“We scaled a mountain!”

(For context, read part 1 before reading this.)

mountains and lake

Our goal to leave at 9:30 got us out the door by a remarkable 10:30. We were planning to mosey over to Interlaken to find those stunning picturesque spots that end up on everybody’s Instagram feed. Instead, the closer we got to Interlaken, the closer we also got to Schilthorn, and the closer we got to Schilthorn, the more excited my brother-in-law got about taking the cable car up the mountain.

rolling green valley with brown houses
green field with snow-capped mountains in the distance and train
mountains and valley

It was the perfect day for it, or the perfect morning at least. One glance at the forecast told us that it was now or never.

So we left Interlaken without any of those Instagram-worthy photos. (It’s just as well; none of us have Instagram anyway.) Oh, but first we stopped for a short fuel stop which turned into a loooong bathroom break. My sister, nephew and I waited in the rental car as the minutes streeeeeetched on. “Should I go check on them?” I asked. But we decided to stick together, just in case. The three of them finally emerged with a reconciliatory bag of clementines and cherry tomatoes. It turns out that they had been waiting outside of a locked bathroom door with nobody inside, until someone had enough mercy to give them the key.

We bought our cable car tickets at the bottom of the mountain. “Let’s go,” Dad said weakly and we began to question whether or not this was the best idea. Heights are–eh–not Dad’s thing, and riding a bulky cable car up the mountain on a skinny piece of wire was particularly frightening. But, in the end, we were all game enough to get on board… although, the incentive may have been partially due to choosing the lesser evil– “Stay at the bottom and watch my family plummet to a certain death or plummet along with them?”)

So up we went, Dad relating a story of a cable car crash he had seen recently on YouTube.

cable car arriving
snow covered Alps

It was a blast. No plunging or swaying. As we glided up the mountain to 9,744 feet, the view was progressively more breathtaking. At the top, my sister and I went outside for a stroll and came in stiff from the icy wind. But oh the view!

We climbed a final set of stairs to Piz Gloria, the rotating restaurant at the tippy top of the mountain. The outer ring of the restaurant makes a complete circle every 45 minutes. Initially, we almost left Dad behind when his chair leg stuck to the immobile wall and kept him in place. He waved at us. “Well, goodbye!”

“Bye, Dad! See you in 45 minutes!”

Before and after lunch, my brother-in-law kept checking our oxygen levels. He claimed I was turning purple. I wasn’t the only one who got a headache before it was all said and done.

On our way back down the mountain, we discussed what rating we would give our day. Dad gave it a 9, but only after our feet were on solid ground again. Still, I would give him a 10 for conquering his fear of heights!

We got home, tired. “Well, no wonder,” said Mom. “We scaled a mountain!”

colorful sunrise over silhouetted fir trees

The next morning was our earliest yet… which wouldn’t break any records except our own.

My Swiss friend came to spend the day with us. It was rainy and muddy, a perfect day to spend tracking down a bit of Anabaptist history. Due to complications with the directions, we were late for our tour, practically unacceptable for the Swiss. I guess we got away with it since we were American. Our tour guide was kneading dough when we arrived. My sister wanted to roll her eyes, assuming it was an act to replay Anabaptist history. It turns out that our guide was simply working on lunch so we saved the eye-rolling and sat back to enjoy the tour.

She gave us a long bit of history and showed us around her house which was built in the 1600s with a hideout for persecuted Anabaptists. It was a fascinating peek into our heritage.

old Swiss farmhouse

My friend took us to a Mom ‘n’ Pop style Swiss restaurant where we ordered rosti and Rivella (a resourceful soda made from leftover whey). It was glorious to have an interpreter rather than just offering blank, ignorant smiles. The food was yummy and [relatively] inexpensive. My nephew took it upon himself to charm the other restaurant patrons and spent most of the time turned around completely in his seat.

Later, we discovered that the restaurant claims to be the oldest restaurant in Switzerland, dating back to 1356!

traditional Swiss rosti

My friend had warned us not to order dessert because she had something else in mind–a visit to the local Kambly cookie factory. There, we shamelessly helped ourselves to the samples–the only free thing we had found in Switzerland so far!–but then walked out with arms laden with purchased cookies. It turns out Kambly knows what it’s doing after all! One of the favorites was a chocolate merengue that managed to be both fudgy and crisp as it silently melted in our mouths.

shelf with bagged cookies

Our last adventure was a local store which was really quite large and overwhelming. We bought chocolate and groceries mostly. And then topped off the evening with creamy Swiss ice cream which may have ruined our Prairie Farms palates forever.

Recipe: relatively healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are like breakfast muffins except in cookie form… probably an attempt to trick your brain. So, if you’re looking for a crisp, chocolatey bit of sweetness, these cookies aren’t it. But they do carry their own charm if you’re willing to give them a try.

