Friday, February 27, 2009

5 Year Wedding Anniversary!

Well, tomorrow is officially our 5 year wedding anniversary. Hurrah! We actually celebrated last weekend though, hence the flight and the lost luggage (ps. we got it back!). I won't be blogging about our ultra-romantic, sexy, carefree and fun trip in detail (sorry, some things are better left unblogged...), but you can be sure a Blurb book will follow, and heck, I will tell you where we went as a teaser... in the form of this picture. Any guesses?! Happy Anniversary to me, and Happy weekend to you all.

Love reading profiles about me?

Here is another questionairre, profile, life story about me... as posted on the Expatica website. Feel free to leave your feedback here and let me know if I really look that pink on your monitors, too, in the Lucern photo! :)

Happy reading. :)

Fasnacht Dilemma

So here is the situation... Fasnacht is wrapping up this weekend. What's Fasnacht you ask? Well throughout February all around the world people have celebrated with fancy costumes, parades, and dancing in the streets from Fat Tuesday in the States, to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, to Carnival in Rio, to Karneval in Germany... and the southern German and Swiss equivalent is called Fasnacht.

While I have already eaten my weight in fried disks, which is a celebration in itself, even if only for one, the real event has been taking place all over Switzerland for the last few weekends now (check out Luzern's from Towe and Anders!), and is culminating this weekend in Basel and Urdorf, to name a few locals. I will watch the parade on Saturday in Urdorf, but the big question is do I go to Basel - where the real shebang is, but the parade starts on Monday morning... at 4 am!

While I would generally throw caution to the wind and pull the all nighter for a cultural event such as this, the Fasnacht Umzug, or parade, happens to coincide with the biggest launch of the year and I will be expected to be awake or at least alert throughout the day. So the question is... do I act like I only live once and take the train at 3 am to Basel... or do I sleep in and do the right thing and get rest before the big day. Decisions, decisions... ;)

Ps. The first Swiss Blogger Meet-Up will take place on Sunday, April 26th - so mark those calendars. I look forward to meeting you all!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Costa Cruise Day 6: Cyprus

Editors's note: Um, just in case you don't follow this blog religiously (Hi Mom!) and have no idea why I am suddenly blogging about a Costa Cruise and a trip to Cyprus, please feel free to reference the posts from December in which I promised to highlight my Christmas cruise... um, yes, I am still going. ;) And we all want to see Egypt, right? Which means we have to talk about Cyprus first, patience, patience.

On our sixth day of our cruise, and our second to last departure point, we went to the island of Cyprus. Everyone knows that Cyprus has a very varied history, so it was interesting to be able to visit a country that up until recently was divided by a wall, marking the northern Turkish boundary clearly from its southern Greek neighbors. We stayed in the Greek part during our trip, and visited some of the major tourist sites... one thing to note here though is that Cyprus, at least when we visited it, was not very pretty. I mean, sure it was nice - great beaches, clear blue water, vineyard covered hillsides. But during one of the worst droughts on records, Cyprus became a little lack luster. In the end, the culture and village charm brought out the country's charm.
We visited this area of ruins for starters, called the Temple of Apollo. It was nice, but after all the ruins in Athens I was a bit ruined out if you know what I mean. Nonetheless, it was nice.

Then after the Temple of Apollo, we took a short drive to Kourion, the main historical attraction of the area with its ancient ruins, thermal bath, Roman theater and beautiful mosaics of the 2nd century A.D.
Here I am sitting on said amphitheater and below are said mosaics. I don't lie.
The theater's accoustics were incredible and you cannot beat that view. Imagine watching a performance here! Wow!

Oh yeah, and this is the remainder of the baths... it is not much now, definately not like these baths, but they were something special at one time, no doubt... (so over ruins... sorry for the lack of enthusiasm!). I am amazed though by two things - how they made this and that it still stands. That counts for something, right?

Afterwards, we drove to the traditional and picturesque village of Omodos, which was a welcome site after more miles of barren wasteland - er, I mean Cyprus countryside in the midst of a severe drought.

When in Omodos, repeat after me, EAT THE BREAD. You cannot miss this Greek speciality. I cannot really describe it but it is like a cross between a bagel and a sweet bun, more sweet really, and the sesame seeds and honey flavor did it for me. Oh boy. I was stuffed with carbs for the bus ride back, indeedy.

Omodos is also well known for their wine and for lace. Oh how I would love to be into lace in Omodos, but I am a more modern typ. But the handiwork is incredible.

