Sunday, February 10, 2019

Egg + Malt + Milk = Yum?

Doesn't that flavor combination sound good? The people in Switzerland think so.

It is the flavor combination for Ovomaltine. Yep, OVO - MALT - ine.

A Swiss chemist in Bern by the name of Dr. Georg Wander developed the first version of Ovomaltine in 1865 to help combat malnutrition. Then in 1904 his chemist son, Albert, further refined the recipe that eventually was sought out by athletes and is the basis of the recipe in use today.

When the company expanded its operations to export to Britain, it was renamed Ovaltine. The reason for the name change is not entirely clear, but one theory is that name Ovomaltine was misspelled on the trademark registration application causing it to become Ovaltine in the English speaking markets, including America.

You may be asking yourself, what's the difference between Ovomaltine and Ovaltine, besides the name?
Mostly the amount of processed sugar and the added vitamins - the Swiss version has none of the former and a lot of the latter.

A trip to a Swiss grocery store will show you that more than 100 years later, Ovomaltine is still wildly popular with the Swiss and has expanded its product line well beyond a drink mix.

There are bins and bins of the product.

Which includes biscuits.

Sold in squares - little pressed squares of the dry powder.

As a MΓΌesli cereal.

And a MΓΌesli snacks (granola type bars).

Ice cream bars.

And chocolate bars.

Maureen is developing a taste for Ovomaltine, but I'm not a fan for, um, reasons that are explained in today's poem.

When you come to visit we'll be sure to get you a steaming cup of egg/malt/milk so you can decide for yourself.

unusual flavors
stirred in a glass
beloved by Swiss
gives me gas
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sick of Being Sick

I apologize for not posting last week. I was sick.

I was sick the week before that.

And the week before that.

And the week before that.

I've basically blown my nose everyday since the week before Thanksgiving. (I apologize to the trees I have destroyed as a result of my tissue use.)

Last week I was particularly sick (and tired of being sick).

Granted, I work in a Petri dish...uh, I mean classroom. 6 year olds are walking, talking germ factories. And this is a new set of germs in a new country. I get it. I have to recalibrate my immune system. But almost 3 months of non-stop illness? Really?

Don't worry, I haven't been going it alone. I've been to the doctor. Three. Times.

The first time we were in the United States for the holidays and I was diagnosed with bronchitis and an ear infection. Fun. Got some antibiotics and my condition improved, but I never really got completely better.

A few more weeks of coughing and congestion led me to make appointment number two with a Swiss doctor. I was told that since I already had antibiotics, he could only give me homeopathic remedies. Again, my condition slightly improved, but I definitely was not better.

More weeks passed, and I was feeling really, really bad. My ears were clogged. My sinuses were stuffed. I couldn't smell or taste. I was exhausted. Last Thursday I had doctor's appointment number three with the same Swiss doctor. He took my temperature. Looked in my ears and throat. And listened to my lungs. He commented that I sounded bad, but nothing he checked looked "that bad". How about the fact that I've been sick for almost 3 months?! Finally he said that he'd give me a blood test. I got the distinct feeling he wanted to blow me off as hysterical, but decided to placate me with this blood test.

When the results came back a few minutes later he called me into his office with a stricken look on his face. Apparently whatever he was measuring, my CRP (?), was off the charts. It is supposed to be in the 0-5 mg/L range and mine was 44 mg/L. Yeah, I was sick. He immediately said I needed antibiotics for a "severe sinus infection" and that I was forbidden from going back to work until Wednesday. Yep, he used the word forbidden and I got a doctor's note on the spot.

I'm happy to say that after just a couple of days I am feeling MUCH better. I can smell! I can taste! I'm not completely out of the woods, but the trees are breathing a sigh of relief that I don't need as many tissues.

But I'm sad to say that I missed my weekend in Paris. Yep, we were scheduled to fly to Paris and attend our niece Nicole's performance in the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (with Nicole's mum and dad and other amazing circus folk).

As you can see, Joe and Mo got to go, but I had to stay home. Boo.

Maureen in front of a building near Notre Dame - Joe doesn't know which one.

