All Across the Land

SWITZERLAND

Laax

Lac Neuchâtel

Sierre

Photo courtesy of Adam

Zermatt

Etzel

Rhine Falls

Zürich

My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil

ITALY

Pidemont

Milan

Como

Cinque Terre

SPAIN

Granada

Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville

ENGLAND

Manchester

Cambridge

 

IRELAND

Dublin

Belfast

Not Pictured: Galway

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

 

PORTUGAL

Lisbon

 

Photo Courtesy of Adam

Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

GERMANY

Munich

 

TURKEY

Istanbul

 

FRANCE

Paris

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

AUSTRIA

Vienna

 

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.

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.”

 

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.

 

I Love You, Matterhorn

Seriously, I do. I love this gigantic hunk of rock jutting into the sky, dwarfing all surrounding peaks. This mammoth mountain towers over Zermatt, a small village (read: exclusive ski resort where Snow Bunnies and Sugar Daddies abound) in the southern part of Switzerland. Neither Adam nor myself had been and knew we would be remiss in failing to see the magnificence of the Matterhorn.

When we arrived on Saturday we departed the train station eager to see Monte Cervino (In Italian). We begin  casually walking down the main street in Zermatt (cars are not allowed in order to keep the air as pure as possible [only in Switzerland…]) just taking in the sights, when BLAM!!

 

Just doing it's Matterhorn thing.

 

 

The mountain! It absolutely towers over the town. And it’s amazing. Every time it was obstructed from view and then came back into sight I was taken aback by it’s size and majesty (yeah, I said it). Never mind the fact that it looks cool! With it’s distinctly pyramidal shape and four sides representing the cardinal directions, it is easy to spot. And with an elevation of 14,692 ft. how could you not notice this beast?

According to my au pair friend, Whitney, it is essential to take the Gornergrat Rail, a small train that takes you to a record altitude of 3,100 meters, or just over 10,000 ft. The final destination of the line is the Gornergrat glacier, directly acorss from the Matterhorn. After settling down with a brew to do some serious people-watching, Adam and I headed up on the train. Funnily enough it was the last train of the day and would only allow us ten minutes at the top. This actually turned out to be a great thing since there was so much snow and ice at the top, not to mention a crazy-cold temperature. I don’t know what we would have done had we stayed any longer; we took our pictures, we saw der berg, and we froze our buns off. The rides up and down were definitely worth it, as was the view from the top. On our way down the sun was setting and casting incredible colors and shadows across the sky. I can say this with complete honesty: The sunset with the Matterhorn was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Awesome–in the true sense of the word.

I am an Alpine Woman!

An evening with the Matterhorn

I told my dad the word "awesome" was created after seeing this

The Matterhorn is the most photographed mountain in the word. I’m pretty sure we helped contribute to that number with all the shots we captured; this is the Matterhorn at 1:15; this is it at 2:29; here it is at 4:42. I just couldn’t get enough of that glorious peak. Mont Cervin (in French) is an official candidate for the New Seven Wonders of the World (who said there can only be seven?). The mountain’s unmistakable shape, it’s ability to change color based on the weather, and the fact that it is still growing are all reasons it has been nominated for such prestige. Certainly has my vote!

Oh you, silly Matterhorn.

Only in Kansas

This afternoon Courtney and I had our first Skype sesh since she left Switzerland. It was high time we caught each other up on our weeks and the thrilling, exciting activities that comprise our lives. I, for one, was jumping out of my skin to tell her about the over-the-top entertainment the children provide. She had much more exciting things to share, such as her recent grad school visits. All the sudden an hour and a half had gone by and I had a train to catch. Naturally, I was scrambling to finish packing my bag and do a few last minute tasks around the house. Next thing I knew I had 6 minutes to catch my train. After lobbing a trash bag into the dumpster I began my speedy ascent. I often wonder what the people at the top of the street think when they see me, more often than not, hauling my a-double “S”nake up the hill. I arrived on the platform with one minute to spare. Panting and sweating I was a hot mess; perfect for the over-populated 5:40 train. While I’ve managed to meet next to no one in this town, I have a feeling I’ve made some kind of impression that will be running through the villagers heads long after I leave.

