Monthly Archive for November, 2008

Schloss Biberstein Weihnachtsmarkt

In Biberstein, a wee town not far from Aarau there is a castle which cares for people who have some sort of disability.  They get to live and work in this beautiful castle!  Every year they hold a Christmas market and it is well known for it amazingly creative works and atmosphere.

We went and had a look yesterday.  It was really cool (and really cold too!).  The creativity of the decorations around the place was what really blew me away.  You can see by some of the photos – how to turn a plastic bottle (well – 100 of them anyway!) into a work of light and art.

The boys loved the boat making stand and the wee ‘river’ to run the boats down.  And we had to try out the lebkuchen decorating aswell.  Different coloured icings and sprinkles, including gummibears – not many of which made it onto the lebkuchen!

They sold handmade everything – candles, wooden toys, Christmas decorations, jams, biscuits, pottery.  Just incredible.  I really am addicted to these Christmas markets.  They are everywhere now.  Every city, town, village has one going on, some last a couple of days and other are on all month.  I know all you guys in NZ are boasting about hot days at the beach, and it is hard not to be a wee bit jealous.  But we are having brilliantly cold and snowy days.  A real Christmas season – the way it should be – right!?  Watch this space for more Christmas magic, um, i mean markets…

Advent Creativity

Next week we start the big count down to Christmas!

There are so many reasons why we wanted to spend some time in Switzerland.  One was to experience a real Swiss winter and Christmas.  So far, I am impressed by all the festive season things being offered.  The markets, decorations and advent stuff.

I have always loved advent calendars.  Last year, I tried to find a cool one in NZ and all I found were a few budget and tacky paper Santa Claus ones.  Not like that here, but then advent did originate just across the border – in Germany.   There are zillions (yes, my latest word) of them and they are beautiful.  There are ones made out of paper, felt and wood.  In various shapes with pockets, drawers or hooks.  In which you can put, place or hang a wee gift in – to be opened one each day leading up to Christmas.  Some are reusable so a good investment, can be used each year!  I found a wooden train with lots of drawers in each carriage – 24 to be exact!  Perfect for the boys!

Here is a homemade idea I came across in the Coop Zeitung.  Making 24 Origami bags, decorating them, filling each one with a wee gift and then hang them across the lounge or along the hallway.  Very cool!

And there are thousands of other creative advent ideas.  Here are a few more I found.  I am busy rediscovering my creative side!  It rocks.  There will be plenty more Christmasy posts in next month!

Baking up a Big Biscuit storm

We (I think I can speak for all the ladies!) had a fun-as time baking biscuits last night.  My kitchen even coped with the zillion baking trays (none of which fitted in my wee oven!).   We all brought along a biscuit dough or ingredients for biscuits.  We chattered and baked and iced and shared stuff about the book we are reading together “Mama, die Beste Job der Welt” or “Professionalizing Motherhood” (worth reading for all you Mums out there!)

Mostly traditional Swiss biscuits like Vanillehörnchen, Caramellini and some dried apricots with almond dipped in chocolate.  Mmmh.  I tried out gingerbread men.  Here are the couple of photos I promised:


I know it is a bit early for Christmas cookie baking.  But who says I can’t have Christmas biscuits all year round anyway!?  I bought a Swiss biscuits recipe book from Bergli – an English bookstore in Basel.  So I had to try out my favourite – Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars). They were a huge success and really quite easy.  The ingredients consist of egg whites, icing sugar, kirsch, ground almonds and of course, cinnamon. They must be star shaped though, who knows why!?  Notice, no butter or fats! (a gluten free recipe too, i think, Louise!).  Here is the recipe.

Other beautiful Christmas cookies include Brunsli (made with chocolate and almonds) and Chräbeli (Aniseed), Mailanderli and Spitzbuben (translated as naughty boys).  So so good.  And then there are all the beautiful spicy bready cakey thingis, like Lebkuchen and Magenbrot…  I think the chocolate index might be lagging a bit while I fill up on biscuits…

Some girlfriends are coming over tomorrow and all bringing a cookie dough, so we will be baking up a big biscuit storm.  Will post some photos later…

Congratulations Corina & Martin

Congratulations Corina & Martin on your long awaited boy.  Lucas William John – born today!  So excited.  We just came back from celebrating with Grossmueti and Grossvati.  Great-grandchild no.4 for them. And I am proud auntie again.  Now the boys have two cousins!  (one more coming soon too – thanks Jono and Anna!).  God is so good!

