The “other” Hausfrau

hausfrau_glamour_16dec14_pr_b‘A lonely woman is a dangerous woman.’ Doktor Messerli spoke with grave sincerity. “A lonely woman is a bored woman. Bored women act on impulse.” Jill Alexander Essbaum, Hausfrau, page 82

Back in May, while meeting up with one my closest and longest known friends, Jenna, in Rome, she recommended the novel Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. Amused by the title and intrigued by Jenna’s brief synopsis, I downloaded it onto my Kindle as soon as Martin and I got home from our holiday.

Switzerland is an insular country, sealed at its boundaries and neutral by choice for two centuries. With its left hand it reaches out to refugees and seekers of asylum. With its right, it snatches freshly laundered monies and Nazi gold. […] And like the landscape upon which they’ve settled, the Swiss themselves are closed at their edges. They tend naturally towards isolation, conspiring to keep outsiders at a distance by appointing not one, two, or three, but four official national languages. (page 10)

I was hooked from the first few pages, in particular, from the moment I read the lines above. Perhaps it was the parallels that I could immediately draw between myself and the protagonist, Anna, (both expats living in the German part of Switzerland, introverted, husbands work in banking industry, unemployed, taking German lessons at Migros Klubschule), or perhaps it was the insights into a culture that I have been living in for almost a year and a half, but I wanted to devour each and every line of this novel from the moment I started reading.

This woman wants a friend. Anna recognized that want. It made her wince. Solitude was her anchor. A familiar misery, and anyway the safest most sensible approach. (page 47)

I will warn you though, this is not a “happy” novel. The protagonist, Anna, an American expat, living in Switzerland with her Swiss banker husband and three children, is severely depressed, disenchanted and disconnected from herself and those around her. She uses sex with different partners outside of her marriage to help cope  with her life which has become unbearable. Many critics of the novel, focus on the extramarital affairs aspect of the novel, likening it to Fifty Shades of Grey or Desperate Houswives, however, I believe that these are shallow, unfair comparisons. The sex depicted is not glorified. At no point while reading did I ever think, “huh, this affair business sounds like fun. I should try it!” The sex is sad, violent, dirty and desperate.

‘It’s quite common for the subconscious to create intentional scenarios that force you to face something you’ve been ignoring. Your dreams might get louder and more violent. You may become forgetful or accident prone. Psyche will do anything to get your attention. She will sabotage your consciousness if she must.’ (page 201)

I usually tend to skim over narrative bits to get to the dialogue, but the “bits in between” were my favourite parts. Many times I found myself taken aback by how beautifully the narrative described certain feelings and reactions to situations faced by Anna. For the first time I even highlighted lines so I could go back and read them again and again.

It’s an otherworldly moment when the curtains behind which a lie has been hiding are pulled apart. When the slats on the blinds are forced open and a flash of truth explodes in the room. You can feel the insanity in the air. Light shatters every lie’s glass. You have no choice but to confess. (page 268)

Of course, the Swiss are not too keen on the novel as it does not paint Switzerland in the most flattering light and from comments I’ve read from review sites it appears to be a “vegemite novel”. You either love it or hate it. I think it’s clear which side I’m on. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts. If not, I’d definitely recommend you give it a try.

xx BHF

Plop it like it’s hot!

It’s no secret that I love talking hair and I love trying new styles and techniques (I was featured on Whoorl here & here AGES ago). As you can see, my hair was fairly curly back then. I did straighten it about once a week, but this never seemed to effect the overall condition of my hair. It would go straight back to curly after washing.

When I moved to London six years ago, my curls seemed to abandon me as soon as I left Canadian soil. No matter what I tried, they just weren’t the same. My hair would look curly while still wet, but as my hair dried the curls fell out and just looked limp and untidy. I like my hair to look good or at least decent so I spent the next five years living my life with straightened hair.

Throughout these five years, I did try to rejuvenate my curls with deep conditioning treatments, oils and masks, but to no avail. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never have nice, curly hair again when I stumbled across this video on YouTube. Now, my hair is kind of an asshole and usually these sorts of gimmicky tricks just don’t work. I was definitely sceptical, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.

I plopped my freshly washed, combed through with product, hair into one of my old, long sleeved Gap t-shirts, went to bed and crossed my fingers that I would wake up with beautiful natural curls in the morning.

