Fill Me Up With Love, Love, Love

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.”

 

I am Edumacated

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.

In Nantucket, looking our finest

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.

CONGRATULATIONS!!

"Around the World" date party. Perfecting the "dad" dance move.

My own graduation last year.

I (Celine Dion) lurve you!

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!

I’m On Call, To Be There

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.

The gang's all here!

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.

 

Our dining companion for the evening

The Graben lit up at night

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.

 

St. Stephan's

 

Brrrrrrrr... but schööööön

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.

 

My mouth starts to salivate just looking at one of these hearty beasts.

 

Rathaus and "cheesy" Christmas Market (according to our Viennese friend)

 

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.

 

Doodes at the show

Kings of Leon

Final Trip

Oh man, oh man, oh man. I am about to depart for my final trip of the year. And if I do say so myself, it’s going to be stellar.

A few weeks ago I mentioned the release of the new Kings of Leon album, Come Around Sundown, in this post. I checked out their website in the hopes that the stars would align and KOL would be playing a show near Zürich. Unfortunately the dudes aren’t making an appearance anywhere in der Schweiz, but they are coming to Vienna this weekend. What are the odds?! So, I rounded up a few comrades and we made immediate plans to go.

Jill was supposed to come, but due to the suicide bomb in Taksim Square several weeks ago, she had to ship out of Turkey and is now living at home until her big move to Norway in January. Of course, this means that she won’t be joining us, which makes me terribly sad. She studied abroad in Vienna and has a wealth of knowledge about the area. And natürlich, I would have loved seeing her one last time before I move home.

In any event, Nick, Adam, and I will definitely have a b-last and enjoy ourselves and all the city has to offer. I can’t wait to see these guys live. I think this will be the perfect last trip to round out my year.

This song is from a couple albums ago. Check out how awesomely long his hair is.

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.