Wednesday, December 30, 2009

He's Home!

It's a happy beginning to the new year for us this year! Today we have something to celebrate! For all of those who have been following my dad's story.... HE'S HOME!!! 

This has been a long road for everyone involved, and there is still a lot of red tape that is hanging around, but the upside is that he's back in his own home, sleeping in his own bed every night, eating home cooked meals, spending precious moments with his wife. Overall, we (as an Anson family) can breathe a sigh of relief now that 2009 is over, and looking to 2010 to be full of many happy, fun filled memories.

Welcome Home Dad! We love you!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Our perfect Snowy Saturday

The weather around Switzerland this weekend was predicted to be less than perfect for both mountain and city conditions. We were toying with the idea of a day trip to Lucerne, but the weatherman steered us away from any trips and advised to stay close to home, so that is just what we did. It was perfect.
While I was out running in the morning, my wonderful husband and daughter spent the time making me a darling Christmas card. Ella was so excited about it, she ran up to greet me when I came home, spilling all the details about their morning. I got an early Christmas present that morning! That one little card prompted a morning of crafting - give Ella a glue stick, some construction paper and some cut out shapes, and she has entertainment for the next few hours!



After cleaning up her works of art, we headed out to the park across the street for some play time in the snow. Little did we know, we ventured out during the heaviest part of the snowfall. Good thing we stayed close to home! The evening was spent sipping hot chocolate, watching the snow fall, and loving our quality family time - AT HOME! Enjoy the snow pics!




 


 



 


 




Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lichterschwimmen

After dragging my family in the cold weather to the anti-climactic Samiclaus swim, I felt the need to redeem myself. I found the perfect opportunity, the Lichterschwimmen. This is Zurich's traditional festival of floating lights which is celebrated every December. Young school children release hundreds of miniature candle boats from the Stadthausquai quay, to float peacefully down the Limmat River.

Ella was so excited to see all the candles, she walked over a mile to get there. She was rewarded for her perseverance with a beautiful sight, and a surprise from her dad! John was able to leave work a little early to come down and see the candles with us, a special treat for me and  Ella any day of the week! Sorry the pictures aren't more clear, the first picture is where all the candles were docked and kids were releasing them into the river. The second is a picture of the TINY little candles floating, floating, floating.







 


Saturday, December 26, 2009

We attempted to find beer...

at the Rapperswil Christmas market. But all we found was some less than average Gluhwein, a very cold evening, and yet another carousel, of course...
On a Friday evening, I received an email about a special booth at the Rapperswil Christmas market that was sampling great British Beers and British cheeses. We decided to head over there on Saturday evening, after our day trip to Engelberg.
Perfect, I thought, John will love a chance to get to sample non-swiss beer. I have to say, after two other markets, I didn't really feel the need to go to yet another market, let alone drag my whole family, but when beer is a possibility, we will endure.

We looked and looked, but found no beer. I'm sure the booth was there somewhere, we just didn't look hard enough. After a cup of rather disappointing Gluhwein, a carousel ride, a kiddie train ride, and a walk up the abbey stairs to snap a picture of the market, we were cold and tired and ready to go home. We took a quick walk up around Rapperswil (which is a darling little town, perfect for a Saturday stroll in the spring, and complete with a kinderzoo) to find the British Brewery that was also having a tasting event. Naturally, that was too far away for us too. So we took ourselves home, climbed into bed and slept soundly until morning.  Maybe we'll try the brewery another weekend, or maybe not.

 

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So many Christmas markets, So little time

As the holiday season was quickly approaching, I had my calendar in hand planning to visit every Christmas event possible (big surprise, I know.) I had heard wonderful things about all of the neat little Christmas Markets within Switzerland and around Europe. I could not WAIT to go to them. I found a website that had every market in the country, and figured out which ones I should go to, and what days would be best for the trip (as it would just be me and Ella most of the time.)  I am sad to admit that my enthusiasm for the markets quickly dissolved after my first market. It quickly became apparent that, while the markets have great charm and that holiday feel, you won't get different experiences at the different markets. While varying in size, they are pretty similiar. But, with that, here is my second Christmas market experience - the ChristKindli Markt in the Hauptbahnhof (Main train station.) It's Europe's largest indoor Christmas market, with a stunning Christmas tree as it's center piece. The tree is decorated with Swarovski crystals, and definitely the highlight of the market.




 

I am in love with these hand carved wooden candle holders. Each one has a unique design, and they come in all shapes. Designed so the heat from the lit candles spins the small carousel. A perfect European Christmas gift for family or yourself! They don't come cheap, this little gem will run you 310chf!

