Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fun with the Swiss

Craig Ferguson is a Scottish-born American television host, stand-up comedian, writer, actor, director, producer and voice artist. He was the host of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, that aired on CBS from 2005 to 2014.

The format (talk show with lots of background laughing) is rather American but the sense of humour is definitely British. Not to be taken too seriously, this video is a wee bit wacky but might make you smile and allow for a humorous five minutes over the holidays.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

24 hours in Zürich

Nothing beats going home for Christmas. Having been given the opportunity to spend 24 hours in my home town of Zürich I grabbed the occasion to walk down memory lane, admire the Christmas decorations and catch up with a few "old" friends. As the saying goes: "It takes a long time to grow an old friend."

The true macaron: Luxemburgerli

Oh dear. Not sure I like this budding fashion?!?

Now THIS reminds me of my childhood.

Every day at 4 pm Kurz Watches and Jewellery shop rings out a Carillon of traditional Swiss music, as hand-carved figures dance, wave and ring cow bells. The figures, sporting costumes from different regions in Switzerland, were made by a ​​wood carver from Brienz, Switzerland. At this time of year, the songs are themed for Christmas. 

Gotta love the Globus department store. They always come up with wacky ideas. This year it's Gina Lollobrigida Christmas tree decorations.

A touch of Paris?

Can't resist a glass of mulled wine

Jemoli, another Zurich institution.

A great Christmas gift for homesick Swiss: Caran d'Ache.

A look down Bahnhofstrasse at dusk.

A glimpse up the Rennweg.

Can you smell the "haissi Maroni"?

Turicum by night

Some things never change!

The Café Schober's window display seems like a dream.

Zimtstärnli, es wiähnachtelet!

I still use this little old witch on our homemade gingerbread house every year!

Feeling homesick for Zürich

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lily and the Snowman

It's not always easy to hang on to the Christmas spirit in between last-minute shopping and hosting holiday parties.

But "Lily and the Snowman" is here to bring you back down to Earth.

Every winter, a magical snowman puts on a show for a little girl. But over time, life pulls them apart. Will she remember to take the time for what she loved?

Lily and the Snowman is an adorable animation short film. A very cute and touching little story to celebrate the imagination, childhood and the magic of winter! It is very similar to "The Snowman," a 1982 animated film that was adapted from Raymond Briggs' book of the same name. Do you remember that book?

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Origins of Father Christmas

The origin of Father Christmas begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. After his death around 340 A.D. he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout Europe.

His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop’s mitre.

In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors, in France he was the patron of lawyers, and in Belgium the patron of children and travellers. Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and some time around the 12th century an official church holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.

After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. Dutch colonists brought brought this tradition with them to America in the 17th century and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.

In 1822 Clement C. Moore composed the poem "A Visit From Saint Nicholas", published as "The Night Before Christmas" as a gift for his children. In it, he portrays Father Christmas:

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Other countries feature different gift-bearers for the Christmas or Advent season: La Befana in Italy ~ The Three Kings in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico ~ Christkindl or the Christ Child in Switzerland and Austria ~ Father Christmas in England ~ and Pere Noël, Father Christmas or the Christ Child in France. Still, the figure of Father Christmas as a jolly, benevolent, plump man in a red suit described in Moore’s poem remains with us today and is recognized by children and adults alike around the world.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Zimtstärnli & Brunsli, my favourite Swiss Christmas biscuits

Having shared my all-time favourite groovy Christmas albums with you, I would like to let you in on my absolute favourite Christmas biscuits of all times.

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!!!!

Zimtstärnli/ Cinnamon stars
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)
1.) Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff.
2.) Mix in the powder sugar.
3.) Put aside and cover about 1dl of the above mixture for icing later.
4.) Mix cinnamon and ground almonds, add Kirsch and combine with the remaining egg whites/sugar mixture until you obtain a dough-like texture.
5.) Roll out the dough on a plastic bag or on a sugar-covered base. The thickness of the dough should be about 1cm.
6. ) Cut out the stars carefully with a cookie cutter which you dip into sugar before every use.
7. ) Lay out the cookies on an oven tray covered with baking paper.
8.) Glazing / drying:  Dip a little glaze onto the middle of each star, pull the icing towards the star tips with a wooden toothpick.
9.) Let the cookies dry at room temperature for about 6 hours or overnight.
10) Bake approx. 5 min. in the middle of a preheated oven at 250°C. Take out and let cool on a cookie rack.

