Monthly Archive for December, 2008

A Swiss Christmas

With or without snow, a Swiss Christmas is beautiful and magical.  Nope, it wasn’t a white Christmas (unless you were above 1000m).  But thats ok, it was an enjoyable one, nonetheless!  The one thing that stood out to me, was the cozyness of it.  Cold outside, warm inside and lots of candles.  Real candles on the Christmas tree.  I love candles and didn’t really think about but in NZ it doesn’t get dark till 9 or 10 at Christmas so candles are a bit useless!  It was great to be able to celebrate on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) with my Grosi and then on Christmas Day with my Grossmueti & Grossvati.

And the smells – so good – like a pine needle that gets caught on a candle and lets off a beautiful pine scented smoke.  Drinking wine, eating beautiful food and Christmas guetzli.  Mmmmh.  The boys were spoilt with lots of exciting presents.

Today is a amazingly beautiful day, blue sky and I can see that sun again.  Its been awhile!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, warm or cold and wishing you all a great 2009.  God bless.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Willis family

Thanks for following our Swiss adventures; we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Trip to Zurich

We didn’t know until last week but Daniel has two weeks holiday over the Christmas / New Year period as his office is ‘closed’.  Bonus!  So we are enjoying time at home with Dada.  We decided to go into Zurich on Friday to see him after work and check out the Christmasy things going on there.  We found a  Christmas market at the main train station with a huge Christmas tree covered in Swarovski crystals.  Quite impressive.  We found the Singing Christmas tree, which from a distance looks like some decorations moving around on it but on closer look it is people singing (hence the name!).  Very cool.  There were lights and people everywhere, it was crazy trying to maneuver around with a pram.

Noah had a turn sitting in Dada’s big chair at work.  And a photo of his loved F16 plane (is that right, captain Simon?) that we took along and left somewhere on the train.  Doh.  Ah well.

Two more days till Christmas YAY!

Making (and eating) Christmas tree decorations

We decided to make some Christmas tree decorations in anticipation for the wee Christmas tree we hope to pick up in the next couple of days.  They have heaps of different size, real Christmas trees for sale at the moment on the corner of the street.  Some really little ones, like shorter than Noah, must be less than 80cm.  They are all perfectly shaped too, how do they grow them like that?

Anyway, I found this idea in a Coop magazine and thought I would try it with the boys.  It seems pretty simple, using double sided tape and hundreds & thousands to make a plain red ball look really cool!  It was fun too, for the short time it lasted!  The boys thought it would be more fun to eat them instead of make them.  I caught Noah in the act, he climbed on the bench, grabbed and apple and a decoration, and took a bite out of each.  Funny boy.


There is something about Swiss forests that fascinates me.  But I can’t really pin it down. Perhaps it is all the stories they tell here about elves and fairies that live in the forest that makes it seem magical.  Perhaps it is the tall tall trees and snow covered paths and wee forest huts.

There are forests everywhere throughout Switzerland with one within walking distance of every citizen – it seems. They are so different to NZ forests – which are covered with green bushes and ferns and lots of undergrowth.  The Swiss forests just have massive tall trees – half pine and half not pine (sorry, I am not much of a plant expert!) so many lose their leaves in winter making it look quite bare.

Vineyard church has an annual Waldweihnacht (Christmas celebration in the forest) mostly for the kids.  They light a fire, sing songs, tell stories, roast sausages, eat lebkuchen and drink hot punsch.  Each kid got a small gift too.  It was great and an awesome experience we were blessed to be able to share in.

I love that we are allowed to light fires in the forests here, even in summer, they trust people not to set the world on fire (although that would be hard when there is snow around!).  It was heaps of fun.  We, of course, had to bring along some marshmallows which I don’t think is very common in Switzerland since it took me forever to find a bag of decent marshmallows in the shops.

Toby loved it and rode his bike through the snow and loved exploring and cooking sausages over the fire with a big stick!  He is a professional at it now, doing this sort of stuff every Wednesday with his Waldspielgruppe (playgroup that is held in forest no matter what the weather).

Noah was a bit cautious, not too sure what to make of the fire and snow and cold all in one place!  Here are some photos:

Expatica blog feature

I am quite excited and honoured to be asked to have some of my blog posts and stories featured on the Expatica website.

