Monday, December 17, 2018

The grooviest Christmas music

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without them: I am talking about Christmas Carols. We do sing the classic versions at home but I have always had a penchant for the more groovy sounds of Christmas. Here is my top 10 list of Christmas albums.

Beach Boys, Christmas with the Beach Boys
Sleigh bells are the background instrument of choice in most of the fun-in-the-sun Beach Boys hits—so really, we should have known they'd create a memorable Christmas album, clearly longing for some winter in their world. The most famously broadcast hits from this CD each Christmas are the 1967 single "Little Saint Nick" and "Merry Christmas, Baby."

Elvis' Christmas Album
Here, the original Elvis' Christmas Album. Part rock, part blues and part distinctively Elvis, some say this is the only album from which fans can still get a glimpse into his early artistic inspiration. Fan favorites: "Blue Christmas", "Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)," and "Santa Claus is Back in Town."

The Carpenters, Christmas Collection
Although some say the double-disc is exactly what's to be expected from Karen's sweet voice and Richard's "famously light, inoffensive arrangements," it's also noted that these recordings caught the singer's vocals in their prime. Best known hit: "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve."

The Christmas Collection: The Best of Jackson 5
When we think J5, we think joy and novelty, a tornado of energy and little-boy brilliance. The boy-band quintet (young MJ and brothers Jermaine, Jackie, Tito and Marlon) lives up to standards on their Christmas album, too. Get up and groove (with '70s-style moves) to "Up on the Housetop."

Ray Charles, The Spirit of Christmas
Mmmm—soulful and gravelly, just the sound we expect. Ray's only recorded Christmas album, released in 1985, gives you the holiday fuzzies. You can hear him smiling during "Winter Wonderland," a fan favorite, but you'll be smiling during his famous, 1961 duet with Betty Carter, "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

The Christmas Collection: The Best of Stevie Wonder
Stevie's voice bellows young and sweet from these lullaby-like carols originally recorded in 1967. The new collection adds two tracks, but the fan favorites are the same: Swoon over "Someday at Christmas" and "Ave Maria."

Nat King Cole, The Christmas song
To this Christmas album Nat brings a fun and bubbly side best known from non-holiday hit, "It's only a Paper Moon" but also casts a captivating spell, such as he did in "Mona Lisa". Holiday Classic: "The Christmas Song" written by Mel Tormé.

Bing Crosby, White Christmas
Bing's voice is rich and unforgettable. The recordings, most originally completed in the '40s, some in the '30s, are crackly—the arrangements, outdated. But the scratchy changes in pitch are specifically what carries the charm and appeal for Christmas-music lovers now. Best known recording: "White Christmas."

Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra
Frank, unlike other artists, leaves untouched the classic Christmas carols he chose for this 1957 release, but does add his characteristically sly touch to two songs: "The Christmas Waltz" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

The Temptations, Give Love at Christmas
Recognized mostly for soulful R&B hits "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," The Temptations similarly shine in Christmas hits "Everything for Christmas," "The Christmas Song" and "Silent Night." Let one of the most inspired bands from the 60s, 70 and 80s ignite happy holiday memories.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Best Christmas movies ever...

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is watching Christmas movies! There's nothing quite like cozying up on the couch to watch a classic holiday film, whether a Christmas movie for kids or a family-friendly flick. Here is a list of Christmas movies from the old classics to contemporary fairy tales. My personal favourites? "White Christmas" and "Planes, Train and Automobiles"

Remember the Night (1940)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Holiday Inn (1942)
Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
A Holiday Affair (1949)
A Christmas Carol (1951)
White Christmas (1954)
The Apartment (1960)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Trading Places (1983)
A Christmas Carol (1984)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Scrooged (1988)
Home Alone 1 (1990)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Santa Clause (1994)
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Love Actually (2003)
Elf (2003)
Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
The Polar Express (2004)
Joyeux Noel (2005)
The Holiday (2006)
A Christmas Prince (2017)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Rudolph and the other reindeers

Eight little reindeer beside Santa's sleigh, 

Getting hitched up - to be on their way.
The first one said, "We can't be late,"

The second one said, "Christmas won't wait."

