Happy Thanksgiving!

What? It’s not Thanksgiving?! I’m late again? Fair enough, but while you’re all sick of turkey and can’t think of eating poultry ever again, I indulged in the feast on Sunday and I must say it was wunderbare. I was invited to share in a Thanksgiving celebration hosted and attended by a few people Adam works with. I am so grateful to have been included in this family tradition. I tried not to think too much about what the holiday would be like at home, and instead enjoyed a new memory I made of eating fondue last Thursday, sufficiently stuffing myself with bread and cheese. And although I was sehr sad to have missed out on making my stuffing, I was so content on Thanksgiving and felt only the tiniest pang of homesickness.

Sunday’s lavish dinner came complete with a gigantour turkey, mashed potatoes, Indian-style green beans, stuffing, rolls, and gravy I could have taken a bath in (too far??). For dessert, there was a choice between pumpkin and pecan pie with ice cream or whipped cream. Really, it was the whole setup. The only thing slightly different were the people around the table. While I wasn’t related to anyone, and have known them all for less than a year, it was one of the few family-dinner experiences I’ve had in Switzerland– despite having lived with a Swiss family for a year. Of course, they are great people, but with every meal there is an expectation; it will be my duty to clear the table and clean up; I am still the employee. It was refreshing to feel like an equal in the group. There was just something in the air. The couple hosting and their two girls, and five other people gathered to celebrate a long-standing tradition. I could not have been more grateful to be surrounded by their company. This dinner reinforced how a family can be created from whomever. I’m so thankful for my family back home, and all the people I’ve met this year who have filled in for them while I’ve been away.

After the fantastic feast, we walked down Banhofstraße to see the Christmas lights. The twinkling, sparkling lights are perfect for bringing people into the holiday spirit.

 

Some of my friends and I on my birthday:

I’m so thankful for them!

UPDATE: I just ate a big plate of Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and now have no choice but to crawl into my bed for an afternoon nap. These are the realities of my life.

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Check It

I love music. This is obvious. If you can learn anything by the tag cloud on the side bar of this blog, it’s that I enjoy listening to, talking about, receiving and sharing music. Learning to write about music has been a bit of a toughy for me. How do I go about telling you a song is so good without sounding like, “Oh, it’s soooo good. I don’t know, it kinda sounds like, hmmm. Well, I don’t know what it sounds like, but it’s just so awesome.” You and I would become so annoyed with me that we would be forced to discontinue taking anything I ever said again seriously. With that being said, any time I write about a song or a band I give a lot of thought to what I’m saying because I want it to sound genuine and honest, and not like a twelve year old.

About two weeks ago I was approached via email by Jill’s friend, Jack, about writing a guest post for his music blog. I’ve been reading his blog for a while, ever since I got it from Jill’s (nb: when did I become a blogger?!?). It’s a fantastic read. Jack is an excellent writer and mixes up the perfect song share/photo essay/personal account for each post. I’m so impressed. So, when he asked if I would write something for his blog, I felt truly honored. And still do. It’s funny because right after reading the email the very first song that popped into my head is the one I ended up sharing. I mulled a few others over in my brain, but when it came down to making a decision, this was the obvious choice. When this tune comes on, I stop. Thoughts cease floating around in my head and I am involved with this song. I love that music has that capability.

Check out Jack’s blog and see what I had to say about “Mien” by Millionyoung. I think you’ll really enjoy reading so much of what he has to say.

Kitchen Sink

I happen to be a fan of collages, along with perforated edges and the sound of a can of pop being opened, so in the spirit of putting many things together to make one giant wonderpiece, here are a few things happening now.

  • The other day when I was doing a little harmless shopping on jcrew.com I came across a site on their Links We Love page, which I would remiss in not passing along. If you are having trouble finding a meaningful gift this year I encourage you to take a gander at Goods 4 Good. This site provides multiple ways for you to give back and follow in their motto, “making progress out of excess.” You can make monetary donations in honor of others with either paper or e-cards, find ways to give time and volunteer, and there’s even an option to donate extra or excessive supplies you may have in your office or workplace. Proceeds go to children and families in need all over the world. You donation will provide fabric for clothing, school supplies, hygience products and more. This is a great way to give this year.
  • Little Bean has been on a dress-up kick for a while now. For one week she would wear nothing but a fairy costume with wings. Imagining trying to stuff this outfit into a highchair three times a day. This morning she decided to be a prinzessin. This outfit allows her to prance about the house, dancing at her every whim. It does not stop her, however from picking her nose. Not very princess-like at all.

