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Monday, December 16, 2013

Two More Sleeps...

…and I will be home for Christmas

One of favourite Christmas songs.  Every year I will steal a quiet moment, pour myself a glass of my favourite meritage, and find my seat in front of the fire.  In this moment I like to soak in the tranquil beauty of the snow covered mountains, the decorated tree, the energy of a happy home and give my silent thanks for it all while listening to this song by Nat King Cole.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Not a Crêpe not a Pancake - but a French Pancake

Oops!  After a couple of comments about the French Pancakes being good, but a bit 'runny' I took a look at the recipe posting.  Mystery solved, I incorrectly posted a measurement.  Sorry about that.  Please give this another whirl - I guarantee you will love it!

In Canada we have this thing we call a "French Pancake."  I have tried to explain this to my French friends here, but they think I am confused between either crêpes or French toast.  It is neither. Therefore, in an effort to set the record straight, I have included a recipe for those who wish to give making it a whirl.  

I used to make this breakfast dish about 4 days out of 7 a week.  It was the go-to the comfort food of my family and friends - and basically the only thing that the picky eaters at the table would even consider.  And now, for my skeptical readers, following is the recipe for what I refer to as  "French Pancakes;
        1/4 cup of white flour
        1/4 cup of milk
        2 large eggs
        1 teaspoon of sugar
        2 tablespoons of butter
        1/3 cup of fruit (my preference is blueberries)

Whisk all ingredients together except butter and fruit until smooth.  Melt butter and place in large pie plate, pour pancake mixture into pie plate and sprinkle fruit over poured mixture. 
Bake in oven at 300 Fahrenheit (150 Celsius) for 20 minutes. 
Everyone seems to enjoy this most with maple syrup drizzled over top.  I am getting hungry just thinking about it…

(And yes I know the measurements are imperial :)
And that my lovely French friends is what we Canadians (or at least this one) call a French pancake.  ;)


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Zurich Lights

I love Europe at this time of year.  The lights, the outdoor Christmas Markets, the smell of Glühwein in the air.  Zurich, already a beautiful city becomes even more enchanting.  I could not help snap photo after photo as I made my way through the city.  Unfortunately my iPhone 4S takes  pictures that are not all that great, so please use your imagination a little with each one as in person, each sight is a beautiful one.

Walking through the Niedordorf in Zurich old town never gets old for me.  I love it, and at Christmas it is even more lovely.  (The men on the right had to sneak into my photo to see why I was taking the picture.  Funny.)

One of my French friends(so you know it is going to be to a lovely find) introduced me to this little gem of a place also in the Niederdorf.  At Schober you can still sit outside on their terrace and sip delicious hot chocolate on a sheepskin covered chair while wrapped in a bright red blanket.  The lights add a magical touch. For more information

Wowee this is a blurry one.  Right at Stadelhofen train station is this festive little Glühwein stand which also makes for a great meeting spot.

The lovely trees all lit up outside Terrace at Bellevue.

The beautiful tree and windows done each year by Credit Swiss at ParadePlatz.  It makes the dark evenings heading home from work a lot more bearable. 

The view of the Conelli Circus from across the Limmat.  

Some quick snaps of last weeks Polyball.  Hosted by ETH, the event covered 8 floors with different bands.  A formal even, it was a sea of gowns and black ties.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Warm Thought for a Dark Day

Going Home

I've been asked so many times in recent years to describe a typical Canadian.  That had me a bit puzzled.  There is no typical look or mannerism that came to mind beyond being friendly.  

But now as the days count down to when I am back on my home turf I am excited.  Not just to see the people I love and miss, but for the way I can just "be". That means letting all my Canadianisms out.  Engaging strangers in random conversation, making a goofy joke with a passerby, smiling at strangers...laughing at the quirkiness of a friend and taking turns to pick up a bill instead of splitting it to the penny.  

As I say this it sounds as if I resent some of my life here.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  I love Europe.  It is where I feel most at home.  The people, the places, the structure - it is my home.  In my heart though,  I am still that goofy Canadian.  The one who enjoys laughter provoked from a joke either at my own or someone else's expensive, and the one who talks to pretty much everyone and anyone.

So I suppose it came to be that the more I miss home the more I realize what it means to be Canadian.  We kind of like to talk (to anyone), we love laughter and we don't get too uptight when things do not go according to plan.  We have more of an "oh well that's life" kind of philosophy.   

