Come see me over at A Broad At Home
It’s over. The family just left for the opening weekend for ski season in Laax. I said goodbye to the Dad this morning, and my farewells to the kiddos and the Mom this afternoon. Surreal is the only way to describe it.
At this time last year I was a freshly minted college graduate and felt full of accomplishment and the desire to discover what was next. I was in high anticipation of what was to come in the following year.
One year. It felt like such a big chunk of time. I’d never been away from home for that long and wasn’t sure what to expect. But, like most everyone said it would, it went by in a second. No way does it feel like I’ve been gone for 11 months.
This past year was one of the most incredible in my life. I learned a tremendous amount about other people, little children, fluctuating patience levels, navigating public transportation, how to battle walking uphill in blowing snow, and most of all, myself.
In order to avoid falling into the sneaky trap of overwhelming you with clichés, I will wrap it up. What I know is that this year, this experience, was one chapter in the monster, can’t-put-it-down, page-turner book of my life. There is so much more waiting for me when I get home. I don’t know what the next year will look like, and I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but after the whirlwind of 2010 I know I am prepared to take on anything.
Until we meet again…
“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil
Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville
Not Pictured: Galway
There it is. Ten countries in eleven months. At least thirty cities within those countries. I may have had some really tough days in there, when I seriously questioned the sanity in choosing this job, but in the end, it was worth it. Absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at all I’ve done.
Today was my last au pair meeting. All my friends were there, including bottles Champagne and Orange Juice. It’s so sad to think about these meetings not being a part of my weekly life. This is where I’ve made most of my closest friends in der Schweiz. I come to these meetings to vent about the frustrations of this “job,” the annoyances of the kids and parents, to socialize with people older than 6 and less than 40. They were something to look forward to every week and I will miss them. But more importantly, I will miss the people who are there.
Dear Au Pairs,
You are amazing. You do the work of three people: yourself, the Mom, and the Dad. You raise children who are not your own, and adjust to a lifestyle that is completely different from the one in which you grew up. Battling tantrums, ironing underwear, playing imaginary games, and grinning and bearing it are a part of your daily life. If it wasn’t for you, well, their life would still be fine. Because you are a luxury. Unfortunately, you are not treated as so. The pay is that of a pauper, the respect is non-existent; you are actually looked down upon by many Swiss people, who cannot believe you would do the job of a servant. And for the most part, you are one in a long line of au pairs for the family. That is, you are disposable.
That being said, you have taken on the role of live-in help to help fuel your quest for world domination! Well, perhaps not domination, but certainly conquest. Because of this job can live in a centrally located, efficiently run country, giving you access to numerous countries in the continent. Some days your hardest task is wrestling a child into sports gear. This is not a brain-busting job. No deadlines, homework, exams, or progress reports. Your friends at home are envious of your carefree lifestyle, as they should be. You have the life. I salute you, child-rearing domestic worker. Your job is hard and trying and can sometimes make you want to set your hair on fire and run, screaming out of the house. But, this job comes with the ability to explore the world at your every whim. Take hold of the opportunity, and seize all those free hours you have. The time to leave comes all too quickly.
Because you might not get it from the family: I appreciate you.
All the best,
In my mission to check off any remaining “must-dos” on my list, today I went to Viadukt with my friend Nicole. Despite the brrrrrrone-chilling cold, we strolled down the sidewalk peeking in and stepping inside some of the stores. The Viadukts were created many a year ago to help expansion of the city. Now, SBB rails sit on top of the shopping center, continuing to shuttle patrons in and out of the city. Located in the Hardbrüke district, the area has a cool vibe and is a great place to spend the afternoon. Nicole and I popped in the shop on the very end of the line, Restaurant Markthalle. I had a delicious meal of wild boar in a ragout sauce over the creamiest, cheesiest polenta I’ve ever had. I’m not usually a big polenta fan, but this one will make anyone change their mind.
Plus, I had great company. Nicole is so much fun to be around. She ranks pretty high as someone who willingly spends her weekends with another au pair’s family, in order to help with a Scottish-themed party. Sounds pretty specific, and it is. I will be forever grateful for her help that weekend in Laax. I always have side cramps after being with her from all the laughter. Like I said, I’m really going to miss my friends. Such a great afternoon!
I love cheese. I always have. I must admit, however, that I didn’t have the most respectable start with this fine dairy product. See, I am one of those special brand of people that really likes radioactive cheese: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, American, Nacho. It’s not pretty.
As I’ve matured in age though, my palate as become more refined. I introduced such concepts as smoked, fresh, and even goat. Now I like to think of myself as a cheese-fanatic-addict. With every country I visit strive to sample some of the local flavor. This always involves trying various cheese. Need a snack? Grab a chunk of cheese! Hoping for good dreams? Think cheesy thoughts!
