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When I moved to Switzerland, I decided to jump into things and experience local customs and foods without reservation or judgement.

I celebrated bringing the cows down from the high pastures in the autumn. I roamed the streets of Basel when all hell broke loose for Fasnacht. I rode my bicycle everywhere. We put burning candles on our Christmas Tree. I sunk my teeth in the mouthwatering McFondue burger – a local treat. When the World Cup was being played in South Africa, we joined the raucous celebrations in the middle of Europe. I swam in the Rhine River.

When I told my European friends and co-workers that I was going to move to California, I asked them for a list of “classically” American experiences that they think I should try out. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Monster Trucks
  • Nascar Racing
  • Hamburgers the size of my head
  • NFL “football”
  • MLB
  • Shooting guns

Obviously, there is much more to the American experience than this limited and fairly crude list, but it was an entertaining place to start.

…and now I can knock the last item off of the list.

Over Christmas supper with some new friends, I found out that most of them had guns, and that sport shooting with shotguns is quite a popular activity. I almost burst out laughing – sort of like when I met Swiss who would gush about cheese fondue. For real?

Last week I got an invitation to join a few guys for some skeet shooting at an outdoor sporting club south of San Jose, so I jumped at the opportunity. The last time I fired a gun was in 1999, and it was an automatic assault rifle, as I was getting my final certification with the Canadian Armed Forces. And when I finished my service, I promptly forgot the whole thing.

The fellow with the new shotgun – Alex – was really excited. He’d only had his new gun out once before, and he was eager to try it again. The other fellow – Ryan – is from Nebraska, and had grown up with guns, but didn’t have one now. So we loaded a backpack full of shotgun shells ($6 for 20), arranged for the skeets, and set out on a walk.

It was a lot like golf, only more awesome, because you get to shoot things and they explode. Much more satisfying than dropping an egg into a hole.

We walked from station to station – eighteen in total – and assessed the challenge at each one. Would the skeets travel from left to right? Would they be floaters or quick? Would they coast over the ridge directly to you? Would it be a “rabbit” that skitters and rolls across the ground? Regardless, you just needed to point the gun and waste ’em.

So. Much. Fun!

So scratch one from my list of American “To-Do”, and chances are good that I’ll take Tasha out do enjoy that experience next time.

Welcome tuh mah haas

I’ve decided to try to fit in a bit more with my new surroundings.

I’ve stopped spelling English words correctly – gasp! What would my Queen say!

I now grudgingly spell “gray” instead of “grey”, and I have adapted to a host of other changes such as:

  • analyze vs. analyse
  • center vs. centre
  • honor vs. honour
  • check vs. cheque
  • catalog vs. catalogue

But what can I do? I’m immersed in the overpowering cultural tsunami of Americana!

Hell, I’ve even started to pronounce words like them, just for fun!

I now sked-jool meetings to plan prah-jex or to improve prah-ssess.

But fear not, I still drop the inadvertent “eh” bomb often enough so that people know where I come from.

I thought it would be nice to give Tim the Swiss country code sticker in his stocking. The other day we drove past a store called “The Swiss Shop” so I gave them a call to confirm they had one before making the drive.  A man with an Indian accent answered the phone and I couldn’t quite make out the name of the store when he rattled it off. Nevertheless, I continued on…

“Hi there. I just found you on the internet but I wanted to know what kind of products you have before I drive out to you.”

“Uh…what are you looking for?”

“Well, I’m actually looking for the CH sticker,” I replied.

<awkward pause>

“What sticker?” he asked, totally puzzled by my request.

“Um…you know, the Swiss country code sticker…that says CH…”

<more awkward pause>

“Oh…no, we don’t have that…we just have the Portugal one.”

“Oh.  So…is this The Swiss Shop?” I asked, perplexed.

“Yep, it is,” he replied.

“Okay…so…um…what kind of products do you sell?” I asked.

“Mainly touristy things…and many of our customers are Portugese so we have lots of Portugese items, too.”

“Sorry…so, you said that this is The Swiss Shop?” I am SO confused by this point.

“Uh…yah,” the man’s voice gave off a not-so-subtle hint of annoyance.

“Okay, well, thanks anyway…” ….click….the man had hung up before my words were even out of my mouth.

And then I burst out laughing.

Sleepy Time

This is how I found Jack sleeping last night! At least this time he wasn’t inside his pillowcase! Yes, inside. The kid is special.

Room Makeover

With two oversea moves in the span of a year, to say we don’t have a lot of possessions is an understatement!  And although it’s been a great lesson in finding true contentment, Tim and I both realized that the boys’ room was in some serious need of help. Toys were in random bins all over the room, their clothes were in suitcases, and the only light in the space was a table lamp on the floor.  Although five-year-olds rarely complain about a messy room, it was clear to us that the boys weren’t making good use of their bedroom because the spastic mess was overwhelming.

Enter, IKEA.

If you read this blog, you probably know I have a love-hate relationship with IKEA. I want to love it, but I usually just hate it. And yet, in the case of a little boys’ room, IKEA seemed like just the solution.

BEFORE

AFTER

Each boy has their own desk while the center toy bin pulls out.

This storage container on wheels fits perfectly under their bed and houses all their Lego!

A magnetic board holds the boys' post cards from places they've visited around the world. Uncle Ben's impromptu metalworking reminds them that they need to be nice to each other...forever!

While I was at it, I figured the boys would be good guinea pigs for trying my hand at refinishing furniture.

$20 DRESSER -- BEFORE

AFTER

Including the secondhand dresser I bought for $20 and painted for $10, the entire makeover cost $500.  So, in typical “selfless mom” fashion, the boys’ room is now the only one in the house that’s fully furnished!  Of course, if you read my other blog, you know that I clearly chose to buy one of my favorite toys last week instead of any needed furniture…

Priorities, people! Priorities!

Now that we’ve been here a few weeks, I’m going to just come out and say it.

Americans are mean.

And then, just when I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of being honked at for no good reason, yelled at for no good reason, and cussed at for no good reason, I go to my local Whole Foods, Starbucks or any other consumer-driven market place and experience the best customer service I’ve ever known…ever.

So my only conclusion is that Americans are using up all their friendly mojo at work and saving their haggard snobbishness for their day’s off.

Mmmmm…. America

After securing both a new car, and a new home, we decided to enjoy some fun in the sun on the Labor Day long weekend.

We grabbed our swimsuits and drove to the coastal town of Santa Cruz, home to a famous beach boardwalk that includes a vibrant and grimy amusement park.

I noticed a food stand offering nothing less than deep fried Twinkies. For real. As if the Twinkie isn’t bad enough on it’s own, you go and coat it in batter and then deep fry it in oil. It’s estimated to contain a whopping 425 calories of creamy, fluffy goodness.

And with that, I’m well on my way to fitting in with the “50% overweight” part of America (and busting out of my jeans).

Good grief… my enrolment with the Apple fitness centre can’t come soon enough!