Happy New Year and Sincerest Thanks, 2016!

Happy New Year, everyone!  2015 was a pretty spectacular year for Tony and I, and one I didn’t think we could top.  Well, 2016 proved me wrong.  It was full of amazing adventures, wonderful family and friends, success at work, and the greatest blessing of all – the creation of our first baby.

To welcome in the New Year, I am taking a look back on our magical 2016.  There are so many to thank for this incredible year.  I thank God and my husband.  I also thank my supportive and loving family and friends.  And of course, I thank my wonderful place of employment which brought us to Switzerland in the first place.

January

January kicked off with another visit to Dubai and India.  I try to visit colleagues in India once a year, and given the distance from Zurich, I usually spend 2 weeks traveling throughout this incredible country.  This trip was really special because my dear friends Pratiti, Sonale and Deepali showed me the true, local hot spots of both Mumbai and Chennai.  It was also my first time wearing a sari!

My first sari

Kingfisher at Leopold’s Cafe

February

Even though February is the shortest month, there were a lot of wonderful things I got to experience.  February took us to Nepal for the very first time.  What made this trip special was that Tony was able to tag along, and we were able to visit a local school.  I head up the Corporate Social Responsibility program at work, and we partner with an organization called Room to Read.  I was able to see their work in action and I was floored at what a strong impact they had made at just one school.  We watched first graders learn to read and write in Nepalese and you could see their little minds capturing and storing the information.

Kathmandu

1st Grade Class

Another great thing about February, which happened while we were in Nepal, was the birth of my nephew Adrian!  We were so thrilled to welcome the first baby to the Scarpaci family, and I was back in Chicago only a couple weeks later to visit him in person.  I never knew I could fall in love with someone I had just met.

My handsome nephew

The final amazing thing about February was a promotion at work.  I made sure to take myself to Prada to celebrate.  🙂

March

In March, I went to Doha for work and Copenhagen for the Easter holiday with friends.  Both trips revolved around food which was absolutely fine with me!  Arabic food is some of my favorite in the world so I indulged in Doha, and Copenhagen is known for its high volume of Michelin star restaurants.  However, those few restaurants emptied out our pockets for the rest of the month.   Whoopsie.  😳

Copenhagen

April

April took me back to Dubai for a 2 week work trip, and upon returning, my brother arrived in Zurich.  Getting back to my love of Arabic food, I went all out in Dubai, but I was ready to get out of the heat by the end of the two weeks.  Being in Zurich mid-Spring was super refreshing, and it was nice to spend some quality time with my brother.  I love it when he visits.

Brother and I

May

May slowed down travel wise, allowing Tony and I to enjoy the beautiful weather that was descending upon Zurich.  We tried bowling in Switzerland for the first time which was incredibly fun and felt very American.  We also found out the most amazing news of all – I was pregnant!

June

In June, Tony and I went to Budapest for a long weekend, and I visited London for work.  Budapest was my first trip knowing I was pregnant, and I found myself constantly Googling what I could and could not eat.  Who knew if this Swiss/American baby could handle Hungarian food?  Everything ended up being fine and it was a good first lesson in not stressing during pregnancy.

Budapest

London was much more enjoyable than normal because my friend Sara met me there for the first half of the trip.  We hit up the great sales and trendy restaurants and enjoyed a couple days sans husbands (no offence to Tony).

London

July

During the month of July, I traveled to Spain for the first time.  I was in Mallorca for work for a few days, and it felt like Heaven.  The sun, water, and food (again, me with the food) were all so calm and relaxed.  The people were constantly happy, and the breeze was always available to cool you off.  I didn’t realize a place like this existed!

The end of the month was a treat too because I went back to Chicago to spend time with my family.  There were some very special events that occurred in July with family and friends.  My nephew had grown so much from February and I was very thankful to be able to attend his Christening.

I also attended a very special wedding.  My dear friend Francesca got married at the top of the city, with my dad as my super cool date.

My besties and I wrapped up my trip with our annual birthday dinner.  We’ve held onto this tradition for 17 years!  WOW!

August

August is always special to me because it is my birthday month AND my wedding month.  But this time, it was also the month of our most epic vacation ever.  We did an 11 day cruise in the Baltic Sea and saw so many wonderful new countries and cities.  It started in Copenhagen and took us through Germany, Estonia, Russia, Norway, and Sweden.  It was unlike anything we’d ever done before, and even with all of the cities we saw, sometimes my favorite part was just sitting on our balcony and watching the waves below me.

Our cruise ship

September

By September, I had wrapped up most of my work travel.  My baby bump was starting to show more and more as I was moving into my 3rd trimester.  Tony and I took a weekend trip to Barcelona, our first time in this city.  We really enjoyed the food and as I write this I realize that is probably the theme of my travel this year.  🙂  We were present during Catalan National Day and saw thousands of people out and about, celebrating their nationalism.

