March 20, 2012

awe and wonder

A lot of posts have been about adventures or discoveries, and others strictly about recipes or the atmosphere, but this post, this teeny tiny magical post, is about a feeling. I haven't pinned down what that feeling is exactly, perhaps it's more of an aura than a feeling anyway, but I'd have to say it's along the lines of awe and wonder (and those might be the same thing, but they bring up different emotions so for now let's just say they are different).

I think it's important that we start from the beginning, the beginning of our journey as expats. Being an expat is a truly unique experience, out of the realm of moving to a different city in your home country or traveling abroad for a semester. When you begin life as an expat you are starting from scratch, from just you and your husband and a city that you've never visited before and an apartment that you can't quite envision. This is your life, this is where you begin, without friends, without a clue, but with a whole lot of unknowns.

My biggest concern was that we wouldn't have friends. In my whole life I've never just up and moved somewhere where I didn't know a soul. 'Home' is the place I have lived sine I was two years old. I went to grade school then to high school and then to college and finally to graduate school and along that journey there were always familiar faces. And then we moved to Switzerland, just us, just me and Zach, no friends and no familiar faces. Just us. It took a little while and a bunch of first friend dates, but now we have a truly wonderful group of friends.
They are our friends, but they are also our family - our Zürich family.

If you've been/are an expat then you can understand this type of family. In some ways it was automatic, we were all reaching for the same thing, a friendship we could hold on to, a friendship that would calm the uncertainties and highlight the excitements of life as an expat.

And to think we've only known them for six months! These are the friends we spent Thanksgiving with and the friends that delivered take-out (no such thing as delivery in Zürich) when I was sick. These are also the friends that we were lucky enough to visit in the hospital just one day after they welcomed their little baby boy, Sam.

And that is where all that awe and wonder come in!

She has a baby. I mean I knew it was coming. As long as I've known her, Laura was pregnant. He was in there the whole time. But now he's out here. He is here. He was in and now he is out (this is where I begin to state the obvious, but I can't help it - awe and wonder people, awe and wonder). Isn't it amazing?

Perhaps all of this awe and wonder hit me like a freight train moving at warp speed because Laura was (he is out, he is here, incredible) the first pregnant woman I had spent a good amount of time with. I knew she was growing, I knew he was coming (obviously, he had to arrive at some point), but now he is here, and I have held him in my arms, because he is here to be held.
There simply aren't words, just an aura composed of awe and wonder and a whole lot of other magical feelings. Magical feelings that make a nonbeliever believe, believe in big lofty intangible things.

But with all of this happiness I can't help but think that this time and this Zürich family of ours is fleeting. One of the key components of expat life is the reality that this is just temporary, whether it be two, five or ten years, we will all eventually go back home. Of course as some go, others will arrive, but someday, probably shortly after he turns one and a half, Sam will leave. That little boy I held in my arms at just one day old will be able to walk onto the plane with his favorite stuffed animal in hand and fly away. Magical.

The hours between when Sam arrived and when we were able to visit him were long. I was so excited I could barely see straight. So I baked Laura and Paul some cookies. It's a recipe I learned from Laura around Christmas time (Sam was there) and it's "bangin" as Laura would say. These cookies thrive on the marriage of peanut butter and chocolate. And considering I don't think there is a better combo out there, not even mint and chocolate, I adore these cookies and their soft chewy texture with the chocolate plopped on top.
Sam's Peanut Butter Blossoms
makes about 4 dozen.

- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (185g) peanut butter, smooth or chunky (if you are in switzerland Migros makes a much better peanut butter than Coop)
- 1/3 cup (70g) light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (70g) granulated white sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 1/2 cups (195g) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt

- granulated sugar for coating
- chocolate pieces for topping - I used hearts but hersey's kisses are the standard.

With an electric mixer or hand mixer cream the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy. Follow with the egg and vanilla. Beat in the milk.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Place the cookie dough in the fridge for an hour or until hard enough to roll into balls.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC)

Roll the batter into 1inch (2.5cm) round balls. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl and roll each ball lightly in the sugar, coating the outside. Place on a baking sheet, spacing about 2inches (5cm) apart.

Bake the cookies for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned. Right after you take them out of the oven put the chocolate piece on top of each cookie, pressing down gently until the cookie just starts to crack. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire wrack (you want the chocolate to re-solidify)


  1. Talley, that type of cookie is always so delicious and so is that little baby! What a cutie and how wonderful that you have your Zürich family.

  2. OMG I almost cried when I read your post!! I felt that awe and wonder when my best friend's baby came out last month, and now I'm dying inside that I can't be there to hold and snuggle little Sammy. What we go through as Expats is going to create a lifelong bond, even if people come and go from our lives, we'll be forever friends because we came together in a time of need. In other words, you're stuck with me for LIFE!!! haha

  3. Beautiful. So thoughtful. Welcome to the world, little Sam. And, as a person who is about to move 3,000 miles across the country, your thoughts on new friendships give me a deep sense of peace and settle the bit of nerves in my belly. Thank you, Talley.

  4. Hello, I love this post and your beautiful description of the expat life. One of my expat friends (she's a long-timer, going on 12 years) describes it in a nutshell as "life accelerated" and it's so true. You form attachments, friendships quickly - and see people leave and become long-distance friends just as fast. Or so it seems. Still, I love it and am so thankful to experience life in Zurich.

    The little fellow is darling. And your cookies make my mouthwater!

  5. Ah Talley loved loved loved this post. So much! My boyfriend and I kind of dream of being expats in Europe one day (like all people my age maybe? ha)--he wants to go to a school in southern Switzerland, in Lugano, and he wants me to join him and move over there after I graduate. I think the life of an expat is something romanticized very often (hello, Hemingway), but the entirety of its weight, as in everything and anything that comes along with it, isn't something that's often fully considered (I know I have a romanticized vision of it). It seems like such a unique experience. I love reading this blog because I think we get a glimpse of that experience, even if on some level there's only so much you can really provide relation to seeing as most of your readers aren't or haven't been expats. Anyway, thanks for showing that perspective and create that image for us, I absolutely love reading about it.

    And that baby! Goodness how amazing. Loved reading your reaction to it, seems perfect and fitting. And the cookies... I will make these one time or another. Beautiful post, Talley.

  6. These look so CUTE. I love the step-by-step for these beautiful cookies. Thanks!

  7. Beautiful post, Talley, and beautiful baby! There truly is something magical about it all. Those cookies looks scrumptious.

  8. What a beautiful post. And what a beautiful recipe! The best.