In honor of my dear little sissy (that’s what you get for calling me “Sissy Krissy” in your last card, Courtney), I would like to present you with this stimulating video. Courtney posted this on my Facebook wall, though I’m not quite sure on the message she was trying to send. Perhaps this is one of her school comrades, participating in a little recreation; maybe it’s an activity she’s debating trying out; most likely, she wanted to share her pride in the beautiful, intelligent, crafty state we know as our own. In any event, I hope you enjoy the following image as much as I did. And, please, if you’re not a native Kansian (thank you, Allie, for making it sound like a disease) please don’t judge us too harshly.

On My Train Ride Home

When I arrived in Wädenswil this afternoon, the stop where I change trains to get home, I took notice of the stunning scenery. Beside the frigid, unseasonably cool temperature, the day was beautiful. I snapped a few photos from the train as I made my way to my village.

The pond where I spent afternoons laying and reading when it was warm. Oh, the good ole days.

This the view from the top of my street, looking toward the lake.

 

Looking down my street. Check out that decline.

Beginning the ascent toward the train station.

Nature

Fall is amongst us; I fear it is about to take over and drive away the idyllic, mid-70s temperatures. Today’s weather was perfect for a walk and I knew just what to do with my free time this afternoon– this was also a way to continue to “get my fitness on.” After a special Skype sesh with Courtney (who arrives in 18 days, not that I’m almost wetting myself with excitement) I caught the PostAuto bus to take me to the base of a trail leading to Etzel. I had been told recently by my new friend Crystal, also an au pair in my village, that this was a must-see location. Etzel sits 1,098 meters above sea level, which is roughly 400 meters above my house. I set off this afternoon with my ever-increasing sense of adventure and almost Lewis-and-Clark-level enthusiasm.

The peak in the distance is my final destination

Currently, I am sitting at the table in the dining room, drinking a Hell Quöllfrisch Appenzeller Bier (Hell means “light”– get your mind out of the gutter), and feeling my muscles get progressively sorer. I feel my pictures can do a much better job, at this point, telling you about my afternoon.

On the road again...

Getting started on the trail

The trail quickly turned into an "off-roading" experience

Must be sure to follow the yellow diamond road... Doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Hopp Schwiiz! Cool flag along the trail

Upon reaching the summit (can I even call it that? I might be exercising my poetic license here) I turned around and much to my Shock and Horror, uttered an expletive. One that often follows “Holy,” which it most surely isn’t. I was just completely blown away by the scenery. I had been hiking for an hour at this point with only my playlist to keep me company. I had been stuck in the trees, and as cool as it was there, I didn’t have much chance to look around. “Wildcat” by Ratatat was playing as I reached the top (could there have been a more perfect song? I think not.) and I was truly amazed at how beautiful it was. I knew I would be able to see a great chunk of the Alps from here, but I was still taken aback. I kept snapping pictures in the hope of capturing what I was seeing, but as is the problem with landscape shots, they just never seem to turn out right. The visibility wasn’t 100%, so this also lent to the problem. Below are a few samples of what I saw, but just know they don’t do the view justice. It was just an absolutely perfect afternoon.

The joyous reception at the top.

Aerial view of Rapperswil

The reason the picture looks completely manipulated is because it is. I had to adjust it like crazy for you to see the awesome mountains in the background.

Ditto on the manipulation bit.

This is my village, settled in the mountain.

Check out the Hot Air Balloon in the corner.

On a completely unrelated note, my friend Pei Wen left Switzerland today and returned home to Canada. I met Pei Wen at my first meeting, and to say it was strange would be an understatement. She had just finished purchasing an absurd amount of candy for a party for one her charges and had (smartly) filled a bag for herself. She then proceeded to give away the pieces of candy to the little kids at the meeting in exchange for a kiss on the cheek. She was essentially paying for friendship… from three-year-olds. I knew this girl was one to keep my eye on. From then on, however, I found her to be an amazingly great friend. She is one of the most open-minded and adventurous people I know. She knows no boundaries and lives to explore– waaaaay more than I do. She has a great, infectious laugh, and one can’t help but feel at ease in her presence. I never tire of her travel stories and always have a good time hanging out with her. I will miss her tremendously. Looking forward to seeing you soon, Pei Wen, as I am positive our paths will cross again.