October

We took two small trips in October because by now, I was really showing and my mobility was becoming more and more limited.  We spent a weekend in Poland with Tony’s sister and her kids.  We really enjoyed spending quality family time and being back in Krakow.  It has one of the best central plazas or platz in Europe.

Krakow

The end of the month we were in Catania, Sicily, for a last go at summer weather, and it was there we watched the Cubs win the pennant!  They were off to the World Series!

November

The only thing I can really say about November is CUUUUUUUBBBBBBSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!  On the morning of November 3rd, the Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908. Tony and I started watching game 7 at about 3am Zurich time and cried tears of joy when they made the final out against the Cleveland Indians.  The Cubs win cemented the fact that 2016 was officially the best.  Year.  Ever.

At the end of the month, we took our final baby-moon – a train trip to Paris to see my friend Sara again and celebrate an American style Thanksgiving.  Baby bump had to learn just how special this city was to us – the earlier it learns, the better.

Baby bump in Paris

December

And now, moving into December, typing this on the last day of 2016, I sit back and reflect once more on what an amazing and blessed year we’ve had.  We hosted Tony’s sister and her family for Christmas and it was so wonderful to be with our family during the holidays.

Merry Christmas

Within the next 3 weeks, we will meet our first baby which will be the most magical way to kick off 2017.  Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I excitedly await for what 2017 has in store.

Blessing and love to you and yours, and Happy New Year!

Chicago Cubs Go All the Way

Please excuse my recent blogging absence – Cubs baseball mania that has taken over our household.  As Chicagoans, my husband and I are diehard Chicago Cubs fans, and the last 2 weeks can only be described as historic.

While we were in Catania, the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the NLCS – National League Championship Series or “pennant”.  This secured the Cubs spot in the World Series for the first time since 1945, or 71 years.  And last night (or for us, 5:45 am), the Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908.  Those are a lot of firsts to experience in just two weeks.

Fly the W

Fly the W

But for those of you reading this that aren’t from Chicago, or don’t understand our love for the Cubbies, let me take you back in time.  Everyone loves a good sports story, and this is ours.

Tony and I were both born and raised in Chicago.  My parents and grandparents were as well.  As long as Tony and I can remember, growing up in Chicago-land, the background noise of summer was the Cubs.  My dad would always put the Cubs games on the radio when we were playing in the yard.  Harry Caray and Ron Santo can be heard in the background of many of my childhood home videos. Tony would take the CTA bus a few miles down Addison to Wrigley Field to go to games.  Blue and Red are the colors of the Chicago flag, and to us, that was because those are the colors of the Cubs.

Always a Cubbie fan

Always a Cubbie fan

The Cubs were always the underdog.  Through good seasons and bad, year after year, the Cubs never made it to the World Series.  Many believe there was a curse placed on the Cubs in 1945 – the Curse of the Billy Goat – as that was the last time the Cubs made it to the World Series.  This curse potentially contributed to the 1969 Cubs losing streak that pulled victory from their grasp.  This was the team that included legends Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, and caused my then 13-year-old father to rip up all of his baseball cards in a fit of tears.

The Curse came back in full force in 2003.  On October 14th, Tony anxiously stood outside Wrigley Field waiting for a pennant win.  His heart dropped to his stomach as he heard those familiar moans of despair.  In an attempt to catch a baseball in the stands, fan Steve Bartman interrupted Moises Alou’s chance to the get the out against the Florida Marlins.  This was the beginning of the end for the Cubs that year, as they shame spiralled during the rest of the series and lost the World Series opportunity yet again.

Tony representing in Switzerland

Tony representing in Switzerland

And yet…through all of that and much, much more, we fans returned.   Game after game, year after year, loss after loss, we were loyal.  That’s what Cubs fans do, that’s who we are.  We bleed Cubbie blue.  We take a hit, ask for another one, and come back the next day for more.  Through all of that heartache, we knew someday, we would go all the way.  “Next year,” Dad would say every time.  “We’ll get ’em next year”.

Well, next year was last night.  Someday is today.  Tony was up every night at 2am or 3am watching the Cubs this season because this was it.  It was finally our time.  And low and behold, as we sat clutching each other in agony, thousands of miles away from our loved ones in Chicago, it happened.  They did it.  The Cubs.  Went.  All.  The. Way.

It was even more glorious than Harry Caray or Eddie Vedder predicted.

I write this now with tears in my eyes.  Tears for the curse that is finally broken. Tears for the underdogs who finally beat the odds.  Tears for those family members that couldn’t live to celebrate with us on Earth, but are popping bottles with Harry Caray in Heaven.  Tears for my Dad today and for him back in 1969.  Tears for my husband who lost sleep and remained loyal to the end.  Tears of joy and humility and love.  Tears (and cheers) to the next 108 years.  Go Cubs Go.

Grandpa loves his Cubbies

Grandpa loves his Cubbies

Sweet Home Chicago

Another successful visit to my home town has sadly come to a close.

