Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I finally feel human again after fighting this bug for weeks.  Managed to get everything done for Christmas, even a little extra project for my SIL.  Tomorrow, we're off to Ventura County for the long holiday weekend.  Thankfully, our wild Southern California weather has returned to normal after six extremely wet days.  I can't remember ever having rain this intense for such a long period.

We'll have our traditional spaghetti dinner Christmas Eve at our daughter's house with most of the family.  I imagine the two oldest grandchildren will be beside themselves with anticipation and excitement!

Christmas morning, we'll again be at DD's house to exchange gifts and enjoy Flo's Serbian Eggs.  My favorite boss, Sylvia, shared this recipe with me years ago and it has become a family favorite.  We usually serve it with sausage, croissants, and fresh fruit.  For Christmas, there will also be mimosas!

6 eggs -- beaten
1 pound Jack cheese -- shredded
1 pound cottage cheese
1 cup Biscuit mix
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine -- melted
1 teaspoon dried onions
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix together.  Pour into a buttered 9 x 13 pyrex dish.  Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
My sister is hosting Christmas dinner - roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans - yummy!  There will, of course, be cookies everywhere we go!

Does it sound as though Christmas in our family is all about the food?  Well, food plays a big role but it is really about being together and celebrating this most festive time of year.

My very best wishes to all of you for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to tell that you're really behind on Christmas tasks ....

  • It's ten days before Christmas and you're still finishing up the fall placemats you hoped to use in November!  (See great tutorial on easy placemats over at I'm Just A Guy Who Quilts.  Yes, they are easy; but you still have to plan enough hours in the day to finish them!)
  • You have the full-blown flu including a low-grade temperature, aches and pains.  Therefore, your mental and physical speed is about 15 mph instead of 95 mph.
  • The gifts are wrapped - whoo hoo!  None of them, however, have bows or gift labels (unless you consider green post-it notes labels).
  • The most important thing on today's "to-do" list is to convince DH that we can skip the holiday letter this year.
  • Thoughts of making any last-minute homemade gifts flew out the window about 2 a.m. this morning when the latest coughing spell took over.
  • DD called to ask what cookies I would be making so we don't have duplicates.  Cookies?  I'm supposed to make cookies?
  • Today's weather is cloudy, damp, and gloomy - a perfect reflection of my holiday spirit.
I'll feel better tomorrow - promise.  Please, Santa!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Someone brought the flu bug to Thanksgiving dinner!  DH and I have been sick on and off since Turkey Day.  Our son, Matt, also caught the bug as did all five members of our daughter's family.  Now, several in the family have either had relapses or succumbed to another bug.  Fortunately, everyone is muddling through and getting on with Christmas preparations.

Little Helper - Jackson

I had a blast the week before Thanksgiving looking for appropriate designs to put on aprons for the kidlets.  The pictures aren't the greatest, but you can get an idea how they turned out.  Unfortunately, only Talia was interested in donning her apron and actually helping in the kitchen!

Tasha still naps in the afternoon, so a full day of family and festivities without a nap just about did her in.  So much fun, however, watching her explore the house and play with the toys that we keep here - all new to her!  Jackson rushes into the house and immediately heads to the toy box and demands that we empty the entire box so he can dig right in.  Tasha's apron says "More sprinkles, please!"  Couldn't resist this design since our daughter loves to bake, and she often sends me phone pics of the kidlets mixing the dough at the kitchen counter.

More sprinkles, please!

Sugar & Spice - Talia

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, of course, and one of ours is that the kidlets go on a walk with Grandpa collecting colorful fall leaves to adorn the table.  We started this tradition at Talia's first Thanksgiving.  She was all of 9 months old!  Miss T., the elder, is now closing in on 5 and has graduated to working with Grandma to decorate Oma's Thanksgiving table.  Note how seriously she takes her decorating!
Miss T.., the elder, aka Martha Jr.
I'm just about ready to take the turkey carcass out of the freezer and make soup.  Although it's unseasonably warm in Southern California today (supposed to hit 80 degrees), the weather will turn cool and rainy towards the end of the week.  Soup weather .... here's a very good recipe for Turkey Rice Soup.  Enjoy!


1 turkey carcass
2 stalks celery with leaves -- coarsely chopped
2 carrots -- coarsely chopped
1 onion -- peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
8 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups chopped leftover turkey
1 cup frozen or leftover corn
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine carcass, celery, carrots, onion, bay leaf and water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours over medium low heat.  Strain and discard vegetables and bones.  Reserve turkey stock.  In a large pot, melt butter and cook onions until tender. Stir in celery and thyme. Stir in carrots and rice and toss to coat. Stir in turkey stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables and rice are tender, approximately 30 minutes.  Stir in turkey, corn, and parsley. Return to simmer and season to taste.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for:
  • my good health and the good health of my husband and family.
  • my wonderful children who still want to spend Thanksgiving Day with me inspite of my reluctance to leave the kitchen, sit down and actually visit with them.
  • my wonderful grandchildren who, hopefully, will force me out of the kitchen for a walk down to the park to play.
  • my country.  Inspite of our problems, I would not want to live anywhere else.  We have the freedom to change or not to change.
  • my home.  I have a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, a refrigerator full of food.  Most of the world lacks one or more of these simple things.
  • my parents.  Although they are long gone, they gave me the foundation on which to build a happy, successful life.  They made me responsible, they educated me, they taught me right from wrong, and most importantly, they taught me the power of love.
  • my marriage.  How many are still in love after 40+ years?  I am one lucky gal.
  • my friends.  What can I say?  You are my joy when things go right, my salvation when things go wrong.
  • learning and exploring.  Reading, travelling, trying new things out, being challenged -- this is what makes life so rich.
May you have a wonderful holiday with friends and family.  Turn the computer off, stay away from the tv for a bit, get out of the kitchen, and just enjoy being with the people who are important in your life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back to the kitchen (where I belong?)

Another Thanksgiving, another marathon cooking session.  Thanksgiving is "my" family holiday by default.  Most of our family members live in Ventura County, California, a little over two hours' driving time from our residence.  However, my FIL, who is 90, lives just an hour from us.  Thanksgiving is the only time during the year that he gets to see our children and grandchildren (his grandchildren and great-grandchildren) so I persist in being the go-to cook on Thanksgiving.

