Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's resolutions

"A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other." Anonymous

This quote basically sums up my attitude towards New Year's resolutions. When I was a teenager I used to write my list every 31st of December, not that I ever took a second glance at it later in the year. Today my outlook on life is better described by a "Enjoy it while it lasts" motto. However, I thought I'd share some fast facts about New Year's resolutions that I found on the web:

People make more resolutions to start a new habit than to break an old one.
It takes doing something 21 times in order to make it a habit.

63% of people say they are keeping their resolutions after two months
67% of people make three or more resolutions

Top four resolutions:
Increase exercise
Develop better eating habits
Stop smoking, drinking, or using drugs (including caffeine)
Be more conscientious about work or school

If I HAD to decide on one resolution it would be to be more patient. As for my excercise and eating habits, they are not brilliant but good enough in my consideration. Who can say no to Swiss chocolate?!? As far as drinking goes, a good glass of wine with a Mediterranean meal is an absolute must. I don't smoke or do drugs and I do NOT consider delicious Italian coffee a drug!!! Consciencious???? What ever happend to spontaneity????

Wishing you a Happy New Year and may all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Panettone Bread pudding recipe

Panettone is a typical gift you receive during Christmas festivites from acquaintances, neighbors, associates or colleagues. You therefore end up with at least 4 or 5 boxes of Panettone. You can either freeze it or else below you'll find a posh version of bread and butter pudding, rich with cream and sugar - great for using up any excess Christmas panettone to dish up for tea or supper.

Cinnamon syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bread pudding:
Butter
1 loaf panettone bread, crusts trimmed, bread cut into 1-inch cubes
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups sugar

To make the syrup:
Combine 1 cup of water and brown sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil until the syrup reduces to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and cinnamon. Keep the syrup warm. (The syrup can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Re-warm before serving.)

To make the bread pudding:
Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread cubes in prepared dish.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk, and sugar to blend. Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and press the bread cubes gently to submerge. Let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing the bread cubes into the custard mixture. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake until the pudding puffs and is set in the center, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly.

Spoon the bread pudding into bowls, drizzle with the warm Cinnamon Syrup, and serve. Yummy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Panettone, the traditional Ticino holiday dessert

No Ticinese or Italian Christmas festivites would be complete without the traditional panettone. This sweet bread "gugelhopf" comes in all kinds of varieties; with or without raisins and candied fruit, drenched in limoncello or filled with chocolate chips. Panettone when eaten with a sip of sparkling spumante or Prosecco, guarantees good luck and good health for the coming year.

There are numerous myths and mysteries surrounding the origins of Panettone. It comes with a rich and varied history. One states that its birthplace is Milan. It appeared in Northern Italy around the 15th century. One legend says a Milanese nobleman Ughetto degli Atellani fell in love with the daughter of a poor baker named Antonio. To win her over, the nobleman disguised himself as a baker and invented a rich bread in which he added to the flour and yeast, butter, eggs, dried raisins and candied lemon and orange peel. After having the bread, the duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro Sforza (1452 – 1508), agreed to the marriage, and encouraged the introduction of the new cake-like bread.
 
Other historians, as far back as the 1300s, claim to have found references to “pan dei ton” which means ‘luxury bread’, in Milanese dialect.

Should you feel up to an outing to the georgous Valle Maggia (which is one of Ticino's main tourist attractions in Summer) you could combine your trip with a visit to the Bakery Poncini.
Are you interested in baking a "panettone" yourself ? Here there is a great opportunity you can share with friends or family (12-25 persons)! During your visit, you will find Poncini's specialty "panettone" and its derivatives such as "panettone Nostrano" the Veneziana, the Colombia, the Triestina with chocolate chips, the Triestina with chestnuts and the Delizia with apricot . If Panettone is not your thing, you can also enjoy their delicious Kirsch Amarettis and Amaretti Bianchi.
Let yourself be surprised by their recipes and their production of natural and homemade specialties!

For a tour and tasting contact: Bakery Poncini, 6673 Maggia. Reservations required: 091/753 13 20.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bellinzona by night

Enough writing about my Christmas and travel adventures and back to some Ticino event suggestions.

One experience you should not miss is "Bellinzona in luce". The city of Bellinzona has organized 40 days of events around the Piazza del Sole to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the castle's declaration as UNESCO World Heritage patrimony.

Bellinzona's three castles Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro are considered amongst the finest examples of medieval fortification architecture in Switzerland. As they appear today, the fortifications, whose origins actually go much further back to a prehistoric settlement on Castelgrande hill, are mainly the result of intensive and complex building activity instigated by the Dukes of Milan in the 15th century.

