Biking in Switzerland

Switzerland is also known as Veloland; Velo means ‘cycle’ in Swiss-German. Cycles/Bikes are one of the best and cheapest means of transport here. You’ll find that every adult and a child, capable of walking, owns at least one bike.

When I moved to Switzerland, I bought a second-hand bike from a friend. It had been 10 years since I last rode one. I cycled everyday from my home to office and back. I began enjoying this National pastime more and more. Having noticed this, Mike (then, a good friend) and a few colleagues and friends of mine gifted me a beautiful bike on my birthday. It was one of the sweetest gestures ever extended to someone new to a country!

Birthday gift

In Spring and Summer, people take out their bikes and go on trips. These trips last a day, a weekend or sometimes more. There are local, regional (from one canton to another) and National routes (connecting Switzerland to other countries like Austria, France etc). Check out this cool website for more information on that.

Serious cyclists bike over beautiful mountains, valleys and even cross the Alps. Also, many events occur all over Switzerland that revolve around Biking. One such event is the SlowUp. SlowUp is all about celebrating the joy of movement. It takes place in many parts of the country in the month of June. For this purpose, around 30 km of roads are blocked for an entire day to the other traffic. Along the route, from Schaffhausen to Hegau, there are ongoing festivities with food, music and shops.

This year, Mike and I, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her family, my husband`s best friend, Guido, who is as dear to my husband as a brother, took part in it.

SlowUp 1

Around 20,000 other people from every age-group participated too.

SlowUp 2

One Saturday morning, Mike and I decided to ride our bikes to Mammern harbor, where our boat, MyOne is docked. It is  approximately 30 km from our home and takes us about 2 hours to reach there by bike. For my convenience, Mike found the easiest route to get there.

Directions

From Dachsen, we rode to Feuerthalen, crossing Flurlingen and the ancient city of Schaffhausen. After that, we rode across hilly roads to Diessenhofen and passed through the picturesque villages of Rheinklingen and Wagenhausen. From there we rode along the touristy town of Stein am Rhein to Eschenz. The ride from Eschenz to our harbor was a bit taxing as we had to ascend a small plantation to finally reach our destination. We had carried some bottles of water and snacks for the ride, which really helped.

Bike ride

The ride took us through some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen in my life. Beautiful houses, the sparkling Lake Constance, lush greenery everywhere completely boggled my mind. We’ve been doing this more often ever since…

Letter to Madhav

This feature is inspired by Elise at eliseblaha.typepad.com

Dear Madhav,

It’s funny to hear you talk and the funniest to hear you repeat what Medha says. I enjoy YOUR version of the pre-primary gossip that she shares everyday after school. I call you both “Peter and Re-Peater”. She talks and you repeat. My sister used to do that too, ape me when we were kids, and I would get so annoyed. But your sister doesn’t; Lucky you!

You know a lot of rhymes already: Baa-Baa Black Sheep is your favorite; You sing hymns too. And you’re eager to learn more; And play more. I think you’re ready for school now… But I’m not. I’m not yet ready to let go of my affectionate little Monkey that always hangs around my neck (and sometimes chokes me too!). Plus, I haven’t found the perfect play-school nearby. I don’t have very high standards, but I do expect the popular play-schools to follow basic hygiene, have a big play area and not make errors while writing words on the black-board (Yes, I found spelling-mistakes!)! Until then, we learn at home, a bit by bit, everyday.

Books are a favorite with you. You ask a ton of questions (mostly “What’s this?”, “What’s that?” and the meaning of words) as we read. By the time we finish reading a book, I’m too tired to read mine.

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But Trains top the list of your favorites. (Grandparents and aunties and uncles, we already have 5-6 train-sets at home, so no more please!) More than just watching a train trundling along, building one enthralls you. You can spend hours connecting one bogie with the other or one piece of track with the next. No matter what collection you have at hand- a few spoons, a packet of straws or a bunch of clips- everything gets attached to one another forming a train of straws or a train of spoons. An Engineer in the making, I suppose.