Brunsli/Christmas brownies
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
1.) Mix sugar, salt, almonds, cinnamon, clove powder, cocoa powder and flour in a bowl.
2.) Add egg whites and stir until ingredients are evenly distributed.
3.) 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.
4.) Add melted chocolate from the previous step and the kirsch, knead to a soft dough.
5.) 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.
6.) Let them rest for about 5 to 6 hours or over night in a dry place.
7.) 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 17, 2015

My Top 10 groovy Christmas albums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Switzerland's confidence in the national government

Here is an interesting piece of info that I came across today. If you look at Public Governance as a matter of trust, guess which nation comes out on top? Not only is Switzerland No.1, from 2007 to 2014 confidence in our national government increased by 12%. Might that be because we live in a direct democracy? As the father of a very dear Swiss friend of mine once said: "You are lucky to live in a country which guarantees you a right to vote. Use it!"

Monday, December 14, 2015

The story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

Reindeer posts are very popular judging by my readers' post visits, I therefore decided to dig up the history of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer to share with you. Listen up because it IS a story worth telling!

The Chicago-based Montgomery Ward company, department store operators, had been purchasing and distributing children’s coloring books as Christmas gifts for their customers for several years. In 1939, Montgomery Ward tapped one of their own employees to create a book for them, thus saving money. 34-year old copywriter Robert L. May wrote the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in 1939, and 2.4 million copies were handed out that year. Despite the wartime paper shortage, over 6 million copies had been distributed by 1946.

May drew in part on the story “The Ugly Duckling” and in part from his own experiences as an often taunted, small, frail youth to create the story of the misfit reindeer. Though Rollo and Reginald were considered, May settled on Rudolph as his reindeer’s name.

Writing in verse as a series of rhyming couplets, May tested the story as he went along on his 4-year old daughter Barbara, who loved the story

Sadly, Robert Mays wife died around the time he was creating Rudolph, leaving Mays deeply in debt due to medical bills. However, he was able to persuade Sewell Avery, Montgomery Ward’s corporate president, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947, thus ensuring May’s financial security.

May’s story “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was printed commercially in 1947 and in 1948 a nine-minute cartoon of the story was shown in theaters. When May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, the Rudolph phenomenon was born. Turned down by many musical artists afraid to contend with the legend of Santa Claus, the song was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949 at the urging of Autry’s wife.

The song sold two million copies that year, going on to become one of the best-selling songs of all time, second only to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”. The 1964 television special about Rudolph, narrated by Burl Ives, remains a holiday favorite to this day and Rudolph himself has become a much-loved Christmas icon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Natale a Lugano 2015

Are you ready for a change of scenery in down town Lugano? This month the city has changed its dress with the installation of Christmas lights, colours, sounds and music. The year's most exciting holiday is celebrated with the opening of the traditional markets, an artificial ski slope, a skating rink, and a kiddies' village. Concerts, entertainment, a great New Year's Eve open-party and many other events will lead up to January 6th, culminating in the the magic Epiphany in the city centre.

The Christmas Village at Parco Ciani
From Saturday, November 28th to Sunday, January 10th, Parco Ciani becomes a magical Christmas village dedicated to all children. An enchanted place in which to hang out and experience the unbelievable magic of the celebration most loved by all children.  You'll also be able to skate on the artificial ice rink and have tea with Santa Claus.

Lugano Snowland
The Swiss Snowsports School of Lugano is celebrating its 80th anniversary, and in collaboration with the City of Lugano, it is proud to bring snow in the middle of la pizza. Every child between 3 and 12 years old will have an exceptional opportunity to get a mini-lesson with a ski or snowboard instructor right in the heart of the city. The equipment is included in the price and available on site. Along with the snow-covered ramp, visitors will find a lively village offering a number of other activities and amusements for people of all ages.

The Christmas Market in the town centre's main streets
The traditional Christmas market offers gift ideas, art-products, crafts, decorations, as well as many traditional local gastronomic specialties. From November 28th to December 11th the Christmas market will be hosted in via Nassa and Piazza Riforma. From December 12th to December 24th the market will stretch over the entire city centre. Don't miss it!

