Archive | December, 2017

Happy New Year

31 Dec

Before the bells start chiming at midnight, I would like to wish all of you a Happy and Healthy 2018, wherever you are in the world and whoever you are with.

2017 has been a good year for me. I have achieved a lot of things that are on my bucket list and have been able to travel and experience a lot of new things. For the upcoming year, there will be more travelling in the first quarter of the year and then, I hope, I can spend more time enjoying what Switzerland has to offer. I think that the year could end up with me staying at home more because of work reasons. But let’s see…

For many people, the New Year is not always something to celebrate. It is a time to reflect and perhaps unhappy thoughts or disappointing times come to mind more easily. Whatever your feelings about this time of year, I hope that you will be able to look ahead to the opportunities that might be available to you in 2018.

If there is one piece of advice I would give, it would be to do whatever you want but do it with all your heart, in pursuit of your happiness.

So, Happy 2018! I wish you all the Best and more besides. Whatever happens, an adventure is definitely waiting for us!

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My year in numbers

27 Dec

As the year is almost up, I thought it would be a good idea to make a review of the year using only numbers.

This was my 2017…

105 Number of blog posts (including this one)

1,809 Number of visitors to my blog

2,821 Number of views of my blog

29 Number of flights I have taken

13 Number of countries I have visited (England, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, France, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Singapore)

5 Number of countries I have visited for the first time (Norway, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Slovakia, Singapore)

62 Number of nights I have stayed in hotels

3 Number of weeks I have spent trying to immersing myself in German in a country other than Switzerland

37 Number of books I’ve read (I really tailed off towards the end of the year. Until July I was on track to read 52, or one a week!)

1 Number of challenges I have completed for my #40Before40 challenge

1 Number of scorpions I have eaten

26 Number of whole weekends I have spend at home in Zurich (Friday, Saturday, Sunday for the whole day)

60 Number of German lessons I have endured

60 Number of times I have said I’m not learning German anymore because it’s too hard and I will never be able to do it

1 Number of official German exams I have passed with flying colours

6 Number of Escape rooms I have done

4,332,026 Number of steps I have made according to my activity tracker

7 Number of vegetables I have grown in my garden (tomatoes, peppers, carrots, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, cucumber)

2 Number of houseplants I have killed this year (1 is hanging on for dear life as well)

3 Number of Physio appointments for my knee

7 Number of kilos I have lost this year and successfully kept off (16 pounds)

16 Number of late shifts at work

5 Number of years I have been living in Switzerland

200 (about) Number of times people have asked me what is going to happen with Brexit for no other reason than I am

I am a bit surprised by all of the numbers and what I have managed to achieve in 2017. It’s almost time to see what 2018 has in store…

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Christmas traditions

23 Dec

This year I am flying back to the UK for Christmas. I have a feeling I will be missing out on a White Christmas in Switzerland but last year I missed out on a lot of traditions that we have in the UK.

There are quite a lot of differences between UK and Swiss traditions. Firstly, Santa Claus (or Samichlaus) doesn’t come to Switzerland on Christmas Eve. He arrives on 6th December and he doesn’t bring presents. He brings cookies and sweets to children who have been good and behaved themselves. For naughty children, there is a character called Smutzli (literally, “little dirty one”), who is dressed like Samichlaus but in black instead of red. He finds the naughty children and carries them off to the woods and beats them with a stick and they get given a piece of coal instead of sweets. No wonder Swiss children are so well behaved! I don’t think the six-year-old me would have said boo to a goose, if I was threatened with corporal punishment instead of sweet treats.

The Swiss, and most other Europeans, have their presents delivered by Christkind (literally, “Christ child”). He normally arrives so that presents can be opened on 24th December. Why the person who delivers presents is called Christ child is anyone’s guess but it seems to have something to do with the baby Jesus giving the gifts. What I don’t understand is that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, so why is he giving gifts to everyone? I don’t hand out vouchers for Amazon and Boots to my friends when it is my birthday. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? And, if Christians are right and he was born to absolve us of our sins, then hasn’t he given us enough anyway?

In the UK, our traditions are just a great big mash up of these traditions. Santa Claus, which must be a corruption of Samichlaus, Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas (who’s Saint day is 6th December) are all the same person to us. I remember being told that if I wasn’t good that I would get a piece of coal and no presents. I used to think that Santa must be very forgiving or completely senile because I never once found even the slightest trace of coal in my stocking on Christmas Day.

