Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where are you from?

I have realized over the past few years that I am "fromless." There is actually no place that I feel like I am from. On my Facebook profile it says Portland. I think that's partly because I lived in Portland when I joined Facebook and partly because where else? I had gone to high school in Portland, learned to drive in Portland and come of age in Portland. It's where J and I moved and had our first apartment together after we were married. It made sense. On my birth certificate, it says Spokane. Living in Spokane again for the first time since I was 13 years old, I can definitely say I am not from here. Yes, I was born here, but I had lived in three countries by the time I was ten-years-old and then the summer after 7th grade, we moved to Portland. I stayed in Oregon for the next 11 years with the exception of studying abroad. But once my brother had graduated from high school, my mom sold our house in Portland and moved away. In fact, when I returned from my adventures studying abroad, mere weeks before I met J, I had just a padlock key and the address of a random storage unit to go home to. My brother was at college, my mom was already gone and the house had new occupants. I got all of my things out of storage and went back to Eugene to finish college. I never even bothered to drive by the house. 

So it's ironic that for the longest time, I wanted one of these family origin map art pieces. Then today, I took Theo to the pediatrician for a check-up and when they asked what hospital he was born in and I had to say he was born in Minnesota, it kind of changed my mind. Sigh. Would I really want a family map depicting Spokane, Illinois, Minnesota and Zurich? 

Well, maybe the Zurich part. Actually, I guess it's not ironic at all that I would want one of those family origin maps. All of my adult life, I have been longing and searching for a place to call home. Do you suppose the woman in this photo realizes that she's wearing a Zurich manicure? Probably not. But that's all I see when I look at it. I suppose in the absence of fromness, not being homeless is the next best thing. But it's strange and unfair and too bad that it took leaving for me to realize that out of everywhere I've lived in my adult life, I have never felt more at home than I did in Zurich. Somehow that city got under my skin and stole a piece of my heart and I don't know what to make of it. It's very possible that I'll never be able to return there to live. And yet, while I am fromless, at least I know that I am not entirely homeless.

Tell me where you're from in the comments below. I would love to hear.

(Family Origin Map photo via Terror Dome/Etsy. Manicure photo via Pinterest)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Best Netflix Show

J and I just finished watching the most exceptional series on Netflix. It's a French show called La Mante. The basic premise is murders by a serial killer - happening for a second time, 25 years later.

I'll admit that initially I was in it for a few very silly reasons. Number one: Le Français. La Mante is a French production, so you'll need to turn on your subtitles. It was so nice to listen to French again! It is absolute music to my ears. Never mind if I still need the subtitles. Reason two: The clothes. I'm sorry, but those Frenchies really know how to dress men. French men's style is much different from American men's fashion. It's so chic and form fitting and way sexier! Finally: The sights and sounds of Europe. I'm completely obsessed with the sound of European police and ambulance sirens. Hearing one always takes me back to that very first jet-lagged day in Paris when I studied abroad in Angers in 2002. Oh, to think of it now. That time. That place. The decision to go to France and study abroad was such a good move. It hugely informed who I am today. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that I found La Mante a bit slow, if not très prévisible at first. However, I was soon completely sucked in and hooked on the compelling narrative. Sure, there is plenty of blood and gore in La Mante, but it is made tolerable by the tension and intrigue from the interpersonal relationships. La Mante goes in-depth examining the emotional forces that lie behind all of our desires and motivation. By the end, I was absolutely floored, as I'm sure you will be.

Have you seen La Mante? (No spoilers, please! Email me if you must.) And any shows you recommend? Also, are you counting down to the Homeland premiere, too?! I actually cannot wait.

(Photo via Le Journal Des Sorties)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Happy, Wish, Want, Love

Have you seen Mel Robbins' TED Talk "How to Stop Screwing Yourself"? I watched it last week and I can't stop smiling because of it. Her premise is that having whatever you want in life is simple. But not easy! She lays out very clearly in the space of a mere 21 minutes how to have the life you want, or more bluntly put, stop screwing yourself. One fact that she brings up which really stuck with me is that each of us had a 1 in 400 trillion chance of coming to exist on this earth. Isn't that incredible?! We've won the lottery, everyone! Don't squander your winnings. ;) And if TED talks aren't your thing (?!) she also has a book and a Twitter.

Right now, at the very top of my wish list is this chic yet practical Patagonia down coat. I have been wearing the same sporty, hip-length Mountain Hardwear Puffer for seven years now. It's so warm and toasty, but I want something more grown up, sophisticated and that covers my behind! I think I need to get this beauty for next winter! Time to start saving up...