If you have time, go for a wine tasting at one of the local shops and take a stroll through the narrow streets. We did not have much time in Omodos, but we enjoyed shopping and strolling and stuffing bread in our faces.
Again, I cannot help but think that Cyprus would live up to its flashy tourist commercials more in the summer time - with the beaches, lush vineyard filled countryside, and tropical oasises to be had. However, the culture is interesting and if you are not ruined out it is a great place to soak in the history as there are said to be ruins around every corner in Cyprus - that is if they dug them all up!

I promise to highlight the last location of the cruise next week - Egypt!
Boy was that an experience... ;)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's in my wallet? - IKEA Family Card

In these tough financial times, you need to save every little bit you can. So if that means pulling out the IKEA family card every time I visit my favorite home goods supplier just to get a free espresso from the IKEA restaurant - there is no shame. And so what if it accompanies a mandatory slice of Princess Cake (Pricessatorte auf deutsch, my mouth is drooling just typing it.... Princessssss...wiping chin...) and happens to be followed by an obscenely overstuffed shopping cart, filled with items I will be unable to carry on the bus home, or justify buying at a later date. These are tough times people - you gotta save where you can! ;)

You can get an IKEA family card in any IKEA store or online. They really are good for savings (I mean, goodness, have you seen furniture prices in Switzerland?), beyond the coffee, but don't forget the coffee... and the Princess cake for goodness sake. It's the green one. I also get a cool quarterly magazine, coupons and sale info via email, and it gives me entry into the VIP lounge out the back of the store where you learn how to give a Swedish massage, translate the assembly instructions, and make those yummy Swedish meatballs... um not really, just checking that you are still reading. :)

It is worth it though - and it's in my wallet. Happy shopping, er saving, folks!

And PS. Did you know that one of the most read articles on this blog is about IKEA... have you read it?
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You are such a Diptych...

Learned a new word - Diptych.

What do you think of this effort? I actually do this a lot, without knowing the word for it, with my Blurb books.
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Zurich Guide on Design*Sponge

I am a big fan of design blogs, my favorite being Decor8, and sometimes I stop by Design*Sponge as well, but I TOTALLY missed this and therefore am very thankful for Leigh for pointing out this excellent Zurich guide. There are so many cool places on this list that I want to check out, like the Schwartzenbach tea cafe and Cakefriends... thank you again, Leigh, for the HOT (ouch! it's hot) tip!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

5 Musings and 1 Muse

I am crazy busy at the moment. Work is busy. I come home tired and exhausted, in one of those states where my eyes hurt from looking at a computer screen all day and the last thing I want to do is blog. I am sorry - usually blogging is my relaxation, my sharing time, my playdate with the Internet. But lately all I can seem to do is take off my shoes, heat something up, and pry my eyes open so that I fall asleep at a respectable adult-like hour. Pathetic.

Here are a few things on my mind at the moment, little tidbits of ideas that I meant to blog about but have missed in the haze that has been my existence over the last few days:

1. What on earth was the Brazilian chic thinking when she mutilated her (supposedly pregnant) belly and claimed to have been mobbed and attacked by Neo-Nazis on a train platform in Zurich? Thank goodness this attack was just one big hoax. Shame on her for putting Zurich in the public eye for such a lie.

2. English as ANOTHER official language in Switzerland? Um, don't they already have FOUR official languages? What up? Perhaps the Swiss should have a chat with the US, where we still avoid making Spanish an official language. Cablecom and UBS already have English options... I think they know what their customers are speaking, the rest of the country can follow if they want to communicate with the people - but another official language? Hmmm... sounds like someone wants more paperwork!

3. Who decided that the German language needed to have three gender cases? Why couldn't "THE" just be enough? I am so frustrated by German at the moment. If you speak with me in German and you realize that instead of der, die or das I use a slurring that sounds just like a 'duh' noise, you now know why. Stupid articles. I hate you. I spit at you. You make me sound like a silly cartoon figure perhaps even on the scale of a Borat. Loathe is not strong enough a word. Spat. Hack. Take that you silly language... don't even get me started on Swiss German. Today is not the day.

