Sunday, December 19, 2010

Darn It!

Martha Stewart has done it again.  In the January issue of Martha Stewart Living, the article entitled "A Stitch in Time" made me wish I had some holes in my sweaters to darn. Not only does the article encourage a lost idea (fixing rather than replacing!) but it does so with flair. Just look at the contrasting yarn darning the holes on that sweater.  It makes me giddy with delight!
From Martha Stewart Living January 2011, Number 206
Then what should happen, but last week I looked down only to notice a hole in one of my favorite J.Crew cardigans. No! My initial dismay quickly turned to delight when I realized I now had a chance to use Martha's fabulous darning idea. Yes! Immediately I knew that I wanted neon yellow or green (or both?) to darn my navy blue cardigan. Happily Purl Soho had exactly what I was after so while home for Christmas, I shall have a fun little project to tend to while chatting with my mom and drinking tea.  
Mettler Neon Thread $22.40
photo from Purl Soho
Looking forward, I want to have a knitwear first-aid kit like Martha's at the ready. Sewing and knitting are such relaxing enjoyable activities that it also makes a pleasurable task out of a disappointment. There's everything to love about that.
From Martha Stewart Living January 2011, Number 206

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wish

It's that time of year again.  Here is what I have on my wish list this Christmas.

Essie nail polish quartet from J.Crew.  These colors are so feminine and bright.  Perfect for winter parties.
No Size.  Color: Ballerina Clam Bake
click on photo for more info
Merino wool leggings from Icebreaker, to stay warm out in the snow.  Brrr!
Size: XS  Color: Blizzard
click on photo for more info
Merino camisoles from Icebreaker.  Indispensable.  
Size: XS  Color: Snow
click on photo for more info

UGG house shoes to keep my toes toasty while working with the kiddos.  I especially like the rubber sole because slippers make the most annoying noise.  
Size: 6  Color: Tobacco
click on photo for more info
Serious winter boots from Sorel.  With the Thinsulate, fleece lining and waterproof toes these are sure to be cozy on even the coldest Zurich days.  
Size: 6  Color: Black
click on photo for more info
An elegant wool coat from J.Crew, because the puffy down jacket is not always appropriate to the occasion.  This one has Thinsulate and comes in a petite.  Perfect.
Size: Petite 0 with Thinsulate  Color: Black
click on photo for more info
Staying warm is definitely this year's theme!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Progress

These days our kitchen is starting to feel more like the heart of our home.  We got a fabulous butcher block from IKEA and it looks great with all of our pots and pans and cookbooks on display.  There's no getting around the fact that the kitchen itself is very "Euro."  As in lots of tile and modern clean lines.  (Maybe too modern and clean?)  It's coming along, but hopefully I'll find even more ways to warm up all of that grey.  For now, it feels like progress in the right direction.  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Design Dilemma

Since arriving in Switzerland, decorating our apartment has not been priority number one.  First of all, we wanted to make sure we actually liked this place enough to stay before we invested in décor.  Secondly, consider that we live in the heart of Europe.  Spending money on traveling is way more fun, and really, more important when you have two weeks of vacation in October!  Finally, having a washer and dryer was more appealing than getting the décor in order when the weather was nice and we were spending the majority of our non-working hours outside.

With those ideals in mind, we bought a white slipcover for our (then red) couch, got a cheap, but cute rug and coffee table from IKEA and decided it was good enough.  


And it was for a while.

But now the push to do something about the interior has become relentless. The weather is changing rapidly and we're spending more and more time inside. It's getting darker and darker and we don't have any ceiling lighting - anywhere, in the entire apartment! The space is not functional. We don't have a place for wine glasses. I don't have a place to put my keys and purse when I come in the door. We have virtually zero counter space. Most of all, it just doesn't feel cozy! J is completely unfazed by our total lack of design and function, but I am quickly losing my mind.   

Decorating a space is usually my favorite part about moving to a new apartment.  But this time it's tricky.  We don't have a car and I really miss west elm.  I need some help!  

What can you share about your success in designing a functional small space?  And if you live in Switzerland, what are your favorite furniture and home décor stores?  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Maybe Baby

People the world over love English. This is especially true in Switzerland, where English is the default language. People on the French speaking side don't speak German and vice-versa. As for the Italian speakers, they don't bother with French or German! But everybody speaks English. And apparently, everybody loves it too. It's everywhere: on billboards and advertisements, on our Swisscom TV remote control, basically anywhere that is too small to cram four languages onto.

