Thank Goodness It’s You, Friday

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I don’t say it often but TGIF, y’all. It has been a loooong week and I couldn’t be more grateful to see this weekend appear. I started intensive German classes on Monday and while I feel like I’m in the right class at the right level it has been exhausting to get back into the groove of learning this language.

I have two teachers, one who comes Monday through Wednesday and another who comes on Thursday and Friday. The first teacher, Nadja, is so sweet and nice and encouraging.  She’s half Swiss, half Italian and all smiles and giggles. She even trills out a few notes before she says basically anything and buys chocolate for us during our break. I’m assuming she moonlights as a kindergarten teacher. Then Hanna brings the hammer down on Thursday and Friday. She’s German and completely unimpressed with the way things generally work here in Switzerland: everything is expensive, there’s no culture and the air is dry. She’s a bit rough around the edges but she means business, and when we’re in her charge we get things done. We’re pushed to try and make mistakes, get corrected and try again. It’s a tough-love approach but that’s when the real work happens.

Besides the language classes I had a few other engagements this week that left me drained. I babysat on Monday and Wednesday for about six hours for very cute little dudes, but I came home each night thanking my stars that I’m not a parent yet. There’s so much to think about. And so many little pieces to keep track of. Parents, how do you do it?

What are you up to this weekend? We’re having dinner with another couple tonight and then going to Zurich to help Phil assemble Ikea furniture. Now that will be relaxing ; )

Whatever you get up to I hope it’s lovely and relaxing. Here are a few links from around the web in case you find yourself getting cuddly under a warm blanket or cocooning in your new favorite sweatshirt:

A song for the weekend

How to care for your sweaters

Your life on Earth. I’ve gone 16,389,456,858 miles around the sun, a coast redwood has grown 34’9″ in my lifetime and the population has increased by 2,290,407,609 people. Zoinks!

I love puns. The Daniel Radcliffe one might be my favorite (Thanks, Erin!)

New dessert cookbooks. These would make a lovely hostess gift or holiday present!

20 warming soups for fall

Top U.S. meat cities. Obviously, Kansas City is way up there

In order to (slowly) curate a more intentional wardrobe with pieces that last, I invested in a couple new pairs of jeans. This pair and this pair are complete game-changers. As one reviewer put it, “they make you look good coming and going” (p.s. they’re on sale through Sunday!)

Champagne is this month’s pick for Wine School. What will you pair it with?

An open letter from Sufjan Stevens to Miley Cyrus. Grammar friends, you will like this.

Made me laugh

Swimming with icebergs

Text messages when you’re dating vs. when you’re married

 

(perfect image via; BBC link via kottke; The Atlantic link via Hither & Thither)

Marcel

Nothing brings me out of a rut like Marcel the Shell. I have often watched Marcel the Shell videos before a tough final, in the middle of a stressed out study session or work period and at the end of a long hard day. I was inordinately pleased, then, to find out that a third installment of my favorite Internet series was recently released, as I started intensive German classes this week and they are every bit as intense as they promised to be. After attempting to write seven full sentences on my own in a language that sounds like marbles in my mouth I needed this little joy.

You’re welcome.

 

Oh, and in case you’re behind on the times, here are the first and second videos:

Biking Through Lavaux Vineyard Terraces

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IMG_6102Last Saturday Adam and I took our bikes on the train to Lausanne and made our way through the Lavaux wine terraces to Vevey. It was a stunning, and I mean stunning, Saturday: temperatures in the low seventies and a mid-autumn sun that was set on full blast. Just perfect in every way.

We’ve been meaning to do this for a couple months now but only just got around to it. We had planned to try a couple weekends ago but a gloomy forecast kept us in Bern. Finally the ideal Saturday presented itself and we jumped at the chance to get to Lake Geneva and the gorgeous scenery.

We arrived in Lausanne a little after ten and spent the rest of the morning walking around the outdoor markets and old town. I’d never been before and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It’s full of hills and charm and chic French-speaking locals.