Of all the things that make you YOU, I seriously don’t understand your dislike for girls and women. They simply adore you: One girl insists upon buying you toys all the time, while the other brings you a big slice of Banana Bread (Delicious!) her mom bakes. There are many many who wish to cuddle and play with you. But what do you do in return? Make an angry-face at them or push them aside and run over to the boys. For now, Medha is your one and only girl. I know this will change as you grow older, but I still don’t get it.

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Yours truly,

Mama.

 

My One

It was our second month anniversary. We decided to spend the weekend on our boat. The weather forecast said it was going to be sunny with no signs of rain or storm. Perfect!

Now before I tell you about our trip, let me just share a few details about this boat which is one of the most important things in my husband`s life..after me, I hope!!!

Stingray1

We have a US made Stingray 200CX motorboat originally made in 1998. Mike bought it second-hand in 2007 for a very good price.

The boat or “MYone”, as my husband fondly named it (obviously before he met me), has a strong Volvo Penta 105 HP Turbo Diesel Engine. This Engine can reach a speed of 52 km/h (which is quite fast in terms of water transport) and only requires about 6-7 liter Diesel per hour.

myone

Diesel_Engine

The power of the engine is transferred to the Sterndrive “Z” Gear, that drives the propeller for the forward or backward motion. The meter “Trim”, on the Instrument Panel shows the position of the Z-Gear. This gear also secures the boat from hitting the ground in shallow water,

Instruments

“Tachometer” shows the RPM of the engine.

“Fishfinder” helps fishermen locate fish and also provides information like water temperature and the level of water beneath the keel of the boat (so that it doesn’t get stuck in the ground when the water isn’t deep).

Fishfinder

The panel has Oil pressure and Cooling water temperature display too,

Inside the boat towards the front, there is a large cabin which has a bed, storage compartments for life-vests, fire extinguisher and other Nautical equipment. It has a small pantry and a tiny toilet, “Porta Potti”. Two adults and one child can easily sleep in this cabin.

from inside the boat

Mike has stored most of our necessities in our boat like a small gas stove, blankets, bottles of water ( in a storage box), refrigerator, towels etc. There is also a portable dining table that can double up as a cooking table.

making coffee

cooking

We’ve docked our boat in a harbor called Mammern, located in the lower part of lake Konstanz, (which is also a private camping place), almost 30 km away from our home (a 25 min car-ride)

Boat Dock

Coming back to our trip, we decided to spend the weekend in Kreuzlingen. Kreuzlingen is a small town in the canton of Thurgau (one of the 26 cantons/ sub-divisions in Switzerland). It is located on the upper part of Lake Constance/ Konstanz  bordering the city of Konstanz in Germany. It is a 1.5 hour ride from Mammern by boat.

We packed some clothes, bathing suits, snacks, my books and crochet kit, coffee powder, milk, nutella and bread.

Lake Konstanz

We reached Kreuzlingen at around 12.30 pm. It needs skill to steer the boat with precision and at the right speed so that it doesn’t hit the platform or the other boats around while docking. We were given a place to dock the boat by a Hafenmeister (Harbor Manager), after we paid a 15 Euros per night. It was around 1pm, by the time we finished all the work. We were exhausted by then.

Delicious homemade burgers prepared by Mike perked us up.

After we surveyed the harbor for washrooms and shower rooms, we decided to walk to the city of Konstanz, which is about 20 minutes from Kreuzlingen harbor. Stunning views of the lake and the shore enthralled us as we walked. Kids and young girls and boys and old couples were lying on the grass along the shore, relaxing and sun-bathing.

It was around 40°C and we were soaking wet by the time we reached the city.

Konstanz is one of my favorite cities because of the busy streets, shopping arenas and the buzzing crowd, which always reminds me of Dubai, the city I miss the most.

Konstanz

We walked a bit, checked a few stores around and went inside a shopping mall called Lago.

