My Not-So-Daily Diary

November '06


November 5th

November 22nd



Sunday, November 5, 2006


     Herbert and I are now legally husband and wife. I am now Frau Kläy.

     It was a beautiful day that started with lunch and champagne for the family at home and ended at around one in the morning at the Stammtisch at the Bären restaurant.

     As I said in my last entry, for every couple who wants to get married, the civil ceremony is a requirement here in Switzerland. The ceremony takes place in a Zivilstandsamt. We could pick any one of the offices and we chose the one in Büren, the town next to our village. The office is located in an old castle, upstairs from the police department.

     Here we are, standing in front of the large door to the castle, before we were married...


Yves, Herbert's dad, me, Herbert, Natacha


     The other person in our wedding party was our friend René Stoessel. He was there as my translator. The woman who performed the ceremony had prepared all the readings and poems in both German and English, so we didn't really need René for translating. But, it was required by the Standsamt. The only thing he really had to translate was the part where she asked if I took Herbert as my husband. Although I got the gist of it, I still asked him to tell me because I wanted to hear the exact words.

     He also took most of the photos that you'll see on this page and we really enjoyed having him be there with us on our special day.


     Herbert and René before we went in to be married.


     After going through the door, there is a peaceful courtyard in the center of the inner buildings. The Standsamt is located in the building at the back of the courtyard.


The three windows on the second floor of this building

are the windows of the room where we were married.

     The room itself is a simple room.


     The room where we were married.


     When we went in, we noticed that there was a large bouquet of roses on the table and another bouquet in the corner of the room. Mrs. Wolf, the woman who married us, told us that they were surprises for us and that she would explain after we were married. 

     And she was right. We were very surprised. The roses were from a couple that Herbert and I had met the week before at the Thai restaurant in Büren. We had stopped there to eat dinner and found that the restaurant was full. In the back of the restaurant there was a couple sitting at the Stammtisch. We asked if we could join them. Although they had already finished eating, they stayed and talked with us until long after we were finished eating.

     They live in a town about ten minutes away from us and, like Herbert and I, they have traveled quite a bit. We had a lot to talk about. Somewhere in the conversation, they referred to me as Herbert's wife. I explained that I wasn't yet Frau Kläy. We told them that we would be married on Friday.

     Later in the week, they called the Standsamt and asked if there was a couple getting married on Friday where the woman was from the States. They didn't even know our names. They sent the flowers, along with a beautiful card, to tell us that they had enjoyed their evening with us and that they wanted to congratulate us on our marriage.


Roses from Brigitte and Hermann


     The other bouquet was from our friends Bruno and Dominique. Dominique is in the choir with Herbert and I and Bruno had been my translator during the meeting at the Standsamt when we filled out all of the paperwork for the wedding. He had to attend an exposition on the day we got married and couldn't be there to translate for me. They sent the flowers to congratulate us.


Bouquet from Bruno and Dominique


     Mrs. Wolf told us that she was also grateful that both of these couples sent bouquets because it meant that she didn't have to arrange to have flowers to decorate the room.

     As Herbert and I have discussed the plans for our wedding next year, the issue of rings has come up a few times. Herbert was okay with them or without them. I wanted rings. And for me, I wanted the 'normal' American style rings - an engagement ring and a wedding ring. I wanted a set. In order to try and separate the two wedding ceremonies, I wanted to start wearing an engagement ring on the day of our civil wedding and then the wedding band on the day of our church wedding.

     However, the idea of an engagement ring doesn't really exist in Switzerland. We didn't think we'd find anything like that here. Herbert shopped in a few jewelry stores when he was in Taiwan last month, but didn't find anything. We decided that we'd have to wait until I go to the States next Spring to buy our rings.

     Last Wednesday, I spent the afternoon shopping with Natacha in Bern. We were looking for an outfit or dress for me to wear to the civil ceremony. Just when we thought we were done shopping, we crossed the road and stopped to have a cigarette. We were in front of a very small goldsmith shop. We both saw the ring in the shop window at the same time. We quickly finished our cigarettes and went inside.

