Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 FAVOURITES (Part One) - Beauty & Fashion

There have been so many things that I enjoyed in 2010. So many that I can't fit them all into one blog post...well I could...but it would be entirely too long! Instead, I am going to break down my 2010 favourites list into five parts: 1.) Beauty and Fashion Favourites 2.) Favourite Music Albums 3.) Favourite Films 4.) Favourite Books 5.) Favourite Moments

I'll be starting off with my 2010 Beauty and Fashion Favourites so that if you see something you like you have a better chance of finding it in store or online.

1. L'Oreal Go 360° Clean Deep Clean Cleanser

I discovered this face cleanser early on in the year and it is my holy grail of beauty products! I have very sensitive skin in that I am allergic to certain face products and my face will break out into a rash if something too harsh touches my face (like my husbands beard stubble) but I don't break out in blemishes very often. Typically I only get one or two pimples a month sometimes I can go a month without getting blemishes at all, which compared to some is pretty good, but I have been using this product consistently since early spring and I have only had two pimples all year! Yes, that's right...two pimples ALL year and I swear it is because of this cleanser! I use it every day - once a day - and I am so happy with the results it has given me! I can't guarantee it will work for you because all skin types are different but if it works as good as it has for me then I think you'll fall in love with it too! It's affordable, it lasts a long time and it's good for sensitive skin (like mine). I get the pink bottle because I have more dry skin so the formula works best for my skin type. Jared uses the green bottle and he too has had great results with it.

2. DKNY Havana Frame Glasses Lens Crafters
These frames fit my face well and because Lens Crafters was having a sale when I bought them, I got them for cheaper than the retail price.

3. Marc Jacobs Daisy Perfume
For those who know me well you know that my favourite perfume of all time is Breathless by Victoria Secret. But this year I discovered Daisy by Marc Jacobs and I absolutely love it! The bottle is adorable, the scent is youthful yet sophisticated, fresh and feminine and just an all-around nice light scent. I have actually only smelled it at the perfume counter and don't actually own it, but I would like to. *hint hint* ;)

4. Louis Vuitton White Multicolor Handbag
 I happened to stumble upon this gem on eBay and quickly snatched it up. Actually, it was a closed auction and I was able to outbid the other lady by only $1.00!! I was so excited when I found out it was mine! Unfortunately it's really hard to purchase this handbag because it is extremely rare and hard to find but don't let that stop you from searching! I love that it is the white multicolor because it can go with just about any outfit and the bow makes it extra feminine and SO cute. It is definitely my new favourite purse! :)

5. Essie Nail Polish in the shade Forever Young
Red nail polish is classic and classy. This Essie nail polish is a nice tango red shade. It looks great on both finger nails and toes. It was one of my go-to nail polishes of 2010.

6. Rimmel Moisture Renewal Lipstick in the shade Vintage Pink
I am not a huge fan of lipstick. I prefer lipgloss. But this lipstick doesn't feel sticky or dry like other lipsticks I've tried. It's very smooth and moistuizing and feels like more of a lipgloss or chapstick on your lips than actual lipstick. This shade is a very subtle pink shade that would look good on most skin tones. You can find this product at your local drugstore.

7. Covergirl Lash Blast Mascara in Black
Non-clumping, non-flaking, volumizing and lengthening mascara. What more could you ask for in a mascara?

8. Pink Burberry Scarf
I have been wanting a pink Burberry Scarf for a very long time. I found mine in one of the many Swiss shops during Christmas and was so excited to add it to my ever-growing scarf collection. It's so girly and cute!

9. Hello Kitty iPhone Case
This was another eBay find! (My Mom and I are addicts!) I'm pretty sure this iPhone case was only $3.00 plus shipping. I'm a big Hello Kitty fan so when I got my new phone I instantly went on the hunt for the perfect Hello Kitty case. I love that this is a mobile phone case and Hello Kitty has a rotary phone. So cute!

10. Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition
My favourite Disney movie of all time was re-released this year and Jared got it for me for our three year wedding anniversary! Not really a beauty product...but Beauty is in the title so it counts right? ;)

11. Head and Shoulders Smooth and Silky Shampoo
I don't care if this is a "dandruff shampoo" it smells AMAZING! I have my sister-in-law, Jess, to thank for this discovery! Every time I gave her a hug I could smell her hair and it always smelled so good. I asked her what hair product she used to get her hair to smell so good and couldn't believe it was the drugstore brand Head and Shoulders. I ran out and bought some and it's been on my favourites list since summer! My hair still has the freshly shampooed scent ALL day. I love that it is long-lasting because other shampoos I have tried the scent wears off in just a few hours. I love smelling my hair after I use this shampoo! :)

12. Colin Stuart Riding Boots
I had my eyes on these boots for months and Mama Bear got them for me as a Christmas gift this year. They are not the best at keeping your feet warm in snow, but they are too cute for me to care! :) If you layer up socks you will be able to better fight the cold feet. I got my pair in the color caramel and I absolutely love them! They are pretty comfortable. I wore them walking around the streets of Switzerland all day and they didn't hurt my feet! These boots will be great in spring and summer too with sundresses because they are lightweight so I love that they are versatile.

