Saturday, November 30, 2013

Creative Advent Calender for your kids

A long-standing Swiss tradition is the Advent calendar starting on December 1st. This year I felt like sharing an idea that I came across on the English speaking Mums in Switzerland facebook page. It is all about Being Silly, a theme the kids just looove. With the help of ergolino and some other mums I have listed 24 ideas, one for everyday until Christmas.

1. Eat pasta with your hands
2. Make the biggest splash possible (in the bathtub)
3. Have dessert before a meal
4. Wear whatever you want to school
5. Speak in funny voices all day
6. Have an opposite-day: say everything in the opposite way you mean it.
7. Go to sleep in a place in the house you have never slept before (do that on a Friday or Saturday!)
8. When someone calls or comes to the door (postman?) sing to them instead of talking.
9. Dont touch red / blue / yellow ... things all day.
10. Invent your own dish: cook or bake with whatever is available in the fridge (to avoid having to buy fancy spices)
11. Invent a secret language and use it one day long.
12. Use hair gel to make funny hair-do's.
13. Say the ABC backwards.
14. Do you have “finger toes?” Can you pick up things like a pencil, t-shirt, and more using your toes? 15. Can you tie up your shoe laces in a new way? Zigzag those laces? Use more than one pair of laces in each shoes?
16. Wear your clothes inside out and backwards.
17. Teach your kids to whistle for a taxi with two fingers
18. Rewrite your favorite song: sing your version as a group very loudly into hairbrushes while the real one plays on the stereo on low.
19. Wear some crazy and funny socks
20. Try to break a world record, even if you have to invent one
21. Take silly family pictures
22. Do a science experiment (the Coke-Mentos volcano is always  good one)
23. Play charades
24. Whipped Cream Fight: Everybody wears a raincoat. Everybody goes outside. Everybody gets a full can of Reddi-wip. Nobody can eat from his or her own can.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas markets in Lugano

It's Black Friday in the United States and therefore the busiest shopping day of the year. However, this weekend will be busy in Ticino....

Enter into the Christmas spirit at the Chritmas Fayre of St. Edward's Church in the festive setting of Casa Benson. Enjoy a glass of mulled wine whilst browing among the stalls of homemade traditional specialities, handicrafts and preserves.
The address is: The Anglican Church of St. Edward, Via Clemente Maraini 6, 6900 Lugano

Check out the Christmas Market in Savosa at Via Roncaccio 5, 6942 Savosa with many English-speaking stands. Friday and Saturday morning.

There is also the Christmas Bazar at the Scuola Steiner: at Via dei Magi, 6945 Origlio

Please make time for the Christmas Open House at All for Kids on Saturday and Sunday! Stop by anytime between 10:00 and 17:00 either day. There will be simple holiday crafts for the kids and snacks for all. You can browse the vast selection of games, toys & more that make learning fun and inspire creativity. Lots of new items have just arrived!
 Click here if you need directions. The address is Via Cimitero 21, 6592 S. Antonino, and parking is available.

Happy Christmas shopping!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fun facts about Thanksgiving

Fun Facts about the First Thanksgiving
- The Plymouth Pilgrims were the first to celebrate the Thanksgiving.
- The Pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to reach North America.
- They sailed on the ship, which was known by the name of 'Mayflower'.
- They celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
- The Wampanoag Indians were the people who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land.
- The Pilgrim leader, Governor William Bradford, had organized the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621.
- He invited the neighboring Wampanoag Indians to the feast.
- The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days.
- Mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, popcorn, milk, corn on the cob, and cranberries were not foods present on the first Thanksgiving's feast table.
- Lobster, rabbit, chicken, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese are thought to have made up the first Thanksgiving feast.
- The pilgrims didn't use forks; they ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers.

Thanksgiving Facts throughout History
- Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States.
- Sarah Josepha Hale, an American magazine editor, persuaded Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She is also the author of the popular nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb"
- Abraham Lincoln issued a 'Thanksgiving Proclamation' on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving.
- The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition began in the 1920's.
- In 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would take place on November 23rd, not November 30th, as a way to spur economic growth and extend the Christmas shopping season.
- Congress to passed a law on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
- Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President. The President does not eat the live turkey. He "pardons" it and allows it to live out its days on a historical farm.