Light of peace 2015
On the third Sunday of Advent (13.12.), the Light of Peace will come together in Lugano, Zurich, Basel and Freiburg. At 16:30, the Scouts bearing the symbolic torch leave Piazza della Riforma making their way through the city’s historical centre, to reach Piazza San Carlo at 17:00 where it will remain until December 24th. The ceremony will be accompanied by a children's choir.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sending a letter to Santa in Switzerland

Ever thought of writing a letter to Father Christmas? My kids are teenagers but I still tell them: " If you don't believe in Father Christmas, he won't be able to bring you any presents! You choose!"

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

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

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

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

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

Ho Ho Ho!

Number of letters to Father Christmas the Swiss Post received over the past seven years

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bazar dell'Avvento in Minusio

This weekend you might want to undertake a little trip to Minusio. It will be worth seeing your children's faces light up when they discover the beautiful theater, for the young AND old.

At this Advent bazaar you'll have the opportunity to create scented candles out of natural beeswax. A buffet awaits you in the restaurant with yummy specialities, while at the bright cafeteria, you'll find an endless variety of cakes and biscuits to be enjoyed with good music performed by the various groups that will add to the festive cheer.

You will find interesting ideas and thoughts for Christmas gifts, such as home-made creations made with warm and colourful materials and by skilled hands. Some stalls offer books, stationery products and natural beauty creams. Not to be missed is the flea market with clothing, toys and miscellaneous items which are fit for a second life.

Venue: Bazar dell'Avvento
Where: Scuola Rudolf Steiner, Via dei Paoli 36, 6648 Minusio
Date: Saturday, Dec 5th & Sunday, Dec 6th, 2015
Time: 10:00 - 21:00
Click here for the programme: Bazar dell'Avvento

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Kindness Advent calendar

Even if my kids' favourite Advent calendars are the chocolate ones from Coop supermarket, this doesn't mean I can't add another one this December. She Lives Free has posted a lovely Acts of Kindness countdown to Christmas printable calendar.

Ideally, you'll be holding the door open to a stranger or giving out free hugs more than once a month but maybe doing these acts of kindness consciously might spark the impulse to do more.

And don't forget, you can always modify the acts that don't feel right and replace them with your own. So, go ahead and start making some space on your kitchen fridge to hang up this very sweet Advent calendar.

Happy Advent!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fun facts for Thanksgiving

When it comes to festivities, Thanksgiving is about as American as it gets. Three words – family, food, and football (the US version, that is) sum up the entire celebration.

But while the US famously embraces the holiday today, it might not exist at all had it not been for a group of English separatists who decided to set sail for the New World.

Here are some 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.

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.
- Although, Thanksgiving is widely considered an American holiday, it is also celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada.
- Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, where it is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Teaching my kids about peace

Over the past few days I have found myself having conversations with my children about peace and violence. But just sitting down with a child and explaining the importance of peace is not enough. It’s already a complicated concept to explain, made more difficult by recent happenings of violence and conflict. It is all over TV and social media, yet I'd like to think that the next generation will find a path to a more peaceful future hoping that, as adults, they will be able to change the world step by step.

I wish to share this list I found on the internet about cultivating values to promote the notion of peace in children. Although it seems like a long list, each point is important and we all know the best way to teach our kids is to show them how to do it:

Make sure you set a great example by forgiving them for their own missteps. Teach them the importance of not holding grudges.
Discuss tales of compassion from real life experiences, and demonstrate acts of compassion, for animals and fellow humans.
Help them see the importance of helping those who are at a disadvantage.
Show them that even when they go through a rough patch, tomorrow will be better.
Promote kindness at every opportunity. Explain that acts of kindness feel just as good for the giver as for the recipient.
When they get into trouble, show them understanding. Teach them to understand and have patience with you as well. You all make mistakes, and you love them and they love you, regardless.
Encourage them to nurture friendships with other children from different races, religions, and backgrounds.
Teach them how to work together to reach a common goal. Help them understand that people working together can often create better results than individuals working alone.
Unconditional Love:
As a parent you already love them unconditionally. But make sure they know they are loved and accepted, no matter what—whether they are gay, straight or want to be a rock star for a living someday.
Be open enough with them so they can come to you, trusting they can confide in you completely without getting in trouble. This way, they will grow up believing in people and themselves. Be as honest with them as possible and they will emulate that.
Teach them the importance of sharing the same space, the same room, the same toys, as well as the same planet.
At every chance, show them how respecting others will bring them respect too. Always respect your children in order to set a good example.
Children have to learn early on that every action has a consequence. They must learn to be responsible for their actions and foresee what negative results might develop should they shirk their obligations.
Teach them to try and understand other people’s point of view. Ask them how they’d feel if they were in such circumstances.
Just because they are angry doesn’t mean they should act on it. Talk it out, understand the problem and help them understand that they shouldn’t act on impulse or anger. Violence is not the answer.
Make it a habit to show your children how lucky they are. Teach them to be grateful for their possessions, circumstances, and loved ones.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

