Friday, October 31, 2014

Job begins in 3...2...

I can't remember whether I've written previously about my job sitch (that stands for 'situation' in douche. I'll refrain from further use of such dialect). Perhaps partly because I still carry around some baggage about not 'using' my PhD - even after almost 2 years, I get many well-meaning people whose first reaction is "Biomedical research Ph.D.? But you could get any job you wanted here - there are so many universities and pharma companies!"
Yes, thank you, but likely I do not know you well enough to go into my decision to walk away from research science, so I will just nod vaguely instead. This isn't awkward at all.

I haven't written about my job(s) because...well, I'm not sure. A myriad of things, I suppose. I felt that I didn't yet have a 'career.' None of the various jobs I do requires significant enough time investment to feel I can lay claim to the job title(s). But neither does hausfrau sit well with me, so I just don't talk about it at all. Thanks to B's job, I can choose to work, a position I've never been in and - frankly - never been close with anyone who has. I have strange feelings of guilt, privilege, and amazement pretty much daily.
Friends and family probably think I'm spending all my days lounging on a glacier, admiring the Alps, sipping tea and crocheting (if that ever becomes a paying job somehow, I am ON IT). Meanwhile, the more realistic picture is that I am doing laundry, cleaning, running errands, and working with whatever bits and pieces, job-wise, I could find.

When I left the US in early 2013, I was editing scientific manuscripts for a company in the US. I loved the job, but the pay rate, while lovely for some extra spending cash (in USD, of course), didn't go far in Switzerland. Then I joined a Writer's Group in Zurich and somehow was hired to write an Expat Guidebook for an online relocation company (still working on it, going well), a job that I was SUPER excited to get (Look, Ma, I'm a real-live writer!), but it's temporary and I have no real qualifications (got it through sheer dumb luck), so that didn't feel like a 'real' job either. Or at least one that I could point to as a career in any way.

Teaching English is often the default of trailing spouses, so when such a job fell into my lap in the spring of 2014, I shrugged it off as 'not really news.' Yes, one of my classes is teaching ESL research scientists to improve their communication (so my hiring was actually due to my Ph.D. background), but my other classes are general English conversation, and besides I'm only teaching 3 classes/week, although I do spend some time every week grappling with lesson plans. Again, I felt that my lack of qualifications somehow prevented me from claiming credit for the job.

(After typing all this, I realize I may have some weird issues. But those are not the focus, at least in this post).

So I am super excited to announce that next month I will be starting yet another job (don't worry, I've dropped the manuscript editing and a significant volunteer time commitment to make room. I do like to sleep). It's 30%, so another part-time endeavor, but it's an open-end contract (i.e., permanent) and feels career-like. It's my first job in Switzerland that involves colleagues, structure, etc - even a few benefits. I'm a big ol' mixture of nerves and excitement. As of next week, I will be a high school biology teacher at a private school here in Zurich. The school uses the British system (my German is nowhere near good enough to teach in), but the majority of students are, in fact, Swiss. I can't allow the students to speak Swiss German during class/lecture, but I'm looking forward to being in a work environment in which I can at least hear the local language regularly.

I am grateful for such a chance - I came here with teaching in mind as a possibility, but it turned out that most international schools have a large talent pool to select from (so many expats in Zurich!), so they can require such minor things as, oh, a teaching certification. I actually applied to this school last fall to cover maternity leave (their ad said that a teaching certification was "preferred," but I had every other qualification they listed). I was called in for an interview, gave a sample lesson, met people, the whole deal. At the end, I was disappointed not to get the job - everybody was super nice, the vice-principal said that it was unusual to have two such qualified candidates, he felt I was a 'natural' at teaching, etc. I tried to be flattered that I had come so close, but I was pretty disappointed - being natural is not something I can put on my CV, unfortunately, and I knew I had few possibilities elsewhere.

So imagine my surprise when the school called three weeks ago to ask if I was still interested in a position. Turns out they weren't just blowing smoke! I jumped at the chance. I love teaching high schoolers (strangely enough, since I hated being one), and I'm excited to finally take on a job that combines two of my interests.

