Sunday, May 29, 2016

[Sunday in Switzerland] Ketchup and kitties

Not much is going on right now, but I wanted to get in the habit of writing every week, so here's a short update.

We went to the Helvti Diner and had burgers on Thursday evening.  They were quite good and had proper ketchup.
The familiar and the new

There is an amusing video "game" called Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector.  I have never been good at catching all my kitties sleeping and playing with the virtual toys I have for them.  But this weekend, I caught them all doing cute kitty things.
OMG Kitties so cute!

If I have this little to talk about next week, I'll make this a variable interval topic instead of forcing it to once a week.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

[used to be] National Biscuit Company

The National Biscuit Company, later Nabisco, was once housed here.  Now the building is the basis of Bakery Square and it's where Google Pittsburgh is located.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

[Sunday in Switzerland] Birds and bikes

One of the things I noticed on my first trip to Zürich was that the birds sounded different.  There are some birds that are also common in the US, like the House Sparrow or Haussperling "Spatz".  Other birds that are common here, are either less common or do not exist in the US.

The first new bird I saw rather than heard was the Great Tit (info with song), called Kohlmeise.  I saw it in some bushes and noticed the yellow color, not as bright as a gold finch, but still striking.  I also saw a Eurasian Magpie which has a long tail and beautiful blue on its wings.

In the water, we saw what looked like a black duck with white on its head.  Turns out this is not a duck, but a Eurasian Coot.

Finally, there are dozens of birds that look like small crows.  I was told these were common ravens, but the song sounds wrong, so I think they are crows.

There are two birds I noticed right away as missing from Switzerland: American robins and Northern Cardinals.  One of these birds I will miss, the other, not so much.

On my walk to work, there is a building with engraved decorations.  Among them is this bird, which I assume to be a swift of some kind.

Engraved bird

Yesterday I was able to borrow a bike for a few hours and go for a short ride through a park.  There were lots of people out and about, since it was beautiful weather and sunny for the first time all week.  The bike ride was nice, but really made me miss my own bike.  I guess I'll have to either find a way to ship it from the US or buy a new one for myself.

Pretty flowers in a park

We also took a tram up to near the university and wandered around a bit.  Just looking at the mundane foreground, it's easy to miss the majestic alps in the distance.

View to the mountains

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

[Sunday in Switzerland] Colds, flowers, and foods

It took most of the week for me to recover from the terrible cold I had last weekend.  Some of my symptoms are surely allergies, too.  Pollen is everywhere and the mold is going crazy.  It has rained for most of the last four days.

I got to experience Swiss pharmacies to get more Allegra.  Almost everything is behind the counter and you have to ask for it.  Only things like skin creams were out in the open.  I didn't even see bandages or Neosporin in the unguarded section of the store.  I think that's the most foreign experience I've had so far.

The rain was good for the flowers, though.  Here are some of the blooming plants we saw on a walk through a park.
We were warned that brunch isn't really a thing yet in Zürich, but that a few places served it.  Saturday morning, we slept in and decided to try to find a place.  We ended up at Iriquois and had a lovely brunch.

We also made a few more dishes at home, including a meat and veggie sauce for spaghetti and roasted potatoes and sausage.  We also had a frozen pizza that looked like sausage.  We got it home before we translated it -- it was tuna pizza.  It was odd, but not terrible.  I think a fresh version would be quite tasty.

Finally, since it's spring, we also got some rhubarb and I made a compote for putting on ice cream.  No pictures of that because anything made with rhubarb just looks nasty. :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

[used to be] Times Building

The Pittsburg Times was a newspaper in Pittsburgh in the late 1800's.  Today that newspaper company no longer exists, but the building keeps the engraving.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday in Switzerland - A normal(ish) week

I started work in my new office this week.  My coworkers got me lots of interesting Swiss stuff to help me get acclimated.  Two of the most interesting were Aromat, a flavored salt with MSG, and Bärli-Biber, a spiced cake with marzipan filling.

This week also had a holiday, Ascension Day, on Thursday.  Apparently a lot of folks take off the following Friday.  There were lots of church bells, but I was home sick with a cold, so I didn't explore to see if folks went out or not.

On learning to be an adult again, I had to re-learn how insurance and retirement works.  It's just as mind-numbing as in the US, but just different enough that I had to pay attention.

Saturday we went for a long walk (8.5 km - long by my standards).  We explored some of Kreis 2 and saw some pretty parks.

I also cooked a little more, this time without recipes.  I made a Pittsburgh salad (lettuce, cucumber, carrots, hard boiled egg, ranch dressing, with fries on top).  I also made a more normal chicken, potato, and asparagus dinner.  Today, we have sausages and a Rösti kit to make for lunch.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

[used to be] Young Men's Christian Association

The Young Men's Christian Association from 1932 is now either offices or dorms for a local college named the Wood Street Commons.  It was unclear to me what it was from the outside.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday in Switzerland - My Cooking Experience

(Since many folks have asked for updates from Switzerland, I'll try to make it habit to post interesting photos or information on Sunday.)

Sundays in Switzerland are quiet days.  In my (still very limited) experience, people stay in and enjoy time with their families or go for walks or hikes.  Most shops are closed, which is strong encouragement to do something other than errands on Sunday.

I knew the grocery stores would be closed today, so I decided to cook a larger meal on Saturday so we'd have leftovers for Sunday.  I also decided that I wanted to try following a Swiss recipe.  My reasons are, one, all my US cookbooks are still in transit to Switzerland, and, two, it's likely to be easier to find ingredients for Swiss recipes in the local supermarkets.

I headed over to Betty Bossi which is (I gather) the Swiss equivalent of Betty Crocker.  It has simple recipes that are easy to follow and somewhat forgiving.  I chose Fächerbrot mit Kräuterbutter (Bread with herb butter) and Kartoffel-Wurst-Blech which is potatoes, sausage, and fennel with curry.

Using Google Translate, I figured out what the items were as well as the cooking abbreviations like "EB" for "Tbsp" and "wenig" for "dash".  I made my grocery list in German, just in case I had to ask where to find something, and it encourages me to learn the words.

Fans and Fangs
My biggest concern was the ingredients given by weight.  I have no idea what 600g of potatoes feels like.  It turned out that the grocery store I went to (Coop) has scales that you use to print out labels for your produce.  So it was very simple to keep adding potatoes to the bag until I had 600g.  I also bought a Küchenwaage, kitchen scale, just in case I needed to measure weights at home.

Decoding the oven turned out to be a challenge.  I thought I was preheating, but it wasn't even on.  Most appliances I have encountered are labelled entirely in diagrams, some with only a few words in German.  I think the diagrams are a sensible way of dealing with four national languages, but it can take some work to decode.


The meal turned out okay.  The potatoes were undercooked because I didn't follow my instincts of parboiling before roasting or of resigning myself to a 1 hour or longer cook time.  The recipe said 30 minutes, but that was way too short.  Our theory is that it intended you to use the convection fan for the entire time or that the pan I was using was too deep.

Either way, we do have leftovers for today.  And I got to experiment with Swiss recipes and cooking.  Tschüss!