Friday, December 16, 2011

List Number One

As I've mentioned earlier, the food here is crazy expensive, no variety, and not very good...this is in relation to eating out. Needless to say, we have gone out to eat only a small handful of times (which means I have cooked more meals than any human housewife should).

Not that I need to eat (even with the lack of yummies, the bread and chocolate here is divine to the taste, but has been horrible for my figure)

Chocolate Aisle in my grocery store!

...but here's my list of places I MUST go when we're home.

In no particular order:
  • Cheesecake Factory - Christmas Eve tradition
  • Chick Fil A - chicken nuggets please!
  • Kneaders - a good ol' American sandwich
  • Taco Bell and Taco Time
  • Subway - the real one
  • Cafe Rio - more. than. once.
  • The Mandarin in Bountiful. Haven't had Chinese food since we've been here
  • Costa Vida - Maddie's favorite 
  • Root beer floats at A and W (per Will and Maddie's request)
  • Pizzeria 712 (although the pizza in Italy is divine)
  • Zupas for salad that's not been pickled
  • Harmon's...just to look around and dream and buy a few items to shove in my suitcase
And the most important item of all is Diet Coke. I could write an entire post on Diet Coke...first and foremost, they don't have the real stuff here - it's called Coca-Cola Light, they drink it room temperature and it DOES NOT taste the same. If you ask for ice, they actually tell you how wrong you are for wanting it and what it will do to your drink. They will then grudgingly give you two cubes which melt instantly in the warm Cola Light. They don't have crushed ice. They don't have cups with lids and straws. No fountain drinks at a gas station. No free refills. When my sister, Jana, was here, we would drive by a gas station and she would ask me if I was sure they didn't have fountain drinks inside. Are you kidding me...of course I'm sure. It was my quest upon arrival to find such a thing. I promised her over and over...they DON'T have it! It's truly one of the saddest things about being here. I know, I am ridiculous, but really?...

Why can't they have it?????!!!!

When I get on the airplane, they better have the real stuff!

I know I'm forgetting so many things...feel free to remind me.

Auf Wiedersehen,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Colmar, France

At the recommendation of a new friend, Alison, I first discovered Colmar when my mom and sister were here. With my love of all things French, I fell in love with Colmar and have been back twice since my first trip. It is just a one and a half hour drive. Colmar is a village in the Alsace region of North Eastern France, south of Strasbourg. And it's so great to have France so close...I can get all my French "fixes" without having to drive far at all.

Colmar was founded in the 9th century. There are old (very old) churches and buildings that are fascinating. One building was featured in the movie Howl's Moving Castle (Maison Pfister).

Just last week, Stacie and I took a day trip to enjoy the Colmar Chistmas Market. So much fun! These European Christmas markets are so much fun. I do think the German ones are the best.

These first few pictures are when we went in October and the collage is the Christmas Market.

The area of Colmar called La Petit Venise

A delicious Nutella crepe...yumm-o!

I loved these balls hanging outside a store.

The three of us

Colmar Christmas Market - LOVED it!

Au Revoir,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fall Break...Paris

Maddie and Will had a two week break in October so we drove to Paris for six days. The drive was about seven hours...not bad. I wanted to take the back roads and drive through all the villages, but Bob wanted to take the highway. Lame. We stayed about a 40 minute train ride outside of Paris in a Marriott time share. And as a bonus, we were right next to a mall. No malls where we live - the malls here are a grocery store, pharmacy, office supply store, Claires (yuck), bank, coffee stop, shoe store, a couple of weird clothing stores. And all so unbelievably expensive. Seriously, very, very expensive!

So needless to say, we loved going to a mall. It even had a food court...WHAT???!!!

a little prelude to us leaving...I had known my dear friend Rochelle was going to be traveling in Europe in October with her husband. I didn't know where she would be, but I knew that Paris was one of their stops. The night before we left, I emailed her to let her know we were going to be arriving in Paris the next day and was wondering where they were. They were in Paris and leaving the day after we got there!  Providence!