All that said, I am not suggesting that any one way is better than another;  only that in a few short weeks I am looking forward to relaxing and letting that hyper and goofy Canadian inside me - out :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Call me Nadia

I have started on a matcha latte kick.  Every work day afternoon I duck out of the office and round the corner to the nearest Starbucks.

(Before I go on any further I must clarify something.  I don"t normally do Starbucks here in Europe.  To me that is an American, or a North American thing and I really do not wish to be one of "those" people that frequent what they have back home.  However, this is the only place near me that I know of where I can get a matcha latte.)

Matcha lattes are kind of gross for those people who have never had one before.  They taste like warm, liquid grass.  They also look like warm, liquid grass.  Yuck.  Why do I drink them?  That is a reasonable question.  Answer is, I am not sure.  I just do.  It is like me against the gross green goo and by drinking it I win.  A small victory on a busy afternoon.

So the team at Starbucks is getting a bit used to me and my 3pm matcha run.  But as soon as they see me, a flash of panic flashes across their eyes.  My name you see, causes them constant grief.  Dawn is an English name and it does not go well in these parts.  At work most people call me Antle because they think that looks more like a first name than Dawn.  I just go with it.  Some have implored upon me to adopt the use of my middle name Leigh instead to help offset the confusion. They are likely correct, but the amount of paperwork required is daunting.

At Starbucks it has come to the point now that people actually make busy when I arrive.  The whole name thing is an awkward moment for both parties. On this day the young out going guy steps up to handle me.  He starts to write my name on the cup and then shows me what he has written.  "Sure" I say at the interesting interpretation.  That is when he declares "from now on you are Nadia."  The barrister is also relieved at this declaration.

This worked out so well for everyone concerned I decided to try it elsewhere in my life.  At the store when a clerk looks puzzled at my name I throw out Nadia.  Restaurant reservations, I am Nadia.  I have discovered that in doing this,  that it is not so much my German vocabulary that is causing confusion, but my name.

Today I have to go and reserve movie tickets, I think that is a good task for Nadia...

Monday, November 18, 2013

An Insomnia Inspired Ramble

Sleepless tonight.  I find myself dwelling on a comment that a friend said earlier.  We were discussing my rather eventful past week.  A lot of unexpected drama was flung my way, so much that I still find myself feeling a little bit numb from it all still.   

Then my friend said the mother of all comments that haunts me this sleepless night.

In this life we seem to get caught up on things.  Always looking for the next big thing.  We get bored.  Our need for constant stimulation transcends into so many things in our daily life.  Our constant checking of our smartphones, busy calendars crammed full until we achieve utter exhaustion, our need to buy the next latest and greatest thing, a new job and so on.  Sometimes people create drama just to make life a bit more exciting.  However, when it gets particularly sad is when it enters into our personal life.  The avoidance of intimacy, commitment and juggling of multiple relationships because we cannot be still, or we get bored or are afraid that something better will soon come along.  

I think we have all been that way at one point or another. Me included.  It is easier sometimes to live in this way because it lacks depth and provides a protective cloak for our vulnerability.  But the truth is I am bored with constant stimulation.  I want to enjoy a quiet mind and soak in the moment.  Be it alone or with someone.  So it was surprising tonight to hear someone suggest that it was probably a good thing that I had this drama in my life otherwise I would get bored.  Funny, but also a bit disappointing that my friend would think this of me.  

As I lay awake in bed a text came in from Canada (yes, I know, but I am not perfect.).  It said "I just heard this song and knew instantly that you would love it."  What is particularly cool is that it is indeed my favourite song of the moment.  When I asked how they knew this the reply was "because I love you."

Yeah.  It was a pretty awesome moment that was worth losing a night of sleep.  It is nice to known.  To be understood.  Thought of by someone who knows you so well.  This does not happen when life is going at a seriously rapid pace, or when we find ourselves unable to enjoy a moment or are already thinking about the next one.  Is that boring?  Perhaps. But I kind of like the balance 'boring' brings to my life.  Drama happens of course and there is sometimes little you can do to avoid it.   Laughter, a hug, an 'I love you', that is something special and worth scaling back on the other stimuli and distractions.  

There, I think I can sleep now...

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Canadian Mayoral Debacle

Okay, I just caught the Jon Stewart clip on Toronto mayor Rob Ford and I found myself feeling entertained, mortified and stunned at the incredible level idiocy. Forgive me, but this is one of those rare times that I simply cannot find a 'glass half full' perspective.  The dude has not one redeeming quality that I can see.

