Saturday, December 7, 2019

Everything you need to know about Santa's reindeers

One my favourite past posts is about Santa's reindeers. So, here goes the question again... Do you know the names of all Santa's reindeer?

Originally, Santa had eight reindeer. And then Rudolph came along. So now he has nine. These are their names:
1. Dasher
2. Dancer
3. Prancer
4. Vixen
5. Comet
6. Cupid
7. Donner (or Donder)
8. Blitzen
9. Rudolph

Following are seven facts about reindeers:

1.) The names of Santa's reindeer are from the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas", more commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas," written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823.

2.) Most of Santa’s reindeer have male-sounding names, such as Blitzer, Comet, and Cupid. However, male reindeers shed their antlers around Christmas, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are likely not male, but female or castrati.

3.) Rudolph's story was originally written in verse by Robert L. May for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores in 1939, and published as a book to be given to children in the store at Christmas time. According to this story, Rudolph's glowing red nose made him a social outcast among the other reindeer. However, one Christmas Eve Santa Claus was having a lot of difficulty making his flight around the world because it was too foggy. When Santa went to Rudolph's house to deliver his presents he noticed the glowing red nose in the darkened bedroom and decided it could be a makeshift lamp to guide his sleigh. He asked Rudolph to lead the sleigh for the rest of the night, Rudolph accepted and returned home a hero for having helped Santa Claus.

4.) Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.

5.) Reindeer have large hooves that spread apart as they walk on the snow. They act like snowshoes and prevent the reindeer from sinking in the snow! Have you ever tried walking with snowshoes?  These special hooves also help them look for food beneath the snow.  The tendons in their hooves create a clicking sound when they walk.

6.) Reindeer have an excellent sense of smell. Because food is scarce in the Arctic, reindeer use their great sense of smell to detect food buried deep beneath the snow.

7.) Reindeer are excellent swimmers.

Friday, December 6, 2019

On the look out for San Nicolao...

One of the most important events on Switzerland's Christmas calendar is St Nicholas Day on December 6th. Samichlaus in the Swiss German part is known as San Nicolao in the Italian-speaking Ticino.

In some homes he comes unseen during the night of December 5th and leaves his offerings in shoes that have been filled with hay for his donkey and put outside the door.

In most parts of Switzerland, however, "Samichlaus" usually comes in person on December 6th, wearing a hooded red robe, ringing a small bell and carrying a burlap sack of gifts. He tends to be on the thin rather than fat side, and lives in the forest as opposed to the North Pole.

He quizzes children about their good and bad deeds of the past year. Once praise and blame have been distributed and the children have recited their obligatory verses, "Samichlaus" rewards them with "grittibänz" (bread men), chocolate, clementines and nuts.

Often the sack-bearer is not "San Nicolao" himself but his companion, a dark clothed figure with a blackened face who may threaten to carry bad children off in the sack. He answers to many names, depending on where he appears: Schmutzli, Père Fouettard, or l'uomo nero. Over the years though, and despite retaining his foreboding appearance, Schmutzli has evolved into a more benign figure.

So have you been good this year?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Christmas is in the air

On Saturday, December 7th, head down to the Piazza della Riforma in Lugano to watch the magical lighting animations that will be projected on the walls of the Town Hall giving visitors enchanting effects and a fairytale atmosphere! It will be possible to admire the animated light projections every day from 17:00 (one every hour), until December 27th, 2019.

If you want to know more about the city of Lugano, the tourist office offers an enchanting guided excursion called "Christmas is in the air" on Saturday 7, 14 and 21 December from 10:30 to 12:30.
Meeting point: Lugano Region Tourist Office in Piazza Riforma. Reservations required. The tour will be organised on request and held in the two prevalent languages. Call Tel. +41 58 220 65 05 or contact:

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Radio 3i Christmas song

It is not Christmas without the song of Radio3i, Ticino's local radio station. The long awaited moment for radio listeners is finally here. Natale Tücc Insema!

The notes of Benji and Fede are the basis for the 2019 Radio3i Christmas song. The summer smash "Where and when" lends its melody to the speakers of the Melide's station who convey their best wishes for the holidays to all their listeners.

