Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why do rubber bands stretch?

I continue to be amazed at how interested Chase is in what I'm doing. I can actually see her process everything I do, take note, and then file it away.

I've always believed you should address your child with respect, and be especially careful not talk down to them. Tell them what you are doing. Explain things to them.

So we do our best to explain why things float in the bath tub, what shadows are, why it is warmer in the sun, why is the sky blue, etc. I've personally found it to be a good excercize to explain complex concepts as simply as possible.

We were doing pretty well until I came up with the question: why do rubber bands stretch?

The simplest answer I came across is as follows:

"you can think of the polymer molecules (that comprise a rubber band) as a tangled mass of very long spaghetti strands tacked together to one another in a few widely separated places along the strands. When the rubber band is stretched, this tangled mass of "spaghetti strands" stretch out and line up parallel to one another (more or less / mostly less). It is this lining up that allows the rubber band to stretch. However, there is a limit to how much the rubber molecules can be stretched because they are attached to one another in these few places. (The technical name for these links between the chains is "cross linked".) If too much force is applied these cross links will break and the rubber band will "snap". - Vince Caldor, Ask A Scientist (

For those of you who are a little more math and science inclined:

"At a constant temperature, and for elongations not too large, a rubber band obeys Hooke's Law: The force, f = - K(X - Xo) where K is a constant, (X - Xo) is the elongation and the sign in negative because the force is in the direction opposite to the extension. That is the force, f, is trying to pull the rubber band back to its equilibrium length, Xo." - Also from Vince.

Vince goes on to say:

"When you heat almost any solid, it expands. But not rubber bands!!! The reason is that heating the rubber molecules make them move around more. They become less aligned as a result and the rubber band SHRINKS instead of expanding when it is heated!!!" (This is quite exciting, as seen from his use of exclamation marks)

But enough about Vince (I found him slightly condescending, but I'm sure it's just because he's one of those super "mathy" types who doesn't understand why everyone doesn't know calculus) and why rubber bands stretch (although I'm sure you're all happy you now have something stimulating to talk about at your next party). I came across a fun Web site while I was doing my research and wanted to share it with you.

Check out:

*Rubber band image courtesy of Wikipedia. The entry on rubber bands is fairly hilarious.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Chasie Magoo and her little cat Schmoo

Chase loves Dr. Seuss so much that I decided to write a story for her. After conducting a little research, I learned that most of Dr. Seuss' books are written in anapestic tetrameter (anapestic tetrameter consists of four rhythmic units (anapests), with two weak beats followed by one strong beat).

So here goes...

There once was a girl
Named Chasie Magoo
She lived in Zurich
With her little cat Shmoo

They laughed and they played
All through the day
That little girl Chasie
And her kitty cat Shmoo

But one bright sunny day
In the middle of May
Kitty cat Shmoo
thought of something new to do

Come with me
Said the kitty
Come with me outside
I'll show you something pretty
Come along for the ride

So Chasie followed her little brown kitty outside
And they sat together, looking up to the sky

Hand in paw they sat and stared
As they watched the clouds
Change shape up there

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I hesitate as I write this entry -- the discussion of introducing solids, I have found, is a loaded topic (not unlike the topic of breastfeeding).

Some people feel it is best to wait until the baby is 6 months old (to avoid food allergies and decrease chances of obesity later in life), while others believe it is best to introduce solids when the baby (1) can sit upright with little support, (2) shows interest in food and (3) is at least four months of age.

At Chase's 4-month pediatrician visit, I was told "it's time to start introducing solids" (I felt like I had graduated and was being handed a diploma). Herr (spelling of Herr is intentional - it's German) Doctor recommended I start with carrots, then potatoes, etc. He told me to try a new food each week and look for any sign of allergies. He also recommended introducing a bit of baby cereal as well, once Chase had the hang of "solids." And that was it. He made it sound so easy.

I laughed as I mused what the NHS would say ... "Start with mushy peas, then fish and chips, then Guinness - but be sure to limit it to only one Guinness a day..." - haha.

I figured that if Chase's pediatrician was laid back about it, I would be too (those who know me know that it's nearly impossible for me to be laid back about anything). I believed I was equipped with enough basic knowledge (no sugar, salt, honey, milk, strawberries soft cheese, blue cheese, peanut butter) and common sense (mush it up really well before feeding it to baby) to start "Operation: Introduce solids."

