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.

 

So Much to Share!

This past weekend I ventured to the southern part of Switzerland to visit Zermatt and the much-famed Matterhorn. It was, no exaggeration, the most awesome (in the true sense of the word, inspiring awe) sight I have ever seen. Truly amazing. I will tell you all about more when I get some pictures from my partner in crime who came with me. He takes impeccable photos and I want to be able to post them here. OK, maybe just one little taste…

Ahh, Magnificence.

In the meantime, there are so many things I want to share with you. There’s really no cohesiveness to the bunch, so I figure I will just list them out. Make of it what you will.

  • Stumbled across a blog this morning while reading yet another blog. Dear Ex Girlfriend is dedicated to cathartics. Th author can write either incriminating and damning or apologetic and pining notes to girls from his past. I thought it was such a funny concept and after reading the two that are posted, the man proves to be a wee bit heartbroken, yet comical and lighthearted. A perfect middle-of-the-day, take-your-mind-off-of-things read.
  • Honestly, I should be hired to do publicity and marketing for Stuff White People Like. I feel like I am sharing samples from it all the time. This morning’s agenda is a perfect example of a tiny piece of my life. If I didn’t know it before I am convinced now, I work for White People.
  • NANNIES

    When Hilary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child, she wasn’t kidding. She was talking about white children and she didn’t mean that it takes a full society to properly raise a child. She was actually talking about a small village in the Philippines* that produces the finest nannies in the world.

    Obviously, the presence of a nanny allows a white parent to return to work. But white people will still hire nannies even if one parent stays home.** This then enables the parent to focus on art, writing, or their consulting business. It also helps them avoid dealing with any gross things produced by the child, such as diaper messes or the aftermath of macaroni art.

    If you want to make a white person feel bad, just tell them that your mother was a nanny to a white family and that you are glad that at least one of you could have a happy childhood and a mom with a career.

    *or maybe the United States

    **unfortunately, true

  • Little Bean is slowly learning to potty-train (see above quotation). A pink, plastic, mini-potty has been sitting in the downstairs bathroom since my arrival. Perhaps just looking at it will inspire LB to whip off her diaper and give it a go. The grandma was encouraging her to give it a “go” (so to speak) this morning. LB removed everything from the waist down and first walked around the first floor, enjoying her new-found freedom. She then made her way on the teeny toilet and began to contemplate. Sensing something wasn’t right, she jumped up and ran out to the cabinet to find the keystone to the WC situation. She ran back into the bathroom and resumed her seat; sitting on her lap was a picture book. She crossed her legs and began flipping pages in her little book. I couldn’t help but explode with laughter at the sight. Apparently she’s inferred a thing or two based on the stacks of magazines left in there by the parents…
  • I went running on the treadmill this afternoon and this song came on my ipod. I had just created a new playlist for working out, aka mutating into a sweat monster. “Fader” came on and I was surprised to find how perfect it is for running and throwing around weights. There’s not much to say, other than I think it’s super upbeat and worth listening to while jogging, walking down the street, or doing as I later did: playing it through your speakers and dancing around your room like the dance machine you are born to be…with the curtains open.

Just Dance

Kids go through phases of entertainment. I remember some of my own growing up. For the most part, we skipped the Barney phase and went straight to getting hooked on the show “Zoom.” This was a program that was educational in nature disguised as fun using song and dance routines. Science experiments were accompanied by techno beats and a little fist pumping. Nothing gets you jazzed for science like break-dancing.

These kids make learning fun!

Pogs were another favorite pastime of mine. What are these things anyway? Does anyone know? As far as I’m concerned the goal was to accumulate as many of these colored cardboard discs and shove them into capped tubes. Some might have been called “Slammers” but I don’t remember them having any more power in the nonexistent game.

Look at this stash-- the envy of every adolosecent.

Skip-It was the game du jour in our neighborhood. If you didn’t have one of these ankle-breakers you could consider yourself shunned. Poor Jill didn’t have one of these growing up and she’s still sour about it. I can totally understand. This game was, like, tOtAlLy kewl.

I can only dream of being as sassy as this girl in her denim vest.