Fun Facts about Thanksgiving Today
- In the US, about 280 million turkeys are sold for the Thanksgiving celebrations.
- Each year, the average American eats somewhere between 16 - 18 pounds of turkey.
- Californians are the largest consumers of turkey in the United States.
- Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States.
- Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, where it is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Useful Thanksgiving links

Following are lots of useful links to help you decorate, shop and cook for this special celebration:

Make shopping more fun with a colourful Thanksgiving shopping list. Don't forget those cranberries!!!
Thanksgiving Grocery List:

Never quite sure how much turkey to buy or how long you need unitl it is cooked properly. Search no further. Here are the answers:
Turkey Dinner Calculator:

Storing Fresh Poultry
Purchase your bird three to five days before the planned meal. If you've chosen fresh poultry, ask your butcher to take off the legs and neck if necessary, then keep it unwrapped in the fridge. When you're ready to roast the bird, remove it from the fridge, wash it, pat it dry and leave it for at least two hours to come to room temperature before cooking.

Storing Frozen Poultry
Thawing a frozen bird requires patience. The safest method is to thaw it in the refrigerator, allowing ample time for it to slowly defrost. On average, it takes approximately 3 days for a 20-pound turkey to fully defrost. Tip: For a crispier skin, unwrap the bird the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.

Whether your taste in centerpieces is traditional or modern, formal or fuss-free, we've got you covered with 20 ideas for the star of your Thanksgiving table:

Give thanks in a new way this holiday season. Invite friends and family to share what they are most thankful for by creating a thankful tree that can take center stage throughout the Thanksgiving holiday:

Here is a whole list of printables that will keep your kids busy before and after Thanksgiving lunch while you cook or have a sip of that delicious wine!
Thanksgiving printables:

What kid does not enjoy a challenge? If your children prefer computer games, keep them occupied with these educational games online.
Thanksgiving challenge:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My favourite recipes for a Swiss-American Thanksgiving

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
Harriet Van Horne

By marrying into an Italian family I gave up my traditional British Christmas feast and we enjoy a very abundant Neapolitan banquet every year. Thanksgiving gives me an excellent excuse to present my family with a turkey at least once a year. Unfortunately, neither my hubby nor my kids are big turkey lovers but at this point they are overruled by THE BOSS!

Here are my favourite recipes I keep on concocting every year:

Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage Butter
1 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 bunch fresh sage, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 to 14-pound) fresh turkey, giblets, neck, and liver discarded
8 strips bacon
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons hot water or bouillon
Preheat the oven to 320 degrees F and remove the top rack of the oven.
Put the butter and sage in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork or spoon until the sage is well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity and skin liberally with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, gently lift the skin from the turkey breast and slip the remaining seasoned butter under, massaging the breast meat as you go. Truss the bird by crossing the legs over one another and tying with a piece of kitchen twine. Shingle the bacon strips over the breast so it's totally covered. Put the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan, cover the turkey with aluminium foil, and place in the oven.
In a small bowl, stir the maple syrup with 2 tablespoons of hot water to thin. Roast the turkey for 2 hours, basting with the maple glaze every 30 minutes. Continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F. The thigh juices will run clear when pricked with a knife, about 4 hours total (20 minutes per pound). About 1/2 hour before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil so that it can brown. When done take the turkey out of the oven and put the roasting pan on the stovetop. Transfer the turkey to a serving tray to rest at least 20 minutes before carving. Serve with Turkey Gravy.

Roasted Turkey Gravy
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large, smoked turkey wing or 2 small ones
1 medium onion, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
1 ribs celery, chopped
1 head garlic, split through the equator
4 stems fresh sage
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 parsley stems
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the wing, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs, and cook for 5 minutes. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place over medium heat. Remove the wing and set aside. Add the flour and let cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock and simmer until it has reduced by about 1/4, about 15 minutes. Strain the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Sauce
1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
1 cup honey
Wash the cranberries and discard any that are soft or wrinkled.
Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.
To unmold and serve, immerse bottom of mold in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds and turn upside down on plate or serving dish. If necessary, carefully run a warm knife around the edge of the mold.

Last year I discovered a new dessert that I switched for the classic pumpkin pie. Here goes:

Pumpkin and Bourbon Mousse
¾ cup sugar
6 tbsp. bourbon
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
8 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 cup canned pumpkin
orange zest for garnish
Bring 2" water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Place a medium metal bowl over pan, and add sugar, bourbon, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and egg yolks; whisk together, and cook, whisking constantly until thickened and pale, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set bourbon mixture aside. In another bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form; add canned pumpkin, and fold until almost combined. Add to warm bourbon mixture and fold together until smooth. Divide among serving glasses and sprinkle with orange zest; serve immediately.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Swiss Fondue recipe

Following yesterday's post on Swiss Fun facts about cheese, I thought I'd share my Fondue recipe with you today.

