Gratitude Friday: Art

Post by Lauren

This Friday, I am grateful that the winter market I am participating in is tomorrow – – that means, I’m almost done! I have been working hard on getting original paintings, handmade jewelry and greeting cards ready for my little “Designs by Lauren” booth.

Getting ready for the exhibit this Fall has been a great way to practice creativity. Regardless if I sell anything or not, I am glad for the experience and time that I have had to explore my favorite hobby. It’s always been a dream of mine to have more time for being creative in whatever form it takes and now I have it.

So thus, I am also very thankful for our ex-pat situation and my awesome husband’s support. He’s the reason why I get to have this chance so again I have found another reason to be grateful for him :). It’s not hard.

I wanted to share some of the paintings as its a good recap of some of the great places we’ve had the opportunity to travel

*Note: sorry that when we converted to wordpress, the links are not working.


Heineken redeems itself

Post by Lauren

Prior to going to Amsterdam, all I knew about Heineken was from Gabe. I noticed at Montreux Jazz Fest that he had a certain scale on whether or not he would buy a Heineken or not. For instance, if it was 10 minutes to the next beer stand, either in distance or with time spent in line, he would go for the Heineken stand (as a sponsor, they were all over the place) versus what he really wanted. Then and only then. So, I supposed I had a slightly negative vibe.

We heard from friends that the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam was pretty cool. These friends know a lot about beer tours, so we figured a nod from them was a good reason to check it out.

Here is what I learned:

Heineken started as a family owned business. Leadership was passed from father to son, through the generations, and now a daughter runs the massive International company. Because it is a family name, they are very protective of the quality and have a laboratory to make sure that the beer tastes the same no matter where it is sold in the world, to protect the brand and their name. Pretty cool.

No matter how hard the Great Depression was, Heineken didn’t lay off a single employee. In fact, they were the only such company who gave pensions during that time. They really believed in their people and their propensity to make it a great company. Very admirable.


During the “experience”, they like to have fun. They let you touch the ingredients and do each step as it was done in “the old days”.

They have animals. Who doesn’t like animals on a tour? Kidding aside, we thought they ripped this off from Budweiser but learned that horse & carriage were the way that all beer was delivered in the olden day. They still keep these chaps around for parading the beer trucks through Amsterdam.

They give you lots of free tastes along the way. We learned how to do a proper beer tasting as well, similar to how you taste wine. The star shaped bar was pretty sweet. We were starting to grow in fan-ship at this point.

They also had tons of other interactive parts of the experience. We went into a 4-D room where we were a piece of barley made into beer. Gabe made fun of me when I put my camera away due to the sign warning it could get wet. But no joke, the floor dropped when we were “dropped” into the tank and the ceiling sprayed as well. We also experienced lots of breeze when we were “bottled”.

Other activities included games to fill a pint glass perfectly with the tap, a spot where you could make your own bottle with your name on it, and a place to do your own Heineken music video.

Another room contained screens playing movie clips for which Heineken had gotten product placement so you got to see James Bond, Brad Pitt, and John Travolta popping open a cold Heineken. It makes me wonder how much they paid for these

Next was a lounge area where you could lay in leather chaises and view all the old TV spots from the 50’s and 60’s. I like this one:


Finally, they gave you two free beers in the really animated World Bar, showing all over the world where Heineken was sold.

Gabe was reluctant to say whether he likes Heineken any better, but agreed that a Heineken in Amsterdam tasted better than any Heineken he had previously. However, I am now a super fan, mainly because I thought they did a brilliant branding job in the experience. It was definitely the best company tour I have ever done.



I want to live in Amsterdam

Post by Lauren

You know how there are some cities where ten minutes after arriving, you exclaim, “I could live here!”. I said this in Amsterdam even before our cab arrived to the hotel. And after spending a great weekend there, I decided I must live there…someday!

Here’s are just ten reasons why:

One: Bike-friendly, not lots of cars. Not that I am good at biking (I had a near death experience with a tram in Amsterdam) but I do appreciate how everyone bikes everywhere. There are 700,000 residents in Amsterdam and 700,000 bikes!

Two: Romantic canals, perfect for strolling or biking leisurely. The canals in Amsterdam were just as beautiful as Venice, just in a different way. It feels magical when you are there.

Three: Cozy bakeries & cafes. Quaint adorable restaurants. A highlight for us was an Indonesian rice table on our first night, captured in the second photo, taken by A. Note that our “good food” measuring stick is off since everything in Geneva is so bad. But the cuisine of this city would have wowed us pre-Geneva as well.

Four: Plentiful open-air markets, including gorgeous flower markets. They are known for their flowers. 40% of the world’s flowers come from The Netherlands. I bought a hand-painted coffee mug of a street scene as my souvenir from a local artisan.


Five: Peaceful parks. Wide bike paths, spaces for BBQing, music, and tons of people enjoying the weather.

Six: Intriguing museums, history & culture. We hit the Anne Frank House & Van Gogh museum. Note, I am on a Van Gogh pilgrimage and have now hit 2 of his main residences 🙂 There are also 45 other museums in Amsterdam.

Seven: Sweet “brown bars” and windmill bars. The ones we visited were Van Zuylen and Bouwerij ‘tiJ. Sepia photo by A.

