Secret Santa

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!

Nicole, Rachel, Michelle, and Rebecca

Anna, Shelley, Me, Whitney, and Zoe

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.

Cupcake Affair
Spitalgasse 12
8001 Zürich
Switzerland
http://www.cupcake-affair.ch
+41.76.461.04.64
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!

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.

 

Happy Halloweeny!!

Yet another holiday comes and goes, with barely a passing glance.

I was unable to celebrate with friends this year as I am working this weekend in Laax. While the other au pairs were coming up with crafty costumes such as members of KISS and fireflies/bugs I was channeling the sullen teen within, pouting at my misfortune. So, rather than come up with a fancy dress of my own, I was left to think about how I celebrated in years past:

FRESHMAN YEAR

I took the outfit that I made for the drill team float senior year (Flinstones) and converted it into cave-woman. Madeline, who was my roommate at the time, was a soccer player.

SOPHOMORE YEAR

I ate too much candy during the day and got a stomach ache. I was too sick to dress up or go out to celebrate. One of my more pathetic moments.

So. Much. Candy.

JUNIOR YEAR

A last minute costume was thrown together by my roommate Abby, who had extra materials from her own costume. Thus, I became a Greek Goddess. When I got over to my friends’ house, Hannah dubbed me “Aphroteeny,” a portmanteau word from Aphrodite and Teeny, my most common nickname. It was a stellar holiday.

Madeline, Hannah, Kathryn, and myself

SENIOR YEAR

I was brainstorming with a bunch of guy friends about what to be for Halloween. Kevin said that I needed to involve my name, Teeny, since it was such a success the previous year. A few collaborations later and Teenyranasaurus-Rex was born. A dinosaur? Duh! This year we hosted a party at our house and it was madness, in the best way possible.

ROOOOOAAAAAARRRRRR!!!

Kevin, the masterMIND behind my costume. He's a brain. See what I did there?

Courtney was her usual self on a Friday night and Elizabeth was Hannah Montana, signing autographs all night.

Brent as a librarian. Priceless.

PeeWee Herman, a cowboy, two cops from Reno 911, and uno amigo. Or Matt, Pat, Harrison, Pearce, and Scott.

LAST YEAR

I actually stole my idea from one of my roommates senior year. She was going to be a bouquet but decided to be Bear in the Big Blue House instead. Thus, I snatched the idea for this year and went to Hobby Lobby to collect most of my costume. The interesting thing about this particular night is that it was the only time I have ever gotten a traffic violation. I made a right-hand turn on a red light (dang you, 75th and Mission!) and an officer, hiding in the bushes, pulled me over. As I sat in my sweet little costume, trying to be as nice and understanding as possible, I was sure there would be no penalty. Who gives a ticket to a girl dressed as a bunch of flowers? Well, this genius, apparently. I took my $110 ticket and met up with some ADPis on the plaza. Still a little ticked off about it…

I stopped by my brother's to visit two of my nephews, the Joker (Spencer) and Dracula (Jacob)

With Melissa, a gold-themed Cougar.

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

Busted!

Sharing chapstick is probably how I ended up sick

WANTED: One little girl, trolling around the house, most often found riffling through personal items, such as, but not limited to: purses, rucksacks, pockets, drawers, etc. She has curly, wild-baby hair, ice blue eyes, and answers to the moniker “Little Bean.” Will frequently be yelling for someone named, “Dia.”

Taz has been with his grandparents in Italy for the past week and doesn’t come home until Wednesday. This means that Little Bean and I have had a lot of bonding time. It also means that I have had the easiest week of all time. She sleeps until 9 or 9:30 and after that we sit around the house and play and go for walks. The other morning I brought her up to my room so I could switch out my glasses for contacts and I left her in my room while I went into my bathroom. When I came back the picture above is what I saw. She has a tendency to go through my things when left unattended. Like any little girl she loves playing with “big girl” things, which include my purses and shoes. There have been numerous occasions when I’ve found her running around downstairs in my shoes, carrying whatever bag I have left by the door. As of yet, she hasn’t taken anything out and permanently displaced it, so I feel fortunate.

On this particular day though she was so funny. She pulled out all the items of my bag and lined them up on the floor. She then proceeded to “use” each item; smearing my Burt’s Bees all over her face, opening my wallet, holding the cell phone up to her face, flipping through my German books, and wiping her nose with Kleenexes.

Little Bean itemizing the contents of my purse

Just last weekend I caught a pretty nasty cold. On Friday afternoon I was feeling more tired than usual and had that little scratch in the back of my throat that no amount of water can seem to erase. By Saturday morning it felt as though 45 little sledge hammers were working their way around the inside of my skull, paying special attention to my sinus region. Due to a steady pill-popping regimen I was able to get rid of the headache and accompanying fever, but the runny nose has persisted. I wonder when there will be a day when I don’t have to blow my nose. I will refrain from detailing you any more with the aspects of my illness, but I will say that kids are germ havens, so I’m not terribly surprised I got sick. If this is what LB is doing when I’m looking who knows what’s happening when I turn my back.

I mean, how can I even be mad at her?

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Being a boy with an older sister must make growing up kind of tough. Naturally, the older sister wants to take care of the younger sibling and encourage him to play her favorite games. Often times these games might include playing dress up and dancing. Rapunzel happens to be a straight-up Girly Girl. She loves all things princessy, flowery, pinky, and basically feminine. When I first arrived I thought this would not bode well for Taz. He would probably be coerced into being a ballerina with Rapunzel, waltzing and twirling around the house. Or perhaps they would be fairies spreading dust and magical powers throughout the rooms. And in fact, these are all things they routinely do. At first I felt bad for him. Surely he did not want this fate. But the more I have gotten to know him and play with him I’ve discovered he actually really likes it. And now that he and Little Bean have so much time to play with each other in the mornings he is encouraging her to do these activities as well.

There have been numerous mornings when I have found myself playing with two princesses and only one is actually a girl. Or, if I need the two wee ones have to come up to my room so I can get something, the first place Taz runs is my closet. He then commences to pull out all my shoes and put them on while dancing around. The best is when he has a dress on AND my shoes. He looks fantastic. I’ve already told you about his love for dancing. Just yesterday I walked up to my room in Laax and found him dancing to music coming from my computer. Turns out he’s figured out how to work itunes as well as the volume controls. He had pumped the music up and was throwing his body around in ways that would make any rhythmic dancer jealous. True to form he was in a lime green dress with a built in tutu and was wielding a wand. Today over lunch the Mom ran to get her camera so she could show me the dancing circus the kids had yesterday afternoon while I was out on a run. The vast majority of them were action shots of Taz bustin’ a move. The kid has skillz, there’s no denying it.