My favourite trend of 2010 definitely has to be bows. Bows on handbags, bow jewelry, bow hair accessories, clothing with bow detail. I definitely fell in love with bows this year and bought a lot of things that were adorned with them. They are just so feminine and classic and I can't seem to get enough of them! :)

Hope you enjoyed the first installment of my 2010 favourites. Be sure to check back for the sequels of this series! :) Have a fun and SAFE New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Things I Love: New Year's Eve Sparkle

 Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and it is one of my favourite holidays because it is a holiday that everyone around the world celebrates! Lots of us will be ringing in the new year by going to parties or to a dance club or to dinner and some of us will be bringing in the new year from the quiet comfort of our own homes. Whatever your plans may is a great excuse to add some sparkle to your outfit! Silver and sequins were big this year and when I think new year's...I think sparkle! So here are a few ideas for your  New Year's Eve outfit. Obviously you shouldn't wear sequin from head to toe or you'll look like a disco ball, but pairing one or more of these items with more simple clothing choices will really make your outfit shine! Whether you are going to a fancy party or just enjoying a mellow evening with your significant other or friends I think you'll be able to find at least one item here that could work for you! For those of you who prefer gold...maybe I'll do gold-themed fashion suggestions next year! :) I hope 2011 finds you happy and healthy! Have fun, stay fabulous and be safe!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Highlights

My parents have been here with us in Switzerland for a little over two weeks but today they head back to the United States. A part of me wanted to cry because, of course, I wish they could stay longer and I don't know when we will see them again but we had so much fun and enjoyed so much during their time here that my tears would not be justified. The fact that they were able to be here at all was such a blessing! We had amazing weather, we were able to do some great sight seeing and enjoyed countless hours of laughter and smiles. I'm thankful to have such a close and loving relationship with my parents. I know not everyone can say that so I am beyond blessed to have them in my life.

I'm going to try and put together a brief video/slideshow of the past two weeks and post that in a future blog. But in the meantime, here are just a few of the highlights from their visit in no particular order.

Our first Swiss Christmas

The Zurich Christmas Market

 Trip to Zermatt, Switzerland

Showing my parents around our little town of Lutry

Discovering the chocolate-coated marshmallows at the Montreaux Christmas Market

Quality time with Mama Bear

 Just being together and making memories <3

 I really enjoyed every last minute of our time together. The sight seeing, the home-cooked dinners, the holiday spirit, the shopping, playing video games, watching movies/youtube videos, sharing laughs...all of it was perfect. Can't wait for a future visit from them!! Love you Mama Bear & Papa Bear! This is not goodbye...just see you later! <3

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Year in Review

This is the final week of 2010 and I cannot believe how fast the year has flown by! So many major changes have happened in the past 12 months. So as a fun way to wrap up the year I thought I'd fill out a year in review survey and take a brief look back at some of the things that happened in my life throughout 2010.

At any point in 2010, did you...

1. Go to a party? A few.
2. Try something new? short hair.
3. Has something changed your life? everyday
4. Kiss someone? I don't like to go a day without a kiss from my husband
5. Tell your family and friends you love them? as often as I can
6. Buy something extravagant? a plane ticket
7. Do something nice for you? a pedicure
8. Do something terribly wrong? I'm certain of it...I never claim to be perfect
9. Move? Yes, from the United States to Switzerland and I'm still pinching myself!
10. Go to a concert? Jónsi in was incredible!

Best of the year:

1. Party: Elliott's 1st birthday party
2. Show: Jónsi
3. CD: I have to pick just one?
4. Movie: Inception
5. Song: I can think of a CDs worth
6. Experience: This move to Switzerland has taught me so much about myself, about life and about the people around me
7. Concert: Jónsi without a doubt
8. Book: The Case For A Creator by Lee Strobel
9. Month: December
10. Day:  Every day spent with family

Hopes for 2011:

1. Predict something that you think will happen in 2011? so many exciting things!
2. What do you hope changes about your country? That we will be motivated by love, not fear.
3. What do you hope for yourself? To make a positive difference in this world somehow
4. What do you hope for your family? Continual blessings.
5. What do you hope for your best friends? No matter how far apart we are in miles that we continue to stay in touch
6. Do you think any amazing medical advances will be made? there's hope
7. What are your biggest wishes for 2011?  to be a better friend, sister, daughter, wife, and overall person...