After having a nice cup of coffee at a cafe, we decided to go back to the harbor and relax.

Mike wanted to take a dip in the water, while I wanted to just relax on the shore and read a book. Our plans changed by the time we reached the harbor; We just laid on the grass and watched the crowd.

For our anniversary, we decided to have a special dinner at a garden restaurant next to the harbor called Fischerhaus. It got cooler and breezier in the evening. We had some delicious Swiss food beside the lake.

Restaurant

As the day ended, we retired to our boat and got ready to sleep. We watched a sci-fi movie, I-robot, on Mike`s portable DVD player.

After a good night’s sleep, we were woken up by the noisy ducks on the lake. It was yet another beautiful day promising more sunshine. After warming ourselves up with coffee and some bread with Nutella, we left this beautiful place and rode back home.

going home

Mike in his boat(Details of the boat and pictures by Mike)

Jack-fruit Festival

I love Jack-fruit and consider it on par with the King of Fruits, Mango. There’s nothing I love to do more than snack on Jack-fruit pieces on hot summer afternoons as I read a good book.

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I have even dedicated a post to this wonder of fruits. So when I heard about “Jack-fruit Festival” being organized by Srikanth Bhat of Thinlee Foods, I decided to check it out.

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I thought it would be an educative and entertaining outing for the whole family, which is just as crazy (or may be a bit more!) about the fruit as I am. But Prasad was not so interested. I had to drag him to the venue; I knew he’d just spend all day watching TV, otherwise.

The Festival was being held at Exhibition grounds. When we got there I braced myself for an outpouring of abuses hurled at me from my husband for having dragged him off his comfy couch. There were very few attendees. The people we saw around were either the organizers, the Guests of honor, the workers or the press.

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But I was saved, thanks to the speeches that soon began at the podium. We were rushed to our seats by the hosts.

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The speeches weren’t long and boring, actually, they were short and succinct. The speakers, that included Dr. Laxman, MLA of Musheerabad, extolled the benefits of Jack-fruit: how it can be used to prepare about 20 different juices; jams, jellies, finger-chips and papads (disc-shaped Indian snack); curries, pickles and desserts. It can even be used as a meat substitute, someone said.

Jack-fruit pickles on sale

I learnt that a ripe jack-fruit can be used in the production of Pectin, a soluble carbohydrate which is present in ripe fruits and is used as a setting agent in jams and jellies (according to google). Instead of importing the Pectin we need, we could harness the sugar from this fruit which is grown in abundance all over India, except in Jammu and Kashmir. Imagine the number of jobs and the amount of revenue this will generate!

National Horticultural Board’s R. K. Agarwal let us know that the Board remains ever helpful towards farmers with a minimum of 5 acres of land that cultivate Jack-fruit, by providing subsidies, technical know-how and logistical supply.

All speeches over, we were treated to Jack-fruit juice. It was sweet and refreshing. Juice was just the beginning. We bought tickets for the Lunch Buffet, paying Rs. 262/ person (including tax), that is about 4 dollars a meal. And what a meal it was!

Starters like 65, Manchuria, Shangai Rolls, Spring Rolls, Samosas, Pathrode and more. Soft Noodles, Vegetarian Noodles, Idly, Sweet Idly, Seed Curry, Andhra-style curry, Udupi-style curry, Biryani, Rasam, Sambar, Dilpasand Kurma and a Sweet and Sour Dal called Panchamruth. Desserts like Jalebi, Halwa, Boorelu and Payasam. Such variety, EVERYTHING made from (drum-rolls, please) JACK-FRUIT. Yes! They even served Jack-fruit ice cream.

Then came Tandoori Jack-fruit. The flesh of a not-yet-fully-ripened fruit dipped in a spice mix and grilled. It looked and tasted much more delectable than the Paneer version. I’m sorry I don’t have its picture ’cause it arrived much later and I was too busy eating by then!