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IMG_6048^^käsekuchen, savory cheese tarts, are one of the best parts about living in Switzerland. They’re everywhere and perfect for every occasion

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IMG_6070I’m telling you, the sun was like a spotlight. It’s hard to tell in these photos (or maybe it’s easy based on how blown-out they are), but it felt very dreamy and ethereal all day. There’s something about the light this time of year that can be a little eerie and disorienting, especially when it’s so strong you can barely see. It always makes me feel like taking a hot nap.

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IMG_6077^^those colors!

beer^^those beers!

 

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IMG_6089After an inexplicable Chinese lunch–okay, I’ll explain: I’ve been craving steamed dumplings for, like, seven months–we headed out of town with a map from the tourist office as a guide. Those offices can be cheesy but don’t discount the wealth of information they can offer. Our booklet outlined several towns we would see along the way, as well cellars we could visit for a taste of the local offerings. Unfortunately, most of these places were open from 5-9pm which was too late for us, but we were able to stop in other little cafes for samples of local wines.

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IMG_6093We love our bikes. They are perfect for our city lifestyle and easily get us around Bern. That said, they were not ideal for the many hills we encountered on our trip. We would have been much better off on a mountain bike or even a slick racing bike (as if!), but we made do despite some serious huffing and puffing. I caught more than a few funny looks from passers-by, but in the words of my sweet friend Alexandra, you do you. And we did.

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IMG_6174We stashed some snacks in Adam’s backpack and picked up a few more along the way. Each town offered a beautiful and new perspective of the lake and France across the way. There are a couple of different routes one could take depending on what was most important. For instance, you could hug the lake and stay relatively flat, but you would miss a lot of the villages and the stunning view. We liked running into a town every ten minutes or so but the exertion took its toll by the end of the day. In all we visited Lutry, Villette, Epesses, Dezaley and Rivaz, and covered about 20 kilometers. We could have stopped at quite a few more places for a view or a snack or a drink but timewise it just wasn’t feasible. Our ride from Lausanne was just over six hours and my dogs were barkin’.

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It was a highly anticipated adventure and it certainly delivered. We loved this day. It was a surreal reminder of how much we have to be grateful for. In some ways I can’t believe that these kinds of options are readily available and encouraged. I love being able to say that we rode our bikes around the fringes of Lake Geneva, sampled local wine and watched the sun go down on a quiet, smooth train ride at the end of the day. I feel monumentally lucky to have this life.

When in doubt, do it. Go take the adventure you’ve been thinking about or dreaming about. There are logistics to sort out and calves to stretch out later but it is always worth it. As we enter into the colder months that promise the sweet embrace of sweatpants that play soft and loose and not much more it’s ever important to keep these ideas in mind. We visited Paris in November and it’s one of my favorite trips of all time despite how freezing and drizzly it was. I’m not suggesting everyone has the ability to train to Paris but you do have the power to get out and go. Let’s all try hard to make the plans and follow through on our own adventures this fall and winter.

 

Tuesday Book Club: Not That Kind of Girl

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I have been constantly thinking about Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, since I started reading it last week. This is no easy feat considering I’ve started German lessons again–3 hours in the morning, every day–and have gone back and forth with my editor on two different articles. There’s a lot of other things to be thinking about, but I can’t stop mulling over this book.

I am at turns validated, hugely entertained, melancholic, confused, enlightened, agreeable, envious and almost always suffering from acute second-hand embarrassment. It’s a lot to process in a relatively short amount of pages, but Dunham is a wily and precocious writer that demands attention and engagement. One can’t read about a rape that may or may not be a rape without thinking about what rape means to oneself and how it is (often traumatically) defined by society.

A lot of people were/are hesitant to read the memoir for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to her age, gender, TV show, affluent and artistically-inclined upbringing and what is perceived as a general lack of experience. Interestingly, people show reluctance toward reading the book because they are too afraid she will be like Hannah, her emotionally frustrating character on the show Girls. She is not like Hannah, but you will find that a lot of things that happen to Hannah have happened to Dunham and she spared very few details in the retellings.

I was gung-ho from the beginning and will continue to champion this book well after I finish it, which should be in the next 15 minutes or so. She explores painful and cringe-worthy episodes of her past, yes, but I what stands out to me the most is how she is looking out for the reader. Many people have pointed out that the memoir reads like a collection of shocking horror stories from your older and wiser sister, but I think she is as much confiding in us as a trusted confidant as we are looking to her for solace and recognition. That is, it feels more like a mutual relationship than I was anticipating.

