Happy Swiss National Holiday, Friday!

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IMG_3680Last Saturday Adam and I escaped the gloomy, chilly weather by heading to the balmy indoors of the Bern Botanical Garden. It’s open every day of the year and that coupled with no entrance fee makes it a perfect spot on a day wandering around the city. There are so many beautiful and exotic plants within the large greenhouses, but the outdoor premises are charming as well. There are lots of benches and secluded nooks; I imagine it would be a great place to go for a date.

What are you up to this weekend? Tomorrow is the Swiss National Holiday so there will be lots of fireworks and parties if the forecasted rain doesn’t chase us all indoors. In fact, they almost cancelled all the fireworks shows and stopped selling fireworks this year because of how hot and dry it’s been lately–they were worried about fires. But recent rain and lower temperatures suggest the show must go on! Sunday looks gorgeous so we’re planning on smoking pork ribs with a couple of new friends.

I hope you have a lovely weekend and enjoy these dog days of summer. Aren’t they glorious? Below are a few links that have caught my eye lately if you find yourself in a reading mood. Until Monday!

Speaking of reading, here are cool beach books for hot summer days. P.S. I’m reading this right now. Not at all a beach read but still very good!

A song for your weekend

How to email someone you don’t know so they’ll actually respond

This magazine cover. Whoa!

Good news J. Crew shoppers. Added this to the closet 🙈What’s one more when you already have a thousand?

Tips for overnight guests (I’m making a note to be better about stocking up on everyday basics)

Stuff business people say. Raise your hand if you’re guilty!

How “Switzerland ruined me for America” 10 ways to have a happier morning

There’s a blue moon tonight–we’ll be out looking for it

As someone who relies on bike lanes with regularity, I really appreciate this (amazingly strong) fellow

Could this story be any more mortifying?!

Lastly, tomorrow is National Girlfriends Day and I was recently sent this infographic (click to enlarge) from Oscar, a tech-based health insurance company, as a reminder to share with all my friends the importance of taking good care of your health. A healthy, active lifestyle is something I fully believe in and I hope you share some of these ideas with your girlfriends:

Oscar Women's CheckupsLRG

On Friendship

IMG_7189About a week after we arrived in Switzerland Adam’s boss asked if I could babysit his youngest daughter while he and his wife accompanied their twins to their first day of kindergarten. I heartily agreed, babysat little Louisa for about an hour, and finally sat down with her mom Nancy for a cup of coffee. Up until this past April we had been more or less inseparable since then.

She and her husband had lived in Switzerland for nearly ten years and knew most all the ins and outs of expat living. I went to her with questions about immigration registration, the local language, finding a doctor, and more. She had great ideas about travel, reading, and most importantly told me that J.Crew ships to Switzerland for a measly 10 Francs. She was a lifesaver.

They family was well on their way to gaining citizenship, which is a difficult task. It requires living here for over 12 years, a command of your canton’s local language, endorsements from members of the community and your gemeinde, not to mention a significant financial contribution. That red passport is highly coveted.

But, Nancy’s husband, Adam’s boss (the guy we met the day after we got engaged in Zurich, who then and there told him about the job at eBay that Adam has now) got an amazing opportunity in the US. It was for a high-level job in the city where they’d always wanted to end up: Portland, OR. The timing wasn’t ideal–they wanted to stay in Switzerland for at least 3 more years–but it was too good an offer to pass up and they moved stateside in April.

We had them all over for dinner the night before they left and I definitely cried a little bit harder than I needed to, but the feeling of loss was so visceral. Here was this person, Nancy, whom I had looked to as a major source of my security in living here, leaving me! It felt hugely dramatic at the time and I fell into a pretty deep funk after they left because they had all become like family to us. We celebrated Thanksgiving with them and went over for impromptu pizza dinners; Nancy and I had late nights drinking wine and talking til our teeth turned purple; their girls felt like my nieces. It was so hard to see them leave, even though we knew two things: 1. they were embarking on an incredible journey and moving to a fantastic city and 2. we would be fine!

I’ve had this conversation with many people who are or have lived abroad. This exact thing happens all the time to everyone who is an expat. It’s just part of the transient lifestyle and it unfortunately cannot be avoided if you have any desire to form a social circle or support network. It’s also one of the reasons that local Swiss are hesitant to make friends with internationals. Friendships are sacred and once you make a friend they are deeply loyal and a friend for life. They are less likely to invest time and emotional energy on you when they know there’s a good chance you will leave within 3-5 years.