Five things that 2010 taught me:

1. God's timing is absolutely perfect
2. My husband continues to teach me how to love selflessly and to not take myself too seriously
3. Humility is the right attitude towards greatness
4. Life is 10% the situation you are given & 90% of how you react to it
5. A little bit of faith goes a long way

Five personally significant events of 2010:

1. Moving to Switzerland in October
2. My husband graduated with his PhD in chemistry
3. Losing our irreplaceable cat, Mac to PKD
4. Adopting our cat, Monty the sweetie
5. Spending Christmas with my parents in Switzerland

Five things I want to do in 2011:

1. Be able to have a decent conversation in French
2. See my family as much as possible
3. Take an unfathomable amount of pictures
4. Love more like Christ
5.Stay healthy and happy

Five things I don't want to do in 2011:

1. Lose touch
2. Lose my mind!
3. Miss out on life
4. Take anything or anyone for granted
5. Be indifferent

I hope that you all had a year full of blessings and that 2011 is filled with lots of love and happiness!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Heavier Things

"From a knowledge of God's work, we shall know Him." - Robert Boyle, father of modern chemistry

I was once very skeptical of the God I now fully believe exists. After researching and looking deeper into the evidence to support a Creator, I realized that the doubt I had was really confusion.There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions to better understand something. To find Truth...we must ask questions. But I have come to the realization that many people are not seeking Truth. There are those who simply want to validate their own idea of truth.

God's Word is constantly being twisted and misrepresented by both believers and non-believers. But possibly the most disturbing are those who take an antagonist approach with malicious intent. These blatant attacks against God and the Christian faith used to really upset me because the stabs felt personal. As a believer, God is a part of us, He lives within us. Therefor any words of opposition towards God felt as though they were denying who I am, what I stand for and in turn denying my very existence. It was hard to shake that off. I didn't understand how people could be so ugly towards me simply because of my faith. I don't agree with many of the beliefs that other religions have but I don't spend my time attacking those religions and viciously mocking them. What would be the purpose in that? As a Christian I am called to share God's love and live according to Christ's standards. Behaving in any other way would go against my God and everything I believe in. So for a long time I asked God, why are these people acting so hateful toward me? His response was:
"If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first." (John 15:18)  He was the first to be hated for being a light in a dark world. And if the world could hate the greatest man to ever live can we really expect the world to love us?

The important thing is that GOD LOVES US and He always illuminates the darkness. He revealed to me the purpose of this persecution. It brought me closer to Him. I developed a deeper understanding of who God is, what He has done for us and for me personally and strengthened my faith and relationship with Christ. Because of these attacks, I was forced to ask questions that I may not have otherwise asked and to seek the Truth as I had never before. What was obviously a devilish tactic to shake my faith and to encourage doubt ultimately brought me closer to God and gave me a deeper appreciation for the One who continuously shows me the true meaning of selfless love, compassion and faithfulness. The devil's greatest weapon is doubt, but we hold the shield of faith!

The purpose of this entry is to empower those who are currently under religious persecution. There are those who are just waiting in the shadows for us to fail. And we inevitably will...we are imperfect. But these same people forget that simply because we serve a perfect God does not mean that we are perfect. They will use our imperfections to justify their theories by superimposing our flaws onto our flawless God. I know - because I once did this. There have been those in my life who called themselves believers but their actions did not line up with their faith so I not only wrote them off...but I turned my back on God. We as Christians need to realize that we are endorsers. How we act can bring people to God or can lead them away from Him. People are more likely to come to Christ if we try to emulate Him instead of trying to please ourselves or others. The truth is, if you have ever claimed to be Christian or you have been involved in some way with a religious organization - you are being watched. You are under constant scrutiny. But don't let that intimidate you because we have been chosen to shine a light in a dark world. We have the Lord WITH us in every battle we may face.

"As you know, we suffered rough and insulting treatment. But our God gave us the courage to tell you His Good News in spite of strong opposition." (1 Thessalonians 2:2)

Don't be afraid to share God's Truth. If you are unsure of a proper or valid response to questions from those who doubt Christ and His teachings, don't be afraid to say "I don't know, but I will get back with you after I have researched what God has to say about it." This confirms that we as humans do NOT have all the answers, but we know who does have the answers and where to find them. It also shows that you take the subject seriously and that you are not looking to simply be right by blurting out just any un-researched answer. And it also reveals your genuine commitment towards their own spiritual assurance.

We will all face overwhelming opposition in our lifetime so we must be prepared to stand up for Truth. Studying God's word, the Bible, is the primary tool for wisdom when faced with opposition. For those who want more scientific-based evidence I recommend reading books and research by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer who holds a Ph.D as a Philosopher in Science from Cambridge University and can offer fundamental arguments for intelligent design by a Creator. His book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design investigates how new scientific discoveries are pointing to intelligent design as the best explanation for the complexity of life and the universe. I also recommend you watch the film The Case For A Creator based on the book by Lee Strobel. In this film, Stephen Meyer adds commentary along with other respected scholars, philosophers and theologians. These are excellent sources that use science to support the argument that there IS in fact a Creator. After all, our role here on earth is to lead others to Christ by providing them with the Truth in love so we need to be well-equipped if we are to see hearts change.