The choice of Switzerland had only part to do with the fact that this is a cheese-lovers paradise. Psych! It was actually a total chance circumstance that I moved here, but still. Being here has done wonders for my commitment to cheese. I feel this will be a lifelong affair.
Today as I was strolling through the Niederdorf after a glance through the Helmhaus Museum, one of my favorites, I happened upon a Raclette stand. Honestly, I was walking, the booth came in sight, and I was powerless against my feet. It was a gut reaction: See cheese, close in for the kill. Raclette is a Swiss tradition, one that I will most certainly enjoy. It’s a giant hunk o’ cheese that is warmed by a flame. The resulting melted gift from the gods is them poured over bread or potatoes. Each patron can decide how much Raclette seasoning to put on top and whether one wants pickles and/or sweet onions on the side. It’s amazing. Warm cheese over carbs? What the what?!
I waited 2.5 seconds for it to cool down and then I dug in. At first bite, an involuntary, “Mmmm” escaped my cheese-covered lips. Had anyone else been around, well, no, even then I wouldn’t have been embarrassed. It’s that good. All social-graces go out the window. Just focus on the food. I chose the potatoes and enjoyed my afternoon snack, while watching the shoppers stroll by. Certainly the perfect mid-day pick-up for a frigid day like today.
This past weekend I went to Laax with the family for the last time. As much as I would have liked to have my last weekend off, and be able to spend time with friends, I was happy to get to see this beautiful place one more time. As I walked through the woods on Saturday afternoon I couldn’t help but be in awe of the amazing natural beauty. I can’t believe I’m trading in these towering mountains, blossoming one after another into the distance, for the flat lands of Kansas. I’ve become so used to the scenery here, yet always astounded at how the warm winds of the föhn can make the mountains look as if they are sitting on your doorstep. As someone who is vehemently opposed to cold weather, I’ve come to appreciate the snow here and the way the giant wet flakes fall gracefully from the sky. Saturday afternoon was the perfect opportunity to absorb the view one last time before I make my way home this weekend.
The song today comes from mein älterer Bruder, Matt, who reminded me of this tune last week. Matt and I have a shared love (obsession) with Dave Matthews Band. We started going to concerts together when I was in high school and this year marks the first that we haven’t been to a show together. A “Christmas Song” is a gentle ballad about the arrival of Baby Jesus and the rest of his life on earth. Dave’s versatility is admirable. He can go from top-of-the-lungs tunes like, “Rhyme or Reason,” to the sexually suggestive, “Say Goodbye” while still maintaining his “Dave-ness.” A sweet song like “Christmas Song” is more than welcome and always helps to get me in the holiday spirit. And like Matt says, “in true Held fashion, it brings a tear to the eye, every time.”
Today is such a great day! Courtney graduated from college! Wow, a big timer. I can’t believe the time has come already. I am sad that I couldn’t be there to hoot and holler with the rest of my family. But, thanks to ever-increasing technology, I was able to watch her walk across the stage and receive all her honors and accolades via live streaming. Seven hours and over 5,000 miles can’t keep me from celebrating the awesomeness of this tremendous milestone.
Courtney, you are amazing. But, of course, you already know this. Why? I’ve told you a million times. Your talent and intellect never cease to amaze me. Your passion for knowledge and dedication to all you pursue are envied by scholars around the world (literally! you did all that work in Kenya…). I am impressed by all you have accomplished in four and a half years (double major and a minor, graduating with honors), not to be confused with our overly-smart big brother (four years, double major, just ask my dad, he’ll tell you). Anyway, I’m so proud of you. College was an incredible experience because we got to do it together. Most of my absolute favorite memories involve times with you. Here are a few for you (and everyone else) to savor:
- The day you joined ADPi, and as your new pledge class rounded the corner we ran screaming into each other’s arms, ecstatic to now be “sisters by choice.”
- Talking you through a traumatic boy-related issue your freshman year on the phone, all the while secretly making my way to your dorm so I could give you a giant hug and discuss and dissect the drama at length.
- Um, every football game. Ever.
- Living across the hall from you at ADPi, Old and New Sundeck. That is most likely my favorite semester of college. And you were just a heartbeat away.
- That ghetto date party when we were the Ying-Yang Twins. Well, that, and pretty much every date party.
- My 21st birthday followed shortly by your 21st day o’ birth. Epic nights to remember.*
- Friday afternoon lunch dates. I had just finished class and you were just heading off to your first. Still, the best way to end the school week and start the weekend. Totally true, I definitely miss those. Salsaritas, The Chef, Rock-a-Belly, So Long’s…
- The “last blizzard” before you gave up sweets for Lent. Best part was when you requested they added more peanut butter cup because you wouldn’t get another for a looooong time. Awesome.