I do love to cook, but this is beyond a normal cooking session.  Being a firstborn, and seriously anal, I have several plans committed to the computer.  I have a recipe plan, then I have a weekly plan, then I have a daily plan, followed by an hourly plan for "THE DAY."  YIKES!  Why do I do this to myself?  Answer:  because I know no other way of doing things.

Following the day-to-day plan, yesterday I made the turkey spice rub, shredded the Swiss cheese for the corn bake that my son-in-law loves, and checked the silverware, china, and crystal for spots and other indelicacies.  Today, I made the sweet potato casserole (no one will know that it is 2 days old by the time they are eating it), chopped up all those veggies that will eventually go into the dressing, corn casserole, and brined turkey.  Then DH and I cleaned the rented tables, set them up in the dining room, ironed the rented tablecloths, and placed the carefully inspected china, crystal, and silverware on the table.  Thanks be to the heavens above, my placecards that were made last week (according to plan) look fabulous with the candles that were bought several weeks ago on a whim.

Bright and early tomorrow morning, I will make the dressing (thank you, friend Merle), simmer the turkey stock, cook and mash the potatoes -- and hope that all this is done before FIL shows up!  Once he is here, I will feel obliged to converse, discuss financial deals that don't really interest me at all, and play hostess all the while stressing internally about what is and is not ready for the big day.  Please, oh pretty please, let him be late in arrival ....

Oops -- also on the agenda for tomorrow:  get the serving dishes down from the incredibly high shelves in the kitchen, remind DH to sharpen the knives and watch videos on YouTube about carving turkeys, remove turkey from the plastic wrapper and find all that stuff that they hide inside the various cavities so I can use it to make stock, wash the turkey roaster -- oops - find the turkey roaster, then wash it, review cooking instructions from Butterball, set timer for Thursday so turkey goes in the oven in time for a 3 p.m. dinner so that DD and family can eat and be on the road to get back to Ventura County in time to put the kidlets to bed before their nervous systems are completely destroyed.

Best part of today?  Telephone conversation with 3-year-old grandson who requested crackers and chips for Thanksgiving dinner!!

Reminder to self:  Relax and have fun!

Hmmmmm ....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Be still my heart ...

The title of this post might refer to Harrison Ford and his new movie, "Morning Glory."  It might also refer to my DH of 40+ years.  But what it actually refers to is ...

Raiders vs Steelers tomorrow at 10 a.m. PST!!!

I have high hopes, which if history repeats itself, will be dimmed by the end of the 2nd quarter.  A girl can dream, can't she?

While others might dream tonight of winning the lottery, Brad Pitt suddenly appearing in their bedrooms, or the real estate market taking a sudden precipitous climb upwards, I will be dreaming of completed first downs, Hail Mary passes, limited penalties (please, please, please), and a return to the glory years.

Prediction:  Raiders 24, Steelers 17.

Please, please, please .....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Oma" and the terrible horrible no good very bad day

Those of you of a certain age will understand the reference to the fabulous book by Judith Viorst.  You probably should read it to your kids -- or your grandkids.  Well, I had a day that could rival any of Alexander's.  If you are among those who think that health care in this country is just hunkie-dorry, read no further.  You will not like what I have to say.

Yesterday, I visited my new doctor for a blood pressure check.  My health history is not important here.  I am a pretty healthy 65-year-old who has a family history of high blood pressure.  My high BP has been treated for about 20 years.  My new doc decided he wanted to try a different med since my pressure (in his office) registered 167/84.  Not good.

Doc said let's try the new med for 30 days and then see how it goes.  Sounds good to me.  Normally, my meds are ordered over the Internet for a 90-day supply.  With by BP so high, I wanted to start on the new med as quickly as possible.  So, off I went with a brand new prescription for Lotrel, a pretty common BP med, to a VERY mainstream discount pharmacy.  Dropped off the prescription.  Pharmacy called me two hours later to say that they could not get approval from my insurance company for the prescription.  As best that I can reconstruct the circumstances, here is my take:
  • I was covered by this same insurance company under my retirement benefit until I was eligible for Medicare.
  • I was eligible for Medicare on 9/1/10.
  • I elected to stay with the same provider.
  • I have processed doctor benefits under my new plan.
  • I have received 90-day drug benefits under my new plan through their mail order pharmacy.
  • Through some kind of computer glitch, on-site pharmacy requests are being rejected.
  • My online profile shows that I am under two plans:  my new Medicare plan and my old "retirement" benefit plan (which I am really not eligible for any more) --- THIS IS PROBABLY THE PROBLEM.
I called my "Field Representative" last night and explained the situation to her.  She said she would work on it "tomorrow" (i.e., today) and said that I had the option to pay for the prescription and then put in a claim for reimbursement.

Trusting that my representative would help me out, I did nothing until 11 a.m. today.  At that time, I contacted my "provider" by telephone and went through a 20-minute phone conversation the end result of which was confirmation that I was (1) fully enrolled and (2) entitled to receive pharmacy benefits and (3) this prescription should cost me $7.

I determined that perhaps the pharmacy was at fault.  I drove to the pharmacy and took possession of the doctor's script and drove to another pharmacy that had never seen me before!  Guess what?  Same thing happened.  They could not get the prescription approved through the computer system.  After spending at least 15 minutes on the phone with my "provider", they came to a dead end.  The pharmacy was told that they were inputting the correct information but still my prescription would not go through as approved.  My "provider" suggested that the problem was with the pharmacy's software.  Hmmmm .... two different pharmacies, two different software systems, and still the same problem?  Doubt it...

I paid the $56.07 in order to start on the new medication.

I came home and placed another call to my field representative.  At this point, she has not called me back.

So, I believe I am the victim of some kind of computer glitch.  I know this will work out, but should I have to go through this?  What if my condition were more severe?  What if I were less able to deal with these frustrations?  What if I didn't understand the Internet?  What if I didn't know how to use online systems?  What if I were 90 instead of 65?

I won't name names today --- but I will if this is not resolved.

You think my blood pressure was under control today?  Not likely.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A day in Berninaland

I've been promising a post about our Bernina factory tour, so here it is.  Our prearranged visit was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. and last about 2 hours.  DH and I travelled by train to Steckborn in the morning on a cold and dreary overcast day.  The clouds cleared a bit, so we had an opportunity to see the town.

