Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween, a queen, a princess, and a table.

A table!?

More on that later.

First, let's do the Halloween stuff. It's our first Halloween in the US that really counts for Marion and boy, was it fun.

I started off the evening by making them pose for pictures.

Everytime I take pictures of them in front of our house I'm struck with the realization that I hope to be taking pictures of them before first days of school, graduations, and proms in this very spot. Kind of weird after several years of a transient existence overseas.

Marion was the queen of hearts and loved yelling, "Off with their heads!" at random times during the day.

Bettina was a princess. Somehow that morphed into a "pirate princess" according to Marion.

Our first stop was our next door neighbor's, home to a young lady named Hannah who Marion is in love with.

Our next stop was to Marion's friends house a few streets over. They said hello and then started running around. Marion had to tell him to slow down because she was wearing heels.

After that stop, we finished off at my parents neighborhood. Marion was thrilled with her candy and asks me non-stop if she can have some. Brian and I are working on depleting her stash; we love Halloween!

Oh, yes, the table part of my post title. Have you heard of the Knock-Off Wood blog yet? I found it this summer and my list of things I wanted to tackle grew and grew. Brian was a little skeptical but I assured him that we could definitely do this! And so, we decided to tackle our first project, the farmhouse table with stretcher,last weekend.

We started collecting everything we thought we'd need. Tools from my dad, tools we had stored away, glue, wood, and screws from Home Depot. But you know how that goes... with every project, no matter how many lists you have, you never get everything.

Of course, we thought we did. But then the saw needed a new blade, we didn't have the right sized square, we needed clamps... I think we've made at least 7 trips to the big orange store in the past week.

Not that I'm complaining. Every first go at a project has some hiccups. And these hiccups were worth is because lookit! We almost have a table!

We are so close I can taste it. But we are going to take the night off and see how the elections turned out. Don't worry though- you'll get a whole post when we finish this table. And more posts when we try to tackle Ana's other projects. I am obsessed with her blog!

So, how's that for an excuse for ignoring the blog? Definitely a new one for me :)

Hope you all enjoyed your Halloween! Happy election/candy eating/resting night!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And now the decorating begins.

One of the many things different about our lives in Switzerland was our home. Instead of owning our own home, we rented a smaller flat. And we had to answer to our landlords. So Brian and I shied away from decorating our flat. We had bare white walls, with the exception of a pair of maps and some of Marion's artwork- hung with poster gum of course.

It was kind of a depressing way to live. No color on the walls, no pictures. It was very stark and impersonal.

In addition to the white walls, we tried to furnish the flat as cheaply as possible. Everything was Ikea and purchased in Switzerland. We didn't bring any of our furniture, pictures, or artwork from home.

Now, I have nothing against Ikea. They have some great stuff. But it never felt like ours.

As a result, one of the things Brian and I were itching for after our 2.5 years in Switzerland was our own place to settle in to and decorate like we wanted. It's definitely more work having our own place; we have to take care of everything now. But we enjoy it. And now that the unpacking is (close to) over, the fun of decorating begins!

I've been thinking about how to write about our home on here and I think I'll do each room on its own so you can see what we have done and make some suggestions if you choose to do so.

But in the meantime, I want to share my first project: curtains for the playroom! I kind of improvised on these since I'm reintroducing myself to sewing, but I think they turned out pretty well. One project down, about million more projects and blog posts about them to go!

Friday, October 15, 2010

More on the world's longest tunnel...

I liked this newest article, particularly this quote:

"It's a day of joy for Switzerland," Peter Fueglistaler, director of Switzerland's Federal Office of Transport, said shortly before the tunnel was completed. "We are not a very emotional people but if we have the longest tunnel in the world, this also for us is very, very emotional."

Ask Mrs Mac!

Lately I've been getting emails from people who are thinking of or are moving to Switzerland. And I love it! Seriously, after writing this blog to keep my family and friends updated on what we were doing, I started this blog to help others with this experience. Because when you are embarking on moving your family to a complete different part of the world, there are bound to be a ton of questions and issues.