4. I will be coming home in May for my brother's graduation. I am pretty excited about seeing family and friends, and at the same time I am wondering if they make luggage big enough for the shopping spree I am planning. Then again, I will need to pay $20 per piece of checked luggage these days - pathetic service...not to mention I just got back from a Swiss flight - one flight - no connections and THEY LOST MY LUGGAGE. It has not been 24 hours yet but they better find it or I might FREAK OUT. I had visions today of running against the flow of the baggage carosel and kicking oncoming bags out of my way while screaming, "FIND IT!!!!!!!!!! FIND MY BAG YOU HEATHENS!!!" But I did not because of already negative expat press, see item 1. I had it all planned, too, down to swinging down into the sorting room and making grunting noises while lifting oversized bags effortlessly out of my way to get to my personal effects. Nonetheless, we are on standby. Stupid Swiss Airlines. Stupid bad expat press.

5. The financial crisis continues and UBS is again at the fore, hiding Swiss accounts held by US citizens in a big tax evasion story. Now UBS has to come forth with the customer details and will pay out an $850 million dollar fine. All this ludicriousness, and come March they are going to be charging me a monthly fee for my account... it just doesn't seem fair. I would switch banks if the effort did not make my eyelashes hurt - it is that painful - and if I felt that during this financial crisis some good would come of it. Can we trust anyone with our money anymore? Goodbye coffee house funds, hello coffee cans.

I promise I will get back into the blogging mood soon. Until then, please send me your 'atta girl' pick me ups in a comment, and perhaps link me to a good source of inspiration. I feel another grueling week ahead of me... until then, here is some photo inspiration for you for the week, because no matter how tough it gets, remember it could always be worse:

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Want a great burger in Zurich? Zic Zac

A few weeks ago, just around Australia Day, Jace was in the mood for a burger and he recalled seeing this place on one of his 'big night outs.' So off we went to Zic Zac for a bit of American nibbles.

Zic Zac is in the heart of it all, and it actually is probably better known for the Zic Zac Rock and Roll Hotel that is in the same building. If I didn't live here, I would be keen to try the hotel out for the kitsch.

We started with some wings - and let's just get it out now - no one makes wings "the right way" here so don't even sweat the disappointment. The closest you will get is Hooters and even then I am not a big fan. That is the #1 thing I will be scoffing down when I go back home for a visit, with a refillable glass of diet coke. Word.

The burgers on the other hand were not half bad... and huge portions. I had to remind myself that I was not indeed back in the States. I had the Caesar burger with a garlic aoli (do not eat this when on a date, the garlic was STRONG) and parmesan cheese. Yum.

I also found out ONLY TOO LATE that they also have a bottomless homemade iced tea on offer. I am going back for that alone come Spring or Summer.

Don't let the pathetic facade disuade you from going into the Zic Zac. It is huge yet intimate inside and I wouldn't doubt that they pile the tables aside sometimes and get down after hours. Give it a go sometime - and don't forget the iced tea!

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Swiss Blogger Meet-Up!!! Would you be interested in partaking in a Blogger Meetup in Zürich sometime in April 2009? Amanda of Queso Suizo and I are gathering interest now! Fill out this quick form now and let us know of your interest and availability!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's in my wallet? - Annual Train Pass

Since I commute to work everyday, I have to buy a round trip ticket at least 5 days a week. For the longest time I was just buying the monthly pass, but then after awhile I got smart to the annual pass and shelled out the dough - now I can travel as much as I want between home and Zurich (zone 10).

Why buy an annual train pass?
  • Convenience - I don't have to mess with the ticket counter or the machines anymore. It is a plastic card that I just whip out when I get spot checked on the trains.
  • Savings - when you buy the annual ticket, the price is reduced so you basically get three months of travel for free. Where have I been all these months to have missed these savings!
  • Security - If you lose it, I believe all you have to do is go in and get another card... I mean, your photo is on it so unless you have a doppelganger you are safe.
So if you travel frequently within the same zones, go ahead and consider the annual pass. It was worth it for me.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Freizeit Box - Freetime activities in and around Zurich

So lately, while things have been looking like this lately ...

We have just been holding down the fort and chilling indoors. It has been good all around as I have not gone to work with sore muscles and a stiff back for a few weeks and Jace has been able to rest up and get over his nasty virus - but all this time indoors does make you wish for some warmer weather so that you can take advantage of the great outdoors - and as if I didn't have enough on my list of things to do around Zurich come Spring, along comes the Freizeit Box.

Strangely enough, sponsored by the energy giant EKZ, the Zurcher Freizeit Box is my new favorite type of resource (a box full of cards, you will see what I mean in a minute) and my new favorite gift for newbies to the area. Although the cards are in German, I think you will see that they are user-friendly enough for everyone to use - and perhaps learn a bit of German along the way.

