A Year in Leysin – Fall

This post series, A Year in Leysin, was meant to start in the summer…that obviously did not happen and so here we are in mid-October!  Time for an update, and for pictures of the village in the colors of autumn…

The leaves on the trees are changing here and while the fall colors I’m told don’t tend to be as spectacular as those in North America at this time of year, the view we have here of the evergreen trees sprinkled with colors of yellow, orange, and brown is pretty magnificent, to me anyway.  This Ohio girl is oh so happy to live with the changing seasons once again!

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Some facts about Leysin:

  • It is a small village in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 1,300 m (4,100 ft) and with a population of about 4,000.
  • The village first came to life as a place where tuberculosis patients were sent to be treated and recover in the late 1800s.  It was thought that the sunny alpine climate would help in their treatment and recovery. We hope for the same for Marc and are very slowly witnessing it to be true…
  • Now, many of the hospitals built to treat those tuberculosis patients have been turned into educational facilities, and so the village has become a sort of international education hub of students and professionals, mixed with local village residents and tourists of the Leysin mountain ski resort.
  • Leysin is in the French-speaking region of Switzerland – but you will often hear German, Italian, and lots of English spoken here given the cosmopolitan nature of the village!
  • And while Leysin is definitely situated and somewhat isolated in the mountains of the Swiss Alps, in just 30 minutes down the mountain you have access to city life in Montreux (once home to Freddie Mercury of Queen) and within just a few hours by car or train you can even reach destinations in France, Italy, and Germany.

Come with my handsome husband and I on a walk around the village!

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Here we are in the center of the village, “downtown.”  About a 10-minute walk down the street towards and then past our apartment, we are greeted with this mountain view of “Les Dents du Midi.”

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And along the way we see lots of typical Swiss chalets…

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And animals, mainly cows, goats, chickens, sheep or…oh, hello donkeys!

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The village church…

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And it wouldn’t be Swiss without a local fromagerie (cheese shop/restaurant)!

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Here’s the cable car train heading down the mountain and into the valley of Lake Geneva…next stop, Aigle!  From there, continue to Montreux, Vevey, Lausanne, or Geneva for an escape from mountain village life.

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Or stay in the mountains and enjoy some free local produce!  Here, Marc has picked a strawberry.  “Incroyables comestibles” roughly translated means “unbelievable eats” – agreed!

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Every time I walk by the store “Le Hibou” (“The Owl”), just behind Marc, I think of my sister and her love for owls. Hey Laura!

And upon our return home the sun sets over Les Dents du Midi and Marc and I are reminded yet again how fortunate we are to get to live here.  Wherever you are, friends and family – under the bright blue skies of Barcelona and Mallorca, the changing colors of the seasons in Ohio and the midwest USA, or the silver mist of Paris and London – we hope that you, too, can find beauty in the simple surroundings of your each and every day.  Sending love to you all!

– M & A

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La Retrouvaille

I’ve had a serious case of writer’s block lately.  It seems that amidst moving, starting a new job, and learning how to live with Marc and I’s new family member, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), I have been left feeling more drained, and less inspired, to tell our story lately.  But there is definitely a lot to share from the last few months, so I have planted myself in front of my computer today to do just that.  Here goes!

Let’s backtrack to two months ago when life in Switzerland just began.  I’ve officially started my job as College Counselor & ESL Teacher at the Kumon Leysin Academy of Switzerland (KLAS).  KLAS is a Japanese boarding school in Switzerland – yes, wrap your head around that – a boarding school where students are taught a main curriculum in Japanese, with supplemental courses in English, in the French-speaking region of Switzerland!  It’s a pretty fascinating mix of culture that I get to be a part of every day, just one of the reasons why I love working in international education!

Outside of academics, a large part of the curriculum for KLAS students is building cultural awareness and understanding, as well as independence and maturity, and the way that the school attempts to teach this is by giving students a wide variety of experiences.  During my first teaching term, for example, I supervised running activity with students and participated with them in a 21km/11km race up the Swiss Alps mountains.  I took a group of visiting Canadian exchange students to canyon through mountain waters.  Just a few weeks ago, students prepared a Japanese Festival music and cultural presentation for our school community to enjoy.  And I accompanied a group of students to Chamonix, France where we visited the ski resort town and walked inside a glacier, or Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice).  Here are pictures from the excursion…

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We first took a train up the mountain of Montenvers to an elevation of 1913 meters (6276 feet).

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Then, half of our group took a tele-cabin down to the glacier, and the other half joined me on a hike to the ice…

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Years ago, the image you see here would have been completely white as it used to be all glacier ice.  As you hike down into the glacier, you can see signs as you make your way down that show you where the glacier once existed how it has melted over time.  In the not so far off future, this glacier will likely not exist.  If you look at the bottom left of the picture below, you can see the hole in the glacier where visitors can walk into the ice…

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And here I am walking inside a glacier!