The song's revised version reads "Tell me Merry Christmas" instead of "Tell me where and when", it is the seventh Christmas song of the radio station that started this tradition in 2013.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

Not only can your food be amazing on Thanksgiving, your drinks can be too. Here's a big cheers to you all. Thank you for being such great supporters of Expat with Kids.

A little tip: This drink is quick to put together, and is very refreshing and light while baking all day with so much sugar, flour, and pumpkin!

Cranberry Mimosa recipe:
White Cranberry Juice
Sparkling Elderflower Soda (optional)
Frozen Cranberries

Add equal parts Prosecco and white cranberry juice to each glass. Add in a swig of elderflower soda, and garnish with some frozen cranberries.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Pie recipe

Thanksgiving is coming up.  Pumpkin pie springs to mind… but ... have you ever tried baking a Sweet Potato Pie! This pie is luscious, perfectly smooth, sweet, and beautifully spiced. Credits go to Joy the baker.

For the Crust:
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold buttermilk

For the Filling:
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes, from 2 medium sweet potatoes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup (10 ounces) evaporated milk, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

To make the pie crust:
1.) in a medium bowl whisk together flour, sugar, and salt
2.) add cold, cubed butter and using your fingers (or a potato masher) work the butter into the flour mixture
3.) quickly break the butter down into the flour mixture, some butter pieces will be the size of oat flakes, some will be the size of peas
4.) create a well in the mixture and pour in the cold buttermilk
5.) use a fork to bring to dough together and try to moisten all of the flour bits
6.) add a bit more buttermilk if necessary, but you want to mixture to be shaggy and not outwardly wet
7.) on a lightly floured work surface, dump out the moist and shaggy dough mixture. Gently knead into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator will help re-chill the butter and distribute the moisture.)
8.) roll out the pie crust on a well floured surface, 1/8 inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter
9.) transfer it to a pie pan and trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan
10.) fold the edges under and crimp with your fingers or a fork
11.) cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place a rack in the upper third of the oven.

To make the filling:
12.) first peel the sweet potatoes
13.) dice the sweet potatoes into large 3-inch chunks.
14.) place potato pieces in a large pot and cover with cool water
15.) place over medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender throughout, about 20 minutes.  Test the doneness of the potatoes using a thin knife.  If the knife meets any resistance, simmer the potatoes a bit longer.
16.) drain into a colander.
17.) in the same large pot place cooked potato pieces, the packed brown sugar, all of the spices, salt, butter, and half of the evaporated milk. Cook on low flame, using a potato masher to mash the potatoes and they cook.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Make sure that the mixture is as smooth as possible. Once mixture is smooth and fragrant, remove from fire and let cool in pot.
18.) in a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining evaporated milk, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.
19.) pour the egg mixture into the warm sweet potato mixture
20.) pour the prepared filling into the pie crust
21.) place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and cook until cooked through, about 45 to 50 minutes.
22.) to test the pie for doneness lightly shake the baking sheet.  If the center of the pie has a wavy jiggle it needs more time in the oven.  If the center of the pie has a lighter, more structured jiggle, it’s done!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

St Edwards’s Christmas Market in Piazza Manzoni

St Edwards’s Church is happy to invite you to visit them at the Christmas Market in Piazza Manzoni from November 30th to December 12th, 2019.

All your favourite traditional British Christmas items will be on sale at booth No.107. So hunt for the right booth and you'll be rewarded with Christmas pudding, mince pies, Christmas cake, marmalades and chutneys.

Every day from 11:00 to 19:00! Come support and reach out to the local community during Advent.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Christmas in Lugano - Natale a Lugano

Christmas in Lugano starts with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Piazza della Riforma on December 1st! From that moment, the heart of the city becomes a bright village, bestowing opportunities for entertainment, musical performances, and surprises until the Epiphany.

The city embraces the magic of Christmas, filling the festive period with cheer and events to suit all ages. The streets and squares of the city centre will be glittering and sparkling and will host the traditional Christmas market, which will be inaugurated on December 1st when the Christmas tree lights are switched on in the Piazza della Riforma.