The only problem is that the English they use is often times absurdly ridiculous. Here is a fun example of really off the wall English. Let's just say that this cutesy, rhyming marketing approach for pregnancy tests sold in vending machines, would never fly in the English speaking world.

Yes, it rhymes.  That doesn't mean it's a good thing.

Maybe Baby is always placed next to the (much cheaper) condoms.
What ridiculous English have you seen?  Did it even remotely make sense?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Zurich Writer's Workshop

The operative word here, of course, is writer.  I like to think of myself as a writer and yet all I tend to write is this blog.  Last year in Portland, my friend Joy decided to start a writers' group.  I joined the group, went to the first meeting on a dark Fall night, and then, because I was so unbelievably busy, never attended the group again.  My plate wasn't full in Portland; it was overflowing.  As a result, nothing got the full attention it needed.  Not my teaching job, not the apartment building J and I managed, certainly not my marriage, not my social life and definitely not my hobbies.  I was constantly frazzled and forgetting things.  It genuinely bothered me that I was so busy I couldn't think straight and didn't have time to devote to the hobbies and people who bring me the most joy in life.  Even though it meant moving away from my wonderful friends, a huge factor in my decision to come to Zurich was my resolve to make writing a central focus in my life. I knew that moving here would mean my life was slower, less busy and simpler. In some ways that has turned out to be correct.  In others, not so much. But let's just say that lately I've been gathering plenty of writing material in my experiences at work.  

Remembering why I moved here is important right now.  

So here I am.  I have more time than I had in Portland, plenty of writing material, no idea how to get started and what should come along, but the first ever Zurich Writer's Workshop!  Coincidence?  I think not.  I will be delving into non-fiction/memoir work with author Susan Jane Gilman and eleven other fellow writers for an entire weekend October 1-3.  I was just emailed my homework assignments to complete before the workshop and I've never been so excited to get started.  I hope it will be a weekend of inspiration, good nuts and bolts to keep myself writing once it's over, and really good fondue.  Yes, we'll finish off the weekend with a literary fondue dinner including readings from the instructors.  How delightful!

What hobby do you make a priority in your life and how do you do it?!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Appliance I Cannot Live Without

Last summer, my friend Kate and her boyfriend were visiting us in Portland.  As we washed all of the dishes by hand following a roast chicken dinner, she asked me a hypothetical question:  Would I rather have a dishwasher or a washer and dryer in my apartment?  

At the time, I answered washer and dryer without hesitation.  Then I continued to wash the dishes in a basin of soapy water, rinse them and delicately balance them on the overcrowded dish rack.  Yes, I thought that a washer and dryer were more desirable.  That was only because I had yet to experience adult life with a dishwasher...

Dishwasher bliss!
Now that I have lived the last month with a dishwasher, I will never be able to go back to handwashing!

So, what is the appliance you can't live without?  Or perhaps, if you're an expat too, the one you're missing the most right now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Head Cold

Working with three to six year olds means being sick in the beginning. Immediate sickness, guaranteed! It is a documented fact that schoolchildren are the grubby ones who carry all the germs, and seeing as I'm new here in Switzerland, I'm getting acquainted with a whole new population of bacteria and viruses. Lucky me! But I'm not the only one. All of the new staff at work were grumpy, tired and miserable with a nasty head cold last week.  

Enter Otrinol, my new best friend in Der Schweiz. Otrinol is Sudafed in a nifty 120 mg, 12-hour time released capsule. Other new friends of mine include Tonopan, a wonderfully strong pain killer, and Nasobol, a sort of head cold spa treatment. Just drop two Nasobol tablets in a bowl of almost boiling water, toss a towel over your head, and inhale the heavenly menthol and eucalyptus scented vapors.  