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But better than the glacier, Chamonix, canyoning, mountain running races, and international education, the very, very, very best news I have to share is that Marc has now joined me in Switzerland!  We are reunited at last and for that are very thankful.  But with the joy of being together begins the hard work that we know is ahead of us to rebuild our life with Marc’s EDS as a part of it.  One of our first excursions, then, to get Marc out and about was walking together the route of my daily commute to work, through the cow fields!  Here we are on our way to KLAS with the cow bells ringing in our ears, and the cow droppings (yes, cow poop!) at our feet.  Being extra vigilant to watch where you step is a definite must!

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Goodbye to city commutes in traffic and public transport, hello to Swiss mountain commutes with the cows!  And once we arrived to my school, we jumped on mountain bikes and rode out to see a special view of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).  Given his state of health at the moment, Marc barely survived our little adventure, but we made it and were rewarded by this wonderful landscape…

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My best friend is back, “mi media naranja” (my half orange) is complete…

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…and for this my heart is happy.

Well, there you have it, two months of writer’s block culminated into one, slightly long, blog post.  Thanks for powering through it, friends!


M & A’s Kitchen

While given my generation I can navigate the world of social media with relative ease, I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to incorporating it into my life.  Simply put, social media overwhelms me.  And unfortunately this information overload has now spread to my kitchen!  In the past I have listed recipes from my favorite blogs and blogger cookbooks, but the amount of possible recipes to try has me running for the hills!

So, I will no longer be posting blog recipes, and instead will stick with cooking through and listing my favorite (mostly) whole foods, plant-based dishes from my go-to cookbooks in the “M & A’s Kitchen” section of my blog.  If you want to make a dish, buy the cookbook!  Or join me in the kitchen and we can make it together. 🙂

From Mosques to Mountains

Before leaving Casablanca, I got up close and personal with the Hassan II Mosque that you could see from our (previous) terrace.  Here are the pics!

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Since then I have safely arrived in Leysin, Switzerland and am getting myself settled into life here and ready for a new school year, which starts for me now in July.  Remember that view of the Swiss Alps from my office?  Here it is in better weather…

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Pretty spectacular, no?  And so a new life in Switzerland begins, and along with it a new life for Marc’s health as well.  He has now been officially diagnosed with a genetic condition called Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome.  We are learning more about EDS every day and what it means for us knowing that this is a syndrome that Marc will live with for the rest of his life.  There is no cure, but there are ways to treat the symptoms and so that is where Marc is at the moment, still in Paris finding a successful treatment plan that will help him manage the symptoms and live as full a life as possible.  It’s been a difficult road to walk through and we have a long journey ahead, but we’re hanging in there, or at least trying to.  It’s a lot to take in, new lifestyle, new country, new job, and an illness on top of it, but the magic of the mountains is making it all worth it and we are doing our best to keep our eye on the prize – life TOGETHER in Leysin.


Recipes – all from My New Roots this time!

Big Comfy Sweet Potato – The sauce on these baked sweet potatoes is fantastically flavorful and could be used to top so much more than just sweet potatoes!

The Best Lentil Salad, Ever – And the dressing on this salad is awesome and versatile as well.

Spring Spirit Polenta – Never too late for spring greens!

Raw Bounty Bars – These were a bit crumbly and kind of a mess, though the flavors are all there and they really do taste like a Bounty bar (European version of a Mounds bar, for the American bunch out there).  I’ll be testing out some other coconut macaroon recipes for something easier and less messy for coconut lovers like me!

Watermelon Mojito Pops – From My New Roots Naturally Nourished cookbook.  Great as popsicles or as a refreshing summer drink!

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread with Olives & Caraway – Take the base bread recipe and add chopped black olives and caraway seeds.  Also from the My New Roots cookbook!

“Inshallah is Good for Everyone”

Last weekend I packed up all of Marc and I’s belongings and put them in a shipping truck – they are currently en route to our new home in Leysin, Switzerland.  The end of our Moroccan experience is officially upon us as I am finishing up my school year this week and preparing to say goodbye to Casablanca in just four days from today.

And when I write that “I” packed up our belongings, I do mean “I” as Marc was not alongside me.  It’s been about 4 months now that he left Casablanca to go to Paris for medical care.  He is sick and has been getting progressively more so each day for a while now.  And while our life together is in Casablanca, we knew that Marc needed to be in a place where he could access reliable health care.  Fortunately his parents’ home in Paris is a place where he could do that.  The decision for Marc to leave was difficult then and feels increasingly difficult now, especially as this move to Switzerland is approaching, but Marc has been able to access a strong medical team in Paris who have been taking his case seriously and his parents are there for the unconditional support that he needs.  Because of his and their determination, we are closer and closer to an official diagnosis and so we are doing our best to have patience and courage to wait until that diagnosis and treatment plan are made.

