Saturday, October 30, 2010

10 Reasons I'm Glad it's Fall

In lieu of a regular TiLTw post, I'm using one of Mama Kat's writing prompts to shake it up.

Why I Love Fall

(1) The drama. Fall is like that person you know who stops in to say hi and you never know what to expect.  It can be gorgeous and warm and colorful or stormy and dark and it changes at the drop of a hat.  Of course there are days when I wish it would stop playing Russian roulette with the temperature and my immune system. But it's exciting. Until it snows in early November. That's when I'm over it.

(2) Fall fruit. Apples, figs, grapes, and cranberries are all in season. Am I doing a jig in an orchard? Maybe.

(3) Sweaters. Anyone who knows me knows I have a problem and it's called grandpa cardigans. Yes, make all the Mr. Rogers jokes you want but I love my button downs.  I wear them in every season (yes, even summer) but in the fall I can expand my sweater wearing horizons with cowl necks, cable knits, dusters and wool. Sweaters every day and you can't make fun of me.
Grandma called and she said I could keep her cardigan. It's from Zara though so it's legit.

(4) Scarves. Same reason as above. Fall : the season when you wear scarves not to be a hipster but because your neck is actually cold.

(5) Pumpkins. As you may have gathered from my pumpkin quiche recipe post, I am a lover of all things  pumpkin. You may love pumpkin pies and pumpkin spice lattes but it takes a true enthusiast to enjoy it with bacon in a quiche.  I love eating the seeds too. Wash them, salt them, let them dry, and then roast in the oven. Also, who doesn't enjoy a good pumpkin carving?
This year's attempt. Much less snarky than last year's attempt, which was literally a pumpkin with the word "pumpkin" carved into it. 

(6) A visit from my North Carolinian relatives. A fairly new tradition that involves some of my awesome relatives, who drive with their babies all the way out to Indiana for 3 or 4 days.  Fun times include bowling, trips to the zoo, children in adorable costumes, and lots and lots of laughter. In fact, this coming weekend they will be making the trip again but sadly, I will not be there. 

Sorry, adorable baby ladybug not for sale.

(7) Halloween. Free candy. And dressing up in an awesome costume that's not degrading to my gender and everything we've accomplished in the last 100 years. Due to lack of resources, this year I will be answering the door looking completely normal except for perhaps a paper moustache. 

(8) Building fires. I love a good campfire, but nothing feels quite so nice as a fire in the stove on an especially cold day. Coming from the land of gas fireplaces I can't tell you how nice and cozy it is to live in a house with a wood-burning fireplace. Just beautiful. Bonfires? Also nice.

(9) Elections. It's that time of year! Now politics generally seem to bring out the worst in everyone and a lot of people don't like discussing it but I find the process fascinating.  I love living in a democracy because the system is constantly being re-evaluated by elections. There's the big ones, (presidency, congressional) but every year there are also the local elections. While people pay less attention to these, they actually have a more direct effect on your day to day life. So I don't care if you are Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, or Ambivalent. You can't have an effect (or justify complaining) unless you vote.  Vote for yourself and for those people whose absentee ballot never came in the mail (cough). And now I'm stepping off my soap box. 

(10) Thanksgiving. Um more food, duh. Oh and also the being thankful part. It's going to be my first Thanksgiving in a country that doesn't celebrate it but you best believe I will make pie and eat a ridiculous amount of food all by myself. Food coma, party of one.

Well there you go. A whole post about fall that doesn't mention football. Whoops...
What do you love about fall? 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Checking In

Bon soir.

Sorry to be so sporadic with posting but today's excuse brought to you by the weather.

 The crystal blue horizon and warm west wind have packed their bags and headed elsewhere. Now it seems the sky is competing with the landscape to see who can be more dramatic. Black clouds billow and clutter the space overhead, obscuring the mountains and draping the ground in shadows. A bitter cold wind rips the pretty leaves off the trees and throws them on the ground, swirling to the mountains and then back again to rudely push against me. These two unwelcome characters make me want to construct a tent out of the bed covers and never leave. In these times, I write random thoughts on note cards and toss them in frustration on the floor on top of yesterday's sweater. Go away Internet, I don't want to share my life with you.

Alas, what is one psych visit away from being diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder puts me in a cold weather funk. But I'm trying to shake it off.

I have stories for you. And things I love. But it is late and I am tired and cranky, so I leave you with this beautifully constructed stop-motion animated story.

These aren't tears. Stop looking at me like that, it's allergy season.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 48 - Looking for Color

Today I went for a walk on a day that was cold, windy, and overcast. The kind of day that enhances dead leaves and empty trees and a general feeling of melancholy. A day that looks like this:

A day like today needs color and that's exactly what I set out to find. So here it is:

A lone sunflower in a field, despite it being way past sunflower season

The red Swiss flag, flapping cheerily in the breeze

And all the wildflowers I could find, in a bunch.