I'm interested to hear others' thoughts. Am I crazy? Do you sometimes feel that part-time or side jobs don't 'count' somehow or is that just me being neurotic?
When/if you found a job locally, did you feel it better connected you to the community? If you are a trailing spouse/expat/hausfrau, did you find other benefits/drawbacks in having a job?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Crochet WIPs: Baby blankets and scarf disasters

It finally happened - I completed a crochet project on time! Ok, mostly. I finished the below blanket a mere hour before the baby shower, although I did not get the amigurumi elephant done that I had planned to accompany it (there's still time! Another 2-3 weeks before the actual due date). I only did one repeat of the outer border row, since I didn't have time to do more think it needed more than that.

Still showing up rather pink in the photos, at least on my computer screen.
I love finishing projects. Actually, I hate it - I abhor weaving in the ends and all that tedious stuff, but I love the feeling of the project being finished. It's all neat and tidy (hopefully), and even if it's a little wonky, I can still check it off as complete and move on to the next. It's rare that I can say this is absolutely finished and I never need to do anything more with it (in any aspect of my life, really). Plus as a bonus, it's a physical creation that I can touch and say, ooohhh, so soft!

I'm happy with how the blanket turned out, but I wouldn't use the pattern again - it's just a little lacier than what I would want for a practical baby blanket (although hopefully it will be nice as a decorative piece), and I found it a little strange, especially with such a solid border.

So because I have no self-control and finishing things is addictive, I started my next project the evening after the baby shower. This baby blanket is adapted from a free pattern from Lion Brand Yarns, although since I was using a non-bulky yarn, I increased the repeats/size. I originally bought the lighter teal thinking I would use it as the main color and choose a pattern with the darker teal as a border, but I started to have doubts, so I went back and purchased the white. Definitely a good idea, I think. Very happy with the way it's working up.

Only problem when moving back to multicolour blankets is the number of ends to weave in increases exponentially. I started carrying the white along, which makes it slightly better.
The yarn is from Lang Yarns, called Nelly, and it's a cotton/acrylic mix. It's thicker than what I've used for the other blankets, so the resulting blanket will be cozier (and probably not usable during the warmer months - any friends in the Arctic circle procreating these days?). 

In addition, I have started a scarf using this amazing "Sweet Eleanor" pattern, which is universally adored in all the comments. So obviously I am doing something wrong...I'm only a few rows in and I plan to keep plugging away, but currently it looks a hot mess.

Seriously, what is this? I've triple-checked the pattern - the fault definitely lies in my own stars.
 I think the main problem is that I chose a freakin' variegated yarn again. I should be banned from buying these things, as I ALWAYS pick some pattern that plays against the yarn, rather than with it. In my defense, I thought I had chosen one with a slow/gradual color change, so I was hoping for something like this:

Knit pattern available here.
Look how gorgeous that is! Such an epic fail on my part. Most likely the scarf will soon be frogged and I will re-appropriate the yarn for a project that has a chance of succeeding - perhaps some socks or a super ugly shrug.

I do love the pattern, though, and I want to give it another chance - perhaps with some beautiful yarn that just arrived 2 days ago in a my first "Swiss Yarn Box" from Kaya Lana, a birthday present from B. I was sooo excited to open this thing - and I was right to be so! They sent two skeins of yarn - 50g of a cotton/silk mix in a beautiful grey blue and 100g of a hand-dyed merino from Yorkshire in brilliant green. The merino seems like an excellent candidate to redo the Eleanor scarf. And in a brilliant marketing move on Kaya Lana's part, they include a discount code (10% off) for ordering more of these specific yarns. Which of course I might really need.

Does anyone else get the itch to craft when autumn comes?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Swiss German problems

I've talked a bit on this blog about how challenging I find Swiss German, which is basically an oral language with no written rules. But even that definition is an oversimplification. Swiss German is actually a language group - but even that term can't be properly defined due to the wide variation in the local dialects.

That's right - Swiss German doesn't actually exist, technically speaking. As Wikipedia puts it, "Linguistically, Swiss German forms no unity." You're telling me.

It truly fascinates me that such a small country with only 8 million residents already has four official languages, but even that doesn't begin to cover the breadth of linguistic variation. I'm not a linguist, nor have I been around Swiss German enough to try to explain any of the differences, but if you want to know more, the above article makes for interesting reading (even if I don't know the difference between Low, High, and Highest Alemannic).