The box is filled with just about 100 cards with activities color coded to a region in Zurich, and a handy map. Each card is numbered and the activity is then numbered on the map so you can see which are closest to you.

On the front of each card is a description of the activity and a nice full color glossy photo...

On the back is more information and contact details. Very handy. I can see myself taking the card with me on the outing and stuffing them in my purse when I don't need them. Convenient.

I have dreams of spilling these out on the table and randomly picking an event for the day - or seeing as though I am in Switzerland now I might just pull one out of the top in a nice orderly fashion... perhaps a Rasante Schlittenfahrt is what I should do this weekend! :)

The cards are about 18 CHF and I picked these up at the bookstore near Stadelhofen... these cards are most likely available at all bookstores in Zürich in the local travel section. Enjoy!

Swiss Blogger Meet-Up!!! Would you be interested in partaking in a Blogger Meetup in Zürich sometime in April 2009? Amanda of Queso Suizo and I are gathering interest now! Fill out this quick form now and let us know of your interest and availability!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Photo Challenge from Towe & Anders

So Towe... or maybe it was Anders... no, definately Towe, challenged me to a photo challenge yesterday with the following rules:

Go to "My Pictures". Choose folder number 6 and then picture number 6. Show it on your blog, write a short text about the picture and invite 6 more.

I had some issues because folder 6 only had three photos, so I chose folder 7. I know, I know. I am a REBEL.

This photo is from Tip Top, I think, and was from when we were still living in the temporary apartment last March... almost 1 year ago! I was really into this bedroom set because Jace insisted that I had to buy something from somewhere other than IKEA, and I was taking photos to shot Jace what I liked, but hoping that the photos I took of the price tags as well would convince him otherwise. In the end, I won out. ;) We bought the cheaper and more to my taste IKEA set. Thanks, babe. Now that is love. Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Now I challenge those that I know definately have a huge photo stockpile:
Swiss Blogger Meet-Up!!! Would you be interested in partaking in a Blogger Meetup in Zürich sometime in April 2009? Amanda of Queso Suizo and I are gathering interest now! Fill out this quick form now and let us know of your interest and availability!

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It's here! The Swisstory Blurb Book

I finally got my Swisstory Blurb book in the mail this week - all 350 pages worth of blog stories and photos (lots of photos! all my extra photos that don't make it on the blog make it in the book).

And overall, I am pleased as punch. The photos are sharp and the printing is spot on. The colors are great and where the photos are dark I now know I need to lighten them a bit before printing. There is a difference between formatting for the web and formatting for the Blurb book, I see it now. All in all, I cannot tell you how excited I am that it was so easy to print a wonderful scrapbook of our time in Switzerland to date. I cannot wait to make Volume 2!

One issue... and it is small but it is pesky, is that I do not love the binding. It is a bit loose, but I contacted customer service and they tell me that this is simply the way it is done - it will be sturdy and withold the test of time despite the fact that it looks flimsy. We will just have to wait and see! But regardless, for my archiving and family memory purposes it does the job. Go blurb!

Ps. Happy Friday the 13th!
Swiss Blogger Meet-Up!!! Would you be interested in partaking in a Blogger Meetup in Zürich sometime in April 2009? Amanda of Queso Suizo and I are gathering interest now! Fill out this quick form now and let us know of your interest and availability!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Swiss Blogger Meet-up - You Interested???

Would you be interested in partaking in a Blogger Meetup in Zürich sometime in April 2009? Amanda of Queso Suizo and I are gathering interest now!

The event might be a hike, picnic, party or pub crawl - naturally whatever is planned will be great fun and low budget.

Let us know when you would be interested in meeting up by marking your availabilitiy in the form available here.

Of course, non-bloggers and Blog lovers (friends, family, etc) are welcome!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Date with Andrea and Andre (Rieu that is!)

So on New Year's Eve we were surfing the channels and unbelieveably we came across a concert in Sydney, an orchestra, that played beautifully and was endlessly entertaining. The orchestra was that of Andre Rieu. I was moved to tears and when they advertised at the end of the show that they were coming to Zürich in February, I snatched up two tickets to last Friday's performance. While Jace was busy with his 100 degree temperature and nasty virus, I had to find a new date, and in the end my workmate Andrea came through with flying colours - hence my date with Andrea and Andre Rieu!
The concert was at the Hallenstadium - it is huge. This is where they also have all the ice hockey games. The ice was hard to walk on but we eventually made it to our seats... just kidding. No ice.