Hopefully this weekend I'll be feeling well enough to spend some time with people-friends rather than these guys. Until then, there are worse things that being hopped up on Otrinol.  
35 CHF worth of relief.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lauterbrunnental

A week after arriving in Switzerland, Joel and I went to do a hike from Kleine Scheidegg to Männlichen and then on to Wengen.  This hike is in the Jungfrau Region of the Alps and it was even more magnificent than expected.
Fresh Alpine Air
The Lauterrunnental
(tal means valley)
The North Face of The Eiger shrouded in clouds.
Along the path
Wildflowers photographed by Joel
Happy Cows
And friendly!
Joel on the way up to Männlichen
On the top!  Literally in the clouds.
About to hike down 3000 feet in one hour.  As in straight down!
Clearly needed Avalanche Gates
More wildflowers
Just a day in the Alps
Picture perfect mountains
About half way down.  Trees!  
Alpenglow
Miraculously we got on the last train out of Wengen and made all of the final connections back to Adliswil.  Talk about lucky! 
If you would like to visit Kleine Scheidegg and the Jungfrau Region, here are a few tips. 

Joel got the book Classic Walks in Western Europe at Powell's before we left and this was the first walk we did from the book.  Highly recommended!

We were surprised at how sore we were after this walk.  Hiking straight down uses completely different muscles, so be prepared to take it easy for a few days afterward, or train yourself adequately ahead of time.  

Half-Fare Travelcard holders can save money on train fare with the Tageskarte (Day Pass) from SBB.  The Tageskarte will get you all the way to Wengen and then you have only to pay 12 CHF for the private Jungfrau Railway to Kleine Scheidegg.  

Not a Half-Fare Travelcard holder?  SBB has offers for visitors from abroad.  For an even thriftier approach, look into the Eurail Pass before leaving home as Swiss Trains, like everything else, are notoriously expensive.  

However, once you get there, it's like those Mastercard commercials. Utterly priceless!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beach Day on Lake Zurich

Just in the nick of time, summer decided to show itself!  Last weekend was the final weekend of summer before school started.  It was invigorating to have three days of sun, heat and delightfully warm evenings.  

Saturday we went to the Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen.  For those of us who don't speak German, that means Tiefenbrunnen Beach.

It was fabulous.  There are showers, grassy areas to put your beach towel, lockers, steps going down into the lake, floating docks, a restaurant and not one reason not to stay all day.  You can even rent an umbrella!  
The view overhead
View to the left
View straight ahead
What day to the beach would be complete without a little picnic?  The already hardboiled "Pique-nique" eggs available at the store are a such a glittery and shiny gold they make me feel like I'm in Willy Wonka's factory.  Yay.
I read many long New Yorker articles and watched the clouds change shape in the sky during my day at the beach. It was just what the doctor ordered following the most stressful summer of waiting for work permits, moving, visa applications and all that madness. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ridiculously Expensive

You've probably heard that Switzerland is expensive.  Maybe from a friend who stopped over while backpacking through Europe in college, or maybe you've been here yourself.  Either way, I'm here to tell you it's true.  Switzerland can be insanely expensive.  After a while, you get to know where to go and how to shop, but on the whole, you can count on paying more than you would elsewhere. A little joke of mine is that everything costs double.  The other day, after we opened our bank account, we walked past, and noticed for the first time, the "2 Franc Store."  As in the Dollar Store.  

Probably the most expensive thing here is dining out. If you live here, you can avoid it, but if you're a visitor, it will bankrupt you. Last week J and I went out to dinner with Romy, from Half the Sugar Bowl, and her husband.  This was our first experience eating out since arriving in Switzerland. We took out plenty of cash, expecting high prices, but looking forward to meeting some other Anglophones right here in the neighborhood. Our neighbors are lovely people. And the menu? Completely blew me out of the water. We paid $20 for a basic cheeseburger! Is that a typo you ask? No. Luckily I was not very hungry, so Joel and I opted to share our solid gold burger. 
Isn't the sparkler thing a nice touch?

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Chocolate Than You Can Shake A Stick At

Naturally one of the great benefits of living in Switzerland is being surrounded by more chocolate than you can shake a stick at! Tonight before after dinner, J and I had a few squares of banana chocolate! Have you ever heard of such a thing? It was tasty, rich milk chocolate with banana flavored crème filling. There really is just about every kind of chocolate you can imagine. Naturally one of the great drawbacks of living in Switzerland is the constant threat the surrounding chocolate poses to one's waistline!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Laundry

As anyone who has lived abroad can tell you, laundry is certainly one of the most challenging aspects of expat living.  It doesn't seem like something that would be a big deal, but it is.  It is a very big deal.
Ready to wash.  Detergent and laundry card are ready to go!
In Switzerland, each apartment building handles laundry differently. Some buildings, like ours (thank goodness) are first come, first served when it comes to laundry.  In other buildings there is a roster where one must sign up.  In others, there are assigned days for each apartment.  Typically when this is the case, each tenant is given full use of the laundry room for one day every three weeks or so!  Just to keep things exciting, it's a date, not a day that you're given.  So you might wind up having a Thursday, in which case you'd be at work most of the day and then tasked with cramming 8 or 9 loads of laundry in before midnight.  No thank you!

