auld lang syne

We had lots to be grateful for in 2011...now it's time to close out the year and start a new one with great friends in Chicago (I even stayed awake past midnight this year!)

Wishing you a hap-hap-happy 2012!


catching up

I've been quite bad at taking photos during our trip to Illinois, but we were really busy visiting friends and family, so here's a little taste of our adventures.

Christmas Eve we celebrated, as per usual, with the Anderson side of the family at the legion in Elburn. We spent the day grazing appetizers before the evening meal, and opening the make-gifts. One of my most favorite holiday traditions comes from Derek's family- the make gift drawing. You guessed it- home made gifts. The tradition of making ones gift very last minute also seems to come along every year. This year we made camp stools, and thanks to Amber, we finished them with tooled leather seats. I found the idea here if you want to make one yourself. This year I received, from Aunt Deb, a gorgeous, intricately knit market sac. 

We spent a day at my parent's house, where we were surprised by a visit from my aunt and two cousins, and later in the day, my godparents. It's hard to believe my little cousins are grown up! It was so much fun to spend the afternoon with them. 

Okay, random collage of a few holiday highlights...my aunt from California sent flowers for my mom and my cookie baking day-so sweet. My mom researched and tried out some vegan recipes including veggie panini with home made bread and chocolate chip cookies. My brother-in-law invented a new way to eat, well actually drink, the lutefisk- blended with some half and half and lingon berries (bleck), and managed to drink the entire concoction...yes a big and horrifying holiday dare that had us all laughing and gagging. A few of the lovely ladies from Sigma Pi Delta pledge class 2000 gathered for a happy dinner reunion, celebrating big moves, babies, and engagement. I hung the cuckoo clock gift we brought back for my family. Used our gift cards for a few essentials. Not pictured, we saw the silent film The Artist in Chicago and shared a fantastic dinner at Karyn's vegan with good friends. We spent an evening laughing with old friends and eating home cooked Indian food. One of my favorite days was a train trip to Oak Park, a walk, a visit to a vintage camera shop (yea! photo booth), a vegan dinner at Munch (yum! chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream), and the evening topped with coffee in big mugs, sitting in big chairs at Grahm's in Geneva with fabulous VQs. (Thanks Kevin for the food pictures below).

We had so much fun visiting new places and favorite spots, and mostly sharing these experiences with good friends. With little down-time, we took advantage of every second we could spend with our adorable little niece.


from us to you

We enjoy a slow Christmas morning, stuffed stockings, coffee and treats gathered close between the tree and the fire.

After most of the packages have been torn open, my family joins us for the day's big feast.



One of the best parts of being home for the holidays this year: meeting our new (first) niece, Rika. This morning we woke to a white frosted glaze over the ground and every branch. The family headed across the field to the little country church for Rika's christening, and Derek and I are honored to be one set of her godparents. She was really beautiful in the embroidered dress her grandma made her.

As the morning's excitement settled into the afternoon, we had a chance to pull on our boots, grab a saw, make our way to the back of the pasture, and cut down the perfect Christmas tree. 

We're kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols.                                     -Clark W. Griswold

So we cut it down, drug it back, and stood it up- little full, lotta sap.


christmas bird count

This morning we crawled out early to participate in the annual Christmas bird count in DeKalb county. We met up with our friend Pete and headed out into the new snow to stare up into the trees and see how many species we could accumulate throughout the day. After being away a few winters, it was really exciting to see groups of vibrant red cardinals with a white backdrop.  

We had lunch at a classic Main Street diner, big mugs of diner coffee, refills, and Midwestern hospitality. We counted thirty bird species for the day- not bad for winter in Illinois.

Derek and Pete and cold feet.



I arrived at ORD, a dark, rainy afternoon, and rode home with my mom in 2 hours of stop and go rush hour traffic. Bienvenue...

The first few days I spent visiting my parents, making some cookies, and went for a flat, windy run.

Today we are headed toward the farm. Derek left me at a path entrance on the border of Aurora and Batavia so I could walk to Geneva, get a haircut, and buy some groceries until he finished with work. So that's what I did, walked the bike trails past Christmas tree farms, beneath gargling sandhill cranes, along the river and into town.


homeward bound

It's been a quick two weeks, despite rain and battling various illnesses. But tomorrow, I'm headed to Illinois. This will be my first trip back in a year and a half...and I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends. Everything is in order and packed, and I even had a chance tonight to finally put together a holiday wreath from the branches I've been hoarding for the past two weeks. 