In the meantime, as a newly single girl navigating life in Casablanca, Morocco (that’s an image I never dreamed would come to life!), I am “getting comfortable with the uncomfortable” and doing my best to embrace this concept as a central theme of my life here!  Some days are more successful than others.  But I did get out and about to take some pictures of the city to remember this place Marc and I called home for nearly 2 years.

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These pictures were taken in the Habous, a souk market in one of the quartiers of Casablanca – and even though Casa does not have a reputation for being one of the more beautiful spots in Morocco, I think these pictures demonstrate that even in a big, dirty city like Casablanca, the light and colors of Morocco shine through in sight and in sound.

When Marc and I travel, we like to pick up on linguistics and everyday vernacular of the place we are in and then incorporate it into our own vocabulary.  We hang a driftwood sign from Hawaii that says “e komo mai,” or welcome in Hawaiian, in our home.  On our honeymoon in Greece we learned the word “agapimou,” which is “my love” in Greek, and we use this word to refer to each other.  In Morocco, the resounding term that will stick with us long after we leave this country is “inshallah,” meaning “God willing” in Arabic.   Take a look at this New York Times article to learn why “Inshallah is Good for Everyone” and why this Moroccan mentality is something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

So “inshallah” I am successfully packed and ready to say goodbye to this country full of passion and vibrancy, color and light, modernity and tradition.  And while I am very much looking forward to moving to the mountains where the lifestyle is more suitable for me and I can feel more like myself (turns out this Ohio girl is NOT a city dweller), I know that Marc and I will likely not be snapping selfies like the one below with our apartment concierge in Switzerland.  We’ll probably be lucky just to get a simple “bonjour” from the neighbor!  And so I’m reminded to savor those bits and pieces of Morocco that I know I cannot pack up and take with me in my suitcase…

Like our concierge, Abdou, aka “Tom Hanks.”  He enjoys calling Marc Tom Hanks and broke down in tears when I told him we were moving!  It was a bit awkward, to be honest…and Marc especially is not quite sure if those tears were real or simply another Moroccan theatrical production which are frequently on display around here.  Either way, he’s a genuine, good-hearted man who always greeted us with a smile and a strange story in his broken French.  We will always remember him.

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And having the opportunity to wine and dine with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at Rick’s Café!  This restaurant is a total tourist destination in Casa created long after the movie was made to recreate the bar from the film.  Though its authenticity is questionable, the Moroccan decoration and ambiance of the restaurant is lovely – it’s a bit as if you’re in the movie yourself!

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Even though morning Barre3 sessions will soon be accompanied with a pretty fantastic view of the Swiss Alps, I won’t have a view of the Hassan II mosque like this nor hear the sounds of the call to prayer resonating in the background as I prepare myself for the day…

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Or witness these magical Moroccan sunsets in the evening…

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The joy and challenge of international living, then, is inevitably upon us – goodbye to people and a place that now hold a very special place in our heart, and making room for the new people, new experiences, and new memories that will be had in a new place to call home.

So we say goodbye to Morocco, our temporary home – you forced us to get comfortable in some of the most uncomfortable moments and circumstances of our life, and we leave you with a beautiful story of love, life, and identity challenged, but not lost, and open hearts for what the future will hold.  Switzerland, what do you have in store?  Who knows, but we’re on our way to find out!  Get ready, because this time we plan to stick around for a while. 🙂


Recipes:

Sweet Potato Brownies – These are awesome, rich and chocolatey, and made primarily of sweet potatoes – let’s just say they definitely make a frequent appearance in our kitchen!

Happy Spring!

My photography has been lacking lately, but a recent trip to Ohio to see family before moving to Switzerland presented an opportunity to capture shots of my sweet nieces and nephew.  These heart-happy pictures of cousins Micah and Ava I simply had to share.  Happy spring from these beauties!

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Recipes

My recent recipe exploration has been based in the newly released Dishing Up the Dirt Cookbook and Naturally Nourished (cookbook from My New Roots blogger Sarah Britton).  Here are the spring inspired recipes I tried out on my family for Easter:

  • Avocado Cream
  • Strawberry Salsa
  • Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt
  • Roasted Asparagus with Romesco Sauce
  • Spicy Tomato Bisque with Pan-Fried Chickpeas
  • Strawberry Mint Smoothie

If any of these sound good to you, check out the cookbooks!  My personal favorites were the avocado cream, strawberry salsa, and spicy tomato bisque.  These will be joining my regular repertoire of recipes – whew, that’s a tongue twister!

I’ll also be reinventing Barefoot Contessa recipes (where my love for cooking began), putting a healthy spin on those with whole foods, plant-based potential.  Will see how it goes!