Regardless of when you can do laundry, there are all sorts of rules. In Neuchâtel, the laundry room was locked at 10 pm and all day Sunday. Apparently the concierge in that building was not aware that Sunday is the universal day for doing laundry. Apparently I had never considered laundry "work," nor lived in such a religious place.  Go figure.  

At any rate, I can't really read the rules in my current laundry room. Here's a sampling of the signs I'm wondering about.
I can see that I'm not supposed to do laundry after 10 pm.  Standard enough.  I wonder what the rest says.  Clearly there are some really bright ideas outlined in this rule list.  That man has a lightbulb over his head, that's how I know.
I did manage to gather from this sign that there is a washer and dryer for the red side and another for the blue side.  
It's helpful that this sign is in blue and the other one is in red.
Unfortunately, I couldn't remember what side I live on, so I just did my laundry in the empty machine, which is the red side machine.  Side of what you ask?  Oh, you'll see.

That's when the fun really began.  Do I put my detergent tablet in the little compartment up top or straight in with the clothes?  What does all of this mean?
Hell if I know.
In the end, I put my laundry tablets up top and it seemed to work out fine. Then I went upstairs and set a timer to make sure I am there the moment the cycle finishes.
Action shot.  I can't help but be puzzled by the total lack of suds.
On the way up, I checked to see which "side" I live on. Our apartment is up the stairs to the left, so it turns out I live on the "blue" side.  I can't believe it.  First load and I'm already breaking the rules!  
The lobby is nothing short of hideous.  A far cry from the lovely Silver Court!

Arrival

Our arrival in Switzerland two weeks ago seems like a decade ago. We have as been busy as little bees! We start work full time tomorrow. What happened to summer? Did it fly by or never arrive? I'm going with the latter.

We flew to Zurich July 30th on standby with my wonderful friend Andrea who works for a big airline company.  Miraculously we managed to check 8 huge, overweight pieces of baggage and boxes and got on all of our flights with no problems!  As far as Andrea's getting back to the US on time, that's another story...she had a longer than expected mini-vacation in Zurich.  Uh oh.

We were so surprised to see that our administrator had arranged our apartment so that it was all ready for us when we arrived.  


It was also a big surprise to see our names are on little engraved plaques all over the place - the entry intercom, next to our door, on our mailbox.  So official.  So Swiss.


Although Andrea was effectively stuck here, that meant we had plenty of time to sightsee in Zurich.  One of the funniest passages in our Rick Steves' Switzerland book is about the hypodermic needle machine in Central Zurich.  Rick notes that Switzerland has very progressive drug policies and that doing so has helped to clean up a bit of the drug problem in the country, making it safer for everyone.  He is very tongue in cheek when he writes, "Go ahead, buy a box [of needles] - it's about the cheapest souvenir you can purchase in Zurich."  We did not buy a box as we felt it was best to leave them for the heroin junkies.  But we did stop for a pic with the machine.  Probably the most offensive snapshot possible!

It never hurts to arrive on the eve of the National Day, so we were at a fabulous paella party within 48 hours of arrival, hosted by the brother-in-law of our administrator, Susanne.  To make it extra fun, we took a cable car up to Felsenegg and hiked to the party over two hills.
Walking along.

The patio all ready for the revelers.


Paella in progress.

After dessert, it started to rain, so a tarp was put up.  And when the tarp wasn't enough we grabbed the wine and made a run for it inside.


It was quite the storm!  The dragon downspouts put on quite a show.  As did the lightning!


Once it cleared up, we headed up the hill, watched the fireworks and then went to a big party in a barn!

Of course, that only covers the first two days.  I'll catch up.  Maybe this afternoon.  Maybe later.
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