Joe shot a really cool video of  Nicole and her partner, Guillaume's, performance, but in order to remain in compliance with the music copyrights, I can't show it to you here. But, here is blurb about their performance:

Guillaume Paquin and Nicole Faubert
Canada / USA
Graduated from the Montreal National Circus School, Guillaume Paquin and Nicole Faubert have created this number based on quicksilver, a shiny silver metal, the only one to be liquid under normal conditions of temperature and pressure. This straps duet is led by the idea of embodying a material by going away from the classic technical codes: Nicole is a high-wire walker and an acrobat, as for Guillaume he is a tightrope walker and an acro-dancer. Their costumes have been created by Sandra Chirico and they work on Remembrance, Balmorhea, Remix by Machinefabriek, Mix by Kyle Cragle.

And if you have some time on your hands (like recovering from an illness) and are interested, here is a playback of the live stream of the whole show. Worth the watch!

Today's poem is how I hope to never feel again:
droopy eyes
stuffy nose
blocked ears
feel bulldozed

can not taste
incessant cough
doctor prescribes
three days off
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Bill of Health

In the US, health insurance is a hot button topic.

Here in Switzerland, it is a matter of due course.

When we moved here to Switzerland we were on an expat contract that provided us with international insurance. But when we switched to a local contract, we had to get local, Swiss insurance.

By 'had to', I mean it is required by law. Health insurance is not a benefit offered by employers.

"Healthcare in Switzerland is universal and is regulated by the Swiss Federal Law on Health Insurance. There are no free state-provided health services, but private health insurance is compulsory for all persons residing in Switzerland (within three months of taking up residence or being born in the country). 
The whole healthcare system is geared toward the general goals of keeping the system competitive across cantonal lines, promoting general public health and reducing costs while encouraging individual responsibility.

Health insurance covers the costs of medical treatment and hospitalization of the insured. However, the insured person pays part of the cost of treatment. This is done by means of an annual deductible (called the franchise)."

For us we have a 2,500CHF (comparable to USD) deductible for Joe and I. Maureen has no deductible until she is over 18. But we only pay a 670CHF family premium for all 3 of us per month.

Does this insurance model remind you of anything? Yep, it is the same as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Weird, right?

Now, the Swiss are not ones to let things go if you don't follow the rules. A couple of months ago I told you about the local newspaper whose news stories are generally cautionary tales. Recently they published an article about "a so-called blacklist of people who fail to pay their health insurance premiums or the fees for treatment they have received". Incidentally, in Canton Zug, the number for 2018 was 437 people.  No misdeed goes unnoticed....

Today's poem is a glimpse at what could have been:

Swiss health insurance 
you are now aware
is what the US would have
if they kept Obamacare
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sink-y Stinky

The Swiss are BIG on waste management.

I have blogged here before about the elaborate systems the Swiss have for dealing with household waste and recycling.

The Swiss have thought of everything except what to do with the sink waste. You know, the scraps of cooked food that are left on plates or in pans after eating and cooking.

In the US, one would usually just run it down the garbage disposal, but here, no way. Swiss law prohibits such devices from being installed in sinks.

The reasons are three fold: one, the sink hole and adjoining pipe are simply too small.
1CHF for scale (about the size of a quarter)

Two, the underside of the sinks here physically have no room to accommodate an InSinkErator-type device.
No room.
The trash and recycling system only fits here.

And the third reason is they do not have the infrastructure for the treatment of such wastewater like in the US.

I do have to say that I love the Swiss bio waste system. Any raw bio waste we generate is immediately disposed of in our green bio container under the sink.

When it is full, we bring it to the bio waste container that our building provides.

The truck should be coming soon..

Then once a week, a bio waste truck comes and picks it up for regional composting.

But then the question becomes, what to do with kitchen scraps that are not bio waste?

For example, this gunk was left in our sink after dinner/dishes one night this week:

Our solution is seasonal.

In winter, when the world outside our door is a freezer, we keep a bag with all the potential stinky waste that can not be recycled: meat containers, chicken bones, and of course, cooked food scraps.
Outside on our balcony.
Waiting to be put in the trash.

And in the summertime, we use precious freezer space to freeze our stinky kitchen scrap trash (a practice that was inspired by Joe's late Grandma, Martha :)
Martha would be so proud.