Snowing cornflakes

We’ve had a couple of days of snow with more forecasted.  It is awesome (Dan’s word!).  We took some time out to play around in the snow, making snow angels (just for you, Simon) and throwing snowballs (just for you, Simon).  Tried to make a snowman but it was a bit tricky, although the neighbours managed a huge awesome (!) one somehow.  Our snowmen making skills still leave much to be desired. Noah looked out the window last night and said ‘look at all the cornflakes’, I think he meant snowflakes…  Haha.

Talking Swiss

We get asked a lot if our boys are speaking Swiss yet.  I thought I would answer that here.   Basically – No.  But they are learning.  They definitely are understanding a lot.  I notice if I ask them something in Swiss, that they understand.  I guess it is a bit like a newborn, they don’t talk for the first year or two of their life while they take everything in.  Then they start speaking later on.

We mostly speak English at home.  But we sing songs in Swiss and read stories in German (just to really confuse them!).

They do know a few words which they use in everyday language:

Grüezi (hello); Tchuss (goodbye); Danke (thank you); Bitte (please); Migros (local supermarket!); Coop (another supermarket – yes we spend lots of time at the supermarket!).  All the town names like Aarau, Oberentfelden, Luzern etc.  They can count to 10, say a few colours, and words like Baum (tree), Hund (dog), rägeboge (rainbow), and quite a few more…

Toby sings a few tunes in Swiss German that he has learnt at Muki Treff, Church, Playgroup or from a CD.  It is so cute listening to him sing nonsense – only a couple of words make sense in Swiss!  Today he came home rubbing his tummy and said ‘mein Bauch‘ (my tummy), he picked it up from a song he sung at Spielgruppe.  And then hopped on his bike and said ‘hey my bike is blau und grun’ (blue and green).  So two languages in one sentence!

Here are a couple of lines of a Swiss songs he sings over and over and over – but I love it:  (thanks Cornelia for the Kings Kids CD!)

Wenn i dra dänke, was Du fur mi hesch gmacht,
wott i niemeh vo Dir w
äg, wäg, wäg
Nei, nei, nie, nie, ä, ä, ä, wott i niemeh vo Dir wäg, wäg, wäg

Heisse Marroni

Not much has been happening in our world.  Just every day life, church stuff, work and the family.   But it is all good.  It is cold (high of 5 degrees today) and we are all a bit sick so staying indoors more.

I have to do a wee post about one of the best things about winter… Heisse Marroni.  At this time of year you can get hot, roasted chestnuts at stands on the side of the road.  Perfect to warm you up.  Mmmh.

Toby has been going to a ‘Waldspielgruppe’ every week.  Pre pre-school aged kids venture out into the forest with a couple of teachers and explore and light fires and make rope swings and cook cervelas (sausages).  He absolutely loves it. He comes home filthy but that is all good.   They go in any weather- snow & rain etc.  So cool.  What a great idea.  He is going on Wednesday morning again they are expecting 1 degrees overnight.  Will have to dress him very warmly.

An angel paid for my shopping

Ok, well I wasn’t going to blog about this experience as I am a wee bit embarrassed – it makes me out to be a crazy, unorganised hopeless New Zealander. And I am trying really hard to be a sophisticated, organised member of Swiss society!

I went shopping at the local supermarket. When I came to the checkout and tried to pay with my Postkarte (bankcard), the machine spat it out telling me my card was blocked. I tried a number of times and it kept spitting it out. I had plenty of money in the account so didn’t know why it wouldn’t work. I couldn’t even enter my PIN. I was so frustrated because there was a line of people behind me, I had no cash (which I normally always do) and the supermarket didn’t accept Visa. There was no cash machine around and I had done a fairly massive shop of $130.00 and had even hired a Mobility car to get it all home.

Continue reading ‘An angel paid for my shopping’

Chocolate & Marriage

Yes, our chocolate index is a bit behind for being here 6 months.  If we were eating the same amount as the average Swiss we should be well over 12 kgs now (for our family total).  I think our current 7.8 kgs sounds greedy enough though! I have bought about the same amount again in chocolate and sent it home to NZ.  Perhaps that should be included!  Man. Perhaps our consumption will pick up a bit over the winter months.

And that word marriage is in the title – nothing to do with chocolate – just thought  I would share a cute story about Toby and his thoughts on marriage:

He asked me what the purpose of each of his fingers was – yes, he is at THAT ‘why?’ stage – you know index finger, middle finger, pinky etc.  I won’t tell you all my answers cos I just made them up (anyone have the right answer for me?).

Anyway, when he got to his ring finger he asked ‘what is this for?’  I said ‘on that finger you will wear your wedding ring when you get married’.  He thought a moment and said ‘I don’t want to wear a ring when I get married, I think I will wear a t-shirt instead’!

Funny guy.