IGNITE YOUR FEMALE POWER (Women only seminar)

Join the IWCL Evening group for a talk with American Guest Speaker Erin Marie Godin!

Erin is a leadership and motivational coach who has the ambition to inspire greatness in your life, relationships and business. She is a certified member of the John Maxwell team and will help you cultivate and maintain success through her energetic influence!

She will be covering topics such as:
1. Embracing change and honoring the struggle/progress cycle in life.
2. Tapping into your bravery when faced with “quantum leap” decisions, either big opportunities or situations where you need to choose – stay or leave.
3. Infusing HOPE for a brighter future so women feel empowered and confident in the path they chose. Her mission is to motivate women to intentionally find their strength before a tragedy forces it out of them.

Where: Franklin University, Kalestch Campus, Classroom 1 Via Ponte Tresa 29, 6924 Sorengo
When: Monday, November 30, 2015
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm            
The seminar is free!

Please write to IWCL Evening Group ( if you wish to join.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Climat change lecture in Lugano

Is the Earth’s atmosphere is changing? Are we are responsible for these changes? What are the consequences of these changes, and what should we do about them? Drawing on materials developed for a course Dr. Reimer teaches at Berkeley, he will be in Lugano at the Franklin University to share  his answers to these questions. This special lecture is entitled "Benvolio Knew It, and Now We Live It: Our Changing Climate".

Dr. Reimer received his bachelor’s degree (with honors) from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology.  In addition to his 170 research publications, Professor Reimer is co-author (with T.M. Duncan) of the introductory text "Chemical Engineering Design and Analysis" (Cambridge University Press, 1998), and the text "Carbon Capture and Sequestration" (with Berend Smit, Curt Oldenburg, Ian Bourg, World Scientific Press, 2013)

Don't miss it!

Venue: Benvolio Knew It, and Now We Live It: Our Changing Climate
Where: Franklin University, Nielsen Auditorium, Via Ponte Tresa 29, 6924 Sorengo
When: Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Time: 6:30pm - 7:30pm
For further info click here: FUS, Lugano

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Never could they have imagined!

posted on Expat with Kids in Paris on Nov 18th, 2015:

Over the past four days there has been an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity coming from all parts of the world. The entire globe has caught the French fever it seems. Our family - as did many Parisian and Expat friends - received heartwarming messages and phone calls from loved ones in the Americas, Europe, and Asia all looking for reassurance that we are well. Never have I experienced such a human outreach where people are trying to connect in order to feel reassured and protected. The Paris attacks have hit very close to home for many people. The world seems to be bonding.

Lugano as well as Madrid's city halls are dressed in blue, white and red, the colours of the French national flag are projected onto the Jet d'Eau fountain in Geneva, the tricolours lit up the Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, the Milanese stepped out in force in a demonstration of solidarity on Saturday afternoon. These are all cities that are close to our hearts since we have called them home over the past 20 years. They have all proven their support by lighting their landmarks and showing they share the country’s defiance.

For the first time, I actually shed a tear listening to an emotional and powerful rendition of  La Marseillaise being sung during a friendly football match between England and France. The Wembley stadium had turned into what seemed "Le Stade de France" for an evening. The French anthem has become the ultimate symbol of solidarity, a way for everyone in the world, no matter whether they speak French or not, to express their unity with Paris.

I bet the Parisian never knew how much the world cares about them! I follow the news on Swiss, US, British and French national channels to better understand the image as well as the message the International media is projecting outside of these National borders. As I let the information sink in, I ask myself: "Did the Parisians ever think the world would reach out to them in such an unconditional, compassionate way?"  