However, the fact that he is still in office encapsulates that incredible Canadian tolerance for which we are so well-known.   This dude is a one man train wreck.  If you want to be both shocked and entertained I recommend that you forward the video to 2:59 and hang on until the end.  You will not believe that it is actually true and happening today in Toronto, Canada.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brevity: Not a Canadian thing

So last night I went to a comedy show with a group of friends.  The last comedian took the stage and he just so happened to be Canadian.

Keep in mind that I was the only Canadian in this group.  On this particular evening we happened to be a mix of German, Swiss, Bulgarian and of course one token Canadian.

Anyway, the dude started on about how he actually hated Canadians and that was why he had since moved to the UK.  His reason?  Because they "go on, and on, and on..." about things.

Firstly I was a bit surprised, generally speaking Canadians are lucky enough to not provoke any serious type of emotion in people.  (I mean, why hate a people that have to withstand winter 12 months a year - right?)  So it was quite strange to hear how much we were loathed by someone.

Second surprise - the way my friends all erupted into uncontrolled laughter at the "on and on" part.  Keep in mind that I am the the only Canadian in our group, so I am the baseline for 'what is Canadian'. (Yes, I am sorry about that as well Canada.)  The guilty glances my way while they enjoyed the Canadian inspired jokes were also telling.

Yeah.  You get the point, so I will stop this blog here.  I think you know why...  :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Explosive Gift Situation : His Version

Note:  For the first time I have let someone else write something for my blog.  After stating how absurd our fight was I had told my friend that I at least appreciated the blogging material.  He then stated that it was only fair that he get to share his side of the story as well.  Here it is...

The gift.
A true story.
By anonymous.

I am the only son of an Italian, divorced, wealthy mother, and for me the nanosecond has always been the unit of measure to count the time intercurring between "I want" and the answer "here it is!" Therefore, when Dawn told me that she bought me a present, I immediately spot the cliffs in front of us. "I'm not very patient, Dawn," is my 'intelligenti pauca' for her. Unfortunately Dawn doesn't speak Latin, and proudly replies with a clear political program of how this affair is going to evolve: "I know. This is why you'll have to wait!"

I met Dawn Antle something more of a year ago in toytown Zurich, and we immediately became friends. She's a mix between a geek (at her job), a Talleyrand (in her social life) and a lioness (as a mother), all in the packaging of a full optional, top level, Canadian. She just can't avoid being used to have it always her way. 

Anyway, on with the story.
In the next two weeks after the official announcement that a gift was waiting for me, and after asking her, probably every day (I'm not sure if I missed one, I would need to check), when I could have it, my expectations had grown like a soufflé. Yellow shields with black horses on them were already flashing in my imagination, when here comes the first cold shower: "it's just not ready yet".  "If it's not ready, can I at least know what it is?". "No", is the reply, "I'll send you a picture". What I see is a cubic shapeless package in a brownish gift paper, unintelligible in size. "Thanks, it's what I've always wished for.", is my sarcastic thought.

I'm now at the point where my patience has to be measured with negative numbers. The mood when you're so hungry that you'd rather eat crude eggs than waiting for the omelette. So I drop her the first warning that I'm at boiling point: I send her pictures of objects that I think might be the actual content. In front of them, a warm blooded mammal, moved by compassion, would just reveal the secret. Well, not her.

A week passes fruitlessly, so I resolve to use the "N" bomb in my arsenal: Give her a present myself. Something that would make her impossible not to reciprocate, something that would make her feel guilty at any time she just looks at that. What I buy is a biscuits tin box with a carillon that rings whenever it's moved. "This is genius", I giggle. "If she doesn't fall for it, she's not human", is my thinking. 

She doesn't. The Canadian Caterpillar, in front of a hint the size of the Matterhorn, just carries on with ruthless stubbornness.

Another week week later,  I'm forced to wave my white flag, but since I would like to have at least the honors of war, I have to resort to Padrino tactics: the proposal that you can't refuse. After a kind good morning from her, I retort: "You're not clearing your conscience so easily, dear. But I'm sure you like this subtle torture, don't you?" Now, this is the closest I can get to begging "give me the damn present now or we are not friends anymore," and anybody who knows me would understand it. But not her. The red fingernailed juggernaut, in front of the moral equivalent of a bleeding horse head in your bed, just escalates to Defcon 1: "That's ok, I will win this one yet."