But that’s not a practice I’m looking to implement during my own stay in this country. As tough as it is to make friends it’s been a hot pursuit of mine since day one. Sometimes I’ve been overeager and perhaps a wee bit aggressive, but that’s usually when I’m at my lowest and beggin’ for help. The friends I have made here–those who are as close to me as Nancy and others who are more casual acquaintances–are so important. They ground me in a way that feels essential to the expat experience.

I miss Nancy. I miss the regularity of our visits and the way we could talk for three hours straight and text each other five minutes after we leave, telling the other to “remind me to tell you something I forgot to mention today!” Isn’t that wild? To have a friend that close and wonderful? She was and is a treasure.

And I get to see her in two weeks!!!! YES! Ha. It really is the best news ever. I’m going to the US next week for a couple of girls’ trips and thinking about it makes my heart flutter in anticipation.

What about you? If you’ve made a major move, what was it like to make friends? Or, what are your thoughts on making friends as an adult? Isn’t it so much harder than making friends as a teen or a college student? This article is so spot on.

Hiking Felsenweg Bürgenstock

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IMG_9421On Sunday Adam, Phil, and I hiked around Bürgenstock mountain, which sits on the very edge of Lake Lucerne. In fact, the mountain itself is split almost down the middle between cantons Lucerne and Nidwalden. It’s a popular destination not only for its unparalleled views over the lake and surrounding mountains to the south, but also for the Hammetschwand Lift, the tallest outdoor elevator in Europe. En route to the lift is the Felsenweg, or cliff path. It was constructed between 1900 and 1905 and goes around the entire mountain. The circuit takes about 2 hours and walking that, as well as taking the lift up to the highest point in Lucerne, was our initial plan. Alas, the best laid plans…so on and so forth.

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IMG_9400We took the train from Bern to Lucerne and transferred to a boat to take us to the dock at Kehristen-Bürgenstock. From there, one can normally take a funicular up to the famed Bürgenstock resort. This is closed, however, while they complete renovations, and it isn’t scheduled to re-open until 2017. We had assumed that there would be a bus in the funicular’s stead that would take us up to the resort where the Felsenweg begins. After disembarking the boat and watch it make its steady course toward the neighboring Pilatus, we realized that no such bus existed and we would be arriving in Bürgenstock by foot. (For those interested, you can catch a PostAuto bus from Stansstad and Ennetbürgen, both of which are accessible by train or boat from Lucerne).

Once we had finally reached the Hammetschwand Lift and finished the majority of our tough hiking, we saw a map of our wanderweg, or route: we couldn’t help but laugh at how much the switchbacks resembled a seismometer with some pretty intense activity. That’s to say that it was a tough climb; we gained over 2,000 feet in just over an hour. We got alone fine because we’re all pretty athletic, but this hike requires a little experience I would say. There are also a lot of very steep drop-offs along the switchbacks that are not for the faint of heart. If you remember, I have that faint heart. Nevertheless, upwards and onwards!

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IMG_9414^^neighboring Pilatus

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IMG_9420Standing along the Felsenweg we marveled at how high we were. The face of Bürgenstock is rather steep and drops almost directly down into the water. The boats look like toys! Adam attempted to time a falling rock but we lost it amidst the trees. I’m guessing it took quite a while to reach soil.

While the Bürgenstock resort is under construction and not currently open, there is a restaurant at the beginning of the Felsenweg that one might want to stop at for refreshments and beautiful valley views. We opted to keep walking toward the Hammetschwand Lift, a 25-minute walk.

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IMG_9429The lift is just shy of 153 meters and it takes about ten seconds to get to the top. It’s a panorama elevator, meaning it’s almost all glass and you feel rather exposed on your way up and down. It’s a fun thrill and a great way to get to the very top of the mountain (the alternative being to hike it in its entirety).

We ditched the sandwiches we had made earlier that morning in favor of traditional alpine fare: veal sausages with onion sauce and french fries. We sat at the top for a while before taking the elevator back down, walking the Felsenweg to the bus stop and finally taking the bus back to Stansstad. From there we caught trains and headed back to Lucerne, Phil heading on toward Zurich and Adam and I to Bern. I, for one, had jelly for legs and was totally exhausted by the day. But I was tired in a good way. You know, like how you felt as a kid when you played outside all day long as if the fun would never end? It’s the best feeling to close out a summer day.

