Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Caran d’Ache Saga – the story of a global Genevan brand

Hopefully every Swiss living abroad will soon be using Swiss Caran d’Ache pencils to support the economy back home,” wrote the “Correspondenzblatt für die Schweizer und Schweizervereine im Ausland” in 1925. Geneva-based pencil manufacturer Caran d’Ache - still a fledgling company in those days - had just opened a shop in Berlin. 

This was the beginning of a success story that saw Swiss writing and colouring products become a global hit. Freelance author Ralph Brühwiler tells the story of Caran d’Ache in a new, lavishly illustrated book. His evocatively written chronicle contains a wealth of facts and details. 

Company founder Arnold Schweitzer, an industrialist from eastern Switzerland, features prominently, Brühwiler describing him as a kindly businessman who experienced his fair share of setbacks. The author also explains why the company name transliterates the Russian for pencil, how the company’s laboratories and workshops became a conveyor belt for new products, and why Caran d’Ache pencils are just as popular among Swiss school children as they are among famous artists. Caran d’Ache is a global brand these days, and is still owned by three Swiss families.

Unfortunately, this book is only available in German but definitely worth reading if you dominate Goethe's language. ;)

Die Caran d’Ache Saga. Von Genf in die Welt.” NZZ Libro 2020 (in German), 264 pages; CHF 49.-

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Roger's insider tip...Ticino

Here's a pairing we didn't see coming: Robert DeNiro and Roger Federer. Ask the Swiss tennis star, recently named the new brand ambassador for Switzerland Tourism, and he'd say the same. “I am a huge fan of his so I couldn't believe he said yes to the campaign,” says Federer, who calls up the Hollywood actor in a new commercial spotlighting Switzerland's spectacular beauty. 

The short film features the unlikely duo, split between New York City and Zermatt, with a guest appearance from the towering Matterhorn. 

"The outdoors are where Switzerland shines", Federer says, reminiscing on summer hikes near his home in Graubünden and beyond. "We're also very proud of our lakes and rivers. I think Ticino, the Italian-speaking part, lends itself very well for a beautiful summer trip. A lot of people from the Swiss-German part travel down to the Italian-speaking part because it's really a hidden gem. People know about it here in Switzerland, but not on a worldwide level."

Saturday, April 24, 2021

ChatterPack's brilliant free resource list

ChatterPack is a voluntary-run SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) hub, that works to support families, schools and professionals through sharing practical, respectful advice and information. 

To keep boredom at bay and support learning during the coronavirus outbreak, they created a range of online resources, including arts, culture & literature, wellbeing, podcasts, and a home learning list for schools and families during school closures.

But their site is so much more, you'll find a range of information, blogs and courses for adults as well. Since France is still under lockdown ChatterPack's post "A list of free, online, boredom-busting resources!" has been a go-to website for my family. 

My personal favourite is the typing club, a free typing tutor, my goal being - after decades of typing with my eyes glued to the keyboard - to finally learn how to touch type. My only problem remains how to use the different language keyboards, especially when typing in French or German... les accents and die Umlaute remain a challenge.

Have a peak and get lost in the wonderful world of virtual tours, music, literature, arts, online learning, geography, nature, history just to name a few categories:

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter under lockdown in Paris

It is Easter weekend... we were suppose to be in Madrid, maybe Ibiza with a bit of luck even in sunny Ticino. However, we are... once again... in lockdown... this time across all of France. Graciously we will not need to fill out a "justificatif de déplacement" every time we leave the house and we are allowed to venture out 10km rather than 1 km but nevertheless the Parisian have all but resigned and the mood is very subdued. 

All the French aggressiveness has been sucked out of the people. Obviously amiability is still not Parisians' forte but the city has become more liveable. The lack of millions of tourists has calmed the speed and intensiveness of daily routine. The city renowned as global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture is unrecognizable. We have now reached a point of utter monotony. All the reasons that make Paris such a unique city are not available... restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, arenas, concert halls, monuments, galleries, shopping malls, exhibitions, tours, all gone since October 2020!!!!