We were seated in the moderately priced ticket area which means we were able to see Andre about the size of a large grape. Thankfully they had these huge screens up so you could remember what color eyes Andre had.

Before the performance. Boy I look disheveled. At least Andrea was a model date.

The concert went for about 2 and a half hours, which included about 5 encores. They played all kinds of songs, some German, some pop culture (like the Titantic theme which was awesome) and a few waltzes which moved people to actually dance in the aisles (with a little persuasion from Andre that you are not a true man if you do not ask your woman, or any woman, to dance during the song).

Andre is known for being a bit fruity, I think, but I think he is just grand, and I don't mind the fact one bit that he is the first violin chair for most of the pieces, or that he has long hair, or that the costumes remind me of Cinderella's ball, or that up close he looks a bit orange because of all the make-up. It just makes it that much more entertaining.

Speaking of entertaining the whole show was done really well. After each piece Andre said a little story or something to tie the last song into the next, and the screens were abuzz with lights and pictures, and singers are coming and going giving their best. At one point the orchestra played a piece that is generally played during bull fights and Andre mentioned that anyone wearing red was in trouble. They panned the audience and found a women in head to toe red. He asked her if she could take anything off to avoid the bulls and she looked down her shirt and shook her head despondently no. Andre said, 'OH well, I have to go on with the song.' Next thing you know two men in a bull suit came running through the stadium and eventually chased the woman out... definately planned but endlessly entertaining. Loved it.

I would definatley recommend going to see Andre Rieu and his orchestra next year. His singers are devine and the music is sing-along but not annoying like a Barney concert. Just don't sing along unless Andre asks you to, ok? Because I did not pay all that money to hear my fellow concert goers sing... ok, Andrea? Just kidding-she sings great.

It was a great night, and the balloon drop and standing ovation just topped it all off. Thanks again to Andrea for being a great last minute date. (And don't forget, an enchilada is not a burrito and quesadillas make you say 'YUmmmm.') :)

Ps. Andre, if you don't want me to have this video on my site for copyright reasons or whatever, just say so, but I figure since the quality and picture are off that you won't mind me sharing your amazing concert in a 10 second clip. If you are worried, just say the word and give me free tickets to next year's event and it's gone. :)
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

'Expat Aussies watch bushfires in horror'

No joke... Article from this site. Thanks to everyone for your concern. Jace's family is in Western Australia and has not been affected... thank goodness.

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What's in my wallet? - Coop Supercard

I figured as long as I am giving out tips on how to save money, I might as well mention the Coop Supercard. Similar to the Migros Cumulus Card, the biggest difference is that the Coop card can only be used at Coop stores or affiliates (resounding duh... ok, I heard it, but it had to be said).

I have to admit, I do most of my shopping at Migros so I have yet to accumulate the big points with Coop, but it works the same-the more francs you shell out the more points you earn and the more unlikely you will be of retiring a millionaire - but you will be more likely to have nice sheets and pans and towels, as Coop also has stickers that you can collect to redeem for reduced price house supplies.

You can apply for a Coop card at the service desk at any Coop supermarket or superstore. Just make noises like this, 'Cooooppp Karrteeee' and they should get it eventually that you want a card - or that you have flown the coop, but 'es ist egal.'

Actually, Susan has a great write-up about Coop points on the Write-On blog sponsored by the news site. Good luck!
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Swisstory Moonlights on Expatica - take 2

Have you read my Swisstory tid bits on Expatica yet? I thought so... check it out today. My witty banter related to saving dough is taking the Expat world by storm. :)

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Apfelstrudel - yum x 1000!

While I am feeling generous- perhaps because it is Friday - I thought I would go ahead and post another food related article for the weekend. Everyone loves something a little moorish with vanilla sauce and apples for a Friday pick me up and a push into the gluttonous weekend. And if Jace is the connoisseur of all things Schnitzel, I think I am officially the specialist of Apple Strudel.

While in Vienna, of all places, on a work trip in January, I decided that while I was not hungry enough for dinner, after having eaten this for lunch, that there was definately always room for a bit of Studel, and at a bargain price at the Wiener airport food court with warm vanilla sauce to boot, I was in.
I have to admit - this version was way better than its overpriced cousin at the Sacher Cafe near the check-in area of the airport. Something about the huge portion and the heap of apples did it for me, and I wish I had had a glass of milk to help the entire plate go down. In the end, it was just too much, yet totally satisfying.

Does anyone have a good Apple Strudel recommendation in Zürich?!?!
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