Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 88 - "Elle arrive, la neige!"

Got my wish!

Goodbye, I'm going out to play again.
Happy Friday. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, I Love You

Well you knew this was coming. 
Honestly, though, I can't believe I've had this blog since 2007 and I've never written about Thanksgiving. But it's actually kind of perfect, because it's all fair game.

Let me start by saying I don't think I've ever been more thankful on this day than I am today. There's nothing quite like being totally on your own in a foreign country to make you count your blessings.

Today was a completely regular Thursday in Switzerland. The buses and trains kept to schedule, the mail came, my host parents went to work, and my host dad's mother tapped on the kitchen window at 8 am and scared the daylights out of me because I was still half-asleep, getting breakfast ready. Ok that last part was not a regular occurrence. I don't think I could take moments like that on a weekly basis. Please don't come tapping on the window until I have all cylinders firing.

As I sat at lunch, staring into my leftover leftover pasta (that's like a whole other dimension of leftovers), a solitary tear rolled down my cheek as I thought of the succulent steam-cooked turkey, my nana's dinner rolls, and sweet potato casserole that my family would be sitting down to in a mere 6 hours. Oh sweet potato casserole, you delicious pile of carbohydrates, why are you not in my life?

(answer: in Switzerland, sweet potatoes must be imported from Israel, thus hard to find and not so cheap. Who knew Israel had agriculture? I thought their main export was political and social unrest.)

And then I got on Skype, and saw these guys:

And then a few hours later, this good-looking bunch:
(That's all four of my grandparents in one room! On one skype conversation! What a rare and spectacular event it was!)

And I thought to myself, man, what a beautiful life I have. If I could choose, I don't think I'd ever be able to pick such a stand-up group of people. My family is so awesome. And yes, I searched the lexicon of the world but found no other word sufficient to describe them.

Granted, nigh upon three months without having seen any of their faces in person has caused my memory to gild each one of them as shining beacons of humanity. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. True, but it also messes with your eyesight. Flaws? What flaws? Not that I want to remember people's flaws.....where was I going with this?

In all seriousness, even though my life was missing the good old traditional Thanksgiving noms (that honestly aren't that interesting the other 364 days of the year), I was happy as a clam today because I got to talk to a few of the people I care most about in this world. I was reminded that there are people I love out there who love me too and that's all I really need to get through the day.

And maybe some sweet potato casserole.

So to all those of you I didn't talk to, I love you, I miss you, and I think about you daily. I hope you had a truly satisfying day. And for goodness sake, stop wasting time on my blog. There's more pie to be had!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Arcade Fire + Google Earth = AWESOME

Note: this is just a screenshot and not actually a link, so don't click on it. The link is at the end of the post.

Normally I'd save something like this for a TILTw post, but this is too cool. Now I'm not one of those people who finds all these rad links before everyone else. In fact, this may have been around for awhile so I apologize if it's old news. However, my host mom just showed it to me this morning.

Arcade Fire and Google Chrome got together to make an interactive film, called The Wilderness Downtown.  You go to the website, enter in a street address and it pulls images from Google Earth to incorporate into the film.  World's most awesome music video? I think so. 

Downside: you must have Google Chrome installed to view and it doesn't work if the address you enter does not have Street View photos taken of it. I had to use an old TN address.

Check it out:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moustache Pleas

Friends, Romans, Countrymen....Behold the power of the Moustache!

Hercule Poirot, my all-time favorite detective!

What a dapper fellow. Anyway, he's not why I'm here. This is about George again. 

Photo blatantly stolen from his Facebook. The jazzy sunburst is not photoshoppery. He actually emits that ambiance. Hence the shades.

He's almost there! George has now raised $765 for Movember. Just days ago he was not yet at $500, and now his goal is $1000 before the end of the month. 

And so, I shamelessly come to you once more, asking for your help. Time is drawing nigh! Donate your spare change or if you're fresh out, your internet connections to spread the word! 

Why? Because it matters. Do you know the odds of getting cancer? Prostate cancer: 1 in 6 men. Cancer in general: 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men. That is terrifying. So anyone looking to change that? I'm right there with them.  And that's why I'm pushing this. 

Go forth, readers! And by go forth, I mean, click that link to go to his page. Help us in the fight against prostate cancer. 