About two weeks in, I was feeling pretty confident, but I still picked up a book that was given to me as a gift (written in America), about how to introduce solids. Since moving to Europe, I have developed a nagging feeling that there is something more I should know (about just about everything) that the Europeans (1) forget to mention, (2) figure I should know, (3) just don't know, or (4) just don't care (see entry for DHA).

Well, I have to say - the book, "Super Baby Food," written by Ruth Yaron, scares me. Sure it has everything a mom needs to know (first aid, meal planners, recipes, nutrition, portion sizes, and more), but it is so packed with information that I'm terrified I'm going to forget things - or do something wrong. I learned, for example, that carrots and potatoes are not recommended as a first food, that wheat is a high risk food, that all fruit should be boiled before it's given to a baby, and that semolina is a high risk allergen (so why do the stores here sell semolina baby food?), that foods should be introduced at the same time each day, that water should follow each introduction, and what allergies to foods may look like (scary stuff) -- and I'm only about a quarter of the way through it.

And, to make things a little more complicated/confusing, add in the fact I'm living in a foreign country, where I don't speak the language and I can barely read the ingredients on boxes (even though they are kind enough to write it in French, Italian and German) ... plus, all measurements are milligrams/grams and no detail is given about the % as it relates to daily allowance.

So once again, I find myself straddling the line (or should I say pond) between America and Europe. As I have not lived in the US for three years, I'm starting to appreciate the laissez-faire attitude that comes with living in Europe, but I certainly don't want to jeopardize my daughter and want to make sure she has a safe and enjoyable introduction to solid food.

After much deliberation between the European and American way of life, I've decided I will read, and re-read this book, memorize it, build out a meal calendar, chart Chase's responses to each food and present it to Herr Doctor at Chase's next visit -- at which point he will look at me like I'm a "crazy American" - but I can take it - I've received the look a lot since I moved to Europe.

I guess you can take the American out of America, but you can't take the America out of the American.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Question Of The Day

Is my dryer shrinking Chase's clothes or is she really long enough to wear 9-12 month clothing at 5 months of age?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


One of the largest portrait galleries in Switzerland - and the first museum Chase has ever seen. She sang throughout our visit, while listening to her voice echo, echo, echo...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Auntie Lockett: Trip to the Principality of Liechtenstein

On our way back from Salzburg, we drove through Liechtenstein - the third country we'd driven through in one day (the other two being Austria and Germany) - and the last stretch of a very long drive from Salzburg to Zurich. (To follow this adventure properly, read Eagle's Nest first, then Salzburg, then this one - I entered them in backwards due to lack of sleep).

Liechtenstein, the 10th smallest country (62 square miles), has a population of just over 33,000 people. The capital is Vaduz (would be a good scrabble word if it wasn't a proper name). They are known for great skiing and stamps.

As we had been in the car for four hours, we decided not to stop... so these pics were taken from the car.

Auntie Lockett: Trip to Salzburg

Last weekend we decided to take a weekend trip to Salzburg, Austria, with Brian's little sister Lockett. We believed the drive would take us approximately three hours. It took us four and a half hours (note to self: limit road trips to three hours with a 5-month-old).

So a little about Salzburg ... it is the oldest and most important cultural and spiritual centre in present-day Austria. Although it had already been elevated to the rank of archdiocese in 798 and from the late Middle Ages onwards had formed a spiritual principality in the Holy Roman Empire, Salzburg is one of Austria’s youngest Länder. The development of the region and its ultimate separation from Bavaria, its mother country, was agreed in the fourteenth century but it was not until 1816 that Salzburg was incorporated into Austria. Of Austria’s present-day Länder or provinces, Salzburg is the only one to have been ruled as an independent state by a prince-archbishop and it is the only one of the many spiritual principalities of the Holy Roman Empire still to exist as an independent province.*

I was excited to see Salzburg because it is the birthplace of Mozart and the place where much of the Sound of Music was filmed.