So, we took the train into the city after we arrived and met them for dinner at a cafe where Rochelle and I had eaten many times on our trip to Paris over the summer. It was the best night ever. I cried happy tears when we saw them. I regret not taking a picture before we said good bye. I will remember that night forever. It was truly a miracle to be able to spend time with them. I miss my friend!

  • On/Off Bus Tour - higly recommend in Paris. It was cold, but we were bundled up
  • Eiffel Tower - highlight of our trip. We went all. the. way. to. the. top! Best decision ever.
  • Rue Montorgueil - can't wait to go back and spend the entire day
  • BHV - Bazaar Hotel de Ville - great store- could have spent all day in here. Not a craft store but they have an amazing craft section. Bought some craft supplies for our dreary, boring days. No craft stores here in Switzerland...well there are some, but they are stuck in the 1970's - WEIRD!
  • MonoPrix - French Target. enough said.
  • Riding the Metro - Bob is a PRO!
  • Crepes - I like sucre, Bob and Maddie like Nutella and Banana
  • Pain au Chocolat - ate more than my fair share
  • Pylones - great store for fun souveniers
  • Strawberry Tarts for Maddie
  • Cheap McDonalds for Will - for the four of us to eat at McDonalds here in Switzerland it costs about $65.00. I am not lying! We obviously don't eat there very often.
  • Paris Disneyland - Space Mountain 8 times! Freezing Cold!!
  • walking, walking, walking!
  • shopping, shopping, shopping!
  • New Parisian discoveries. I will be back!
Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures and they were all with my iPhone.

Riding the train into Paris

On the train


Notre Dame

Before heading to the top

At the tippy top!

Champs Elysses and Arc de Triomphe

Lunch on the Champs Elysses

Centre Pompidou


It was the coldest day ever! I don't think I got warm at all that day. The kids had a wonderful time. But Paris Disneyland is nothing like Disneyland at home. Everyone is smoking, so gross! It is not clean like at home. No Disneyland food. Much smaller! But it was great to be able to spend time together and to see the kids so happy!

Au Revoir,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alpabfahrt or "cows coming home"

Cows are in abudance here. I'm pretty sure there are more cows than people. And they wear bells...loud, bells that seem to ring all. summer. long.  Charming at first, annoying at last!

Every September is Alpabfahrt, cows coming home. The farmers bring the cows down from the higher elevation in the alps where they have been using the cream to make cheese all summer long. It is too expensive to haul the milk down to sell as milk so they sell the cheese instead. In the winter, with the cows at lower elevations, their fresh milk is sold as milk. This descent is ceremonial and quite impressive. We drove about an hour through, of course, gorgeous scenery to witness the cows coming down. This tradition takes place in lots of villages in Switzerland. We went to a more popular one...the crowds were crazy. There is a parade down the middle of the street with vendors selling, you guessed it...cheese and cow bells. These cow bells are VERY expensive! But the cheese is delicious! All the cows are decorated with flowers and greenery and it is very LOUD because of the bells.

Decorated Cow


Farmer and his tractor


Alp Horns

Now I can say "been there, done that".
By the way...cows stink!

Auf Wiedersehen,

My Rescue!

The first six weeks here were rough to say the least. Nearly every day included tears! And I am not a wimpy woman...I think I'm pretty tough and resilient! I was so homesick, my children were so unhappy, Bob was gone a lot, we lived in three different places out of suitcases, I couldn't understand anyone or anything, the list goes on an on! I was so lonely for my family and my friends...someone to talk to. I wanted to go next door and talk to my neighbor. I wanted to go to a movie with friends (a ticket to a movie cost 23 CHF...that's about $26.00 for one ticket!), or go out to lunch with friends, watch American TV, go out to dinner with Bob (dinner for two is about $100), have Sunday dinner with my family...I know it seems glamorous to live in Europe, but let me just say, it's not!

Contrary to popular opinion, you do not pack your bags every day or every weekend for that matter and travel to some exotic location. At least we don't...we have school, work, church (I'm in the YW presidency), etc.  I have the same things to do here as I do in the States...cook, drive, laundry, errands, clean, make lunches, do homework, grocery shop, help in classrooms at school, wash the car, and again, the list goes on and on! But imagine all this in a foreign place where none is the same as at home. You can go from Utah to New York and it will all be relatively similar...not here. Everything is different.