Would it help if I told you he's a Boston Bruins fan?

Fight on, you mustachioed heroes!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snow? I Think So

Can't believe I'm tempting fate, and certainly come March I will be kicking my November self for wishing this, but LET IT SNOW. 

Sure it wreaks havoc with transportation, but it's the most beautiful form of precipitation. I could wax poetic, but I won't. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Now after all that, don't you want a little snow too?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Things I Love This Week

Hello Friday, oh bearer of the weekend. I love you so.

What am I loving this week?

Toulouse, France

Those are just a few of the photos from a weekend trip. Toulouse is a fairly small city, close to the border of Spain.  I'll be honest when I say it was not my first choice for a weekend trip, but by matter of circumstance, I found myself there last weekend.  Two of my American friends joined me in exploring this unknown city in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France.

Fortunately, I had an amazing time.

What I loved:
  • The weather: 70s and brilliantly sunny. A welcome break from cold and rainy Switzerland. 
  • There are lots of hidden architectural gems, if you look close enough you can find them. I went a little nuts with my camera, taking photos of all the patterns and colors. From the old monastery that houses the Augustine Museum to the fence on the pedestrian walkway over the bridge, there were interesting shapes and plays of light. 
  • Sitting next to a young man who wore a light blue pashmina sweater and smelled faintly of vanilla definitely made four hours of my train trip a delightful trip down memory lane. Considered telling him he reminded me of my grandmother, but then thought better of it. 
  • Eating a Pain Suisse on the banks of the Garonne River and watching the sunset. True contentment.
  • Favorite moment: Saturday night, sitting a sidewalk cafe talking with friends over some excellent tea, not realizing that nearly 3 hours went by.  Hands down, the thing I miss the most about home is having friends who've known me for longer than two months. I'm not good at the pleasantries, I like to hop right into those wildly silly or deep and pensive conversations. Ones you can't have unless you have some history with the person. 
  • Staying in a hostel for the first time. I've been fortunate to travel from couch to couch but this time I was going to a city where I knew no one.  So I put on my big girl pants and got myself a room in a hostel. Surprise: the room was clean and no one tried to rob me. I'm going to chalk that up as a win. That said, I have no qualms about admitting I'm a total pansy. At the slightest sign of danger I would have taken my credit card to the Grand Hotel L'Opera. Fortunately for my bank account, there were no shady characters hanging around my hostel. 
  • Sunday morning meeting = three different languages were spoken. Communication barrier? BROKEN.
Speaking of sunshine, it's lighting up the afternoon for the first time in weeks! The countryside is calling. 

A tout a l'heure, mes amis! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mo Money, Mo Problems? NAY.

November seems to be the month for causes. Everywhere I look it's "National doing something Month". A lot of them are quite useless, but there's one in particular that is doing good for the world. Proof that social media can help social activism: I present to you my cousin George.

Everybody wave now.

He's good at letterpress, carrying a conversation, and growing beards. Right now he's putting his facial follicles to use for Movember, a joint effort between the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Livestrong to raise money for prostate cancer research.  He's growing a mo (mustache, for all you plebs) in an effort to raise awareness and money to this end. And he's doing great, almost $500 raised! 

This affects everyone, whether or not you have a prostate or facial hair. As a female, it would seem odd that I'm speaking out now and not last month (National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, anyone?) but I don't think I'm far off to say that Movember is far less widely supported.  Both are equally important on the spectrum of cancer causes, but I'm just trying to do my part to get this one on your radar too. Also, I have always secretly been jealous of my male friends and their excellent beards. 

So. If you have a moment, go check out George's Movember page. If you can, donate. If not, do your part to spread the word. 

In the meantime, I'll be over here growing mustaches with the help of Photoshop. 

And a good day to YOU sir.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 70 - Holding on to Fall

Living and Dying with Dignity - Alessandro Gottardo

Autumn is over too soon. Winter, go away.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Things I Love This Week: UK Edition

In an effort to be more blog concious, (it is National Blog Posting Month, after all) I'm updating today ALL THE WAY FROM ENGLAND.
Not that makes any difference to all my American readers...nonetheless, here we are.