 


One of our favorite holiday things to see around the city is the MarliTram. This festive cable car is driven by Santa himself, accompanied by his angels. The trolley picks up kids at a designated stop (ages 4 and up) and drives them around town. Santa is the driver, and during the trip, the angels take care of the kids, read them stories and give them a snack. What a great holiday adventure for kids!



Monday, December 21, 2009

A day trip to Engelberg

Oh flexibility of having an automobile, how we miss you! But, with another thanks to Bain, John was able to provide us with some wheels for the weekend. This weekend we were sporting a little Mini Cooper. Great car. Can't tell you how much fun it was to put a huge toddler car seat in the back, get it buckled in, and then repeatedly wrestle a big toddler in and out of the seat. Ella, on the other hand, loved it. She thought it was the perfect size for her, and is still asking us to get the White Ella Car so she can go for another ride. Can't say I'd recommend this for a family car, surprised? I didn't think so. BUT, that said, we happily drove it all weekend, and didn't complain once.


As winter arrives in Switzerland, the day trips we've started planning have naturally been much more centered around the ski towns and snow activities, and this weekend we were directed towards Engelberg. Hmmmm, heading up to the mountains in a Mini, yep, sounds safe to me. Most of the locals leave their little cars at home and hop on the train to head to Engelberg. That's the easy thing to do, but why would we follow the trend. We'd rather make things difficult, it's much more fun that way!
The drive over to Engelberg (about an hour south of Zurich, past Lucerne) was stunning. We chose (or googlemaps chose) to drive over the hills rather than through the fancy new tunnel under the hills. I must say, I'm glad we drove over the hills. The snow covered scenery was breathtaking. We then started to climb the mountains with great anticipation of our family snow day, and we were greeted with thick fog, falling snow and un-plowed roads. John did a fantastic job maneuvering up the road, but I'm still pretty sure that I left and imprint of my right hand on the door handle.
Ahhh, we made it. Where are the alps? Hiding in the clouds. Bummer. Maybe they'll come out another day.

 
Because there was no view, and the cable cars were lost in the clouds, and the sledding runs were closed, we opted to stay around town and play in the snow. First, John teaches Ella to make a snow angel.


 

She's a quick learner...


 

Over the river and through the woods - perfect horse drawn carriage in the snow covered town. If you can find the mountains in these pics, you're doing better than us  :o)

 

After a couple cold hours of some good snow play, we were starving and ready for something warm. The Cheese Factory at the Engelberg Monastery was right on the way, and just begging for us to come in. I was thrilled, because, although we've been living in the land of fondue for four months, I have yet to actually EAT fondue. Hooray, today is my day, complete with bread and pears for dipping! And what better place to do it than in a small town that has been known for it's cheese since the 17th century. This little bistro highlights a cheese maker, making cheese using old-fashion methods. It was a great little stop that I would recommend to anyone visiting Engelberg, and Ella was completely entertained by watching the cheese maker make his brie, and all of their meals are homemade. It was an easy place to take kids, nothing fancy, and free entertainment. I hope we will go back.


 

Below is a perfect way to describe Ella.... Dad pulls her around in the sled (the toboggan runs were closed today, so pulling is the best she got).
Ok, fun at first, then a little boring...

 

Better take matters into my own hands....much better


Friday, December 18, 2009

Annual Fillmore Update


Merry Christmas

Greetings from the Fillmores during this wonderful season! We hope you are able to find some relaxing time over these few weeks to reflect on 2009 and prepare for a new decade! It has been a while since we sent out a real family update, so here goes…..

Our year started in Boston (with a snowstorm and a broken down car) and has ended in Switzerland (with snow everywhere and no car at all!).

In June, we bid a fond farewell to Harvard and the many incredible friends we have made over the past two years…and promptly embarked (in a car packed full with camping gear, clothes, food, our daughter Ella, and our dog Sierra) on a three week camping trip across the country to get back home to Oregon. We loved visiting family in Wisconsin and our many stops including Yellowstone, the Tetons, Tahoe, Crater Lake and (especially) Bend. Our first grocery store with agood selection of Oregon beers (near Idaho Falls) was a definite highlight, having our tent literally enveloped by Mosquitoes on Yellowstone Lake was definitely not (though Ella sure thought it was a riot to see mom and dad shaking off the bugs while taking down the tent ).






We spent a wonderful few months staying with Kim’s family in Oregon, where we were able to celebrate several weddings with our dear friends from college (I LOVE MY DUCKS!!!!) … Congratulations to Molly & Myron, Katie & Scott, and Wendy & Jon. Ella celebrated her 2nd birthday with grandparents and loved getting to see her family, and still frequently informs us that, “I’m going to Nana’s house today!” For us, the time “back home” was a perfect ending to a summer where we were blessed not just to spend time with wonderful friends and family, but to introduce our daughter to so many of the important people in our lives.