So when Bob had to go home for a week in the middle of September for work, he saw my mom and told her she needed to come sooner rather than later. My mom and Jana came at the end of September and in a way, rescued me. It was so good to have them see what I was talking about and understand how I was living.

So, I planned a few things for us to do while they were was a chance to do a little traveling...our first stop was Lake Como, Italy. It's just a two hour drive from my house (I know, now that sounds glamorous and I agree...pretty cool). And after we came home from Lake Como, we drove to Colmar, France for the day (another two hour drive...I'm not making my point about a non-glamorous life very well, am I?)

We left on Thursday for Lake Como and Cannero/Cannobio, Italy. We brought Maddie along. She missed a couple of days of school, but it was worth it. Our hotel was in Moltrasio. Bob and I had previously planned on staying there at the recommendation of Bianca Lisonbee last summer but because of his work we had to cancel. So I knew exactly where to stay and thanks was perfect!

The drive out of Switzerland was nothing short of incredible. It was breathtaking. We arrived in Moltrasio, unloaded and took the ferry over to Como (trying to buy our tickets was painful. There is absolutely NO ENGLISH spoken in Moltrasio). We spent the evening in Como eating and shopping and walking around. So much fun!

On the second day, we spent the day in Bellagio. It was about a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride from Moltrasio...saw George Clooney's villa, Star Wars villa and some absolutely amazing villas and hotels. Again, spent the day eating and shopping. I purchased a beautiful hand carved wooden nativity that I will treasure forever. Bellagio was wonderful. Can't wait to go back with Bob.

On our way - my driveway and backyard

The view driving from Switzerland into Italy

Narrow roads in Italy - glad to be behind the bus!

Our hotel. Recommendation from Bianca. perfect.

A walk in Moltrasio - need to find a bank - we need Euros!

First stop pizza and....


I need to write an entire post on food in Europe, specifically Switzerland. It was
good to get some delicious and cheap food!

More images from Lake Como...

After leaving Lake Como, we headed North to this hotel in  Cannero, Italy for one night. The hotel was from a recommendation from a friend here in Switzerland. It did not disappoint. One of the most charming hotels ever. Bob and I will be going back there. We were headed for the market in Cannobio (one of the largest in Europe) the following morning in search of an awesome leather bag. We found it and some other treasures as well.

A trip I will not soon forget!

Auf Wiedersehen,

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Swiss Home - Part One

There are so many things I'd love to document about moving to's a VERY formal process. In the U.S.A. it seems so simple (I know there are lots of personal details to work out, but the process varies from person to person).

Moving to Switzerland or within Switzerland is not a simple or varied process. There are very specific things that must be done and completed prior to moving here and once you get here. One of the more interesting things we had to do was register with our canton (a canton is like a state...we live in the canton of Zug). Paperwork, MONEY, and we used an attorney to make sure it was all done correctly are all necessary. We had to go to the offices in the canton and be fingerprinted, eyes scanned, picture taken and an ID card made to carry with us at all times. Depending on what type of resident you are (local, expat, etc.) determines what type of permit you have. We have "B" permits which allow us to work and live here for a certain period of time. Seemed really "weird" to me.

And then renting a home or apartment is a very formal affair.  First, availability is very limited. We were only shown two places that were available. And we are very fortunate to be living where we do. We are in more of a home than an apartment so our rules are not strict. If you live in an apartment in Switzerland, there are certain rules that must be adhered to.
  • blinds need to be closed not too late (I actually have an expat acquaintance that was told by her Swiss neighbor that she was closing her blinds too late and it was bothering them...they were not nice about it.)
  • you cannot use the washer/dryer after 10:00 (22:00 here). Some places actually shut off power to them after this time.
  • no yardwork or loud outdoor (indoor for that matter) on Sunday.
  • no loud indoor activity really ever.
  • your home and yard must be kept immaculate. You will have all sorts of complaints from neighbors if it is not.
  • no flushing the toilet after 10:00 pm.
  • you cannot practice musical intruments before 8:00 am or after 6:00 pm
Most of these are really social rules and not laws, but break one, and be sure that you will be informed by a neighbor or bystander. I can't believe how many friends have shared stories of how their doors have been knocked on by neighbors telling them the things they are doing wrong...from yard work to raising their children.  CRAZY!!!