Florist in Steckborn, Switzerland
Steckborn is just a delightful little place situated on the shores of Lake Constance.  We were hoping to have lunch somewhere in town, but we couldn't find a restaurant.  We shopped at a grocery store and bought a couple of sandwiches to eat at a park adjacent to the lakefront.  We were chilly but enjoyed the view.  While walking through the park, we actually came across a group of teenagers swimming in the lake!

A personal welcome!
We arrived at the Bernina factory early, but everything was closed for lunch.  When we returned about 1 p.m., imagine our surprise when the computer screen in the reception area welcomed us personally!  We had a few minutes to enjoy the sewing machine museum before our English-speaking guide, Dieter, arrived to escort us into the factory.

Let me first say that the Bernina factory is unlike any factory I have ever seen -- clean, clean, clean with very little noise.  The impression that has stayed with me since our tour is how "hands-on" the process is.  Now I understand a bit more why these products are so expensive!  The first employee we met was packing feet individually into those neat little plastic containers that we Bernina lovers all covet.  She placed the plastic containers upside down into a customized holder that held about 8 packages.  Then the red & white cardboard label went in, then the presser foot, then the folded multi-language instruction sheet, then she snapped the package shut and put the adhesive label on the back.  Whew!  That's a lot of time to pack each foot -- no conveyor belt here!

Checking #34 feet individually

Nearby, a lady was working with the #2 foot and attaching the little screw that goes in the back of the foot so you can attach guides, etc.  Each done by hand then placed into a bucket.  Bernina produces 1.3 million feet per year.  Just think about all those feet getting such individual attention!  Next, we met a man testing #34 feet to make sure they ride perfectly on the feed dogs.  Lastly in this area, we watched as BSRs were attached to a special sewing computer/screen/hoop arrangement that allowed the employee to test each foot for accuracy and calibration.  If the foot passes its test, she places it in its special metal box and piles them up higher and higher --- at least 40 boxes of BSRs!  Hmmmm ... what is 40 times $600 anyway????

There is automation in the factory, but it is hard to find.  For instance, in the early stages of building the feet, they are polished in large steel drums with hundreds of small stones rotating in the drums --- and making lots of noise!  Final finishing, however, is done by hand.  Stitch plates are hand polished prior to packaging or installing in a machine.

820s all lined up
The Steckborn factory has 380 employees.  Bernina has an apprenticeship program; apprentices must work 3 years before they are eligible to become fulltime employees.  In addition, Bernina has had a factory in Thailand for many years.  The Activa and Aurora lines are made 80% in Thailand with final assembly and finishing done in Steckborn.  The Artista machines are made completely in Switzerland.

I was curious about how long Bernina makes parts for its machines.  Berninas are workhorses and last a long time.  When Bernina discontinues a model, they continue to make parts for 15 years after the date the last machine is sold.

At the end of the tour and after some light refreshments, we were shown a short video about the company then invited to stay for a demonstration of the new 830.  The demo, unfortunately, was in German!  So DH and I walked over to the Creative Center to browse through the current lineup of machines and see samples of quilts and garments made during the classes held on site.

The tour was a wonderful treat.  Now I appreciate my 640E even more than I did before going to Steckborn --- and I know exactly where it was created with care and attention to detail.  Bravo Bernina!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Here's what I've been up to

It took me a few weeks to "settle in" after our trip.  After a brief hot spell, the weather in Southern California has turned a bit wintry which encouraged me to get back to my sewing room.  Here are some recently finished projects.

A friend from our quilt club gave me the pattern for these cute Halloween placemats.  The pattern is Pumpkin Party by Susie C. Shore Designs.  I know they'll be covered in sticky food residue once I give them to the kidlets, but I still couldn't resist them.  Can't wait to give them to my favorite Halloween goblins!

The September/October issue of Creative Machine Embroidery has a fun project that tempted me.  I haven't used the embroidery module on my Bernina in quite awhile.  I've enjoyed stitching these doorknob hangers - one for my daughter, one for my sister, and one for me!  It's not exactly a quick project since there are multiple steps.  Still fun, though.

I found a tutorial for a small bag that intriqued me.  I thought maybe I'd reduce the weight of the bag if I used a smaller one!  I do like the finished bag, but I totally messed up the directions.  I had one of those flashes of understanding in the middle of the night and realized what I had done wrong with the pattern.  The bag is actually supposed to be a few inches shorter and not so narrow looking.  This is something that I need to be aware of when using tutorials from blogs -- it's lovely that bloggers give these patterns away for free, but they aren't professional pattern writers.  I need to scrutinize the patterns a bit more before diving head first into a project!

I love the fabric, though, which I purchased last week during our group's shop hop.  We stopped at Quilt in a Day in San Marcos, and Eleanor Burns was actually in the shop!  She graciously offered to pose with us for pictures (didn't have my camera - shame on me), and signed patterns and even a fat quarter!  Then she gave us a personal tour of the room they've remodeled to give them more cabinetry, cutting areas, and sewing tables for creating the quilts.  Quite a lot of fun for all of us.

I'm generally not a fan of yo-yo's, but I thought the bag needed an extra something once I finished it.  I do like the yo-yo trim, especially with the addition of the button from my button jar.  I used the button sew-on program on the 640 along with the #18 foot.  Worked perfectly!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Home, home, home ...

We've been home for several weeks, but I wanted to finish my posts about our trip.  Now I enter real time!  That means, I need to post about what I've actually been up to since returning home -- paying the bills, finishing the wash, etc., etc., etc.

Just a hint -- I've been sewing, casting my ballot, reading, and enjoying a bit of Southern California rain!

There is nothing better than reading in bed while the rain is pounding on the windows.  Love it, love it, love it ....

We are more alike than different - why don't we know this?