Currently the kiddos are going through a party-music-dance phase. A CD player follows us everywhere in the house. I feel like one of those old-school rappers with an over-sized music-maker resting on my shoulder. Hook me up with a Tall Tee, low-slung jeans, and a chain or two and I’m set. The CD on constant rotation is “Bravo,” a take on the popular NOW CDs in the States. Currently filtering through the unfortunately acoustically-unstable house is “Shut Up” by the Black Eyed Peas; before that was “Toxic” by Britney Spears. If ever there was inspirational music for minors, this is it.

The moves they were busting last night deserved awards. These kids know how to groove. Thankfully, the way they gyrate their little figures stays waaaaay over on the “G” rated side of the spectrum. Otherwise we might need to talk about respecting our bodies. Speaking of which, Little Bean favors a twirling-while-simultaneously-raising-arms-overhead move that would bode well for her during a Lord of the Dance audition. Taz, on the other hand, really works the stomping-foot-on-ground tribal feel. I’m actually impressed with their creative genius.

I really just have a problem with the lyrics of the songs. But, I can’t seem to get them away from this disc. And the parents are fine with it. Right now, I just heard the lyrics, “Come on girl, come caress my body.” I’m blushing just listening to this. Last night we were all sitting around listening to a stirring version of “Milkshake” by the lyrical mastermind, Kelis. Taz turns to me and says, “I don’t understand this song.” My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard/And they’re like/It’s better than yours/Damn right, it’s better than yours/ I can teach you/But I have to charge. I ponder for a few minutes about whether or not to tell him how paying for someone rendering services can quickly become a slippery slope if one isn’t careful, when he jumps up off the ground and begins to throw his body around with reckless abandon. Best to let the naiveté live a little longer.

So Fresh

I haven’t been feeling top-notch these last few days as I was hit hard with whatever sickness is floating around the two-year-olds in this community. A stuffy nose, queasy tummy, pounding head, and feeling of total exhaustion are my symptoms. Sounds like fun, no? I’ve been back in bed these last few days, resting as much as possible to restore my poor self back to health. I just can’t seem to catch a break. I’ve got a big weekend ahead of me– all three kids, by myself. Yes, the stories will run rampant.

Hot off the cutting room floor! My friend Adam has a “Burst” setting on his camera, which allows him to take several pictures in rapid-fire succession. To say we took advantage of this setting in Portugal would be an understatement. Before going out to dinner on our second night, Allie, Phil, Adam, and I made a dance party in the living room of our apartment and put his camera to the test. Adam then made a video showcasing the righteous photos that were taken. The background song is the one I chose to get my groove on–we each could choose a tune to inspire greatness. It’s impossible not to move your hips while you listen. Just sitting here in bed typing this I can hardly contain myself. Enjoy watching us bust a move! (Be sure to watch it in Full HD 720p for highest quality awesome).

Song: “Baby I’m Yours” by BreakBot

It’s ALIVE!!

Phew! I can’t believe my personal game of Cruising the Continent has finally come to an end. I remember sitting down in May with the Mom and planning the calender through today. As we put our planners away I thought, Self, this summer is going to fly by and all the sudden it will be mid-August. And here we are. I’m not sure where to start as there is simply so much to cover. Chronological order has worked for me in the past so I suppose that is the route I will take. How does one compress the past four weeks? I figure pictures will do the job better than even my master wordsmith-ing could.

IRELAND & SCOTLAND

I anticipated this week for a couple months. I can’t fully explain how excited I was to see my family. It had been six months since I last hugged dad and although I adore our regular Skype sessions, there’s nothing like a big bear hug from him. I last saw mom in March, but again, I just wanted to give her a hug and have her call me her “Angel Bunny.” Of course, I always enjoy hanging out with Matt and Courtney and it was so great seeing them as well. We were long overdue for a dinner triple date. They put together a stellar holiday and it was so nice to just sit back and experience what they had in store. Ireland and Scotland are rife with history and stories. I loved seeing the new countries and, guiltily, hearing my Muttersprache was an excellent change of pace. Overall, it was exactly what I wanted: a chance to put some distance between the host family and I for a bit and, forgive me for the blatant cliché, “recharge my batteries.”

After discovering the art of Guinness brewing. Who knew I loved it so much?

Location of a tradition High Tea we had in Belfast

Edinburgh Castle; pretty major.

Dad, Mom, and I in front of Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh. Dad and I climbed them the next morning.