This is how our friendship was over forever (that is, until she just lowers her big blue eyes and softly whispers 'I'm sorry'). Not because she is an incorruptible torturer without a cause, but because she still hasn't understood that men have feelings too! And that if you shake one of our deepest rooted certainties, i.e. that we can have whatever we want no need to ask, you will get in trouble.

In the end, even I have not clearly understood how a spontaneous act of kindness has been turned into a claw. That's beyond me. What I'm sure of, is that at the end of the story, she'll walk away with it. She always does.

Footnote:  I have to be honest, the battle still rages.  In the end there will be a casualty or two, but I thought it would be interesting to share two sides of a story - and how a seemingly benign, and even intended thoughtful gesture can have the opposite affect when two people refrain from sharing openly.  Even two very good friends...

The Explosive Gift Situation : My Version

Sometimes you cross paths with someone who immediately gets you.  From literally the first moment you meet you know that person is going to be someone special in your life.
So is the case with my guy pal.  I met him within weeks of moving to Zurich and adored how he would listen to my work stories ad nauseam (and trust me, this is no easy feat), he listened to my family related dramas and best yet he laughed at my bad jokes - and he made me laugh.  I remember one particular time; it was in fact Halloween evening last year, when he spent his evening celebrating the conclusion of a very important and exhausting project of mine.  I remember one time he was driving me home from German class and I was rambling a mile a minute, when I noticed it and commented how cool it was that he listened to my blah blah blah, he responded with a laugh and gestured around the car “Dawn, where exactly can I go?” He is also the person that made sure I had pumpkin for my much longed for Thanksgiving dinner, the one that fixes my bike, and so on - that is just the kind of friend that he is…
Pretty cool huh?  But wait, I am not finished yet.  This is going to be one long blog….
One of the other things I love about my friend is that he knows how to handle me.  I am in spirit a fighter.  Everything I have in this life I fought for – and fought hard.  So when I am determined, I can be a bit, uhm, well… lets just say difficult.  However, to this friend of mine, I am not so difficult.  So somehow he became my go-to-person when the drama of life started to get to me.  “Dawn, it sounds like you are making your own movie,” is one of my favourite lines of his when I start to lose my perspective.
It all sounds kind of perfect doesn’t it? 
Now on the other hand, he  is someone who likes to have control over any and all situations.  But then as much as he likes having everything his own way, it also bores him.  He is a bit of a walking contradiction.  Normally he picks where we will meet, when we meet, what we will do – everything.  I am okay with that because he in turn listens to my long ramblings and dramatic outbursts.  For the most part, it is a friendship that is tough to beat.
But then the trouble started.  I got in trouble for not inviting my friend to do things.  I was confused.  We talked about it, but I remained confused.  To make matters more confusing for me I tried to make a suggestion and he immediately countered it with another.  In the end we did what he wanted.  (in all fairness, he had the better idea).
One day I was thinking about him and how much his friendship meant to me.  I wanted to express it, particularly after getting in trouble.  Since my attempt at planning was quickly thwarted, I thought of a gift.  Nothing special.  It had a couple of parts, one of which was not so easy to procure.  Excited I informed him that I had “a gift” for him.  To my surprise he was excited - and started texting me and demanding to see “the gift”.  As always, he demands were full of humour and light.  So I was fun back.  Soon he gave me a gift that was cute and thoughtful which made me sorry that the last part of his gift had still not arrived.  So I decided to make him wait until he could have it all and thus the full impact.
The banter of “the gift” continued.  It was fun.  Or so I thought – until the last text.  “Dawn, I don’t even want the gift anymore.”  He was annoyed!  My longest running pal here in Zurich was literally so irritated that I felt our friendship was in serious jeopardy.  So we had a heated phone discussion – he still could not see how he was so in the wrong on this one.  A gesture intended to show my appreciation was actually causing a massive conflict.  He was in my opinion completely unreasonable.
I did what any normal female would do.  I called my mother and lamented about how I was losing a friend over a stupid gift – how annoying and unreasonable my friend was being over the whole thing.   And maybe just maybe, this friendship had run its course. 
“He is right Dawn” she said.  I am still not so sure that this is the case, but alas I apologized.  A mother is the trump card on all issues otherwise unresolvable.
I told my friend that I though we were the only two people who fought over a gift.  “You could be right” he agreed.
Until now our friendship has been easy, uncomplicated.  (okay, except for another disagreement that happened about the same time last year – but alas that is another blog)  We can relate to nearly everything in each others lives because we are so similar.  We are difficult and demanding as well as sensitive.  It really is a recipe for disaster.  However, as with all good things in life – they are not always so easy.  I am glad I was able to navigate my friend’s displeasure with me – and I am glad he was able to navigate my subsequent temper tantrum.  As a result the friendship fortunately remains intact.
But what about the gift you ask?  Well, he still hasn’t got it :)

FOOTNOTE:  My friend has asked that his version of the event follow mine, so tomorrow you can read his and decide for yourself who is the more reasonable of the two of us. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Expat Love

My beautiful running trail today.
Oh yeah, I am going to go there...