I started making these cookies about the time I tried to eliminate refined white sugar and flour from my everyday diet. I still make them today, but I added the “relatively healthy” modifier because although they’re healthier than regular cookies, I’m not sure how healthy they are when I eat them in uncontrolled quantities. 😉

Like most cookies, they’re best fresh. Make sure you serve them with milk or tea if they last for a few days.

unbaked cookies on baking sheet
  • 1 1/4 c. oats
  • 1 1/2 c. oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. (70g) coconut oil, melted then cooled
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (I peel and puree an apple. 1 apple = about 1/2 c.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • at least 100g chunked dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix ingredients. Chill dough for about 10 minutes. Press each dough ball before baking (see photo). The cookies hardly spread at all, so you can fit a lot on 1 cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° F. (180° C) for 15 minutes or until done. Makes about 30 cookies.

Recipe: Gingerbread cookies

Ever since North Africa, these cookies have been my Christmas tradition. Not only are they yummy, but they are also fun to make because they retain their shape. The original recipe can be found on thekitchenpaper.com. I’ve altered it very slightly and included some notes at the bottom. I’ve also included some of the weights in case you weigh your ingredients like I tend to.

  • 3 c. (384 g) flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1+ tbsp. ground ginger (a smidgen more for a better kick)
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 6 tbsp. (85 g) butter
  • 3/4 c. (150 g) brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c. (160 g) molasses
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Whisk the flour, salt, and spices together. Cream the butter and sugar until they’ve just come together. Add the egg, and mix until incorporated. Add molasses and vanilla. Mix. Slowly mix in the flour mixture until your dough forms. If your dough is crumbly, add 1 tsp. of milk at a time until it comes together. Roll out at room temperature on a lightly floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Bake at 375° F. (190° C) for 8-9 minutes.

shaped gingerbread cookies on counter

Note: You really don’t want your dough sticky. It’s a headache. The more flour you add to keep them from sticking to your rolling pin, the less flavorful they will be.

Also note: If you like your gingerbread cookies thin and crispy, by all means, roll them thin. But don’t forget to decrease the baking time like I forgot to do this year. 😦

Third note: These turn out best when you’re listening to Christmas music. 🙂

Birth certificates and cookie crumbs

It took 45 minutes to walk to town hall. Naima had told me she would meet me there. She was so slow in coming that I almost gave up. But it was a pleasant morning. There was shade and a nice breeze.

Suddenly she appeared, three children in tow. Only Curly Top, the littlest, was her own; the older two belonged to a neighbor. The younger neighbor girl gave me a grin so big that it took up the bottom half of her face.

Naima had tried to call me to change the meeting place, but I hadn’t answered, she said. We left it at that and walked together to a little building on the end of town.

“What do you need here?” I was the designated interpreter. But that could only happen if I understood what I was supposed to interpret. Naima tried to type the unknown Arabic word into my translator, but didn’t know how to spell it.

We entered the building, just large enough for a few offices that didn’t look strikingly official.  A sign said to ask for a number, so I snagged a wandering employee. “A number please?” By the time he found a number and brought it to me, it was my turn.

But I still didn’t know what Naima needed.

I sat across from a gruff man at a desk. “What do you need?” His voice matched his expression.

“I don’t know.” I handed him my friend’s family book and he paged through it.

“What do you need?” he asked again.

“My friend needs two of something for her daughter, but I don’t know the word in Arabic, so I don’t know what to say in Spanish. She is trying to call her husband now.”

The gruff features twisted. “A birth certificate?”

“Is that what you have here?”

“Yes, and that’s all we have for her daughter.”

So while he printed the documents, he asked if I was evangelical and then launched into a one-sided discussion about Mormons. Mormons?

BANG! went the rubber stamp. BANG! BANG! BANG! He signed the documents with such scribbled flourish that it may have looked more natural had he been using a crayon on a coloring page.

“Where are you from?”

“The United States.”

“Trump. A lot of people angry that he doesn’t like immigrants.”

I sighed. Yes, but didn’t every country have its problems and weren’t there any problems in Spain?

Another one-sided discussion ensued that gave me a vague sensation of having made my point. He walked me to the door, still talking, and watched our little gang leave the odd little office.

Naima invited me up to her flat where I tried to translate a medical questionnaire that dizzied my brain. Naima sat on the arm of the couch and swatted away the little girls when they reached for the papers in my lap.

“Is it normal for your child to have high fevers?”

“No. She only has fevers when she’s teething. Have lunch with us.” Naima got up to start lunch preparations.

I couldn’t, but thank you. Another time, Lord willing.

“In my culture, when a guest comes to my house it’s shameful not to give them any food.” Naima packed up a container of olives she had brought back from her country.

I joined her in the kitchen area and watched her carefully wrap the container of olives in a plastic bag.

Curly Top was walking around the floor on her knees, sprinkling bread and cookie crumbs wherever she went, like a miniature Hansel and Gretel. Big Smile was claiming ownership of everything that wasn’t hers—my bag, Curly Top’s toys, a plate of cookies. I watched as she carefully stuck her foot into a pair of Curly Top’s pants, only about 3 years too small.

Naima took me to the elevator, leaving the flat door wide open and crumby children sprinkled along the hallway. I hit “0” and the elevator door closed.

When a day starts, I never know what to expect. But I kinda like that.