I guess it's time to start Christmas-ing. Happy holidays to our fine friends here in France, and everyone back home- see you soon! 



Happy 32nd Birthday to m wonderful husband. This is the first birthday since he was a teenager that we haven't spent at least part of the day together...makes me feel a little old. It's a bright sunny day, and although I didn't make it up into the Jura for a birthday hike in his honor, I had a great walk and a run to enjoy the sunny afternoon.

Chicken says Happy Birthday too.

From across the Atlantic, sending love and hugs and a brilliant blue December sky.



So far so good, hanging out here in France, thanks to some great friends for dinners, runs, and occasional rides so I don't get soaked in the constant rain, and to my furry space-heater keeping the bed warm.



I'm starting off my two week countdown before heading home for the holidays. Derek left for the States on an early flight this morning and I headed off from a sad departure at the airport to do some painting. I've got lots to do before I fly away too. Bon voyage Derek, see you mid-December.



Another beautiful autumn day here. It's been a warm and dry fall. Today's wanderings took us through some Swiss fields and vineyards.

The fall colors are nearly finished, but brilliant in the fading sunlight.

Headed homeward through the vineyard above LaPlaine.


happy thanksgiving

Tonight we joined a big group of friends to celebrate American Thanksgiving. Between the numerous expat families, we came up with all the feast essentials: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie...Derek and I even assembled the Anderson traditional candie turkeys- thanks to a special package of candy corn (for the heads) that arrived just in time.

Happy Thanksgiving.


walking westward

We had fun wading through the city crowds yesterday, but I don't think there's anything I enjoy more than long, Sunday walks in the countryside.

Headed west, southwest from our house to see where we end up. Hi cows.

Hope you had a sunny Sunday in your neck of the woods too.



Today we decided to hop over to Lyon, walk around, visit some shops, look in windows, enjoy the pre-holiday crowds in the city.

We found some cocoa and a warm place to sit, but best of all, we stopped into a beautiful shop to take care of one gorgeous, silk Christmas present.

Night lights, walking by the river.



Barcelona was fun. Good energy, good food, color, sunshine.  We spent lots of time walking, wandering, as usual, through Barcelona's wide promenades and narrow side streets.  


 Window shopping:

Overlooking the city from hilltop parks and the hotel roof:

 Watching construction of the Sagrada Familia cathedral:


We saw two fantastic photography exhibitions:

 Yea, Claude Cahun! This was a special treat to stumble upon.

Vegan eating can be a bit tricky and tiresome while traveling, but Barcelona was an exception. I feasted. Twice we spent our evenings at Sesamo, a vegetarian restaurant, and enjoyed a seven course tasting menu, with descriptions of the yummy, seasonal dishes, from the amazing chef. Our first night here may have just been the best dinner I've ever eaten, ideal all the way to the cozy atmosphere. Pumpkin , macadamia, miso soup; organic brown rice risotto with mushrooms and white truffle oil; beer-soaked mushroom tart with rosemary and pistachio cream; eggplant curry, warm pecan-stuffed figs with mushroom powder...I'm making myself hungry.

Gopal was our other go-to eatery, vegan burgers and bakery. I had donuts, and cake, and even a cinnamon roll! On day we grabbed our burgers and ate them on the beach.

We had a great morning walking through the Park Guell:

Enjoying lots of Gaudi:

One of my favorite parts was spending a day at the beach.

We went for a long run along the boardwalk, and after spent the day watching the waves, and warming our faces in the sun.

The sun was great after the past rainy week, and felt extra special being warm in November.

We also stopped into a few cathedrals, mandatory in European cities I think...

Our final morning we saw the magical interior of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia cathedral.

The morning light was glorious.

Details from the exterior:

We also saved enough time before our flight to (yup, grab burgers one more time) and take a walk through the Olympic park, By up the stairs to the enormous art museum-which will be on our list for our next visit- past Mies van der Rohe's reconstructed pavilion, and through beautiful gardens.

After some tight scheduled site-seeing for our last few hours, we were off to the airport, and back to Geneva.

¡hasta luego, Barcelona!