Over 50 Christmas market stalls will offer a wide range of gift ideas, from handicrafts and decorations to food specialities, and will be open every day until December 24th from 11:00 to 19:00.

Also don't miss the food huts between the Piazza della Riforma and Piazza Manzoni that will offer something to suit all palates with various culinary delights such as bratwurst, pretzels and roasted chestnuts. There is no shortage of hot, mulled wine and you'll find plenty of stands with panettone, chocolate, sausages, potatoes with melted raclette cheese, and a variety of craft beers and wines. Note that many of the food and drink stalls will remain open until January 6th, 2020.

Families, on the other hand, can have fun in the Christmas Village, which will be offering musical entertainment, amusements and activities for children.

Don't miss the Coca Cola Christmas truck on Sunday, December 22nd, 2019 from 10:00 to 20:00 in Piazza Manzoni (fountain side).

Thanks to the initiative of the Società dei Mercanti of Lugano, the legendary Coca-Cola Christmas truck will be parked on the lakefront and will bring with it a multitude of gifts and numerous other surprises for the whole family. Come meet the funny, red-dressed, bearded Santa who became one of the symbols of Christmas thanks to the advertising campaign commissioned to the designer Haddon Sundlom in 1931 by the American Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta.

New Year's Eve is also a date to be remembered, with a big party in Piazza della Riforma to welcome the New Year in together. A special evening with lots of music and entertainment. Stay tuned for more!

Click here for a programme:

Saturday, November 23, 2019

How an average Swiss household spends its income

In 2017, an average Swiss household contained 2.18 people.

Recently published figures by the FSO (Federal Statistical Office) show that average (mean) monthly household income in Switzerland in 2017 was CHF 9,917. This is equal to CHF 119,004 a year.

This income is made up of salary income (CHF 6,320; 64%), freelance income (CHF 984; 10%), investment income (CHF 494; 5%) and money from the government (CHF 2,119; 21%) – pensions, benefits and other welfare and transfers.

The main item of expenditure is taxes and compulsory insurance (CHF 2,933; 30%), although this includes compulsory salary pension payments, so it is probably more meaningful to separate this figure into CHF 2,588 (26%) of taxes and unavoidable insurance payments and CHF 405 (4%) of pension savings.

The next largest items of spending are housing and energy (CHF 1,463; 15%), transport (CHF 742; 8%), food and non-alcoholic drink (CHF 636; 6%), optional insurance – mainly health (CHF 591: 6%), restaurants and hotels (CHF 571; 6%), recreation and culture (CHF 577; 6%), extra healthcare spending on top of insurance (CHF 244; 2%), food and clothing (CHF 202; 2%), communication (CHF 189; 2%) and other expenses (CHF 648; 7%).

The average household in Switzerland regularly saves CHF 1,111 (11%) a month on top of compulsory salary-based pension savings.

Click here for more info on cost of living in Switzerland

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Van Gogh Alive. Expressing art through vision and music!

Discover the world’s most visited multi-sensory exhibition experience.

Venture into an exciting new world. Forego all preconceived ideas of traditional museum visits, dispel all notions of tiptoeing through silent art galleries to view masterpieces from afar, change how you engage with art. Vitalize your senses and challenge your beliefs in a completely unique, stimulating Vincent van Gogh exhibition experience.

Be prepared for a vibrant symphony of light, colour and sound, combined and amplified to create what visitors are calling “an unforgettable multi-sensory experience”.

For one and a half hours you'll be able to explore the work and life experiences of this prolific artist during the period 1880 to 1890. Synchronized to a powerful classical score, more than 3,000 Van Gogh images at enormous scale create a thrilling display that fills giant screens, walls, columns, ceilings and even the floor – immersing you'd your kids entirely in the vibrant colours and vivid details that constitute Van Gogh’s unique style.

Venue: Van Gogh Alive
Where: Centro Esposizioni, Via Campo Marzio, 6900 Lugano
Date: From November 14th, 2019 to January 19th, 2020
Times: Mon, Tue, Wed and Fri 13:00 - 18:30 ; Thu 13:00 - 21:00 ; Sat, Sun and holidays 10:00 - 20:00

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