As a demonstration of the mind-boggling variation, I present this video that a friend posted on facebook. Zurich, as you may know, is located in north central Switzerland, while Valais (German: Wallis) is a canton in the southwest and is bilingual - the western part speaks French, which the eastern speaks German. The two areas are separated by well under 200 km/125 miles (Zurich to Zermatt is 161 km/100 miles).

I mean, seriously - Ausländers don't even stand a chance, do we?

(Also note: I'm not fluent in any of these languages other than English, but I will say that I've never heard anyone say "Guten Tag" - in any accent - as "hello" in Switzerland. They say "Grüezi." The point of the video is to show different accents, I suppose, but just sayin'). UPDATE: A Swiss friend informs me that Guten Tag is used in Switzerland for some informal situations. Apparently I have never been in an informal situation in Swiss German (true dat, I have not).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Local yarn shop in Zurich

By far the most popular post on my blog is the one discussing yarn stores in Zurich - likely because, as I discovered when I first searched for such information, there isn't much available (and what does exist tends to be in German).

So I am happy to have another LYS (local yarn store, for those of you unfamiliar with crafting lingo) to report. This one is close to where I live and I was thrilled to discover it a few months ago, but last week was the first time that I managed to walk by when it was open.

The name is lana e più ("yarn and more" in Italian, according to Google Translate), and it's located a short walk from the Morgental tram/bus stop (for map and address, see info at the end of this post). Super convenient for me, and not hard to get to for others - the 7 tram stops there as well as the 72, 66, and 70 buses.

The only thing that is slightly inconvenient is the hours of the shop. It is open Monday thru Saturday, but for limited hours each day (see info at the end of this post for exact times), which is why I'd been walking by it for several months without ever going in.

The stuffed bear out front means that it's open!
The reason for these limited hours became apparent, as the lady owner said the shop was a one-woman show. I was a bit nervous before going in, as it is a small shop and I didn't think I could hide my inability in German. Unfortunately, I was right - the owner was lovely and chatty, and after a few sentences I had to 'fess up that I couldn't speak (Swiss) German. She didn't blink an eye, offering English or French, the former of which I gratefully accepted. (I suspect she may also speak other languages - I just don't look like someone you would offer Italian as an option).

The shop is small and not stuffed to the brim, but I still found a good variety. Be aware that not all yarns are on display in the front - apparently she keeps the 'boring' colors in the back room, as she likes the bright ones to be on display - so you may have to ask her for a complete palette.

Overall, this shop was one of the most enjoyable yarn-buying experiences I've had in Switzerland. What made it wonderful was the owner was so knowledgeable - since she does everything, she is familiar with every single yarn in the store. I told her I was looking for yarn appropriate for a baby blanket in non-traditional colors and she had several suggestions. I finally chose a rather thick cotton yarn and she had a blanket she had crocheted (she crochets and knits, very jealous) from that exact yarn to demonstrate the size/number of skeins she had used. How very convenient!

She packed me off with advice on washing and as a bonus, gave me a single-size laundry detergent for free, which will be perfect for passing on to the expectant parents. She also offered that if I didn't end up using some of the skeins, I could return them to the store, which I thought was a generous offer (and brilliant, frankly - there's nothing worse than running out of a specific dye lot of a yarn before you're done with a project, so with that offer, I don't have to worry about 'underbuying' - a term I just created. Oh, and there are many worse things, actually - famine, war, disease. But hyperboles make a point. What was I saying?).

You do have to ask about yarn prices, as they are not posted, but the yarn I bought was just under 5 CHF/skein, which I felt was completely reasonable.

From my limited experience, it seemed that the shop is doing well - I was the only customer in the shop at the time,  but I ran into other customers both while entering and leaving - but I do hope others will seek it out, especially as a place to look for yarn for a specific project/pattern.

Lana e più  information:

Location: Albistrasse 58, 8038 Zurich

Opening Hours:
Monday: 14:00-18:00 (2 pm to 6 pm)
Tuesday: 9:00 - 11:45, 14:00 - 18:00
Wednesday: 9:00 - 11:45
Thursday: 9:00 - 11:45, 14:00 - 18:00
Friday: 9:00 - 11:45, 14:00 - 18:00
Saturday: 9:00 - 14:00

Note: The store accepts cash, Maestro and Post cards, but not credit cards.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baby blanket bingo

It seems that everybody I know is getting ready to welcome a new life into the world. So over the past month, I've had to step up my crochet game. Last year, I finished one blanket and it turned out lovely, but the color switching really slowed me down. With due dates each approximately one month apart, I don't have that kind of time this year. So, I chose...efficiently (last year, I chose...poorly. Anyone else been re-watching Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade?)

