Friday, December 26, 2008

TR Visits! & Christmas Time

Christmas Dinner - Fondue!

Our first visitor Tina R came to visit for Christmas! We were very happy to have her stay with us and we did our best to show her around. We met up with Ms A, B, and Tina at the airport. Ms A&B took the train immetiatly after landing to go meet up with relatives. Tina stayed in Geneva with us for a few days and we tried our best to get her over jetlag and make the most of her time. 

We ventured out her first day up to Gruyere and did the cheese making tour. Not a lot of action but some pretty scenery at the castle. We then headed back down to Lac Leman and went to the Montreaux christmas market. The scenery was beautiful but unfortunately the clouds didn't lift to reveal the Alps. The christmas market was smaller then the one we visited a few weeks ago but had a lively atmosphere. Rob and I tried the Montreaux Tea and Rob had his spiked with Rum. It was very delicious. It was sweet and hot which was nice contrast to the cold wind by the lake. Tina R tried some spiced wine. We also surveyed all the German food that was being sold and marveled at the expensive prices! A nice home cooked meal was awaiting us at home that evening so we didn't partake. It did smell yummy though! 

Montreaux - A picturesque city by the lake.
Do you know the song "Smoke on the Water?" This is town referred to in that song! 

The chestnut roaster posed for me. Notice the pots at the end of the row? 

Tempting German Swiss Food

Artistic Snow Shot
An old "echo-y"church at the castle

Group Picture

Tina R and the snowy alps

Looking below from the medieval town on the hill

The Gardens at the castle. 

Gruyere - With "Cherry" the voice of our guide on the headphone tour. 

The second day of her visit was the obligatory tour of Geneva including Place Du Nations, St Pierre Cathedral, and several shopping havens. For lunch we went to the downtown Manor and eat the top story restaurant. I really wanted the pasta but had to watch several people order it before I felt comfortable enough to order it too. I tried to be prepared for the questions the chef asks beforehand so I know how to respond. For example, I needed to be prepared on what type of pasta I wanted and what color sauce. Also I needed to turn down the option to add chicken or shrimp. Tina R took the "safe" route and got "Soupe De Legumes". (Vegetable Soup) 

Christmas day we relaxed at home and watched "Love Actually" on DVD. We ventured out in the afternoon and headed to a tiny little small town called Echallens. We saw a Christmas concert being advertised free on the internet so we checked in out. It was a full house! The venue was a tiny church of only about 20 rows of pews. The three of us ended up standing in the upper balcony and having to look over a few people to watch the performance. About 80% of the way thru the concert, TR started to feel faint and we rushed downstairs before she got a chance to pass out. It was getting hot up in the balcony so it was totally understandable. A nice swiss woman who seemed to be associated with the church gave her some watered down lemonade to sip.  We left a few songs after we came downstairs and headed home. We prepared a traditional swiss fondue for christmas dinner complete with cornichons. We made a ton of phone calls on Skype and between the 3 of us spent over 2 hours on the phone! Overall, we had a great christmas and spent it with a great friend!

Tina R took off this morning on a train to go meet up with Ms A&B. But E&M arrive in just a few hours! We are off to Brussels, Amsterdam, and Paris. We'll be back to Geneva on the 4th! Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!!! 


Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Electric" Beer Finds

Rob and I have been constantly driving by this huge store on the French Side of the border between Ferney and Prevassin called "E.LECLERC". I just called it the huge "electric" store since that is what the sign looks like at first glance. Inside we found a large grocery store and household items. They also had very large wine sections and beers we haven't seen yet . . .

La Goudale brewed by La Brasseurs de Gayant - 7.2%
Light Blonde french beer from l'ancienne region. 
It was okay - mediocre - and not a lot of flavor besides bitterness. 

Mort Subite - Kriek - 4.5%
A typical Belgium cherry lambic. Kinda tasted like cough syrup.
Rob couldn't drink it at all. I didn't want to see it go to waste so to match the candy flavor I consumed a knock off starburst candy with it.  

Westmalle - Trappit - Tripel - 9.5% - 33cl
By far one of the best beers we have had so far. It had sweet maltyness with high alcohol. It was suprisingly malty for such a light beer. 
It is a "trappist" beer. That means it has been brewed by certified trappist monks at one of the 7 breweries. The Westmalle brewery make 3 type of beers. You may know a famous trappist beer . . .  can you guess?
Chimay is a trappist beer! 


Strange Things About Being in Limbo

Since Rob and I are in a limbo stage of our situation here in Switzerland we experience some cool upsides and some not so fun downsides. I thought since we are coming to close of this part of our experience it would be worth reflecting.