There are countless benefits of traveling especially to countries other than your own.  I love the sights, the smells, the textures of travel.  I love recognizing cultural differences.  Most of all, however, I adore noticing how very much alike we are.  Here are just a handful of memories I collected during our trip that remind me more of our similarities than our differences:

  • On a sunny afternoon in Amsterdam, a young man lay fast asleep on the grass with his headphones on and his book open by his side.  Sunday is for relaxing .... work starts tomorrow! 
  • A mom walking with two preschoolers carrying "noodles" in her hand - those long styrofoam tubes that are so much fun in pools for both kids and adults.  Swim class, perhaps?
  • At lunch one day, DH dropped his pocket German/English dictionary on the ground and did not realize it.  A bashful young boy, at the urging of his father, came over to our table, picked up the book, and graciously handed it to my husband.  He gave us a slight bow of the head and smiled shyly.  All over the world, parents want their offspring to be polite and helpful.
  • Moments later, the same little boy became "big brother" and started arguing with his little sister!  I didn't understand the language, but I certainly knew by the tone of mom's voice that she was not happy ....  All over the world, parents struggle with teaching their children right from wrong.
  • Whenever the sun was shining, we noticed people pushing wheelchair-bound elders through the cities to experience the joy of being in the sunshine - and not confined.
  • The Internet is available everywhere.  We saw laptops in cafes, trains, coffee houses - the world is connected and information travels instantaneously.  Yes, Mr. Friedman, The World is Flat.
  • We in the US worry about driving and texting; in Amsterdam, the worry is biking and texting!  Now that takes lots of balance. 
  • Couples who have been together for awhile have a universal language.  One day, I noticed a man and a woman standing at an intersection each pointing in different directions.  He held a map and pointed towards one street, she was pointing vigorously in the opposite direction.  I have no idea what words they were exchanging, but I'd know that tone of voice anywhere!
  • Taking family photos at a wedding celebration - who cares where you are, what language you speak, or where you spoke your vows?  This is a time for smiles, hugs, and wishes for a lifetime of happiness.
  • A young boy chases pigeons around a fountain - quietly.  My first thought was that my preschool grandchildren would love to chase those pigeons, but they would not be quiet about it!
  • A little girl at a street market joyously running up to her "papa" and showing him the "chocolat" treat bought for her by momma.  Ah, chocolate ... truly a universal language.  Her face was radiant, her joy was boundless.  I reveled in this act of kindness by a caring mother.  Children take such exuberant joy in the simplest of gifts. 
  • A mother on one of our trains took her 2-year-old boy on a tour trying to keep him occupied and quiet.  He kept saying "nien, nien" over and over again.  Seems 2-year-olds also have a universal language - NO!
Somehow, on our march towards adulthood, we lose that childhood sense of wonder and joy and belief that the world is a wonderful place full of surprises and mysteries.  We often become suspicious and untrusting.  If I were queen of the world, I would give everyone a ticket to ride to far-off places to learn once again that the world truly is a wonderful place full of people wanting only to live their lives in peace.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Random Observations and Thoughts on Switzerland

  • Green, green, green
  • Clean, clean, clean
  • Friendly people and very accommodating!
  • It is very expensive to live here.  We were in areas frequented by tourists, of course, but not a single store tempted me because of the high cost.  Clothing costs seemed extremely high; over $200 for shoes?  Not in my budget.  Hard to have dinner for two under $50.
  • Everyone speaks English and most speak it proficiently.  Only twice did we have to spend a little extra time interpreting menu items and this was in smaller towns.
  • I saw well-dressed women wherever we went.  Most businessmen seemed to be in very traditional black suits.  LOTS of high-heeled shoes.  Can't for the life of me figure out how they walk in 5- or 6-inch heels over cobblestones!
  • The trains are superb.  Our Eurorail pass was for first-class accommodations, but I don't think we needed that.  Only one train was the least bit crowded.  In every other case, we were among a handful of people in our car - some tourists, but mostly business people who worked on their laptops during the trips.  Interesting idea:  The overhead shelf is clear so you can actually see if you've put something up there!  Hard to leave items behind.
  • Although there seems to be a jewelry store on every other corner, Swiss women wear very little jewelry.  What they wear, however, doesn't come from Kohl's!  And everyone, of course, sports a big, heavy, impressive watch.
  • Every church has a tower with a clock, and the clocks are accurate!  Even if the church is hundreds of years old, the clock still works. 
  • Takeaways - what we would call take-out - and not from fast-food places, but rather from yummy delis and cheese shops and bake shops and grocery stores and even train stations.  Gotta love it!
  • I saw many preschoolers still using pacifiers -- 3 & 4-year olds.
  • Swiss efficiency.  You can't beat it.  Waiters and waitresses carry black leather bags on their waists filled with money so that they make change right at the table.
  • I've never seen so many construction cranes in my life!  It was hard to take a photograph without getting several huge cranes in the background.  Lots of construction and reconstruction wherever we went indicates a great deal of pride in the country.
  • New to us were handheld credit card machines so we paid our restaurant bills right at our table.  No need for the waiter/waitress to disappear with our card into some back room.  We liked it!
  • Jewelry stores leave all the jewelry in the windows overnight and on the weekends unlike in the US where most stores empty their displays every night.  The Swiss are very trusting and trustworthy.  We were told that there is very little crime in Switzerland, and we should not be afraid to leave items in our hotel room nor be concerned about pickpockets.
  • Pastries decorated so elaborately that you almost (almost!) didn't want to eat them.  And all arranged in neat, tidy rows in the display cases.
  • Chocolate.  Need I say more?  Well worth walking miles and miles every day to justify indulging.
  • Cows and farms and rolling hills and well-maintained houses with gorgeous window boxes overflowing with geraniums.  Yup .... exactly like you picture it!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time to face the inevitable - homeward bound!

Can't I please take these home?
September 21 - I awoke this morning to the sound of vendors setting up for the Tuesday market alongside the river in Lucerne.  Looking out from the balcony, I noticed beautiful flowers and plants as well as lots of produce.  I was ready to explore immediately after breakfast.  Doug stayed in the room to pack; it always takes him much longer than it takes me even though there are no decisions to be made - everything has to go home!

I loved the flowers especially the cute arrangements made with dried seed pods.  I was tempted to buy one to take home, but I don't think we can bring plant material into the states.  There was also lots of meat, cheese, and even fresh fish.
You can buy squash by the slice!

We strolled to the train station baggage trailing behind us and headed towards Kloten, a town near the Zurich airport.  I don't know whether I've admitted it here or not, but I have a fear of trains and train tracks.  Nothing has ever happened to me to cause this fear which, like most phobias, is completely illogical.  The problem dates back to my days working in New York in the early 60s and travelling the subway system.  Maybe I was tied to a railroad track in a former life?  Anyway, I was a bit concerned that this was going to be a problem during our trip.  I was able to get on and off the trains pretty easily and just bit the bullet and crossed the tracks when necessary.  Today, however, I had big problems in the Zurich train station.  The train from Zurich to Kloten left from a track three levels underground!  It was dark, damp, and dreary and about did me in.  Good thing this was our last train trip!