I hope this was helpful. I hope this finds you encouraged. You can be assured of my prayers!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas! Our family has several holiday traditions and although we are overseas this Christmas we were still able to enjoy some of them. Here are a few of the traditions my family has for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, we always attend evening church service and my mom usually sings O Holy Night, BEAUTIFULLY I must add!! Then we go home and my parents go all out on the food! My dad cooks brazillian-style meat, we have black beans and rice, shrimp cocktail and other appetizers or finger foods. My mom also makes several yummy desserts to choose from. Everything has a Christmas touch to it...even the butter is shaped like a Christmas tree! My mom doesn't overlook a single detail. She lives for entertaining and decorating and I'm pretty sure we would all miss it if she stopped paying attention to the details. They are fun.

After we stuff ourselves we sit in front of the tree and fireplace in my parent's living room and open our gifts starting from youngest to oldest. I love watching my nephews open their gifts first. The excitement and enthusiasm is so cute! Every year my mom buys each of us a new pair of PJ's to sleep in that night. The first year Jared had Christmas with us my mom and I schemed together a practical joke for him. We bought a pair of those footed pajamas that had spaceships on it a glowed in the dark and pretended to be dead serious. His reaction was priceless. He tried to hide the shock on his face so we all started busting out laughing and you could see relief wash over his face! Classic.

But we don't open all of our gifts Christmas Eve, we save our stockings for Christmas day. Our stockings are always full of thoughtful and sentimental items according to our preferences - I usually get panda, hello kitty, fun socks and photography related items! :) My mom knows me VERY well! Here are a few things I got this year in my stocking....

click for larger view

My mom ALWAYS gets each of us a toothbrush, our favourite candy(mine are sour patch kids) and at the bottom of our stocking is always a fresh orange. We stay in our pajamas ALL day and watch Christmas movie marathons on T.V. - my favourite is A Christmas Story!

A few new traditions we recently started since Jared and I have been married is watching the Nativity Story on Christmas Eve. It is a great way to start the holiday because it is a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of why we celebrate. We also MUST get egg nog shakes from Steak and Shake and go look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. Because there are no Steak and Shakes here in Switzerland...we made our own egg nog shakes this year and they were just as good if not better! :) We also get together with Jared's side of the family a few days before Christmas in Ohio at his grandparents' house - he has a large family and it's SO nice to see all of them together in one place for the holiday! Everyone draws a person's name out of a hat to buy a gift for prior to our get together and we go from youngest to oldest when opening gifts. Grandpa does most of the cooking but everyone makes such delicious dishes. I just adore his family and always enjoy our time with them!

I missed being able to see ALL of my family this year but was very thankful to have been able to spend Christmas with my parents and my husband and did get to talk to some of our family back home on the phone. It was very memorable and we were able to re-create many of our Christmas traditions together which made it feel more like home, more like Christmas.

What are some of your holiday traditions? I'd love to hear them!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a New Year full of blessings!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Natal

It's Christmas Eve and I just realized that this will be the third country that I have lived in during Christmas. It's a thrill for me to experience other cultures and see how they live everyday and celebrate holidays. I have spent Christmas in several U.S. states but have also had the opportunity to experience Christmas in Brazil, South America and now Switzerland. I have enjoyed every Christmas to date but this year will definitely be memorable. Switzerland fully embraces the holiday. Here, they start decorating at the first of December and even the smallest Mom and Pop shops have unique and charming decorations and window displays. This is a very family-centered and God-centered culture and community. And although they pay much attention to decorating for the holiday, there is a great sense of appreciation for the true meaning of why we celebrate.  I respect the freedom for everyone to celebrate the holiday as they choose, but as a Christian, Christmas is intended to remind us of our history.

The Christmas story is not a fairytale told to children. It is not a fiction novel filled with fictional characters. These events actually happened! The birth of our Saviour is an important part of our past. When Jesus entered the world as human He brought with Him the hope of salvation. Were it not for this very special moment in our history, there would have been no cross, no triumph over death and the gift of salvation would not be available to us. But He DID come to earth, humbly as a child - born in a manger and from infancy grew to be our loving Saviour who loves us still today.

I never stop being amazed by the unfathomable love God has for us. Christmas is our reminder of hope, a re-confirmation of God's love and a time to humbly appreciate the Life God has given us and the future He has made available to us through His son.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

I recommend that you read the Christmas story from the Bible today and whether it is your first time reading it or you've read it a hundred times - when you read it- look at it as part of our social history - something you would find in textbooks. Because the truth is, they are historical facts. It is not globally embraced as such, but that does not diminish its validity. This powerful story is not merely a story - but it is one of the greatest events in human history. Think about that as you read it.

