Monday, 27 June 2011

Hello hello!

We have just returned from our four days trip to Yorkshire/Glasgow and I was hoping to be able to blog about the rolling moors, the sheep and the wonderful city of Glasgow but lack of time + Mr T's slipped disk + lack of car = no interesting travel post to share with you :-(

We had a great time in Glasgow seeing friends we miss very much and celebrating Mr T's PhD graduation. It was also lovely seeing Mr T's family and spending time with the little ones. I was very excited to see that a new wool shop had opened in Mr T's village so I went to have a look. Jo, the lovely lady at Just Unwind, was ever so helpful and patient while I spent 30 minutes having a nosey. I did not buy anything but she had some gorgeous yarn and am considering putting in an order that my mother-in-law can deliver next month when she comes to visit!

We've only been gone for 4 days but plants in the gardens have suddenly grown and one of our squash plant is slowly taking over the world...

Alf was very grumpy to see us leave but forgave us because we brought a little pressie back from Mr T's mum.

The coolest dog in Meilen!

Right, I hope I'll have a slightly more sensational post to share with you all later this week!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Cool cat

Grüezi one and all,

"Remember me?"

After a bit more work this weekend, I am proud to present the latest Made in Suisse creation! Just when I thought that putting the teddy all together was hard enough, the next three hours (yes, three hours!) trying to put a dress together for the cat were not fun.

The lack of instructions from the book (see my Crafty Goodness page for a peek at the book) really made things difficult, and I managed to assemble the different bits of the dress by trial and error (a lot of them!). This was also my first attempt at sewing pleats (see front of the dress) and it didn't work so well (they're not centred).

I won't show you the back of the dress as the different panels of the dress do not meet where they're supposed to (i.e. the middle) and I couldn't face trying to make buttonholes for the first time after already spending three hours to get this dress together.

So I think this is a fair first attempt at making a teddy (8 out of 10 if I dare say myself) but that is one pitiful attempt at dress-making (4 out of 10). I will definitely need to make a second attempt before offering the teddy to one of my nieces.

Mr T and I are off to Yorkshire and Glasgow this week to visit family and friends and I will hopefully have loads to blog about next week after our return.

Until then...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A labour of love

Started way back in January and on the needles (on and off) for almost 6 months, I am now proud to present my first pair of knitted socks! HURRAY!!!! I haven't been defeated by double pointed needles! I feel like I have mastered new knitting skills and feel ready for another project to take me out of my confort zone.

The sense of achievement was somewhat tarnished by the photo below, when I realised that I started shaping the toe in the wrong place and that I now have these unsightly stitches on top of the socks. Doh!

Well, I guess this is a good example of learning by making mistakes. The next pair should be an improvement! I have already bought the wool ;-)

PS: If anyone is interested, here is the link to the simple pattern I used to make the socks.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The hills are aliiiiiiiiiive...

...with the sound of snow voles! (and marmots, and chamois and other wonderful alpine creatures).

Good evening everyone, it's nice to be back after an short absence. I have been away on fieldwork helping Swiss scientists catch snow voles, little rodents that live in rock crevices at altitudes of 1000m and over.

The voles are most active at night so the traps (with hay and food) were set out at around 8pm and checked first thing in the morning, when the moon goes to bed (i.e. at 5am!)

So I have spent the last three days running up and down boulders, under the sun and in the rain, swearing at marmots which kept opening the traps to get at the food before pushing the traps down the hill. I will add here that no rodent was harmed in the making of this post: the vole walks into the trap attracted by the smell of peanut butter, it walks over a trigger that closes the door behind, it has some dinner before falling asleep in the hay provided. A few hours later, we come along to measure it, weight it and take a little skin sample for DNA before setting it free again to roam the mountains.

Look at me, I'm cute (when I don't bite...)!

It has been hard-going surviving on 4 hours sleep and walking up and down steep boulder hills 12 hours a day but it has been a great experience working in such a beautiful landscape.

I wasn't quick enough at getting my camera out to take pictures of the terrorist marmots. It was hard enough trying not to fall down the hill without having to one handedly struggle to get my brand new camera out of the bag without dropping it or letting go of the cliff. But I did get a picture of these quite rare alpine newts...

...and of this fantastic-looking bug

The muscles in my legs are so sore I am considering chopping my own legs off...or I might just go to bed!
Good night!

PS: Thank you to all your lovely comments on my "Cat or mouse?" post. The votes are in and it has uninanimously been decided that the "thing" is feline-looking. It just needs a body now!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Cat or mouse?

I have been feeling on a craft high this holiday weekend with my new sewing machine, my bunting and my socks almost finished (yeah!!!) and I decided to embark on a second sewing project. I chose it from a book my mum bought me at a car boot sales a couple of months ago and which I had put aside while I remained sewing machine-less.