If you happen to lose your house key, it can cost between 800 - 1000 swiss francs. seriously. This is serious business losing your key! I am paranoid about it.

When you are ready to sign a rental agreement, a form is filled out (it is the exact same form for every person living in the canton - no exceptions). You have a meeting with the land owners and the realtor. It was quite the formal affair...drinks, snacks and about three hours later you are finished. You complete a walk through, go over every line on the form, sign in no less than 500 places (slight exaggeration). And all this with translation because we don't speak German. Bob was dying...he was looking at his watch the entire time thinking "can't I just sign and go back to work?"  After you are finished, you walk through on another day with the land owner, realtor for the tenants moving out and your realtor to go over every scratch, bump and bruise of which there are none because the Swiss way of clean is making it all look brand new. Honestly, it did not look like our place had ever been lived in. The previous tenants had lived her for four years. All the walls need to be repainted white when you leave. I cannot even explain how clean this place was.

We really love our home. It's very comfortable. And we have wonderful land owners. He is Italian and she is Swiss. And we are so lucky!!!!  And we don't have any of those silly aparment rules. We even have our own garage...and a yard! (not common here. I will post pictures of that next time. The kitchen pictures were taken on a cloudy, rainy day so the flash was used. The house is very bright and light.

From the street
looking out the front door - the whole front to the left is terraced with herbs, flowers, ivy, etc. I just love it!

Entry Way - my friend Amy made me some vinyl lettering before I came and I love the Wilkommen on the entry mirror.
view from kitchen of main floor - we love the open space.
view from entry way of kitchen and main floor

sink area of kitchen...across from island

view from family room
favorite reading chair and foot rest - I love this felted wool balls foot rest. Hours of fun are had with it!

family NOT Swiss!
I couldn't handle all the white so I painted this corner of the room this sea blue and I love it.
We painted the entry way as well and the kids have one wall painted in their rooms as well.
It's amazing the comments I get about this color. The Swiss like LOVE their white!

**Pictures of upstairs and downstairs coming soon.

 Auf Weidersehen,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cheese and Chocolate

In September we took our first excursion...Gruyere (the delicious cheese of the same name comes from this region of Switzerland). Bob was out of town so we adventured with Rocky and Sarah and Eliot. We started our day at the castle. I was curious how William would do touring a castle...truly not convinced he would find it interesting, but that I would be hearing him complain about it being boring. I was completely wrong. He loved all of it.  And the surrounding area was so amazingly beautiful.

At the castle

After the castle we headed to the Gruyere cheese factory where we indulged in some delicious cheese and learned all about how the cheese is made. Did you know that the type of grass and herbs the cows eat is how the cheese is flavored. I did not know this.  And I cannot believe how many types of cheese there are. (I have learned that man can live by bread (and cheese) alone.)

Gruyere Cheese Factory

Chocolate was our next stop. Saving the best for last in my opinion. We toured the Cailler Chocolate Factory, the oldest chocolate factory in Switzerland. I learned that a "Kohler" was a pioneer in Swiss chocolate making. He introduced hazlenut chocolate which around these parts is probably the most common swiss chocolate. My grandfather is Swiss German, so I'm related to a famous chocolatier...of course I am!

The Cailler Chocolate Factory

The tour ends with a sampling of nearly 20 different chocolates. Honestly, I could not eat them all. I was SICK by the end (Will was not).  From the pictures you can see there was a play ground for the kids to work off the sugar rush! Will had a lot of "working" to do. He must have climbed that pole no less than 30 times. you want to come and visit us yet? Please come. We have room for you and will take you to this chocolate factory!

coming tour!

Auf Wiedersehen,