     I tried on the ring and we loved it. I asked if I could see the matching wedding band. The salesgirl had no idea what I was talking about. I explained the concept of a 'Bridal Set'. She told us that there was no problem. They weren't just a regular jewelry shop, they make all of the jewelry themselves. She drew a design for the matching wedding band and said she could email us a proposal the next morning.

    On Thursday evening, Herbert and I went to Bern so that he could see the ring. When we got to the shop, it was full of people. They were having a reception to introduce a new product. They welcomed us in and offered us a glass of wine. We talked about the rings and ended up not only buying the 'engagement' ring, but ordering a wedding band for me and for Herbert.

    So, I got my wish. I had a ring to start wearing the day of our civil marriage.



Herbert putting the 'engagement' ring on my finger.


My ring.


     The ceremony was short and sweet. Even with the dual language readings, it took about a half an hour. In the end, René said, "You know, this ceremony was like what Mrs. Wolf read at the beginning. Life is about happy times and sad times. We had some tears and some laughter."

     The tears were, of course, mine. When Mrs. Wolf read this reading about life being full of both joyous times and times of sorrow, as much as I tried, I still cried. It painfully reminded me about the last time we had real sorrow in our life, the day Herbert's mom passed away. I was sad that she wasn't there with us. I missed her.

     She would have cried too, if she had been there. She would have cried from happiness.

     About a month after Herbert and I had met each other, he was sitting outside after having had dinner with his parents. He had finally decided to tell them about "an American woman who was disturbing his sleep." It was a big step for him to tell his parents about me. Not only was I the first woman he had decided to tell his parents about since his separation from his wife, but I was an American woman - a woman who lived very far away. He wrote to me the next day and said, "They felt my feelings for you and, I think, the way my mother reacted explains a lot. She just asked me why I don't jump into an airplane and visit you." Frieda had been very supportive of us ever since and not only loved her son very much, but always showed me how much she loved me.

     We never got the chance to tell her that we planned to get married. It's our biggest regret.

     I haven't yet written in this journal about Frieda's passing. I've been avoiding it. It's still too difficult to write about. But I will. In the future. Today, I want to continue writing about this past Friday...

     So, here is a photo of me and Herbert at the Standsamt...


The newly married couple.


     "You may now kiss the bride."


     I wrote last week about the fact that we thought there may be a few people that would be waiting outside to congratulate us, as is the custom here. What we didn't expect was that they would be so organized. Our friend Marianne had not only invited friends to come, but she had prepared a small reception for us.

     She shared the following photo with us so that we could see them as they were setting up in the courtyard.


Our friends preparing our reception, while we were inside getting married.


     When we came out of the Standsamt building and around the corner in the courtyard, we heard singing and saw everyone standing behind the table they had set up. We were really surprised. They later told us that they sang a song that includes some words wishing the married couple many children in their marriage. They thought that with our three children and our age, we had enough. They changed the words and wished us many wonderful trips in our life.


Herbert and I at the reception.


     The beautiful table with wine, bread, cheese, snacks and many red chocolate hearts.


     We were greeted by friends, not only from the Trachtengruppe, but also from the mixed choir. They each congratulated us then we went around toasting with wine.


Herbert toasting with Ernst from the choir and Heidi from the dancing group.


     In addition to the flowers that had been waiting for us in the 'wedding' room, we also received a bouquet at the reception.


Bouquet of flowers from Lorella and Heidi Stuber and their husbands.


     Marianne had thought of everything for our reception. She knew that we had probably anticipated that there would be friends waiting and that we would have offered to take everyone to a local restaurant to celebrate with a glass of wine. She knew that I wouldn't be prepared for an outdoor reception. So, she brought a very warm pashmina wrap for me to wear in case I was cold. At first, I was warm from all of the excitement, but in the end, I accepted her warm shawl.


Me and Herbert at the reception that Marianne set up.