Choosing simpler patterns is good news for my friends, who will hopefully each get the blankets within one month of birth (I figure if people have up to a year to give a wedding gift, a month  is acceptable for a baby gift). It's bad news for my yarn stash, which hasn't shrunk at all due to the fact that I am terrible at buying enough single-color yarn to make anything of reasonable size (usually I buy yarn that's on clearance - aka, not much of it - plus I am a magpie, so I am easily distracted by crazy-colored variegated yarn).

For the first blanket, which I finished last week (for the record: four days before the due date and two days before the actual birth - which would be perfect except it needed to be shipped to the US), I chose a lovely bright green yarn by Lang Yarns that is a mixture of silk, rayon, and nylon. So soft. And it can be machine washed (delicate cycle). I chose a white border and then, because I have issues, bought a multicolor yarn to spruce up the edging. I used this pretty, super easy pattern and modified the border to widen it some and incorporate the third color.

I may have delayed sending it off because I entertained thoughts of keeping it for myself (despite the lack of babies in our house).
 I was worried it would be boring, but I think it turned out absolutely lovely, although I didn't manage to finish an owl motif I originally wanted to put on it. I'm so pleased - my crocheting has definitely improved since the last blanket, so I didn't have to use the border to hide any issues.

Close-up of the border. I might finally be learning how to make colors work together!
I'm now working on another blanket that I hope to accompany with an adorable amigurumi elephant (my first attempt at amigurumi, so the blanket may have to stand on its own if things go south). I'm using this lovely, very simple pattern. The yarn is also another silk blend (with cotton & viscose) - this time made by Maddison, a yarn company that seems to mainly do yarns for the Swiss department store Manor, which - unfortunately - means that most of their yarns are not on Ravelry.

Silver for the blanket border (and elephant), maroon for the body (and elephant ears).

Does that look like an elephant body? No? Trunk is forthcoming, that should help.
As you can see, I haven't been opting for traditional baby colors - both mothers don't seem very big on the blue/pink dichotomy, but I also figure that they can pick up a blanket in those colors easily if they so desire, so I wanted to make something a bit different.

It's not really this pink, I promise.
So far, so good - I've been toting the blanket everywhere with me and crocheting on the tram, while waiting for (and sometimes during) meetings, even during lunch. I may look crazy to those around me, but I'm halfway through my third (out of 5) yarn balls for the body, and I still have 17 days before the baby shower!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A weekend in Amsterdam

I do a lot of complaining (on this blog and in person) about my lack of European travels, despite living right smack dab in the middle of the continent. So last month I finally got B and myself off our collective butts and booked a few days in Amsterdam as a 3-year anniversary treat.

Hey, look, we're in another country!
 It was wonderful. Honestly, I wasn't sure whether Amsterdam would be 'our' type of city - we had no interest in recreational drugs nor did I feel the urge to visit the Red Light district (for sightseeing or other purposes). It turns out I shouldn't have worried, because I do like and appreciate wonderful architecture, impressive museums, amazing meals, and canals - and Amsterdam provided all of those in abundance.

Ignore the daily, intense (but brief) rainstorm looming in the background.
 We arrived on Friday afternoon and found our hotel without incident. We stayed halfway between the city center and the airport (due to an early morning departure flight), at a Citizen M hotel. The prices were reasonable (hence why we booked it), and we found the place clean, welcoming, and very modern design - not a bad thing, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea. Everything in the room - the shades, rainbow option of lights, tv, temperature, etc - was controlled by a universal remote, which techie B thought was very cool. The rain shower and toilet are contained in their own little "pods" - I found the shower funky fun, but felt a little claustrophobic in the toilet. Basically we had fun with the hotel, but it's the type of thing I imagine my technophobe mother would have nightmares about (love you Mom!).