You know, I was pretty skeptical about having a blog at first, scared that the whole world would know everything about us – what we do, eat, think etc. But I guess people only read what we choose to write, right?!  We set up the blog initially so we could keep the folks back home informed.  It saves writing a kazillion emails a day!.  But I kind of got into it (not quite as wonderfully as my favourite expat blogger) and found I really enjoy it.  Funny, I never thought I would enjoy writing!  Its a bonus to have contact with so many people through the blog, people we would never have ‘met’ if it weren’t for the blog.

Thanks Expatica for publishing our stories.   First feature will appear this Friday.

Weight a minute

In which Dan tells of his battle of the bulge, and breaking his addiction to other harmful substances.

It’s a compelling tale, so do read on…
Continue reading ‘Weight a minute’

You had better watch out – Samichlaus is coming to town

In Switzerland, Samichlaus / St Nikolaus / Santa Claus comes to visit on the 6th December.  He lives in the Black Forest (not the north pole) and ventures out with his scary looked black (usually painted black with coal) hooded helper ‘Schmutzli’ to visit children.  No reindeer or elves, just his grim reaper side kick and a donkey.  Samichlaus hands out treats to the kids – typically mandarins, peanuts, chocolate and gingerbread (lebkuchen).  But there is a catch, the child have to be good all year.  Parents let Samiclaus know in advance of their children’s behaviour  and give him a list of the good and bad things the kids have done in the past year.  If they are mostly bad then Schmutzli scoops them into his sack and carries them away.  I actually don’t think that is allowed, but children are warned that if they are bad, that might happen.

Not sure if I like this Samichlaus much – not much forgive and forget going on there!  I think I would have been a permanent resident of the Black Forest had I got a visit from him as a kid!  But as a parent, maybe it would be a good all year round bribery tool!

One traditional thing you do on Samiclaus day is eat Grittibänz.  Bread shaped like little clown men. I don’t know why.  But they are yum.  Toby loved eating the raisin eyes off then bit off its head.  My grossmueti made us some beautiful Grittibänz and we enjoyed mandarins, peanuts and other good traditional Samichlaus day food.

Bremgarten Weihnachtsmarkt

The next Christmas market that was on my list was Bremgarten.  Actually, I wanted to go to Bremgarten once anyway and show Daniel that gorgeous little town.  It is so beautiful and only a half hour drive from Aarau.  The cobbled streets and traditional houses from the 1200’s along with a beautiful church make for an incredible setting, especially for a Christmas market.  It is on the river Reuss and has a cute old wooden bridge too.

We went to the markets in the pouring rain and freezing cold and were surprised to see that the weather didn’t put people off – it was busy! It did clear though, in time for Samichlaus and the camel (!) riding.  We ate lots of Öpfelchüechli (check out more about these on Jessica’s blog) and drank lots of Gluhwein (also on Jessica’s blog – thanks for doing all the hard work for me, Jessica!).  If I search deep within and be really truthful I would have to admit that my motive for going to these markets is all about my stomach  – Öpfelchüechli and Glühwein.  And the atmosphere and the beautiful villages and scenery of course.

The boy enjoy them too, with all the carousels and chocolate covered bananas, magenbrot and lollipops!  The night photos are taken from the official Bremgarten Christmas market website.

Aarau Lights Up

No, Simon, this is not about smoking, sorry!  Although, much of Aarau does seem to smoke, as do many in Switzerland.  Sometimes I wished I smoked.  Does it keep you warmer in winter?  I will just have to stick to Gluhwein and Heisse Marronni to keep me warm, as I don’t plan on taking on another bad habit!

Anyway, back on topic… Last Friday Aarau officially turned on all its street Christmas lights and the shops stayed open till 10pm!  I know, not a major for those living in America or even NZ where there are shops open 24/7.  But in the land where shops close over midday, shut each day at 6 and don’t open on Sundays, it is a major deal to get to shop until 10!  We ventured around the town, in the freezing cold (it was just on 1 degree), listened to a band (who was trying to stay warm in an open truck), ate bratwurst and drank gluhwein.  We lasted about and hour and then headed back home to warm up.  Not before I bought a nice long black coat though!