Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ready for the sirens?

“What if Alexander Graham Bell's name were Alexander Graham Siren? The phone wouldn't ring, it would GO OFF!! EERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! HELLO! HELLO!!”
George Carlin

So we all know that the Swiss are extremly cautious citizens. They have the right protection for every possible situtation. The prejudice that Switzerland is a country of insurance is absolutely true. The avereage Swiss household (2,23 persons) will spend approx. CHF 1700.-/month for mandatory insurance, including health insurance and contributions to social security or else CHF 20,400.- per year.
Did you know, however, that more than CHF 50 billion are spent each year for non-compulsory insurance, that's CHF 6588.- per head.

But it doesn't stop there.

Be prepared because on February 1st, 2012 the annual test of the sirens will be held in Switzerland between 13:30 and 15:00. 8500 mobile and stationary civil-defense sirens which can alert 99% of the population, will be tested. Sirens for this alert have a regularly ascending and descending tone lasting a minute and repeated after a two-minute interval. Following that, the 700 water alarms, will resonate twelve low sounds lasting 20 seconds each between 14.15 and 15.00 in downstream areas of dams.

Every year, on the first Wednesday of February, Switzerland's sirens are tested. During this test, general alert sirens as well as the sirens near dams are tested to see if they are in working order. The population is informed of the test days ahead by radio, television, teletext and newspapers. The siren tests do not require the population to take any special measures.

Introduced during wartime, they are now used to alert the population to impending catastrophes or water dangers such as flooding. The population is instructed to inform those around them to proceed inside. Once inside, people are instructed to listen to emergency broadcasts made by the Swiss Radio and/or TV.

This is what it sounded like from my balcony last year:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ice is too thin..

The ice covering Lake St. Moritz is too thin. Now for most people this is not big news, however, for the rich and famous VIPs and for the Polo lovers of this world, it's like not celebrating Christmas.

The St. Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow is the world’s most prestigious winter polo tournament. Four high-goal teams battle for the coveted Trophy on the frozen surface of Lake St. Moritz. The unusual conditions on snow, the unaccustomed location at 1,800 metres above sea level and the cosmopolitan character of St. Moritz make the tournament truly unique – as attested by approximately 15,000 spectators from every corner of the world who make the pilgrimage to Lake St. Moritz at the end of January each year.

The St. Moritz Lake Commission, however, has decided not to grant clearance for erection of the infrastructure on the surface of the lake due to a too thinner ice layer. The risk of the ice collapsing is too great. For the first time in the tournament’s 28-year history, the St. Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow has had to be cancelled due to the weather conditions.

After various load-bearing-capacity tests on the iced-over surface of Lake St. Moritz, the safety experts reached the conclusion yesterday that, for safety reasons, they cannot grant clearance for erection of the necessary tournament infrastructure on the surface of the lake. The regulations on the use of the surface ice are strict: the ice across the whole lake must be no thinner than 20 centimetres. Each square metre must be able to bear up to 350 kilograms. If these requirements are not met, no structures can be erected on the lake. “We were hoping for a last-minute change in the weather so that a few nights at sub-zero temperatures could freeze the lake sufficiently. Unfortunately Mother Nature has let us down,” comments Bernhard Pöllinger, Head of Sports & Infrastructure at St. Moritz Polo Corporation.

Well, you can still enjoy the Gourmet Festival that begins on Monday, January 30th, 2012 or how about just luxuriating in the beauty of St.Moritz's nature? No one can cancel that!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

St.Moritz Gourmet Festival 2012

"For a gourmet wine is not a drink but a condiment, provided that your host has chosen correctly."
Edouard De Pomaine, French author

Once again, from 30th January to 3rd February 2012, the Upper Engadine will become a Mecca for the international gourmet scene. Often copied but never equalled, for one week one culinary top event will follow another at the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, and each of them will be a highlight on its own. This time you can look forward to personally meeting ten star-crowned European guest master chefs, who will delight you with their sensational cooking artistry! The special and unique attraction of our Gourmet Festival is the inspiring and considerate teamwork of the guest master chefs with the equally highly awarded excellent master chefs of the high-class festival partner hotels! But that is not all. In addition, delightful experiences for all the senses will be offered in four fascinating festival locations.