You know when your makeup isn't quite settling into your skin right, or you just want to look extra dewy, or you need a quick refresh during the day? Well, you can use MAC Fix Plus for all of those moments and more! It comes in four different scents: Original, Rose, Coconut and Lavender. And right now, you can get this set of three minis for just $15. They all smell wonderful, but I'm a sucker for anything rose scented. Mmmmm, want!

I finished this book last week and it was absolutely beautiful. Murakami is a Japanese writer with a cult following for his ethereal, almost fantasy novels. He blends reality with the realm of dream and imagination to create a truly magical world into which you are swept up and come to quite literally inhabit as the reader. Translated by Phillip Gabriel from the Japanese, the original linguistic spirit is maintained with short, simple sentences which somehow weave an intricate, poignant tapestry of human nature. I thoroughly loved this book and I would recommend it to anyone, but particularly to anyone going through a hard time.

One passage in particular made me stop to re-read it several times: "Tsukuru had never lacked for anything in his life," Murakami writes, "or wanted something and suffered because he had been unable to obtain it." He goes on: "Because of this, he’d never experienced the joy of really wanting something and struggling to get it."

For me, that turned the idea of what struggle is directly on its head. Or maybe, it turned me completely upside down and I saw struggle from an angle which I'd never seen it from before. Suddenly, it felt as if Murakami were speaking directly to me, whispering in my ear not to despair, but to recognize that if we choose to see it that way, to struggle can be a joy because it means that we want something truly wonderful with all our heart.

And then, in an absolutely surreal moment, I turned the page and someone had left a four-leaf clover pressed within the pages of the library book. It blew my mind and I felt changed somehow. Rather magical if you ask me.

So tell me, what is making you happy right now? Anything on your wish list? Tell me about something you're loving these days. I'm all ears! xo

(Mel Robbins photo via Twitter)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Have a gorgeous holiday weekend.

Do you have big plans this weekend? It is Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend here in the States. That means three days off of school and work for J and the kids and we are planning to take it easy. Here's hoping the kids sleep in every day! Have a great weekend, and now a few links to keep you busy should you be looking for something to listen to, watch or read.

A good song for the nostalgic repat.

How to Approach a Rage-Cleaning Mother. (LOL!)

A quick and easy, delicious weeknight meal.

Anyone else's kids obsessed with these?

On not dreaming.

The best decluttering advice.

Seriously swooning over these. (Insert heart-eyes emoji face here)

This is my kind of gym class! ;)


Calling all Berliners!

Like co-washing, but better.

And from the archives:

Infinite cuteness.
You either love it or hate it!
Feeling peckish?

As always, thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful and kind comments. I am so happy you're here. May your weekend is blissful and enjoyable in every way! See you back here Tuesday. xo

(Photo via Ryan Sheppeck/Instagram, h/t Bridget)

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Have you gotten botox? Would you consider it? Now that I'm getting older and friends who are ten years younger are getting botox, I've started to wonder if maybe it's time to give it a try. It was easy when I was 27, and had no wrinkles or fine lines to speak of, to say I would never do botox! But now I have some pretty clear forehead lines. And crow's feet. And smile lines. Ugh. It's all part of aging, of course! And those of us who are lucky enough to grow old and get wrinkles must never take that for granted.

But still. Those lines! I would love to have a perfectly smooth forehead instead.

Sigh. I will not be getting botox. Reason number one is that I do not have $400 to put towards it every 3-6 months. So that settles that. But, even if I did, I'm not sure I would do it. I have a very expressive face (hence all the lines in the first place;) and I worry that my children wouldn't even recognize my different moods or conveyed messages if I did botox! Seriously. And then there is the slippery slope factor. At some point, something else would need to keep pace with the smooth skin and it would be so easy to justify a little eyelid lift, and who knows what else?

So, no. At this point it looks like botox is not for me. Instead I'm going to keep following my daily skin routine and get really serious about sun protectionstaying well-hydrated and getting plenty of beauty sleep.

But honestly, I'm starting to think the most important piece is finding role models and imagining how we might like to age as we become older. I remember seeing an older woman walking by the lakeside one afternoon in Zurich and deciding I wanted to emulate her completely as I grew older. She had silver hair, a cute black and white striped top, dark jeans and red flats. Her posture was great and she carried herself with such gaiety and confidence. I said to my friend as we pushed our toddlers on the swings, "That is what I want to look like when I'm older!" and she said, "Oooh, yes! I can totally see that being you someday." Bingo.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Delicious Sun-dried Tomato Cream Cheese

Nothing is quite so satisfying now and then as an everything bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese. It has everything to comfort and delight on a freezing winter's day: chewy hot bagel; creamy decadent cheese; bright, delicious, sweet tomato tang, garlicky yumminess. Add a cup of coffee and it is a little moment of heaven.