Castle Castelgrande is open every day from Dec 26th to Jan 6th from 10.00 to 17.00.
Castello Montebello and Sasso Corbaro are open from 11.00 to 16.00.


The real treat during the holiday period is the spectacular decorative lighting of the three castles, the walled fortress and the Piazza del Sole. Definately worth an exciting "after- dark" outing with your kids.



Monday, December 27, 2010

A pleasant travel experience

My plan was to avoid the Christmas travel crowd but how could I resist travelling. My passion is exploring the world and combining this with visiting friends is the perfect holiday plan for kids and adults. So, when the kids school holiday begin we NEED to hop on a plane and get a breath of fresh air. This time my scheduled trip was just the way I imagined it. I figured by Monday, Dec 27th everybody would have arrived to where they need to be for Christmas. The unlucky ones who had to work between X-mas and New Year's Eve would be back in their offices by today. I won my gamble! Malpensa airport was deserted, no queues in sight and no delays. It was an absolute pleasure travelling with my family today. Only pictures can describe the bliss of travelling on this sunny day!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Avoiding family Christmas drama

For the first time in many years we decided to spend Christmas at home and not travel to my in-laws on Dec 23rd along with roughly 40 million Italians. My best Christmas present this year was not having to face an airport the day before Christmas.


Our Christmas was peaceful, relaxed and very special this year. Finally I got to bring out my arsenal of British Christmas traditions from Christmas carols to mincemeat pies and brandy butter (something my children have never tasted before).
We had no family frictions, no disputes, no one wasted precious time trying to change anyone, much less on a day that is supposed to be about peace.


I even found the perfect Christmas cards saying: "Home is where the laughter begins".
The secret is having fun together. Everybody has their expectations about Christmas and undoubtedly they do not all coincide, therefore be flexible and take it in strides. Put on some music and dance, but don't forget to include kids and elders. Adding just a touch of structure to encourage positive interaction.


In all this do not forget to honour your family's culture while you expand it. 
Take a look at the Neapolitans, the festivities evolve all around food; as long as you're eating your tummy is happy and so are you. By the time you're finished the 72 gourmet marathon you don't have any energy left to argue.


The season can be a triathlon of cooking, shopping and decorating. But if generosity is to be the common denominator among all faiths and cultures, then the key to a successful holiday is to be more aware of your limitations and more considerate of others' sensitivities.


Happy holidays!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Enjoy the Christmas spirit

We are all running around getting our errands accomplished, from Christmas decorations and family presents to food preparations and parcel shipping.

Why don't you just take a break, close your eyes, take a deep breath and take in the festive scent.
Think of the ones you love, present and not and ENJOY THE MOMENT!!!

Now carry on running....but with a smile on your face. It works wonders on people, especially around Christmas time.




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Praliné recipe

On special request I am adding a praliné recipe that I have been using since I was in primary school (and that was a long time ago, trust me).

Should you find the time with all the holiday preparations, the kids love to make these because they can get their little hands full of chocolate (and so can you)! I use dark cooking chocolate such as Cailler but any good quality chocolate will do. Remember as long as the raw material/ingredient is good quality nothing go wrong, really!

6oz dark chocolate
2 oz butter
4 tablespoons rum
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon cream

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
Add butter, rum, eggs and cream.
Pour mixture into a foil tray and let set in fridge for 1 - 2 hours.
Scoop out little portions with teaspoon and roll into balls in the palms of your hands (this must be done quickly in order for the chocolate not melt in your hands).
Dip balls into chocolate sprinkles or chocolate powder.

Scrumdiddleyumptious!!!!



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Singing Songs of Praise

The world famous Harlem Gospel choir is coming to town tomorrow night, so get rolling. The most famous gospel choir in America today and one of the most famous and celebrated in the world, has performed for people such as Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Elton John and has accompanied Barack Obama during his campaign rally. They have recorded with U2, Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Simple Minds, just to name a few. The Choir was founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, who got the idea for the Choir while attending a celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Cotton Club in Harlem. The Choir presents the finest singers & musicians from Harlem's Black Churches & the New York/Tri-State area.

The theme of every show is "bringing people and nations together". Their repertoire includes traditional and contemporary gospel, jazz and blues and tracks such as "O Happy Day ", "Amazing Grace", "Nobody Knows, " and "Down by the Riverside".

You can buy tickets online at: ticketcorner.ch/musicalmente-tickets
The concert starts at 20:30 in the Palazzo dei Congressi. Get your voice warmed up!!!