The Gourmet Festival programme summary contains full details and booking options! Enjoy making your choice!

Admittedly, we are talking total luxury BUT you can always cruise up to St.Moritz for the day, enjoy the snow and a hot chocolate overlooking the lake. If you do, send me a postcard, please! ;)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

8 reasons being stubborn can be good for a child

“Time has a way of demonstrating that the most stubborn are the most intelligent”
Yevgeny Yevtushenko quotes (Russian Poet, b.1933)

So, we all know kids can be stubborn. I wonder who they get it from?

It's infuriating, annoying, irritating, maddening, provoking, displeasing, aggravating and just plain exasperating for parents but.... there is a positive side to all these bad vibes. Aha, got your attention? Keep reading this list I found on the babysitter site: Find a babysitter!

There are many ways headstrong children can have an advantage over the more docile counterparts. Here are 8 reasons being stubborn can be good for a kid.

1.) Perseverance – A stubborn child is going to be much better at accomplishing difficult tasks because they have perseverance. If at first they don’t succeed they will keep trying until they get the results they desire. From learning to tie their shoes to figuring out a complicated math problem, these kids will doggedly keep trying until they get it done. This is a great advantage over other children who tend to give up easily.

2.) Can’t be bullied – Childhood bullies have gotten to be a big problem, so stubbornness can give a kid the toughness they need to stand up for themselves. No playground bully is going to push them around. The defiance they show to their parents easily translates to other situations, so the local bully doesn’t stand a chance.

3.) Mental fortitude – This toughness will also help kids to develop the strong mental fortitude they need as they grow from childhood to adults. Mental toughness will help them to succeed in many aspects of their lives and make it easier for them to cope with stress or traumatic events. The demands of college, the military or a prestigious career are more easily met by the people who used to be stubborn kids.

4.) Schoolwork – Children who give up easily are going to have a harder time learning difficult problems in their schoolwork than those who are more resolute. Whether this results in getting better grades depends on each child’s mental capabilities, but stubbornness can be an advantage to even learning disabled children. Teachers and parents should encourage stubborn kids to channel their determination into their homework.

5.) Employment – Once kids get old enough to get a job, the stubborn ones will be more likely to find employment and keep it. It takes strong perseverance to find work in a bad economy, especially for teens. If their determination pays off, their employers will be pleased if they apply their stubbornness to their work ethic. Stubborn kids can be good workers.

6.) Sports – Another way a headstrong kid can excel is in sports. What they may lack in physical ability can be made up for with sheer determination. Stubborn kids are very competitive and will not give up until they make the team or are the best in their field. They can channel their obstinacy into succeeding at whatever sport they choose.

7.) Successful career – That successful doctor, lawyer or actor you admire probably used to be a stubborn child. The bullheaded kids are much better equipped to succeed at whatever careers they choose. Their ability to persevere will vault them to the top of the corporate ladder.

8.) Survival – Another reason being stubborn can be good for a kid is pure survival. Whether it’s illness, injury or a natural disaster, those who aren’t willing to give up will overcome any obstacle to survive. Stubbornness is a key element in personal survival.

So the next time you encounter your child’s stubborn streak, turn the negatives into a positive.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My biggest compliment so far!!!

"Enthusiasm one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your objective. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today was one of those days where all the time, effort, dedication and passion that I put into blogging has been highly rewarding. I might add the compliment (and it was a big one) came from a total stranger. I am not sure how many readers regularly read my Lugano blog but I do hope I am entertaining some people out there other than myself. Once in a blue moon I receive a little message telling me that ...yes .... my blog is useful, informative and fun to read. And this reader just hit the nail right on the head. She described exactly what I am aiming to convey with my blog and what it is all about! I couldn't be happier.

I am so thrilled about this compliment that I just can't help but to share it with my readers. Here is the lady's recommendation:

"Have a look at this blog about expat living in Lugano written by someone whose writing style I enjoy very much as it's upbeat, fun, friendly, lively and informative. (NB: It may take a little while to load up the first page but stay with it as the pictures are lovely).

Often times, I have found that just looking at the website - the layout, pictures, colours, juxtapositioning of the words etc - immediately infuses me with a sense of upliftment each time I visit it and all before I've even read a single word.