Alas, the summer flew by far too fast, and before we knew it we were saying our goodbyes to family (including Sierra, who Jon & Wendy graciously (insanely??) offered to keep for a year), and packing once again – this time for our one-year move to Zurich (courtesy of John’s new job at Bain). After spending a week apartment hunting while living from a hotel (the kind folks at the front desk took pity on us and, after one look at all the bags we had brought, immediately upgraded us to their largest suite), we found a nice little flat up on one of the Zurich’s many hills and gradually settled in for the ride.

Life here in Switzerland has been an unbelievable adventure. Kim and Ella have been adopted into a playgroup of American and German families and have explored more of Zurich and the neighboring towns than most natives. John has loved both his new job at Bain and the diverse people he’s met: right now he is working on a team of 2 Swiss, 2 Americans, 2 Germans, 1 Italian, and 1 Bulgarian. 

We are consistently awed by the stunning natural beauty of this region and have greatly enjoyed traveling (nearly every weekend) both within Switzerland to the surrounding countries. Our highlights have included spending a wonderful “American-style” Thanksgiving with our friends Justin and Courtney (whom Ella has adopted) in Rome, hitting up Oktoberfest (of course!), visiting several little Swiss mountain villages, and enjoying the French and Italian countryside. Of course, as is almost required by law for every family at this point, Kim has started the blog to keep everyone updated on our travels and all the little cultural differences that make Switzerland so special!

We are thankful (almost) every day for the incredible opportunity to live here, but we miss you all dearly and are greatly anticipating stepping back onto American soil, seeing everyone, speaking the local language, being able to drive to the nearby Costco and Target, and drinking some fine American microbrews (John has developed such an aversion to Swiss beers that he’s even taken to drinking wine)!


As it seems to do every year, life has distributed more than its fair share of blessings to our little family, as well as a few moments of sorrow. We have been fortunate to have a happy and healthy toddler running around, and have celebrated with several friends welcoming pregnancies and newborns into their lives. Yet we have also mourned along with loved ones at the loss of grandparents and close friends, and we pray for the speedy recovery of those battling illness. Ostensibly, we know it is this ephemeral nature of our time here on earth which compels us to embrace life and to appreciate the countless blessings God provides to us each day; still it is with bittersweet spirits that we welcome Christmas into our home and anticipate the new year while remembering those dear to our hearts with whom we cannot share this special season.

Yet throughout the whirlwind of ups and downs that has become our life, nothing has played a bigger role than our beautiful little girl. Every day is a new blessing with Ella; regardless of the circumstance, she constantly amazes us by being an absolute firecracker of joy, laughter, and wonder. She has charmed everyone who meets her (taking much more after her mother than father in this matter), has LOVED exploring new places and meeting new people, and has a memory like an elephant (which certainly keeps mom and dad on their toes). And, much like the family of strong women from which she hails, Ella is determined to chart her own course – frequently telling us “Ella will do it HERSELF” (while we have no idea from where such a stubborn streak may be inherited, we’re pretty sure that John’s mom Dorothy has a hearty laugh every time that line comes out).

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Much Love,
                                                            John, Kim and Ella






Ella in front of Lake Zurich and the Alps


                                                                          

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I heart Einsiedeln

Our travels recently took us to Einsiedeln - a small little town, 45 minutes south of Zurich. It was an easy train commute, perfect for a day trip away from the city. Eisiedeln seems to get good reviews all year long, but I wanted to go to see their Christmas market and the Abbey that sits as a backdrop for the city. There's also plenty snow/mountain activities going on throughout the winter. There is sledging behind the Abbey, and two ski resorts set behind the city with skiing, and toboggan runs! As we hopped off the train, and headed down the main street, we were greeted by the wooden huts and happy shoppers bundled from head to toe. The town was covered in snow, which probably just encouraged our excitement for hot Gluhwein! But instead of starting with Gluhwien, we came across a vendor selling Öpfelchüücheli - I told John, 'this is a must have during the Christmas season in Switzerland.' I had read about it, and this cold day was perfect  for such a hot treat. Öpfelchüücheli is deep fried, battered apple rings covered in cinnamon and sugar,  and topped with Vanilla sauce. Seriously delicious! Then we topped it off with a hot beverage and started exploring around the abby.
We had a wonderful day walking around the city - a great day trip for anyone here!