Day made. :)

If everything looks grey, you just haven't looked hard enough. Go find the color.

Have a fantastic fall day! 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 47 - Welcome to America, Land of Red Plastic Cups

Whether or not I like it, I am a representative of the United States. The way I look, talk, and act is a product of American culture to a certain extent. Now, I don't think I necessarily do such a bad job at this. I'm certainly trying my hardest not to feed into the European stereotype of a typical American. Thus far I have avoided the following stereotypical behaviors:

  • Speaking loudly in English regardless if people understand me or not
  • Wearing a fanny pack
  • Eating at McDonald's
  • Drinking myself silly in a bar
  • Starting all my sentences with "Well, back in the States we do it like this"
  • Calling things "quaint" or exclaiming how small everything is
  • Having a "my way or the highway" attitude
  • Being morbidly obese
It's not that I'm ashamed to be American. I love my country, but I'm also mindful of our bad reputation overseas. Thus, I do not feel the need to march around waving the flag while singing the Star Spangled Banner.  But I also can't hide it either.  Let's be honest: my entire wardrobe is from Gap, Ann Taylor Loft, and Old Navy.  Even if I were head to toe in H&M and Zara, the minute I open my mouth everyone knows that is not real French coming out.

Fortunately the Swiss are kind, accommodating people. The moments where I've felt silently condemned for my citizenship have been limited to one interaction with a really grouchy waitress.  But I'm pretty sure she was just having a bad day.

In general I don't get asked very many questions about what it's like back home because, let's be real, everyone gets an idea from turning on a TV.  I have only met one person who was eager to talk to me when he found out I was from the U.S. Here's how it went.

My French class is a mixture of Swiss Germans, Portugese, Scots, and then there's me. One of the Swiss Germans is a teenage guy who, like every teenage guy, spends the whole class cracking up at what he thinks are double entendres that the instructor is saying.  (Clearly needs to pay more attention to what she's actually saying...) Well on the first day we were introducing ourselves and his eyes lit up when he heard me say I was from the U.S. The instructor stepped out of class for a minute and he comes right over.

Him: "You are American?"
Me: "....yes."
Him: "I have a question I have always want to ask an American!"
Me: "ok, what is it?"
Here I get excited thinking, what sort of political/economical/social conundrum does he want to discuss? It's my first international meeting of the minds! Alert the U.N.!
Him: "When you have the house parties, do you really have your drinks in red plastic cups?"
Me: "...what?"
Him: "You know, the cups, for the game of drinking and with the small balls? I see this in the movies and on TV!"
Me: "Are you asking me about red plastic cups? and BEER PONG?"
Him: " Yes, yes!"
Me: ".......yes. that's uh...that's a real thing."

Glad to know the youth of Switzerland are concerned with top international issues. Thanks, MTV Europe. What a disappointment. I doubt there is anyone is less qualified to discuss the college party scene than me. If this is what they're looking for in an American well I should just pack my bags now.  
Otherwise, if you have any other questions, I'll be over here in my bright blue wind-breaker pretending to like sausage.

God Bless America.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Things I Love This Week

Some weeks are easier than others. This was not one of those. Fortunately there are still little things that bring moments of pure joy. Thus I can say, I love this week too. 
  • Making mini chocolate cupcakes with coconut cream cheese frosting
  • Belle and Sebastian's latest album, Write About Love - like you stepped into the sounds of a Wes Anderson film. 
  • Meatballs from Ikea
  • Walking to the farm, buying fresh eggs, and then promptly eating them all for lunch. Nothing like toast and fried eggs in the middle of the day.
  • Feeding leaves to the goats next door. I crack up every time. Those crazy goats will eat anything.
  • The sights along my walk: wildflowers, cows with clanking bells lazily chewing cud, the horses that always stop what they're doing, ensemble, to watch me run by. I like to think it's my excellent form, but it's probably because I always wave and shout "BONJOUR, LES CHEVAUX!" (Translation: HEY HORSES!) as I pass.
  • Getting new piano music in the mail
  • After a shower, drying my hair in the sun
  • My new navy v-neck sweater from H&M. Less about the sweater and more about only paying 14 CHF for it.  I feel like I cheat the Swiss economy every time I buy something on the cheap.
  • Being happy purely because something good happened to another person
  • This article in the New Yorker on social activism and social media. Summary: tweeting about the need for clean water in 3rd world countries is not as effective as going to Kenya and digging a well.
Keeping it short because I have other posts up my sleeve. Sorry for the lack of pictures. Haven't taken any new ones in the last week.

