Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our First Pet Emergency

In three years of house sitting, we've never once had an honest-to-goodness pet emergency. Once a cat that was having skin problems and seemed very old disappeared and we thought perhaps that was the end. Turns out she had been scared under a neighbor's house by a dog and wouldn't come out when the neighbor tried to lure her. She recovered.

But last weekend Roy the cat spent all Sunday on the couch, which we didn't think much about until we noticed this.

Now, if you're wondering, no, those aren't my Crocs. I took this at the vet's office.

If you're wondering why that claw seems to be pointed straight at you, that's because his cat toe is very broken. It's not the toe that's supposed to be pointed outwards. It's twisted and wrapped up and over the top of his paw. That he wasn't yowling and freaking out was impressive. But he didn't seem bothered. Until I touched it. Which I did while Roy was on Joshua's lap. Roy's reaction was to use the rest of his claws on Joshua. Whoops!

No idea how it happened. He can go outside, so perhaps he had a run-in with the one-eyed, giant grey fluff ball of a cat named Salem (although we're told she's friendly). Or perhaps it was messing around in the house with the dog that did it.

Anyway, I called the vet first thing Monday morning and they said we could bring him right in. I strapped his carrier onto a baby stroller and wheeled him over.

I thought it was impressive. Roy? Not so impressed.
The doctor was quite amazed at the angle of Roy's toe and she said they'd keep him all day. I had to call around 5pm to see if he'd come home that night or stay overnight there. The vet said the worst that would happen is they'd need to re-break it, but most likely they would just put it back in place, after an x-ray and some strong medication.

They didn't re-break it and we went to pick him up around 5pm. He was woozy and growly. The vet assistant said that he needed to stay in his crate for the night. She said he was still effected by the narcotics and that he could have a bit of water, but no food until morning. And that I should bring him back on Friday for a check-up.

He was noisy. And I tried letting him out, but he was all doped up and wobbly, and he just wanted food, so he'd try to run downstairs. Nope.

In the morning he got his food, finally, and we let him out. We moved all his stuff upstairs so he didn't have to go thumping his cast up and down three times a day. He tries to shake the cast off and sometimes tries to lick it off. But he can walk on it.

But for the most part he seems to be just fine. He can't go outside, which he doesn't really like. He gets noisy when we take the dog for walks and leave him behind. On Friday the vet changed his "cast", which is actually just cotton fluff wrapped in orange tape.

And he spends his days like this, for the most part.

Or like this:

Next new tape job is on Friday. Not sure how long he'll have to wear it, but I'll ask at this next visit. I can really sympathize, seeing as I had to wear an orange cast when I broke my foot. In the meantime, the couch next to the wood stove is all his.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Bit of Oslo, A Bit of Amsterdam

Before our flight to Amsterdam we had a few hours to play in Oslo. For the first time, we had trouble with the local transport system. The trams. Usually, we just roll into a city, look at the maps, figure out a route, and end up where we want to go. Not in Oslo. We tried to take the tram, but ended up looping back in the wrong direction. Okay. So we got off and consulted again... the map was unclear. But we figured we should go back the other way, so we did. Before it turned back to where we'd come from, we got off again and decided we'd better walk. Then we figured out why it was so confusing: an entire street was torn up and the tram simply wasn't going where it usually goes. Any mention of that on the maps and signs on the tram? Nope. Grrrr.

But we made it to our goal: Vigelandsparken. Fall colors were stunning and so were the people.

a bit of beard envy 

If you go to Oslo, go see Vigeland's statue park.


That evening we hopped on a plane and in just a couple of hours were in Amsterdam where we spent a little less than three weeks. 

During the stay we treated ourselves to a luxurious dinner at a Dutch fine dining place that looked ready to fall right on its face. De Silveren Spiegel (The Silver Mirror, watch out the website has the longest intro imaginable). Pictures do not describe it well enough, and my pictures of it are crap. But it's an incredible restaurant and we spoiled ourselves for the first time in a long time.

For the most part, the weather was beautiful, except for the huge storm towards the end of our stay. The storm did tons of damage to the south of England, so that got a lot of attention in the news. A number of trees fell and on TV we saw footage of two people actually falling over because the wind was blowing them away. We stayed indoors and watched people struggling on the bike path below the windows.

No joke. 

Tons of fun in the big city, great times with our Amsterdam buddies, a visit with Arie, who we met cycling in Scotland and England two years ago, a quick trip to Berlin for an MRI for me (Ramona). And now we're out in the middle of nowhere, Czech Republic with two giant American bulldogs, two ponies, and a few cats. Quiet times for us, at least for two weeks.

Monday, September 30, 2013

This Crazy Life

Yeah, it's been crazy. We're in a state of financial recovery, but we're also bouncing around as if traveling was our job. Traveling is our rent, actually, and our jobs just keep traveling with us - thank goodness. We're getting back into the swing of things, you could say. Much of the summer was spent in Zurich, with a couple of interludes.

For two weeks at the end of July we went to Vienna to cat and house sit for friends. The train was fast and they even showed us how fast. Might be our favorite long-distance train in Europe.

It was so hot in Vienna I can't describe anything else about the city. I can't wait to go back, though. Good friends, old and new, live there and it took us too long to get there.
Stephansdom, Vienna
Anker clock, Vienna, with its moving people
And then at the end of August we had a house sit for about 10 days in the French Alps, not far from Geneva, on a farm. The French Alps... well, mountains are stunning.
French Alps farm sitting is good
Le Bargy, Mont-Saxonnex
Mont Blanc from the train. Now we know how it got it's name - Sept and the only white thing around...
Then we went back to Zurich for the first 10 days of September, staying with friends, and I went on a camping trip to another stunning mountain setting.

