Category Archives: America

Moving out of my parent’s house

At the beginning of the month I was lucky enough to have both a holiday at work and an extra vacation day for a long weekend. With only four days off, I thought about visiting friends in London, but when I found a cheap ticket home to Columbus, I knew a family trip was in order.

Kay was in the army and couldn’t come, so I wanted to use the opportunity to try and pack up the rest of the things in my mother’s basement that I wanted to move to Switzerland. After moving all my possessions out at 17, it was a little depressing to move a lot of things back to her house at 21 with no idea how long they would sit there in that basement. Do you know it had already been 7 years since I moved them down to her basement in preparation for my move to be an au pair in Switzerland?

With such a short weekend, my mother and sister planned a family party so that I could see almost all my siblings in one go, and it was such a lovely party. Any time with my last Grandma below is priceless.I was happy for the extra time I got with my siblings who picked me up from the airport on Saturday night and also really thankful that I got to see all but one at the party the next day.

With eight siblings, it’s really not easy to visit with all of them, but we made it work and I saw seven of them and their wives, girlfriends, husbands, and my nephews. The Hickey family adds up fast!I was also happy to see this pair below who were recently engaged the week before I arrived. What nice timing to congratulate them! 🙂On labor day we visited Ohio University’s campus to see my little sister who couldn’t make it to the Sunday party.The weather was gorgeous in Ohio that weekend. A nice humid 31ºC. Our temps have already dropped to 15-20 in Zurich already, so I welcomed the summer again.

Here we were visiting the old asylum at OU. Pretty creepy!Athens is a very pretty little town. The blue skies and fluffy clouds made it all the more picturesque. Back at my parent’s house, I enjoyed the last evening and morning with another visit to Grandma before heading home.I was all worried about packing before I arrived because I come to Columbus only once every year or two, and it’s really easy to forget how many things I have in my mom’s basement. This time it had already been a year and a half since I was home for my brother’s wedding.

I brought four suitcases with me, expecting tons, but this time there were only a few boxes and a trunk full of books to pack up. I’d really overestimated! I could have squeezed it into two suitcases if I’d jam-packed my carry-on, but I paid for the third checked bag and used the extra weight allotment in the last suitcase for maple syrup for Kay.I can’t describe the relief I feel that allll my earthly possessions (that I want) are now with me in Switzerland. Now, whenever I visit Columbus, I can just focus on visiting family… and maybe outlet shopping. Let’s be honest here…On the way back through Philly, I managed to squeeze a trip to Wendy’s in, because unfortunately the Wendy’s in Port Columbus turned into a Burger King and we have those in Zurich and I’m just, well, not impressed.

How long did it take you to finally move out of your parents’ house?

American Goodies

Whenever friends or family from the US want to give Kay or me gifts, I often find myself asking for a care package instead of anything else. Shipping to Switzerland is so expensive, so I really appreciate how much it costs to send some of our favourite American staples by post.

Most of these items are either not available to buy here or are extremely overpriced, like $8.50 for 200g/0.44lb of brown sugar. No thanks! Other things like shredded coconut are almost impossible to find and local suggestions to buy the dry, powdered, ultra-fine shredded coconut are not appreciated.

But what a joy to open a box like this! My good friend paid $78 to ship all these treasures to Kay and me.So what are my favourite things to ask for in a care package?

  • Brown sugar. The real kind, not the “Braun Zucker” kind here, which is not really brown sugar at all, but brown-colored cane sugar.
  • Imitation and real vanilla oil, because often you only find real vanilla beans or an expensive vanilla paste here. I know I could make my own using the vodka method now, but coming by a lot of vanilla beans is still expensive.
  • American baking powder. It’s just stronger and better in all ways.
  • Baking soda. Like Swiss baking powder, Swiss baking soda only comes in these absurd little individual packets with about a teaspoon inside. This is helpful to… Swiss bakers baking Swiss baked goods. That’s about it. And so much waste with all the packaging for these little packets!
  • Shredded coconut. Because for whatever reason, you can either find some very expensive fresh chunks of coconut here, chopped up into chunks that makes it impossible to shred, or you find a bag of dry, more-dry-than-you-think-is-possible coconut that has almost no flavor and a terrible sandpaper texture. Kay and I love stockpiling on sweetened coconut and then adding it to Brazilian tapioca.
  • Real and imitation maple syrup. I prefer the fake stuff for pancakes because the thicker consistency sits on top of my pancakes instead of making them soggy. Kay prefers the real stuff and we use real maple syrup in cooking often. I even add it to smoothies in an attempt to sweeten things like buckwheat oats without using refined sugar.
  • Canned black beans. Now, this one is a bit of a splurge. We can buy dried black beans here easily, but I’m really too lazy to make them sometimes. If you are making a salsa recipe in the summer, sometimes you just want to open a can of beans instead of spending 3 hours cooking dried ones. Kidney beans are available everywhere in abundance in Switzerland and make a poor substitute for black beans. You can buy canned black beans from the Mexican grocery shop, but they cost like 5CHF a can, so I just don’t do it.

