Monday, July 29, 2013

Rainy day update

Life continues apace here in Zurich! B and I sat in our darkened apartment with all our fans on this past weekend in an attempt to survive 36C highs (that's well over 90F - Europe does not believe in air conditioning). However, today the predicted high is 20C, and there is a lovely cool rain that's been falling since late last night. Given how much rain we had this past spring, I never thought I'd be this excited to hear the pitter pat of the drops on our windows.

Last Monday morning, in an attempt to organize, I created a weekly schedule for myself. One week later, I have yet to follow it exactly on any given day. Despite this failure, however, I've found that I have been satisfied with how productive I've been - I'm back into daily German vocabulary cards, I managed to write almost 7000 words on my current story, worked out regularly, prepped several awesome dinners, and actually finished the baby blanket for my grad school friend. Just in time, since her baby is almost 2 weeks old! I'm currently working on a little hat to accompany the blanket before sending it off (I'm using this pattern - so adorable!).

How cute it this!? And yes, it's small on purpose. You can admire my color coding, but if you actually read what I'm doing, that's just dorky (well - it's dorky of you, but of more concern is that it reveals what a dork I am, as well). Ok, fine - if you read it, then the point is that I put most of my 'fun' stuff (eg, baking and crafting) later in the afternoon - so if I am running behind, I don't get my fun reward. It's been surprisingly effective.
I've learned that I am about 6000x more productive with writing and editing if I am not in our apartment (especially since I am currently addicted to Murder, She Wrote, and all eight seasons are available on Netflix), so I have been frequenting a large Starbucks almost daily. I appreciate that it allows one-hour of high-speed internet access and then reduces bandwidth, but doesn't cut me off entirely (is this how the US stores work? I can't recall). Definitely smart. I focus better in coffee shops - my dissertation was largely written in ones around Boston - but it also gets me out of the house regularly (important for my sanity). Another bonus is that I get to people-watch and eavesdrop. I hear a surprising amount of English, although usually not American (or native-speaking). But I also have lots of opportunities to practice my German comprehension (and without any pressure to actually speak it).

I was quite happy with how the baby blanket turned out; I think it looks much better in person than any picture I managed to take (maybe it's time I started trying out those DSLR camera tutorials on DVD...that can be part of my 'craft time'). It's a little knobbly around some of the edge, but the border greatly helped to 'normalize' the blanket - definitely a useful trick to remember in the future. However, as much as I was satisfied with the design, I will never, ever make it again. It was the SLOWEST progress I have ever made on any crochet project (hence why I'm sending it as a post-birth gift).

The blanket, folded in fourths. It's quite a good size (exactly how big are baby blankets supposed to be, anyway?). The shell design is from this blog, but I didn't follow the number of rows or the border part of the pattern.
Also, I realized that I haven't posted any pictures of our living room since Ikea shipment #2 arrived. There are still a couple sets of shelves to be assembled, but, overall, voila! We have a living room!

Yayy, a place to lounge! It needs some throw pillows and maybe a second chair, but it's enough to host!
And it even LOOKS like a living room! A side table! Places to sit! A coffee table! A rug! Yes, in case it's not apparent, I'm excited to finally feel that we are living in our apartment, and not just squatting. We still have some lingering boxes (see the right of the above photo), but their numbers are dwindling. And a former college classmate came to stay with us last weekend (she found herself in Luzern for work), so we are officially hosting visitors, if anybody is interested (hint, hint).

This upcoming Thursday, August 1, is a national holiday in Switzerland (think 4th of July in the US or 14th of July in France - complete with the fireworks). B will be taking the Friday off as well, allowing for a long weekend. We wanted to travel somewhere, but we are officially the world's worst trip planners - we only started looking at destinations last night around 11 pm. HOWEVER - we are still hoping to snag a train to somewhere fun, and I have sworn up and down that we will buy some cheap tickets from Easy Jet for future weekend getaways. Swiss blog people - where were some of your favorite weekend trips? I'm taking suggestions!

Baking/cooking post due soon! I'm way behind on sharing what I've been up to in the kitchen.

NB: I think I may have broken my own record on asides and parenthetical comments in this post. I've used up all my 'good' writing on my story, apparently.

Monday, July 15, 2013

6 months in pictures

Today is my 6 month anniversary of arriving in Zurich! I'm busy prepping for our first visitor, working on our second Ikea delivery (the opposite experience of our first one - we went Saturday, selected express delivery, pulled the boxes from the self-service area ourselves, and they were delivered this morning), and playing catch up on my story for Camp Nanowrimo.

In contrast to my usual loquacious style, I've decided to make this post mainly pictures. Pictures that make me happy and remind me of the progress I've made in my time here. Some are new, some will look familiar if you've been following my blog. With B's support and help, I've been focusing this month on letting go of impatience and feeling that I "should" be at a certain point in - well, anything: language progress, job, settling into our new apartment, extracurricular activities, travel, etc. Instead, I acknowledge that I have made progress, and I am working to make more.

