Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Travelling today!

I remember my mother telling me: “This world is not what it used to be.” Well, in my view, travelling is not what is used to be.

I remember stepping into my Geneva flat which was 6 km away from the airport in exactly 30 minutes after the plane’s touchdown on the runway. I used to leave my office 50 minutes before take-off and breeze through passport control and security check with a trolley the size of a trunk full of liquid perfume samples. Gone are the days when - even if stressed about catching your flight - you still managed to smile at the security person asking you to put your handbag through the scanner. Can you imagine what their life must be like today? Poor them, it’s not even their fault. Low on personnel and possibly badly trained they are handling overworked customers who in turn are harassed by portables, blackberries and extensive security rules and regulations. Remember the days we travelled without a mobile phone and you could relax on the flight with enough leg space to even stretch? You actually got served real food with proper cutlery.....and......NOBODY could get hold of you, absolute bliss!
Too add more irritation the flights are ALWAYS late, so after stressing to get to from your office to your gate in time, you then need to hang around waiting, having everybody listening in on your phone conversation with your boss or husband or worse; both!!! Where has the luxury of travel gone to?

Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about this situation which just seems to be getting worse with more and more people travelling. Therefore, make the best of it! I have started teaching my kids words and/or phrases in the language of the country’s airport we are “stuck” in. Just ask the ground staff for a few clues if you don’t know the language. I also drag them through the duty free food section to show them some typical culinary delicacies I might spot and be able to elaborate on. It all goes down to general knowledge of today’s crazy world. Who knows maybe some bits of information will stick to them and even come in handy one day?

Pan Am Stewardess 1970's

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving recipes

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and although I have lived thousands of miles away from the Untied States most of my life, rarely have I missed Thanksgiving. When I was a little girl the main reason for loving this special American holiday was that I got special permission to take the afternoon off from school. Today, I cook the meal myself for family and friends. Days spent in the kitchen are worth all the work when you finally sit down with a good glass of wine at hand and can enjoy your oeuvre d'art, because that is what is!

Over the years the following recipes have proven to be my absolute favourite. Go ahead and experiment yourself!

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
Preheat the oven to 350 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 3 hours total (15 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.

Please check out my recipe book where you'll find more Thanksgiving recipes. 
Just click on Recipe book tab above this post or go directly to: 


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Tis the Fondue season

It is cold, it is dark and the weather isn't helping. November is just generally not my favourite month. How better to cheer yourself up than with a Fondue shared with friends. Fondue is not just a meal it is a social gathering with your family or friends. It is fun and it warms your soul as well as your tummy.
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 recipe book 
for Fondue recipes.

Bon appétit!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Definitions of dialect

a) Definition: Means or mode of expressing thoughts; language; tongue; form of speech.

b) Definition: The form of speech of a limited region or people, as distinguished from either forms nearly related to it; a variety or subdivision of a language; speech characterized by local peculiarities or specific circumstances.

Yesterday I talked about accents, today I thought I’d share some typical Ticinese expressions with you. I added a link to my Lugano links that has an exhaustive list of sayings. Admittedly I don’t know any of them after having lived in Lugano for 4 years.

Surrounded by locals I have noticed that most of them speak the local dialect…and I mean local: the Luganese dialect is not the same as the Levantina or the Mendrisotto one which are 2 areas 15 km up respectively down the road. All the locals understand these dialects and some of them fall into it when in conversation others don't. What struck me is that none of the mothers and fathers speaks dialect to their children. As a parent wouldn’t it come naturally to speak your native language to your child, even if it is a dialect?
Upon inquiring, the answers I received were that it is not “fit” to speak dialect and that the parents would prefer their children speak Italian. Through the lines I perceived a class issue that nobody really wants to talk about. However, kids around here might or might not understand the local dialect but I have never heard a child speak Ticinese at school, not during break time nor in deep conversation with their peers.
A pity, really. I am a strong believer in teaching your kids their heritage and nurturing these roots. It is astonishing that the Swiss German consistently speak in their local dialect to each other and with their children whereas in Ticino this does not seem to be the case.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


“The accent of our native country dwells in the heart and mind as well as on the tongue.” 
 François de la Rochefoucauld
So, enough of Birchermüesli which is a word nobody can pronounce anyway. Just like “Chuchichäschtli” or “Fuchsschwanz” which brings me to today’s blog theme: accents.
Accents are funny things. I spent my whole life in limbo between being American and British when in reality I’m probably Swiss?!? 
Thanks to my British mum and my Amercian Dad, I grew up between 3 linguistic worlds, British, American and Swiss. The Swiss part was the easy one: I lived in Switzerland, frequented Swiss public schools and I had the broadest Züridüütsch accent possible. In high school they used to make fun of my Zurich accent it was so redoubtable.
As for English; it might be one language but in our home there was an abyss between British English and American English. I am still today swimming somewhere in between the two. People frequently ask me where I am from because they cannot figure out which part of the world I originate (except of course if I’m speaking Swiss German, oder?).
My mother used to make me repeat a word 10 times in British English if I had pronounced it with an American lilt. Today I catch myself doing the same with my kids (maybe not 10 times though).
Which is my mother tongue? English and Swiss German. I will always be a Brit in America, an American in the UK and a Züri-Chick in Switzerland. Welcome to my world!
For a bit of entertainment I have added a video about accents which is definitely worth watching!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