Last glimpse of the Alps across the lake at sunrise
 We walked a short distance to the Hotel Allegra.  "Allegra" means hello, happiness, and welcome in Switzerland’s 4th official language - Romansh.  This is the largest room we have had.  Obviously, this hotel caters to business travelers since we are so near the airport.

Swiss railroad clocks - always precise!
 We had a big salad at a local restaurant, toured the town a bit, then went back to the room for a final pack for the flight home.  We decided to pick up a "take away" dinner at Migros, one of the two major grocery store chains in Switzerland and turn in early for our 6:15 a.m. wakeup call!

Tomorrow, we fly home.  I'm certainly not looking forward to such a long day and utter fatigue at the end of it.  Fortunately, I'm reading a terrific book - Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Turning pages should keep me sane across the Atlantic, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Does the sun always shine on Lucerne?

September 20 - Lucerne was much less crowded today than yesterday.  Obviously, a day trip to Lucerne on a sunny Sunday is the thing to do in this part of Switzerland!

Me enjoying breakfast at the hotel
The Dying Lion of Lucerne
After a lovely breakfast on the balcony overlooking the river at our hotel, DH and I walked to the Lion Wall monument (the Dying Lion of Lucerne) which is in memory of the heroic death of Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in 1792.  We met a family from Sri Lanka who asked us to take pictures of them with the lion in the background.  We told them we had eaten Sri Lankan food just the other night.  They’ve travelled much in the US and have been to San Diego, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyland.

Along the Swiss "riviera"
We opted for a two-hour cruise from Lucerne to various towns on the lake.  We pulled away from the dock at noon with the church bells ringing.  There are large hotels in each of the towns along this part of Lake Lucerne which is sometimes called the Swiss Riviera.  I loved the town of Weggis.  Once again, we enjoyed gorgeous views of the Alps.

On our return, we strolled through town stopping wherever we saw interesting stores or structures.  They have a great idea here called Rent-a-Box.  Individuals rent small boxes in a store window to sell pieces of jewelry.

I know we look like typical tourists with our cameras, etc., but today DH outdid himself.  He hates to be uncomfortable and has a very narrow range of temperatures that he tolerates.  So, afraid that his little tootsies might get the least bit cold, he actually tied a pair of socks to the outside of his backpack and walked around town like that until I spotted it.  STOP!  I insisted that the socks go inside the backpack until needed.  What a dufus ....
Look closely - that's me on top of the wall!
Towards the middle of the afternoon, we walked alongside the Musegg wall which was started in 1386.  I actually climbed one of the towers and walked along the top of the wall for a bit before making my way down.  DH is afraid of heights, so I get to do these scary things all by myself and he gets to take a picture of my exploits for posterity.

$100 parking ticket - not for us!!
We enjoyed some wine on our balcony then took a lovely walk to the Schl├╝ssel restaurant.  Finally, Swiss fondue! (Check out the menu on the restaurant site - we had the pumpkin soup and the farmer's style fondue - yummy!)  After dinner, we slowly made our way back to the hotel across one of the footbridges admiring the lights adorning the wonderful city of Lucerne.
I've loved almost every part of this trip, but I think I will remember Lucerne most of all because of its beauty.  Tomorrow, we're off to Zurich for our last night before heading home.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can I really be in this beautiful place?

September 19 - We packed our bags and made our way to the Bern bahnhof to catch a train to Lucerne.  As usual, we saw many busses during our short walk - one of them had seven sections!   I love watching the sectioned busses turn corners.  The transportation systems in The Netherlands and in Switzerland are superb.  In the cities, the busses and trolleys run on electricity so they are very quiet and clean.

I finally had my first clear view of the Alps - gorgeous!  Once again, I noticed the garden sheds next to each of the many roadside gardens.  The Swiss must love their gardens.  Lots of donkeys today, too.  I wonder what they are used for on the farms.

Hotel des Alpes overlooking the river
Our room was not yet ready at the Hotel des Alpes so we left our bags in the locked storage room and headed out in search of a place for lunch.  The weather was the nicest we have had, so an outdoor lunch at the Meisterkonditorei (Old Town store) was in order.  Calzone and beer - don’t they go together just like ham and cheese?  And, there is a Starbucks two doors down from our hotel!

DH contemplating lunch!
I’m hearing more American accents here than anywhere else.  More English in general.  Today is Sunday, so Lucerne is full of tourists from out of town as well as out of country.  So many couples holding hands! Lucerne is absolutely gorgeous and very romantic with its swans, flowers, and medieval bridges.

After lunch, we walked along the waterfront admiring Lake Lucerne and the many sailboats and tour boats on the lake. DH noticed a group of men playing a game similar to petanque or bocce ball. They were speaking German, so perhaps it is the German equivalent of bocce.

View from  our balcony!
We got back to the hotel and checked into our room. The Hotel des Alpes is on the River Reuss with views of the Chapel Bridge and the Water Tower -- an incredibly beautiful sight.  We have a balcony on the first floor, which we Americans would call the second floor.  I can see the entire downtown area, four bridges, swans galore, and the Alps!  Doug splurged on this one, but it is worth it.  This is classified in the tour books as a “middle class” hotel.  Whew!  It’s costing us more than any B&B we’ve ever been to in the US!

Our room is small, but the balcony certainly makes up for it.  I decided to live out of the suitcase since I’ve lost track of clean vs. dirty clothes.  While DH unpacked in his usual leisurely fashion, I sat on our balcony listening to a violin player, watching people enjoying their lunch in the outdoor cafes along the River Reuss, and taking in the views of Lake Lucerne and the snowcapped Alps in the distance.  I am a very lucky gal! Am I really here in this beautiful place?

Chapel Bridge at sunset
We are closest to the flower-adorned Chapel Bridge, one of five pedestrian bridges crossing the river, so I can watch people strolling across and stopping to take pictures.  The river is very clean; swans, mallards, seagulls, and coots enjoy the water as well as the bread tossed into the river by visitors.

I kept thinking that this is my reward for all that "budgeting by envelope" that I've done over the years.  My second thought was that I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy this beautiful, beautiful city.