Next chapter…

Life has thrown Marc and I some twists and turns lately, and proven to us that just when you think you have things figured out, better plans may already be in the works.  But as the intent of this blog is to journal our story, our real story,  here’s the bittersweet truth behind our next chapter…

The bitter: For a few years now Marc has had some health issues, and trying to resolve them since moving to Morocco has not exactly been easy.  We’ve been back and forth to the United States trying to find an answer, and in the midst of this feeling the stress and reality that the best place for Marc and I both to be right now is probably not Morocco, but rather a place where we can access consistent, quality health care and a calmer lifestyle.

The sweet: Just as we recognized this need for change, I was offered and have accepted a job teaching at a Japanese boarding school in Leysin, Switzerland, a small ski resort village in the Swiss Alps.  We will be moving late June to live and work in the mountains of Switzerland!

To say that we are thankful for this move and opportunity is an understatement.  Our goal all along has been to live a small-town, simple life in Europe (not an easy goal to realize), and it seems to actually be happening.  And while I don’t think I will truly believe it is happening until we actually pack up our things and move, a trip to Switzerland for work last weekend made it come to life.

Here is the view (a rainy day view) from what will be my new office…

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And some pictures of the western, French region of Switzerland where we will live.  First, Lac Léman (Lake Geneva)…

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And Geneva…

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Another move means work, preparation, and stress over the next few months.  Watch as we say goodbye to Morocco and prepare for the next chapter of our lives, a more permanent chapter, in Leysin, Switzerland.


Recipes:

Pretty excited that Dishing Up the Dirt has a new cookbook out!  Here are more recipes from her blog that I’ve liked…

Blueberry Almond Flour Muffins

Coconut Curry Pork Meatballs – I made parsnip noodles for this dish.  I’ve discovered they are much less watery than zucchini noodles, so they’re my new go-to, grain-free noodle.

Cold Brew Chocolate & Cinnamon Shake with Coconut Whipped Cream

Kale Caesar Salad with Garlicky Chickpea Croutons

Spiced Zucchini & Honey Muffins

2016 Miller Family Christmas

Marc and I are back in Morocco after spending our holidays in Ohio!  One of this year’s Christmas highlights was a visit to Stan Hywet Hall in Akron with my mom, sister, and niece – it was a real treat and a highly recommended visit if you live in NE Ohio!

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Gingerbread Land!

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Ava Faith had had enough…

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Next was our 2016 Miller Family Christmas!

This year’s holiday season was special as it marks 5 years since Marc and I were married on December 23, 2011.  It’s remarkable to see how much our extended family has changed since then and the twists and turns that our life has taken!

Here we are, Christmas 2011:

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And now, Christmas 2016:

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(Bailey taking a break from being Santa’s reindeer…)

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In 5 years, we have celebrated the addition of two nieces and a nephew to the Miller family, Marc and I have moved from Washington to London to Casablanca, we’ve changed our careers, my parents are entering a new stage in life with my mom’s retirement, and in the midst of all of this my sweet Bailey is still hanging on and is as joyful as ever at almost 13 years old.  I love how the comparison of old and new in these pictures capture the subtle, yet significant changes that have taken place in our family, but are also a reminder of how much does not change, how many things really do stay solid and consistent, the most important of which is family…this trip was definitely a celebration of the wonderful family we have both in the US and in Europe!  We are thankful for each and every one of you.  🙂

And last but not least, this year’s New Year for Marc and I was spent on the plane in transit from the US to Morocco over the Atlantic Ocean!  In upholding our Spanish traditions, we ate our 12 grapes, we’re just not quite sure if we ate them in the last 12 seconds of 2016 – it was a little difficult to know what time it was as we were flying across time zones.  What a way to ring in the new year!  Wishing you a wonderful 2017, everyone!


Recipes

Farm Stand Meatballs with Collard Greens & Apricots – I used dried cherries instead of apricots, and spinach instead of collard greens as it’s what I had on hand.  I also added caramelized onions!  You could use either or even omit the dried fruit, whichever way I really liked this flavorful twist on serving those dark greens that are so important in our diet!

Miso Chicken with Cauliflower & Carrot Mash – Again, used spinach instead of collard greens and added carrots to the cauliflower mash – both good additions/substitutions.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – I used butternut squash instead of kabocha squash, and added some apple and a bit of fontina cheese to this basic soup recipe…

Lemon Poppyseed Zucchini Muffins – Not necessarily seasonal, but I will be keeping this recipe around for the spring/summertime!

Kombucha – My brother gifted me a SCOBY (yay!!!) and I am now brewing my first batch of kombucha.  We’ll see how it turns out!  Don’t know what kombucha is?  Or want to try out brewing it yourself?  Check out the link for a beginner’s tutorial from My New Roots.