I won't be posting the questions on the blog because most of them are personal, specific questions about certain towns, paperwork, and moving issues. However, if I get one that I think may be helpful to others I might post it on here.

Either way, keep them coming people! And to everyone else who may be a little hesitant, please don't be. I love getting these questions and will do my best to answer them.

Thanks for being faithful readers everyone; have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Swiss are about to have a par-tay

A tunnel party!

The Swiss are about to complete the world's longest tunnel. Why? To move cargo away from the beautiful Alps and onto trains underneath the mountains. Makes perfect sense... if you are from, have lived or have visited Switzerland. ;)

Go Switzerland!

Move to Switzerland, get healthy!

Since I've been back I've been taking care of all the health related things I've let sit on the back burner. I didn't go to the doctor unless absolutely necessary in Switzerland because 1- I had a slight aversion to doing it due to the language barrier and 2- I knew our time in Switzerland was short lived.

So, doctors visits, physicals and blood tests oh my!

Today I received some of my blood test results. And imagine my surprise when my doctor was blown away by my cholesterol numbers. So much so he gave me a thumbs up. Go me!

And then I told Brian and he said, "Duh, Meghan, we've been in Switzerland eating fantastic healthy food for the last few years."

I didn't feel so proud of myself after that.

But my point is, it was super healthy to do because healthy options are almost your only option over there. Beef is insanely expensive, the bread is so yummy you don't need to eat pastries, and fried food is practically non-existent in Switzerland. Also, fast food isn't readily available; it was easier for me to whip something up at home then drive the 15 minutes to the super expensive McDonald's two towns over.

And that is saying a ton because Rachael Ray I am not.

We're going to try our best to keep up the Swiss-like diet. It's going to be difficult for us but we'll give it our best shot! And then, of course, I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dude, don't get a Dell.

Seriously my fellow expats, just don't do it.

I've mentioned my issues with my Dell Inspiron laptop on here before. Just do a quick search for 'dell' and you'll find a small sample of my frustration with my laptop and the company.

It's been a roller coaster with this thing and it all started when I moved to Europe. Imagine my surprise when my charger stopped working after a few months of living over there. The charger says it can handle European electrical loads but I have experienced four broken chargers in the past two years that says otherwise.

When I moved back to the US, I thought my issues with my laptop would be over. This is the country I purchased it in, so hopefully no more electrical issues!

Hahaha. Ha.

My charger hasn't been working for a week and I've been getting a new error message. This message informs me that I'm plugged in to an incorrect charger and must change to a 65W AC adapter. Nope, it is a 65W AC adapter. So I tried unplugging the charger, unplugging the battery, restarting the laptop yadda yadda yadda. Still getting the message. And now my battery isn't holding a charge so everytime my power cord comes out of the computer, the computer shuts down.

Having had enough, I contacted Dell technical support online last night. Apparently they couldn't do anything for me so they quickly got rid of me, telling me to call a 1-800 number today with my laptop's express service code number.

So I did. And now I have a migraine.

I called and explained the situation to the lady I was speaking to. I gave her all the information. She put me on hold. When she came back, our conversation went a little something like this:

Her: "Your computer is registered to a country outside of the US, have you changed the registration back to the US?"

Me: "No, I bought the laptop in the US and never registered it in Switzerland."

Her: "Well, our records show that it isn't registered to the US, did you ever change the registration back?"

Me: "If I wasn't aware that the computer was registered in Switzerland, how would I know to change it back to the US?"

Her: "Would it be okay for me to put you on hold for 2-3 minutes?"

When she came back she said she was trying to access my computer and warranty information. I informed her that the laptop was purchased in 2008 so I suspected it was no longer under warranty. However, the adapter needed to be replaced often while I lived in Switzerland and that Dell Switzerland had covered it because the adapter was failing so quickly, before any warranty could expire on it. She asked me for more information to find the purchase information and then put me on hold, again.