We spent the afternoon walking and walking and walking.  If the scale is not my friend when I get home, I’ll be pretty miffed.  We stumbled on a restaurant that has a reasonable menu for fondue and decided that it would be the place for our special dinner at the end of the trip: The Hotel zum Schlussel, Schlukelftube.

DH wanted to check out the river cruises so we explored the lakefront.  Our Eurorail pass allows us to take a lake cruise for free.  We’ll do a 2-hour roundtrip tour on the lake tomorrow.  We had another one of those unexpected surprises while on the lakefront.  A group of 20 costumed revelers on bicycles were riding round and round a large fountain in front of the art museum adjacent to the lake.  They did not have signs, so we don’t know what the occasion was -- but they were certainly having a wonderful time.  They looked a lot like circus clowns, blowing horns, etc.  Fun, fun, fun …

We had a great dinner of fish and chips at Gracie Kelly’s Irish Pub while watching the Bears vs. Dallas on tv!  A small taste of home ....

More pictures of this beautiful city:

One of the towers at the medieval wall

Flowers everywhere

Looking across Lake Lucerne

Fondue restaurant perhaps?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Market Day

September 18 - I asked the receptionist at the hotel this morning if there was anything special going on in Bern on Saturdays.  She directed us to the Saturday Market in Parliament Square.  What a great suggestion!  The market was full of wonderful fresh produce, bread, meats, cheeses and flowers. At one stand, a vendor cut lunchmeat to individual orders.  Nothing seems to be on ice! This would not be permitted with our US health laws, I am sure. The crowded market bustled with shoppers and children.  One adorable little girl excitedly showed her daddy what mommy had bought for her - chocolat!  Seems toddlers and chocolate are a common language.  There was one stand with all sorts of small dried gourds, etc., for making flower arrangements which tempted me -- but I don't think I'd be permitted to bring these through customs.

At the market

Our Eurorail pass entitles us to eight days of transportation during our stay in Switzerland.  I think DH is determined to use all eight days!  We decided to take the train from Bern to Neuchatel, a town located on Lake Neuchatel in the French-speaking area of Switzerland.  Once in Neuchatel, we walked through town and ran across another Saturday market.  Every so often, there was a picnic table set up among the vendors and we saw many families eating market food along with a glass of wine or beer on this sunny day.

We opted for lunch at Les Brasseurs, a brewery.  We finally had "flammenkueches," a type of pizza with very, very thin crust.  Mine was loaded with mushrooms and DH had the caprese version.  Of course, we had beer.  Throughout our trip, we've noticed two things about the beer glasses:  they are etched with volume marks and they always have the brand name of the beer on them.  If you order a .5dl beer, the beer is poured up to the .5dl mark etched on the glass.  DH says that this is due to a law that protects the buyer from being short-changed on their beer purchase.  Ah, Swiss precision!

Drivers drive fast in this part of Switzerland -- the French area!  Reminds me of how fast my BIL drives.  Hmmm....  Also, as soon as we entered this area on the train route, the signs turned to French in rail stations and the announcements on the train were made in French first, followed by German.  Up until now, the announcements have been in German first, then French, and English in the larger stations.  It must be interesting to live in a country with four official languages - German, French, Italian, and Rumantsch.

Approaching the castle
We shopped in the old town then hiked to the castle for a wonderful view of the city.  There's a first time for everything department:  We both desperately needed to use a restroom and the one and only one at the castle happened to have two stalls.  We felt very liberated taking a dual potty break!

As we were walking towards the cathedral next to the castle, a wedding party with a few hundred guests arrived and the church bells chimed.  This is the third wedding that we've just happened across on our trip - a nice touch since this trip is partly to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.  I hope all three couples enjoy a marriage at least as long as ours!

I was hungry when we got back to the Bern railway station so picked up a Movenpick ice cream cup - delicious!  I've had ice cream on my mind for the whole trip but the weather hasn't been ice cream weather.  I finally decided to have it anyway and just deal with the chill!

I could live in a castle - couldn't you?
Since our lunch was a bit late and very filling, we planned on a takeout dinner from the Coop.  We relaxed in our room for a bit, then found that the Coop was closed!  On Saturday, many stores either close at noon or early in the afternoon.  We ended up at the bar across the street from the hotel for a beer and saw people eating food that looked scrumptious.  Seems the bar owner is from Sri Lanka so we ordered what we thought was the same as the people near us. Well, our food didn’t look anything like what we expected to get!  It was still good and quite spicy.

Our nice waitress hails from Bangladesh.  She told us that she has been here 8 years and hasn’t had fondue yet.  She also commented that the Swiss eat then have salad then another drink then coffee, etc., etc., etc.  In other words, very long meals!

Tomorrow, we're off to Lucerne -- our last city before the long trip home.

Monday, September 27, 2010

They're out there somewhere!

September 17 - Our room key is attached to a piece of metal that looks just like an extra large beer bottle opener.  DH did not want to lug this around, so he removed the key to carry separately. Sometime during the night, DH decided to open the window to our room to get more airflow.  In order to keep the window open,  he used the "beer bottle opener" as a wedge.  Whoops - bad move.  When we woke up in the morning, it was gone.  Considering the cost of things in Switzerland, this is probably going to set us back a hundred bucks!  DH went outside and looked all over but couldn't find it.  Hmmm ... should be another interesting hotel checkout!

Today is the day to go to Interlaken and see the Alps up close and personal.  Unfortunately, the weather is pretty gloomy.  The weather report earlier in the week indicated that this was the best day during our Bern stay to go into the mountains.  We're hoping that the clouds clear later in the day.

On the way to the train station, we walked by the Bernina store.  They had the full line of the new 300s in the window.  I'm looking forward to visiting the store later in our visit.

Too beautiful to miss
We really enjoy our rail trips.  The trains are so clean and quiet and the Swiss countryside is just beautiful.  I thought I'd be reading my book or doing my hand sewing during these train trips, but I can't stop looking at the views.  We could definitely feel the increased elevation as we made our way to Interlaken.

A bit touristy?
Interlaken has huge hotels and lots of tourist shops; it is the most "touristy" place we've visited.  We walked the length of the town, found the fondue restaurant that was highly recommended on the Internet, then decided to take the train farther up the mountains to Grindelwald.  The weather was still overcast.  The Alps were out there - somewhere! - but we couldn't see them.

