Walk so lovely tonight I had to break my blog silence. This poem came tumbling out as we walked. Punctuation’s all off, I know. Sometimes life is like that… or poems are, at least. Hope you enjoy.

Wear sunscreen.

“Ladies and Gentlemen… Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable then my own meandering experience.”

Mary Schmich (made famous by fab ’90s song by Baz Luhrmann – watch here!)

Just removed the steristrips and saw the stitches for the first time. Though surgeon was hot and great fun, I’d rather have worn sunscreen and not had this experience. Sunscreen, people. Sunscreen. Any color, even a nice tan, is an indication of damage to your skin.

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Blessing 744

Scenes from a walk Sunday, September 11, 2011. This first shot seems perfect given all the 9/11 coverage:

Do you see the couple gathering chestnuts in this photo? They loved Mufasa & straightened themselves up from their hunched over chestnut gathering positions to pet him.

You know how in the States we’re divided along Red state/Blue state lines? In Switzerland there’s a class or snobbiness/formality division that may be best illustrated by people’s opinion of dogs: there are those who believe, as this couple does, that mixed breeds are best; those who’d never stoop to the mixed breed, and those who’d never have animals around at all because they might get a stray hair on a navy blue Armani suit or in their Porsche Carrera.

This couple reminded me of Italy & Ticino… it’s coming on the time of year for truffles and chestnuts. I need someone to go to the truffle festivals with… who’s in?


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Mufasa’s Big Adventure, Part 3,000

First try at the lead sentence: Mufasa’s been a breast cancer survivor for 3 years now, so I took him for a check-up at the beautiful Zurich Tierspital today.

Second try at the lead sentence: He’s getting old, so I took Mufasa to the gorgeous, sprawling, fabulous Zurich tierspital (University teaching animal hospital) today.

Let’s try the lead sentence Mufasa’s way.  He’d say (read this like a giant dopey character):

“I went on a field trip today! I rode the bus, and the tram, and made new friends, and had treats, and had some really good crusty bread at the busy bratwurst place! We sat by the lake and didn’t give those nasty swans any treats because all the treats were for me!”

I’m still learning lessons from Mufasa all the time.

Lately he’s showing me how to just rest when you need to. (Sometimes he rests on our walks now. This is new.)

This is how he positions himself in the bus & tram most of the time. Sometimes he’s further out in the aisle. Notice he’s got himself where he can see out full-length glass doors. Life is so exciting. Wouldn’t want to miss anything.

Mufasa tram2

He’s teaching me valuable lessons about other people, too. You can really tell this when he rides the public transportation around here. With every new person who enters he looks and raises his ears like this, as in, “What fresh wonders might you present?”

Mufasa Who dat

Below he’s actually making googly eyes at a University student who clearly liked him and was watching him the whole time. Mufasa can really spot the good ones. He pays attention to the ones who are interested.

Some of the people who get on the tram here are just so incredibly uptight… all hair-slicked-back, dark designer suit, stuffy dullards… and Mufasa brings this behavior out because heaven forbid they get a white hair on their navy blue Armani suit! I want to say to some of these guys, “Life is short! Lighten up and get over yourself!” Plus, how can they keep acting like that when this kind of glee and joy is sitting right next to them? It is so clearly not about them.

Mufasa Tram3

This unfortunate shot below I stuck in only because I find it cute:

Mufasa Tram4

Here he is facing the door… waiting… waiting. Finally, Mufasa’s taught me to watch closely because you never know what’s going to happen next!

Mufasa Tram5

The wonderful veterinarian we met today taught us both something, too. I was explaining how so many vets (here especially) say, “Let’s not do anything about that because, you know, he’s old.” They don’t intend to clean his teeth, or remove growths, or check cysts or a lot of things.  This wonderful woman heard that, gasped, got down right in Mufasa’s face, grabbed his big muzzle in one hand, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Don’t you listen to them. Age is not a condition.” Lesson learned.

Mufasa enjoyed his day and many, many other people enjoyed him today, too.

I am so grateful he’s shared these many adventures with me.

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Lactose Intolerance Be Damned

Tonight I made the best chocolate ice cream I have ever eaten, and that’s saying something.