     After the reception, we had a few hours before our dinner reservations. We did what is completely normal for Herbert and I. We went to the Bären Restaurant to have a drink. We celebrated with our friends there, called my son Nick so that his new brother and sister could talk to him and then went on to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, the Rössli in Büren zum Hof.

     The food was wonderful and the wine was even better. We had looked at their menu online the week before and had checked out their wine list. It's very extensive. I had been excited to see that they carried many wines from California, including one of my favorite US wines. A 1997 Merlot from the Estancia winery. The wine list on the internet hadn't been updated since 2002. We had been worried. Maybe they wouldn't have it any more. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they still had it and that it was still the same price as it was in 2002. (If you ever see this wine in a store, buy a bottle. You won't be disappointed.)


Dinner at the Rössli


     After dinner, Herbert and I went back to the Bären with Yves and continued to celebrate with friends at the Stammtisch. After coming home around one in the morning, we called Mom to tell her that she had a new son. Around 1:30am, she told me that my husband was in bed and I should follow him. 'Husband', I thought. Well, that sounded strange. But she was right. I was now Frau Kläy and Mr. Kläy was in bed. I joined him, slept well and woke up the next day realizing that we need to get going on the plans for the 'big' wedding day next July.



Wednesday, November 22, 2006


     I still have a lot of catching up to do in order to tell you about our past year. But that will all have to wait, because I have a little test for you. Actually, it's not much of a test because there is only one question. And here it is...


What is this?


     I should make it a contest. Maybe the first person to send me the correct answer could win a prize. Maybe I could make the prize be free room and board at our home in Switzerland for one week.

     But then again, that's not much of a prize because we always open our home to guests who come and visit us.

     So let's just have a little fun and try to guess. I could use a little fun at this moment. There, that's your first clue.

     Second clue? It does not involve some new arts and crafts project I may have gotten myself into. I have no time for arts and crafts.

     And it does not, I repeat, does not involve regurgitation.

     There were however, a few tears involved.

     For those of you who are trying to see some hidden meaning in the outline, here's a clue... it's also not a Rorschach ink blot test. Although, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the States, you Americans might be seeing the outline of a turkey, with the left side being the feathers and the upper right, the head.

     And for those who have been to our house, you may recognize the grey and white squares. For those of you who haven't been here, here's a huge clue... It's part of our kitchen.

     I'm sure you've all guessed by now that it is something on our kitchen floor. But what is it?

     So let me share one more clue with you. If you don't have it after that, then I'm sorry. There just aren't any more clues that I can give you.

     Here's the last clue. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so I will paint that picture with one more photo...




     Now it should be clear. It's a pie. Or more specifically, most of the filling for a pie.

     You see, in the six or seven Thanksgivings that I've spent in Switzerland, we've only celebrated the holiday twice. If you read last year's Thanksgiving entry, you may remember that I didn't even realize that it was Thanksgiving until late in the afternoon. So sad.

     This year, I decided that even though I may be on my way to becoming Swiss, I wanted to make sure that I maintained some of my American traditions. We invited a couple of friends who have never tried turkey before to join our family tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner.

     Since Thanksgiving has absolutely no meaning here in Switzerland, I have to work tomorrow. I have three English classes - two of which are outside of our home and involve travel time. (I'll tell more about that when I catch up on the last year.)

     I decided to start the cooking today. I got up this morning and made my schedule, based on 15 minute increments. (Yeah, Mary Jo, I can hear you laughing. It is who I am.) I included not only the shopping, baking, cooking and cleaning that I have to do, but correcting papers for one of my classes and the prep work for two of the ones I have tomorrow.

     It was 1:45 and according to the schedule - which I'd done a good job of sticking to - it was time to put the pie into the oven. According to the recipe, I was to put the pan with the crust onto the oven rack and then pour the filling into it. That made sense. I know from the past that it can be tricky to get a full pan of flowing goo into the oven without spilling it.

     However, I didn't follow the directions.