Tanzen

Check out the shoes, and which foot they're on...

  • In honor of my brother, Matt, who is an avid reader of this blog, I would like to share today’s Stuff White People Like. Matt, I couldn’t help but think of you this morning when I was greeted with this day’s unique interest of millions.
  • ROCK BAND: As you are probably well aware by now, the company of white people is not entertaining enough to sustain an entire evening. You need something extra to make it enjoyable, and white people are always finding new ways to avoid exposing how boring they are: wine, board games, and most recently, Rock Band. Rock Band is a video game that costs a lot of money and come with a fake guitar, fake drums, and a real microphone. White people then collectively look at a screen and do what it says in order to score points while singing a song. Not only does this create a much-needed diversion from talking, but it lets white people live out their fantasies of being in a band. In this situation, you should always offer to play bass. It’s the easiest and least showy.

Brother Starship Commander Matt and his beautiful wife, Courtney

  • As I’ve said before, snow has been showing up a lot lately, uninvited. As of Monday, and definitely last night, it is here to stay. I walked through the door last night at 12:45 a.m. ( I know! Cinderalla was past her curfew) and there was no precipitation and a modest amount of fluff on the ground. I woke up this morning to the sound of a shovel scraping the sidewalk. A quick glance out the window confirmed my suspicion that it snowed significantly last night: just over 4 inches. It hasn’t stopped since I woke up. As the forecast shows temperatures holding steady at a solid 2 degrees or under, I have a feeling this snow is here to stay.

View from my window. Why, yes! I do live in a pink house.

Schööööön

Snow, yo

  • Are we there yet?! Yes, this is the last piece of the collage. For today, that is. I recently acquired the Local Natives album, Gorilla Manor. I cannot stop listening to it. Don’t I say this about every new album I come in contact with? Yes, for the most part. This band has that astounding ability to be a good listen in almost any situation: riding on the train, walking around the city, background soundtrack as I clean my room or fold laundry, ambient sound for the kiddos while they play. This group is the jack of all trades. I highly encourage you to give them a listen. Again I couldn’t decide which single song to share. So here’s a twofer.

 

The Time is Drawing Nigh

Today is my ten month anniversary of living in der Schweiz. I cannot believe it has been that long. Honestly, it is not to be believed.

When I think back to where this year has gone and the places I’ve gone with it, I am shocked at all I have accomplished. It simultaneously feels like it’s flown by and yet moved with the rapidity of snow melting in January. How did I squeeze so much adventure into such a small amount of time? Or, how have I managed to go this long without seeing my friends and family on a regular basis? I view these opposing evaluations of the past ten months almost equally, though I tend to favor the zoomed-past-me-and-was-over-before-you-know viewpoint. It looks a little like:

  • Before coming: Romanticized view of what it’s like to be an au pair. The children won’t cry, because when did they do that when I babysat? Rarely. (Psych!) The kids and I will sit around playing intelligent games and enjoying witty repartee and quips… in German. (Bahahahahah) The family and I will become fast friends and I will enjoy lounging around the house, chatting about mutual interests. (Mmm…no) I will attack the continent of Europe and explore every city imaginable. (yes, Yes, YES!)
  • First month: Excitment! Wowza, I live in a foreign country! The mountains are everywhere! The snow is waaaaay more gorgeous in Switzerland! If I thought I liked cheese before… The beautiful picture the family painted of their life, and then discovering the one that actually exists. Wait, I just sit and play for five hours a day? That’s it?
  • Next two months: Homesickness, especially missing my friends. Relearning how to make friends at the au pair meetings in town. Uncertainty pertaining to my sanity when choosing this job and all that it in entails. Overwhelming frustration with Little Bean as she screams bloody-murder any time I come near her. An exciting, new appreciation for skiing. Planning and participating in a trip to Spain (ya Jillatinous!) and realizing that I can easily make a life for myself here that doesn’t have to involve children.
  • Next several months: Reached a “comfort level” with the family. The job has lost all appeal and I completely comprehend the difficulty of living with and caring for other people’s children. Establishing said “personal life” and truly appreciating how amazing it is to live in this city, in this country, on this side of the world, as an expat.
  • Last two/half months: Sadness at the departure of several important friends. This loss exacerbated my irritation with the job as I felt I was losing some of the things that were keeping me above water. Pervasive sense of “how the h-e-double hockey stick am I going to do this gig for x more months.” Gratefulness that new au pairs started coming, and happiness that I really enjoy them and have such a great time hanging out with them. Continue to establish meaning here in the city, as well as explore and get to know more of Europe.
  • Now (Beware, things get HONEST): Extreme excitement when thinking about seeing friends, holding and embracing them like the sweet, integral parts of my life that they are. A rumbly stomach just imagining all the food establishments I am going assail upon arrival (Blue Bird Bistro, Lulu’s Noodles, Okie Joe’s, Jack Stack, Foo’s Frozen Custard, Latte Land, Blanc…). Ecstatic joy imagining never having to take orders from the Mom. Ever. Again. Heartbreak at leaving this beautiful, centrally located country. A feeling of trepidation returning to a country that even my dad says, “is in really bad shape. Things are not good here, especially in the job market.” Reluctance at having to put a halt to traveling at a moment’s notice: no more zipping to Paris for the weekend, no trips to any city in Switzerland in less than 4 hours, no skiing in the Alps, forget about laying on the beaches in Portugal, wine tastings? not likely. A small amount of worry when thinking about transitioning to life in America–whatever that means. Sadness at having to leave behind this life I have created for myself and the people who are incredibly important to me.