And, you guys – I’m shocked, it totally worked!

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I’ve tried plopping it overnight and plopping my hair for a couple hours in the morning and both work great (although I’m not sure Martin is particularly enamoured with this new, sexy bedtime look). I’ve been wearing my hair curly for the passed two weeks and it’s been so nice not having to bother with a blow dryer or a flat iron.

If you have curly or wavy hair, definitely give this a try and let me know how it goes!

xx BHF

No two ever the same.

Since moving to the new apartment, we’ve experienced some spectacular sunsets. On more than one occasion, usually during dinner, I’ve dropped what I was doing to pick up my camera and capture the cotton candy skies. They truly never are the same one day to the next, or even one moment to the next, and I never tire of witnessing (or photographing) them.

xx BHF

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A Tale of Two Spiders

I may get my looks, knack for cooking and cleaning genes from my momma, but my love and fascination of nature – from the little things to the big, furry to the slimy – I definitely got from my dad. So in honour of Father’s Day yesterday, I thought I’d share this story.

Just like my dad, I also have an aversion/fear of spiders. I don’t mind them if they aren’t in my home or on my body or, ew, in my hair; if there is a safe distance between me and the eight legged freaks of nature arachnids, I actually find them quite interesting.

I was aware since moving into our new place that a spider had set up camp outside our kitchen window. It had built a large web in the right hand corner of the window and spent most of his time tucked up into an open air duct with just one little, hairy spidery leg poised on a trigger line. I rarely saw him, and since he was outside, I decided to just let him be and never open the kitchen window ever again. From now on, I will refer to him as Ulrich.

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Last night after Martin and I returned from a walk in the woods nearby (we are turning into such good little Swiss people), I noticed that Ulrich was outside of his usual hidey-hole. On closer inspection I noticed a much smaller spider (let’s call him Sven) busily setting up his own tiny web using a couple of the radial lines from the Ulrich’s web as his anchor threads. As Sven busily worked away, Ulrich was getting more and more pissed off because Sven was triggering his web. At first he sat half way out of his hole and just used his front legs to giggle his web a little. This would frighten Sven and he would momentarily stop.

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After a few minutes though Sven would start up again and when Ulrich’s little shaking didn’t work, he ran out of his hole near the centre of his web and jumped up and down quite rigorously, while still being attached to the web. Of course, Sven would stop his work…but only for a few minutes.

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This little routine went on a few times until Sven completed his web. I will let both of them remain for the time being, just as long as Ulrich doesn’t turn out to be a Birgitta with all of her babies.

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I had to giggle though because even Swiss spiders get pissed off when their neighbours try to work on a Sunday.

xx BHF

The current state of things

Ugh, you guys. We are in the midst of moving to a new apartment and my enthusiasm is waning. I have half a blog post constructed in my head about the moving process in Switzerland (because it’s f*cked complicated), but that will have to wait until the move is finally over (this upcoming Sunday).

Because we are thrifty cheap, eco-conscious cheap and unconventional cheap, we’ve decided to forego the traditional pack everything into boxes, rent a van and move in one day moving process and have instead moved the entire contents of our apartment (minus the big furniture as it came furnished) one (ONE!!!) bloody suitcase at a time. Using public transport. Since we had two weeks overlapping from when we took possession of the new apartment and when we needed to vacate our old one, we thought it would be a great idea to do it this way. I say “we”, but it’s mainly been me. Before and after walking the dogs, I’ve made trips back and forth to the new apartment. In total I’ve made over 16 return journeys. I’ve been scolded by bus drivers in bloody German and received bemused looks from old ladies that have seen me make this journey 3,4,5 times in a day (I am sure that moving apartments this way is totally “verboten” but I could care less at this point). I am so totally over it. Every time I return to our new, big, clean apartment I don’t want to leave. Because this:

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The good news is that it is almost over.  Well, “over” in that most of our things have been shifted, but now the real hard work begins; cleaning time! And the Swiss don’t mess around with this part of moving (again, this will be detailed in a later post).

I am hoping that my new surroundings will motivate me to write here more because I have posts in my head all of the time (and they must come out!), plus I have a trip to Rome to talk about because it was so awesome. But I can’t think of Rome right now as there are windows to clean, floors to shine and taps to descale.

See you on the other side!

xx BHF