I'm pretty sure you won't find these on any health food list


















Looking down the main street onto the town of Einsiedeln




 The gorgeous Monestary

This Monastery is the site of a Black Madonna  "The hermit holy image belongs to the series of famous black Madonnas in Europe. Black made it over the centuries by dust and soot                                     of candles, oil lamps and incense. 1803 face and hands were painted over with black paint" (thanks to the monastery webpage)






ready for gluhwein
 




Starting up the little hill on our 'snow hike'
 


" uh oh, daddy my mitten is falling off"
 




 



 


Jumping in the snow
 


Looking over the town of Einsiedeln















When we got back from playing in the snow, the Santa's had arrived.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Samiclaus Swim


  On a brisk Sunday afternoon, I told John, "we have to be down at the river at 2pm! There will be over 300 people dressed in santa swimwear jumping in the ice cold river to swim across." Those crazy Swiss.
I had added this little event to my 'must see Swiss Christmas activities' list, can't say that I would do it again next year. We happened to be in the area around 2pm, (or, I made John and Ella stay downtown until 2pm) so it was convenient enough to watch. We just hung out near pier 7, and waited for the 2:00 church bells to ring. Right on time, the prompt Swiss, Santa's began jumping in the river .... Brrrr! We had envisioned ALL of the participants swimming at once, but that would be too unorganized for the Swiss, so we watched the first 20 people swim across the river with their santa hat and floating sleigh. A pretty funny event to watch, but I can't say that I'll be sad next year when we miss it.








Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Who knew that Samiclaus lived in the Woods


In my quest to experience every Swiss Holiday event this season, we set out for the woods today. We set out for the woods in the rain and cold, after it had been raining ALL night. Equipped with rain boots, rain jackets, hats, gloves, scarves and umbrella's, we were ready for our little hike. Our destination? Samichlaus in his Waldhüsli (cabin.) Samichlaus has been visiting kids in his cabin since 1987, and for us, it was something we had to experience (even if it was all in swiss german!)
We dutifully followed all of the signs to to the top of the hill, kicking mud up our legs, wiping rain from our faces, only to arrive at the cabin and see TWO huge classes of kids waiting in front of us. It was a LONG wait to get in that hut, but we made it! We joined two other groups of pre-school aged kids (and thank goodness we did!) We were escorted by Schmutzli to the back room where a wood stove heated the room, and Samichlaus sat in a red satin chair. The kids gathered around on a rug, and listened to stories and asked him questions. Then the teachers had the kids sing a round of Christmas songs to Samichlaus. We listened and clapped to the songs, and smiled at Samichlaus. Overall, we were in the cabin for about ten minutes, then as we left Schmutzli handed each of the kids an apple or peanuts to take with them. Back to the rain, and down the muddy hill. I would definitely make this a 'must do' if you ever have the chance. Make sure you over dress both yourself and your kids, it's stroller friendly if you want to go that route, and pack LOTS of snacks and drinks to keep your kids going in the cold weather!


Following the signs in the woods


We made it!




Samichlaus leading the kids out of the cabin


 Greeting the kids at the door
 

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Thankful Thanksgiving in Rome and Tuscany


Looking over all of Rome on Thanksgiving day

If you can't spend the holiday's with family at home, what better way to spend your time then with wonderful friends and a trip to Italy!  We made another visit to Justin and Courtney for Thanksgiving. They were, once again, wonderful hosts and treated us to a fantastic Thanksgiving feast. We toasted to spending time with good friends and our families back home.


The next morning, we wandered around the streets, enjoying the life of the city on a Friday morning. Justin took us to one of Rome's most famous coffee shops, La Casa Del Caffe, (near the Pantheon) that was closed the last time we were visiting - so excited to try it this time- delicious!
 


Ella loved the few horses that were lined up in front of the Pantheon
 

After our pleasant day of wandering the streets of Rome, we started to head north to Tuscany. We crammed 4 adults and one toddler in a car seat into a Panda Fiat- we were literally all in a clown car. Crammed conditions and all our bags, Justin drove the group to our little hotel in Montepulciano. We arrived late Friday night, and the owner was gracious enough to serve us a late dinner in the dining room, and was happy to cater to Ella with small plates and delicious food for everyone! We stayed at the Agriturismo La Bruciata, and I would happily stay there again. We had a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a small kitchen/living area. We woke up Saturday morning to a beautiful sunrise, highlighting the gorgeous grounds of the hotel, and looking over the hills of Tuscany.




Our hotel




 

 

 


Walking through the streets of Montecino
 

 

 
Ella wanders through the castle grounds in Montecino


 
Wine tasting in Montecino