Everyone has asked me recently, “Are you SO excited to go home?” Of course, I am looking forward to going home. Please don’t get me wrong. As I said, I want to see my friends so badly it makes my heart ache a wee bit every time I think of it. On my birthday, Monday, I was choking up reading the emails and messages I received from friends and family back home. I know it’s only been ten months, but it’s difficult. Sometimes I want to send Elizabeth a BBM telling her how awesome the risotto I just made was. I want to call Madeline and tell her how out-of-control, road-rage-mad I am at some people on the road who clearly haven’t learned to drive in the snow. I want Stephanie to text me and tell me where she’s going out tonight because I know, no matter what, it will more than likely be a good time. The reunions will be tremendous. I know this. But, still, in the end, I have loved so much of these last ten months and will be sad to see this world-wise, travel-saturated year go.

 

Oh yes, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADAM!!

I really like this picture.

Weekend o’ Birth (or C’est Magnifique!)

Jealous right? You have one measly day to celebrate while I’m claiming an entire weekend. Well, in this case, I think you will understand why I feel I am entitled to this extra-large birthday time. The celebration started at 2:00 on Friday afternoon…

But, prior to that I had to get through one little challenge–the GRE. Thursday night and Friday morning I was psyching myself up and giving myself encouraging pep talks. “You can do this!” “You will OWN the GRE” “Exams ain’t got nothin’ on you!” OK, so my internal dialogue is a little informal. I concede. Anyway, by the time I arrived at the testing center at 8:00 I was ready to Attack and Destroy the test. Registration was scheduled for 8:30, with the exam to begin at 9:00. 8:30 comes and goes without an administrator. Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty-five minutes, an hour, nothing. No one comes to administer the exam. Finally, a girl more likely dressed for a night of clubbing than a day at school comes to the examinees’ rescue. She contacts the administrator and find out that he is “stuck in a traffic jam,” which I think is French for “overslept.” Two hours after the initial sign-in time, the young, disheveled man shows up. I lost a little bit of focus and some of my pep talk was misplaced in worrying about the rest of the day’s schedule. Ultimately, I took the test, and it’s over. And, I’m pleased.

Post-test I made my way back to the hotel in a haze of brain fatigue and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. I was so happy to have finished the GRE and be on my way to Paris. I picked up Adam at the hotel and we exchanged our tickets for the train we had missed due to the administrator’s faulty alarm clock or late night of klubbing. A little while later we boarded our train and were on our way. What could make a train ride to Paris better? What makes everything better? Champagne!! I love champagne, just about as much as I love the Matterhorn. And this bubbly was perfect. When we arrived at the train station, we (he, for the most part) worked the Metro like the back of our (his) hand and made our way to Montmarte, where we were staying that night. Our restaurant for dinner was a couple blocks from the hotel so we stopped there first. At Chez Toinette, we indulged in one of the best French meals of my existence (whoa! bold statement). Veal tartine, lamb shank that fell apart when I looked at it, crusty french bread, all washed down with a delicious bottle of wine.

And that’s about what the rest of the weekend looked like. Tumbling through the streets, eating amazing food, and drinking champagne and wine until we burst. It was perfect. We walked around and saw sights, but didn’t push ourselves. We’ve both been before and seen many “touristy” things, so we could cut a few out. We walked around Montmarte and saw the artists hard at work, painting and peddling. Making our way up the hill, we arrived at Sacré Coeur. The day, beautiful, warm, and sunny was perfect for walking to the top and taking in the breathtaking city.