Jack-fruit’s flesh (both ripe and unripe), seeds and the other innards within its tough, spiny shell had been used to prepare an assortment of dishes. I had never imagined that this humble fruit could be cooked in so many ways!  More and more dishes arrived at the tables even as we finished licking our fingers and cleaning our plates!

The one who had bickered so much about forgoing his precious Sunday for a fruit festival was the one who most raved about the food and the event. One moment I found my dear husband busy trying one delicacy after another and buying bundles of Jack-fruit chips, bobbatlu (crepes-like dessert) and halwa (a sort of pudding) from vendors and the next, posing for cameras for a news channel!

Jack-fruit has so much potential, yet to be harnessed. I knew and loved its succulent texture and juicy taste, but now, thanks to Mr. Srikanth Bhat (Keep up the good work Sir) and his endeavor to spread the word about this “poor man’s food” (as it is sometimes called), I am aware of a multitude of its other uses.

I’m glad I attended the festival and learnt so much from it. Those dishes I ate at the buffet have inspired me to be creative in my own kitchen. I only wish the organizers had sold recipe booklets and books about the fruit at the venue. Maybe next year they will, it was after all the first time that such a festival was happening here.

About us

These Fleeting Days used to be my blog where I shared stories of my kids, my love for books, my culinary adventures and our travels. It still is my baby, but now I have asked my little sister, Madhurya, to help me nurture it.

Madhurya (or Maddy, as she is fondly called), will be sharing her stories from Switzerland, where she spends most of the time knitting, reading, pencil-shading, sailing with her husband, Mike, in their boat, well, apart from doing her day-job.

I hope reading our everyday stories bring you joy and inspire you to live your best lives and share them too…

Love.

My first batch of Cupcakes

I’m a big fan of Cupcakes. Have always been one. Back in Dubai, I frequented shops like Mister Baker, Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks to try their cupcakes. My best friend Israt had once bought some yummy cupcakes for me from a shop called Sugaholic. I loved it!

When I moved to Switzerland, I had a hard time finding a nice cupcake shop, until my friend, Aniko, suggested a place called `The Little Shabby`. It’s a tiny  cafe that specializes in cupcakes and coffee. They used to have 2 branches in Switzerland, one in Winterthur and the other in Schaffhausen. Unfortunately, the branch in Winterthur, got closed recently.

Little Shabby is owned by 2 sisters who bake their own cupcakes. You’ll find different flavors every day. If one day they bake Mango, Chocolate and Lemon flavors, the next day it is Blueberry, Red-velvet and Vanilla. They are super-delicious and super-pricey (5 US Dollars / cupcake), but they’re well worth it.

Along with the cupcakes, they also sell baking tools like paper cups, baking pans, cupcake decorating items, piping bags etc. Once every week my husband, Mike, and I treat ourselves to a cupcake and a hot cup of coffee or cappuccino after a long walk around the city. He likes to try different flavors while I usually stick to my favorites, red-velvet or chocolate. As a special surprise, Mike ordered their 4-tier cupcakes arranged with a beautiful fruit-cake with lemon for our wedding in Switzerland.  I was in seventh heaven!

I decided I had to bake my own cupcakes. I wanted to be that mom and aunt who bakes the best cupcakes! With this urge and a full-fledged support from my husband, I planned my first bake.

I found this recipe for  a simple vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing. I modified the measurements to suit my requirement.

I shopped for some baking equipment like a piping bag set containing nozzles of different sizes, cupcake papers (these papers can be used directly in the oven), sprinkles for decorating, vanilla essence, coloring agents (blue, red and yellow) and plastic spatulas from a supermarket called Migros.

Cupcake ingredients

To bake about 10 cupcakes, I used the following:

200 gm All purpose Flour

100 gm icing sugar (You can add more if you want it sweeter)

2 eggs

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp baking soda

1-1/4 tsp baking powder

100 gm butter

2 drops of vanilla essence

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 175°C. In a bowl, sift the flour; to this add salt, baking soda and baking powder and keep aside.

step 1

Step 2: In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Try to keep the speed as low as possible.