I arrived on July 20th ago, shaken at the reminder of what American domestic airline travel entails.  I had flown United from Zurich to Newark which was wonderful, but Newark to Chicago involved delays and hours on the tarmac.   I exited O’Hare Airport, walking into a sauna, I mean, the humid Chicago summer heat, and hugged my parents tight.  We headed over to my sister’s right away so I could start the endless snuggle fest with my nephew, Adrian.  He had grown so much since I last saw him, but with the power of technology and digital photos, I didn’t feel like I had missed any of it.  To my joyous surprise, he seemed remarkably comfortable with me right away.  Maybe it was from all of those times I had screamed “this is your Auntie!” at my sister’s stomach when pregnant.  He clearly recognized my voice.

As can be imagined, in 10 days time, there was a lot of ground to be covered with friends and family.  Thursday and Friday I spent at my downtown office, catching up with co-workers and eating way too much Chipotle.  Thursday after work, my best friend Ashley and I got the chance to catch up over drinks.  Ashley is my friend that hosted the gorgeous wedding in Wisconsin last August.

The highlights from the rest of my visit included:

Friday

My dad hosted a 60th birthday/retirement party.  My aunts and uncles from all sides came to my parents house and I got to catch up with all extended family at once.  The best part about Friday night (aside from my tipsy father’s humor when opening presents) was that my brother and his girlfriend arrived for a family filled weekend.

Daddio

Saturday

Saturday was spent with the family, swimming in my parent’s pool and lounging about.  That evening, my father was my date to my dear friend Francesca’s wedding.  It was held downtown at the top of the Wyndham, and we had an incredible view of that night’s thunderstorm.  My heart swelled with happiness at the marriage of my dear friend.  It was also another opportunity to be together with some of my best high school friends.  We call ourselves the “guidettes” – 3 Italian-American gals that went to rival Catholic grammar schools and became besties when in high school.  Aside from the guidette mini-reunion, one of the best parts of the evening was the flower girl approaching my father to “play with her”.  Clearly my dad has a way with children.  A big congrats to Francesca and Jeff!

Daddio

The Guidettes

The Guidettes

Sunday

Sunday my sister hosted Adrian’s baptism, and I was honored to be his God mother. He was so well-behaved during this very long day.  He was a champ when they poured the water on his head, and allowed all the aunts and uncles to pass him around at his party afterwards.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with all of my aunts, uncles, in-laws and Grandfather as well.  Plus it was such a treat to eat crazy amounts of sugar in the form of Adrian’s baptism cake – yum!!!

Baptism

Monday

Monday I was back in the office and was pleased to have woken up to the presence of my brother, who’s Sunday night flight back to New York had been cancelled.  I ended my work day with a drink with my former colleague, Audra, and we caught up on all that had passed since I had last seen her.

Monday night, lo and behold, my brother’s flight had been cancelled again!  This time, he was hanging out at my sister’s house (my parents ran out of clean sheets!) and so I got to spend even more time with both of my siblings.  His flight did not leave until the following evening.

Tuesday

I finished up the last bit of my work in the morning and spent the afternoon and evening with my brother and sister.  As much as he was annoyed at his flight cancellations, it was such a treat to spend two extra and very unexpected days with him.  Thank goodness for him, but sad for me, he finally made it home Tuesday night.

Wednesday

Wednesday was my first full vacation day of the trip.  I spent the morning visiting IHOP with my dad (YES!) and then unloaded the last of our condo storage unit.  We had finally sold our Chicago condo!  I then spent some time with Dana Bana and her adorable kids.

Thursday

The day started off with breakfast in Schaumburg with some of my first and most favorite co-workers from United Airlines – Lesley and Lea.  The last time I had seen them was before I first left for Switzerland, so there was plenty to catch up on!  From there I headed over to Marissa’s house, one of the guidettes, as I had some kinder egg treats for her adorable daughter.  Thursday night was a date night with my sister, where we did dinner and a movie.  I loved having an entire evening with just her – she is one of my favorite people in the whole world!

Sisters

Friday

Friday I spent the day with my sister and Adrian again – this was truly the trip of family time – and Friday evening was pizza and dessert with my Aunt Gina and her family.

Saturday

Saturday was the annual birthday dinner with some of my very best friends – the 17th to be exact!  We ate at Homestead on the Roof  which was incredibly delicious.  I couldn’t believe we had been hosting this tradition for 17 years! We truly are best friends forever.

Birthday Dinner

Birthday Dinner

Sunday

After spending most of the morning crying, I visited my sister and Adrian for one last round of tight hugs, and then spent the day with my parents in their pool.  The time to leave approached way too quickly, and before I knew it I was on a plane back to Zurich.

 

Visits back to Chicago are always bittersweet and filled with a bit of the old and a bit of new.  Since coming back, I have already been off on my next adventure in Russia, so stay tuned for another blog soon!