What the reading of this book amounts to, for me in particular, is not so much a shared recollection of Millennial mishaps, but a reinforcement of my friend Alexandra’a favorite maxim: You do you. You do you, whatever that needs to be at a particular moment, and own that choice/feeling/mentality. I’ve been trying to embrace that philosophy, especially when it comes to tough decisions or anxious feelings of comparison, and I’ve found a lot of mental clarity through. Despite what reads as near-crippling anxiety and compulsive behaviors in Dunham’s life, I get the sense that she is embracing the “you do you” way of life far more fully than any of us. I love that.

Any thoughts? Have you read it, or do you want to read it? I posed this questions earlier, but would be interested to hear if anyone’s opinions changed based on the numerous reviews and reactions out there (add this one to the count).

(image by Autumn De Wilde)

Make it Rain, Friday!

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IMG_6022Have you ever kept a change jar? I know I did as a kid, but I lost the habit during adolescence and college and only started keeping one again when my mom gave me an electronic piggy bank for Christmas a couple years ago. I saved for one year with no clear goal in mind and then Adam and I decided to get married on a Tuesday and I used my savings for our wedding dinner. It was great.

Of course I can’t use that piggy bank here because it only keeps track of US coins, but Adam and started the tradition shortly after we moved into our apartment last year. We actually kept our change in a Blanton’s bourbon box, but I transferred it all into a plastic bag to take to the bank this week.

It is amazing how quickly one can accumulate change here. Not only are there standard coins for Rappen (the cents version of the Swiss Franc) but the currency also uses coins for 1, 2 and 5 Francs. A handful of change can easily equally 20 Francs or so, which perhaps doesn’t go a terribly long way here, but it will at least buy you a (cheap) lunch.

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So, having saved for a year we were eager to see how much money we had collected. There are no Coin Star machines here and it turns out it’s rather tricky to find a bank that will change them for you. The standard response I got from banks and the post office was that I’d have to roll them myself in papers and then bring them back. These papers are nothing like the US version and looked like a migraine waiting to attack. I finally found a bank that changed them for me, but since I’m not a customer took a hefty 10% fee. It’s obviously not ideal, but trust me when I say it was a better alternative to rolling the coins myself.

We ended up with Fr. 481.85, though after the bank’s commission it was closer to Fr. 431, which is still an awesome sum. We’re planning on taking part of the winnings with us to the Zurich Wine Boats in November and splurging on some nice bottles of wine. Cheers to saving money (and blowing it on something fun)!

IMG_6039What are you up to this weekend? I’m getting my hair CHOPPED this afternoon (!!) and having a low-key night with a friend tonight. Tomorrow Adam and I are going to Lake Geneva to ride our bikes from Lausanne to Vevey, stopping in to the various vineyards and wineries for tastings along the way. I’m really, really looking forward to it.

I hope you have a chance to do something festive and fall-ish this weekend, but if you find yourself inside here are a few links from around the web:

A cool new-to-me song

People from infomercials can’t do anything right. Made me laugh out loud. What klutzes!

12 words many people get wrong

Clever napkins for your next dinner party

How about those Royals?! We are loving it. Here’s a great t-shirt for all you Kansas Citians

I made pumpkin soup this week and it was delicious

Common mistakes when caramelizing onions. These tips were super helpful for a dinner last week

A guide to drinking wine at home

Second-graders react to a tasting dinner at Daniel in New York

Interested in what goes on in the restaurant kitchen? “Don’t Eat Before Reading This”

This cozy blanket is a steal. WANT.

A very cute DIY Halloween costume

How to grow a minimalist wardrobe. I need this suggestions…

Or do I just need this?

This Korean North Face store is crazy!

Lastly, I start German classes again on Monday and I am so nervous! It’s been nearly a year since my last class and I’m having some jitters about starting it all again. Here are one man’s tips to mastering a foreign language as an adult.

 

 

Beauty Tip: Herbivore Botanicals

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As a wedding gift from Adam, I received a collection of small-batch beauty products from Herbivore Botanicals. This gift, a special and thoughtful one, is proof enough to me that my husband knows me incredibly well and knows what I would truly love. I am crazy about all things beauty and bath products and nothing makes me feel more special than being pampered.