My first Swiss Christmas was great because of the whole variety of food that we had: Cheese Fondue with lashings of garlic on Christmas Eve, Mongolian Topf for Christmas Dinner and Fondue Chinoise for Boxing Day.

I know that this year I will most likely be eating the same meat (in our house normally beef or lamb) for the next 3 days in sandwiches, cold meat platters, curries etc. But that’s ok because I am so looking forward to a lovely Christmas lunch. Christmas lunch is basically a Sunday Roast on a more epic scale. I can’t remember the last time I had a Sunday Roast. I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

But even if the Roast is burnt and the Brussel sprouts have been boiled within an inch of their life and I don’t get any Christmas presents because Santa has realised that I was actually very naughty in the summer of 1987, none of that really matters. What matters is the people sat round the table, the laughter that echoes around the house and the memories that we make together.

A Very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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3 Things… Christmas Edition

20 Dec

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I stole this idea from Bev, so I can’t take credit for the concept but the contents are all mine. As Christmas is lurking around the corner, it seemed like a good idea to answer some questions all about Christmas…

3 Things I love about Christmas

  1. I’m not going to lie: the best thing about Christmas for an adult is not having to work or not having to work as much. Although I will be working between Christmas and New Year, I will have a lot less to do and won’t be under as much stress as the rest of the year. I sometimes find it a lot easier to get things done that I have been putting off for the end of the year and I can get myself ready for January, which, working in Finance, is always a busy time.
  2. Being able to stay inside without having to feel that you have to make an excuse to justify it. The weather is cold. It might be raining or snowing. This is the one time of the year when I can stay indoors and no one tells me that I should be outside and getting some fresh air. It’s nice and cosy inside and I like the feeling of know that I can lounge about and not feel guilty for not exercising for a few days of the year.
  3. Christmassy smells. Clementines, cinnamon, real Chrismtas trees, mulled wine. Nothing smells as good as Christmas.

3 Things I dislike about Christmas

  1. Asking someone what they would like for Christmas and them shrugging their shoulders and saying “Dunno. I don’t really want/need anything”. In fairness, I say this as well but it can add some pressure when you have no idea what to give someone and they also have no idea. I guess it means that you have no expectations to live up to but you can still end up disappointing someone.
  2. Commercialism. This was summed up for me about 2 weeks ago on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. I am not talking about the Chanel, Louis Vitton and Rolex shops with their overpriced  wares in the shop window (but they are overpriced and completely unjustifiable to any normal people, not just at Christmas but throughout the year). There is a sign on the street that changes every day. It’s 5 letters long and a different word appears each day. Two weeks ago, it simply send “SPEND”. I wanted to think that this was a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the time of year but I doubt that very much. To me, it was a declaration of what companies and businesses want consumers to do in the run up to Christmas.
  3. Having to feel happy. Christmas is not a happy time for everyone and it can bring sadness with it. An empty chair at the dinner table is a stark reminder of someone who is no longer here to share in the memories or a phone call never made to someone who we love but, for one reason or another, we are no longer talking to are two examples of occasions which can cause us to reflect and bring us sadness. We focus so much on what we want that it can make us focus on what we have lost and are unable to regain.

3 Favourite Christmas Movies

  1. Home Alone. The ultimate and the best.
  2. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin in his prime and a hilarious John Candy. Just thinking about this films makes me feel emotional.
  3. Love Actually. I think I have cried from the beginning, when Hugh Grant talks about love in airports all the way through to the end, when Bill Nighy is baring his backside because his song was Christmas Number 1.

3 Favourite Christmas Treats

  1. A warmed mince pie smoothered with brandy butter.
  2. Cheese board. My mum always buys a cheeseboard, although she says that she never knows why because no one ever eats it all. And it is always the same cheese that is left to the very end in our household. Wendsleydale with Cranberries always goes first and then the Red Leicester. But there is nothing as decadent as going to raid the fridge during the Christmas period and sitting down to watch a film with a selection of cheeses, pickled onions and a few crackers.
  3. An alcoholic drink that I never normally drinking during the rest of the year. Perhaps it will be a Bailey’s this year, or a Brandy or something completely different that has been lurking in the back of my mum’s cupboard all year.

3 Favourite Christmas Traditions

  1. Eating and drinking so much that I fall in front of the TV while watching a film. This happens every year. I normally wake up when someone decides to change the channel and I tell them not to because I was watching it!
  2. Having a buffet dinner on Christmas Eve night. Normally my mum put on a big spread with crisps, sandwiches, dips and party food. Just what you need before going to bed to wait for the Big Man to arrive on the next day.
  3. Leaving a mince pies out for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. We always left something out and I was a bit sad when I grew up and I couldn’t do this any more. Now my niece and nephew are a bit older, the tradition is back up and running. I’m really looking forward to leaving the treats out for Santa and I might be fighting my brother for the dram of whisky that we leave out for him.