Taking it easy at the top of Sacre Coeur

Gargoyle eating a car

From the hill, we ambled to the other side of the Seine to the next hotel, at the base of Saint Sulpice. After absorbing the magnificence of this hotel we went to Notre Dame. What an amazing cathedral. I kept peering in corners and glancing into alcoves, hoping to see that sexy Hunchback, but he remained as elusive as ever. More French food, wine, and atmosphere completed the night.

Street art. Some people call it graffiti?

View of Saint Sulpice from the hotel room. What's that in my hand? Yes, more champagne.

Sunday is for culture. Fueled up on breakfast, Adam and I took to the streets on a rainy and chilly afternoon. The Museum d’Orsay was our destination and the art in this remodeled train station was outstanding. While I’ve always enjoyed looking at art and visiting museums, I have gained much more appreciation over this year. Museum d’Orsay is heavily influenced by French artists and it was wonderful to see the extensive collection of Impressionist paintings, sculptures, and architecture throughout. A pleasant couple of hours were spent strolling through the rooms.

Dinner for the train ride home. In case you wondered, the goat cheese is wrapped in a leaf. How quaint.

And so, all good things must come to an end. Now do you see why it was a birthday weekend and not just a day? Oh, and did I mention we were celebrating not one birthday, but two? Adam’s is on Wednesday so we had zwei mal the birthday fun. I had the absolute best time. It was different to not be able to spend the day with family and friends from home, but this was an incredible way to share it. Danke viel, viel mal, my trusty travel companion.

This Weekend is Going to be GREat!

I can’t believe it’s already here. Tomorrow I take the GRE. How did this come so quickly? I feel as though just last week I was sifting through testing dates and deciding whether or not to pull the trigger. Alas, the time has come.

I’m definitely nervous. Not in the I-never-cracked-open-a-study-guide-or-took-a-practice-test sort of way. Rather I feel this is a big deal and I really want to do my best. I think a little bit of pressure is right for this sort of occasion. I feel prepared, though. I read through the monster-size study guide, I took the practice tests. I made vocabulary flash cards, and I went through the flash cards on just about every train ride to and from town. Obviously it’s impossible to memorize everything that might show up on the exam, but I made a valiant effort to reteach myself some math concepts I haven’t visited in about, oh let’s say, four years. For as many words that I just can’t seem to retain in my brain, I have memorized and held on to just as many. While impugn and I just aren’t going to have that kind of relationship, pusillanimous and I are sticking together.

Anyway, tomorrow is the big day, so send intelligent thoughts my way! I’ll report back on Monday.

Why must you wait until Monday? Well, immediately following the test I am boarding a train with my trusty travel companion and we are making our way to Paris for the weekend. What a perfect way to unwind after a couple months of stress preparing for the GRE. And, if my birthday happens to fall on Monday the 22nd, then so be it. Scooting off to Paris to celebrate my birthday? How did I get this life?

“With our legs on the edge, and our feet on the horizon”

Two concerts in a row? How did I get so lucky? And could these concerts have been more different? It’s a negative for the last one.

Last night I attended the Beach House concert at the über-trendy klub, Kauflauten. I was introduced to this band earlier in the year and the album Teen Dream will eternally remind me of summer. Albums have a tendency to do that for me; whenever I get one that I really enjoy, I listen to it like a little girl wears a new pair of shoes: constantly. The album then takes on the season in which I have inhaled it. For Teen Dream it was summer. Cue images of laying by Zürich Lake, swimming at the badi, walking down the streets of the Niederdorf, or taking in the hills of my village.

The performance last night ranks as one of the most solid gigs I’ve seen in quite some time. Although we arrived 20 minutes into the set (dang you, working dinner time on Tuesdays!!), I enjoyed every bit of what we were able to see. It’s impossible to do it justice, but I will attempt to describe the lead singer, Victoria’s, voice as heard live: rich, deep, soulful, some guys say sexy… filling, and warm enough to wrap around your shoulders. I’m hesitant to say she sounds better live. But her voice is so honest and genuine that it comes across incredibly when heard live.

Beach House blended old songs with new, created an almost soporific (in the best way possible) atmosphere, and even managed to incorporate the biggest disco ball I’ve ever seen. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that you can head-bang to these tunes. Victoria was throwing her head around like a maniac at some points, almost enough to rival Ratatat from the previous night. And the hair? Insanity! I wish I could have found some videos of her tossing that mane about.

I couldn’t decide which song I wanted to share, so I decided on two, tipp-topp quality tunes. Enjoy!