Step 2

Step 3: Once it starts to become smooth, add the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla essence. Whisk it thoroughly until the batter gets smoother.

Step 4: Pour the mixture into paper cups. Fill only halfway to avoid spilling over the sides

Step 5: Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, I used the following:

200 gm butter (Softened i.e, kept at room temperature and not frozen)

200 gm icing sugar

2 drops of vanilla essence

2 drops of coloring agent

Decorating sprinkles

Step 1: With a mixer, beat the butter and sugar till it gets fluffy. Add vanilla extract and color. If the frosting is too thin, add extra sugar and if it is too thick mix in a bit of milk.

Frosting

Step 2: Once the frosting is done, pour it into the piping bags* and decorate the cupcakes. Top them with your favorite sprinkles.

After decoration copy

*I used simple round nozzle to get this design.

The cupcakes were delicious. The cake had the right texture and taste and the frosting was yummy; only it wasn’t as fluffy as I wanted it to be.

Vanilla Cupcake with vanilla frosting

My friend suggested I add fresh cream in the frosting to make it more fluffy and creamy, instead of using only butter (that is half portion cream and half portion butter). I am going to try that for my next batch. I’ll let you guys know if it works. (Please do tell me if you have any suggestion…)

I have to got to nail this…

(‘Cause I will be baking cupcakes for the guests at my sister-in-law’s birthday party next month. Don’t tell her this… :))

July Goals

If you have been following this blog for a while, you may be familiar with my love for to-do lists and goal-setting- New Year’s Resolutions, Birthday goals, To-do list for the day and the whole week, you name it… I do it all. But keeping those resolutions? That’s a different matter. I might not get everything done, well, I never get everything done, but I’m way more productive on days when I have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished than on those unplanned ones.

Setting concrete goals (goals that can be measured) helps me keep in mind where I’m supposed to head, what I should be doing right now to get there. Having those goals written or printed on a piece of paper keeps me from forgetting them.

This time I set a few goals for my kids for the month of July. There’s so much going on in Medha’s school, so much to keep up with: Her teachers have started teaching words while Medha is still struggling with letters; They are asked to match objects with their beginning sounds in assessments, while Medha is yet to grasp the concept of phonics. We have so much ground to cover, so much to learn before we are ready to get into the mad race. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. That’s when I came up with a list of things to teach. And a time-frame within which to try and accomplish it. It was time to teach a few things to little Madhav too. I drew up 2 sets of goals for the 2.

To involve the kids in this project I decided to turn the goal-setting visual instead of just words on a piece of paper. I brought out a pile of newspapers and asked them to look for big bold letters and interesting pictures. This was fun and educative in itself as it gave me an opportunity to observe what kind of pictures captured their attention and to talk about some of the news, old though they might have been. Then I cut out relevant pictures and stuck them with glue on their separate goal sheets. I wrote the goals down with the help of a marker and used colored pencils to draw where I couldn’t find the right images. I pinned the sheets on our brand new notice-board. They didn’t turn out as fancy as I wanted them to, but the kids loved them. And that’s important, right?

Here are the goals and where we stand right now-

IMG_2164July Goals for Medha-

1. Identify all the letters– Still working on it.

2. Learn Phonics- Still working on it.

3. Learn addition of single digit numbers- Haven’t started yet.

4. Learn Student Council Speech- Learnt it and went to the Finals but didn’t get selected to the Council.

5. Learn a Prayer- Haven’t started yet.

6. Read a book by herself- She is resisting the idea and I’m not forcing her either. Maybe she isn’t ready yet.

July Goals for Madhav-

1. Learn ABC song- Almost done.

2. Potty-training- Done!

3. Learn Shapes- Haven’t started yet.

4. Learn Parts of a face in English- Still working on it.

5. Count from 1 to 10- Almost done.

6. Learn 5 colors- Still working on it.

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We still have a few more days. Let’s see how far we go…