The third time she came back she asked what troubleshooting I had attempted on the computer. I told her and then she directed me to remove the battery from the laptop and see if I still got the error message. I did. So she put me on hold again.

The fourth time she came back she told me the warranty had expired on my laptop but I could purchase an extended warranty plan. I said, yea, no thanks. She said my error message indicated that something else might be wrong with the laptop, like a motherboard issue. I told her that Switzerland had looked at that and, no, that wasn't the problem. The chargers suck. Then she asked me for the reference number that was used for the new adapter that I received in Switzerland. I told her I didn't have it. She said she needed it to put in her records so that a 'higher up technical person' could help with this issue. I said, "Well, I thought you couldn't access foreign records?" She said that this higher-up person could to which I responded, "Great, then he should be able to use the laptop's service code, which has never changed, to be able to see all of the records from Switzerland." Then she - can you guess? Yep, put me on hold again.

The final time she came back she again informed me that my warranty had expired in April 2009 (a year after I purchased it) and, as a result, in the future I would be charged $59.99 for contacting phone support.

That's when my mouth hit the ground and I went in to full "Are you kidding me?" mode.

She wasn't, she was dead serious.

So that's that. I have a crappy laptop, charger, and battery and I'm missing the Swiss support because they seemed to give a damn.

Learn from my experience people! Just say no!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We are definitely not in Zurich anymore.

Reality smacked me in the face this week; I went back to work!

I'm working three days a week for the company I was with before I left for Switzerland. While I'm enjoying working again, going back has been an interesting experience. Some things are the same and others aren't. And it's odd to sit at my desk, one cubicle away from where I sat two and a half years ago, and wonder, "Did that really just happen?"

It doesn't feel like it. It seems like I was just there, at the office, working on projects. Projects, coincidentally, that are now being run by other engineers and are now in construction.

But it did and I'm so thankful for that. Brian and I challenged ourselves by moving to Switzerland and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. The experience changed us, for the better I like to think, and gave us life long friends.

Marion was lucky enough to make life long friends as well. And she's been missing them dearly. This week, she decided to email some of them back in Switzerland. Well, okay, she dictated to me and I wrote it. Either way, here is one of the emails she sent:

Dear S,

Please come to America to see Marion and Mommy and Daddy and Bettina. If you come to my house, you have to go my school too. I want to play dress ups with you S and Grammie wants to see you too. I want you to play with all my toys. I miss you.


Writing that kind of felt like someone ripped my heart out and played football with it a bit; completely broke my heart. But I am so so happy that she has these friends in her life and look forward to helping her keep those friendships for a long time. Even if it hurts to do it sometimes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It always happens when you move, but it still annoys.

We are still unpacking over here. At this point we've gotten through most of what was in storage while we lived in Switzerland. That was a lot of fun; there was a surprise in every box! "Oh, we have nice china!" "Wow, dishes and silverware that aren't from Ikea!" "Huh, why did we buy this again?"

It was like shopping for free in the comfort of your own home.

The things from Switzerland have not been so lucky. The good news is that the eight boxes we shipped have arrived and been unpacked. Bad news? The luggage we packed and brought over with us has not all been unpacked yet.

Why? Well, life has gotten in the way. Marion's going to school, Betti's a monster who requires constant attention, we had a massive ant invasion, and we went to the beach for a week.

Yep, life is hard.

But now we must unpack. I'm missing something and it is driving me mad. Now you all must be wondering, what is it? What are you missing?

We are missing our salt and pepper grinder.

Yea yea yea, laugh away. But this salt and pepper grinder is AWESOME! It is a grinder with salt on one side, pepper on the other, and a handle you turn right or left to grind what you want. I got it on sale at the Coop and have been unable to find a replacement online.

It's the little things sometimes, okay?

Friday, September 24, 2010

18 months (and 5 days)

Betti. Ohhhhh Betti.