Today's poem is a reflection of different parenting styles depending where you live:
U.S. Mamas always say
"no fingers down the drain"
for if you do
you risk potential pain

Swiss Mamas have 
no need for alarm
wee fingers will not fit
thus risk no such harm

©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Burrito Crawl

I have lamented here before about how much we miss burritos.
US burritos.
US, cheap burritos.

On our recent trip to the US we decided to challenge ourselves to eat a burrito a day for the entire time we were there. We even rated them.

(All ratings are out of 10 possible 🌯 's. Many were shared with Joe or eaten over the course of two meals.)

Warm Up Day 1: Chicken Burrito from Chipolte
(doesn't count as a real burrito because it's from, uh, Chipolte).
No Picture Available

Day 2: California Burrito from Over the Border


Day 3: Smothered Chicken Burrito from Ztejas


Day 4: Beer Battered Fish Burrito from Illegal Pete's

(Some things shouldn't be put into a burrito.)

Day 5: Chicken Burrito from Taqueria Mi Casita

🌯🌯🌯🌯🌯🌯🌯🌯🌯 (a clear winner!)

Day 6: Chicken Fajita Burrito from Frank and Lupe's
We're beginning to reach...


Day 7: Breakfast Burrito from Taco Rocco's
...our satiation level.


Day 8:No Burrito

Day 9: No Burrito

Day 10: No Burrito

Day 11: Carnitas Burrito from Taco Rocco
We threw in the proverbial aluminum foil.


Days 12-14 No Burritos  - Burrito Crawl officially over. At that point we moved on to pursuing other culinary treats that we've missed since living in Switzerland. 

We had:

In-N-Out Burger

Sour Cream and Onion Chips

And HUGE turkey legs!

We came back from America with our burrito (and junk food) cravings thoroughly satisfied. Glad to be able to only indulge when we visit.

Today's poem is a shout out to our faraway floured friend, the US, cheap burrito:
warm fillings
spicy taste
causes cravings
tortilla embrace

©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Celebrating 2019... reflecting on 2018!

We've had many blessings, visitors, and adventures this past year, here are some highlights:

Fireworks in Luzern

Fasnacht parade in Zug
Visit to a Chocolate Factory


Switzerland: Gnome Sweet Gnome.

We celebrated my mom's 90th and had a Uhlik Family Reunion in the US, but I somehow don't have pictures to document these events. :(

Celebrating Colleen's birthday in the US.
Gondola selfie in the Alps.
Euro FUZ-Moto visitors: Joe's brothers, Chris and Matt, Niece Nicole and Oliver, and Uncle Jerry.
Trip to Munich (and a German castle in countryside.)

Cherry Festival in Zug.
First trip to Prague.
Visiting with my brother, Joe, and his wife, Maria in Zurich.

We also had very special visitors, Joe's mom, Joan and her husband, Bernie, but somehow we did not get photo documentation of their visit either! Another photographic fail. :(

Knife making at the Victorinox factory. Warning on knife didn't help, I actually cut my hand the one and only time I've used my knife. It's hard being me...
Heat wave...ugh.

Second trip to Prague with Anna, Dave, ...

...Katica and Tim.
Personal tour of London by Dave and Anna which included a visit to the m&m store - my happy place.

Visit from my sister, Helen.
Selfie on Lake Zug.

Birthday lunch in Milan!
Mo's Halloween costume: can you guess who she is?
Move to our new flat in Hunenberg See
Celebrating Thanksgiving eating turkey flavored chips on a train to Zurich to eat overpriced burritos!

Trip to the US to see a lot of family, but most especially, Colleen!

We traveled to the US for two weeks and saw a ton of family, but again, my deficient ability to remember to take photos foiled me again! Arg!

I've mixed up a special Resolution Recipe poem for your enjoyment. En Guete!

1 cup goal
a dollop of optimism
a dusting of humor
a pinch of courage
​a heaping spoonful of resolve
and as much Swiss chocolate as necessary
Mix all together,
simmer on low.
Take baby steps -
remember, go slow.
If you falter
and​ things boil over,
just recommit
and start over.
When others doubt
with their audacity,
focus on your goal -
keep your tenacity.
Serves: yourself. 
©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I plan to bring you more news and adventures from Switzerland in 2019. Thanks for joining us on our journey.
B, J, M and S