Picture taken from the Citizen M website, as if someone was sitting on the bed (or outside the window, even - the sense of space is a bit misleading). The shower pod is open on the right, while the toilet can be seen through the one in the center of the picture.
The first night we just wandered around and ended up spending 2 hours in Waterstones, an English bookstore near the Spui tram stop. After 18 months in a German-speaking world, it was four floors of heaven, and only B's reminder that we would have to pay for a checked bag on the way back to Zurich stopped me from going crazy (I did pick up one book and a package of oat biscuits, which we later ate with yummy Dutch cheese).

For dinner, we ate at a place recommended by our Lonely Planet guidebook, D'Vijff Vlieghen. I loved the decor & interior of the 17th century canal house, but found that we were largely surrounded by large groups of other tourists and the food was underwhelming (not bad, just not very exciting). 

The next day, we met a college friend of mine for a late breakfast at and were thrilled when she presented us with museum passes, allowing us entry into most museums for free, as well as vouchers for a canal cruise. We wandered through a Dutch street market (so many cheeses and flowers) on our leisurely way down the canals to the Rijksmuseum. We quickly found a place for lunch just before the skies opened up. Selling itself as a Peruvian restaurant, Mashua's lunch menu was reasonably priced, but had only one actual Peruvian dish, although the seasonings on the beef sandwich were reminiscent (and freakin' delicious). We were very happy with our food and cost, although one couple at a table next to us left after having no service for quite some time.

The Rijksmuseum was amazing and overwhelming - there's no way to see all of it in one trip (similar to the Louvre, although smaller in size), so we wandered randomly, making sure we hit a few highlights. I loved it - more than just paintings, they also feature sculptures, figurines, 17th century dollhouses, and one crazy huge model ship. It was busy but was large enough to handle even a summer Saturday crowd without feeling claustrophobic.

One of my favorite paintings in the museum, although I can't say exactly why. Do I need a specific reason, though? It's just so pretty!

Zoom shot of the model ship, which was at least 2 meters long. Very cool.
That evening we took a canal cruise, which I loved and B (mostly) slept through. I simply couldn't get enough of the city's architecture - each building is different from its neighbors, but the overall similarity in shapes gives the city a wonderful symmetry.

Amsterdam as viewed from the water.
 After encountering several full restaurants, we ended up having dinner that night at Vlaming. Simply put, it was amazing - the type of restaurant that we always hope to find on our trips. We started out with their 23 euro sampler appetizer plate, which seemed expensive until they brought out a 3-tier tray with dozens of treats on it. SO good. Our main courses, steak and duck, took a while to arrive (the waitress was very apologetic) but were worth the wait, and we finished off with a sticky toffee (they called it a pie, a translation mistake that we didn't realize until they served us sticky toffee pudding, the British dessert). Go there - go there NOW.

Three levels of deliciousness.

The next day we managed to fit in a visit to the Van Gogh museum before meeting my friend to return the passes. To be completely honest, I'm not a huge Van Gogh fan - I love Starry Night and his painting of irises (which, btw, were originally purple, as irises should be - apparently the type of red pigment Van Gogh used fades over time), but it's a museum I never would've gone to if we hadn't had the passes. But I was so glad we decided to go. It was crowded (more so than the Rijksmuseum), but not distractingly so. The museum does an excellent job of laying out Van Gogh's progression as a painter - it was fascinating to see his art grow and finally blossom into what I think of as 'his style' (bright colors and thick, swirling paint), and all over the course of only 10 years (did you know that?! He only painted for 10 years - I had no idea!).

Sunday afternoon, we took a leisurely walk around Westerpark and happened upon a very active food/street fair. Unfortunately, we'd already had lunch so we couldn't take advantage of the dozens of different ethnic cuisines available - Greek, Peruvian, Turkish, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, gelato (ok, we did have some of that). It smelled amazing and made me wish that Zurich had such a celebration of other cultures' foods (perhaps it does, I just don't know about it).

There were several other sites we didn't get to - Anne Frank's house and the Dutch Resistance Museum were probably my other top two - but our feet couldn't have handled much more walking, and B likes to remind me that vacations are supposed to be relaxing ventures, not all-you-can-see adventures. I suppose we'll just have to go back...

Sunset over the harbor.
Now excuse me, I have to go pack for Vienna. :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

What's a Twinkie?