Smile like you mean it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recipe: Pumpkin and Bacon Quiche

Quiche à la courge et aux lardons
(Thanks Audrey for the translation!)
Quiche with pumpkin and bacon

26 oz (750 grams) of pumpkin puree

9 oz (250 grams) of diced bacon
4 eggs
3/4 cup (150 ml) milk
7 tblspoons (100 grams) of melted butter

  • Boil or steam the pumpkin, drain and mash. 
  • Mix melted butter with the eggs until well mixed. 
  • Stir in pumpkin puree and milk.
  • Lightly fry the bacon, dice, and add to pumpkin mix. 
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spread over uncooked pie crust and bake about 45 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (~392 degrees Fahrenheit)
Type of pumpkin to use: butternut, potimarron, buttercup, Sweet Mama

Feel free to use a premade pie crust or the recipe below:

Basic Pie Crust:
7 tblspoons (100 g) unsalted butter
200 gr flour
2 eggs 
1 pinch of salt 
A bit of water

  • Pour flour and salt on the table and make a well in the center
  • Cut the butter into pieces. Add to flour and mix well.
  • Break eggs in the middle of the dough and mix until soft. Add a bit of flour or water if needed.
  • Break the dough with your hands and knead until it does not stick to your fingers.
  • Let rest for 2 hours before using. Can be stored in the fridge or freezer for later use.
This is light and delicious and perfect for any meal. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How Gruyere Cheese is Made

Ok so I am a huge nerd (this is not news) and I am really interested in how things are made. This goes for pretty much everything. With the exception of hot dogs and other meat products. No thanks, I've read The Jungle, I think I've got the gist of the beef industry.

In fact when I used to babysit back in the States, one of the families I worked for had a billion TV channels and late at night I'd watch...the Science channel. Purely to watch episodes of "How It's Made". Not joking. Ask me how down comforters and golf balls are made.

So last weekend my host family took me and my first ever visitor (!!) to the village of Gruyere to see how they make the world-famous cheese. And since clearly you all would also want to know how it's made, I'm going to share it with you. With pictures.

Here's the heart of the factory. The big copper vats are for stirring and heating the milk. They only use milk from Swiss cows and they heat and stir for hours and hours, adding in a curdling agent.

After the curdling process, they take out the curds and press them in the round metal containers, to separate out the whey (a by-product) and create the big wheels.

When the pressurizing is finished, they remove the wheels to a salt bath where they soak for 24 hours to absorb a large portion of the salt and take on a lot of their flavor. Here is the salt room.

This is when it officially becomes cheese. Then the wheels are removed to a storage cellar where they sit and age. Every day for the first 90 days, a little robotic machine removes each wheel, coats it in brine, flips it over and puts it back. 

The cheese is ready to be eaten after 3 months but can be allowed to age up to 9 or 10 months for a stronger flavor. They sell the cheese in all ages.  Personally I like it mild.  Although this type of cheese is made all over the world, only cheese from this factory is allowed to be actually called Gruyere. So unless you see "Made in Switzerland", the cheese you're buying is not technically Gruyere.

The final step is to take pictures in the face cut-outs in front of the factory. Obviously.

So there you are. It's a good cheese for melting (particularly fondue) and also good for grating and serving over other things. The Swiss eat a LOT of it. I'm more of a soft cheese person myself but it's a good hard cheese. 

Ok class, wake up now, that's the end of the lecture. So what'd you think?

Things I Love This Week

Happy Saturday!

Letters and Packages - for real this time. In a week I received them from three different people! I guess my online pleas worked. Thanks to Mom, Ariana, and Danielle!

Travel Plans - Taking a mini vacation to the UK at the beginning of November. I'm excited for this for a few reasons. I will be
a) visiting family
b) there for Guy Fawkes night
b) celebrating Thanksgiving with a few other American/Canadian ex-pats
c) visiting a primarily English speaking country

Grooveshark - three cheers for the only ad-free music streaming service that works in Switzerland! Both Pandora and fail in this.

This. Nothing like ridiculous internet humor to lift me out of a blue mood. Thanks for sharing Jillian!

Also this. A spoof on the Old Spice "Real Man" ad. Watch here first if you haven't seen it.

I heart Sesame Street.

Little Bits

  • Taking pictures in a real photo booth in a train station
  • Waking up to find video messages in my inbox.
  • Seeing/learning how Gruyere cheese and Cailler chocolate are made
  • Eating a traditional Swiss meal - raclette!
  • Sleeping in
  • Driving through the vineyards by the lake when all the leaves are just starting to turn
  • How my full name sounds when spoken in a French accent - so cool
  • A really excellent recipe for pumpkin quiche - if you like pumpkin and quiche, then you'll love this!
  • Apple season
Hey, SMILE. You're alive and it's the weekend! 

Friday, October 1, 2010


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