I sincerely wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope that each of you are surrounded by  loved ones and that you have a blessed New Year!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Things I Love: Sweater Dresses

I am in LOVE with sweater dresses this season! They are a great way to dress comfortable but still have style. I recently found several cute sweater dresses and have enjoyed accessorizing them to change the look. Belts, scarves, shoes and tall socks/leg warmers can really add style to any sweater dress!

Here I have paired some cute black wedge boots, black tights, leg warmers with a snowflake pattern and a simple necklace to really pull this look together. Because this gray sweater dress is somewhat simple, you can really play with different accessories to completely change the look. I love the neckline and fit of this dress too. The sweater dress is from H&M. My wedge boots are by Roberto Santi. The leg warmers are from a local shop here in Switzerland called Yendi and the black tights you can find just about anywhere. Opaque leggings with flats work great too or if you want to dress it up, wear some cute heels!

Here are a few other fashionable sweater dresses. There are so many styles and ways to wear them! I'm absolutely obsessed with them because I can be comfortable and still feel cute! :)

1. Banana Republic
2. H&M
3. Juicy Couture
5. Victoria's Secret
6. Vivat Veritas
7. Victoria's Secret
8. Old Navy
9. Kimberite

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Zermatt, Switzerland

We drove nearly two hours from our apartment to the tiny town of Zermatt, Switzerland in hopes of seeing the infamous Matterhorn peak this week, but unfortunately it was too cloudy and we could only see a faint outline of the peak. But the trip was still worth it because there were beautiful views along the way and Zermatt itself was a charming little town so I was able to get some great shots!

From the moment you step off the Swiss-red train and see the cobbled streets and horse-drawn sleighs, you know you are in a special place. What was most striking to me was the quietness. There are no cars in Zermatt. All journeys from there are by foot,  horse-drawn carriage or ski. This immediately creates a welcoming atmosphere. The air is fresh and alpine there are no car or bus fumes. You enjoy nature the way it was intended. You felt as though you were going back in time while walking through the cobblestone streets of this quaint and quiet little village. Very memorable experience. One that I recommend if you ever get the chance! We'll definitely be making another trip out there when we have a better chance of seeing the Matterhorn and to do some skiing! :)

Here are a few photos from our trip.

The tiny town of Zermatt nestled at the foot of the mountains

beautiful creek near Zermatt

cars are prohibited in the town of Zermatt
you either must walk or take one of these horse drawn carriages

Zermatt town center Christmas tree

skiers heading to hit the slopes in Zermatt
in the background you can barely see a part of the Matterhorn

one of the many charming shops in Zermatt

this is what I call a "drive-by photo"
this image was taken from the car window on our way to Zermatt

 I'll never stop being in awe of mountains
they seem to magnify God's glory

One thing is for sure...Switzerland is naturally beautiful. We're definitely enjoying this gorgeous country!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: I Heart IKEA

We discovered an IKEA store here in Switzerland and although I had heard of IKEA before moving here, I had never been inside one. But now that I have experienced this international gem...I can't say enough about it!

For those who may not be familiar with IKEA it is an international home products company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, appliances and home accessories. As of 2010, the chain has 313 stores in 38 countries, most of them in Europe. The first IKEA store was opened in Sweden in 1958. The first store to open outside of Sweden was actually in Switzerland in 1973. IKEA didn't come to the United States until 1985. You can check out the IKEA WEBSITE and use the store locator to search for a store near you.

We have made two trips to the Swiss store in the last week because the prices are phenomenal and the quality and style of their furniture and home goods are just too good to pass up! Because rent and everyday expenses here in Switzerland are much higher than in the United States, Jared and I have been getting by with nearly nothing. But the prices at IKEA allowed us to get some home items that otherwise we would have continued to be without.

The store itself is HUGE! There are seemingly endless selections for every room in your house or apartment. Mama Bear and I love to decorate so we were like little kids in a candy store! I love all of the organizing items that IKEA offers. I'm definitely one of those people who could use a little help staying organized! Most of the items we bought were kitchen tools and dishes but we also found miscellaneous furniture like a tall shelving unit for towels, a coat rack and a small table and chairs for extra seating. One of my favourite purchases would have to be this multi-purpose organizer that I use for my collection of scarves! It can be used for ties, belts or whatever else you can think of, but I have a lot of scarves so it works perfect for organizing all of them!

If you have an IKEA near you I definitely recommend you check it out! You will be amazed what you can find there!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mental Vitamins: The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

 A friend of mine posted the following short video on facebook and I thought it was a great contemporary way of sharing the story of Jesus' birth. It's the Christmas story told through facebook. :) This artistic take on how the story may have read had a social network existed back then is a brilliant way of modernizing this classic moment in our history and at the same time bridging the generation gap.