Many people assume that B and I met in school or, at the least, somewhere in the US. We didn't, of course, but that doesn't stop people from assuming B is either from or has lived in the US for a significant amount of time. He hasn't. And that fact often leads to conversations like the following.

The scene: It's a normal Sunday, which means that B and I are hanging out inside, with our Rollbladen down to block out any potential sunlight (nothing else positively identifies that we are not authentic Swiss more than this - no Sunday nature hikes for us!).

B is using his headphones to listen to a podcast about gaming by Total Biscuit, a British man with an American wife. He begins to giggle to himself.

Me: What are you laughing about?

B: This guy is talking about when he visited his wife in the US. Apparently, she had him eat a deep-fried Twinkie [link NSFW due to language].

Me: Yech, that sounds about right. She probably took him to a state fair. <returns to reading>

There is a pause of several moments.

B: Hey, so...what's a Twinkie?

Me (in all my cultural understanding): YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT A TWINKIE IS!?? How can you not know what a Twinkie is?

B: Is it like some sort of pastry?

Me: No. Ok, yes, but only in the vaguest sense. You wouldn't recognize it as such.

Several days later, I confronted him about his lack of Twinkie knowledge and he defended himself.

B: Well, I'd heard of Twinkies, I just didn't really know what they were. I thought they were chocolate dipped sausages.

Me: EWW, that sounds disgusting! Why would anyone make that? It would taste so gross!

B: Exactly! I thought that's why people said they were gross. And I was like - well, yeah, they're meat dipped in chocolate.

Me: Actually, that would probably taste better than real Twinkies. Touché.

PS: Apparently sausage+chocolate has been tried (more common is the bacon+chocolate trend).

PPS: If you don't know what a Twinkie is, may I suggest revisiting this classic scene in Ghostbusters:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hiking Mt. Rigi

I made a list last month. But then again, I make a lot of lists. Daily, weekly, monthly to do lists; grocery lists; lists of goals, baking lists, wish lists. Lists of things I want, quotes from people (famous and not), character ideas, random queries. You get the idea.

But this list was about getting up and doing things - and it has succeeded in making me do just that. It's easy to get in a rut when you live somewhere - when I lived in Boston (10+ years), I managed to get to the MFA (which was right down the street) only 2 times, never made it to the Harbor Islands, and rarely ventured to any of the lovely little towns outside the city limits.

As the days speed by here in Switzerland, I was starting to despair that I would find myself in the same predicament, never venturing further than the grocery store and the well-worn sidewalks of Bahnhofstrasse. Hence, the list.

The list is supposed to take place over the course of almost 3 years, and I have no idea how many goals I'll reach. What I do know is that I have used it as the push I needed to get out and explore. I've been down streets in Niederdorf I'd never seen, I've tried  three new coffee shops (guys, one of them has red velvet everywhere - the seats, the walls, the decor - even the ceiling. It's like walking into what I imagine is a 1920s speakeasy - I'll cover it in another post).

Number 5 on my list is "Hike a Swiss Alp." I figured this would be a distant goal, once I had obtained chiseled arms and sculpted calves - I was fairly confident such things were required for scaling a mountain.

So, when a friend offered to take me into canton Schwyz (her home) with her stepfather for an afternoon of driving around rural Switzerland, I jumped at the chance. I figured we'd drive around, ooh and ahh over the cows and scenery, then I'd return to Zurich and tell B how nice it was.

The night before I got a message from her asking if I had hiking shoes. I hesitated, then texted back, "I have some hiking boots (?). I bought them for strapping on snowshoes last winter." She replied Boots? Hmm, ok, that should work and I should bring them because we were going to do a very easy, flat hike (her emphasis).

First lesson of the trip: I've heard the Swiss before talk about "hiking shoes," and I wasn't sure what it meant; in my mind they were like running shoes - sneakers with some slightly thicker soles. But all I had were enormous Columbia boots that, in my mind, were better equipped for feet of snow, so that's what I brought. Turns out "shoes" are a Swiss euphemism; both my friend and her stepfather pulled out their own pairs of huge honkin' boots that are (apparently) standard fare for hiking any time of year.