There are loads of useful links and suggestions contained there - some you may already know and some you may not.

The writer and her family have now moved onto Paris and which she also blogs about in her own unique and special style."

Her personal message to me was:

"Your blog is wonderful and one of the best I've come across in a very long time.  You are certainly a gifted writer and you write from the heart.  Your words and passion are so infectious and uplifting and make me wish I had actually landed in that part of Switzerland when I first came here to settle.

I hope that others who've looked at it too as a result, gain as much pleasure as I do from it."

Lady you have just made my day ..... week ..... month!!!!! G R A Z I E !!!!!!

Lisa's stewed lentil recipe

Looking for an inspiration for a meatless dinner I asked my vegetarian friend what she was making her family for dinner that night. This was her suggestion: Stewed lentils with carrots and tomatoes

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups large diced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups large diced carrots (3-4 carrots)
3 garlic cloves , minced (about 1 tbls.)
1 (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes
1 cup french green lentil (7 ounces)
2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves , chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon good quality red wine vinegar

1. )  Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and carrots and cook over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

2.)  Meanwhile, place the canned tomatoes, including the juice, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no stones.

3.) Add the tomatoes, lentils, broth, curry powder, thyme, salt, and pepper to the pan. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Check occasionally to be sure the liquid is still simmering.

4.) Remove from the heat and allow the lentils to sit covered for another 10 minutes. Add the vinegar. Season to taste and serve hot. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sweet memories of Parco Ciani

Today would have been an ideal today for a stroll through Parco Ciani .... in my mind! I am stitting in drizzly, rainy Paris and wondering when I will next spot the sunshine. My kids refuse to visit yet another museum and my hubby (exceptionally) had to work this weekend.

So, as my mind drifts back to the lake of Lugano, I imagine myself taking a deep breath of fresh, crisp air that forebodes the snow! I close my eyes and .... see for yourself...

In 1912, the Parco Ciani estate was bought by the city of Lugano for more than 1.5 million francs. Professor Angelo Pizzorno made this comment in Consiglio Comunale (council meeting) :"This is not crazy pointless luxury; it is a shrewd investment by a city whose moral and economic standing is due in great part to the assets of its natural beauty."

For me this 63,000 square metre park constitutes the city’s green lung where I can recover from the hustle and bustle of everyday life as I walk along paths lined by magnificent centuries-old trees. And when the sun shines .... it is pure luxury!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Swiss Education System

"Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another."
G.K. Chesterton

The education system of the multilingual and federally structured Switzerland is unique because it is firmly rooted in the local municipalities, cantons and language regions. The primary responsibility lies with the 26 cantons. The federal authorities and the cantons share responsibility for post-compulsory education. The cantons and their local municipalities finance about 87% (2005) of public educational expenditures.

Due to the complexity of the system and the current differences between the cantons, the descriptions here provide only an overview. Contact your district or community local education department (Divisione della scuola) for details on your local schools particularly as Switzerland is undergoing an important period of change with regard to some key aspects of its education system which will make it much easier to harmonize systems between cantons, known as the HarmoS system.

According to the Federal Department of Education, “Most students in Switzerland (95%) complete pre-school and compulsory schooling at the state school in the municipality in which they live. 5% attend a private school”. State schools play an important role in integration: children who have different social, linguistic and cultural backgrounds all attend the same school. If a child is schooled in the Swiss system there is no charge and most school expenses are covered by the local community. Key features which differ from other countries are that children are expected to be more independent, for example going to and from school even at kindergarten age without adult supervision, Wednesday afternoons are free, there is no school uniform, most children go home for lunch and children are assessed continuously rather than by blocks of exams at the end of the school year with marks awarded for all the major subjects each semester. Two dates are set each year when parents are allowed to observe classes throughout the day which gives you a good feel for what your children are experiencing.

Be aware that if you are planning a trip home to visit family, written permission must be sought from the school authorities if it cuts into school time. Absenteeism and lateness are taken very seriously in Switzerland, and parents can be fined for not complying with the guidelines.

You will need to make a decision as to whether your child will attend a state school or a private school. Although the temptation is for many International families to favour private schools the Swiss system should not be lightly dismissed. It offers a good standard of education with many advantages.

