Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year 2021

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Royal Chefs' Gingerbread House

So, it might be a little late but given we are stuck at home during Covid times this seems like a fantastic afternoon activity with the kids.

How could I resist taking a go at the Royal Chefs' Gingerbread House? I cannot... therefore I thought I'd share the Royal kitchen's recipe for making the perfect Gingerbread House with you. Have fun and let me know how you fair.

Gingerbread Dough


  • 1000gr - Plain Strong Flour
  • 14gr - Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 28gr - Ground Ginger
  • 14gr - Ground Cinnamon
  • 355gr - Butter, unsalted
  • 500gr - Light Brown Sugar
  • 140gr - Egg
  • 175gr - Golden Syrup


  1. Mix flour, bicarbonate and spices together
  2. Add cold diced butter and continue mixing until crumb stage is reached
  3. Add sugar and briefly combine
  4. Then add eggs and syrup and mix until dough is formed
  5. Divide into 2 blocks, knead together by hand and flatten
  6. Wrap and chill for a few hours before rolling to approx. 5mm thickness for the house parts and approx. 3mm for smaller decorative parts
  7. Cut gingerbread house shapes using template Gingerbread House template
  8. Place on baking trays and chill again before baking
  9. For windows, crush boiled sweets into the spaces you have cut


  • Fan oven 165c
  • 18+ min for house pieces
  • 12+ min for smaller pieces

Royal Icing: 


  • 1500gr - Icing Sugar
  • 200gr - Egg White
  • 50gr - Lemon Juice


  1. Sieve icing sugar and combine with egg white and lemon juice by hand first before placing into mixer
  2. Paddle together on low speed for about 2min, then scrape sides and paddle well
  3. Continue mixing on low speed for approx. another 5min, until a creamy hard peak consistency is reached
  4. For piping, decoration works loosen icing with some water
  5. To assemble gingerbread house use hard peak icing

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Pantone 2021 color of the year: There are two

For the Pantone Colour of the Year selection process, colour experts at the Pantone Colour Institute comb the world looking for new colour influences, from the entertainment industry to fashion, travel destinations and socio-economic conditions. Influences can also stem from new technologies, materials, textures, social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.

Aiming for “a message of happiness supported by fortitude,” color expert Pantone has announced not one but two “colors of the year” for 2021. The picks for the coming year are Ultimate Gray and a “cheerful yellow” called Illuminating.

It is the second time in the selection’s 22-year history that two colors have been chosen. In 2016, soft hues of rose and blue were twinned.

Of the 2021 selection, Pantone’s press release said: “The combination … is aspirational and gives us hope. We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter.”

My personal favourite remains the choice of 2001: Fuchsia Rose, a bright, feel-good feminine colour, that  is passionate, intense and exciting, yet also warm and endearing.

2011 was a good one too: Honeysuckle, a bright, sherberty pink shade, uplifting and optimistic, evoking nostalgic feelings of summertime.

Illuminating and Ultimate Grey

Fuchsia Rose


Monday, December 28, 2020

Striving for a better, fairer world...

What motivates students to pursue a career in humanitarian aid, development cooperation or peacebuilding? And why do they sometimes turn away from it? cinfo - the competence centre for international cooperation (IC) - in collaboration with the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) has conducted a survey of over 500 Swiss students.

The results show that young people are attracted to the profession because of their desire for a meaningful job and the opportunity to tackle global challenges (environmental, social, etc.). 

The prospect of a personal challenge and experience abroad are also attractive, albeit to a slightly lesser extent. However, some are deterred from starting their professional career in this field by the difficulty of reconciling private and professional life and balancing the career of a potential partner - at a time when work-life balance is considered a key factor in a job’s appeal. 

As many jobs are temporary, financial and occupational insecurity are also likely to make young people hesitate.

Sixteen Swiss IC employers, interviewed in a second survey, indicated that the number of jobs for young professionals has generally increased in recent years. 

The number of applications per NGO job is increasing, while the recruitment of junior professionals for multilateral organisations (such as the UN) is proving to be more complicated.

For more detailed information:

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Christmas spirit

 "May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve."

Best X-mas gift this year.