This is the smallest train we've been on, one of the special cogwheel trains that go to the higher elevations of the Alps.  Shortly after we started the trip, the conductor came for our tickets and told us that our Eurorail Pass did not cover this train.  The mountain trains are privately run.  Not only did we have to pay an additional $52 to continue the trip, but we were on the wrong car!  At the next stop, we exited the train and got on the car right behind us.  They split the train at that point, and only a couple of cars continue to twist and turn their way up the mountainside.

Where oh where are you, Alps?
 We sat right behind the engineer and had a fabulous trip to Grindelwald along a beautiful river with rapids.  The Alps were covered in clouds and fog.  It is a strange feeling - you know they are there, but you can't see them.

DH thought he saw one of the military bunkers that Switzerland uses for their defense.  They apparently have a highly sophisticated and secret defense system.

Grindelwald is a bit less touristy than Interlaken.  The weather was chilly enough for us to have a hot chocolate and something sweet:  a schwarzwalmer torte (black forest cake) for me and fruchtekuchen (berry tart) for Doug.

Hot chocolate and sweets - yummy!
We took the cogwheel train back down the mountain looking forward to our fondue dinner.  Unfortunately, the restaurant did not start serving dinner until 6 p.m.

The Berner-Oberland Bahn
While wandering in and out of shops, we suddenly saw skydivers!  People pay LOTS of money to go up one of the mountains and skydive down into the town of Interlaken landing in a large open field in the center of town.  Someone would have to pay me LOTS of money to even think about doing such a thing.

There's a skydiver in there somewhere ....
We took the train back to Bern, had some wine in room, and dined at the Eiger, a family run restaurant near the hotel with excellent service and delicious food.  Clouds, fog, drizzle, and good memories of a special day in the mountains.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Sunny Day in Bern

Our last days of vacation got a bit packed with activities so blogging went by the wayside.  Even though we are now back home in California, I want to finish my vacation posts.  BB (before blog!), I kept a written travel diary.  My blog has now become my diary, so I need to write about the rest of our adventures.

September 16 - The breakfast at La Pergola is similar to the one offered by the Hotel Dom.  Lots of bread choices, including whole loaves where you can cut yourself a sizable chunk.  Fresh fruit salad, sliced meats, and a large selection of cheeses.  Cold cereal, milk, juice, a basket of apples/bananas/plums, and several flavors of yogurt.  The yogurt that I’ve had while on this trip is much creamier and more flavorful than what I am used to.  I’m certain that it is a lot higher in fat content, too!  Fortunately, there are no labels to peruse on the breakfast buffet, so I can just enjoy without guilt.  The best part of the breakfasts, however, is the coffee.  They brew a small pot of coffee for each guest individually and serve it with a pitcher of steamed milk.  It is wonderful!

DH and I marked off the sites we wanted to see today and mapped a circuitous route through the Old Town in order to catch as many of them as possible while the sun is shining.

During a visit to yet another church on the early part of our walk, I had one of those surprising moments.  A blind man entered the church and walked directly to the altar of Our Lady.  He prayed a moment, then took out a harmonica and played a lovely serenade.  My heart told me that he does this every day.

The Ensign Fountain
Bern is known for its 16th century fountains located throughout Old Town, and we were determined to see each of them.  I'm not sure we met our goal, but we certainly enjoyed the effort.  We spent some time at the House of Parliament building on the Square of Parliament - quite an impressive building.  While strolling along the lovely promenade behind the building, I suddenly realized that the Alps were peaking out above a few low clouds.  I was actually looking at the Swiss Alps!

Approaching the Clock Tower
The Zytglogge is a must-see in Bern.  The clock on this 13th century tower puts on quite a show from 4 minutes before the hour through chiming the hour.  Bears rotate, gilded figures strike the bells, and dozens of onlookers admire the clockfaces and astronomical clock.  We tried several times to get to the show on time but missed seeing the entire 4+ minutes.  Oh, well - a reason to go back perhaps?

DH did most of the planning for this trip, but neither one of us remembered that the house where Albert Einstein did most of his work on his theory of relativity is now a museum dedicated to the physicist.  Climbing the narrow circular stairs from floor to floor in the museum reminded me of the stairs in the Amsterdam apartment!  There isn't much to the museum (entrance fee is just $4 for seniors), but the displays detailing Einstein's life and work are quite interesting even for a non-scientist.

House of Parliament - Bern
We found a small park next to a church and had sandwiches for lunch on a park bench.  Then more walking and sightseeing through Old Town.  By the time we got back to the hotel and rested awhile, we were too tired to hike anywhere far for dinner.  The Italian restaurant across the street called to us again.

I think we've taken 2000 pictures and climbed 2000 steps - I hope my knees hold out!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Taking the Road Less Traveled

We tried to check out early at our hotel today, but the server was down.  They could not process our bill on Mastercard.  Fortunately, an ATM a few doors down spit out 6 crisp new $100 franc notes and off we were to the train station.  I don't know how the Swiss can afford to live in Switzerland!

Once our train was in the Bahnhof (station), we looke for our reserved seats in Coach 4.  We were separated for about five minutes with me standing on the platform securing the luggage and Doug on the train looking for our seats.  I was getting nervous as it got closer and closer to departure time; these trains wait for no one.  We are so reliant on cellphones to communicate!  We even call one another in department stores to find out where the other one is.  I did not like feeling alone and abandoned at all ....

Fortunately, Doug found our seats, we boarded the train, and sped our way from St. Gallen to Bern along the beautiful, green countryside of Switzerland.  This train was a double-decker, so our views were spectacular.  We should not have spent the extra fee for reservations since the train was only about 25% full.  How do you know?

Bern architecture
We arrived in Bern and made our way to the Hotel La Pergola.  Unfortunately, the street we chose did not have a sidewalk -- we ended up dragging our bags down steps and over dirt pathways through a park.  I don't think rolling luggage was designed for this type of "travel."  I need to be more forceful with DH when he comes up with these schemes.  I ended up with several big, bad, ugly blue bruises from the luggage banging into my leg.  Of course, if we had been more patient (or, heaven forbid, asked directions!), we could have avoided this route to the hotel.  This is a read-between-the-lines message to friends and family who will know exactly what happened!