The third one said, 'The sleigh's full of toys....."

The fourth one said, "For all the girls and boys."

The fifth one said, '"I'm ready to fly...."
The sixth one said, "Across the evening sky."
The seventh one said, "Look, it's starting to snow."
The eighth one said, "I think it's time to go."
Ready?" asked Santa. "It's almost Christmas Day."
And off they all flew - - up, up, and away!

One of my most popular posts around Christmas is: How many reeindeer does Santa have?
I therefore decided to come up with some more fun facts on reindeer.

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.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Swiss holiday home like no other

Searching for some holiday inspiration, I came across a most amazing site. How about taking a trip through Switzerland's cultural heritage with magnificasa? Don't get discouraged by the website's language barrier... this is so worth exploring!

The foundation "Ferien im Baudenkmal" was founded in 2005 with the aim to take over endangered monuments by renovating and turning them into holiday homes.

In Switzerland, the most varied architectural monuments can be found in the smallest of spaces: from traditional farmhouses to town houses. Many buildings are witnesses of industrialization or a record of the beginnings of tourism, renovated they are outstanding examples of modern Swiss architecture.

These monuments - witnesses of a moving past and important components of our townscapes and landscapes - are often demolished because they no longer meet today's usage requirements. The foundation "Ferien im Baudenkmal" commits itself to the preservation of valuable historic buildings throughout Switzerland.

The best part is that the carefully restored objects are made available to the public by renting the houses for vacations at reasonable prices. Many of the monuments are in remote regions. In addition to the idea of ​​saving cultural heritage, holidays in these historic monuments create a basis for sustainable tourism and, in the long term, add value to these regions, which are often at risk of emigration.

Clicking through the history of their portfolio is like undertaking a voyage through Switzerland's diverse cultural history: My personal favourite is this little jewel in Bondo deep in the Grison valley:

Go ahead, give it a try.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A letter to the Swiss Santa

Do you have kids asking to write a letter to Father Christmas? Don't go searching online, the solution is the Swiss Postal Service... efficient as always!

Whoever writes a letter to the Christ Child (who - in the German part of Switzerland - brings the presents at Christmas) will get an answer. The same applies to St. Nicholas and Babbo Natale. A special team at the Swiss Post answers every request on their behalf.

In Switzerland each year approximately 16,000 letters are addressed to Santa. Addresses range from the local woods to the North Pole. And the post office delivers them all. Not to the forest, not into heaven, not to the North Pole either, but to Chiasso, where a special team answers the letters on behalf of the addressee.

The only prerequisite is that the sender is identifiable. And even if the sender only marks "Sébastien, 5" or "Anna Lena, Trueb," the post will move heaven and earth to determine the complete address. For example, by checking the postmark. Thus, only four hundred letters remain unanswered.

Three quarters of the letters are from the French part of Switzerland and Ticino - an interesting cultural detail. To the Christ Child, the St. Nicholas and Babbo Natale, origins don't matter, they reply eloquent in all four national languages as well as in English.

And what does Santa's team deliver? It could be a Christmas story, a flip book or a box of crayons. Something that will make the children's faces light up and is sure to make them smile.

Friday, December 7, 2018

St Edward’s celebrates Christmas

Did you know that Anglican worship has been held in Lugano for over a century? St.Eward's Church itself was consecrated in 1902. Among its features is a 12th century Venetian holy water stoup which is now the baptismal font.

St Edward’s welcomes visitors as well as permanent and temporary residents from all over the world. Whatever their background or circumstances, everyone is invited.

They have a very busy Christmas time coming up:

Sunday, December 16th:
Christmas Service and Sunday School Nativity Play at 11 am.