- Just being able to call you up and see you when I wanted/needed. I’m so grateful we had this experience together.
In the past I have taken part in many “Secret Santa” gift exchanges: dance team, dance studio, ADPi pledge class, groups of friends, education organizations, you name it. I was a little bummed to be missing out on the tradition this year. Never fear, however, because Michelle had the great idea to do it within our au pair group. So eight of us got together and using Elfster, picked names and began shopping.
Last night was our exchange. It was originally designed to have an ugly sweater theme, but that proved a little difficult to find in everyone’s closet or in Zürich. So the limits were loosened and one was allowed to wear a Christmas sweater, bought or homemade. I stretched the boundaries a little more and did away with both the “ugly” and the “Christmas” part of the sweater description. Instead, I wore mom’s San Fransisco sweatshirt from over a decade ago. This sweatshirt has some spectacular illustrations on it, including the Golden Gate Bridge, anchors, a compass, and a sailboat. Maybe not festive, but definitely awesome.
We met at a beer hall inside the main train station (where else would you exchange holiday gifts??) and enjoyed trading gifts over some brews. Thankfully, Nicole is such a good sport and found humor in the “wrapping job” of the present I gave her. It was cleverly wrapped in a “Drinks of the World” shopping bag, with the handles tied in a bow to give a least a little flair. It’s the thought that counts, no?
Rachel was my Secret Santa and she gave me a most incredible gift. As a reader and fan of my blog (thank you!), she will be editing it and turning it into a book. I heard this was possible, but hadn’t looked into how to go about it. Thanks to Rachel I will have an amazing keepsake of my travels here this year. Thank you many times, Rachel!
Another special part of my day yesterday was visiting the store, A Cupcake Affair (read more about it here) in the Old Town. On Wednesday my friend, Anna, and I went looking for this store, searching high and low. We walked the Niederdorf three times and were out for well over an hour trying to find this confectionery. We had to give up and go our separate ways for the day, but I would not lose hope. That night I looked up how to get there, and turns out we were within 100 feet of the place numerous times throughout the day. Yesterday I finally went there and was not disappointed.
This little shop is run by a woman originally from Basel. Her store is unique, as little cakes like these are not traditional desserts for the area. It’s only been open for three weeks, but after chatting with the owner, it turns out business is doing really well. Her treats include specialties such as chocolate with raspberry frosting, a seasonal gingerbread, vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, and the one I had yesterday, vanilla cake with passion fruit frosting, aptly titled, “Casanova.” If you are looking for a sweet treat to help you re-energize after a long afternoon of shopping for presents, or just a way to unwind, I certainly recommend one of these little delicacies.
Monday to Friday: 11am to 7pm, Saturday: 10am to 5pm
Finally, a new holiday song to put you in good cheer. If you listen to the lyrics, they are not what you are used to hearing in a Christmas song. I like the melody, however, and I can’t resist a good Coldplay tune. Enjoy!
If I hadn’t been so productive this morning and early afternoon, I would have been a little mad at myself for piddling away so much time this afternoon. Earlier in the year I wouldn’t have felt this way, but now that my days are numbered (sounds a little morbid, no?) I’m trying to make the most of the time I have left. In any event, I came thisclose to finishing my Christmas shopping this afternoon, therefore I feel some mindless Interwebbing was in order.
This morning at the au pair gathering in the Coop, Michelle, Rebecca, Whitney and I were sharing some of our favorite “time-wasting” websites. FMyLife* kicked off the sharing, and we all agreed that many of the entries sound contrived or too absurd to be true. I know there are a lot of crummy situations, but come on, let’s get real. This one I thought was quite humorous though.
Another questionable site of this nature is LameBook. Again, some of the wall posts, photo uploads, and status updates can induce a full belly guffaw, but others seem so impossibly lame that only a bunch of teens sitting around a table chugging energy drinks could have dreamed them up. I passed this photo along to some of my friends this afternoon, although I’m not sure it provoked the same reaction in them as it did in me.
The next three sites were shared with me this afternoon by Rebecca and Michelle. When I got home this afternoon from a couple hours of power shopping I opened up my Facebook to find these gems on my wall. Knowing what was in store, I put on my favorite pair of tattered boxer-short jammies, curled up in bed with my laptop, and perused these sites, which then of course led to more sites, for too long. If you have some time (or don’t, and are looking for some decent procrastination material, give these “time-wasters” a glance and watch the afternoon disappear.
Below I included a couple of my favorites I stumbled upon whilst reading.