My little baby girl is HUGE! I took her for her 18 month appointment today where she weighed in at 28 lbs and 34 inches tall. For all those you don't have a clue as to what size that is, she is in the 92% for weight and 97% for height.

Besides being our little amazon, she continues to be a physical being. When at the beach last week she loved getting into the sand and the water.

She met a cute little southern girl who didn't like the sand. Betti kept trying to give some to her but she kept running away.

I couldn't help but chuckle. My little girl looked like a complete knucklehead next to that adorable, clean southern belle.

It's starting to make complete sense that her first word was 'ball'.

She also loved running out into the waves.

And we enjoyed sitting in beach chairs playing with the water and sand.

It was so much fun to play with her at the beach. Marion hated the sand and water at this age and it made such a huge difference to play with a child who enjoyed it all.

In other Betti news, she still loves it when Marion chases her and beats her up. She's still a little hesitant to jump into situations but warms up quickly. She's learning new things all the time, which is probably my favorite part of being a parent. I love watching them learn and experience new things. And, last but certainly not least, Bettina gives the best hugs ever and has a huge, contagious smile.

We love you Betti Boo!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just when you think the transition is going well...

Today at school Marion's class had a visitor. They were talking to the woman and she asked them where they lived. Marion's answer? "Switzerland."

Last week we were in Hilton Head, SC for a family wedding. Brian put Marion to bed one night when Marion started crying, saying how much she missed her friends. Then she listed every single one of our friends, adults and children, and asked when we were going back.


It breaks our hearts to see her react to the move like this. I'd wish for her to settle in and stop saying things like this but then that would be like wishing her to forget. We definitely don't want that.

I guess we will have to schedule a visit soon! Yea, I like that solution. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Marion goes to school!

Today was Marion's first day of school. She's going to a local pre-kindergarten 5 days a week. It's so weird to have her out of the house the entire week!

Brian and I woke her up with a special card for her first day.

Then I forced her to take pictures in front of the house before we drove her to school.

I see myself forcing them to take pictures right up until college.

In other news, our house is looking less and less like a large animal threw up boxes all over it. The walls are still bare and there are toys everywhere but such is life, right?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Settling in.

The girls and I are spending our first night in our new home tonight. Up until now we've been camped out at my parent's house while I took care of a myriad of things. But now things are (semi) ready for us to move in and so we took the plunge.

Right now it is closing on 8 pm our time and I'm pretty sure my monitor isn't working since I can hear various shouts from upstairs. I hope the rest of the night goes better than it started.

So I'm sitting here, blogging again (finally), and looking around our house marveling at how different our lives are now. It happened so fast. And it is so odd to look around our new home at the things that were in storage mixed with the things from our travels. For example, there are two purple leather poufs we bought in Marrakech sitting on the rug we had in our master bedroom before we moved to Switzerland. So very odd how they all go together now.

And then I start thinking about where I was four, six, eight weeks ago. Was I really on a cruise through the Baltic and North Sea less than two months ago? Did I really spend a week in Provence? Four days in Marrakech? Move my family and some of our belongings to another country? Did all of that really just happen?

It seems like a lifetime ago.

Aside from the amazement of what we just did, I'm adjusting to living in the US. I've driven more in the past week than I did in some months in Switzerland. I can understand everything that is going on around me and sometimes it hurts my head to hear that much talking. I spent an hour walking through my local grocery store, memorizing where everything was and being amazed at the price of everything. I bought strawberries on Monday and ate some today (still good!). And I've been to Target five times.

It's been a wild week but we're getting there. The hardest part of this transition, by far, has been missing our friends. We might as well start saving now for visits to see everyone!

Tomorrow begins our final phase of our move. Brian arrives after finalizing things in Switzerland for us and I can't wait to see what differences really stick out for him. And to see Marion and Betti's faces when they see him. That will be priceless.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why hello there blog, how are you?

