Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year 2018

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Panettone with an American twist recipe

Panettone is THE typical Italian sweet bread served over the holiday period. If you don't buy it yourself, you'll be sure to receive one as a gift around Christmas time. Following is a scrumptious American adaptation of how to serve Panettone in an unconventional way. Not sure my mother-in-law would approve but it is a delicious way to "revive" stale panettone.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
125 full fat milk
300 grams panettone (or pandoro), slightly staled, cut into 8 equal pieces
50 grams unsalted butter
1 teaspoon flavourless vegetable oil

Decorate with:
3 tablespoons icing sugar
Pomegranate seeds or raspberries and whipped cream (optional)

1.) In a dish big enough to place half the panettone pieces whisk the eggs together with the mascarpone and milk until mascarpone is smooth.
2.) Dunk four of the panettone slices in the egg mixture and leave to soak for 1 minute.
3.) Put 25gr of butter and ½ teaspoon oil in a large frying pan, and set over a low heat to melt.
4.) Turn the panettone slices in the egg mixture, and soak the other side for another minute, by which time the bread should have soaked up enough to soften it and the butter should have melted in the pan.
5.) Turn up the heat, then add the soaked slices to the frying pan and cook for 1 minute each side, so that their egg-soaked surfaces are golden, and browned in part. Meanwhile, soak the remaining four slices in the egg mixture for their 1 minute a side.
6.) Remove the first batch of Panettone French Toast from the pan to a large plate, add the remaining butter and oil to the pan, and cook the second batch as you did the first.
7.) When all the pieces are cooked and on the platter dust thickly with the icing sugar pressed through a tea strainer, letting the “snow” fall on the golden sweet-bread slices.
8.) Optional, scatter with fruit and add a dollop of whipped cream.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Zürich at Christmas

They say homesickness prompts the development of coping skills and motivates healthy attachment behaviors, such as renewing contact with loved ones. In other words, there is no better way to cure a bit of homesickness than to travel back home.

I would debate home is where my family is. I could also say home is where my heart lies. However, home is also where I have left people behind whom will always have a special place in my heart. Lucky for me, two very dear friends of mine happen to live in Zurich where we grew up together. Need I add more? I booked myself onto a Swiss Airways flight back to my home town for some homesickness indulgence.

These were my moments...

Leaving a grey and rainy Paris behind...

... to arrive at the spick and span Zürich airport!

Culinary homesickness cure: Cervelat mit Büürli

Zürcher Tirggel zum dessert!
Traditional Christmas honey biscuits from Zürich.

Reach for the stars! The 157-foot-high tower belonging to the Urania observatory makes it possible. The main telescope allows magnifications of up to 600 times.

I had never noticed this gift from Paris on the Bahnhofstrasse: water fountain dd 1870.

We all know who he is!

Eile mit Weile: a very traditional Swiss board game

Handmade Samichlaus figurines from the Schweizer Heimatwerk, a modern retail shop founded in 1930 offering the finest «made in Switzerland» handicrafts.

Tiger Finkli (tiger slippers) are a Swiss cult object worn by kids since 1938.

When I can see the snowy mountains from the city center I know I'm home.

Zürich looking quaint

S'Määrlitram is yet another Christmas institution. Zürich would not be the same without Samichlaus und Christchind taking you for a round trip through the city telling you stories and feeding you Z'vieri.

The Sächsilüüte Platz has changed since I was little.
It now hosts an enormous Christmas market including an ice rink and a carousel.

Cookie cutters are still the same.
Swiss Christmas biscuits are the best.

Jelmoli department store was selling personalised wrapping paper. How cool is that?!? 

 Some traditions never change: de Päcklitisch!
Free gift wrapping for Christmas and not a piece of waste in sight.

Another longstanding tradition is making your own candles at the Bürkliplatz.
It still smells the same when you walk into the tent.

Could not resist this shot.
Contrast from up close reality to far away alps in the background. 

Bis zum nächste Mal: Ciao Züri!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dreaming of a Swiss Christmas tree

Attempting to render my tree completely unique with a selection of beautiful Swiss Christmas tree decorations, I was in search of baubles in bright colours, unique novelty ornaments and the ultimate tree toppers during my recent visit to Zürich.