I must say that after spending a whole afternoon trying to put a cat together, I find that the book isn't very useful or appropriate for a sewing novice. Instructions like "1) cut the fabric, 2) sew the different parts together and 3) stuff the toy" (I am barely exagerating here) don't provide you with the insight needed to put a d*** toy together!

I find sewing to be a stressful hobby at the best of times, especially when it requires patience and precise measurements (which I am genetically incapable of!). So after much swearing and Mr T coming to the rescue, here is my first attempt at a cat. Well, it is only a head because after 3+ hours of sewing I decided to pack it in for today. All the other parts are made, they just need stuffing and sewing together (so many things can still go wrong...).

Now, this is supposed to look like the cats on the cover of the book (see pic above) and I have the feeling that this looks more like a mouse than a cat!

So I should put this to a vote: cat or mouse? (or failed sewing project?)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Happy bunting

Despite Mr T's injury, we managed to drag ourselves into town yesterday for our weekly shop and popped into Fust, a Swiss electrical shop. They so happened to be selling sewing machines and to have a sale on...pure coincidence but a happy one! My old sewing machine, kindly donated by Mr T's nan, died soon after we moved to Switzerland, and although I am not a big sewer I have missed having a machine.

So we came home on the bus with 3 bags full of groceries and a sewing machine...hum it was a bit of a struggle! Anyhow, here it is! I chose a fairly basic model as I don't tend to do complicated stuff with my machine and the more buttons or options to choose from, the more confused I usually become. Reduced from 400 CHF to 200 CHF, I think it is good value although I guess I will judge it in the long run.

I have been wanting to make some pretty bunting to put on the balcony for ages but was dreading the prospect of having to do all the sewing by hand and doing a bad job of it. Fifteen minutes with the new sewing machine, and here is the result...

I looooove my new sewing machine, thank you Mr T!!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Initials JB

This was the view from our balcony today. There must have been a boat race on Lake Zürich this afternoon as we could see tens of them sailing past.

I wanted to share with you a little collage of some of the details on the bedsheets I brought back from France last month. They are not ordinary bedsheets, they are the bedsheets my grandmother embroided and made for her dowry over 70 years ago. She must have spent many afternoons as a teenage girl with a needle and thread in her hand, embellishing bedsheets and towels.

She "signed" all of her work with her initials JB, and then VB after she married my grand-father. The sheets are 100% linen and lovely to sleep in. The bedsheets were in my auntie's attic and as none of my sisters or cousins expressed an interest in them, I took 4 back with me to Zürich.

They are a perfect match for the tea towels I already had! I wish I had so much talent as my grandmother...

Recommendation: dog rescue centre in Switzerland

Bonjour à tous,

I received an email yesterday from the owner of the rescue centre we got our dog Alf from earlier this year. It is an invitation to their annual summer barbecue to which all the people who have adopted a dog are invited to. Unfortunately, we won't be able to attend as we will be away on our 4 days trip to Yorkshire and Glasgow (very excited!! Can't wait!!) but I thought I would write a short post to recommend this rescue centre in case one of my readers is thinking of adopting a dog.

The reason we chose to go the New Graceland , a private rescue centre, was because it is specialised in rehoming greyhounds and other hounds retired from racing or hunting. I looooove hounds, I think they make the most beautiful dogs and always wanted to own one. I also think that paying ridiculous amounts of money for a puppy when so many young dogs deserve a second chance in rescue centres is not for me. I can understand why some people would rather buy a puppy than an older dog (although think of the advantages of getting a dog that is already toilet-trained...priceless!), but I do think that the amount of money some breeders are charging for puppies is criminal. Anyhow, I wanted to adopt a greyhound and New Graceland is one of only two approved greyhound rescue centres in Switzerland.

Well, some people say that you don't choose a dog, a dog chooses you and that's what happened with Alf. To cut a long story short, we came home with a dog that couldn't have been more different from a greyhound! However, I would really recommend New Graceland (Stöcken 5, 8865 Bilten GL) to anyone looking to give a dog (greyhound or not) a second chance in life. Evelyn Bader who runs the place obviously loves all the dogs living at the rescue centre very much and her team of helpers make sure that the dogs get a healthy dose of walks and cuddles. The dog kennels are clean and not overcrowded, the greyhounds live in the house with Evelyn and occupy any vacant sofa or bed, and there is a large fenced outdoors playing area where the dogs can run freely and play together. All dogs are healthy, come with all their vaccines/health checks, have a micro-chip and a pet passport.

Alf fast asleep!

We have been, half-jokingly, talking about the prospect of getting a second dog... although it would financially cripple us at the moment. We must stay strong and resist temptation!!!