Klöntal - photos don't do this place justice
Some very muddy kiddos. It was a good trip.
We are currently in Norway back where we were after that first summer of bicycle touring. Talk about stunning. When we're here it feels like everything else is far away and only the here and now is relevant. Two weeks fjord-side eating way too healthily, playing with kids who still love us (even though they haven't seen us for two years), and catching up with old friends.

it was Christmas / the king's birthday and they made a feast
apple season
Joshua adjusts the brakes with a little help
fjord view
Give a kid a camera... and they'll get a hilarious photo of Ramona and Joshua together.
And now a 10 day house sit outside of Lillehammer, on the side of a huge valley. The scale in Norway is just bigger. The weather, chillier. I've picked up the knitting again. We light fires in the wood stove to keep warm.

Well, early fall
Our charge, Bryan, who has to be tempted into a walk up the hill with treats every 10m or so.
Next stop will be more fun with friends in Amsterdam (with a side-trip to Berlin for my first round of check-ups). Then a house sit in Czech Republic. Then back to Vienna and surrounds for about ten days. We're alternating visits with friends with the house sits we could gather during Sept-Nov.

But at the beginning of December things will calm down again - 4 months in one place! We're really looking forward to that. Yes traveling is good, visiting friends is fun and filled with love, seeing new places is refreshing. But it's also expensive to bounce around and we didn't exactly have the cheapest winter and spring this year.

This is the life. Like any other life it has its ups and downs. Like any other life, I am currently procrastinating because I have work to do, but plenty of time, and I don't feel like working. A normal case of the Mondays. Maybe Bryan needs a walk.
View from this week's "office", top outdoor temps in the range of 10C.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


My sister came to visit! My sister came to visit!

We're back in Zürich, one of our favorite cities in one of our favorite countries, and I finally got to share it all with my sister. It was a whirlwind trip that included a lot of swimming in very cold rivers and lakes, hiking in the Alps, beautiful sunny days, hanging with good friends, eating cake, and of course bicycle touring.

With all the fun, we only had time for a four day tour, which we maximized by taking the train out and riding the bikes back. We did a route (in reverse) that Joshua and I did last year. We also gave ourselves plenty of time to explore in non-bike touring ways. Last year we did the same distance plus an additional 15kms in only two days. This year we did it in four, doing about 30kms per day and going downhill rather than up. So. Tour-ism, here we go.

I don't think they mean it.

We rode from Lungern to Sarnen on day 1 after our train ride, which included the first stage of the Brunigpass climb - going down was really spectacular. That evening at the campsite we made the mistake of setting up next to some kids who stayed up late smoking their hookah and giggling. Corina actually asked them to be quiet, and then said she felt really old. Welcome to the club. I was very grateful that they quieted down, and it was funny to watch them wake up the next morning looking grumpy and poorly slept. Corina swam in the afternoon when we arrived and the next morning. I wimped out. So coooold!

We followed route 9 east and north, and made some friends along the way.

they made cute faces, but didn't want to eat the flowers Corina offered to them
swans tip their rear-ends straight into the air and eat off the bottom, apparently
this is an airport runway crossing - the bike path goes across an airport
what it looks like in the middle of an airport runway

On the second day we made it to Horw, just south of Luzern.

along the lake there's the best bike path. okay, they're all the best. this is Switzerland.
And here we decided that it was worth our while to go up to see Pilatus for ourselves. We went for a swim in the afternoon and sat around giggling about our camping neighbors, but decided that if we were up early enough the next morning, we'd go see Pilatus. This is one of the first dramatic mountains you see as you head south, and last year I became kind of obsessed, saying the name over and over again as we rode around and away from it - you can see the peak for a long time when you're touring through the valleys around Pilatus.

We got up relatively early, took our bikes to the Luzern train station, locked them up, put our bags in a locker, and bought ourselves a round-trip ticket - up on the Pilatus Bahn, which is the steepest train in the world at a 48% grade (so they say), and down on the other side by cable car and ski lift. Little did we know what the view would be like from up there.
pretty steep tracks
at the bottom 
getting more dramatic
oh right, mountains.
and an alpine horn 
you can climb a bit higher and see the full view
of the hotel and restaurant near the top
this guy with his pipe and beer. pretty sure he hiked up.
the flowers were incredible

The pictures do not do the view justice. The mountains were fully visible when we got up there, which isn't always the case. Even before we left, small clouds started to form around Pilatus and on the cable car down we went through clouds. It's just so moist here and with the temperatures in the mid-20s C (high 70s F), all that water just floats up and turns into clouds.

The same day as we did the whole magical Pilatus journey, we rode our bikes almost to Zug. More swimming, thank you very much.

The following morning we spent a bit of time wandering around Zug, which is a lovely little city. We did some tourist shop shopping and one of the shop owners gave us a key to the clock tower, so we could hang out and see the view while she gift-wrapped the things Corina bought. Then we headed back towards Zürich and unfortunately disaster struck.

Corina's iPhone? Gone. She probably had all the good pictures, sadly, and although we did our best, the iPhone is still missing. It's official, I need a new camera - my pictures are not enough. If it was going to be returned anywhere, it'd be in Switzerland, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. 

We rode back into Zürich, unpacked, and then packed back up so we could head into the Alps for some serious hiking with our good friends Thomas and Emily. With the views from Pilatus in mind, we were looking forward to getting a closer look.