I was lucky and stumbled across all kinds of exquisitely Swiss Christmas tree decorations... unfortunately the baubles were over 25.- Euros a piece.

Therefore, my traditional tree decor from the past years has made its reappearance but I have added a stunning centrepiece this festive season: an Eiffel Tower tree topper acquired from a street vendor at Trocadero for 3 Euros!

Starting out my quest for Swiss Christmas tree ornaments in Zürich's trendy department store
... the colour is right but the price is not!

Swiss Edelweiss hearts

Swiss Alpine motives

Swiss "Decoupage" baubles

Would I really want a cow hanging from my tree?

Edelweiss, Seilbähnli and and hiking shoe make me feel homesick!

Rhätische Bahn miniature and an Alphorn bring back childhood memories.

These chocolate bars are not to eat and much too expensive for my taste!

A little piece of Swiss real estate hanging from the tree.

I could just use cookie cutters as tree decoration?!? 

My grand acquisition for this year!

Mulled wine recipe

So now that we are sure Santa won’t get lost thanks to the lady reindeers, let’s sit back and relax with a glass of home-made Glühwein or mulled wine. It is great for warming you up or for when friends drop by, as it can be made ahead and reheated.

Empty 2 bottles of fruity wine into a large pan.
Slice 4 oranges into 6 wedges each and add to wine.
Add all of the below:
5 cloves,
100ml brandy
2 cinnamon sticks
1tsp mixed spice
6 tbsp golden granulated sugar (more if you have a sweet tooth)
Warm gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Take care not to boil the mixture as it will cook out the alcohol. Ladle the wine into glasses and enjoy!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

History of Father Christmas' Reindeers

In addition to Rudolph, Santa has eight more reindeer who haul the sleigh the other names of Santa's reindeer are: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner (Dunder) and Blitzen (Blixhem).

The first known written account of reindeer in association with the legend of Santa Claus occurred in 1821. That year, New York printer William Gilley published a sixteen page booklet titled A New Year's Present by an anonymous author. In the book, reindeer are introduced into the Santa Claus narrative:

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O'er chimneytops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

In 1823, the Troy Sentinel published the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas, commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas". The poem features eight flying reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh and, for the first time, they are identified by name:

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!"

Interesting fact:
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December.

Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, EVERY single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl!

Monday, December 18, 2017

It's cool to be kind

Last week the International community of the kids' school spread their love again at the Holiday Bazaar. The organising team had even chosen a theme: "It's cool to be kind". I was happy to support their cause by participating with a Christmas gift stall. Admittedly, I had a secret Santa in the US who supplied me with lots of glittery ornaments.

Walking through the gates half an hour before school started I was greeted by Christmas carols sounding out of the Principal's office adding an extra spring to my walk, despite feeling a bit under the weather. I passed little messages of kindness and love along the wall of the Primary school before I entered the gym that had been decked out from top to bottom with Holiday cheer by the good fairies that worked until late last night to make this an unforgettable experience for the little ones.

Sure enough one class after the next came through the gym admiring all the handmade merchandise that was at offer. Many parents had been busy for weeks crafting, creating, teaching and learning from each other sharing experiences and traditions that form this supportive community.

The children did not know which stall to visit first as their eyes tried to take it all in. The little ones needed help with their coins while the big ones already bargained. I overheard one little boy tell his mum: "Look I bought you this lovely jar so you can make me home-made jam." That's what I call Christmas spirit.

Home-made jingle bell hairbands

Fancy a little gift box?

You always need a pompom keyring.

Giant paper wind mills

You are so smart!

Recycling a tomato basket

 Many clever hands have been at work here. 

Original gift boxes

Paper flowers in my favourite colours

Feeling the love

Christmas tree decorations

It's cool to be kind

It's all in the tradition

Candles in recycled yoghurt glasses

Recycled Christmas wrapping paper

Delicate paper stars: big and small

Colourful gift boxes made from toilet rolls

Couldn't resist these little fellas

These decorative nutcrackers were a hit with the kids... who knew?!?

Candy cane got everyone dreaming since it is hard to come by in Paris. 

It is definitely cool to be kind! 
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