All Across the Land



Lac Neuchâtel


Photo courtesy of Adam



Rhine Falls


My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil





Cinque Terre



Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville








Not Pictured: Galway








Photo Courtesy of Adam



Photo courtesy of Adam











Photo courtesy of Adam





Photo courtesy of Adam

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.


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
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!

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.

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.

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:


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Tearing Up Zürich and Istancool

I’m warning you now, this post is excessively long. You might have to take a breather halfway through.

As I’ve stated an over-abundance of times, I was looking forward to Courtney’s arrival since, oh, about February. I was so eager to seeing her, catch up, and speak in 25% movie quotes, 30% inside jokes, 25% song, and 20% normal conversation (really only for the benefit of others). Needless to say I was a bit hyper-aware on Monday morning before her arrival, just out-of-my-mind-excited to see her. I’m pretty sure I was pacing at one point.

Courtney and I sitting by the Limmat River

Monday was an easy day as Courtney was still a little sleepy from her travels. After an afternoon nap and a quick shower we headed back into town to check out Zürich. Both of us had prepared for a week of celebrating with food and drink. We were equally prepared to (over)indulge in some of the best foods and spirits (though, I assure you, not to excess [Mom and Dad]). Court and I grabbed a kebab at my favorite joint in the Niederdorf and walked down the Limmat River taking in the charm of the city. The rest of the afternoon and evening was filled with delicious wine at the Jules Verne Panorama Bar, a yummy vegetarian (as if she is still doing that whole thing…) dinner at Hiltl, and drinks at Rimini. The latter is one of my favorite places to go and is normally a men’s bathhouse during the warmer days. At night it turns into a trendy hangout. As it’s become much cooler they covered the outdoor deck with a large canopy, rugs, old velvet couches, antique artifacts, and a startling amount of “stuffed” animals. It basically looks like the coolest, blast-from-the-past, grandparents home. EVER.

Mmmmm, liquid diet.

Tuesday was another relatively low-key day. We slept in, a far too infrequent indulgence for me, and generally lazed (yes, I made up that word) about the house. I rarely have the opportunity to hang at the house without the family there and enjoy some tranquility, so it was great to have a long breakfast without having to worry about anyone else. And if I wanted to watch episodes Sex and the City while I sipped my coffee, then so be it. After a lunch here in my village we made our way back to Zürich, but not without a little exercise first. Naturally we were running a bit late and really wanted to catch the train leaving at 40 past the hour. In order to make said train we had to run uphill. No way was I going to let Courtney get out of here without experiencing my almost-weekly routine of cutting it close. With the backpack (for Istanbul) shifting from side-to-side as I hauled my body uphill, Courtney and I skidded into the station just in time to buy a ticket and hop on the zug. Of course we had a shiny, glistening glow to accompany us all the way in. Once we arrived in town we headed to the Kunsthaus Museum to ponder art, basically get all cultured and stuff. Afterward it was more shopping and checking out some of my favorite spots. We then headed with Adam and my friend Andrew, who moved back to the States on Wednesday, to one of my favorite eateries, Lily’s. Asian noodles coated our bellies before we scooted over to Les Halles for a beer. Following with the pattern, this is one of my favorite bars; eclectic, warm, and best of all, cheap.

Wednesday we were Turkey bound! I was so excited to see Jill. I have really missed having her here and I was eager to catch up and hang out. Courtney and I wandered a little this day but the best part was going out for mezze that night for dinner. These are side dishes accompanied by a plentiful amount of bread. Yum yum yum.

The Istaklal, a crazy-busy street in Istanbul

Courtney and I at our first dinner in Istanbul

Fooooooood. A man at a nearby table asked if I was American, because who else would take pictures of their food?

Thursday we hit it hard. Despite the persistent rain and modicum of confusion with the public transport, we arrived in the Old Town to check out some historic sites. We started at the Blue Mosque, which was my first mosque experience. After removing our shoes we headed inside to check out this magnificent structure. The inside tiles are simply stunning, as is the hovering dome. The low-hanging lights create a warm interior and the overall effect is that of a serene place of worship. We crossed the outdoor gardens to AyaSofya, another impressive and mind-numbingly stunning sight. The inside is positively massive, filled with domes and arches. The varying tile and mosaic work is incredible, as are the giant screens of Qu’ran scripture. I was so impressed with this house of prayer that once was a church and then later became a mosque. We needed a quick bite before heading to the Topkapi Palace and decided on Turkish k. These aren’t like the scrumptous wraps found here, but the place we stumbled upon had fantastic fare. After stuffing ourselves silly we went to the Palace. Again, a place rife with history we walked around the palace grounds and enjoyed delving into a past neither of us were familiar with. The Harem, the relics (including the supposed staff of Moses and skull of John the Baptist) and the jewels were impressive. That night we went to dinner with Jill and called it a relatively early evening as we had another day of running around.