Hiking the Uetliberg during the winter.
Cupcake decorating at Workshop week at the American Women's Club.
Exploring my new home city. Especially on days like this one. No photoshopping that sky.
Finding side streets in the city.

Scoping out our new place, the day we picked up the keys.

Baking tasty treats (these are apple pie bites, made in a mini muffin tin with from-scratch crust. B and I demolished 20 of them in < 4 hours).
Completing DIY projects (Ikea bookshelf - it won't win any awards for detail paint work, but I love how it turned out). 

Preparing (and experimenting with) tasty, healthy meals. 

Doing (and finishing!) craft projects.
Organizing and finding places for things (I love my yarn stash!).
Gardening - especially when it results in promising little veggies like this one...
...and this one.

Unexpected gifts from friends. Especially totally awesome ones like this.
It's about the journey, not the destination, and I am focusing on reminding myself of that.

Related note - Friday is the 2 year anniversary of when B and I stopped by the town hall in Brookline, Massachusetts and made it official. He is my partner, my best friend, and I count myself lucky every day that we found each other. We are only at the beginning of our journey, and it's been more wonderful than I could've imagined!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Zurich to do list

Inspired by confirmation of my parents' impending Swiss visit and a recent friend's post in which she made a list of all the fun things to do around her current home, I have compiled a list of fun sights and activities both in Zurich and nearby. I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Around Zurich:

Kunsthaus (Museum of Art)
Grossmünster and Fraumünster (churches)
St. Peterskirche
Zürich Zoo
Rietberg Museum
An opera at the Opernhaus
Swiss National Museum
Botanical Garden
Wildnispark Zürich
Belvoir Park
Chinese Garden Zürich
Sushi class
Football game at Stadion Letzigrund
Lindt chocolate factory tour
Truffle making class at Cailler
Lake Zurich boat ride

<1 hour away:
Basel Zoo (often rated one of the top five in the world)
Rhine Falls (been once, but should go again!)
Kunst Museum (Basel)
Augusta Raurica (Roman ruins near Basel)
Mount Rigi

Day trips/Weekend getaways:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th! I hope that all my friends and family in the US are taking a well-deserved day off from lab/work/stress.

Things here have been quiet. Perhaps no more than usual. It feels like it's been quieter, but that could be because I put my part-time editing work on hold a couple weeks ago. Why? Because it was taking up just enough of my day that it made an easy excuse not to accomplish anything else. I do plan to pick it  up again after this month. Because this month (as in, July), I am trying Camp Nanowrimo - AGAIN. This time I've actually written out some sort of outline and key plot points (important because I hear that's a writerly thing to do, but also because my last attempt in April failed due to multiple impossible/out of order scenes and occurrences). I'm also working in some biology because, well, that's kind of what I know. So we'll see how it all goes. It does likely mean that I will be quiet on the blog over the next month.

I've been in Switzerland now for almost six months. Which seems crazy to me. And completely stresses me out because I should've gotten much more done. Or at least be looking into a "real" job (ok, fine, any job). I have been keeping my eye out for teaching positions at international/private schools in the area, but most of them want actual teaching credentials. Which I do not have. And the other jobs that I have seen are not biology-related, which is really the only subject I can claim to have extensive knowledge of (according to my CV, at least).

Outside of the job front, however, things feel on-schedulish/time-appropriate. My German is not comfortable, but I can now tell the difference between a dry cleaner's and a grocery store, and I can translate a surprising number of advertisements on the train and around town. To be honest, I'm still highly uncomfortable with even basic interactions, but I've become more accustomed to the discomfort and I deal with it better. I've taken to watching a solid half-hour of German news in the morning, during which I sit with up and just type in the news headlines on the screen. It's good for expanding my vocabulary, although I don't have much occasion to use "bankrupt," as a general rule.

My social calendar is also slowly settling. I have met a few people here that I socialize with on a semi-regular basis, which is needed for sanity. I've occasionally made my way to the local Stitch n' Bitch meetups, which are tons of fun. I've also been to a couple meetings of an English-speaking theater group here (although I didn't audition for their fall production, I'm interested in getting involved behind the scenes). Last Friday, I went to a writer's group that is hosted by the AWCZ (American Women's Club of Zurich), and it was lovely and fun, and I plan to return - although apparently my interest in "genre fiction" made me a bit of an outlier. On Monday, B and I went with one of our new friends to see the latest Superman movie (in English, with French and German subtitles - which, by the way, are SUPER distracting. I kept reading them and then missing the actual spoken dialogue. Also, movies here have intermissions. Just a tip - it doesn't mean the projector is broken. Not that I thought that! - Ok, I totally did). For the next month, we have a variety of outings scheduled at least one evening a week, which feels lovely - not too busy, but not too much hunkering down and hiding from the world.

This weekend is the Zürifäscht, a huge street fair here in Zurich that apparently happens once every three years. There are supposed to be music and street acts, food stands, and fireworks. I'm super excited to check it out, and the fireworks are right on time for July 4th, which I appreciate. Schedule/website can be found here (in German). I plan to charge my camera batteries and check it out!