I've missed you, blog. I've been a little busy though. Since I last wrote you I have:

- Sold all of our household items and gave the ones that couldn't sell away.
- Packed up what we wanted to keep and mailed seven boxes to our new home in the US.
- Packed up the extra stuff that didn't get mailed and brought it with me on the plane (seven very large bags plus two carry-ons).
- Managed to forget that the very fragile snow globe a friend gave me had water in it when I packed it in my carry-on. Heathrow security confiscated it.
- Arrived to the heat and humidity of Maryland and promptly switched my jeans and sweater Swiss weather for shorts and t-shirts.
- Crashed in exhaustion after my flight.
- Woke up and saw my girls for the first time in two and a half weeks.
- Had a full day of errands where I bought: a car, a refrigerator, a washer and dryer, and some small necessities from Target (it was like returning to the mother ship).
- And finally, yesterday, I moved all of our stuff out of my parent's basement and into our new home.

Now I have a house full of boxes and will be unpacking and organizing for the rest of the week.

So, blog, aren't you jealous? Trust me, I'd rather be here writing to you but things must be done. I'm sorry, I will be back soon!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Okay, not really, but it makes me giggle. :)

So, I'm a little late with the prize post. Big surprise, right? I'm leaving Switzerland after 5 sleeps, my flat is a complete wreck, we just got back from our last trip (Marrakech), and as I write this a stranger is going through my kitchen to take away as much free kitchenware as he can manage.

Yea, just a wee bit busy.

But don't worry ladies and gents! I did not forget about this giveaway. Thank you so much for all of your comments! They were a lot of fun to read. After reading all of the comments, I decided the best way to choose a winner was to write each of your names on a piece of paper from my trusty "Big Move Book" and pick one. How appropriate, right?

If I lose this notebook I am screwed.

Anyway, there are all of your entries in one of my Migros bowls, waiting for my wonderful hubby to pick one.

So, who will it be?

Congratulations ToadMama! You are the winner of some fabulous Swiss loot.

Thank you all for entering and following us on this adventure. I hope you stick around as we settle in to the US, get back into the American groove, and make our new home ours. You can't get rid of us just because we are moving back to the states!

So stick around, I won't let the dust settle on this joint for too long. Thanks again for following!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The final farewell to Switzerland giveaway

As I make list after list to get this move completed, it's becoming pretty clear what my favorites are in Switzerland. And it is pretty random. My musts from Switzerland are muesli, chocolate, wooden toys and Migros bags.

Yep, random. But there is a good reason for each.

Muesli because it's so much easier to purchase the good stuff here than make your own mixture in the states. Oats, raisins, nuts, yum! It's all there and makes making your very own birchermuesli super easy.

Chocolate. Well, I've talked about this before. Nothing beats the good stuff, period!

The wooden toys in Europe are unlike anything I've ever seen in the US. Stop over at my favorite toy store, Spielba and you'll see what I'm talking about. I love the durability, the uniqueness, the designs, and the simplicity of them. And my kids love them too. I'm having a hard time not buying a ton (shipping prices have stopped me from doing just that more than once!).

Finally, Migros bags. Something so simple but makes such an impact.

I've been using these since I arrived in Switzerland; just picture me in the above image but with a stroller and two kiddies! To Brian's dismay, Migros changes up the design of the bag every few months so I now have a stack of bags I want to take home.

So, a goodbye Switzerland giveaway. One lucky winner will receive a bag of muesli from my local Migros, one Migros shopping bag, one bar of chocolate, and a wooden rattle (that you can ditch in favor of an extra of the previous prizes if you aren't thrilled about having a rattle).

For good measure, I will also throw in a Swiss cookbook to be purchased at the airport as I leave the country, providing the store that I bought the last copy in has it in stock.

That's some good stuff people! Here's how it is going to work this time around:

First, leave a comment telling me which prize you would most like to have (and why if you are feeling chatty!). That'll get you one entry.