A small section of Bern's shopping arcade
The hotel is back off the street a few blocks from the Old City so it is nice and quiet.  We checked in and wandered through the streets of Bern.  As the capital of Switzerland, it is the largest city we have visited since Amsterdam.  Lots of traffic, both foot, bike, scooter, bus, tram, and car.  Even the intermittent rain did not stop us from walking through the seemingly endless arcades of shopping.

The most delightful aspect of travel is the unexpected.  We heard live music coming from a square adjacent to the shopping area.  A military band was playing!  We stayed and listened for a few minutes enjoying the music.  Fun, fun, fun!

Toddler enjoying fountain spray!
The fountains of Bern are quite interesting.  We ran across several today; we will try to see all 11 of them in the Old City before we leave.

We slowly made our way back towards the hotel and came across what looked like the American Embassy.  Three soldiers stood outside, with one female soldier holding an automatic weapon.  DH tried to take a picture of the building, and a soldier shouted at us not to take pictures!  We tend to follow instructions when there are weapons involved .....

There's a first time for everything department:  we can't get ice at this hotel!  So, my favorite bartender served our bottle of red wine unchilled.  We ate dinner at a cozy Italian restaurant across the street owned by a Spaniard -- delicious spaghetti a la carbonara for DH and cannelloni for me.  Weather permitting, tomorrow we walk 'til we drop!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bernina Day!

The alarm did not go off today, but the church bells rang!  I assumed the bells were ringing at 7, but it was only 6 a.m.  The Swiss are known for being exact about time.  You can't possibly oversleep here.

On the way to the train station, we encountered a mom with 3 preschoolers all singing "Brother John" in German!  How very cute ...

Apple trees along the train route
Our train trip was on a local this time, so we made many stops along the way.  The countryside was exceptionally pretty with farms, fields, distant rolling hills, cows, a few horses, and lovely homes in each township.  And apple trees galore!  Full size trees and also rows and rows of younger trees planted similarly to vineyards.

Except for the stations that are large enough to have connecting trains, each stop is a maximum of two minutes.  Hesitate and you go to the next station.  Fortunately for us, a very nice woman must have realized we were getting off at Steckborn and pushed the button for the train to stop.  Apparently, Steckborn is not a regular stop!  Can you imagine us whipping through the Steckborn station and wondering why the train didn't stop????

A wonderful home in Steckborn.
We wandered through the quaint village of Steckborn enjoying the sunny day and the lovely homes.  Steckborn is on Lake Constance (the Bodensee), and you can see the German city of Konstanz quite clearly across the lake.  The day was so warm and sunny that we decided to buy a sandwich at Coop (a supermarket) and sit by the lake to enjoy the views.  Suddenly, we noticed a blimp.  It took me a second or two to realize what was strange about the blimp - no logo!  A totally white, unmarked blimp.  Hmmmm .... a Swiss mystery.

Me - in front the of Bernina factory!
We walked up the street towards the Bernina address, rounded a curve in the road, and there was the large red Bernina sign.  We spent the next several hours in Bernina heaven (for me), but I will not bore you with a lengthy report.  I'll do a separate post just on the tour.  I will say, however, that I now understand why the sewing machines and the accessories are so expensive; almost everything is done by hand.  I was amazed.

Back via train to St. Gallen, pick up a bottle of wine, pack for our trip to Bern tomorrow, then a hamburger & French fries at the American Bar & Grill around the corner from the hotel.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our own walking tour of St. Gallen

DH had a tentative plan to get on a train (again) and head to Appenzellerland, an area not far from here famous for cowbells and yodelling.  The weather was threatening so we decided to stay in town and fully explore St. Gallen.  I think we've walked 10 miles today and seen every street in the old city, some several times.

We started the day with a mishap.  The shower in the hotel does not have a lip on it -- the entire bathroom is tiled on one level, with the floor tilted slightly to the shower drain.  I managed to get so much water over the bathroom floor that it started to seep into the bedroom!  DH had to give me a lesson in European showers ....

The Hotel Dom offers a nice breakfast.  Coffee was freshly made for us and served in individual pots with warmed milk in individual creamers.  What service!  The coffee was the best I have had in a long time - sorry, Starbucks.  The Hotel Dom is part of an association called "forderraum," an institution which supports handicapped people.  The hotel provides about 50 jobs under this program affording the opportunity to work according to their capabilities in a meaningful way.  Everyone in the hotel has been extremely service oriented, friendly, and professional.  Each room is named after the artwork placed in the room done by an employee, either present or past.  Our room is the "Benjamin Bonjour Menschen" room.  Here is Benjamin's drawing entitled "Menschen."

Things are expensive in Switzerland!  We hit an ATM this morning for a $100 withdrawal.  We got the $100 - in one bill!  That's a good indication that you can spend $100 pretty easily.

Our first visit after breakfast was to the Textile Museum.  St. Gallen is well known for its textile industry and especially lacemaking.  I was thrilled by the displays of exquisite antique lace from all over the world.  One of the gowns on display was worn by Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.  Unfortunately, you are not permitted to take pictures in the museum - so please click on the link above to see a few.  There is a case in one room with multiple drawers that you can pull out (similar to drawers holding maps in many museums).  Each drawer revealed a beautiful display of hand embroidery, one more gorgeous than the next.  The tiny, tiny stitches on fine batiste took my breath away.  The nicest part of the museum was that DH enjoyed it, too!

Oma Bratwurst and Fries - Yum!
For lunch, we had a local specialty, an Olma bratwurst.  They serve it in a bag and also give you a large slice of bread.  The trick is to take a bite of the bratwurst, then a chunk of bread.  No mustard allowed!  People walk along the streets while eating their lunch in this fashion.

DH is having a blast using his high school German.  He's doing quite well, especially since buying an English/German dictionary a few days ago.

There are four or five stores in St. Gallen specializing in musical instruments.  We have asked about this, but the residents don't think this is odd.  I don't know how far we would have to go to find as many within walking distance of one another.  In the afternoon, we browsed in one such store with six stories!  The pianos are on the bottom floor, including a beautiful Steinway grand with a price tag of $116,000.  I resisted the urge to play chopsticks.

Six stories - two underground!
Dinner was a picnic in the room:  delicious cheeses from a small shop on the next street, bread from the b├Ąckerie around the corner, wine from the grocery store that we stumbled upon (Coop), and a hunk of Swiss chocolate.  Is this heaven?

Bernina Day tomorrow.  Now that must be heaven ....