Still Parisians are showing their defiance. The river banks are full to the rim with picnickers when the sun is shining (despite lockdown) and personal trainers are making a killing giving exercise classes in the parks... who would have ever believed that is what living in Paris boils down to?

Indeed, while the country's first lockdown a year ago meant closed parks and gardens as well as a stay-at-home order that allowed just a single hour a day for getting fresh air, France's latest lockdown encourages venturing outdoors. The new rules allow unlimited time outside within a 10-kilometre radius before the 7pm nationwide curfew and public green spaces remain open. The upshot: Easter egg hunts are allowed.

So, for those of you who have not fled town in search of greener pastures, enjoy your Easter Sunday in an usually quiet city known as Europe's most popular tourist city. Joyeuses Pâques!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Moving with kids

For those of you moving soon, I wish to share a brilliant idea I came across in my favourite facebook Group called "Two Fat Expats". The "Two Fat Expats" believe that expat life should be lived large: Making the most of it, filling it up with as much as you can, and if you’re on the move – enjoying rather than enduring. We all know that it can be really tough being away from family, friends, and familiarity – which is why hopfully Two Fat Expats will provide ideas and inspiration to make your expat life fatter.

This group is all about support, encouragement and giggles with a bit of expat reality thrown in. Following is a recent post that the author allowed me to share as it may help some of you peek into your kids emotions:

Debby (changed name) will be starting a new Expat chapter with her young children. She told them last night that they are moving. As expected tears were flowing, so she decided to create three colourful jars and placed them in a highly transited area of the house with post it notes and pens:

one jar is for them to write their "feelings" 

the second one for "questions"

and the last one for "wishes" 

Over the weekend lots of pit stops were made with frantic writing action. Debby admits, it made her sad to see the word "angry" in the feelings jar, but it is a beautiful window into how the kids are processing the news about their upcoming move. 

Making sure to say ALL feelings, wishes and questions are ok and welcomed is important. Don't forget to made a point to write into the jars too, so they see that Mummy and Daddy are also processing this moment. Good luck and bon voyage! 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

International Day of Happiness

Positive psychology is defined as the study of "positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions," in other words, of what leads to happiness.

One of the founders of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, developed a theory on happiness known as the PERMA model, an acronym for Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishments — five pillars that are central to a person's feeling of fulfillment. She also points out that the search for happiness is not about experiencing permanent highs, but about living a fulfilled life. 

When the United Nations declared March 20 to be International Day of Happiness in 2013, they had something else in mind: Basic conditions for happiness were at least 2,000 calories and access to 100 liters of water a day, a place to cook, six square meters of living space and six years of going to school — which is not a given everywhere in the world. 

The perception of happiness may be subjective, but some things are the same wherever you go. Laughter is contagious and makes people happy, as does being with other people or spending time in nature. 

Every year on March 20, the UN publishes the World Happiness Report that looks at the state of happiness in 156 countries. It will be interesting to see whether and how a year of the pandemic has affected people's happiness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Questions for kids during Corona times

In order to help kids process their emotions about living in the time of Corona, Alexandra McDougall has come up with tools dedicated to helping them. 

Check out her flip through guided journal for kids from age 5 to 11 called "Corona Pirates". Full of funny illustrations and thought-provoking questions it allows children to write down their thoughts about everything that has made “Corona normal” quite odd. 

Here are some sample questions:

We have all learnt new things about ourselves during Corona normal. What have you learnt about yourself?

Did you create any special moments with your family recently?

What made these moments so extraordinary?

Have you found comfort in a book, show or game recently?

What did you enjoy about it?

Did it help you calm down or help you get out your energy?

Did it help you find words you were looking for or forget everything for a few minutes?

What can you do to make life a better or happier place, when things move forward, to life after Corona?

Monday, March 8, 2021

The origin of Women's Day

The origin of International Women's Day (IWD) is drawn from more than one historical event and began as an acknowledgement of women's struggle to make their workplaces better. Created out of protest and political action, it is a symbol for all those who honour women's struggles to improve their lives.