I cook imprecisely, so it’s especially important to record these little miracles when they occur. My friend Patti taught me years ago that if you know what each ingredient does, you can play when you cook. So I do. This time I made a custard base… here’s how you can do this too:

In a bowl (or a piece of tupperware in my case tonight) stir up three big egg yolks and three tablespoons of sugar.
Meanwhile, slowly warm 500 ml whole cream in a saucepan.
Fairly early on, stir some spoonfuls of the warming cream into the egg-sugar mixture.
Mix it all together in the saucepan and heat, stirring most of the time.
After a while it’ll start to thicken. Add in 100 grams chopped up GOOD chocolate (in this case a fine bar of 72% Swiss chocolate).
Cook it stirring til the chocolate smells like it’s cooking and bring it almost to a boil.
Cool a bit.

I then put it in the Krups ice cream maker S got me (sort-of — who are we kidding?) last fall. We were impatient so we actually put the mixture in the machine warm — a total no-no. We had to run it through two cycles. Who cares?! It was the BEST… and I have tasted and tested chocolate ice creams and gelatos across two continents. The only two that come close are Chocolate Pudding ice cream from Herrell’s in Northampton, MA and the gelato joint, Il Doge, in Campo Santa Margherita in Venice, Italy.

Happy ice cream making!

Brownie Bliss

When I lived in Amherst, Massachusetts almost twenty years ago, there was this great bakery called The Black Sheep. I had never seen a cream cheese brownie, I think, til I came face-to-face with an industrial-sized pan of them displayed in their window. I needed them often, and made all sorts of excuses to go into town so I could have them. They were huge, too. Fun.

I go years at a time without thinking of cream cheese brownies, but when the thought strikes I must have one… or a whole pan. In the absence of The Black Sheep I experimented on my own last night and I am here to tell you — you, too, can make the most kick-ass brownie you have ever eaten. Excuse my language, Mema; these are good!

Here’s how you do it: Make any basic brownie batter you really like — from a box, from scratch, whatever. In my highly brownie-baking educated opinion, fudgy works better than cake-like for this experiment — so I added a little extra butter. Why not?

TIP: The Moosewood Cookbook has a good brownie recipe. And use the morning’s left over coffee instead of water in any brownie recipe. It won’t necessarily be mocha-flavored, just richer.

Put the batter in the pan just like you normally would. Take a container or two of cream cheese and beat it up in a bowl so it’s a little soft. Drop dollops of it on top of the batter. I pushed them down a little bit so they’d permeate the chocolate and spread out… and because what I really wanted to experiment with came next: ladle a dollop of Nutella in the center of each precious mound of cream cheese. Pull a knife through however you like just like making a marble cake.

I was particularly concerned about the Nutella because I’ve had mixed results heating it. YUM! These brownies turned out well. The cream cheese is extremely tangy — some people like to mix sugar in with it. I like it this way. Because I wasn’t sure how these would turn out, I made a half a pan with pecans for my husband, who likes them that way. I notice the cream cheese side is almost gone today! 😉

Hair Today, Orange Tomorrow

Just over a year ago, I blogged about my relationship with my hair and local stylists. This is sort-of like that but with a Halloween twist. In Spring. In a country that doesn’t celebrate Halloween.

My friend L. was over today. We sat around drinking coffee solving most of the world’s greatest ontological riddles… you know, the really big existential ones like, “Why am I here?” and “Who am I really?”

In so doing, we decided there are two things we absolutely must go home to the States for: shopping and haircuts.

L. is 40 this year and finds herself fit, smart, tanned, with a good job and title… and strolling the streets of luxurious Lugano with a bi-level haircut reminiscent of the 1980s.

The super-swanky Luganese salon I go to turned my hair orange Thursday. I’m not sure you can get how fully orange, spotted and striped it was. Think calico cat mottled orange on black.

The woman (a different woman from the creative colorist) also refused to cut the top shorter so the back had more movement and the front wasn’t in my eyes all the time. She actually said no when I asked her!

When I went back the next day to have them fix the color, I didn’t want to push my luck by having them take scissors in hand.

I think I’ll trim the very front myself and I won’t even have to pay hundreds of dollars for it! This is definitely one of those Expat Adventure things…