There are different kinds of fondue: Cheese fondue, Fondue chinoise (where you dip meat into bubbling broth), Fondue bourguignonne (when you dip meat into boiling oil). Both of the latter versions come with an array of yummy sauces such as curry, tartar, mustard mousse, cocktail sauce, just to name a few.

Switzerland was and always will be a Fondue country. 42% of Swiss believe Fondue is the most typical  Swiss dish. Followed by Rösti which is a sort of hashbrown just better and Raclette which consists of slices of melted cheese eaten with new potatoes.

In Swiss tradition if a nugget of bread is lost in the cheese either the person offers the next bottle of white wine (because you drink white wine or hot tea only with cheese fondue) or the other rule is, should you lose your piece of bread you need to kiss everybody of the opposite sex around the table. Enjoy your company and your meal!

Check out my Expat with Kids recipe book for Fondue recipes:

Bon appétit!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Swiss Fun Facts about cheese

Swiss cuisine mirrors the diversity of local history. The Swiss treasure the distinct taste of their regional specialties. Thinking of Swiss cuisine, the first thing that comes to mind is Swiss cheese. Famous Swiss cheese products are Gruyere, Emmental and Appenzeller.

Fondue and Raclette are the most popular Swiss cheese dishes.

Fondue is a dish made of melted cheese adding a bit of wine and garlic. Diners dip bits of bread into it using a fork. Should you drop the piece of bread into the pot you either pay the next bottle of wine OR kiss your table neighbours.

Did you know that the real Swiss eat Fondue only during the winter?
Did you know that people in Switzerland raise their eyebrows when they see Americans eating fondue with fries and Coke?
Did you know that many Swiss have a class of Kirsch – cherry schnapps – with the fondue. The more adventures ones dunk their piece of bread in it before they load it with cheese?

Did you know that “fondue” is French and means “melted”. Even though it’s a French word, it’s called fondue in all four official languages of Switzerland?

Did you know the other very popular Swiss cheese dish, called Raclette, where cheese is melted and scrapped directly from the wheel of cheese?

Raclette originated in the canton Valais. It is heated and then scraped onto the plates. Served with new potatoes, pearl onions and baby pickles and sprinkled with Paprika.

Did you know that – while Switzerland is very famous for its cheese – it’s also the home of the first wine growing area in the world that has been made a UNESCO world heritage site? It’s the area called Lavaux between Montreux and Vevey on Lake Geneva.

Did you know that Gruyere is not just the name of the world famous cheese, but also the name of a wonderful town and a beautiful region close to the mountains and on the border of the French- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland. They also produce Gruyère Double cream, a sort of smooth creamy-rich butterfat from mountain cream which they serve with their other speciality: delicate, thin, sweet meringues.

Did you know that Switzerland doesn’t just have holes in its famous cheeses? It also has holes in its mountains, among them the world’s longest train tunnel through a mountain: the 35-mile (57 km) Gotthard Base Tunnel.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A weekend guide to Zürich

Somehow, I was feeling rather homesick today so I decided to make a list of typical city sight that might come in use should you decide to visit Switzerland's largest city.

In Zurich you should not miss a stroll down the Bahnhofstrasse, the city's main shopping street with many attractions, especially before Christmas period.

Day 1:
Start off at Bürkliplatz (right next to the lake) where you make your own candle by dipping a wick into tubs of molten wax in the Kerzenziehen pavilion. All you need is a bit of patience but my kids love it!

Half way down the street is the Paradeplatz (home to two of Switzerland's biggest banks) where you'll find Sprüngli, a teahouse which sell Swiss macaroons as their speciality. They are better than the French macaroons and definately worth a try! ;) Melt-in-your-mouth truffles, light and delicate ‘Luxemburgerli’ macaroons, handmade dark chocolate, tarts and cakes are just a sample of the many sweet and tempting offers at the café.

Stroll to the Münsterhof nearby where you'll find the Fraumünster Church with its magnificent stained glass windows in the choir created by French artist Marc Chagall in the early nineteen-seventies, or the windows by Augusto Giacometti. Fraumünster, which literally means women’s abbey, belonged to the Benedictine convent whose abbess had wide powers in Zurich.ünster

Continuing along the Bahnhofstrasse at No. 62 you'll find Franz Carl Weber, a
never-ending toy shop on four floors with virtually anything you might be looking for, includes books and a pizzeria. The kids will love it!

Behind the Franz Carl Weber walk up the Rennweg. The name derives from “Rain”, which means slope. In the Middle Ages, Rennweg was Zürich’s widest street. The "Rennwegtor" gate stood at its lower end as part of the city fortifications. The "Fröschegraben" trench lay along the city wall, but it was filled in during the 19th century, and Bahnhofstrasse was built on top of it. Rennweg is the second most exclusive shopping area in Zürich after Bahnhofstrasse and its pedestrian zone invites you to stroll and linger. It will lead you up to the Lindenhof.