I've been in the Manchester area since Wednesday on a vacation and this is what I'm loving:
  • Visting my dear cousin Lindsey and her husband Norman. No one quite understands you like family, and family time is just what I needed after two months on my own. Hold me.
  • Speaking in English in an American accent all day long and forgetting that I'm in a foreign country.
  • SEEING THE OCEAN. Note: This is not the first time I've ever seen an ocean. I just really, really love the ocean.
  • The fortitude of the English. Despite the fact that it's poured every day I've been here, they go out walking and shopping and carrying on, not letting the weather keep them indoors. Though, as Lindsey said, if they never went out when it rained, it would be a country of hermits.
  • Watching the ducks make their way down the canal behind the house.
  • Being in an English-speaking meeting for the first time in 2 months. I wept with joy.
  • Having someone to go shopping with and increasing my already impressive sweater collection.
  • The British noms: Roast beef and yorkshire pudding, jacket potatoes and drinking a Hot Chocolate Milano (so rich, you almost have to eat it with a spoon)
  • The American noms: hamburgers and getting to eat brownies for the first time since I left home!
  • Blackpool: it's like Britain's version of Atlantic City. All the ghetto fabulous of the Jersey shore but with a West country English accent.
  • Visting an aquarium. I love learning about sea life. And jellyfish are the coolest.
  • Guy Fawkes night: fireworks galore! The air was thick with the smell of bonfires.
  • Helping Lindsey use public transportation. I just widened your access to England, you're welcome.
  • With the time change, I'm only 4 hours apart from everyone at home (instead of the usual 6), which means Skype times galore!
And now I must go because I smell pancakes cooking. Life is hard.
I'll add pictures when I return to Switzerland.
What do you LOVE about where you are?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Having Married Friends/Friends with Kids

This is yet another Mama Kat writing prompt but I'm powering through 'til I find my rhythm again.

I'm just going to go ahead and get it out of the way:
I'm single.
Not just "between relationships", but like, perpetually alone. I'm not old though, so I'm totally fine with it. But as I get older, more and more of my friends are getting into serious relationships, getting married, and popping out babies like they just announced last call for reproducing. Which I should mention to those of you in this category, if we can just take a quick sidebar: there's lots of theories about 2012, but no actual deadline for perpetuating humanity. 

And we're back. Anyway, it's a strange feeling to have friends who are married and having kids and something I'm still getting used to. Here are a few things we don't have in common:

(1) "I have to go home and dust my plants" is not as effective an excuse as "I have to go home and make dinner for my husband" when I want to get out of doing something at night.

(2) I can't contribute to conversations about morning sickness or breast feeding. Nor do I want to. 

(3) Couples Only parties/weekends. Which is a stupid idea anyway. How does excluding your single friends make the party better? Do you sit around eating leftover casserole and discuss joint checking accounts and his and her sinks? If so, please continue to pointedly exclude me in the future.

(4) Having absolutely no obligations to anyone or anything made it incredibly easy to press pause on my life and move to Switzerland. Should I decide to sojourn to Africa after this adventure is over, the only conversation I'll be having is with my financial advisor. 

(5) I, too, end the day exhausted with bits of food and occasionally snot stuck to my clothes from chasing children around. The difference is no one calls me Mommy and I get paid to do it.

(6) I can sleep spread-eagle and hog all the pillows and anyone who says otherwise has some explaining to do. Creep.

Not that I think I come out better in the end. There are definitely perks to this party of one but I know there's an immense joy in having a husband and kids that's unattainable by those without. Also some really hilarious couple's costumes I'm missing out on. 
Sidebar #2: will someone please be the Calvin to my Hobbes next year? Without one, I'm just awkwardly dressed in an adult-sized tiger suit.

And though there are times that I feel somewhat separated from my married friends, I don't love them any less. I've got some really great examples of married life around me. And some of you make some pretty adorable babies.  It just means sometimes I'll be eating dinner standing in the kitchen while you're enjoying each other's company at the table.  Conversely, sometimes I'll be in Toulouse for the weekend while you're shopping for a new washer and dryer. You win some, you lose some. 

And that's life. We grow and change but we don't have to allow it to separate us from one another. In the meantime, keep a spot for open for me on your couch and I'll give you advice on the best restaurants where they don't stare at you for eating alone.
Which, in case you are wondering, I have only found one: the Friendly's in Gettysburg, PA.

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