The church where the great escape in the Sound of Music was filmed:

The courtyard where they sang "Doe, Re, Me:"

Mozart's birthplace:

Houses built into a rock wall:

Fountain with the fortress on top:

*Information on Salzburg from

Auntie Lockett: Trip to Eagle's Nest

En route to Salzburg, we stopped over at Hitler's Tea House (a.k.a. the Eagles Nest), which was built for Hitler as a 50th birthday present. After a breathtaking drive up 4 mile road, which runs along the edge of the cliff, we walked through a marble-lined tunnel 406 ft long into the heart of the mountain. We then boarded the original brass-lined elevator for a ride up through the heart of the Kehlstein mountain another 406 ft straight into the Eagle's Nest, which is perched high in the Austrian Alps (6017 ft. ).

Waiting for the bus...

On the bus...

View from the bus window:

Tunnel that leads to the elevator:

View from just outside the Eagle's Nest:

The Eagle's Nest:

View from the Eagle's Nest:

Auntie Lockett

Waiting for Auntie Lockett to arrive...

Friday, August 18, 2006


The first stuffed Mole (think children's stuffed animal, not something in the Museum of Natural History) I ever saw was in England -- which I thought was hilarious, but actually makes perfect sense given the Wind In The Willows was written there by Charles Grahame in 1908.

As a reminder, the Mole was a mild-mannered, home-loving animal, who was initially overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of riverside life, but eventually adapted to it.

I came across the second stuffed Mole a couple weeks ago. This one was super cute and made by a company in France to help "rediscover the traditions of our grandmothers." I saw it, loved it and couldn't stop thinking about it - so now Chase has a stuffed Mole named Alice.

*And yes, it is yet another example of how difficult it is to find children's toys that look like the real thing. The Mole is close, except he has glasses and little sweater. But I figure Moles aren't known for their vision and if there's one thing I learned in England, it's always good to have an extra layer.

Learning To Read

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mission Impossible

When I was a little girl I loved pink. So much so that I convinced my parents (who were such good sports) to let me paint my bedroom walls a bright, glossy pink. The trim, I decided, had to be glossy purple. I loved that room.

When I found out I was having a little girl, I was so excited. I started thinking about what comes with raising a little girl - and wondered to myself what comes naturally, and what is imposed on little girls by society (this gets scary when one really thinks about it -- especially when one has a background in PR and media).

So I decided to try to hold off on pushing societal norms on Chase as long as possible -- to do so, I broke down my plan into four parts:

Part 1: I was determined to dress her in green and yellow from a young age so she didn't have any forced association to the color pink

Part 2: I would bypass dolls as long as possible and offer stuffed animals instead

Part 3: I would avoid gender-biased toys (little ovens would be replaced with butterfly nets and chemistry sets).

Part 4: I wanted to provide Chase with as many natural looking toys as possible - so no make-believe animals (pink rabbits, yellow bears).

Five months in to my plan and I'm finding it exceedingly difficult for the following reasons:

Part 1: 99.9999% of children's clothes are pink or blue. Any green or yellow clothing usually has funky colored butterflies, flowers, etc. Plus, I've realized that when one has an entire wardrobe that is pink, it is super easy to change out dirty clothes quickly because they all match.

Part 2: Working so far, but I don't hold out much hope. I think I should probably start picking my battles and just try to steer her towards Groovy Girls and away from Bratz.

Part 3: So far, so good.

Part 4: I feel utterly defeated. It is simply not possible to find real looking animals, mobiles, etc. Plus, I didn't realize that you wipe out fairies, gnomes, etc.

Ah well.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


It's funny because it's true.

Zurich Street Parade

Once a year Zurich goes WILD. I passed on taking Chase down into the madness; Brian braved the crowd to get these pictures for the blog.

Weekend Away: Klosters

We decided to spend the weekend in Klosters, a well-known ski resort close to Davos.

Recognizable to Britons as the favoured winter getaway of Prince Charles, Klosters sits about 9km northeast of Davos. Klosters is peaceful and quiet, with lovely dark-wood chalets and a village atmosphere.

Klosters is a destination in the Summer for hikers, bikers and outdoor types. There are magnificent vistas from cable cars and gorgeous Alpine hikes. We were lucky enough to be offered keys to a friend's place. The drive out was beautiful. We were so looking forward to a weekend away.

When we got there the clouds and rain set in (which is why half the pictures are in color and half are in black and white). We ended up only spending one night, as it was quite chilly and wet, wet, wet outside. We headed home a day early ...

Small mountain town:

View from the apartment:

Out on the town (we had about 15 mins between rain storms):