1. Living in the apartment hotel has its benefits. We have a cleaning service one a week! It is nice to have fresh towels and a clean dishcloth.

2. No longer living at the CERN hostel and having to eat Restaurant 1/2 food for every meal - every day. No food was allowed in the rooms themselves and the communal kitchens weirded us out. There is something yucky about sharing a kitchen with a whole lot of strangers you don't know.

3. We get to experience the french countryside living. Therefore, we will never wonder if we made the right choice to live in Geneva city proper. See Downside #3.


1. Not cooking in our own kitchen. We really miss our non stick pans, cutting boards, graters, and chef knives. We had to buy a can opener because we couldn't live without it. Seems a bit sad huh?

2. No oven. That means no baking, broiling, warming, toasting, etc. This severly reduces our food choices and variety. We are stuck microwaving or frying.

3. Not close to public transport and the city life. Many CERN scientists live in the French countryside simply because they have large families and it is much easier to find an apartment or home to live in here.

4. We are afraid to buy the small ingredients since we don't want to store it all when we go traveling. We debated yesterday whether we should buy soy sauce or not.

5. We haven't unpacked our 6 large boxes of stuff we brought over. If we haven't been able to "live without it" we drove to storage and rumbled thru the boxes and pulled it out. This included some winter clothes and Cholula hot sauce we packed.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Perfect Holiday Gift

Last year - Rob and I were given the "gift of giving" from Rob's grandmom. We chose a great organization called Kiva. It is a great gift to give this holiday season! You can even get gift certificates to send! 

Kiva describes themselves this way: "Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to an entrepreneur in the developing world. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending."

People who want to start businesses in developing countries often find extremely high interest rates from large banks being their only option to build capital. Kiva provides what is called microfinancing. Lenders (you and I) give our money directly to the person via the website. 

Kiva is great because ,you get to choose who you invest in, read their plans for the money, and they repay their loans. Once they repay their loans - you can invest in somebody else! 

In one year - Rob and I have made 58 loans. 12 have been paid back completely. Check our lender page! It has been super rewarding and I love to check in on how they are doing. Field partners visit quite a few people and give updates on how the businesses are doing. 

Here are some links to some of our favorite enterpreneurs we have helped fund - 

Nguyen Thi Chen - Vietnam - Soft Drinks (Rob has a love for carbonated sodas)

Nheb Tra - Cambodia - Selling Jasmine Flowers (I wish I could smell them!)

Sath Sim - Cambodia - Construction  (I always try to fund construction businesses!)

Mohammad Nasar Hayaider - Afghanistan - Food (Check out the cookies  in his picture!)

Hopefully - some of these businesses have inspired you to loan youselves! 


Leek & Potato Soup

I have been meaning to post these pictures all week. For L'Escalade this past weekend it is traditional to eat vegetable soup. There were lots of vendors downtown serving up this treat but Rob is always wary of soup if you can't read the ingredients. You never know if it has chicken broth or hunks of pig in it for "flavoring". So instead of munching downtown, we made our own "vegetable" soup. I know this isn't traditional but the ingredients are cheap and it is warm on a cold day. We adapted this dish from Alton Brown's original found here

Cut Up Leeks (4-6 depending on size)

Add 2 TBSP Butter & Cook In Large Stockpot Over Medium Heat

Leeks should soften up and become translucent. Add  salt to help break down. 

Cut Up  4-5 Small Potatoes. Do not use Russets.

Add Vegetable Broth & Simmer on Low (45 minutes)

Turn Off Heat and Add Cream/Milk/Buttermilk. 
Optional Step: Use Immersion Blender and Liquify Into Creamy Soup.  We didn't have an immersion blender and we like our soup chunky. 

Prepare some side dishes! We seared up some gorgeous scallops and have some lemon wedges ready to go. 

Serve Up! Yum! I recommend serving with hot sauce and sour cream. Or cut up greenery like scallions, dill, and chives. 


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Worst Best Man Ever Video

Erin sent Rob and I this little youtube video. We watched it about 10 times to see if we thought it was staged/fake. I am not convinced either way. Take a look for yourself.

Wouldn't this be mortifying? Rob suggested that the groom should have jumped in too - to make things fair. Maybe this is a good reason not to get married right by the water?  Thank you Rich for not throwing me in a lake, catching me on fire, or inflicting other traumatic pain.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Green Onion Pancakes - Just the way my mother taught me!

Whenever I am a little homesick - I fry up some of these green onion pancakes. My mom taught me how to make these right when I left for college and they have become a staple side dish in my home. Thanks Mom! These are delicious! You can find premade ones in asian grocery stores like 99 Ranch back home. Nothing pre-packaged here in Switzerland though. You have to make them from scratch. It is the best tasting anyway.