     Those of you who know me well are probably shaking your heads and saying something like, "What a surprise," with sarcasm in your voices, "She never follows directions." Not true. But we won't get into that discussion here.

     I had a good reason for doing it 'my way'. I wasn't sure how much filling I needed. The recipe is for a nine inch pie pan. We don't have anything like that here. What we have is an 11.8 inch pan. I know that I can take the two sizes and do the math and figure out how much more filling I have to make. But it's not that easy. (It never is.) The pans in the States are deeper than they are here which adds another variable into the equation.

     I also remembered that in the past I always had too much filling for my pies. So, I made one batch and decided to pour it into the pan. I didn't put the pan in the oven first because if I needed to make a new batch, then the first one would be sitting there in the oven, starting to cook.

     I was right. The first batch wasn't enough. Not by a long shot. I made another half a batch, but waited to pour it in. I thought I would put the pan in the oven and then add the additional filling, thereby avoiding the problem of getting a full pan of liquid into the oven. (See, my brain works sometimes.)

     I ever so carefully picked up the pan from the kitchen table and slowly, slowly walked over to the oven, where I had already opened the door and pulled the rack out. It took a long time to walk those few steps to the oven and I talked to myself the whole time, saying, 'Careful, careful. You don't want to spill it. Go slow. Be careful. You know what could happen.'

     I got to the oven, set the pan on the rack, took a deep breath and smiled. I said, out loud, 'You did it.' Then the darn rack slipped in it's grooves, the pie tin slipped into my hands and three-quarters of the filling spilled out onto my hands, my jeans, my shoes and the floor. What I said next was much louder and definitely not so nice.

     Herbert is home today and was in our office, working on a presentation he has to give for work. He came out to find what you saw in the photo and me standing there with the rest of the filling all over me and tears running down my cheeks.

     In a very calm voice, he simply asked, "What can I do to help you?" What a lovely man.

    But, I wasn't in an emotional place where I could rationally answer that. You see, making a pumpkin pie is one of the simplest things you can bake - in the States. But here? Not so simple. If we were in the States, I would simply clean the mess up and run to the store to buy another can of pumpkin. But we don't have that here. That pumpkin I put in the filling was made from scratch. I had peeled the pumpkin, chopped it, boiled it until it was cooked, cooked it some more to boil the excess water off, strained it through a small sieve and then pureed it. And all of this had been done according to my schedule.

     What was I going to do now? And what was going to happen to my schedule? And what about my crust. Instead of making my own, as I usually do, I had used the store-bought Swiss pie crust dough. And, I had used a second dough to cut strips from in order to create a nice little twist along the edge of the pie. What would happen to the crust? Would it get soggy where the filling had been and dry out on the edge while it was waiting for the filling? 

     Here's a photo of the sad, soggy crust, with the pretty little edges...



     We decided to start all over. While Herbert went to the store to buy more pumpkin and pie dough. I went out to have a cigarette to calm down. Then I called my friend Lorella to tell her that I probably wouldn't be making it to the dancing group tonight. We laughed for a while and then I went back to the kitchen and cleaned the mess.

     Herbert came home, not only with the pumpkin and pie dough, but with flowers. Have I mentioned how wonderful he is?

     I started all over with the pie filling and an hour and a half later, I called Herbert to the kitchen so that he could hold the darn oven rack while I poured the filling into the pie. It worked. The pie was safe in the oven. I was happy and ready to get over what had happened earlier. I moved on.

     I looked at the recipe to see how long it should bake. "15 minutes," it read. Huh? Yep. Good old Betty Crocker said it should bake for fifteen minutes. That seemed a bit short compared to my Thanksgiving memories. I didn't believe it, but I trusted her. She is after all, Betty Crocker.

     I waited the fifteen minutes out and then checked on the pie. The following picture is what I saw...



     The crust was almost done, but the center was totally liquid. Apparently Betty was wrong. I pulled out another cookbook and read that it should bake for 50 minutes, with aluminum foil on the edges for the first 25 minutes.