This spot, the Lindenhof,  provides a glorious view of the Old Town, Grossmünster Church, City Hall, the Limmat river, the university and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Lindenhof was also the scene of numerous historical events.
In the 4th century, a Roman fort stood on Lindenhof. It served as protection for the occupying Roman forces as well as the local population in the event of attacks by the Alemanni.
In the 9th century, the grandson of Charlemagne built a regal palace as a residence on this site.
This area continued to be a place for gatherings for Zürich’s inhabitants right up to the beginning of the modern era. For example, the oath sealing the Helvetic Constitution was taken on Lindenhof in 1798.
Today, Lindenhof is a haven of peace and tranquility in the heart of the city and a meeting point for passionate chess players.

At the end of the Bahnhofstrasse you'll find Zürich's main trainstation. Behind it, is the Swiss National Museum (in case of rain) called Landesmuseum on Museumstrasse 2 which is definately worth a visit. The museum houses the largest cultural-historical collection of objects in the country. The museum building is over 100 years old and reminds one of a fairytale castle.

If you like cheese and would like a good fondue for dinner go to the restaurant Le Dézaley in the Römergasse 7/9. The fondue prepared according to an old family recipe is definitely very tasty and also comes in a version with morels (mushrooms).

If you're looking for more Swiss German food head to the restaurant Zeughauskeller in the Bahnhofstrasse 28a. Situated in a mediaeval arsenal it serves good solid traditional Swiss fare: generous helpings of meat, sausages, schnitzel and roast. Popular with tourists, locals and lads out for the night, it’s a place where it’s easy to get to know people, as you share the big tables with other guests. Lots of fun.

Day 2
A visit to the Zürich Zoo and the Masoala rainforest. Elephants, rhinos, penguins and 20 species of monkeys are just some of the animals on the Zürichberg that will transport you into an exotic world – with all your senses. Explore the rainforest along a twisting path and gain insight into a typical rainforest dense with palms and inhabited by lemurs and turtles and discover sparse swamp areas with a myriad of brightly-colored frogs.

If you still have the energy, you can walk along The Niederdorf (Niederdorfstrasse) which is the old town running along the east side of the Limmat River. Filled with bars, restaurants, shops, cafes, and a few old adult cinemas, it also contains the Grossmünster church, which is a huge Romanesque-style Protestant church and also one of the 3 main churches in Zürich (the other two being the Fraumünster and St. Peterskirche). A perfect for a stroll during the day, as you can see a mix of the old and new amongst the winding alleys.

Voilà. This wold be my suggestions. Pick and choose as you like.
Following is a Zurich site that might be useful to you:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The "Swiss Francs" rap

So, there goes Switzerland's reputation or - as they say - bad publicity is publicity too! The Swiss Franc is definately on the rap scene thanks to Ryan Leslie. He actually did go to Harvard! I do love his address though: Global.

Have a peak for yourself and see if you recognize some sights from Zurich:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lugano's first Family Fair

Here is a lovely opportunity to discover how much happens in town. It's the first of it's kind in Ticino. So don't miss it. I'm talking about the Family Fair held at the Hotel Pestalozzi in Lugano on Sunday, November 10th, 2013.

Come spend a fun day with the whole family, grab the chance to eat a cupcake, or some yummy thai or mexican food while browsing the stalls of the Family Fair.

You'll find plenty of entertainment for grown ups and little people in a friendly environment in the heart of Lugano. Much to learn, to taste, to see and to buy.

For more information and to receive the flyer with all the list of the exhibitors contact:

Presentations/demos during the day:
Ready-Steady-Move! Demo in Spanish (max 12 kids) to join write to:

Storytelling in Spanish with Stephanie Bravo

Yoga for parents with Lidia Regoli (adults only, max 12) to join write to

Storytelling in English with Kelly Fischer

Storytelling in Spanish with Stephanie Bravo

Family First Aid Kit: No Home Should Be Without One with Christina Schmid – Franklin college nurse

Storytelling in English with Kelly Fischer

Ready-Steady-Move! Demo in English (max 12 kids) to join write to:

Discussion about dyslexia

This will be a fabulous event so tell your friends! Everybody is welcome to stop by.
Entry is free. Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Venue: Family Fair
Where: Hotel Pestalozzi, Piazza Indipendenza 9, 6900 Lugano
When: Sunday, November 10th, 2013
Time: 10:00 to 17:00

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