The Blue Mosque

Courtney and I in AyaSofya

Courtney doing her Turkey thing in front of the Blue Mosque

Inside the Harem at Topkapi Palace

Friday was again soaked with rain, but that didn’t stop us from getting out and exploring. We headed to the Grand Bazaar to see what kind of booty we could come home with. After several bouts of bartering, Courtney and I managed to acquire scarves, sunglasses, a pair of slippers, and a pillow case (the last one’s weird I know, but I just want to be prepared for my future sofa). A tiring shopping trip like that led us to our next destination, a Hamam, or Turkish bath. While a little unusual, it was a cultural experience I wanted to try. After shedding our clothes we made our way to the bath. Here we were “taken care of” by the staff. After a little time laying on a marble slab in a sauna-like room we were prepared to be massaged. A lovely (read: gruff), young (read: old as sin), woman (maybe in a former life?) ordered us around as she scrubbed and soaped our bodies. Dead skin and grime were removed before we were allowed to soak in a hot tub. You can then lay around in the lounge, pass out on a couch, and spend as much time relaxing as you wish. Overall, I’m glad for the experience, but wish it would have been a little more authentic. This hamam catered to tourists and it was evident in their care. Next stop: ASIA! Court and I hopped on a ferry and crossed over to the Asian side. Here, we had our most inauthentic meal, consisting of a cheeseburger, fries, and (sort-of) durum kebab. As we headed back to the ferries I was hit by the overwhelming incredibility of the city. With the call to prayer ringing out over the speakers several times throughout the day combined with the low clouds and rain, the city took on a haunted feel that was like nothing I had experienced before. We cruised back to the European side and got ready at Jill’s apartment for a night on the town!

Courtney jumping into Asia!

Turkish coffee

Jumping back on the ferry to Europe

We needed to look our best before hitting the streets so we went to Babyface, a salon the girls frequent, to get our hair did. We all got a blow-out, in which they simply wash your hair and blow dry it, a procedure that can go for an absurd amount of money, but here cost only about $7. Never in my life has my hair been so glossy and shiny; it was basically a reflective surface. With the humidity and rain during the week my hair was getting to be so big it could have used it’s own seat on an airplane. Now, though, it looked pageant-worthy, without the Texas-size volume. One step outside, however, and the ends quickly started curling and Courtney and I were sporting a Brady family look. Our group of five then headed to dinner and out for a few drinks. At least it started out as harmless as that. Somehow there managed to be a couple altercations with some locals, which are harmless enough so I won’t even get into them, as well as several drinks at a bar, which made for an extremely late night-early morning combination. Court and I got about 1 hour of sleep before it was time to make our way back to Switzerland. Perhaps the roughest plane journey I have ever taken.

Jillatinous and Switter! Reunited with our glossy "Babyface" hair

Saturday required a nap. After a snooze we packed up and made our way back into town. Courtney, Adam, Nick, and I went to dinner at Zeughauskeller for a traditional (i.e., heavy, and nap-inducing) meal. It was so, so good, though. Plus, I felt Courtney needed to have a proper Swiss meal. A couple of drinks at La Stanza, and we were ready to call it a night.

Sunday we had to head to the airport and say our “See you later’s.” I was certainly sad to see her go, but saved my tears for when she had already gone through security. The week flew by, as I knew it would, since I was looking forward to it so much. But, it’s only two short months until I go home, and there’s quite a bit for me to look forward to in these final weeks.

Courtney Lynn, I had such a great time. Thanks for making this one of my very favorite weeks here!

The Longest Week of All Time

Alas, Courtney has returned to the motherland. Last week was one of the best I’ve had all year. It was so great to see her and spend time showing her things I love about living in der Schweiz. Plus, we had an amazing trip to Istanbul to visit Jill, which was icing on the cake. I will get to all this fun stuff in due time, but first I will fill you in on my time in Italy with the family.

View from the house with the early morning fog.

The ten days I spent in the northern region of our southern neighbor were, hands down, the longest of 2010. Not only did I simply not want to be there, I was looking forward to the following week with a religious zeal. Therefore, the days crept by painfully slow and I found myself performing the role of sullen, angst-ridden teen, a role which I never even played when I was a teenager. I know I could have been more social or perhaps even remotely positive, but in all honesty, it was just too darn hard.

