Gratitude Friday: Our new family member!

This Gratitude Friday, I am excited to announce that we have a new family member!  Gabe’s brother, B, just got married last weekend so his lovely bride, D, is officially one of the fam.

As far as in-law families go, I really lucked out with mine.   And we feel very blessed to have D joining the Johnson clan.  She is energetic & colorful, and adds a lot of fun anytime we are all together.  We love learning about her Brazilian heritage, hearing her stories, and enjoying her delicious cooking.  Most importantly, she is the perfect partner for B.

So, we are so very happy for them and for our good fortune at having her for a sister-in-law.

Here are a few snapshots from their nuptials, which took place in Rockford, Ohio last weekend.  Many of D’s Brazilian family and friends joined us so it was a really wonderful celebration of love and joy.

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A day at the beach…including killer ducks

Hermance is located north of Geneva.  It is 30 minutes on Bus E.    I mentioned in a previous post, it is a nice little village, beautiful and charming.  Also, for guests, it can be a quick way to cross the border into France, as we did this spring.

Charming Hermance

It also has a really nice stone beach.   I visited this summer with my friend San Francisco Gal.  We made a picnic and enjoyed the sunshine.

A few things to know about the beach in Hermance:

-entry is 4 CHF for adults and 1 CHF for kids

-they have a snack shop, so you can purchase food & drinks (alternatively, we brought our own)

-its really windy since it is on a point…be prepared for temperatures cooler than Geneva

-its a rock beach as is common on Lake Geneva.   Maybe bring water shoes if you plan to do a lot of walking/swimming.

Hermance beach

-there are a lot of scuba divers.  They have special scuba showers and it is common to witness scuba activity such as this:

 

Scuba guys

-They have some ‘killer’ ducks.   It started as innocent as them pecking at my big toe, but then they quickly took over our picnic.   Have you ever seen anything like this?

 

 

 

Gratitude Friday: Happiness on the Homefront

I just got back from the USA.  It’s always so nice so see everyone.   I had nine awesome days.

However, instead of just being grateful for my trip, my gratitude Friday post goes out to my thankfulness for everyone’s health and happiness.    All the friends and family I saw are doing well.

Adding on to the thankfulness for joy, many friends are enjoying parenthood for the first time, or just enjoying their families expanding.     On last Friday alone, I visited 14 children, all under four.  3 of whom I’d met for the first time.  Many prayers have been said over the last few years hoping for these sweet little ones to be born healthy.  It is pretty neat to see how it’s come to life 🙂

As a bonus, I got to see my 4th infant on Monday, hours before flying out.  You’ll be happy to know that Gisele (from Zermatt &  Mt Blanc blog adventures) had a baby girl just in time for me to meet her in route to the airport.

It’s not like me to not take photos…but I was having too much fun visiting to bring out the camera.  I literally didn’t remember it until Saturday at the pool cookout that R & R threw.  So here are a few of the ones I took that day:

A special cookout – so good to hang out with everyone!

Bon weekend, everyone!

Gratitude Friday: An Amazing US Trip

Post by Lauren

This post was easy. We are very grateful for an amazing three weeks in the USA. We were able to fit so much in, and in all, I think we saw easily over 100 friends and family members. Below is a pictorial recap:

WASHINGTON, DC
We stayed the night with great friends after landing at Dulles at 4pm. Conveniently they live 5 minutes away from the airport and a Mexican restaurant. Two amazing things when you are jet-lagged. We enjoyed an evening with them and had a 7am flight to:

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

I was able to participate in our annual Casserole Christmas. This holiday was born when there was a group of us Southern gals working together who discovered that Isabella usually didn’t have casseroles for Thanksgiving and Christmas, mainly fresher Californian type foods. We wanted to showcase our heart-heavy casseroles for her, so this event was born with about 6 or 7 of us. As you can see, there are a few Casserole-lovers in the making. One is a 2nd child, one a 3rd and another a 4th child – can you believe it?

I was able to participate in our annual Casserole Christmas. This holiday was born when there was a group of us Southern gals working together who discovered that Isabella usually didn’t have casseroles for Thanksgiving and Christmas, mainly fresher Californian type foods. We wanted to showcase our heart-heavy casseroles for her, so this event was born with about 6 or 7 of us. As you can see, there are a few Casserole-lovers in the making. One is a 2nd child, one a 3rd and another a 4th child - can you believe it?

We also hosted Pizza Night. Since we had limited time in Charlotte, we thought it was the only way we could see such a volume of friends with most working. We just ordered some food into our empty house in Charlotte. We wish we could have spent more time talking to everyone but are thankful that those who were able to joined us, did!

We also hosted Pizza Night. Since we had limited time in Charlotte, we thought it was the only way we could see such a volume of friends with most working. We just ordered some food into our empty house in Charlotte. We wish we could have spent more time talking to everyone but are thankful that those who were able to joined us, did!