     And what are those things hanging down on the sides? They are the little twists that I had attached to the edge. Swiss pie dough tends to puff as it bakes and the twists puffed right off of the edges - all the way around the pie. We removed the twists and covered the edges with aluminum foil.

     In the end, the pie turned out ok. Not pretty, but ok. Hopefully, it will also be edible.

     I have to tell you one more thing while we're on the topic of American meals in Switzerland. Today I was leaving one of the groceries stores (after finally finding the largest turkey in our area - 9 pounds) and I saw a man on the side of the road. He was walking along with a large garbage bag and was picking up trash. He had a jacket on with the word 'McDonalds' written on the back. I looked down the road. McDonalds was about three hundred meters away (about three football fields.) Then I remembered something that Herbert had explained last summer.

     Apparently there had been some protest and complaints against McDonalds. The Swiss people are proud of their clean country and McDonalds, with their disposable food containers, were messing with that image. The only fast food in Switzerland (that I'm aware of) is McDonalds. Surely all of the trash was due to McDonalds and their French fry and Big Mac containers.

     McDonalds responded to the 'mess' by installing large garbage bins in the surrounding areas and by having employees be responsible for picking up litter. I knew this. However, I guess I just didn't realize how far they had to go to get that trash. Three football fields seems a bit extreme.

     Now, I don't go to McDonalds and I'm not trying to support them or stick up for them. But, what I saw today made me think. I came home and told Herbert about what I saw. And I asked him the questions that had bothered me the whole way home.

    "Why is it that the Swiss people can be so annoyed by fast food and everything that it represents and hold one restaurant chain responsible for all of the trash on the streets? And why are they so annoyed that they come close to creating legislation against it? Don't they realize that they are the same people that eat there and the same people that must be throwing their Big Mac Styrofoam containers on the side of the road? Why can't they just put it in the trash cans themselves when they've finished eating?"

     It reminded me of a commercial I always saw on TV when I was a girl. Depending on your age, you may remember it. It's the one where the Native American Indian saw trash on the side of the road and a tear ran down the side of his face. Maybe they need the same commercial here in Switzerland.

     Just an observation.

     Well, this has turned out to be a much longer entry than I had originally anticipated. And you may be wondering how I could write this when I'm so stressed and have so much to do. I guess I took time out to write an entry because I knew it would help me see the lighter side of things and because since I knew that my schedule was already shot, it couldn't get much worse. And I've written most of it on my cigarette breaks which I would've taken anyway.

     There's no better way for me to overcome stress than to write or smoke.

     Oh yeah, there's also the wine. That helps too.

     I ran into a problem with that today. In the midst of the stress of the pie, with pumpkin running down my leg, I told Herbert that I could really use a glass of wine. We usually enjoy a little wine when we cook together and even though I was cooking alone, he was just down the hall.

     But, I'm on this diet and health program that my sister created. We do it with Mom and make a commitment to each other. There are four things that we have to watch and keep track of each week. Three of them are drinking water, exercising and staying away from junk food and sweets. The fourth is free for us to pick, but we have to pick something that we think adds to our weight problem. We have to avoid it for four days each week. I picked alcohol, specifically, wine and beer because I know they're empty calories.

     You may think this would be easy to avoid for only four days a week. Normally, I would agree. But here in Switzerland, it's part of everything we do. Beer and wine are served at every function and at most meals. It's a part of our life. Saying 'no' is not easy.

     But, with Barb's program we have three times per month that we can choose to ignore one of the four items for the day. I call them 'oops' points. And today, after I saw the crust of my pie falling apart, I decided to take an 'oops' point. I grabbed a cigarette, a glass of white wine and my computer. I headed outside to sit in the sun for a moment and start this entry in this journal. I knew it would all make me feel better, less stressed. And it did.

     I'm sure a psychologist would ask me if I feel that I need to turn to alcohol when I encounter problems. "Uh, maybe," I'd have to say. "Besides, I'm almost Swiss and we enjoy our wine. Especially on American holidays."

     Have a great Thanksgiving!



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