Sunday December 23rd:
Service of Nine Lessons & Carols at 10:30 am
Come and sing some of the best-known and most-loved Christmas carols – the works of poets and musicians from different lands down the ages, that testify to the universality of the Christian message

Christmas Day, Tuesday December 25th:
Sung Eucharist for the Nativity of our Lord at10:30 am
O Come all ye faithful, O come let us adore Him, born this happy morning!

Christmas market from Saturday, Dec 1st to Wednesday, December 12th: 11am – 7 pm
Also... don't miss the St. Edward's Christmas Market stall in Lugano. ALL YOUR FAVOURITE TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS PRODUCE WILL BE ON SALE AT THEIR BOOTH AT PIAZZA MANZONI... Christmas puddings, cakes, chutneys, marmalades, mince pies, scones and sausage rolls, as they reach out to the larger local community in Advent.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

When San Nicolao pops by...

It hit me this afternoon while I was sitting in front of my computer... Samichlaus had not come by! A big tradition in Switzerland, one that cannot go unnoticed even if you live in Paris. I popped out to buy some ingredients and went to work.

Expat daughter would be so happy to find a taste of "home" for teatime. She still remembers when her school class in Lugano went into the woods looking for San Nicolao. He would be waiting to distribute a Grittibänz, mandarines and some nuts to the good children, the bad children had to work things out with his helper "Schmutzli" who was considerable less understanding. However, after reciting a little poem in honour of Saint Nick they would all walk back to school with a big grin on their face carrying lots of goodies to take home.

Here is a super-easy, fast, yummy recipe for Grittibänz:

500 gr flour
1 tablespoon salt
70 gr sugar
70 gr butter
2 dl milk
1 egg
25 gr yeast
1 egg for coating
For the decoration: raisins, shelled almonds, candied fruit, possibly coarse granulated sugar.

1.) Cream the yeast with a little sugar in a cup.
2.) Place the flour in a bowl and mix it with salt, sugar, slightly warmed butter, lukewarm milk, the egg and the yeast to a dough.
3.) Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Cover and leave to rise to twice the amount in a warm place.
4.) Knead the dough again, use a knife to cut off pieces of dough in the desired size and roll out to an oval shape.
5.) Mark the head by pressing the dough together slightly and turn the head to the back to make the neck. Cut out the arms and legs with scissors and place them in the required position.
6.) Decorate the figures with raisins, shelled almonds and candied fruit and trim the hat with remnants of dough. Leave to rise and put in a cold place for 20 to 30 minutes.
7.) Before baking, brush with egg and possibly sprinkle with coarse granulated sugar. In a preheated oven, bake for 20 to 30 minutes at medium temperature.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Study at ETH and become a real Master!

This is were it is clear to me that Switzerland has evolved in so many different ways since the times when I grew up in this little country in the heart of Europe.

Just take a peak at the Zürich University's promotional video... we are talking ETH Zurich... one of the world’s leading universities for technology and the natural sciences. An institution known for the excellent education it provides, its pioneering fundamental research and for the way its new findings are transferred directly into practical applications.

Well, here's a taste of the new Swiss vibe... totally cool! For a better world. For a better future!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Experience the magic of Christmas in the center of Lugano!

This weekend Lugano will start wearing its Christmas outfit. The City will be transformed with Christmas lights, sounds and colours. The most beautiful festival of the year is celebrated with the markets, a children’s village, concerts, entertainment, the New Year’s Eve open-air party and many other events that will fill the city with the magic of Christmas up to January 6th, 2019.

Christmas in Lugano starts with the lighting of the tree in Riforma Square. From that moment, the heart of the city becomes a bright village, bestowing opportunities for entertainment, musical performances, a market and surprises until the Epiphany.

Following is the programme:

01.12 | 17:30
Piazza della Riforma

With the attendance of the city authorities, the Christmas tree in the Piazza della Riforma will be officially "switched on" with the help of the children present. From 17:30 a little gift offered by Migros Ticino and MANI International will be handed out to all children, accompanied by the Christmas concert of the "Harmony Gospel Choir" gospel group. Then it will be time to switch on the Christmas Tree lights together with Julie Arlin. Finally, the ceremony will close with the concert of the duet Looppoli.