Second, become a follower of my blog and then leave a comment letting me know. If you are already a follower, you can leave me a comment letting me know that. Being a follower will get you a second entry. See? Sometimes it is good to be a follower :)

Deadline for this giveaway will be Friday, August 13 at 12 noon EST. Good luck!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Oh the bags are packed....

10 pieces of luggage, 2 strollers, 2 carseats, 4 carryons, 2 kids, and 2 brave grandparents.

The little ones leave tomorrow. :(

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Last Dance

I had big big plans for this week for this blog. Finally, I'm back in Zurich and so I was going to spend my week catching up! Yippee, lots of posts about all our latest travels! That was the plan at least.

Then I realized, it's Marion and Betti's last week here. And, even worse, my friend Claire and her family are leaving this week too.

Ahhh, so goes the life of an expat. This is the hardest part. :(

Our friends threw us a lovely going away party yesterday. Here are some shots from the party.

Some of the best girlfriends I could ask for. I have been truly blessed here.

Marion got first crack at the cake.

Trying on crowns and striking a pose.

Tom didn't want to be left out.

Then he ditched his pink hat, put the dragon hat on, and enjoyed scaring the girls.

And, finally, big hugs.

The only way I'll get through this is to repeat my new mantra: "This isn't goodbye, this is see you later."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The big family trip, part two.

Part one was about getting to and on our cruise ship. Here's part two: our first port day, Copenhagen!

Brian and I didn't do a ton of research on this port. Our "research" consisted of a quick Google search the night before we left. However, we found some good info during that Google search. One, there was a hop on/hop off bus service that would pick you up from the pier and take you around the city. Two, the little mermaid is vacationing in China for the summer.

So, using that information, we decided to take advantage of the bus service and got on one at the pier. From there, we hopped off at the Nyhavn stop, because it looked pretty.

Don't you agree?

There was a huge anchor in this area that Marion decided to pose with.

Girlfriend likes to pretend she is shy sometimes but don't let her fool you, she doesn't have a shy bone in that body of hers!

Next we wondered over to and up the Strøget (pronounced stroyet). It's the main shopping road in Copenhagen.

The first thing we saw was a Guinness World Records museum. Had to get a picture of Marion there.

There was a pretty fountain about halfway up...

...and a cute cafe that Marion found while on an "adventure" behind the Royal Copenhagen store.

We saw a lady stroller-pooling...

...and an invisible man.

And we saw this little guy outside of a shop.

Not sure what he is. Troll? Either way, Marion was not a fan.

We finally made our way over to Tivoli Gardens. Since we had Marion with us on this port day, we decided to let her have some fun at the second oldest amusement park in Europe.

Sadly, everyone else had the same idea so while Brian waited in line...

...I took Marion to the Build-a-Bear store directly next to the entrance of Tivoli. Well played BaB.

While I was following Marion around in the store, I noticed an interesting word in the Danish language.

See it? To the right of Start?

According to an online translator, it means "quit, finished, end, at an end, over" in Danish. Hahahaha. I love when you find weird little things like this amongst different languages.

But back to my family friendly trip post...

We got in to Tivoli and had a blast. There are some gorgeous buildings inside.

There are also some random peacocks running around.

And last but not least, rides. There were lots of rides.

This one was the big hit with the kids. It was a kidsize free fall ride. They rode it over,

and over,

and over again.

But then we dragged them away to do one ride on the carousel,

say hi to the little mermaid's twin since the real one was on holiday in China,

and go to the kick ass playground at Tivoli. Really, it was awesome.

After a little bit it was time to head back to the ship. Betti passed out in our borrowed backpack.

Marion was hyper as always while waiting for our bus.

But we found the bus and made it back to our ship in time. Not before I captured a moment between Brian and Betti.


Anyway, Copenhagen. I really liked it. I didn't get the sense that there was a ton to see and do for tourists but I'm glad we went.

Next stop aka part three: Warnemunde and Wismar, Germany!