Before school, after dinner and every Saturday morning with cartoons – breakfast cereal was being consumed. To this day I still eat massive Jethro bowls of Fruit Loop but it’s simply not the same. The thrill is gone. Back then there was so much more to enjoy. You had the cheap a[zz] prize inside the box, the crossword puzzle or maze on the back of the box AND the sugary milk to drink afterward. I mean, I actually judged kids based on what type of cereal they ate because I believed that your breakfast defined you. If you were a Frosted Flakes eater, you were an athlete. Trix, you were a spazz. Lucky Charms you were artsy. Cocoa Puffs/Cookie Crisp you were persuasive because my parents refused to believe anything flavored chocolate was a healthy part of a complete breakfast. And if you ate Cornflakes or Shredded Wheat you were lame because honestly, that cereal is for when you’re old and have to eat bland foods due to diabetes.
I’ll take it from here.
Today, I went to the library. I was wandering in the Non-fiction movie section, when I saw The Matrix on the shelf. I’m worried. MLIA.
*Mom, in no way do I condone this type of offensive language.
Vienna, that is. This magical city is where I spent this last weekend, with two strapping travel companions. This is not the first trip I’ve taken with two dudes, though this was much shorter than Portugal. Despite being outnumbered, we really had a tipp topp super time.
Jill sent a extensive list of sights for us to see whilst in the city, which was sehr useful. With all the goodies on that list we would have been set for at least a month of “touristing,” but alas we only had two days. When Nick, Adam, and I arrived on Friday night we made it a point to get our rumbling tummies to a restaurant for some legitimate Wiener Schnitzel. We scooted over to a place Jill’s dad recommended, but unfortunately they stopped serving food 20 minutes prior. We hopped around the corner and fueled up at a Bierhof, stuffing ourselves with local brew, schnitzel, and potatoes. We were ready for the next day of traversing Vienna.
Invigorated by an impressively early start to the morning, we left our ho(s)tel and set out for more food. Jill name-dropped her favorite restaurant in the city, which happens to be a French joint, Le Bol. It was a super suggestion, and we were fully satisfied with our meal. Not to mention it was the perfect brunch haunt. If we hadn’t been kicked out for a reservation taking our table at 11, we could have stayed there for the rest of the day.
After grub we went out into the bitter cold. It was tremendously cold. I am fully aware I have a teeny tiny tolerance for cold, but this was absurd for anyone. Not only were there frigid temps to combat, there was also a generous layer of snow and slush on the ground from the previous day’s precipitation. It made for difficult walking around, but we managed to visit several sights throughout the day. St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the Rathaus, Graben & Kärtnerstrasse, Parliament, and the Kunsthistoriches and Naturhistoriches Museums were some of our stops. Naturally, we needed to spend some time at the extraordinary Christmas Markets, dispersed in various squares and streets. I managed to pick up a few gifts along the way.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was a most spectacular snack: käsekrainer. This delicious, artery-clogging treat was the perfect mid-day warm-up. A sausage filled with melted cheese? Served with a side of mustard? Accompanied by a little fork? Yes, please! I could have eaten many more of these, but didn’t want to embarrass the dudes.
Our trio finally had to wave the white flag and surrender to the cold. We headed back the hotel for a power(cat) nap before the concert. After a wee slumber we were revved up for the show. We met up with a Viennese gal who bought Jill’s ticket (tear emoticon) at the venue and headed in for the concert of our life!! Perhaps that is an exaggeration as we have all been to some pretty great gigs. But, to be honest, this one goes high on my list, simply because I have been waiting so long to see these fellas. But first, we had to suffer through the most horrendous opening band I have ever seen in my entire life (requisite dramatic moment of the post). I mean this. They were terrible. The lead singer actually had a fan in front of his face so his hair would blow back while he was singing in the mic. When he wasn’t enjoying the cool breeze he was swinging his arm like a maniac, pumping out power cords and jumping on one leg, while tucking the other one into his body. Honestly, it was embarrassing.
After that frightening display of musicianship it was time for the real deal. They came out with a bang, “Crawl,” and the show only got better from there. I think they must have sifted through my “Most Played” on my ipod and created the setlist from there (similar to the Band of Horses concert I saw in Cambridge). Favorites such as, “Fans,” “Closer,” “Knocked Up,” “Pyro,” “The End,” and “On Call,” melted my face off as they were performed. Kings of Leon are such outstanding performers. They bring an incredible energy to the show and look like they are genuinely having a good time. In one interview frontman, Caleb Followill, said that when they record a song they do it two or three times. After that, if one of the sound guys (super technical, I know) asks them to do it again they say, “Why? You’ve already got all you’re going to get. It’s not going to change any.” I like this so much about this group. They are what they are; no pretense. And that’s how their concert sounded: genuine, honest, and face-melting good.
- Arts and Crafts
- Care Package
- Dress Up
- Home Alone
- United Kingdom
- Working Out