Expats are unique.  I think that in order to leave everything familiar behind, you are making a conscious decision to do so - and that there is some motivation for that.  Perhaps a broken heart, a desire to leave a previously cultivated identity behind - or just a change.  
Look at the elephant I found in
the middle of no where.

And, for the purpose of this blog I am writing about the single expat.  Not the ones that move abroad with their family.

So here we are.  A bunch of foreigners in a foreign land.  How long we are here, where we are going - no one knows.  It is a rather transient lifestyle.  However as human beings we crave intimacy - and no I am not talking about sex, I am referring to intimacy in all of its forms.  Talking, sharing, snuggling up, laughing - knowing that someone is is always there.  

As I was saying, expats, like all humans long for intimacy.  However the transient lifestyle dictates a certain behaviour pattern.  We (and yes I am including myself in this equation) avoid getting close to other people - particularly romantically.  When things start getting close - I hit the road.  Or create a drama that results in the termination of that particular relationship.  It is a recipe that works well for me - and as far as I can see, many others expats as well. 

Kind of sad huh?  

This past week I ran into someone from my past.  Someone had I walked away from. I am not sure how it happened, but we started talking.  Something that I had avoided previously.  Conversations that speak of the future, feelings and commitment make me stressed.  They are in direct conflict with my live-in-the-moment approach to life.  But it got me to thinking.  In those few moments of open honest conversation, I got to know him better than I had in all the time we previously spent together.  As did he, I.  But that (and he) is in the past and not a part of my future.  It is sometimes easier to speak openly when there is nothing to lose.

The other evening at a dinner party one fellow was sharing how he wanted to settle down and have a family.  One other fellow laughed at him and he remarked at how odd expats were when it came to relationships and their view of them. That got me thinking too.

Today I went for a challenging run with a friend.  It felt wonderful.  The spectacular autumn foliage only added to my appreciation of it all.  My thoughts wandered to the past, the present and of course what lay ahead.  Uncertainty or no uncertainty - it time to plant roots and settle in to my place here in the world - and, maybe, just maybe take a chance on love...

And now I am sending this song out to my running friend...  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Good Life..

I started to write a whole lot of blah blah, but decided instead to post a picture of the beautiful leaf lined street I was running down today, another of the sunset from the evening before and the song that I find myself singing tonight.

Life is good.

This evening I find myself in the mood for a little Santana...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Playlist for a Grey Day

Sometimes a song is more than a song.  As I made my way through the day, I let myself slip into a mood that was as grey and bleary as the sky overhead.  I put in my headphones and listened to a favourite playlist from years gone by when a certain song came on.

This particular song helped me through the loss of someone important to me.  When he left this world for another I found myself struggling with coping.   During the day I was busy running my business, being a mom, friend, daughter - basically trying to show everyone I was okay.  At night when I was alone, the curtain dropped.  Somehow I found my comfort in the garage of my home, sitting in my convertible with the top down and this song blasting.  I would sing along with such vigour, I am sure my neighbours were also sleepless these long nights.  But in that particular moment in time that particular song helped.

Then there was the decision of whether or not to move to Europe.  Indecisive I spent a great deal of time making excuses and flying back and forth.  In many ways I think I was waiting for a sign.  Or someone to tell me not to do something.  Sadly, I have to admit, it is sometimes a bit tough being the single, independent female.  I really did not want to make that decision all by myself.  

So as I wrestled with the decision and continued with the transatlantic lifestyle, I found myself many a time on a plane.  As the jets roared to prepare for takeoff this song would pop in my mind.   I was halfway to gone to a new life and I was feeling so not ready...

I also listened once again to a song a good friend sent me recently.   In the end I did not solve the problem that was on my mind today, but an old playlist reminded me that sometimes things simply are the way they are.  Sometimes you just have to breathe - one deep breath after another.  And that change happens whether you are ready or not.  And the song from my friend reminded me that no matter what I am never alone - if I don't wish to be.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fork in the Road


Life has remained fast and furious. But I have realized lately that in the rush of it all that I may have neglected to fully appreciate some of the people that make my life move from good to truly great.  I've been so busy loving (and often, simply surviving) the moments that I may have inadvertently let down a few people that make them so special (as well as survivable).