Add 1.5 cups of hot water (not boiling) to 3 cups flour and knead into dough. 
Let dough rest for 1/2 - 1 hour.
Divide into 4 pieces and roll dough flat

Add oil and sprinkle salt, pepper, and lots of green onion according to taste.

Roll it like a rolled taco / taquito (depending on where your from)

Make a snail . . . 

Close the end on itself and roll thin. Don't worry about onions poking out. 

Fry it up and enjoy! 


Calvinus (Organic)

Calvinism was born here in Geneva. St Pierre Cathedral is the center of it all here. This beer was another 'on a whim' Globus buy. It is an local (brewed in Geneva) organic blonde that is not filtered. You could see the yeast floating around on the bottom. I didn't get a taste but Rob disliked it a lot. He called it super bland and not very exciting. But hey, we tried it and documented it! 

Calvinus Blonde Bio - 5.2%


Cuvee De Noel - St Feuillien

Rob and I couldn't resist this beer as it was on the featured beer of the week at the high end department store Globus in the center of town. Rob describes this beer as rich sweet maltyness balanced with a high alcohol content. Delicious! 

Cuvee De Noel - St Feuillien - Belgium - 9%


Monday, December 15, 2008

Ferney-Voltaire Farmer's Market

Rob and I headed out last Saturday morning to the Ferney-Volataire farmers market. (Yes - The one I have raved out before). This time we could actually buy some food since we now have a kitchen to cook in!

We purchased some great button mushrooms, compte cheese, lemons, fresh gnocchi, scallions, two 1/2 loafs of bread, fresh large scallops, and a huge head of lettuce type green. Terrific produce and unique stands. Lots of cheese, olives, meats, seafood, liver pates, spices - you name it! If you plan on visting us on a Saturday morning, we are definately taking you here!

Update - I changed out the slideshow for real photos. The slideshow sucks . . .  

Seafood & Cheese

"Paris" Mushrooms & Overall View

Olives & Bread

More Seafood

Fresh Pasta & Veggie Stands

More Veggie Stands (Notice The Snow On The Left) & Spices


Sunday, December 14, 2008


This past weekend was a local Geneva celebration dating back to 1602.  It is called L'Escalade. 

According the wikipedia article - The event is celebrating the defeat of the surprise attack by troops sent by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy during the night of 11–12 December 1602. 

Thanks to blogger Catherine P. for giving me the links from my previous post on the mysterious chocolate pots everywhere in Geneva. I am glad I didn't miss out on this event!

Those chocolate pots represent a big pot of boiling soup a brave woman in Geneva poured on the enemies during the invasion in 1602. Families tradionally smash the pot at home during the celebration and yell: "Ainsi périssent les ennemis de la République! " (Thus perish the enemies of the Republic). Rob and I didn't partake in this particular tradition but we did spot in old town the "kettle" a woman was carrying around. 

This was a fantastic weekend long event where lots of people are involved! All of them are dressed up in period costumes and partrol around old town. There are lots of events going on in historic buildings and churches. It ended with a parade on Sunday evening with a large bonfire (the fire department set up) in front of the church. Lots of snacks and drinks are sold along with traditional vegetable soup. Rob and I made some leek potato soup at home to mark the occasion. 


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Begining of Beer Tales

Simply stated - I love really good beer. That means I don't drink (or avoid it if I can) what is known to many people as American big name mass produced crap beer. I am sure you can name off a few off the top of your head.

This European adventure if giving us a great opportunity to drink some stuff that is impossible to find in the US and visit some of the best countries and areas of the world that brew beer. So, as a continuing feature on this blog, we are going to document all the unique stuff we drink as best as possible. Enjoy!

Rothaus Pils
Strassbourg Pilsner - Bought at Frieburg Train Station 
Ganter Wodan
Description: Brown (Kinda like Newcastle), strong nuttyness, yummy with a warm meal. 
Doppelbock (Bought at Freiburg Train Station) - 7.5%


48 Hours of Snow & Counting. . .

Growing up in southern california, I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing snow fall. It has been two days straight and gentle flakes keep whistfully coming down from the sky. Since we are temporarily staying the in French countryside where it is less dense you can see large fields of white. I know many people have said that you'll get used to it and then start to hate it. I still love it. I probably always will. Here are some pictures for you pleasure of in front of our temporary apartment.

From the living room window
About 1 1/2" after melting during the daytime
I am still fascinated



About This Blog

Tina & Rob have relocated their lives to Geneva, Switzerland. This blog is a story of their adventure during the year and all the details inbetween.

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Finding Simplicity

Three rules of work: Out of clutter find simplicity; 
From discord find harmony; 
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
Albert Einstein

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