Eight: A unique architecture. I love skinny buildings. I would even be okay with uneven floors as I am sure all these buildings have. Note Gabe standing straight up next to one of the older buildings to show the angle of curvature.

Nine: Delicious beer all over the city and at Heineken. Again, not used to good beer in Geneva.

Ten: The presence of Life. Sometimes I am not sure Geneva has a pulse, so the lively feel of Amsterdam on a weekend was a really much-needed change of pace. Day or night, people are walking, biking, conversing, and enjoying life. They seemed to be all smiling and friendly.

Since A & A, our travel buddies, were staying with a local, we had the added benefit of attending a real Amsterdam party Saturday night for, on a rooftop along one of the canals. It was organized to gather prior to “Museum Night” which we all attended. The great folks we met verified how fun-loving the residents are and we were a little sad when we thought of what Geneva lacks on the fun-scale.

A bonus #11 is that while it is not the national language (Dutch is), everyone spoke beautiful English. It was a great relief to step into English-speaking territory for a weekend. Sometimes it just feels good for one’s self esteem to not sound like a four year old.

The only downside to amazing Amsterdam for me was the RLD. It totally wasn’t what I had envisioned but still seedy and couldn’t wait to get back to the other parts of Amsterdam I had become enamored with.


Gratitude Friday: A taste of Thanksgiving

Post by Lauren

This Friday, I am grateful for the chance to have a little taste of Thanksgiving in Geneva. The cooking group that I am in organized a potluck at A.L.’s beautiful home.

It was lovely to share a Thanksgiving meal with women of many different cultures, including Holland, Canada, Switzerland, Rwanda, Germany, Qatar, Japan, Australia and the US.

Our gracious host brought back Thanksgiving plates, napkins and other goodies from her last trip to the US, so everyone could appropriately experience the typical decoration.

We had such a beautiful assortment of everyone’s favorite treats to share with the group, both savory and sweet.



Since there are many reasons why Thanksgiving is difficult here in Geneva, I was just so grateful for a nice day spent sharing our American tradition with wonderful women.

Top Reasons why celebrating Thanksgiving is more difficult in Switzerland:
1-They don’t celebrate the holiday at all here, making it impossible to get supplies. At least for Halloween, some factions of the French participate in this holiday, so they do sell limited costumes at a few stores for the ex-pats and French
2-It is nearly impossible to find a whole turkey. They do sell “dinde” here (turkey in French), but it is only in parts….a tenderloin, legs, little chops. So, you have to find a place to custom order it. And if you find one:
3- It’s guaranteed he’ll already be without skin, making it difficult to seal in the flavor
4-You will pay at least $180-200 USD for a small turkey. He is guaranteed to be free- range, organic, etc. since the other types of birds don’t exist here, but a big ouch to the wallet!
5-A whole turkey will likely not fit in your oven. Remember, all Swiss appliances are tiny. It’s like living in a dollhouse. Luckily, our host measured and determined that the whole one wouldn’t fit in her oven, so she just got an assortment of tenderloins and legs to cook so we could have a taste of turkey.
6-On the same note of our oven being the size of a US microwave, so you have a hard time getting side dishes cooked and re-heated at once.
7-No power settings or defrost settings on a microwave. So my typical way of softening butter is out the window!
8-No shortcuts like boxed stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. And no fried onions in a can for green bean casserole. Everything must be from absolute scratch.
9-You can find canned pumpkin here at the American store, but its 8 dollars a can. Whoa!
10-Luckily our host had a beautiful spacious apartment. But this is atypical here, so a US sized Thanksgiving might have a difficult time fitting into a traditional Geneva flat.

Bon weekend, everyone!

Our little yellow boats: the mouettes

Post by Lauren

I just adore Geneva’s transport system. The TPG (public transportation) has a really handy site where you can map your trips. I use this site or the app 3-4 times a day to check up on schedules and waiting times. Frequently, if I need to make a short trip to the other side of the lake, it will suggest one of the water boats. They can be the quickest way to get across the lake due to heavy Mont Blanc bridge traffic. And they are so adorable.

While they are the most affordable way to get out on the water in Geneva, don’t be fooled – the mouettes are all business. They’ll zip you along under the bridges and across the other side in 5 minutes flat. You may need to go back and forth a few times to get the true lake experience!

But, no fear, you can ride them unlimited amount in an hour for 3 francs, or 2 francs for one way. If you have a TPG pass for the day, month or year, they are free!

If you visit, I promise we can go on a ride!

Swiss movie-going

Post by Lauren

Sunday was a low key day for us after the big Halloween shindig. In the afternoon, our big event was going to see the Ides of March.

We usually go to the Pathé brand of theaters here in Geneva, but this time, I had spotted that the cinema super close-by actually had the film in version original with subtitles. Usually their films are always French so we hadn’t had an opportunity to go.

We took the short walk down to the theatre and bought our tickets. They were only 33 francs, $40 USD, a steal for Geneva movie-going. We were pleased. However, our love affair with this theatre quickly wore off when Gabe realized that the teeny snack stand only sold candy bars and coke. No popcorn. He’d been looking forward to it all afternoon.

To make matters worse, the traditional ads they have at the theatre continued to play with the big sodas and popping corn, taunting us.

While the movie was excellent, the temptation was rather cruel.