There are huge benefits of learning a second language and the younger your children the easier it will be for them to adapt to the new language and culture.

Depending on the canton and community in which you live, Swiss kindergarten is available free to children from three, four or five years of age. In Ticino your child must turn three years of age by September 30th to be eligible to enter kindergarten at the start of the coming school year. Children born after that date must wait until the next school year. However, due to the changes in the system, be sure to check with your local school board for accurate cut-off dates.

Be aware that kindergarten here is viewed as a place where children learn to socialise but are not expected to read or write. An unusual interesting alternative to conventional kindergarten is the "Waldkindergarten" where children are based outdoors and explore the natural environment.

It is mandatory in all cantons for all children to receive nine years of schooling after kindergarten. Children spend five years at primary school. If attending a Swiss primary school there is normally no choice as to which they attend and this is allocated by the local school authority. The five years are split into two cycles, normally with one teacher for each cycle. Teaching is organised from about 08:30 to midday when children usually go home for lunch, returning in the afternoon at around 14.00.
Academic subjects include Maths, Language, Science, History, Geography, Sports, Music, Crafts and Art. The teaching of a foreign languages - a second national language - also begins at the primary level. These are introduced at varying stages depending upon the cantonal guidelines. Religious Studies is optional and parents may withdraw their children from this if they wish.

In Canton Ticino, at the end of primary school children attend the local secondary school (Scuola Media) for the next four years. After the second year of Scuola Media they are devided into two different groups according to their grade average in Maths and German.

At the end of Scuola Media, students can decide to continue school for a further three years at the Gymnasium (Liceo), attend a specialised vocational school (scuole professionali) or enter an apprenticeship. The Swiss consider their apprenticeship system second to none.

The Gymnasium system is aimed at those children intent on a route to higher education at University.

The first university in Switzerland was founded in 1460 in Basel, with a faculty of medicine. This place has a long tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. In total, there are 12 Universities in Switzerland; ten of them are managed by the cantons, while two federal institutes of technology, ETHZ in Zurich and EPFL in Lausanne, are under the responsibility of the federal state.

In addition, there are seven regional associations of Higher Education Institutions for Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) which require vocational education and a special "Berufsmatura" to study. Switzerland has the second highest rate of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia.

Click here for a simplified diagram of the Swiss Education system by the EDK: http://www.edudoc.ch/static/web/bildungssystem/grafik_bildung_e.pdf

Source: www.edk.ch and www.ti.ch

Monday, January 16, 2012

English for fun in Lugano

Looking for an English speaking playgroup in Lugano? English for fun is just the answer for you.

English for fun classes are a mix of native English speaking moms, other International moms who speak English, as well as locals. The common goal is to let the kids have fun by singing, playing and learning - all in English - from an early age on.

The classes offered are:

First Steps in English (Age 1-4 years)
English Speaking Playgroup – accompanied by parent / carer
Songs, nursery rhymes, arts and crafts, puppetry and free play and a chance for the adults to socialise in English, chat and make new friends! Ideal for both mother tongue (English) children and also for those children whose parents wish them to hear, learn and have fun through English from an early age!

Tuesday mornings
Group A 9.15-10.15 OR Group B 10.30-11.30
Location: Centro Bambini, via Trevano 13, Molino Nuovo, Lugano
Start Date 17th Jan 2012

Small Steps in English (Age 3-6 years)
Songs, dance, arts and crafts and a chance to socialise and make friends through English. Ideal for English speaking children to hear more of the language outside the immediate family circle and also suitable for complete beginners to be exposed to the language in a fun way.
Accompanied by a parent / carer - however once the children feel at ease the parent can withdraw to our kitchen area for a cup of tea or coffee and a chat while the children continue the fun in a nearby room! Older or younger siblings are also welcome.

Wednesday afternoons
13.30 - 14.30
Location: Centro Bambini, Via Trevano 13, Molino Nuovo, Lugano
Start Date: 25th Jan 2012

For more information, enrolment and cost contact
Website: www.EnglishForFun.ch
Email: englishforfun.ch@gmail.com
Tel 077 435 2131 (Miriam Harpur-Kaegi)

5 key reflection when moving with kids

Moving remains a challenge but it has become a sort of a game for us. As a family we have moved seven times since 1998. It is very easy as couple, things get complicated when children arrive but the older the kids grow the it tricker it gets.