I have heard the following statement on more than one occasion: "the Bible is outdated at best and it's messages can't relate to modern day life". I don't believe that to be true at all. The people who make this claim simply refuse to apply the Bible's teachings to their own life because of the possible repercussions it would have and are missing out on all of the good God has to offer them! Though the Bible was written centuries ago, it's Truth has not gone out of style. Contemporary ways of looking at the scriptures - like this video - help us to see that times may have changed, but the Truth still remains the same. (Hebrews 13:8)


Christmas is this weekend and my hope and prayer is that you don't get caught up in the commercial side of the holiday but that you remember the true reason for the season. Don't get me wrong, it is wonderful to give and receive gifts at Christmas but if that becomes the holiday's main focus, then we need to take a step back and remind ourselves that God is the one who makes all blessings possible and that His gift of salvation is the only gift our heart needs and that without Him all of the other joys in life would not be possible.

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To a friend, your heart.
To family, love.
To a stranger, a smile.
To those in need, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

I sincerely hope that you have a Merry Christmas and a year full of blessings in 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Feature: Montreux Noël

Last night we went to the Montreux Noël Christmas Market. It's an annual Christmas festival that has hundreds of little booths that are built to look like little chalets and sell anything from food to crafts to clothing. Some of the treats we enjoyed were fresh crepes, roasted chestnuts (a first for me!) and chocolate-coated marshmallows!

The chocolate-coated marshmallows, or Têtes Choco were out of this world! I'm certain that the Swiss chocolate was the key ingredient for this national confection. My favourite was the white chocolate with drizzles of milk chocolate. A must try if you ever get the chance!

There was lots to do and see there. It was nice just to walk around drinking hot mulled wine, eat some traditional Swiss goodies and enjoy the company of my husband and my parents while Christmas music played and winter scenes surrounded us. We even got a dust of snow while we were there. It was a fun and memorable experience.

Here are just  a few photos I took with my camera phone....

Some of the booths at the center of the Montreux Noël Christmas Market
Booth with the chocolate-coated marshmallows

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire :)

Ferris Wheel at the center of the Christmas Market

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things I Love: Christmas Trees

For me, Christmas just wouldn't be the same without Christmas trees. I love seeing how people decorate their trees for the holiday. Viewing someone's tree on display through the window of their home makes me feel like a kid again. From the tiniest tree (like ours) to the most extravagantly decorated tree like the one in Zurich, Switzerland...they all are beautiful and have a way of warming my heart.

Here are a few of the most magical trees I've had the pleasure of capturing at Christmas time throughout the years.

 The 65-foot Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center in NYC

50-foot Swarovski Crystal Christmas Tree in Zurich, Switzerland

 This is my parent's Christmas tree...the most beautiful of all! :)

I'm certain there are other Christmas Trees out there that are just as spectacular! Please share your photos and stories below or by email! I'd love to enjoy them with you! :) Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Time In Switzerland

Today I took my parents to see the lovely little town of Lutry where we live. It was fun walking around the small cobblestone streets and seeing how this quaint little town decorates for Christmas. It was a bit chilly but the sun was shining and the views were wonderful! We went down to the waterfront and enjoyed Lake Geneva and a view of the Swiss Alps in all their glory. My dad shares my love for photography so we were loving all the photo opportunities. Switzerland decorates so sweet for Christmas. Everything has that vintage, timeless feel to it.

A Swiss home that was decorated so cute for Christmas! 
Can you spot the panda bear? :)
 This is a pre-school decorated for Christmas in Lutry, Switzerland

My mom standing next to the cheese shop Christmas tree fitting, they decorated with cheese :)

Mama Bear & Papa Bear on the streets of Lutry, Switzerland

Me standing in front of a beautiful church in Lutry, Switzerland

Mama Bear and Me in front of Lake Geneva

After spending several hours walking around Lutry, we went to downtown Lausanne and enjoyed shopping at their mall. Mom and I found some cute clothes and I bought a perfect pair of Swiss boots! I've been on the hunt for good boots for months because they not only had to be cute but had to be good for walking in because we do a LOT of walking here.

After a full and successful day, we stumbled upon an AUTHENTIC Brazilian Churrascaria for dinner. Living in Brazil, SA when I was fifteen, I was exposed to these unique and phenomenal restaurants but the few I have tried in the United States have not lived up to the original Brazilian Churrasco standards. This one was the real deal. They had all of the specialties....picanha, feijoada, farofa, platanos fritas, was SOOO good! And it was surprisingly affordable for all you can eat meat especially in Switzerland where everything is more expensive.

It was definitely a WONDERFUL day! I'm so thankful to be able to enjoy these moments with loved ones. These are memories I will cherish for a lifetime and will never stop being grateful for. God is SO good!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Zurich Christmas Market

My parents arrived here in Switzerland on Sunday afternoon and after a quick cat nap we headed off to enjoy the world famous Christmas Market in Zurich, Switzerland. My mom and I have been planning this for months and we were not at all disappointed! It was magical!