10 tips for tastier Birchermüesli

Here are 10 top tips to make it taste like the original wherever you are eating it:

1. Almost all seasonal fruit is suitable for Birchermüesli
2. Use quite tart apples, they make the Birchermüesli tastier.
3. Sprinkle freshly grated or sliced apple with lemon juice and mix immediately to prevent browning.
4. Mix Birchermüesli with fruit juice (e.g. orange juice) instead of milk.
5. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.
6. Put plenty of milk on your Birchermüesli. The müesli is very absorbent so more liquid makes it easier to digest.
7. Frozen fruit can be added directly to the Birchermüesli. It will take about 30 minutes to defrost.
8. Yoghurt, cream, curd cheese and condensed milk make the Birchermüesli creamier and smoother.
9. Birchermüesli is delicious as a dessert when mixed with whipped cream
10. Birchermüesli tastes delicious served cold (but not straight from the fridge).

En Guete!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Birchermüesli (yet antother brilliant Swiss invention

“Mens sana in corpore sano”
Dr. Maximilian Bircher Benner, the founder of Birchermüesli , born in 1867 in Aarau (Switzerland), was a revolutionary spirit. As a child he suffered some problems with his health and this may have influenced his decision to go into medicine. He placed great emphasis on holistic nutrition and, contrary to the general view held at the time by doctors, he was convinced of the healing properties of raw fruit and vegetables. But this conviction cost him his membership of the medical society. In 1904 Max Bircher founded the "Living Force" (Lebendige Kraft) Sanatorium on the Zürichberg where he put into practice the findings of his research into nutrition. This work resulted, amongst other things, in the recipe for "Birchermüesli", which would go on to achieve fame throughout the world. Simple, quick and healthy! 
It is time for another recipe: Original Swiss Birchermüesli - serves 4
200 g Birchermüesli flake mix with no added sugar (Personally I prefer the “familia” brand)
4.5 dl milk
1-2 apples
other fruit, e.g. berries, grapes, bananas, kiwi etc., according to taste/season
1 red fruit yoghurt
some orange juice or mixed fruit juice
0.25 dl cream (or more )
1.Mix the Birchermüesli flake mix with the milk.
2.Grate the apples or cut them into small pieces. Add them to the Birchermüesli.
3.Finely chop your other fruit, add it to the Birchermüesli and mix well. 
4.Add the yoghurt.
5.Stir in some orange/mixed fruit juice to make it more refreshing.
6. Add the cream. 
7. Optional: before serving whip some cream and decorate onto the Birchermüesli for nicer presentation.
Note: The consistency should be more “liquid” than solid. To adjust the taste if the consistency is too thick, add additional orange juice and/or milk.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

10 Typical Italian proverbs

Today I heard a typical Italian expression which gave me the idea of sharing some frequently used Italian proverbs which you could try yourself if you feel like it?
Tempo da lupi - It’s raining cats and dogs
In boca al lupo - Good luck
Tra il dire e il fare, c'è di mezzo il mare - Easier said than done
Batti il ferro finché è caldo - Strike while the iron is hot
Chi dorme non piglia pesci - The early bird catches the worm
Mogli e buoi dei paesi tuoi - Better wed over the mixen than over the moor
Nelle botti piccine ci sta il vino buono - Good things (or people) come in small packages
L'abito non fa il monaco - Clothes do not make the man
Quando il gatto non c'è, i topi ballano - When the cat's away, the mice will play
Meglio tardi che mai - Better late than never

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You know you live in Lugano when...

... you start saying "Ciao" instead of good bye, when speaking in any language! Or the same with “Grazie” instead of thank you
... you have the warmth of the sun in your face and you can see the mountains full of snow.
... you know that Monte Bre and San Salvatore aren’t saints but the landmarks of Lugano.
... whenever giving people directions you refer to MANOR and say, "it's two blocks to the left of Manor", "it's right behind Manor", "do you know where Manor is?"
... you feel like going to the movies, but then you remember that, since there are only 2 cinemas in town, you have already seen all the films there are to see.
... you recognize that old man with the really long red beard who plays his barrel organ.
... you know what Foxtown is and how to find your way around in it!!!
... you go to Milan or Zurich when you really feel like shopping.
... when the people you encounter on a day-to-day basis are polite but warmth is difficult to find no matter the season of the year. 
... you think Lugano is the most boring city but after being away for a month, you start missing it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Circus Knie is coming to town