If any Swiss reader wants to adopt or sponsor a dog...consider helping the fabulous dogs at New graceland!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Today I have...

...been volunteering to help fellow scientists at the University of Zürich working on chytrid fungi which have been decimating amphibian populations worldwide. You may remember Alf and I going on newt adventures in March ( I posted about it here and here). Today, I left Alf at home with Mr T (who is off work with a ruptured disc in his back...ouch) and went to catch some tadpoles. Mucho fun!

The coloured marks on the tadpoles head are to locate the tag that had been inserted under the skin.
Some of the tadpoles had already metamorphosed into froglets and were trying to jump off my net...

It was lovely spending the morning outside in Irchel park working with animals.

No amphibians were harmed in the making of this post ;-)

PS: Alf wishes to thank Juanita for his fan mail!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The best 30 CHF ever spent

We all have kitchen gadgets, often bought during a health-craze phase of our life (smoothie-maker/juicer anyone?...yes I thought so!), which occasionally leave the cupboard (a couple of times a year at most) to grace our kitchen worktop with its presence.

I am the shameful owner of said under-used kitchen gadgets but I must admit that the best investment I have made so far in la Suisse is a kitchen gadget. Because I know how this sort of story usually pans out, I kept a clear conscience by only spending 30CHF buying a second-hand bread machine from our local brocki (second hand/antiques/junk shop). I thought that at least if it doesn't work properly (there is always a risk buying electrical items second-hand) or if I we get bored of it, it wouldn't be too much of a waste of money.

I love bread (I am French after all) and we consume astronomical quantities of the stuff eating sandwiches for lunch everyday (Mr T is British after all). Buying bread from the local baker every day is quaint but not cheap and we love cheap in this house (Mr T is from Yorkshire after all). So making our own bread sounded like a good idea...

And it is! The basic bread recipe only requires water, flour, salt and yeast and even making fancier bread (like walnut bread below) does not require that many additional ingredients and works out so much cheaper than buying it from the delicatessen.

Olive bread, olive and bacon bread, walnut bread...the possibilities are numerous!

And when my niece and nephew came over to stay, I found a recipe for making brioche in a bread-machine and can honestly say this recipe makes the best tasting brioche I have ever had!

Since we have bought the machine in January, it has probably been used forty odd times (on average twice a week) which I think is a great return on my small investment.

Hurray to the bread machine! What kitchen gadget would you not live without?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Guest blogger: Alf on his daily walk

It has been ages since I was last allowed to guest blog on here and I feel unfairly treated. I am the star of this blog after all.

Since everyday things are sometimes the most beautiful (I am a very philosophical dog), here are a few snapshots of what I get up to on my daily walks. This is the short thirty minutes circuit we do when we are in a bit of a hurry.

It starts here on a path near to the house and where I walk past farms, vineyards, orchards and an old livestock water trough where I often have a bath, erm I mean have a drink.

That's me leading the way as always...

We turn right at the end of the path just when we get a view of Uetikon church

We walk down and enter Obermeilen where I like to play in the field near the allotments

Now you see me...
Now you don't!
Next we follow the stream for a while and if it is a hot day I'll lie down in the stream for a bit to cool down...

And then we're home!

I shall insist on having more regular posts on here! Please send any fan mail as a comment to this post, it will get forwarded...Chao!

PS: My mummy is very excited and happy today because her residence permit for Switzerland has been extended until January while she is looking for work!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

A perfect Sunday

Good evening everyone and welcome to the new Made in Suisse look! What do you think?

I hope you've all had a Sunday as blissful as we've had at casa Made in Suisse. It all started with a breakfast Made in Suisse i.e. home-baked brioche (note to self: I must post about my "I can't live without" bread machine) and some of yesterday's redcurrant jelly...

Alf was getting restless, chewing bits of wood so we went on a long walk to Männedorf where there is a beach dogs can go onto and have a swim in the lake.

I forgot my camera so no photos of this morning but we came back just in time to witness a storm on the other side of the lake from the safety of our living room! I managed to fit in some knitting while waiting for the storm to pass.

It was all over in 30 minutes and the summery weather resumed. A trip to the beach was on the cards for the afternoon. We are very lucky to have a private beach in Obermeilen. The beach is only open to residents (although no one would ask you where you live- that's the Swiss trust system you see) and very family-oriented and it is a lovely relaxed place to go for a swim.

We came across a swan and her cygnets and I stood there snapping away for a few minutes. It was so funny to see them swim together.

I have just learnt to do collages in Picasa so I may become a bit collage-happy in the coming weeks!
 We came back home late afternoon and lit the barbecue...what the perfect end to a perfect Sunday!

Now, I am watching Jackass 3.5 the movie and I'd better post this before I die laughing my head off!
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