Sunday, January 27, 2008

Peanuts 1, Niamh 0

Niamh took her first bite of peanut butter sandwich yesterday and immediately spit it out. A few minutes later she had hives on her face. We're assuming we can add peanut butter to the list of things that Niamh is allergic to.

Is it the end of the world?

Some Swiss sports enthusiasts might think so.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/01/25/sports/tennis.php

What happened to the snow?

We headed to the nearby mountains looking for snow today. We found some, but it was nothing like two weeks ago. It is hard to believe that all the snow could melt in two weeks in January. We go to the pass and found a little snow, but there was barely enough to play with. Rowan and Niamh seemed to be satisfied with the limited snow, but there wasn't even enough for us to use our sled. Maybe we will get lucky and it will snow a few feet this week.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Swiss School System

I was recently asked about the Swiss school system. I'll try to cover the highlights.
Overview
  • academic year begins in late August and ends in early July
  • there are a total of 7-8 weeks of vacation during the school year
  • No summer school
  • Being held back is not nearly as big a deal in Switzerland as it is in the US
  • children come home for lunch for about 2 hours
  • at about age 11 children are placed into either a technical track or academic track
  • No school on Wednesday afternoons
  • Mandatory from grades 1-9
  • limited, if any, formal parent teach conference system

Ecole enfantine

  • lasts 2 years and if for ages 4 and 5.
  • must be 4 by June 30th to attend that fall
  • similar to US kindergarten

Ecole premaire

  • grades 1-4
  • same teacher for two years and then another teacher for the next two years

Secondary education

  • students placed into different groups (vocational, general, prégymnasiale) based on test results
  • different teachers for different subjects

Weekend Photos

Katie and Wes in Morges with the Swiss Alps in the background
Pat, Niamh, and Katie on the Grand Rue in Morges

Katie, Rowan, and Niamh in our apartment

Katie and Niamh in our apartment

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Visitors from the US

Katie and Wes stayed with us this weekend as part of their European adventures. We had a slight problem with hot water (there wasn't any in the building) on Saturday morning. We got lucky and the concierge fixed the problem by about 9AM.

The video below shows Katie and Rowan dancing.


video

Capes

I am having more problems with uploading photos to our web site. In the meantime I will post pictures to the blog. Here is a video of the kids playing with their capes.



video

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Train Network

I was recently forwarded this article regarding the European train system. I thought some of you might find it interesting.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A day (or at least a few hours) in the snow

We took a Mobility car to the Jura today. We took the expressway North toward Yverdon and then headed West towards Vallorbe (site of a caves and a stop on the TGV from Paris to Lausanne). There wasn't much snow there, so we headed Southwest and climbed over a pass into the Vallee de Joux. We stopped in a small town and let the kids play in the snow. Rowan really enjoyed picking up the snow and throwing it back on the ground. Niamh spent most of her time on all fours trying get some snow to pick up. She didn't enjoy it too much, so we only stayed there for about 30 minutes. We headed over another pass that is East of Morges, but West of Nyon. We found all sorts of great places to sled, ski (alpine) and snowshoe. We have the a care reserved for four Sundays in a row, so we'll be headed to the snow quite a bit. I think we'll go to the store and get sleds this week and might pick up snowshoes if we can figure out which ones to get and they aren't to expensive.

Baking Brownies



Rowan and I made brownies from a box yesterday. All work was done on the floor so that Rowan could do the work. We still need to work on the concept of 'No eggshell in the mix', but we are making good progress. The picture on the right shows Rowan licking the bowl upon completion. You know it is serious business when you have to get almost naked to clean up.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Swiss Army Knives

I thought some might find this article on Swiss Army knives interesting.

3 mornings a week

Rowan is now going to preschool 3 mornings a week. It is currently Wed-Fri, but will probably change to Tues-Thurs starting in two weeks. Three mornings is the maximum he can go. I am not sure if that is the standard or if that is just the rule at the place we take him. He will also go to this place next year and will start kindergarten in the fall of 2009. Niamh will start kindergarten the following year.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Epiphany

We celebrated Epiphany today. Some might wonder what this means....in Western Switzerland it means you eat gâteau des Rois. It has a trinket inside and whoever's piece has the trinket becomes king for the year. I am now King Patrick.


It is also the day that you can take your Christmas tree to a party at the train station and have it recycled. I took our tree there and it is a fairly small party. This is one man putting Christmas trees in a wood chipper and about a dozen people drinking warm wine.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Too much for stamps

From World Radio Switzerland:

We are all being overcharged when posting letters, according to the industry’s watchdog.PostReg says government-owned Swiss Post is making CHF300 million too much money out of its customers every year and there are calls for the price of
stamps to come down.The watchdog says people in Switzerland pay some of the highest charges in Europe for sending letters.In the coming weeks the government
will meet to discuss steps to liberalise the Swiss postal market.

It cost about sixty cents to mail a letter in Switzerland. It will be delievered next day for about eighty six cents.

Help Needed: Where to go next?

We are trying to figure out where to go next. The short list is Prague, Vienna, Portugal(exact destination unknown), or Spain (exact location unknown). Anyone have any comments on any of these locations?

No Open Bakeries!

I took Niamh for a walk today and was surprised that there we did not see any open bakeries. The ones at the train station are probably open, but we didn't walk that direction. It seems very strange that the bakeries would be open on Christmas day, but not on New Year's day.

I guess we'll be eating day old bread for lunch.

Success!

We had fondue for dinner last night. It was the first time that everything worked well. Actually, we had an issue with keeping the cheese from burning, but compared to the past experiences we'll still mark it as a success.

This brings me to New Year's Resolution #1: Stop eating the fondue before starting to feel sick from eating too much.

Niamh seemed to be more interested in the fondue than she has been in the past. I don't know what took her so long - how can you go wrong with melted swiss cheese on bread?

Bonne année!

Much to my surprise, there were fireworks at midnight in Morges. I assumed that fireworks this late would be against the noise pollution rules. I couldn't see them from our apartment, but they sounded like they were over by the lake. The fireworks woke Rowan up, so he and Emily are watching season 3 of LOST. Emily just purchased it today and I have a feeling she'll be done in less than 48 hours.

Starting in 2008 the canton of Vaud is declaring both the 1st and 2nd of January as holidays, so I don't have to go back to work until Thursday. I'm not sure what the plan is for the next two days, but we'll try to do something fun.