Monday, December 20, 2010

A different kind of Christmas tree

If you have football crazy kids at home, you will also own at least one Vuvuzela since last summer's World Cup.  Two South Africans decided to hold an international competition to revive the controversial vuvuzela, the plastic horn that became known worldwide during the 2010 soccer World Cup for its drowning buzz. The Vuvuzela has become an extraordinary symbol of unity in South Africa. The contest aimed to make this object of unity an object of utility by generating ways to reuse it.

Just in time for Christmas and perfectly child-friendly I felt inspired by the Vuvuzela Christmas tree. The children can decorate it themselves and put it up in their room as decoration... and guess what...they won't be able to use it for a while!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Travel? No, thank you!

Do you remember when travelling used to be fun? That was actually only a few years back but it seems like ages. Everytime we set off on a new trip it takes longer and longer although the distances remain the same. Who said that the world is getting smaller?

Now, I admit personel is getting scarse, efficiency is a term few apply nowadays but state of the art planes and super-duper scanning technologies are suppose to make up for that, aren't they?

If it's not Eyjafjallajokull, the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano that shuts down the European air travel, it is the French strikers, sometimes the Spanish and if all of the above actually cooperate and act the way they are suppose to....it starts snowing! It doesn't snow in the South or in the North but across the whole continent at the same time, preferably on a Friday or a Sunday...et voilà!

How many times can you get stuck in an airport within one month? An easyjet plane landed in Gatwick yesterday and the passengers could not disembark for 7 hours?!? Hello, remind me kindly which century we are living in?

My conclusion: today's real luxury is to own a private plane which would allow you to wizz off whenever you felt like it without any hassles or delays. Dream on, girl!!!!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Brunsli (Swiss Christmas Brownies)

Today I would like to share another typical Christmas biscuit recipe with you. Brunslis along with Cinnamon Stars, Mailänderli and Chräbeli are the 4 classic Christmas cookies in this part of the world. I could probably come up with a different Christmas biscuits recipe every day and wouldn’t have listed them all by next winter, therefore I am sticking to these few classics.
Ingredients:
150 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
250 g ground almonds
¼ tea spoon cinnamon
1 pinch of clove powder
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of flour
2 fresh egg whites 
100 g bitter chocolate
2 tea spoons of kirsch
Preparation:
Mix sugar, salt, almonds, cinnamon, clove powder, cocoa powder and flour in a bowl.
Add egg whites and stir until ingredients are evenly distributed.
Cut chocolate in real small pieces, pour hot water over the chocolate, let rest for about 5 minutes, then pour off all water except about half a tablespoon, stir until even. Now immediately proceed with the next step.
Add melted chocolate from the previous step and the kirsch, knead to a soft dough.
Roll out dough on a flat surface (sprickle surface slightly with sugar so the dough does not stick to it), approximately 10 mm thick. Cut out different shapes with cookie cutter and put them on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
Let them rest for about 5 to 6 hours or over night in a dry place.
Bake for about 4 to 6 minutes in the center of the pre-heated oven at 250 °C.
Let cool completely before serving.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Lugano derby

Ticino’s big advantage is that the beautiful nature encourages you to be sporty and the kids learn the spirit of fairplay and grasp the necessity of excercise at a very young age. Lugano being a city of barley 50’000 inhabitants you need to come up with your own activity schedule which therefore usually revolves around sports.
Yesterday we met the local ice hockey stars, today we are off to see the basketball derby Lugano Tigers vs SAM Basket Massagno.
My kids really enjoy following the Lugano Tigers basketball matches because they are actually encouraged by the organizers to make as much noise as possible in order to support their team. Switerland’s youth is raised to respect the traditions of hush and silence, so this opportunity to go wild for one evening is a great treat.
The derby is on tonight at the gym of the Istituto Elvetico (Salesiani Don Bosco - Via Canonica, 15 - 6900 Lugano) at 19:30.
Check it out: Lugano Tigers




Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Locarno on ice

If your children are enrolled at the Swiss public school, Wednesday afternoons can be very long. The kids get off at 11:45 and either they follow their various extracurricular activities or else Mummy has to come up with a pretty good programme to keep them entertained!!!!
Today I thought I’d take them off to Locarno which is roughly 40km up the valley. For the Christmas festivities the city of Locarno has set up an ice rink in the main piazza Grande. 
Ticino has a long and strong history of ice hockey, therefore today (as of 14:00) the children can meet their heros of the rival local hockey teams HC Lugano and HC Ambri Piotta and hunt for autographs while skating. Sounds like a perfect plan to me!
Check it out for yourdelf: Locarno on ice




Tuesday, December 14, 2010

St.Moritz in pictures

Sun setting over Engadine mountains

Looking down the Engadine valley

St.Moritz's City Hall by night

 Hanselmann café

 Christmas lights

 Christmas tree infront of the Palace hotel

Monday, December 13, 2010

St.Moritz: a weekend escape

Looking for a glamorous weekend escape? St Moritz is the embodiment of Swiss chic, and has been so since the resort’s beginnings in 1854. Nestled at the centre of the Engadine valley, St Moritz boasts more than 350 kilometres of groomed slopes in 4 connected ski areas. St.Moritz is only 2 hours drive away from Lugano. Given the heavy snowfalls over the past weeks, an excursion to the lovely valley of Engadine is an excellent idea.