A Swiss touch in the kitchen.

X-mas table decorations: simple, traditional and festive.

We cannot go without the Italian Panettone.

Busy baking with Expat Girl

In remembrance of Nonna... struffoli fatti in casa!

Babà au rhum à la napolitaine.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR sets out a certain set of rights that are the basic and minimum set of human rights for all citizens.

The UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being - regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.

Setting aside a day to commemorate, educate and reflect on the principles that form the UDHR means celebrating the rights we exercise everyday, and acknowledging that enjoying those rights carries with it the responsibility of promoting these rights for all people.

Things that many of us take for granted – such as the right to an education, the right to receive medical care, and the freedom to practice our chosen religion – are not equally available to all.

Human rights gain new meaning when they become a reality in the daily life of every single person in the world. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Grittibänz recipe

What the name "Grittibänz" means is subject to some discussion, but the word appears to come from central Swiss dialect: "gritti" seems to mean something like "standing astraddle" - with the legs apart - and "Bänz" is a short version of the name "Benedict".

Up to the years of 1930 this "Grittibänz" was only known in the midlands of Switzerland, the area of Basel and in Fribourg and Jura. Later the Nikolaus dough man was spread all over Switzerland due to the media and the bakers and their distribution channels.

To make your own little bread man at home, begin by making a yeast dough and have your kids help you. Following is a super-easy, fast, yummy recipe for Grittibänz:


  • 500 gr flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 70 gr sugar
  • 70 gr butter
  • 2 dl milk
  • 1 egg
  • 25 gr yeast
  • 1 egg for coating
  • For the decoration: raisins, shelled almonds, candied fruit, possibly coarse granulated sugar.


  1. Cream the yeast with a little sugar in a cup.
  2. Place the flour in a bowl and mix it with salt, sugar, slightly warmed butter, lukewarm milk, the egg and the yeast to a dough.
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Cover and leave to rise to twice the amount in a warm place.
  4. Knead the dough again, use a knife to cut off pieces of dough in the desired size and roll out to an oval shape.
  5. Mark the head by pressing the dough together slightly and turn the head to the back to make the neck. Cut out the arms and legs with scissors and place them in the required position.
  6. Decorate the figures with raisins, shelled almonds and candied fruit and trim the hat with remnants of dough. Leave to rise and put in a cold place for 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Before baking, brush with egg and possibly sprinkle with coarse granulated sugar. In a preheated oven, bake for 20 to 30 minutes at medium temperature. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Swiss tradition of Samichlaus

In Switzerland, the tradition of St. Nicolas is somewhat different from the norm. Switzerland is a country of several languages so it is not surprising there are several different St. Nicholas traditions. In German-speaking areas Saint Nicholas is known as Samichlaus. Though he looks the same as Father Christmas, the Samichlaus (originally Sankt Nikolaus) does not bring the presents at Christmas. Rather, he appears on the 6th of December. Children visit the Samichlaus (usually at school or with their parents) to be judged and recite poems that they've learned. The other option - when I was little - was leaving your boots in front of the door the night of December 5th to find them filled with goodies the next morning. 

Samichlaus is usually accompanied by a helper called Schmutzli (from "schmutzig" - dirty). He is dressed in a black or brown cape with a large hood. He wears a black beard and is smeared with dirt. While the Samichlaus praises the kids who have been good, Schmutzli takes the naughty kids, puts them into his bag and carries them away. This makes for a practical way for parents to make their kids behave well: "Be good or Schmutzli will carry you off in his bag!"

Fear not for the Swiss children. Described above is the original form. Nowadays Schmutzli is purely ornamental or even left out completely.

My kids used to visit San Nicola in he woods with their school class. Trust me, they never slept very well the night before.

Should you need a Samichlaus for your family you can check out the Chlaus directory here:

The evening meal on December 6th traditionally consists of a man-shaped bread (called Grittibänz, recipe here), mandarines, walnuts, peanuts (with the shells), Lebkuchen and chocolates.

So, make sure you put your boots outside the door tonight and IF you have been good you'll awake tomorrow morning to find them filled with mandarines, nuts and chocolates.

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