I really like all the products that Adam picked out, and truly the whole line of skincare is amazing, but I am especially fond of the facial toning elixir, facial serum, and body oil. IMG_6031I put on the Hydrate facial toner right after I wash my face in the morning just before I put on my moisturizer. It helps tighten pores and prevent blemishes from forming, and I can already see a difference after using it daily for a month. It makes my skin feel really smooth and it has a delicate and relaxing scent. Honestly, my skin has never looked better or more clear.

At night I use the Nourish facial serum, again right after I wash my face. It also has a really lovely scent and doesn’t leave a greasy residue on my skin. They suggest using it in place of a moisturizer but I still put on night cream before I go to bed. The dry air here is so harsh on my skin that I need all the moisture I can get.

Finally, I use the body oil in combination with my regular body lotion for extra hydration. As I said, it’s amazing how dry my skin and hair get here and I like having this little boost for my skin. Unfortunately I don’t see it on the site so it might be on hiatus, but they are always replenishing their stock and I hope this comes back soon. I love it!

All of Herbivore Botanicals’ products are 100% natural and made without parabens, sodium lauryl sufate, mineral oils, petroleum or other undesirable ingredients. Their masks arrive as a powder that you must then mix with water to avoid adding in harsh preservatives. I appreciate their commitment to using healthy, effective ingredients.

What do you use? I have a pretty basic routine as far as beauty goes and use only a handful products. I like trying out new things every once in a while though, and am specifically on the lookout for an eye cream.

 

Just a note, this is in no way a sponsored post. Only a friendly tip from me to you : )

 

Hiking Around Mürren

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Last weekend Adam’s friend Kyle was visiting us and wanted to go on an adventure. We had spent Friday bumming around Zurich, indulging in the unseasonably stellar weather and frequenting some of our favorite spots. On Saturday we walked around Bern dodging rain and grabbing beers with a few friends. But, Sunday we knew we wanted to get out and go for a long walk. It only made sense to go to the tallest mountains in Switzerland, which are only an hour and half away by train.

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We took the train to Lauterbrunnen and caught the cable car up to Grütschalp (by the way, the higher you go into the mountains the more you’ll find words with less vowels and those that do remain probably have an umlaut. Pronunciation becomes extremely comical). From Grütschalp you can take several routes leading to Mürren, as well as other Bernese Oberland towns. We stuck with the flattest, which also offered unparalleled views.

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It’s an extremely easy walk and took us about 2 hours, though we did break pretty frequently for photos. Most everyone suggests walking in this direction (as opposed to walking from Mürren) because the largest of the Alps stay in front of you. Specifically, we are interested in the Jungfrau (13,642 ft), Mönch (13,448 ft) and Eiger (13,025 ft) mountains, the three tallest in Switzerland.

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IMG_5940^^still working on that closed-mouth smile…

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Once we arrived in Mürren it was clear that we had reached the Alpine village of our dreams: old chalets with window boxes dripping with gorgeous, vibrant flowers and tiny paths that connected all the homes and restaurants together. It seems so obvious that this is such a popular destination for hiking during the summer and skiing during the winter. No cars are allowed in the village so it has a very peaceful and easy feel to it.

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After watching paragliders zip through the valley (as someone who is afraid of heights I literally cannot image the simultaneous terror and exhilaration of paragliding in that setting) we took the cable car to Schiltorn, one of the highest lookout points in the area at 9,740 feet. On the way, there is a brief stop at Birg where you can take a few pictures and wait for the next cable car up. They have a sky walk lookout point that was fun for everyone but me. I make it a rule not to stand on metal grates pretty much anywhere, sidewalks included, and this vista proved no exception. The fellas had a nice time though.

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IMG_5993^^Phil, being a nut

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Arriving at Schiltorn, we were treated to a stunning view. I can’t believe how fortunate we were to have such clear skies, especially given that Bern was shrouded in fog when we left. It’s proof enough to me that you just have to get out and explore and hope for the best.

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Man! What a good day. I can’t wait for more visitors so we can take them here. It might just be one of my favorite places in the country.