Read on to learn my quick and easy recipe for the best cream cheese ever, with a secret tasty ingredient to take it to the next level.

You can buy ready made flavored cream cheeses, of course, but I like to have full control of the intensity of the flavor. When you make it yourself, it's just better. I used ingredients from Trader Joe's, of course. The best results I've gotten are with the full-fat cream cheese (duh), genoa pesto (although fresh basil leaves would work just as well, but would discolor if not used right away) and julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. The olive oil is important. The batch I made with the sun-dried tomatoes which come loose in a zip-top bag didn't work nearly as well. Finally, the pesto is what really gives it that kick! So don't skip the pesto. :)

Put the cream cheese in a food processor, add 1/3 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, being sure to get a decent amount of oil along with them and 1 to 2 Tablespoons of pesto. Then pulse to blend.

It's done when all of the colors have blended and the sun-dried tomatoes have been chopped into little bits. Put it all in a container with a lid and keep in the refrigerator for one week. Because of the oil and pesto, it's soft and easy to spread straight out of the fridge. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Repatriating? Don't talk about that.

A funny thing happens when you repatriate: Very quickly, you learn not to talk about your expat life.


No one is interested because it's over and that part of your life is history, so why would you keep on talking about it? And more often than not, they're also offended because they can't help but feel that you're bragging about a several-years-long vacation you just took. Of course, everyone goes on vacation sometimes. You weren't on vacation as an expat, except when you actually were, but it was normal everyday life, just somewhere else! No one wants to hear about it. 

Because you feel like you can't talk about it, and because nothing around you resembles anything you had during your expat life, it's almost like it's gone. Poof. It never happened. All those memories have nowhere to reside. Talking about it is the only way to keep it alive, but when you do, even in the most innocent and genuine of ways, people are turned off, as if you're putting on airs or being pretentious. So you don't and it's the most disorienting thing to have several years of your life erased, and along with them a huge piece of your identity. It hurts like hell.

I can remember so clearly the first time I stopped myself mid-sentence from saying something completely reasonable and in-context about my expat life. We had only been back in the States for a few weeks when J and I were on a dinner cruise on Lake Superior. As we set sail, I looked at him and started to say, "The last time we were on a boat was --" But I stopped myself before I said "in Venice!" and instead said, "before Theo was born!" I just knew saying the former wouldn't go over well. Still, it felt weird to have to edit out the truth in order to avoid awkwardness.

It has definitely made repatriation a lot harder for me not being able to talk about it. It's made it a sad, lonely and isolating experience. Of course, no one is to blame. People don't get together and coordinate reactions to expat stories and conspire to force repats into silence by being so disinterested and offended by their stories. It's just a natural, seemingly universal reaction. But I can't help but wonder if I might have had an easier time settling in and envisioning my future here if that hadn't been the case? I guess we'll never know.

Are you a repat or an expat? How does it go over for you when talking with friends and family about your experiences abroad?

Monday, January 8, 2018

My New Favorite Perfume

Perfume is, as Coco Chanel so famously said, the invisible accessory. So when we lived in Switzerland, I especially loved wearing perfume because of the dreaded kisses. I didn't have to wear too much and yet everyone I greeted would smell it. I really felt it added something to my outfit and made an impression. I've always liked perfume, but I wasn't disciplined about it or anything. In Europe, it became a total necessity because I wasn't about to risk getting that close to that many people smelling bad!

On my first birthday in Switzerland, J gave me a bottle of this fabulous Prada perfume for my birthday. I loved it so much, I used every last drop and I even bought it again! I have a bottle of it on my vanity right now. There is nothing else like its woodsy, incense-y, bright and vibrant smell. But, as much as I adore it, sometimes I want something a little more floral and feminine. Something pink!

Enter Miss Dior.

Miss Dior Eau de Parfum is far from new, but it's new to me and I can't believe it took me so long to find it. I love the sweetness, the rosy fullness, and after it's been on for a few hours, it is delicate and powdery and warm. I don't think I could find a better winter scent. I've been wearing it almost daily for a few weeks and J has asked and remarked a few times, "Is that your new Dior perfume? I like it." Win, win! This one is a keeper.