Tonight as I flip through a few  old messages from those that matter most I realize that there were times when some were reaching out.  Too busy, too distracted - I missed the signs.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I loved last night.  My friends all around, the conversation and the laughter.  Collectively eating too much.  The banter, the appreciation of the food, effort and simply being together.  It was a first Thanksgiving for pretty much everyone, and the spirit of it was embraced to the fullest.

I cannot help but feel immense gratitude to the people who make up my family away from home - they made certain that I enjoyed a holiday that I missing so...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chaos Countdown

11:15 - I found cranberries!  Whoohoo!  Nice fresh ones.  Thank you Globus!

12:10 - the owner of my favourite boutique is googling turkey roasting instructions while I try on clothes.  Perhaps an unnecessary event to do today - but alas I am a stressed woman and I do not need to make sense.

13:00 - two new rsvp's for dinner.  Kein problem, I have 7 kilos of turkey.

13:15 - full on anxiety attack.  I have not enough plates.

13:17 - I don't have enough chair either.

13:19 - texted for back up support.  (Although I believe the offer to assist was more gratuitous than anything...)

13:45 - pumpkin pie is in - now time to tackle the turkey.  Feeling immense gratitude for the rooster timer I was given last night.

13:58 - watching Gordon Ramsey YouTube video on how to cook a turkey.

13:59 - received whatsup up message from a friend - they decided to bring a nuessli-rucola salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and mozzarella pearls.  Yum.  I am off the hook for making a salad.

14:00 - rooster timer just crowed and scared the bloody hell out of me.  May need a prosecco to help calm me down.

15:15 - pumpkin pie is finished and turkey is in!

15:51 - maybe it is time to go buy groceries.

Thanksgiving Dinner Chaos

This dinner has taken on a life of its own.  The guys in the office have been willingly enduring my lunchtime turkey saga updates and offering second hand roasting tips.  My friend, the turkey procurement facilitator is experiencing similar support at her workplace.

We even named the darn turkey.  His name is Henry, Henry the VIII.  Sure go ahead and challenge me on the name selection, but remember when you are doing so that we are arguing over the namesake of a 7 kilo bird that is going into my 9 kilo capacity oven.  

But last night is when things became really interesting.  My friends proudly escorted the now infamous Henry VIII to my flat at 19:00.  But they also had all my favourite treats, prosecco and even a couple of gifts.

You see, I had mentioned that I was going to brine the turkey last night.  My friends however are so excited about this turkey that they became concerned - and this of course was further fuelled by their uncertainty over my culinary abilities.  So, they posed an intervention.  Distracting me from my intended task.  Of course I only realized this as they left at 1am and one said with a laugh "yeah, too bad you get to do that brine thing..."

And now I have to run - I just did a quick head count followed by a quick plate count - there seems to be a considerable discrepancy... 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Countdown

It is just few sleeps away from Thanksgiving dinner.  However, instead of going through all the Thanksgiving explanations I invited my friends to a 'Fall Feast'.  It seems to be requiring a team effort this dinner of mine.  One friend helped procure the necessary pumpkin, however I remained a bit bamboozled on where to get the turkey and was in fact a few steps away from substituting chicken when my best gal pal decided to get involved.  

Let me first explain, getting a turkey is not an easy feat over here.  There are normally a few available for American thanksgiving, however for the Canadian one, you have to find a butcher who will bring you in a specially ordered turkey.  Since my cooking is pretty much limited to yogurt and salad, I have no 'relationship' with a butcher from whom I could make this request.

So last night my gal pal offered to take charge of turkey procurement.  At lunch I received I text.  "I have the turkey.  It is a Swiss one from the farm of .... , and it will be slaughtered on Thursday.  I pick it up on Saturday.  It will cost 120 SF."  

I had to release an awkward laugh.  For the first time in my life I am directly responsible for turkey being slaughtered.  And I will no longer listen to my Canadian friends complain about spending $30 on a turkey.

But the best part of the text was yet to come.  The turkey is 7-8 kilos, and the kind butcher even offered to loan some dishes to roast it in as well. As I glance down and take in the size of my cute oven I am uttering a silent prayer that it will even fit.  If it does, certainly nothing else will.