In theory a move sounds great. But kids don't always see the disruption to their settled routines in the same light. Of course, there are strong arguments in favour of an International upbringing, even if your children don't necessarily appreciate them at the time.

The grown-ups may fret about schools and a family-friendly culture. Children have more important priorities: where to get cheap video games, decent burgers and long hours in front of the television.

Following are some key considerations to bear in mind when moving abroad with children:

1) Age
In general it is more difficult to take older children out of their existing school environment, particularly if they are at, or approaching, crunch exam years. And they are more likely to have friends they will be unwilling to leave (and for which they will curse you at high volume!).

2) Location and Cultural Similarities
The degree of disruption and subsequent integration also depends on where you are moving to. Your children will have a closer cultural affinity to some countries than others, which should make the transition easier, especially if there is no language barrier to overcome. And if you're close enough to get back home for frequent visits to see extended family and friends so much the better.

3) Education
How good is the system in your target destination? What quality of education will your children receive? How large are the schools and the classes within them (smaller schools and class sizes may be less daunting as a new entrant)?

Do you anticipate sending your children to an International school along with other expatriate kids, or will they go to the local one? An International school may offer less initial readjustment - especially if you are moving to a country that speaks a different language - but in the longer term local schools may help your children integrate better into the wider community.

4) Pleasure in Leisure
It's important your children see tangible benefits from moving abroad, and being able to offer them the chance to engage in their favorite pastimes, or try out new ones, is one way of doing that.

Perhaps they'll be able to take up surfing or horse riding, or go skiing on weekends? Maybe you'll have a swimming pool in your back garden?

The flip side of course is to guard against SBS - Spoilt Brat Syndrome!

5) Health and Safety
The quality of health care provision you can expect to receive in your target country is one factor in these considerations (and let's face it, with kids you know you'll be using it!).

But health is also about staying well. And that means having decent drinking water, good sanitation, access to good quality foodstuffs, low levels of environmental pollutants, and so on.

Then there is personal safety. And what about the prevalence of drug use, racial and religious intolerance, sex discrimination, sexual assaults, child abuse?

There's no need to start hyperventilating over every possible form of harm that could come to your child, but as a parent it's only natural to consider these things.

Children may be flexible, but don't underestimate how tough it can be for them to be wrenched from their small, secure worlds and thrust into a new one. So ask yourself this - will they thank you in the long run?

The answer will be YES if you give them a good example to follow by approaching your new adventure positively and with the right spirit. It WILL rub off onto your kids eventually!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

IWCL Wine Tasting Evening

"I can certainly see that you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn't know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret."
John Cleese, Fawlty Towers

In order to start the year 2012 on a high note, IWCL and Meetup are happy to invite you to a delicious wine tasting on January 25, 2012 at the NYX Lounge in Lugano.

You will have the opportunity to taste a selection of 5 Italian wines; 1 sparkling, 1 rosé, 1 white and 2 red wines served with home made hot and cold finger foods and a delicate risotto. Your friends are welcome.

Location: NYX LOUNGE, Via Stauffacher 1, 6901 LUGANO (Casinò Lugano)          http://www.nyxlugano.ch/lounge/it/lounge_menu.asp
Date: Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Time: 19:30
Price per person: CHF 45.-

RSVP: Please book your place before January 22 at: iwcleveninggroup@gmail.com or Sandrine (078 75 143 75) or Sabrina (079 642 40 18)

Wondering how to wine taste like a professional? Check out my post on my Paris blog at: http://expatwithkidsinparis.blogspot.com/2012/01/wine-and-cheese-tasting-french-way.html

Thursday, January 12, 2012

InterNations Lugano Networking Aperitivo

It is time again to join InterNations Lugano for their January Networking Event. InterNations aim is to help you, as an expatriate, in becoming part of the Switzerland expat community and exploring the Swiss way of life in all its aspects: From enjoying the traditional rösti to celebrating the Swiss National Day.