These days, I've become a total perfume junkie. I have 7 different bottles going right now and three on my wish list. That seems a bit excessive. ;) What are your favorite perfumes? Do you switch it up with the different seasons? How many do you keep in rotation at a time?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Have a lovely weekend.

Did you have a good first week of the year? I spent a lot of time reflecting and thinking and writing and then today I went crazy doing a bit of financial planning and it all feels so good. Tonight we're having dinner with my cousin and her family and I can't wait to sip a hot toddy by the fire to soothe the sore throat that decided to pay me a visit. Ugh. The colds and flu this winter just won't quit. Coco and J are skiing tomorrow and Coco gets to be part of the Mighty Mites (Mights?;) class for the next six weeks. She is so excited! Theo and I intend to lie low and maybe go for a walk or two.

I hope your weekend is lovely and here are some links for you:

Kind of wish I had gotten a flu shot now.

How Switzerland made international headlines in 2017.

I can't wait to make this delicious winter salad!

Talking to toddlers.

Me rn. (Go away, cold!)

How flying seriously messes with your mind.


Try something new for 30 days.

If Jupiter were as close as the moon.

When spring comes, I'll be wearing all black and these daily.

Frozen Niagara Falls is so otherworldly!

Stay healthy and warm wherever you are! See you back here Monday. xo

(Photo of balloons by Geronimo via Instagram/Olivia East H/T Design Sponge)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Why is approaching 40 so scary?

A few months ago, I turned 38. Ever since, I have felt 40's unrelenting approach. In my mind, 40 feels like some deadline or end point. I can't tell if now is a time to make grand changes and get in before the cut off, or to hunker down and stay safe because it's too late. I've been trying to figure out when life started to feel so limited and finite? When did the possibilities seem to dwindle and narrow?

The last six months have been pretty wretched for me. Ever since our plans to move back to Switzerland fell through, my spirit seemed to bottom out right with them. I've spent many a night lying awake running back over everything in my mind. Regrets large and small; pondering my life at the present. Connecting the dots that led me here. Is this all there is? I ask myself in the darkness, willing myself to go back to sleep. Finally, after some time, sleep comes. I rarely dream. And then morning comes. For a brief moment before waking, I feel calm, warm, safe. And then wham! It's as if I'm smacked in the head with a 2x4, every day. There is nothing actually wrong with my life. It's quite beautiful and comfortable in so many ways. But it is also quite a ways off of the track I thought it would be on at this point. Or maybe it's just where I thought I'd be but for whatever reason doesn't feel the way I thought it would feel. Either way, time is running out. 40 somehow became the finish line and it's almost here.

I have been feeling so alone. Alone in worrying. Alone in feeling so much pressure to have everything squared away by now. Alone in feeling like I am dropping the ball more often than not.

Then last week I read Ada Calhoun's article The New Midlife Crisis for Women. Calhoun writes about the major stressors plaguing women in their late thirties to mid-fifties today. Money is a major one. Relationships. Career and competitiveness in the workforce. Children or the inability to have them. The general pressure to have it all.

A few of my favorite passages:

Possibilities. We still have them in midlife, but they can start to seem so abstract. Yes, I could go get a doctorate, but where would I find the graduate school tuition? I could switch careers—therapist? Zamboni driver?—but at this stage of life, do I really want to start from the bottom, surrounded by 20-year-olds? If I went on an Eat, Pray, Love walkabout, who would pick up the kid from school?
"Having kids was the thing I wanted my whole life," says Karen, 42, a psychotherapist in Arizona. She pauses. "I had to turn off the Facebook feature with 'Six years ago…whatever.' I was torturing myself with it: If only I'd done things differently then, I'd have a baby now.
You come to this place, midlife," writes novelist Hilary Mantel. "You don't know how you got here, but suddenly you're staring 50 in the face. When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led. All your houses are haunted by the person you might have been."

Reading Calhoun's take on everything, I definitely don't feel alone anymore. I highly recommend reading the whole essay.

Maybe a high school librarian I know was right. Last fall, I was weighing a couple different job options and running through the pros and cons with her. She just shrugged and told me they both sounded good and I really couldn't choose the wrong thing. "My grandma used to say," she smiled, "'You can have it all, just not at the same time.'" Well, that certainly takes the pressure off, doesn't it?

How are you feeling at your current stage of life? Do you feel like you're where you're supposed to be, or thought you would be right now? Do you relate to Calhoun's words at all?
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