A typical day: I would hear the little angels rouse at approximately 6:15 a.m. and be shooed back to bed by the grandpa until at least 7:00. I would roll out of my horrible excuse for a bed (sheet rock is a more accurate description) around 7:30 and slowly shuffle downstairs. I would putz around, follow the kids, or sit in one of the big leather chairs, staring off into space until we were called to the tisch for breakfast. At this point, the grandma would come downstairs and discuss the most recently broken antique or rare piece of porcealan. The children would be scolded for playing with ancient artifacts and reminded that they could be doing much more fun things around the house (it went without saying that I was responsible for coming up with such activities). After a lengthy morning meal, the kids would brush their teeth and I would clean myself up and prepare for the day. Then, we would head down with the grandpa to the chickens and geese, where we would stay, feeding and harassing the animals, for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. The rest of the morning would be filled with a variety of activities: coloring and playing drawing games, hide-and-seek, playing “restaurant”, reading, memory games. Other stimulating activities included: chasing cats, screaming and slamming doors, poking geese with long sticks or ski poles, covering each other in mud, and of course, breaking things. After a cardiac-arrest-inducing lunch, which often included me eating my feelings covered in cream sauce, the kids would go down for a much needed nap. For the first hour of this nap Taz and Rapunzel would usually giggle and yell at each other or play pretend games from between their beds. The second hour was usually more peaceful and consisted of actual rest.


The kiddos feeding the hens in the morning.



I could take pitcure of this little sweet spirit all day.


All this doesn’t necessarily matter because by this point I was free. I could do as I pleased. My afternoons were a mix of yoga, going for walk/run/explores, reading, and studying for the GRE. I spent a significant amount of time in my room, away from everyone. This is when I was an especially moody 15 year-old. I usually surfaced around the time for an aperitif– a glass of wine and a snack. Then it was time for another 7,000 calorie meal. Blessedly, it was then bedtime for the wee ones and I could spend a few more hours narrowing my eyes at book pages. I love to read, obviously, but even 5 hours a day can get a bit much for the avid reader. I wish I would have brought my computer so I could have watched movies or at least scrolled through old pictures, something to break up the monotony of the day.


Vineayard View--taken on one of my afternoon walks.


I wish I could be more positive about the experience. I was in one of the most beautiful regions of the country and spent a disproportionately large amount of time scowling. From my window I could see miles and miles of vineyards and rolling hills, and yet I found myself unnecessarily sassy and short with people. By the end of the trip I was just shy of being completely mono-syllabic with responses; I was, pure and simple, ready to get the heck out of there.


View from my window with almost-daily morning fog.



My little room (read: solitary retreat) in the house.


It didn’t help that the mom wanted little to nothing to do with her family (the dad had to stay at home and work until the end of the second week). She commented that she wanted to get a lot of “work done” while there. Thought-provoking activities I heard about or saw included, but were not limited to: watching “Confessions of a Shopaholic” on DVD, reading the new Mini Shopaholic book, listening to books on tape, playing solitaire on her iPad. To be fair, I did see her tap away at her computer. But I wish she would have been honest with me. I think she could have said, “I want to relax in the morning and just have some time to myself.” Rather, she had to put a pretense of doing work, thus leaving me in the dark as to what she was actually doing, and in turn making me feel like one of her (dare I say, neglected) children. At one point we were talking about a neighbor-friend who just got a dog. The mom was relating that this woman was feeling overwhelmed by taking care of the dog. I agreed, saying, “Yes, some people forget that having a dog is just like another member of the family. They can be a lot of work.” She counters with, “Of course she can always get someone to take care of it.” I looked her back in the eyes and said, “Sure, but what’s the point of getting a dog if you’re just going to hire someone to care for it?” This is her clear solution for her children– hire someone to play with them, read with them, teach them, raise them.

Often, what I find is that I am a luxury for this family, a showpiece. It gets quite old to feel unnecessary. These children want to spend time with their parents. It’s plainly obvious when spending any amount of time with them, and it makes me sad.

One very cool thing I was able to do was help harvest grapes. As I said, the grandparents live on a vineyard and make their own wine. They also sell some of their grapes to a local cantina. The kids and I were able to help them cut grapes off the vine and collect them in baskets. It was sehr cool to be a part of that process. As I mentioned, I also saw beautiful landscape and was able to spend hours in the afternoon exploring. I’m grateful for the experience of spending time in such a gorgeous location, but I am happy that this was the last time out there for me.


The grapes just before harvesting.