The Lugano section of InterNations will meet at Villa Saroli, which they will have exclusive to themselves! All attendees will receive a free welcome drink plus a tasty selection of appetizers. The Villa Saroli offers the perfect setting for the January event, as it enables effortless networking and catching up with new and familiar faces from the Lugano community! So far over 90 members have signed up!

So go ahead, share some holiday anecdotes, hear the latest news from the community, and have a fun time mingling in a fantastic crowd of expats and global minds! Don't miss InterNations Lugano's very first event in 2012!

Location: Villa Saroli, Ristorante, Lounge & Bar, Viale Stefano Franscini 8, 6900 Lugano
Date: Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Time:       19:00 - 22:00
Fee:         Albatross Members: Free
                Basic Members: 10.00 CHF
                Not on guest list: 20.00 CHF
                Non-InterNations Members: 20.00 CHF
The entrance includes one welcome drink as well as a tasty selection of appetizers and snacks.

Please sign up for the event by visiting their site here. Search for the event website where you still need to put yourself on the guest list to attend the event.

Feel free to bring your international friends, but please invite them to sign up for InterNations first.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mystery shopper in Lugano

Love to shop? I mean SERIOUS upmarket shopping. Imagine striding into the shops you normally wouldn't step into. Curious to have a peek?

Well, this is the opportunity for you.

Albatross Global Solutions is a marketing services provider dedicated to understanding affluent and well established customers as well as improving premium and luxury brands’ performance.

They regularly carry out several missions for fashion and luxury watch brands. They are currently looking for Mystery Shoppers in Lugano. This is your chance!

Businesses are increasingly discovering the importance of customer satisfaction. Faced with countless options, customers expect increasingly high levels of service quality. Further, companies need to know the service standards being followed by employees and whether internal company guidelines are being implemented.

As a mystery shopper, your role would be to go to the assigned stores and to pretend to be looking for a product for yourself or for a gift. You will simply let the Sales Person help you and introduce some models to you. In the end, there is no purchase to be made and you will leave the store.
Within 24 hours, you will fill out an online questionnaire to give your impressions regarding the shop environment and the customer service.

Mystery shopping is a mission based job. You can perform your visit(s) anytime as long as you respect our deadline. It doesn't differ much from regular shopping; you will just need to fill out a questionnaire at the end.

If you have ever wanted to give your opinion regarding customer service delivered in luxury stores, then these missions are for you!

To create your account, go to our website www.albatrossonline.com and click on ‘Become a shopper’, then email Mecah Cozzi at mcozzi@albatrossasia.com so that she can follow up on your application.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

7 parenting tips for today's parents

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

We all know it isn't easy to be a parent in this day and age but my motto has always been: "Follow your gut instinct, add lots of love, give them firm guidelines and listen to your kids when they talk to you."

Following are a few practical parenting tips that work for me:

1.) Prepare children for a world with great diversity by teaching respect & tolerance.
2.) Give them opportunities to make responsible decisions, to gain self-esteem.
3.) Encourage & praise. But do not be afraid to discipline, to limit freedom of action.
4.) Let your children know you are always ready to listen to their questions & problems.
5.) Provide sex education & guidance.
6.) Offer love that is unconditional but not over-indulgent.
7.) Never abuse or allow others to abuse children physically or emotionally.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

La torta dei Re Magi - Three Kings' cake recipe

In Switzerland, the Three Kings cake is made ​​from sweet yeast dough​, which is formed into balls, arranged in a flower-shape and sprinkled with almonds and coarse sugar.

There are various types of Three Kings' cakes found throughout Switzerland. All have a white plastic king figure “hidden” inside. The person who finds this piece is then “King or Queen for the Day” meaning he or she gets to choose what to do during that day and also what chores to avoid. No washing dishes, no cleaning up, no cooking?!

The Three Kings' cake is one of the most popular traditions in Switzerland. At the Iowa AG alone, which is Migros' bakery wholesale distributor produced over 500'000 pieces in 2000. His rival Coop managed to sell over 250,000. This is without counting the hundred of thousands cakes sold in bakeries throughout the country.  The total sales amount to approx 1.5 million cakes. Now beat that. No other celebration is so widely spread across this tiny, multi-cultured country.

