Merry Swissmas!

Swissmas 1This year’s Holiday season post looks back at last Christmas  – better known as Swissmas 2013.

Ever since our first Christmas as a couple (2006), I’ve always gone back to my family for the Holidays and my boyfriend has always gone back to his. We’ve always done our own little Christmas thing before and after my trip to the USA, but we were never actually together on Christmas day.

Well, last year was different.

Last Christmas, both of us stayed in Zurich, and we got to celebrate our first Christmas together! What’s more, both of our families came to Switzerland (from the USA and Italy) so we got to celebrate with them too! My boyfriend and my family for Christmas!

It was also the first time that our families met. We were obviously a bit nervous,  but it all went so well! We were both busy showing our families around the city, finishing shopping, organizing dinners for all of us, and translating so that everybody could actually communicate. It was a fast-paced Christmas, but was something I will never forget!

Swissmas 2

This year, I’m back in the USA and Francesco is heading to his family, in Italy. I guess we’re still not quite ready to renounce seeing our own families at Christmas, but I suppose this is something that many international couples face.  Eventually, we’ll start creating our own Christmas memories and traditions, as a couple, but for now I can say that I’m so happy to have had the experience of last year and happy to be with my family this Christmas too. There’s always next year to flip a coin and see whose family we spend the Holidays with.

Not to bore you with personal photos, but I wanted to share a bit of the magic that is Switzerland at Christmastime and one of the best memories I have.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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Swiss Pride

Swiss Flags

Boy oh boy, do the Swiss love being Swiss!

There’s a lot of Swiss pride going on here. They just really dig their culture, heritage, language(s), and food. The Swiss flag can be seen everywhere, people are genuinely happy when you show an interest in trying out some new Swiss aspect of life, and a product being Swiss made - whether it be cheese, an electric razor, or underwear – is a definite added value.

Made in the USAIt sort of reminds me of the USA. Not that there are that many things “made in the USA” nowadays, but we do have a strong sense of patriotism. The Americans and Swiss are proud to hail from their respective countries and will brandish their flag with fervor.

Italians, on the other hand, seem to always look down on their own country and even feel embarrassed to be Italian, which is a shame since it’s such a great place. In fact, the only time during my time living there when I really ever saw Italian patriotism was during the World Cup.

Gennaro Gattuso

The topic of Swiss patriotism came to mind because today is Swiss National Day! That means that Swiss flags are popping up all over the place in celebration. It takes me back to growing up in my hometown when my Dad would decorate our front yard with tons of little American flags whenever it was Memorial Day or the 4th of July. So cute!

1. August-WeggenThe supermarkets here in Zürich are particularly decked out. There’s all types of Swiss paraphernalia and even this special bread called 1. August-Weggen (August 1st bread) with the Swiss flag’s cross baked into the top. In typical “Garrett loves all things authentic” style,  I’ll definitely be trying some today! Most likely on the Swiss paper plates and accompanied by the Swiss paper napkins that I bought.

Here are some pics I took for you guys from my local Migros. I got chided for taking pictures, but when the security man heard my horrible (read: nonexistent) German, he said “Ok. Tourist. You can take a few photos.” so it all worked out for the best.

Happy August 1st! In an effort to unite the blog title with the topic of today’s post, I’ll be sporting these bad boys:

My Swiss Underwear

My Swiss Underwear

Yes, they’re made in Switzerland! :-)

I hate the word “nougat”

Classic Italian TorroneNougat” is a gross word. Like “moist”, “plump”, “fondle”, or “panties”, I hate even pronouncing it. *Bleargh* :-(  However, I’m going to have to tackle the word “nougat” in order to take on today’s Christmas blog post. Ah, the things I do for you guys. ;-)

There is a very typical Italian Christmas candy called torrone. It’s basically made of honey, sugar, and egg whites to form a ….. *sigh” … nougat. (I just puked in my mouth a little bit…) Then things like hazelnuts, almonds, candied oranges, vanilla, and chocolate can be added to create different variants. 'Nilla & H-Nuts

My first experience with torrone happened back when I was young. I remember my Italian Consolazio grandparents bringing it to our house every Christmas. They brought bite-sized pieces of torrone, individually packaged in little boxes with an Italian bakery guy on ‘em, and there were flavors like classic, orange, and lemon.

One great place to pick up torrone, here in Milan, is the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Christmas market. The name of the market means “Oh So Nice! Oh So Nice!” in Milanese dialect. That’s usually where I get my torrone to bring home at Christmas. If I dared show up without any, I’m not sure if my parents would even let me in the house…

The Milan Christmas Market

The Milan Christmas Market

Since my parents will probably read this (they better!), I’m gonna have to prove that I’ve already picked up this year’s supply. Here’s a picture of me below with the torrone I got. So, Mom & Dad, hang my stocking by the chimney with care, because I’m coming home … with nougat!

Italian Torrone - American Boy

Italian Torrone – American Boy

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Spooky and so very “in”

It’s Halloween time once again!

I, for one, am wicked excited! As I’ve talked about in previous blog posts (click here and here) I seriously love Halloween! This past weekend we decorated our house for the holiday with lots of things given to me by family and friends back in the USA. This includes having Halloween themed bowls with some fun candy.