At the center of the Zurich train station there are endless booths with gourmet chocolates and traditional foods to enjoy along with countless more crafts, clothing and souveniers to choose from. I found a very fun and girly handmade scarf that had adorable ruffle detailing for only $15.00. We enjoyed a warm street pretzel,  lots of Swiss chocolates and countless yummy smells from other foods like crepes, roasted chestnuts and fresh breads.

By far, the most spectacular part of the whole experience was the 50-foot tall Swarovski Crystal Christmas Tree. It was literally dripping with crystals and sparkled brighter than anything I have ever seen in my life! Definitely a memorable experience and one that I recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to visit Zurich at Christmas time. Here are a few shots I took of the tree and the Christmas Market.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Family Love

“The love of a family is life's greatest blessing.”

My parents arrived safely here in Switzerland last night. I woke up this morning feeling as though I had dreamed it all but was relived to realize that it was not a dream...they are actually here with us. I could not be more thankful. It's such a blessing to have them in my life and to be able to enjoy life with them. You don't choose your family...but I'm thankful for the family I was gifted with. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Our Sweet Bonnie - 16 Years Of Happiness

I have some heavy news today. My childhood dog, Bonnie, passed late yesterday evening. She was 16 years old so it's safe to say she lived a full and happy life but it is still so hard to let go. She had been in my life since I was 10 years-old. I grew up with her. She was there for every milestone in my life up to now so I can't help but feel like a part of me has died. It's almost as though she was the the very link to my childhood and I have to say goodbye to all those days. That's not easy to do. Some of my best and most innocent memories were with her.

I remember the first day we got her. I had read enough books for the public library contest in which my prize was to see the movie "Milo and Otis" in theater. For those who are not familiar with the movie it is about a pug named Otis and an orange tabby cat named Milo. I instantly fell in love with the pug breed and begged my parents to have a dog just like Otis. That summer we had a garage sale where I sold ALL of my barbies and lots of other toys and clothes to save up money so I could get the dog of my dreams.

We found a breeder and drove an hour to Indianapolis to meet the breeder at a McDonald's there along with a litter of about seven or eight pug puppies. I was in heaven, surrounded by all those puppies knowing that we could pick one of them to come home with us. My brother and I originally wanted the runt of the litter because it was the smallest one but Dad saw Bonnie and it was as though they picked each other because he said "This is the one!" and with that, Bonnie became the newest member of our family. I think Bonnie somehow knew that Dad was the one who chose her because for her entire life she favored him, she was most loyal to him, it was clear that he was the one she loved most. And the rest of us were ok with that. We enjoyed seeing how much they loved each other. Whenever she would ignore us and run to him, my Dad would always say "She knows I picked her over her runt sister!" And we would all laugh and call her obsessed for how she would make such a fuss over my Dad.

My father travels quite often for his work and every time he was out of town Bonnie would literally become depressed. She would lay all day on the couch facing the front door just waiting for his return and as soon as he would come home she would have a noticeable "hop in her step", her tiny little curled tail would wag, she would squeal with excitement and she would literally smile. Her tongue hung out and her mouth curled up....I'd never seen a dog so happy to see one person in all my days. She sincerely loved my Dad like no one else on earth. It was something we always smiled about.

This is a photo of my Dad and Bonnie taken this past summer. They shared a special bond.

In this next photo, Bonnie was smiling at my Dad who was just off to the right. This is a glimpse of how happy she was when she was with my Dad. So sweet.

Bonnie was the best little companion. As a child she would let me dress her up in doll clothes and push her around in strollers. She was my live baby doll. She tolerated me and my friends dressing her up and putting on plays or making fashion calenders starring her. We have so many pictures of her in different hats and dresses. I wish I had access to some of them so I could share them with you but they are all overseas at my parent's house.

Bonnie truly was part of the family. When we moved to Brazil, South America when I was fourteen, she came with us. She helped keep our sanity while we were there. She entertained us, she loved us, she protected us...well, at least she thought she was protecting us from drowning in our own swimming pool. She would wear a doggy life jacket and if we went under water she would bark her head off and run frantically around the pool and if we stayed under water too long she would jump in after us. She was concerned for our safety and that was just another way she showed us that she loved us too.

She was there to burrow under the covers and sleep at my feet every night growing up, well past my teenage years. She was there with concerned face-licks when I was sick or sad. And she would greet me with a little wag of her tail every time I came home no matter how long it was in between visits. Not with the enthusiasm she showed my Dad, but I could always tell she was happy to see me, even if I wasn't her favourite person, she knew I was family. She was such a sweet, smart, loving dog.

Everyone who knows our family knows Bonnie and how much she meant to us. She was and always will be more than a dog but a part of our family.