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IMG_9439We never get to tired of all the options for exploring here in Switzerland. Adam and I just played “what are your three favorite things about living in Switzerland” and one of mine was the easy access to the mountains and hiking trails. Since most shops are closed and laundry and cleaning are highly discouraged, if not actively forbidden in your lease, family and leisure time takes priority on Sundays and I’ve really come to love that. I like that we go outside and enjoy ourselves and we don’t feel guilty about it because there isn’t anything else we should or could be doing. I hope it’s a tradition that we make a permanent part of our lives.

 

 

 

Kickstarter Campaign: BASICS Notebook

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of the Kickstarter community and the exciting projects that are being shared and funded. I recently discovered the BASICS notebook and am really impressed by its style and functionality.

I am not alone, however, since they managed to surpass their $10,000 fundraising goal within one week and have raised over $112,000 since launching. So impressive!

Features of the notebook include: a pen holder, dual elastics, whiteboard paper, side pocket, six month planner, lined paper, blank pages, goals, weekly activity planner and checklists. I’m most intrigued by the dual elastics because I am always looking for something to hold down pages of my notebook while I’m copying notes from an interview or pulling quotes from a book. What a great feature.

I also like that the notebook folds flat and has a weekly planner with space to take notes. Sometimes if I’m at a meeting or an event, I’d like to have space to jot down a few ideas to help me prepare and this area at the bottom of the planner is perfect for that.

You can opt for a 12-month or 6-month planner, depending on which would suit your lifestyle and needs better. And you can choose between black and mint for the durable cover.

The fundraising ends on August 30 so there is still time to back the project and reap your rewards from the ground level. It’s so cool to be a part of a concept from its earliest stages.

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Are you supporting any projects on Kickstarter? What about notebooks and planners? I know people can get super committed to a style for years and I’m curious to know what yours are.

(All images and gif used with permission from The BASICS Notebook)

 

Pet Peeves

eyesI once had a long conversation about pet peeves with the editor of a magazine I used to write for. Unfortunately, I kind of have a lot, and most of them are easy to follow and we might even share some of them in common: chewing with your mouth full; cutting in line; walking and texting (especially on the wrong side of the sidewalk); common misspellings, e.g., “anyways”, “alot”, “incase”–all not actual words. The last one has been making me crazy lately. “Incase”? Like, just incase you missed it, I forgot that those are actually two words. (The only exception being archaic and/or nuanced British spellings).

Anyway, I do have one weird, inexplicable pet peeve and it is watching people mime eat. As in, pretending to eat or drink and not actually doing it. This is most often seen in improv or comedy shows, on TV, or when someone is performing an exceptionally dramatic retelling of an event.

I don’t know why exactly–and trust me, I don’t go to a lot of comedy shows–but this sort of playacting drives me nuts! I can’t handle it and I literally squirm watching it.

My editor, of course, thought I was crazy. She, however, has a weird pet peeve herself, and that is titles that include the word “Shoppe.” As in, Ye Olde Medicinal Shoppe, or The Gift Shoppe at Cedar Woods. Isn’t that funny and weird? One little word annoys her to no end.

It got me thinking about this list of “Words We Don’t Say”, created by a former editor of New York magazine:

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Ha! Isn’t this genius? If I were an editor, I’d be inclined to add a few here myself. I shudder at “New York’s finest” and “a who’s who of”. Yikes!

What are your biggest and oddest pet peeves? I mean, what really grinds your gears?

(image 1 via // image 2 via The New York Times)

Tuesday Book Club: A Moveable Feast (and Others)

IMG_9382When lamenting how difficult it is to get through a proper Dostoyevsky novel, Ernest Hemingway’s friend Evan Shipman says:

“You can read some of it again. Most of it. But then it will start to make you angry, no matter how great it is.”

This is almost exactly how I felt reading A Moveable Feast. It made me angry. It made me annoyed. It made me scoff. I really didn’t like it. And not for lack of trying.

I was enthusiastic about reading Hemingway’s memoir of his time in Paris in the 1920s, simply because that is a fascinating and lively time in history and I’d love to hear more from a first-hand account. But, oh, the arrogance! Oh, the self indulgence! I couldn’t like it, even though I wanted to.