Second lesson: It turns out that you don't have to be mountain goat-adjacent in order to hike a Swiss alp. Many of them are equipped with cable cars, cogwheel rails, and various other contraptions to spirit you (partway or entirely) up the mountain, allowing you to choose both difficulty and length of your hike. As with most other things in Swiss life, it's efficient, considerate, convenient (and expensive - but totally worth it).

We ended up doing a beautiful 2-3 hour hike along Mt. Rigi, which is crisscrossed with several trails, allowing both exploration and challenges. The weather was gorgeous - creamy, puffy white clouds, a constant cool breeze, and scenery that constantly left me slack-jawed.

None of the pictures below have been altered, enhanced, or changed in any way (partly because I am too lazy to go through each one with iPhoto, partly because I want to share exactly how beautiful it was, unretouched). There's also a few more pictures on my Instagram account, if you care to take a peek.

Just some random Schwyz countryside. It was all this beautiful.

Pretty sure I'd live here if it was an option.

Once I saw this, I suddenly understood why the Swiss go hiking every Sunday. Why yes, I would love a beautiful view without breaking my ankles to get it.

I was right about one thing - there were SO MANY COWS. This one doesn't have a bell around its neck, but most of them did. The bells can be heard for hundreds of meters, making them a constant background accompaniment of the hike (so neat!).

View of Kleiner (left) and Grosser (right) Mythen, the postcard-perfect standard images of canton Schwyz.

On the cable car, looking towards Lake Zug (I think).

Canton Schwyz

Looking south(ish). Visible glaciers!

This lady was hiking in a dress, with a stroller and some slightly-glorified Keds. She was kicking butt, but it couldn't have been too much fun when going through the cow fields..

Looking back over where we've come from. One of the many little Alpine huts/farms/restaurants around. Adorable, functional - and convenient if you need some cheese (or other snack) for an energy fix.

Overlooking the Vierwaldstättersee (in English referred to as Lake Lucerne, but I prefer the German, translated as "the lake of four-forested cantons").
A larger alpine hut - restaurant in the bottom, a few overnight rooms up top.
Lake Lauerzersee in the background

View of the glaciers with the zoom lens.
Last view of the Mythen before taking the cogwheel railway down.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

101 things in 1001 days

 Self-motivation is hard. Like, super hard. Just in case you were wondering. It's right up there with doing real pullups or finding a unicorn.

In the past 18 months I've tried many approaches - daily to do lists, laying out weekly schedules, weekly to do lists, project breakdowns, monthly to do lists, joining groups. Some of them work well, some worked for a time, some of them simply served to make me feel incompetent. B pointed out that I seem to do better with setting goals to work towards rather than simply saying "I will work on this thing every day" (doesn't everyone?).

Then in the midst of twitter meandering, I found this woman's blog and saw her list of goals to accomplish - 101 things in 1001 days. Apparently this meme has been going around the blogosphere for quite some time and I am several years behind. But I am a total sucker for a 'to do' list, so I made one. And I like the timeline of it - 2.74 years is a nice time frame to work in; short enough to feel motivated, long enough that even some of the bigger goals seem doable.

Of course, it's taken me 3 weeks to come up with 101 things, and during this time I've already started - even finished - a few. Perhaps it's cheating, but I think I'll need the head start.

Disclaimer: In no way do I think I will actually accomplish all of these - some of them are realistic, some of them are pipe dreams. But it's been a fun exercise simply to make the list - I encourage you to give it a try, see what comes up for you (then let me know if any of yours overlap and we can do them together!)

Part of the ongoing #73 - simple photo manipulations for the win!
Start date: 1 July 2014
End date: 28 March 2017

My 101 goals:

Italics indicate a goal in progress
Bold goals have been completed

1.     Visit six new (to me) European countries (3/6: July 2014: the Netherlands, August 2014: Austria, October 2014: Hungary)
2.     Set foot in Asia
3.     Visit Peru
4.     Take a girls’ only vacation
5.     Hike a Swiss Alp (August 8 2014, Mt. Rigi)
6.     Visit 5 new (to me) Swiss towns or cities
7.     Go on a trip with B – minimum 1 week
8.     See a show in London
9.     Go snorkeling
10. Go boating on Lake Zurich
11. Go to a professional sporting event
12. Visit the Basel Zoo (October 2014)
13. Take a solo day trip in Switzerland
14. Watch a sunrise
15. Watch a sunset
16. Visit a chocolate factory
17. Take a chocolate-making class
18. Go ziplining
19. Go to a Zurich museum (Kunsthaus, August 2014)
20. Go berry picking (
21. Eat at a Michelin star restaurant
22.  Visit a farmers market 5 times (3/5)
23.  Try 5 new coffee shops in Zurich (4/5 –My Place, Conditerei Schober, Schwarzenbach, Käfi fur Dich)