Sir Walter Scott Monument that Matt, Dad and I climbed up. Over 200 steps if you were wondering.

Dad and I in the largest private collection of Whiskey in the world--over 3,000 bottles.

LAKE NEUCHÂTEL

High on a week spent with my family, I boarded a train bound for the western part of Switzerland. The family has a holiday home on the lake that was built by the Dad’s grandfather. In previous discussions, this location, which I never been to prior, was referred to as a châlet. Now, I have never taken French, but if I am to use any deducing skills based on what I saw I would have to presume that this translates roughly as “camp cabin.” The house was hardly larger than my room here at the house. When someone walked in the hallway-width kitchen, I could feel it in my room located on the opposite corner. But it wasn’t the indoors that mattered so much, as the outdoors were simply too good to be true. This is what a lake should be like. Before you go defending the Lake of the Ozarks scroll down a bit and see for yourself as that public toilet bowl has nothing on this lac. The two weeks I spent here were some of the most relaxing I’d had in quite some time. We laid around in lounger chairs, took baths in the lake, lazed about, and life generally felt much slower. It hardly felt like work. I also had a lot of time to go running. I averaged about 3-5 miles a day and loved having some new territory to explore. Each afternoon the parents would ask where I had been running that day and I was lucky enough to tell them a new route almost every time. I was cutting through fields, running along the highway, and jaunting down the marina. In some languages I think this type of running might be called “trespassing” but I prefer to write it off as “exploring.” True to fashion the Dad thought of some ingenuous adventure I could take. One morning he asked if I wanted to take the bike out for a spin. Oh that contraption hanging on the side of the house? Yes, I thought that might be fun to cruise around on. The words were barely out of my mouth before he had it down on the ground, tires pumped up, seat adjusted. No turning back. I wasn’t sure where to take it, but thankfully the Dad had the perfect place. I kid you not, these were the directions he gave me: “When you get to the roundabout by the post office take the road on the right and go uphill. You will go for a while and then take a left. After that you should take a right. Then go some more and at some point take a left and then there will be a right some time after that. Then just keep going and you will be there.” Riiiiight. So I set out with my rudimentary directions and the spirit of adventure. Turns out, it was a great ride. I almost forgot how much I enjoy pedaling around. The bike only had one operable gear so no matter the incline I had to pedal with the same ferocity. This made for some comical huffing and puffing as  I made my way up the first, and only, steep hill. When I got to Estavayer I found that I had covered 13 kilometers. Not bad for an amateur. The way home was without incident and it was the perfect day for a ride. All in all, it was a great holiday with the family and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend time relaxing such a beautiful location.

View of the lake from the front porch

Another view from the front porch

Final Destination of my bike excursion

The kiddos watching a movie in bed. One of the quieter moments.

PORTUGAL

After three weeks of holiday one might presume I would be burnt out on travel. But one would be WRONG. I was beyond ready for this trip to Portugal for many reasons, one being that I had not taken a trip with friends since Italy in May and I was ready to macht a holiday with others. Another au pair, Allie, went on Friday and my friends Adam, Phil, and I met her on Saturday in Lisbon. For the next couple of days the four of us cruised the (mostly uphill) streets and took great advantage of the thriving after-hours scene. The lifestyle demands a late dinner, which usually didn’t start until 9:00 or 10:00. We were treated to many a great meal including a memorable steak with peppercorn sauce (Phil’s) and slow-roasted pork cheeks (mine). After a pre-dinner ritual of drinking local wines in our apartment and snacking on cheese picked out by our own cheese monger (Adam) we headed out to take on the night. This usually consisted of us finding a bar (or three), picking up some drinks, and dancing like maniacs. Besides the castle and, oddly enough, the Oceanarium, we didn’t see too many sights, but needless to say we enjoyed the nightlife enough to make up for whatever we passed by during the day. Unfortunately, Allie had to come back to Zürich so Adam, Phil, and I stole a rental car and made a run for the southern coast. OK, so we didn’t steal it, but we definitely headed down the coast and made our way to a little beach town, Porches. We spent the following four days tripping along beaches and soaking up as much vitamin D as possible. At the beach closest to our apartment the guys decided to follow in the footsteps of some local youth and cliff jump. After extensive research and mathematical equations it was determined that their jump was approximately 60 feet. Pretty impressive if I do say so. Their level of manhood jumped about at an equal distance in my eyes as well. The nightlife was considerably more quiet and we contented ourselves to sit in the apartment, drink more local wine and play cards. We ended the week with a bang by venturing to the nearest “big” town and cruised up and down the streets with a couple with befriended that same night at Albufeira’s finest kebab shop. Somehow karaoke got mixed into the night and although I made a tremendous fool of myself, it was still great fun. In the end it was a great holiday, filled with good company, food, drinks, and memories. It was the perfect end to a string of holidays and prepared me to settle back into the routine of work.