I'm not certain if animals will be in Heaven, the Scriptures are not clear on that, but God tells us that Heaven is the most perfect place and for those who believe, we will one day call it home. Earth is not complete without animals so my heart tells me that Heaven would not be complete without animals either - it gives me hope that we will be reunited with ALL of our loved ones someday...even our four-legged companions. But even if we are not, I know that I shared some of the best moments with Bonnie while she was here and being in the presence of my Lord and Saviour in Heaven will be more than enough. Having our cherished pets there with us will simply be a bonus.

Thank you for all of the kind words of compassion and comfort during this difficult time. True friends shine when you need them most. For anyone going through a similar loss, my heart goes out to you. It hurts, but I know in time the sadness will be overshadowed by smiles when we realize the happy memories outweigh the sad ones.

In loving memory of our sweet, Bonnie.

Myself and Bonnie for my Senior Prom

Jared and Bonnie during a recent family visit
Thanks for all the smiles, Beebo. I love you to infinity and beyond!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Things I Love: Christmas Songs

I'm definitely one of those people who starts listening to Christmas music in November. Some people get worn out on Christmas songs by the time Christmas rolls around...but not me. There are so many wonderful songs for the season. It was really hard to rank my favourites but I was able to come up with the following list of my top 10 favourite Christmas songs and a sample video for each. I hope some of your favourites are here too! :)

10. The First Noel performed by 7-year-old Rhema Marvanne

9. White Christmas performed by Bing Crosby

8. What Child Is This performed by Carrie Underwood

7. Joy To The World performed by Sufjan Stevens

6. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas performed by Judy Garland

5. The Christmas Song performed by Nat King Cole

4. Silent Night performed by David Archuleta

3. Mary Did You Know performed by Kathy Mattea

2. I'll Be Home For Christmas performed by Michael Buble

1. O Holy Night sung by my Mom. I also enjoy the Mariah Carey version

     Merry Christmas! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our Tiny Swiss Christmas Tree & Other Holiday Goodies

Jared and I found the perfect Christmas tree over the weekend! It's a tiny little thing that stands a humble 23 inches. It was the smallest tree they had and when I saw it I squealed with excitement. It was not only perfectly petite but it was only $10 francs...or the equivalent of about $10 U.S. dollars! So we scooped up the tree and started our search for ornaments to decorate it with. All of the ornaments were HUGE and would have dragged down or not even fit on our tiny little tree. But I looked on the very bottom shelf and there was ONE box left of mini ornaments and they were the prettiest shades of blue! I noticed the globe ornaments didn't come with any wire to hang them with so I started to hunt for something that would work. They had a package of pre-cut tiny ribbons and I snatched them up with the thought I would just loop the ribbon through the ornaments and tie them in bows on the tree. Total cost of our tree with decorations...$20francs! :)

As soon as we got home I started decorating it and when I was done I started clapping and squealing "Honey, isn't it adorable?!" Jared humored me with mediocre excitement. I didn't expect him to be as thrilled as I was about the tree. But...OH...MY...GOODNESS...our tree is SO cute! :) I call it our little "Tiffany Blue" Christmas tree. Because the lightest shade of blue and the white bows remind me of the Tiffany jewelry boxes. It's perfect.

A few other goodies we found was the candle pictured next to the tree. It is a glade scented candle in the scent "Fresh Snow" and has the smell of cinnamon/pine and berry/tangerine. It's not an overpowering scent but it smells how I imagine a home should smell at Christmas time. SO good! Love it!

We also picked up some authentic Swiss hot chocolate and these cute little Lindt Swiss Chocolate Snowmen. I couldn't pass them up...they were just too sweet! :) I knew my mom would appreciate them too so I wanted to have them for when her and my dad get here! Which they will be here THIS WEEKEND!! I can't wait!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Christmas Cookies

It's that time of year where baking LOADS of cookies is completely acceptable and half expected! :)

Growing up, my family LOVED to bake cookies and other sugary goodness for the Christmas season. One of our family favourites were Buckeyes, commonly known as Peanut Butter Balls. I loved helping make these traditional sweets with my mom, brother and extended family of aunts and cousins. I loved dipping the peanut butter balls into chocolate...I never dipped mine very much though...the peanut butter was my favourite part! :)

I also loved icing different shaped sugar cookies. We would dye white icing in nearly every color of the rainbow and have cut outs in the festive shapes of Christmas trees, angels, stars, candy canes, stockings and more. My mom always went all out and provided extras like sprinkles and other candy toppings to help make each cookie unique and special. It was a fun family tradition to decorate all those Christmas cookies together.

I found a recipe for Buckeyes and other Christmas cookie recipes at

Here are just a few of my personal favourite cookies. Most of the recipes can be found on the above website or at but if you have better recipes...please send them my way! :)

1. Oatmeal Raisin

2. Snickerdoodles

3. Samoas

4. Raspberry White Chocolate Macadamia

5. Iced Sugar Cookies

Happy Baking & Happy Holidays! :)

*all images from google search