APPOMATTOX, VIRGINIA

We were so fortunate C & J were in town (for the previous Thursday night Hokie Game) with their new little bundle of joy. They brought her over after we arrived for playtime and Mom, Annette and I fought over who played with her.

 

We had the pleasure of visiting with all but one of my aunts/uncles in Appomattox (don’t worry, we got to see them later!). Mom had also arranged to have my stepsisters and their families join us for a Thankgiving brunch. What a full time of fun!

 

CINCINNATI & COLUMBUS, OHIO

We continued onto Cincinnati. We stayed with Andres for a night in his cozy Victorian. We went out for sushi and then onto The Lackman, a really cool bar in downtown Cinci. I am sad I didn’t take a photo except for this one of Gabe and Maude on the sofa. But, I made up for it in Columbus where we got some shots of N & L’s adorable girls. We learned that a 2 year old can operate an iPad better than I can. It helps that she is above the curve, but still….I have some catching up to do.

 

MENDON, OHIO

In Gabe’s hometown, we had 3 Thanksgivings, a birthday, and an engagement to celebrate. We had absolutely beautiful Ohio weather. We were excited to have my Mom & Buster join us for the final Thanksgiving.

 

ATLANTA

Gabe worked in Atlanta but during the evenings we were able to visit friends and family. We were able to meet Baby S finally. I also got to meet Baby CA as I didn’t get to see her before we departed for Switzerland. We celebrated my cousins wife’s birthday with them at their home. Also, I got to have an all day date with a dear friend for some catch up time and as a bonus, we picked up her cute twins at daycare.

NEXT, WE SEPARATED. GABE WENT TO PHILLY AND NEW YORK TO VISIT FRIENDS & FOR GUYS TRIP. I RETURNED TO CHARLOTTE TO CELEBRATE A BDAY AND VT GAME.

Next, we separated. Gabe went to Philly and NYC to visit friends and for his annual guys trip.  I returned to Charlotte to celebrate a birthday and VT game.

Whew, what a great time! We are thankful that everything went smoothly. All the flights were relatively on time and we lost no bags (checking 4 each time!). We are also very thankful we got to see so many people and we didn’t get sick. I was a little paranoid about getting some sort of cold when I had a full schedule of meeting infants.

We are truly blessed.

We are going to rest this weekend to catch up from all the fun! Bon weekend, everyone!

Fighting Eeyore

Post by Lauren

This week, I have been a big Eeyore. I didn’t adjust well at first to coming back to Geneva this time.

This is me, the last few days. Oh Bother.

I haven’t been able to pin it down specifically on culture shock, jet lag, or the big perma-cloud looming over Geneva (read more about permacloud here from S). Or maybe its a case of all three at once.

Last return, it was easier. I hadn’t seen Gabe for a month so was counting down the minutes until I got back. We also had Andres visiting so I needed to reorient quickly to snap into action. And it was summertime, so lots of light to help get over the jet lag.

This time, I have been sleeping an insane amount. I have been disoriented. I have been rejecting the French language. I have been grumpy while grocery shopping in the blowing freezing rain while my umbrella yanked from the wind in my grasp. I have been wishing I had a car to do errands. I have been cold in our apartment even though the heat is turned up as far as we can get it.

And it wasn’t just internally noticed. Yesterday, I went to photography group and they all jested when I yawned through the whole class. During Skype with Mom, she told me it look like I had black eyes on her screen. Gabe asked me if he should be concerned.

But today, something changed….we had a gorgeous day of sunshine. And I felt normal again.

I bumped into W, a warm Dutchwomen, who leads our photography group. She commented on my changed face from seeing me the day before and said that I was “sensitive to the colors of the weather!”

It’s a beautiful saying to describe the blues.

Anyhow, glad the weather, jet lag and overall gloominess are rubbing off finally.

Goodbye, Eeyore.

An interview with ourselves

During our US travels, we got lots of inquiries about our first six months in Switzerland. So we figured we’d post the top ten questions & our answers in case we didn’t get to see you.

What is your favorite thing about Switzerland ?

We love being in the same city as one another. It was only 8 months ago that we were doing the long distance thing, so we are enjoying being with each other, avoiding Interstate 85 and not packing up on Sunday nights.

We really like Geneva. Its got great public transportation, fun summer activities and is in the middle of everything.

We also love our opportunity to travel during this time in our lives. We have a great location in order to explore Europe. We are trying to make the most of our time here by doing trips on the weekends. We have been to London, Madrid, Amsterdam, Florence, and lots of Southwestern France – Chamonix, Burgundy, Annecy, as well as ventured around our home country, Switzerland – Montreux, Gruyeres, and Interlacken.

What do you miss the most?

We both miss feeling like capable adults. In the US, there wasn’t much we couldn’t handle in terms of day-to-day life. Living in a foreign country feels like being a four year old sometimes….not able to talk properly, figure things out, or know how to function as an adult does. In fact, you can count on there being an uncomfortable situation every single day. Sometimes its not fun.