01.12 – 23.12 | 11:00 – 19:00 24.12 | 11:00 – 17:00
City Centre

The aroma of Christmas sweets, mulled wine and other delicious food, as well as handicrafts and Christmas decorations: this and much more will be on offer at the traditional stands with their red roofs lining the streets from Via Nassa to Piazza Dante. In addition, from this year Piazza Manzoni, set among beautiful Christmas decorations, will also host more than 40 wooden huts that will offer Christmas shoppers lots of surprises.

01.12 – 06.01 | from 16:00
Piazza della Riforma

A great destination for a hot chocolate, to have an aperitif with friends or to try winter cocktails, all accompanied by tasty nibbles and background music. This is the recipe of the Food Lovers' Chalets for making the long winter evenings of locals and tourists much more enjoyable.

01.12 – 06.01
Piazza Manzoni

In Piazza Manzoni you can breathe in the atmosphere of a true traditional village with wooden huts, a giant Father Christmas with his sack full of surprises, a surreal and fascinating landscape to be photographed, horses on wheels for trotting around the lit-up fountain, workshops, readings and entertainment in the Big Chalet, music and many other events and attractions to entertain both children and adults alike.

02:12 - 09:01
Piazza Luini LAC

The LAC is hosting a new interactive installation that will transform the Piazza Luini into a giant kaleidoscope. Prismatica is made up of 25 rotating glass prisms more than 2 metres tall, which project multicoloured light in different directions and produce music.

23.12 – 06.01
Riva Albertolli

Gli Amici del Presepe Sommerso place typical figures from the Nativity scene in the lake. Until 6th January you can admire these statues, which during the day seem to vanish under the water and in the evening appear to float in the light of powerful underwater spotlights. On 23rd December at 17:00, the Baby Jesus is carried in a fascinating procession from the lake.

31.12 | 23:00 – 02:30
Piazza della Riforma

A big party in the piazza to welcome in the new year together. RSI will bring the evening to life with music and entertainment from RETE TRE’s best-loved DJs. Special guests: Vad Vuc in a concert that will have the whole square up on its feet.

01.01 | 11:00
Palazzo dei Congressi

Convention Centre With the attendance of the city authorities and the Lugano Volunteer Corps. Aperitif offered to everyone (start of the parade from Piazza della Riforma at 11:00).

Take advantage of the special opening hours of city centre stores to do your Christmas shopping.
08.12 | 10:00 – 18:00
09.12 | 10:00 – 18:00
16.12 | 10:00 – 18:00
23.12 | 10:00 – 18:00

For a detailed programme in Italian click here:

Monday, November 26, 2018

Lugano's International Christmas fair

December! Yes! Such a busy month. So why not kick it off with style? Meet your friends or make some new ones in a lovely central location in Lugano.

Where? At the annual Christmas fair at the Hotel Pestalozzi co-hosted by the lovely IWCL, the Lugano Meetup and InterNations Lugano. You are even invited for a FREE aperitivo at the end of the event. Of course, snacks, small wine tasting and water will be served.

However, don't miss out on the Christmas shopping before aperitivo time starts. You'll also find Christmas photo shooting by appointment with Egle Berruti photography throughout the morning. Excellent gift idea for your close ones! EVERYONE IS WELCOME!

Following is the programme of the day but be sure to pop by any time as there's much more going on:
11:30 - Harp Concert with Eleonora Ligabò and Harp Center
12:30 - Panettonata
13:30-17:00 Christmas Market
15:00 - Christmas Aperitivo

Venue: Christmas Fair and Christmas Aperitif
Where: Hotel Pestalozzi, Piazza Indipendenza 9. 6900 Lugano
Date: Sunday, Dec 2nd, 2018
Time:  11:00 - 16:00
Please sign up if you are joining, although last minute guests are welcome, it's easier to plan for the organising committee.
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