I had planned to supplement the turkey dinner with honey roasted glazed vegetables and other comfort foods.  Oh well - who needs veggies when you have protein?

In the end I have to smile at how things are unfolding.  My friend a few doors away has also offered me his oven so that I can cook some things there too.  Funny.  And my gal pal will be finishing her work day on Saturday only to stop at the butcher and carry home on the train one massive, freshly slaughtered turkey.  Too funny.

I just hope I will have enough time to cook the darn thing!  Perhaps we will do a reverse dinner - start with pumpkin pie and finish with turkey for desert.

I have to admit I am utterly warmed by the effort my friends have all made to make my Thanksgiving a success.  I feel immense gratitude for their friendship.  Even though I am missing my homeland this fall, it seems I do not have to be back in Canada to experience the spirit of Thanksgiving...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

And it is ON!

Oh yeah.  I have a pumpkin and I know what to do with it.

Thanksgiving is on!  Woot!

I have been babbling about hosting a Thanksgiving party for ages now.  After four years of missing it - I am keen on not letting this one slip me by. My close friends are a perfect mix of German, Swiss, French and Italian folk who have no idea what it all means.  The day after I after I proudly procured a pumpkin (and I will have you know, this is not such an easy feat when you live in downtown Zurich) I texted my pals - "the Harvest Feast is on! We will even have pumpkin pie," I shared excitedly, for everyone knows that it is not thanksgiving if there is not pumpkin pie.

"Uhm, you make pie out of pumpkins?" said one friend rather sceptically.  "You sure you don't mean soup?"  

Funny how you assume some things. Such as everyone must  know that pumpkin pie is a must-do fall sort of thing.  But they do not.  

But the real cool thing is that they do not have turkey much over here either.  In fact, I have yet to find a place where I can preorder it just for this dinner, but I will.  However, that means my friends have no idea what a 'turkey coma' is either.  I cannot help but giggle a little at that thought alone...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall Gratitude

It is by far my most favourite season.  Snuggling with a special someone, long dinners with friends, the sound of leaves crunching as I walk. I love fall.

A Perfect Sunday Morning

This morning I woke from a long, deep sleep.  Because it is Sunday I allowed myself the luxury of remaining all snuggled in bed while slowly waking for the day. When I was ready I rolled over to check my phone to see if anything traumatic had occurred during my slumber. A text from my BFF awaited me.  "Isn't it wonderful to wake alone and be free of drama?  To slowly begin the day and drink too many coffees and have no where you have to be?" 

I had to agree.  As I write this I am sipping my second coffee of the morning.  A half eaten oatmeal cookie made by my Grossmutter lay near by.  A couple of hours of work followed by a concert with a good friend awaits later in the day.  

A colleague of mine has a habit of saying "Dawn, you have the perfect life."  To be honest, this annoys me.  I have days, weeks and even months that seem to test me in every possible way - but I do my best to fight through them.  Just like everyone.  However, in moments like these, I cannot help but agree.  

Damn it feels good to be me...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shedding an Inhibition

My friend and I have started a once per week wellness evening.  It is our effort to replenish our bodies from the ill effects of a rather fun filled summer.  

A few weeks in and I am completely hooked.  This is a rather European thing to do - sauna evenings I mean.  I am shocked as to why we do not do more of this in Canada.  It seems like sort of a Canadian thing to do.

At first I was rather tentative.  Particularly because the whole sauna thing requires one to be comfortable with nudity.  At one point and time in my life I would have have refused absolutely to entertain the notion of shedding my clothes.  However, as the years melt into each other, I find myself adopting more and more of the European ways.  I have learned to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle, I spend money differently than I did back in Canada, I have completely embraced the social routines associated with Swiss life and now I have joined the countless others who head on down to the sauna and shed their attire for a few hours of self indulgence.

As a Canadian, I am filled with the inhibitions that come with our society.  I simply didn't get the whole naked sauna thing.  My friends here could not understand why I was so uptight .  But, as the years pass, my learned Canadian inhibitions become less prevalent.  And then the day came when I was ready to give it a whirl.

I tried to explain to my friend after how the experience moved me.  For her it is a normal thing to do.  But for me, I had to accept myself as I was.  There was no where to hide.  As I sat in the scorching heat of the sauna I felt free.  No one cared about how I looked.  Nor did I them.  We were there for something else.  We were there to enjoy the quiet, the heat, and the pleasure of self indulgence.  And the losing the clothes thing?  Not such a big deal after all...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Baking Day Panic Attack

Today is a big day for me.  Yep.  It is baking day.  