The Engadine - where people greet each other with 'Allegra', a Romansh (Switzerland’s 4th national language) expression roughly meaning, in today's terms, 'be happy'.

A Romansh legend about this patch of land is still told by the inhabitants: "When the archangel had sealed the gate to paradise behind Adam and Eve, God stood in the now-deserted Garden of Eden and was filled with pity for the people who had chosen the path of sin. He therefore called for his angels, and told them that from then onwards paradise was to remain closed to all human beings. However, he wished to create for them a place on earth that would remind them of their lost homeland, a place that should be close to heaven and filled with all things beautiful, yet not perfect. Obeying this divine order, the angels duly created a paradise on earth: the Engadine.
Even if you are not a skier there is a child friendly ice-rink, romantic sleigh rides and picturesque walking paths around the lakes to be discovered. On a clear, cold air night the stars seem so close that you feel as if you could reach out and touch them. Nothing beats lying in the snow all bundled up with your kids looking up into the sky waiting to catch a shooting star.

Please check out my link list for some local tips on St.Moritz and the Engadine valley.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

How many reindeer does Santa have?

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



Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas family fun

How about a few ideas of what to do with your family on a free day?
Make snowmen paper chains
Select the perfect carrot for Rudolph
Play “Pin the nose on the reindeer”
Make mince pies for Father Christmas
Make paper snowflakes
Put on a Nativity play for the family
Play “Hunt the thimble”
Make crowns for Christmas lunch (so terribly British, isn’t it just?)
Decorate a sleeping Dad
Make an angel for the top of the tree
Wrap up for a winter walk and see who can spot the most robins
Make a snowman




Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas gift ideas

So, would it help if I gave you some ideas for Christmas gifts? Here goes my list:
Record cover frames

Bloggie by Sony

Slide scanner by Ion

Romantic weekend to Prague

Credit card Monopoly

Stuck on you stickers and stuff

Victorinox pocket knife with USB stick

Subsciption to football magazine like “Match” 

A chess game

Christmas cookbook by Delia or Nigella or Jamie

Wall paper murals

Karlson clocks

Bed linen by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada


A rug by The Rug Company

One piece suit

All I can add is HAPPY SHOPPING at this point.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stelle alla cannella or Cinnamon Stars

Having shared my all-time favourite Christmas carol list with you, as well as my Glühwein recipe and the Grittbänz having been eaten by now, I would like to let you in on my absolute favourite biscuits of all times. Cinnamon stars!
Switzerland has a very strong tradition of making Christmas biscuits and there is a vast varitey of them. Today’s Christmas cookies can trace their history to recipes from Medieval Europe biscuits, which when many modern ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds and dried fruit were introduced into the west. By the 16th century Christmas biscuits had become popular across Europe
It is a treat and a great deal of fun to prepare these every year with my children. Of course, they think the best part is licking the kitchen utensils and bowls once the biscuits are in the oven. Ideally you would invite a friend and her kids to bake along with you....the more, the merrier!!!!
Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
250gr powder sugar
1,5 tbsp cinnamon
350 gr ground almonds
0.5 tbsp Kirsch (Swiss cherry schnapps)
Preparation:
Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. 
Mix in the powder sugar.
Put aside and cover about 1dl of the above mixture for icing later.
Mix cinnamon and ground almonds, add Kirsch and combine with the remaining egg whites/sugar mixture until you obtain a dough-like texture.
Roll out the dough on a plastic bag or on a sugar-covered base. The thickness of the dough should be about 1cm.
Cut out the stars carefully with a cookie cutter which you dip into sugar before every use.
Lay out the cookies on an oven tray covered with baking paper.  
Glazing / drying:  Dip a little glaze onto the middle of each star, pull the icing towards the star tips with a wooden toothpick.
Let the cookies dry at room temperature for about 6 hours or overnight.
Bake: approx. 5 min. in the middle of a preheated oven at 250°C. 
Take out and let cool on a cookie rack.





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