24. Host a Thanksgiving in Switzerland
25.  Send five care packages to friends/family in the US (3/5)
26.  Have a 5 minute conversation in German
27. Go to 5 German conversation group meetings
28. Have a picnic
29. Host 5 friends from abroad at our apartment (2/5)
30. Email/write 10 different friends in the US (2/10)
31.  Go to 5 Meetup gatherings (4/5)
32.  Host friends for dinner 5 times (2/5)

33. Learn to sew (on a sewing machine) – complete one piece
34. Learn to embroider
35. Finish a cross-stitch piece
36. Attempt 5 crafts off Pinterest (1/5: December 2014, homemade cards)
37. Get yarn stash up to date (7 July 2014)
38.  Crochet a major project that should ‘fit’ – e.g., jacket, sweater, etc.
39. Learn to knit – finish one piece
40. Attend course at London College of Fashion
41. Beat a computer game (Tomb Raider, 15 July 2014)
42. Crochet a full-size afghan
43. Join a Zurich library (13 August 2014)
44. Complete a >2000 piece puzzle
45. Go to paint your own pottery (13 July 2014)
46.  Read 100 books (20/100 - goodreads list here)
47. Do 30 day photography challenge
48. Make 10 homemade cards (4/10)
49. Make wedding scrapbook
50. Watch 10 movies off my Netflix queue

In the kitchen:
51. Bake a 2-layer cake, decorate using fondant
52. Make macarons
53. Create my own cookie recipe (2 attempts so far)
54. Try recipes out of 5 different cookbooks (1/5: bread)
55. Follow a German recipe (no translating!)
56. Find 5 new one-pot meals
57. Make homemade jam again - or pickles
58. Try 5 new bread recipes (3/5: biovette, brioche, cheese rolls)
60. Make crème brulée (August 2014)
61. Make a 3 course Peruvian meal
62.  Make 5 homemade mixes (1/5: 13 July 2014 - chai masala mix)

Professional/personal development:
63. Finish writing/take pictures for Zurich expat guide book (15/20 chapters complete)
64. Collect 6 interviews for guide book
65. Hit my goal for a NaNoWriMo (or Camp) (November 2014)
66. Learn photography editing software
67. Read a book in German
68. Get a 40 day streak on DuoLingo
69. Finish the draft of a (fiction) book
70. Get professional (quality) photos done (September 2014)
71. Send inquiry letters to publishers/agents
72. Update Managing Editor info for Round Robin magazine (August 2014)
73. Design and plan ESL course curricula (2/4)
74. Take a course on Coursera for certification
75.  Learn how to manipulate pictures for blog (
76. Do a guest blog post
77. Have a guest blogger post
78.  Finish expat blog interview and get it published (You can read it here)
79. Write a blog post 2x/week for one month.

80. Run a 10k
81.  Work out 4x/week for 2 months minimum (8/8 weeks complete)
82. Unplug (no tv/internet/phone) for a weekend
83. Watch no television/movies for a week
84. Go swimming in the lake
85. Get annual swimming pool/Bad pass for Zurich
86. Go to a spa (December 2014)
87. Laugh until it hurts
88. Hang diplomas, pictures, etc. on walls
89. Go paragliding
90. Have a child
91. Learn a new hairdo (13 August 2014: French roll)
92. Get a hair cut in Switzerland
93. Wear a stylin' hat (not because it’s cold)

94. Organize photos on computer and hard copy
95.  Organize spare room and kellar area
96. Put up wall map, note places I’ve been
97. Donate to a Brockihaus (30 July 2014)
98. Get totally gussied up for a date night
99. Repair jackets and coats (2/6)
100.  Perform 5 small acts of kindness (2/5)
101. Volunteer at Tischlein Deck Dich with the Women’s Club