Originally the day of remembrance symbolised the efforts to end appalling working conditions endured by women.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many women in industrially-developing countries entered the labour force taking jobs with low wages, poor working conditions and little or no chance of improvement. Such conditions led to industrial disputes, involving both unionised and non-unionised women workers. It was their struggle that created the global impetus for an International Women's Day.

Today, it is also seen as a day of celebration of women, all that they do, and the accomplishments they have made. Women and men celebrate International Women's Day to honour those who began the struggle and those who continue to work for change and recognition of all efforts to improve the lives of women, both locally and globally.

Did you know that back in 1789, during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" demanded women's suffrage for the first time as they marched to Versailles?

The first recorded organised action by working women anywhere in the world took place in New York on March 8, 1857, when hundreds of women in the garment and textile factories staged a strike in protest of low wages, long working hours, inadequate pay, inhumane working conditions and the lack of the right to vote.

In 1917 in Russia, International Women’s Day acquired great significance – it was the flashpoint for the Russian Revolution. On March 8th women workers in Petrograd held a mass strike and demonstration demanding Peace and Bread. The strike movement spread from factory to factory and effectively became an insurrection. In 1922, in honour of the women’s role on IWD in 1917, Lenin declared that March 8th should be designated officially as women’s day.

The United Nations involvement principally began in 1977 when the General Assembly passed a resolution inviting each country to proclaim, in accordance with its historical and national traditions and customs, any day of the year as United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.

Over 185 countries have so far ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, (CEDAW) legally committing themselves to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. It requires the UN Member States that have ratified it to set in place mechanisms to fully realize women's rights.

Here is a list of famous influential women who changed the world to share with your children and which will provide endless hours of discussion. It includes women’s rights activists, female poets, musicians, politicians, humanitarians and scientists:

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The power of food

It is normal to feel homesick when you are living away from your home but I start feeling homesick when I return to Switzerland. This manifests itself especially in delicious food. My favourite shopping spree is not to the fancy fashion boutiques but rather a quick runaround the Coop, one of Switzerland's two supermarket giants. Further, I just cannot resist those Early Beck bakery's? Too many temptations in too many shapes and colours. I call it Swiss comfort food... here are some of my favourite.

Teatime on the balcony. A chocolate-filled Carac with my tea.

Expat Girls favourite: Chiacchiere di Carnevale

Take-away lunch on top of the mountain: the best hot dog ever!

The most Swiss of all drinks: Ramseier and Rivella

Hot chocolate last year in a cosy café...

Hot chocolate on-the-go this year due to Covid restrictions.

I'll take them all, please. Carac and Vermicelles.

No winter holiday is complete without a raclette accompanied by a glass of Fendant.

Gruyères' best kept secret outside of Switzerland: meringues and cream.

A typical Swiss light lunch: Laugenbrötli, Bündnerfleisch, Salat und Ramseier.

Cannot get enough of those tea cakes.

An epic chocolate bar for yourself or as a present.

This little lemon cake made it all the way back to Paris for teatime.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Sparenmoos my new favourite place

When my bestie - who has tons of energy and knows the area well - starts sending messages suggesting a variety of activities, I duly take note. They can only be worth checking out. I especially love the ones with names you cannot pronounce unless you're Swiss. 

Turns out we needed to cross the "Heimchueweid" to reach "Sparenmoss", a sun-drenched high plateau above Zweisimmen boasting magical vistas of the Bernese Alps, the Simmental and Saanenland. Its peace and tranquillity is a source of strength, plus the vistas are simply good for the soul. I could not be further removed from Paris in spirit and in body. 

Picture perfect

Sparenmoos enchants with a fantastic view from Stockhorn to Les Diablerets

It is a magnificent snow-clad fairytale landscape...

... and no one in sight.

The mountains are calling

Happy to be back

The mountain restaurant is open for take-away. The menu is simple but delicious.

The "Site Alp" serve their own farm produce and offer authentic home-cooked food.
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