Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Henry and I Spent A Week On Our Own

One short month after we moved to Switzerland, Matt left on his first business trip: two weeks in China, Thailand and India. I've dreaded these weeks, anticipating long, bored, lonely hours with only the dog for company, daily breakdowns and desperate calls to friends. I am happy to report we're more than halfway through and Henry and I are doing quite well. We've filled our days with activity. What have we been doing with ourselves? Let me tell you.

We are friends with an American couple who have lived in Switzerland for several years. They've been lifesavers, with tons of excellent advice and much-needed help over the past month. They also watched Henry for us while we were house hunting. I spent Saturday evening with their two very well-behaved boys, while they enjoyed an evening out. We played Connect Four and Foosball until bedtime and I took the late-night train home. It was quite amusing heading towards Zurich on a train full of 20-somethings heading out for the night, and being the 30-something heading home to bed and a good book. How times change...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Update on the Stress Ball

Progress on leaving Henry home alone is painfully slow. He sticks to me like velcro. If I leave a room, he follows. If I close the bathroom door, he sits just outside and gives me the most guilt-inducing look when I open the door back up. We had a set back this week when I left him several times in one day to run downstairs and change out laundry. I was gone less than five minutes each time. The little shit has been giving me the stink eye and refusing treats every since. He's a total grump.

I've been trying to build his confidence and trust by learning some other skills. His leash walking skills are much improved and he learned to catch treats.... at least, he learned to catch popcorn cause it moves slowly. Anything harder or heavier beans him in the noggin. It's amusing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Keeping House in Uster

There are a million lifestyle changes that come with an international move. We tried to anticipate and did our best to research and prepare before the move. Despite our best intentions, more often than not, we find ourselves in the middle of an unanticipated new challenge and we wing it. Or we text our (very few) Swiss friends begging for answers. 

Here are two of the housekeeping challenges that we've mastered here in Switzerland.

As I've mentioned before, it is very common for apartment buildings to have a shared washer and dryer. Residents are assigned a washing day, which is the only day they can use the machines. Our temporary flat has access to two washers (no dryers) shared among eight flats. Instead of an assigned day, there is a sign-up sheet that allows us to pick our own day. We were given a magnetic wand with our flat keys and told to visit one of our neighbors to load money on the wand for the washer.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sleachmour's International House Hunt

Currently, Matt and I are living in a temporary flat provided by his employer. This week we began the process of finding our more permanent home, with the aid of a relocation company. Thank goodness we have their help, because finding a home here is complicated and challenging.

A bit of Swiss housing information for context. Housing is expensive across Switzerland, with the highest prices in city centers, like Zurich, becoming more reasonable as you move further into the suburbs and countryside. Most people own or rent apartments or flats. Freestanding houses are very expensive... well over a million dollars purchase price for the cheapest we've seen advertised in the windows of local realty offices. For our needs, the best option is to rent a flat, and we've decided to do go a little ways outside of Zurich. Within our budget, we could get a teeny-tiny one bedroom in Zurich or a two-three bedroom with twice the space 20 minutes outside of the city. Additionally, the further we are from Zurich, the more green space there will be for Henry.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Celebrating Dreikonigstag in Switzerland - Three Kings Day

Thank you Dimitri and Mamiko for the delicious cake!
On January 6, the twelfth day after Christmas, the Swiss celebrate Dreikoenigstag, Three Kings Day. It is also known as Epiphany in English-language cultures and officially marks the end of the Holiday season.

Dreikoenigstag celebrates the arrival of the Magi at the manger in Bethlehem and the day is celebrated with Dreikoenigskuchen, Three Kings Cake. In the cake is hidden a nut or a small plastic king and whoever finds it is king for the day. They receive a crown and are excused from housework!


In the early days of our relationship, Matt and I were puzzlers. We spent winter evenings hunched over our dining room table working on some European landscape or other. It's been a few years since our last, and Matt's two week holiday combined with an inability to leave the house provided an opportunity to resurrect our hobby. For Christmas we bought ourselves a 2,000 piece puzzle.

Two weeks later, we finally placed the last piece. Only to realize that it wasn't the last at all. After two weeks of hard work, the final piece appears to be missing! We blame Henry. It was probably retribution for a time we attempted to leave him at home. Jerk.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ringing in the New Year and Smothering it in Cheese

Our plans for New Years Eve initially involved a quiet evening at home with our first attempt at making fondue. As you may have read on facebook, those plans changed when our neighbors invited us to a potluck party for the building. Our neighbors are older, mostly retirees, and none speak English. We made some simple cookies and planned to drop by for half an hour before heading back upstairs to our fondue. We didn't realize that by showing up, we signed up for a fantastic three hour, three course meal. Our generous neighbors fed us duck, ham, potatoes, rice casserole and tons of desserts. We tried wine from the vineyards just around the corner from our flat (which apparently sells out quickly each year) and homemade schnapps and grappa. A neighbor's adult children joined us - and they spoke English! We chatted about the neighborhood, their plans for an upcoming vacation to the West coast states and the difference between American and Swiss Coca Cola (corn syrup vs. sugar). It was a wonderful party. A little before midnight we went back to our flat to ring in the New Year with a German countdown special, similar to Dick Clark. At midnight, we watched the fireworks being set off by our neighbors. The Swiss love their fireworks; they continued setting them off through most of the night and the remnants littered the streets the next morning.