However, this is not about a country it is about humanity. All of a sudden, our daily routine has come to a grinding halt and we have been forced to reflect hard and deep about the freedom we enjoy, to think about the rights and the values we live by. It is time to reclaim these beliefs but it has become a great deal harder as we realize that they are no longer to be taken for granted. The French are the first to defend these rights today with the reassurance that the world is standing right behind them.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Peace for Paris but what do I tell my kids?

The evening started with a lovely dinner at a friend's house. We were enjoying our wine and were happy to reunite as old friends do on a Friday night in Paris. While we are licking our fingers over a Strawberry Pavlova one of our teenage boys comes into the dining room looking very worried. He had received a twitter... a twitter and a second later... and the world had taken a drastic change for the worse.

We turned on the TV to discover that confusion reigns. One, two, three or more attacks had happened the other side of the city. There was talk of hostages and we are all thinking... please, not again! Scenes of the January attack come flooding back immediately.

A phone call home to check on the kids and to confirm that they are safe.  Another minute for the situation to sink in. It seems surreal as a creeping, familiar feeling of having lived though this anguish not so long ago overcomes me.

Terrible attacks have hit our city. It is a very, very sad day for Paris. The uncertainty and the feeling of helplessness to defend ourselves leads to fear. Now, you can either give in to this fear or defy it. It depends on your personality, culture and attitude, I suppose. Everyone reacts as best they can.

However, the media are producing headlines that can't be helping the current situation of nationwide emotional instability. I have turned the TV off for a while. We cannot let ourselves descend onto the assailant's level. We are not at war! We are a civilized country. We have values, believes and a constitution that prevents us from descending into chaos.

Going for my morning run, I find the ho-bos sitting on their usual corner, the cafés are open as are the local supermarkets. There is less traffic but I am queuing at the boulangerie just like every Saturday morning. Life goes on. People are exchanging knowing looks but the Parisian who ventured out of the house today are sending a message. A devastating tragedy has occurred but we need to "faire face" and stand united and strong against this threat.

As I walk home carrying my shopping, I can hear a familiar tune and I turn my head. All the way down the road a four year old boy is singing "La Marseillaise" at the top of his lungs for everyone to hear while his Dad is pushing his stroller. That is what I will tell my kids: Stand up for your rights and show solidarity. Sing "La Marseillaise".

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lugano's biggest Family Fun Fair 2015

It will be the biggest family fun fair ever organised in Lugano. No matter if you are expat, local or just visiting the area. This is an event NOT to be missed. Meet new people, make new contacts, discover new tastes and sounds, encounter coaches, teachers, artists, writers and entrepreneurs of all sorts. Who knows you might make a new friend or two? Spread the word and bring your friends along too.

On the day be entertained by: 
International School of Ticino ongoing activities
Kids' Klub offering ongoing face painting, bouncing castle and the possibility to discover and try
instruments under the supervision of wonderful music teachers
Daniela Puggioni kids craft:
Kelly Fisher

Meet, Sample or Buy:
Egle Berruti Photography
JEUNESSE Sparkling:
All For Kids Catalog
Nice Jewerly
Benefit: Jewelry
ACCD IWCL charity 2015

Check out the food court: 
Indulge in Asian Fusion delights ( Ogle over
Columbian food & Cupcakes and sweet ( Enjoy homemade sandwiches & more by St. Edwards Church ( and take home some Indian food.

Last minute tip:
If you contact Norma from Taste of America and order beforehand, they'll bring the products to the fair. You'll have cans of Pumpkin Pie Mix and bags of Cranberries just in time for Thanksgiving!

Generously the International School of Ticino and many exhibitors are offering special discounts to IWCL members.

Venue: Family Fun Fair 2015
Where: Hotel Pestalozzi, Piazza Indipendenza 9, 6900 Lugano
When: Sunday, November 22nd, 2015
Time: 11:00 to 17:00

If you want to know more please write to

Monday, November 9, 2015

Raising bilingual children infogram

I love infograms and I am a strong supporter of bilingualism, trilingualism even quadrilingualism! (Never had to write that word before!?!)

This infographic from ULearn is aimed at increasing awareness on the benefits of raising bilingual children, and looks at some of the tried and tested methods used by many families. Improving language skills at any stage in life is always a good idea, wouldn't you agree?

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