Halloween candy in our apartment

So, we made our apartment all ready for Halloween, complete with the smell of a freshly baked pumpkin pie (the 1st one I’ve ever made … it turned out ok, nothing spectacular). However I felt that I, myself, wasn’t quite ready for the holiday. This has been kind of a hectic and busy month for me and I didn’t really get the chance to enjoy October as much as I’d usually like to. I feel as if I didn’t do enough “autumny/Halloweeny” things.

Well, a little pumpkin bracelet has made me feel better and has put me a heck of a lot more “in the Halloween spirit”.

Italian brand Cruciani has these colorful bracelets that are EVERYWHERE in Italy now and were extremely “in” this summer. It’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing somebody sporting one.  The original form is that of a four-leaf-clover, but various other shapes (hearts, butterflies, lock and key) have come out since then. Now, just for Halloween, they made a pumpkin version, available in orange or black. As soon as I saw them I decided “you shall be mine, pumpkin-shaped bracelet!”, so I ran out and picked one up this weekend.

The window display at the Cruciani store in Milan

These bracelets are so very me! I mean, they really scream Garrett! I’m wearing mine right now as I type this and it serves as a sort of Halloween reminder, right on my wrist! It may seem silly to some of you, but this little piece of Italian fashion has made me feel better about how my October has gone and makes me all “Halloween Happy“.

This last picture I’m leaving for you guys is what I’m rocking on my wrist right now. You’ll note the orange Cruciani pumpkin bracelet and traditional green four-leaf-clover one. In the middle I’ve got a knock-of version that I got in edicola that I thought was cool because it’s got a skull and crossbones. I know this picture looks like something from Teen Beat magazine for young girls thanks to all the added images, but I couldn’t help but play around with all my photo editing apps on my iPhone! :-) Happy Halloween!

Halloween Fashion!

 

Get Out of Town

:-D Happy Ferragosto! :-D

Non-Italian blog-reader: “The hell is Ferragosto ‘sposed to mean?”

Me: “Whoa, calm down! No need to take a surely tone with me! What are you stressed-out today? You need a vacation or something? Well, lucky for you, it’s Ferragosto!”

Non-Italian blog reader: “But I still have no Idea what the fu…”

Me: “Auu! I’m getting to that! Geesh!”

Ferragosto means summer vacation time in Italy! It’s a holiday that takes place on August 15th – smack dab in the middle of the month. It’s kind of a weird holiday because there are no special cakes, no special songs, no special gifts, no special anything. It’s just sort of a national “let’s close up shop and head to the beach” day. The only real way that you’d ever know it was Ferragosto would be if you tried to go to the local pharmacy, bar, post office, or shoe store. Everything, everything, is closed! You find empty stores, empty piazzas, and empty streets and not only on the actual day of Ferragosto. Places close for the weeks before and after the holiday as well! The only thing you’ll see are lots of these “closed for vacation” signs.

If you didn’t speak Italian and didn’t know that “chiuso per ferie” means “closed for vacation”, you might erroneously believe that all of Italy has caught the plague and that the Italians have decided to announce this woeful fate by means of hanging up whimsical, neon-colored signs everywhere! You’d think to yourself “Oh, those colorful Italians”, as you began to apprehensively second-guess your stuffed up nose.

Now, please don’t freak out if you’ve planned your summer vacation to Italy during the month of August. More touristy places and the shops in the city centers are often at least partially open. And the beaches are most definitely booming! Let’s just say it’s not the best time to visit Italy. Also, because it’s hot as balls!

As a matter of fact I’m not even in Italy right now! I wrote this blog post ahead of time and pre-programmed it to publish today. I’ve been on the beach in Croatia for a week already, soaking up the sun. Now I’m in Amsterdam, and then I’m heading back to Italy with some good friends from the USA. Even though we get back to Italy after Ferragosto, we’re still on the tail end of the summer vacation period. My only problem is going to be trying to find a restaurant to bring my visiting friends to that will actually be open!

What are you guys getting up to this summer? Leave me a comment!

Gay Flurries

It seems as if a homosexual blizzard has hit Italy, dumping gay snow all over the streets! That’s right, it’s Carnevale time once again here in Italy!

I love how at this time of year you can see colorful confetti all over the place! It’s so fun and is definitely one of my favorite little things that I enjoy about this country!

Buon Carnevale a tutti! 

Confetti on the streets of Italy

Gay snowstorm collage

The Christmas Witch

Buon Natale a tutti!

My non-Italian readers may find the above picture to be strangely out-of-place during the Holiday season. It seems more like a Halloween thing rather than a Christmas one, doesn’t it?

Well, this witch with a heart of gold is very Christmasy in Italy. Her name is La Befana (or “Beffy” as I like to call her). She flies around on her broomstick and fills the stockings of  little boys and girls on the night of January 5th for the Christian holiday called Epiphany on the 6th. She gives candy and small toys to good children and coal to bad ones, just like Santa Claus does in America.

In the USA we have Santa that does both presents under the tree and the stockings while Italians have Babbo Natale (Santa Clause in Italian) for Christmas presents under the tree and La Befana for the stockings at the beginning of January.

Apparently, Italian Santa Claus was too busy enjoying “la bella vita” to get around to taking care of stockings, so he enlisted the help of the good witch.

Personally, I think it’s kind of cool to have the gifts split up between two different holidays that are close together. Getting presents on multiple days is sort of like a mini Hanukkah!

Well, I hope you’ve all been good this year or Beffy will be leaving you a lump of coal. If you’re lucky, maybe she’ll give you some candy coal instead of the real thing!