Lisbon crew: Allie, Phil, Adam, and myself, tearing up the streets.

Cool "wall-art" outside our apartment

Beach platz for the afternoon

This is the cliff off of which the dudes jumped. Yikes!

Sunset on the beach

A Photo Essay

I’m not a “I won’t believe it til I see it” sort of a person, but I think it’s important that I present as much evidence as possible. Perhaps you remember the time I told you about my little dancing princesses? And, how although I have one boy and two girls to look after, there are often three tiny fairies running around? Well, here are some action shots from this weekend in Laax.

Little Bean Fairy

Post spin move

Wings of Love
Up Close and Personal

Now for the real gems

Don’t be fooled by his expression–he is really enjoying himself

Someday, when he is about 16 and bringing home his first girlfriend, this picture will come in handy

Strike a Pose

The Queen of the Fairies

Happy Independence Day!

Zürich promised a good weekend and it certainly delivered. Zürifäscht was a b-last and a great stand-in for a 4th of July celebration. On Friday afternoon I headed down to Badi Utoquai (a bathhouse that sits on the lake) with some friends to find reprieve from the the seemingly incessant heat. Now I would much rather be hot than cold and when it comes to winter, especially the worst month ever, Ferbruary, I can be quite a baby about it. But, with the distinct lake of air conditioning just about everywhere it’s almost impossible to feel completely cooled off. So, naturally a dunk in the lake was exactly what was in order. After Kaitlin joined the crew we headed back to meet with more friends and commence celebration. That evening we saddled up at a bar along the lake and tuned in for World Cup viewing. After the game we walked around the hundreds of stalls lining the streets and river and took in all the visual stimuli, which culminated with a tremendous fireworks extravaganza. The fireworks were timed with music and made the show even more exciting. I expected nothing less from the Swiss and will have a hard time going back to the displays at the Four Seasons, sorry Lake Ozark.

Aerial shot of the Women's Badi

Saturday delivered even more heat, so it was back to the Badi for the afternoon. Six of us found a platz on the one of the docks and proceeded to vacillate between the dock and the high dive for the afternoon. After unwinding and preparing for the evening, we headed back out to the streets to find some grub. The most difficult part of this task was deciding what would be the most delicious. I settled on a giant hunk of pig that we saw roasting over flames earlier in the day. It was out-of-control good. There is something so right about street food. We walked, ate and took in more of the sights until the Fireworks Extravaganza pt. 2 took place. The funniest part about it was the 10 minute introduction before the show. Both a woman and man come on over the loud speaker to detail the next 20 minutes’ proceedings. Obviously it was in German but mostly went to the tune of, “We are about to share with you something that will both please and delight you. Enjoy.” At the risk of making a gross generalization, it is very typical of the Swiss to prepare you for something only moments beforehand. Heaven forbid we be taken off guard by explosives in the sky. Immediately following the show our gang proceeded to start the Greatest Dance Part of all Zürifäscht. 60s, 70s, and 80s hits dominated the Rivella tent and no one could stop the fever that was burning inside us. Jill and Phil started the party, and at one point entertained the entire tent with a lip-syncing musical snack to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” which obviously we were in the midst of having. At one point I found myself at the head of a Conga line that snaked throughout the space and had a significant number of participants. Two and a half hours later and my dogs were barkin’! It was time to call it quits, at an impressive 3 a.m. Although it wasn’t a typical 4th of July day/weekend it was definitely a holiday weekend that will go down as one of my favorites. It was another one of the those moments that remind me why I came over here in the first place. Times like this weekend make all the days that grind my gears worth it.

The six greatest dancers in all the land--Allie, Kaitlin, Phil, Jill, Me, Adam