Perhaps I’d do better to read some of his novels where his prickly personality doesn’t shine through as much. Or is that in all of his books? Those who are familiar with his oeuvre please chime in!

I remember I felt this way about The Signature of All Things: I wanted to like that book and it had been bolstered by plenty of critical acclaim. But it fell so flat for me and I struggled with its epic length and severe lack of substance. Isn’t it frustrating when books don’t live up to their hype? It kind of makes me feel like a bit of an outsider, or maybe even a curmudgeon, the fact that I don’t like this book.

I read the restored edition, that is, not the one pieced together by Mary Hemingway, his fourth and final wife, but the one assembled by Patrick and Seán Hemingway. There are new inclusions that were previously withheld by Ms. Hemingway and parts that were restored to Hemingway’s original handwritten drafts. In this way, it feels a little more authentic to what Hemingway intended with the memoir. Does that make my disdain better or worse, I wonder?

In any event, I’d love to hear what you have to say. Have you read A Moveable Feast? Anything by Hemingway? What did you think?

I’ve been on a major reading spree this last week and finished three books: A Moveable Feast, The Mockingbird Next Door, and It’s Not Me, It’s You.

I read The Mockingbird Next Door for my book club and I thought it was a very gentle, very sweet biography of a private yet wily woman. Marja Mills had unprecedented access to Nelle Harper Lee and her sister Alice, eventually moving in to the house next door. Over several years she develops of special friendship with these women and hears all about their deep family history and their relationship with the South.

I have to say I was a little disappointed with the scope of the reporting, not that I was expecting a juicy tell-all or massive exposé. But the biography lacks a certain depth to it and I thought a lot of the anecdotes were recycled or not thoroughly explored. That is understandable, however, given the secrecy that the Lee sisters prefer. After reading it I can’t decide if I want to read Go Set a Watchman more or less… Especially since there seems to be some confusion over whether the biography was unauthorized, and whether publishing the latest novel really honors Lee’s wishes now that she is nearly deaf and blind and lacks the sharp mental faculties she once had. It feels exploitative almost. What are your thoughts?

After the last several books I knew I wanted something funny and not so fussy so I went to the bookshop and loaded up on lighter fare. I devoured It’s Not Me, It’s You and I cannot wait to read Mhairi McFarlane’s two other books. This was laugh-out-loud funny and so sharp! It is certainly chick lit, no doubt about that, but it’s smarter and more nuanced that any book about a serial dater or shopaholic. I’d highly recommend it if you need something for the beach or the pool or just something to make reading fun again.

Iced Coffee at Home

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IMG_9308The heat wave persists! And we are still looking for ways to stay cool (or at least marginally less sweaty). Coffee is a daily must in our house and during these balmy summer days coffee that is icy cold is ideal.

Adam is the family barista, outfitting us with cool gadgets and learning new techniques, include Counter Culture Coffee’s quick and easy iced coffee. We’ve tried doing other methods, some that call for overnight sitting and others that involve letting coffee cool in the refrigerator, but we prefer this way because the brew is ready in minutes.

According to Counter Culture’s methodology, “Immediate cooling from the ice locks in flavors and aromatics that other iced coffee processes allow to escape.” Sold!

Iced coffees aren’t huge here, though you can find a good café freddo at some of the better cafés, so it’s nice to make this treat at home. I like mine with a generous splash of milk, but you could add your favorite simple syrup here for a sweeter version.

Also, if you’ve traveled around Europe then you may already know that ice is not a staple in the kitchen. In fact, our freezer is so small that it barely holds our meager ice trays and maybe one or two leftovers. We have found that giant ice cubes work best for this recipe and we’d recommend these molds.

Lastly, most coffee snobs experts would say that the best coffee is hand ground using a burr coffee grinder. It’s easy to clean and adjust the coarseness and it gives the coffee brewer ultimate control. We use this one and like it a lot. But a word to the wise: make sure you use the lid attachment. The beans have a tendency to jump out the top when you really get into a rhythm and it drives me nuts when they scatter all over the floor. Especially before I’ve even had my coffee…

Do you like iced coffee? I think it tastes a little more nutty and smooth, which I tend to prefer. Plus you can’t beat a cool beverage on a hot day!

(top image via Food52, all others our own)