.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What is there to say to straw rolled up in bales of winter toil? When cold has come and the thick smell of summer is found only in the neat unfurling of the farmer's tidy work; when the heavy heat of mid-summer seems but a memory; when winter drags on and on; grey skies, cold feet.

Efficient bales are nothing more than a harbinger of summer's end ... proof that a season wanes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This little sugar bowl was a wedding present ages ago...yes, ages! We were given two identical pieces, one of the tops of which eventually broke.

I have been happy to have a second not because I can't live without a sugar bowl, but because it is one of the prettiest things we were given back then. The acorn on the top fascinates the tiny fingers of children, who can't resist lifting the top off and looking inside.

There have been sweets for the sweet to discover; many-colored candy easter eggs, chocolates, mints, there's always something inside. And I hope they will remember that later on - the acorn bowl that always held a bit of comfort.

Monday, August 9, 2010

She will remember the days when she rode the back of daddy's vespa with a helmut that weighs more than she does... when her pixie face looked out from a plastic window with a two-hundred mile an hour smile.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A sweet bit of lovely in the middle of nowhere!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Even nature cries when friends leave...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Strolling through Turckheim in Alsace, France...

where the Pinot Gris is sweet and cold, accompanied by French escargots ...

dipped in garlic and butter ... and served with a charming Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We drove up into Alsace, France this week to visit the Route des Vins. Have you been there? It is lovely. These are pictures from Eguisheim, the second town we stopped in.

Rounded cobblestones make for fairytale streets that can be tricky to maneuver in heels!

The French know how to use color like no one else!

Stork nests atop buildings are commonplace...

Color, color, color!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gone fishing...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The medieval city (is there any other kind in this country?) of St. Ursanne on the River Doubs is a little gem of a place that you must not miss if you come to stay.

It is big enough to be artsy, providing plenty of inspiration for a wealth of hand-craft boutiques and antique shops, but is small enough to see in a couple of hours. There is nothing tourist-trappy about it...except for the six-seater bike hubby rented to keep the kids busy while Wendy (my visiting friend) and I strolled and peeked in doors and windows. My beloved teenager would not be seen on the goofy bike, so she stayed with the wandering women...

I do believe there is a man in the moon...

Looking out from inside the city's magnificent, if not understated, cathedral.

The bike is in the background... can you see it? my wild friend walks the street on the left

Antique shop of Wendy's dreams