There are a few other spices that we cannot find anywhere here, but we don’t use them that often, so I either sub them out in recipes or we pick them up on travels.

I feel a little ashamed that my list is mostly sugary items or items used in baking, but to be fair, we don’t use them that often, so if we stock up once a year it usually lasts us the whole year.

If you moved away from home, do you miss any food or bring back certain items with you?

OSU vs Wisconsin

Kay and I traveled home to Columbus a couple weeks ago to meet my future-sister-in-law, visit with my parents and siblings, attend and photograph a friend’s wedding, spend time with Grandma, go shopping (for curtain fabric!), meet with friends and take Kay to his first OSU game!

My little brother plays the flugelhorn in the marching band this year and we are all SUPER proud of him. It was doubly awesome that he beat his challenge the week we came so he would be playing in the game on Saturday AND before the game we got to meet him after watching him play in the skull session.

How handsome is he?? OK, both of them. I think Kay is pretty good looking too. 🙂

Kay was pretty pumped for his early birthday present to see the game. It was his first time on campus seeing a game and experiencing the crazy atmosphere that Buckeyes provide while tailgating.

We also went with my sister and brother-in-law who had access to a dentistry tailgate. Woohoo!

With food and beer in our bellies, we hurried to the stadium before kick off to make it in time before the band would march onto the field.

The game was great! OSU was playing Wisconsin, the same team they played on our wedding day two years ago. We were a little busy that day, but just like two years ago… we also won this year! Woohoo!

Listening to an OSU professor’s advice, we took selfies and I took panoramas of our crazy huge stadium.

It was a little funny that OSU was holding a “red-out” asking everyone to wear red, but red is also a color for the Badgers, so all the Wisconsin fans had red on too. It made them look a bit silly to be honest, blending in with all those Buckeyes fans! 😉

We were at the highest row of seats in C-Deck but we had a pretty unobstructed view of the field, even if it was not optimal viewing the halftime band performance sideways.

I *might* have spent more of the game spying for my little brother in the band section, but I have to say that watching football with binoculars is way more fun than playing eye-spy from way up high.

Kay got really into the game too and was cheering for OSU. I was SO proud.

I would have been cheering too but I happened to get laryngitis from my mom that week and it was the first day I lost my voice so my “WOOHOO!” was all “………………………!”

Kay thought it was really ridiculous that I was sick on holiday again, but we still had a great time before my awful cough developed the next week. The OSU game was really a blast!


The largest tax savings you’ll ever see!

As a new year starts, I always find myself worrying already about how to do my US taxes properly. However, I find myself a little irked when I read things like the following quote from the Expats Guide to US Taxes:

Wow, that makes a ton of sense.

I’m so excited by these “large tax savings”. I do not live in the US, maintain a residence there or benefit from anything my US taxes pay for, but I can be excited that I am “saving” on what I have to pay in addition to my Swiss taxes. My US taxes don’t take into consideration the cost of living in Switzerland, but hey… I’m saving!

I can also console myself in the fact that I am “doing my American duty.” Because labeling it a “duty to my birth country” makes me feel better about being taxed twice, sometimes on the same money because the US doesn’t recognize certain tax laws here.

The reality is more that I am terrified what kind of charges the IRS could impose if I accidentally make a mistake on my taxes or on my FBAR or FATCA filing requirements. So I try my hardest to fill out everything correctly on time, but I do it because I am fearful of the wrath of the IRS. Not because it makes me feel “more American” over here in Switzerland.

Expats Guide to US Taxes may be a little outdated and it is not from the IRS, but it does have some good information. It’s just hard to gloss over little gems like the one above that try to make me feel better about being taxed abroad.