Most Swiss buy their Epiphany cake at the local bakery or supermarket.
However, home-made always tastes best. Following is an easy and fast recipe to make with your kids. And who knows, if you're lucky, you might not even have to do the washing up!!!

500gr flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
20gr (1/2 dice) fresh yeast, crumbled
60gr butter
1/2 lemon, grated rind
4 tablespoons raisins
3dl milk, warmed

1 egg, beaten
Sugar crysals, almond leaves

Mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes unti a smooth dough has formed.

Cover dough and let rise for 2 hours until it has doubled in volume.

Form 8 servings, each weighing approximately 80gr.

Stick a king or a coin in one of the balls.

Form the remaining dough into a large ball and place on a baking sheet lined tray with the smaller balls distributed evenly around it.

Let stand for covered for another 30 minutes at room temperature to rise.

Brush with egg.

Bake for approx. 30 minutes in the bottom half of the pre-heated 180° C oven. Cool on a wire rack and then decorate!

The “Swiss Way” to eat the "Torta dei Re Magi" is with a good cheese selection, or butter, jam and hot chocolate at breakfast, lunch OR supper time!

You might also want to read about the Ticino tradition of the Befana on Epifany Day. Click here to discover more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas with "la famiglia" in Napoli

So, I am officially back from holiday and therefore back in action. Just to give you a taste of Southern Italy and what being married to a Neapolitan means, I am sharing some impressions of a romantic Christmas evening stroll along the bay of Naples in Via Caracciolo.

Castel dell'Ovo (in Italian, Egg Castle) is a castle located on the former island of Megaride, now a peninsula, on the gulf of Naples. The castle's name comes from a legend about the Roman poet Virgil, who had a reputation in medieval times as a great sorcerer, that he put a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications.

One of the finest of traditional Italian songs is “Santa Lucia”. At the time that this song came into being, there was no Italy as we know it today. There was, however, a kingdom called "Naples and Sicily", where Santa Lucia, a Catholic saint, was revered, therefore the waterfront district in Naples is called “Santa Lucia”, where of course small craft as well as ships were moored, and that explains the name of the song.

The song was collected and transcribed from the Neapolitan dialect into standard Italian in 1849 by Teodoro Cottrau. I’ve never heard anyone singing any version except the Neapolitan version, which was sung by Caruso, Lanza, Pavarroti and others.

Here is Caruso, singing part of the song:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Your German is fluent. What about Swiss German?

Welcome back my dear readers and HAPPY NEW YEAR! Starting off the new year on a happy note, I thought I'd share this little anecdote with you.

My Non-Swiss friends say the Swiss just love baby talk.

For example, they just can't drink a regular coffee and eat a normal-sized croissant like the rest of us. No, they have to have as "Käffeli" in a "Tässli" with amene "Gipfeli", "Brötli" or "Weggli" and "es bitzeli butter".

Some, of course, must have their "Müesli". Isn't that nice? The men, because they are toughies, go out in the evening to a "Beizli" for "es Bierli" or perhaps even "es Tröpfli Wyy", but naturally not more than "es Einerli" because a decilitre of wine costs five "Stützli" or more, not to mention "as Cüpfli" of champagne.

The real purpose of this "Gschichtli", however, is to tell you about a "Schätzli" I once had by the name of Ruthli. She was a real cutie barbie kind of girlie. I would go down to the "Strössli" to her "Hüsli" for a "Bsüechli" with a bouquet of "Blüemli", knock on her door and say: "Schätzli, gisch mer es Schmützli?" She would then give me a teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy kiss and we would sit on a "Bänkli" in her "Gärtli" for as "Stündli", holding "Händli" while I hoped we would soon go to "Bettli" for you know whatli.

But all she did was drink a "Schlückli" mineral water, eat "Leckerli" and watch the "Vögeli" flying around the "Bäumli". Sometimes we would take the "Trämmli" and go to the "Zolli". Whenever I tried to get lovey-dovey, Ruthli would say: "Tschüssli, Schätzli!" and send me sadly on my "Wäägli" home. Now I'm sickly and cannot stoppy talkie like thisy. Must go to my shrinky doctorli. To form a diminutive in "Schwyzerdüütsch", just add 'li' to practically any word.

The Swiss will love you for it and give you a big "Schmützli!"
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