My friend likes to host international dinner parties.  They are pretty cool evenings.  Approximately 20 plus strangers gather together for dinner.  Each brings a dish reminiscent of their home country.  Basically we get  together and  share a delicious mix of food and culture.  

The last time I did it got away with a fruit salad drizzled in maple syrup.  Typical Canadian dish.  Not.  Okay, the maple syrup was typical.  Today however, I am going to shake things up.  I am going to bake fruit pies.  Not crazy ambitious, but certainly more so than the fruit salad.

First panic attack occurred when I realized that my trusted pastry recipe was safety stored somewhere back in Canada.  A few minutes on the computer, and Google lead me to a four star recipe that promised not to disappoint.  I entered the kitchen.  Second panic attack.  No pie plates.  A quick text to my gal pal and she told me where I could procure some pie dishes close by.  Emailed myself the shopping list for the pies.  Third panic attack.  What is lard in German?  

By this time I am starting to ponder whether maple syrup drizzled over vanilla ice cream would suffice. Alas, I am determined, and ready myself to shop for the necessary dishes and ingredients.

Forth panic attack.  How does one carry multiple pies on trams and through the twisty, hilly walkways of Zurich old town?

Then I got to thinking, in Canada it is customary to purchase chocolate cake at the local bakery...

And now it feels somehow fitting that I share another Canadian singer/songwriter.  Chantal Kreviazuk with "Feels like Home."  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Reason

It is Saturday morning and I am enjoying some text chats with a couple of girlfriends while sipping on my fourth morning coffee.   

I am aware that there is nothing particularly unique about that, however this has become an important part of my morning start.

One of the best things about family is that they know you in a way that most people do not.  There is also a great deal of comfort in that. You have the freedom to be exactly as you are - without judgement. 

As an expat, you miss that.  Family is far away and often the time zones make communication a challenge.   The opportunity to be with family is not as easy as it once was so the potential to be lonely is prevalent.  There are many an expat event.  You see the guys and gals mingling and chatting, enjoying the momentary intimacy that these events provide.  Sometimes people win the jackpot and connect with another similar soul, but more often than not it is only temporary.  Still, these events are essential - for without them we would be starved.  And I suppose even though intimate relationships are not so common, there is still a kinship amongst us all.  We have similar challenges, needs and lifestyle.  

I've been living abroad for over three years officially.  Unofficially it has been over four.  Enough time to strain the friendships I enjoyed back home.  Enough time to get used to not celebrating special events and days with family.  Enough time to crave a deeper type of intimacy in my now familiar surroundings.  

As I am texting back and forth with my girlfriends I am comforted.  They know my deepest and darkest secrets.  They know my fears, my desires.  I know theirs.  The veil of pretence has long fallen.  I share this type of communication with a guy pal too.  When he met my son for the first time, he said it was like meeting an old friend since he already knew him through me and my countless stories.  

Yesterday I read an editorial on how as humans we crave intimacy - but we also fear it.  It touched on the fact that many of us turn to social media to satiate our desire for a deeper connection.  That is something that I simply cannot do.  I need the banter, the shared laughter and the sometimes needed hug that can only be experienced in person.  Yet, I do not know of many people who are more fearful of intimacy than I.  In the past my family served as safe zone. Outside of that, was a crafted facade that was years in the making.  However, this whole experience forced me to change.  A little anyway.

I have not lost the connection with my family, it is in many ways even deeper than before.  Something I am grateful for every moment of every day.   But the distance of the comforting arms of my family was too far away in moments I longed for something more than a superficial intimacy.  I had to take a chance or live with the ache of loneliness of being alone.

So here I am.  In my pjs, sipping my coffee, texting with those that know me best.  We share our mistakes, our heartaches, our successes.  I am a happier person as a result.  Unburdened.  Some people manage this without being forced.  I didn't - or couldn't.  I cannot help but consider the irony of it all.  There are few things more rewarding than intimacy - yet as much as we crave it, we also run from it.  Me included.  I don't profess to have mastered it - its simply a reflection on something this journey abroad has forced me to try.  And I am glad I did...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Never Forget

I was a bit reflective this week.  Thinking about the past - the moments, the people.  The ones I left behind.  

So many memories.  

It is difficult sometimes - to rationalize the need to make a change.  

I had to take a moment and say that I am filled with gratitude to those who have held my hand, comforted me and most importantly given me the push to do what I needed to do.