3 Favourite Christmas Songs

These are in no particular order…

  1. Mary’s Boy Child – Boney M
  2. The FairyTale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. This reminds me of the Christmas we spent in Tenerife, when my and my brother (both quiet inebriated) sang this at karaoke and brought the house down – at least that was my recollection.
  3. Last Christmas – Wham. I always loved this song, now it makes me a bit sad because George Michael died on Christmas Day but I still love it.

3 Favourite Gifts Received

  1. My mountain bike – I can’t remember how old I was but I really want a mountain bike. I came downstairs very confident that I would see my bike because I had been such a good girl that year. When I didn’t see it, I burst into tears. The bike was actually in the garage because my parents hadn’t wanted to bring it into the house. I knew I had been a good girl all along.
  2. My CD player and Gladiators CD – again I have no idea how old I was but I was thrilled to get my CD player. The added bonus was the Gladiators CD that I found in the bottom of my stocking. If you don’t know what Gladiators was, it was THE best programme on Saturday night and was on after Baywatch and before Blind Date, I think. I always had ambitious to go on that show. Alas, it was cancelled well before I was eligible to go on the show.
  3. My cash till. I played for hours and hours, and I mean hours and hours, with that till. I used to get my mum’s shopping out and till everything up. This was when barcodes weren’t widely used and the sticker was on the tin or packet. I also made cheque books and credit cards and I used to make my brother pretend to be customers. No wonder I ended up working in Finance. I have loved money for a long time.

3 Gifts I want to give the World

  1. Understanding. I think, if people were able to understand other people’s cultures, lives and motivations that the world would be a better place to live it. Often people are misunderstood or people have no intention of understand and learning about other people and their cultures. Also understanding of our effect on other’s and the planet is something that I would gift, if I could. Although we think that we are so advanced in our understanding today, it many areas, I feel that we understand very little.
  2. An appreciate of Health. Although health care and medical breakthroughs seem to be on the rise, lots of people forget that without your health you have nothing. How many people are stress out and not able to enjoy life? How many people give their own health second priority? Without our health and access to health care, we wouldn’t be here and that is a very limiting factor if we want to achieve things.
  3. Fun. Far to often, the fun of life is weaned away from us. As we grow up, we are programmed to have less fun. Children today have fun snatched away from them too soon in their childhood. I blame Health and Safety mostly. Life should be fun because we are only here once. We might as well have fun while we are here.

Photo an Hour

17 Dec

Yesterday I took part in my very first Photo an Hour. The basic premise is very simple. Once a month you take a photo an hour during your day and post this up on social media with the hashtag #photoaday. It means that you can check what other people are up to and is an interesting way to document a normal, or perhaps, a special day.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might remember that for 3 years I used to take a photo a day. I still get notifications on Facebook of what I was doing on this day 3 years ago. For a photo a day, you have to get creative because it is not always easy, especially with having a nine-to-five job, and the photos get a bit repetitive.

With photo a day, I must say that my day was a lot more productive than it was the previous Saturday. Last week, I was so tired and a bit ill from all the overtime that I have been doing at work, that I mainly sat in front of the TV, like a zombie all day. I certainly couldn’t post a photo every hour with me in a different position on the sofa.

So here is what I got up to on Saturday 16th December:

8am: Good Morning! Tea and Toast time!

9am: Time to confirm what the neighbours always suspected: I am both a borderline alcoholic and a very tardy recycler

10am: Shopping for Christmas wrapping paper and sparkly things

11am: UK Tax return time

12pm: Writing a few posts for my blog

1pm: As we won’t be having a Christmas tree this year, I’ve bought a poinsettia to make the place look a bit more Christmassy

2pm: After not feeling well all week, I am trying to get back into my training programme

3pm: Helping Santa by wrapping up presents for some special little people

4pm: I have finally got round to tidying all my German exercise books off the dining room table

5pm: I’m about to venture out in the cold and dark

6pm: Christmas Tree shopping (see 1pm, the tree wasn’t for me!)

7pm: Fonduestube

8pm: We are still going

9pm: On the way home

10pm: Full of cheese, exhausted and climbing into bed with this one. Night all!