“There are so bewilderingly many laws in the Outside World. We of the circus know only one law - simple and unfailing. The Show must go on.”
 - Josephine Demott Robinson

The Circus Knie is an integral part of my Swiss childhood. When I was a little girl my father used to take me to the Circus Knie religiously every year. Every year we’d be greeted by the same little dwarf and buy our programmes for CHF 5.- by the same clown. 40 years later I am taking my kids to the Circus Knie with a heart full of memories and emotions. It is nice to know that some traditions never change.
The Circus’ Knie dynasty was established 1803 by Friedrich Knie and belongs to the oldest and leading circus businesses of Europe. The 8th Knie generation currently - grandfather, daughter and grandson - put on a superb Equestrian show each year.  Another of the Knie son’s is specialized in elephants and has his 3-year old participate in the arena as well. During last year’s tour the National (because the circus has been declared “National”) Circus Knie stopped in 44 Swiss cities between March and November.
The Knie tribe arrives by train! Yes, all the 70 caravans are heaved onto wagons and shipped from one village to the next by Swiss rail. The animals are driven in 60 trucks via road.
This year’s theme is  "Fascination". The Circus Knie will reside in Lugano from November 18th to 21st, 2010. It is the Circus’ 92nd tour since 1919. It consists of 242 tour days (thereof 216 “show days”) with 342 presentations by different 45 artists. Now that, I might say is quiet a feat in this day and age! Lugano is its last stop of the year’s tour. 
Special guest this year is Marie Thérèse Porchet. She/He is a star comedian in the French part of Switzerland and relatively unknown in the rest of Switzerland. This will change soon, as this ecccentric “lady” with the shrill voice joins the Circus Knie. Behind the (usually very colorful) disguise lies the Genevan comedian Joseph Gorgoni. He invented Marie-Thérèse over 10 years ago and since then, with increasing success, has embodied this figure who’s favourite pastime is teasing the Swiss Germans with her wonderfully wicked sayings. 
For those of you who understand French, I have added a video of Marie Thèrése Porchet's best performances on the "bourbines" (the Swiss Germans).

Monday, November 15, 2010


"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.”  
 - James Bryce

Following yesterday's post about reading I thought I might share one of my favorite links with you today. It is called: Audible.co.uk
This site belongs to the Amazon company and is UK’s largest provider of downloadable books. A subscription allows you to download one book a month at a reasonable price of about GBP 8.- or CHF 12.-.
If you're on an Audible membership plan then you'll be issued credits to use on the site when you pay your monthly fee. One audio credit can be used against any of the 40,000 titles regardless of how much they cost.
The choice of downloadable literature is endless: from science fiction to chick lit to thrillers or even self-help books or comedies. You choose to your hearts' delight. 
Audible books don't replace the real thing but once downloaded, you can listen to your story while having walk, while running, while driving. It can even accompany you in your daily chores such as ironing or cooking. I started listening to audible books after I became fed up with listening to my playlists over and over again. Audible books give you an alternative when you get bored with your usual music.
Like real books some are more captivating than others but the narration (usually in British English) is excellent. You can also buy abridged versions of some books if you please to do so.
Therefore, get yourself some English speaking company for yourself and your kids by clicking here: http://www.audible.co.uk.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

La notte del racconto (The night of the narrative)

"Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books."
- Ursula K.Le Guin

“La notte del racconto” is an initative that started out in 1991 and has now spread across Switzerland. “The night of the narrative” is based on a simple concept and yet brilliant: tell, read aloud, in all of Switzerland the same night. Children and adults can enjoy a special time, full of mysterious charm of listening. In addition to the natural pleasures of narrative, it also allows to merge several generations with a festive event. Telling, reading aloud , listening, ... actions that acquire a special value and are precious in our time dedicated to image, speed, fragmentation, disintegration, and impatience.
On November 12th the children are invited to spend 2 hours after dark at their school to listen to stories read by volunteers. The organizers (usually some of the parents) create a cozy atmosphere throughout the school house with lanterns, candles and sparkling lights. The classrooms are equipped with blankets and cushions. The children gather at around 8pm with their favourite soft toy and their little faces are full of excitement at being allowed out after dinner and anticipation in waiting for the “tour” to start. This years’ theme is “A forest full of stories”, perfect subject for decoration, don’t you agree?
Over the next 2 hours groups of children follow their “leader” from one room to the next where stories are read by parents or grandparents with the help of pictures, photos, slideshows, music, flashlights, candles or anything else the reader has thought of in order to create the right atmosphere. Some mesmerized, some sleepy, some chattering with friends but none of them wanting to miss a single moment enjoy a magical evening of story-telling before heading back home to beddy-byes and sweet dreams.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A day in Paradise

"When Switzerland brings out its best it really is THE BEST!"
Today I thought I'd share some photos with you that I took on this stunning autumn day....no need to add words!!!

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