Oh, and we also miss Mexican. And pumpkin spiced lattes. And not being able to afford to buy anything but food.

Do you have any friends?

Yes, we are very lucky to have met lots of great people – both Americans and other nationalities. We enjoy learning about other cultures through our friends from around the world.

Do they have Christmas in Switzerland?

Christmas is a religious holiday of which Switzerland is 40% Protestant and 30% Catholic, so yes.

What season are you in?

We have the same four seasons as the US which occur at exactly the same time. It only gets flip flopped if you are south of the equator.

What time does it get dark there?

The same time as it does in the US. So, since it is winter, when it is 5pm our time, it gets dark. Except we are 6 hours ahead, so it is East Coast 11am.

Is it really cold there?

It’s not too bad. Geneva is one of the most mild cities in Switzerland. We haven’t seen any snow yet and the Fall / Winter has been pleasant.

What do they eat in Switzerland?

It is famous for chocolate and cheese. We eat dark chocolate every night. Fondue and raclette are cheese dishes that are really popular at restaurants but we only eat them when company comes because if we gain too much weight we won’t be able to afford new clothes. The restaurants are mainly French & Italian. There are a surprising number of pizza places because of proximity to Italy. The food in Geneva is not that spectacular compared to other cities we have visited in Europe.

What language do you speak there? Swiss?

Nope; there is no Swiss language. We speak French in Geneva. Other parts of Switzerland speak Swiss German, Italian or Romansch. It really depends on what country you border in your canton to what is the official language. Some have two. That would suck to live there.

If you have a kid while you are there, would it have Swiss citizenship?

We don’t plan on having children until we are back to the United States, but no, our child would not have Swiss citizenship. One parent has to be Swiss. They don’t give out citizenship here like candy bars here.

Feel free to ask more questions in the comments section. We’d be happy to answer them!

US by the numbers

Post by Lauren

We are back to Geneva after 3 weeks in the US. It was a great time spent with friends and family but we are T-I-R-E-D. If you don’t believe us, here are the numbers:

10 = the number of different beds we slept in during 3 weeks time
9 = the number of airports flown through during the trip
8 = the length in hours of the flight from Geneva to the US
7 = the number of flights we each took in 3 weeks time
6 = the number of doctor / dentist appts I had during the trip
5 = the number of bags that I had to carry on the last leg by myself
4 = the number of Thanksgiving meals we had with family
3 = the number of different rental cars we had during our trip
2 = the number of times my body weight of my baggage going back to Geneva
1 = the number train trips in the US
0 = the number of naps taken

 

*In the above map, purple is when we traveled together and red / blue when we were separate. Solid thin lines are flights, double lines are car trips and thick lines are train trips. If it hurts your head to look at it, think about booking all of it! It was all worth it though as we loved getting the time with everyone we were able to see.

The cure for jet lag

Post by Lauren

Transatlantic flights are getting easier with time. In fact, on this latest jaunt to the US and back, it only took one day for the jet lag to wear off, both ways. So glad that I am finally getting the hang of it, and wanted to share my recommendations for those traveling through multiple time zones:

Okay - you got me. This wasn't the plane I took.

From USA to Europe:
Upon landing, try to stay awake as long as possible. No naps. Take a nap and you will get screwy. Try to find sunlight and stay outside in it to start to teach your body about the new time zone. Since I don’t sleep well on the transatlantic flights, usually the max that I can make it is 7pm. This is generally good enough. Take some sort of sleep aid to ensure you can stay asleep as long as your body needs. This is usually about 11 hours for Gabe and I.

From Europe to USA:
Same rule about staying up as long as possible, so you adjust to the new time zone. I can usually make it to 7pm* or 8pm in this case.

Other tips for flying long flights and jet lag:
–Drink lots and lots of water to avoid dehydration. They say that you need an extra cup for every hour you are in the air, but take in as much as you can physically drink . They also usually have a beverage stand in the galley of most large planes. Visit it often to get more liquid intake.
–Eyemasks, earplugs and a neck pillow help me sleep better on the redeyes overseas so that the noise and light doesn’t bother me. I also have a special potion of Tylenol PM + 2 glasses of red wine that assists my ability to sleep. Check out my friend A’s recap of her latest transatlantic flight for more insights and tips.
–Don’t schedule anything important for the first evening of arrival – you will be a zombie and typically not functioning*

*On the night Gabe planned to propose to me (our two year anniversary), we had just landed back into the US from our first introductory trip to Switzerland and I was terribly jet lagged. I fell asleep around 7pm, before he could do it! Luckily it worked just as well the next morning!

 

Gratitude Friday: Fun in the Great US of A

Post by Lauren

Life sure is good. I am so blessed to have gotten a chance to catch up with many loved ones while on my mandatory home leave. Since “prior me” was often over-scheduled, stressy and crunched, it was a breath of fresh air to have this chance for visiting.

Fun in Annapolis and D.C.

 

Bon weekend, everyone!

Charlotte reunions!