#40Before40: Challenge #39

15 Dec

For my penultimate challenge, I have set myself one of the hardest challenges. The challenge is to downsize; to get rid of anything that I don’t want or need. There is no caveat on how I get rid of things. I can give them away from free, donate them, sell them, recycle them or just bin them. However, I want to avoid the latter, especially if the item is still useable.

This challenge is one of the hardest for me because I have to be honest with myself about getting rid of things. It is easy just to think that I need or will want something in the future and end up keeping it when I know deep down that I have no intention of using it at all.

We will possibly be moved in the middle of next year so it seems like a good opportunity to downsize because we don’t have to move things that we don’t want. A lot of the sorting out into the “keep” or “bin” piles will probably happen in the packing for the move but I have already made a start.

I have taken two big bags of clothes to be recycled already. This is the tip of the iceberg. There are also old electronics sat in the cellar waiting to be taken to the recycling. I also have bags of books in the cellar that I have already ready. I can take these to a book shop to be resold. I don’t get any money for dropping them off but at least they will be out of my way and someone else can get pleasure from reading them. My problem is that, once I go there to drop the books off, I have a bit of a browse and I end up coming out with 3 new books to read. I have a lot of books to read that are currently sat in the cellar. Although I am coming round to the opinion that even if I gave up work for 12 months, I still wouldn’t be able to get through all the books that I have that I haven’t read. I tend to read about 40 books per year. I need to up this considerably if I want to avoid the situation of getting rid of books that I haven’t yet read. This situation would actually make me really sad.

I have also been making a conscious effort to use cosmetics products that I have and are either half-used or haven’t even been opened. I have made some space in the cupboard in the bathroom but it is a small drop in the ocean. It is amazing how many face creams and things that I have considering I never actually use them. I guess cosmetic companies do have great marketing. If I have bought these things that I have no interest in then they are doing something right.

The clearing out will continue. It is far from over but at least it is in progress.

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Adventure on the Horizon

12 Dec

The last few months my life has been as follows: Work, German lessons, Gym, Work, More German lesson, More Work and Work. I will be glad in a few weeks when the routine should be a bit different, namely less work and a break from German lessons over the Christmas period.

Another task that has been keeping me busy over the last few weeks is my next big travel adventure. Or should I say, Our Big Travel Adventure. In February, I will be taking five weeks off work to join my boyfriend in Argentina. We will then travel around Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay, with a short stop over in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

For the best part of nine months, I have been living on my own, after my boyfriend quit his job to improve his language skills in other countries. He has been 6 months in the UK (Liverpool and Cardiff) even though I am convinced that spending time in these two places has probably made his English worse (joke), 2 months in Bordeaux and 1 month in Guadaloupe, which is actually a French territory that uses the Euro. So, with English and French learnt, he decided to go to South America to learn Spanish. I would be happy to be able to speak one other language but there seems to be no end to what he wants to learn. It’s my theory that because Switzerland has four official languages that the people think that this means that they should learn as many as possible.

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’ve invited myself over; partly because I have always wanted to travel more in South America after going to Peru in 2011, and partly because I just can’t stand any more pictures of beaches/wine glasses/beautiful scenery. I want to see this myself.

So far all of the flights, buses and transport are booked and we have a general plan in place. I am in charge of finding accommodation. Once that is done, we are almost ready to go.

I am nervous about the trip. Five weeks is a long time to be on the road, in a place where you don’t speak the language. Although my other half is under strict instructions that he must be fluent in Spanish before I arrive, I am a little nervous about the language barrier still. He will leave on 1st January and is enrolled in a language school for 6 weeks and then I will fly over.

I’m also conscious of the fact that we will have been apart for around 11 months and have only seen each other for the odd weekend here or there. To go from that to being with someone 24/7 with no break from them at all is a little bit daunting. The phrase from one extreme to another has never been so appropriate.

I must admit as well that I am not always in the best mood in a hot country. If that is then somehow combined with sunburn, it could be a disaster. I also have bad reactions to insect bites. They take chunks out of me and then my skin sort of blisters. It looks worse that it actually is but it looks disgusting. In 5 weeks, we will probably come into all sorts of creatures and, like I say, things tend to like to bite me. In Peru, I even got bitten by a parrot. I mean, who actually gets bitten by a parrot? Me, that’s who. But that’s a story for another time.

When I am home for Christmas I will definitely be buying some insect repellent and anything else that claims to repel critters, and a few other things that I need for my trip. Then I will be more than ready to leave the Swiss winter behind and experience a South America summer.

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