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Sunday, November 23, 2014

November Rain vs Sweet November

Today is When I started writing it was the first day in a long time that I didn't have to work and no appointments either. My temporary crown has been replaced by the permanent one, our heating is fixed (for now), the parent / teacher meeting the other day went well, I even got some supplies for home made Christmas gifts.

So what am I doing today? 

Going for coffee with a friend? Going to the gym?

Right. Baking. 



And blogging! 

Telling you about the good days and the - well, they are over so it wasn't all that bad.

Some days start with a bed that looks like this. Add some smell. Or don't.



I am glad for a functioning washing machine that I can use at all times. How do people in apartment houses do it? The ones with a laundry schedule that allows you to use the laundry room once a week?



Wednesday is Hockey Practise Day, and I usually go all the way to prepare for our car trip of almost an hour per way and the meals we enjoy on each one of them. 

Last week I just made sandwiches because the previous couple of weeks Colin just had a snack at daycare, and one time when it got late they even packed one for him! So I just had an emergency baggie of dried apples that I threw in my purse at the last minute. 




Yes, I was late to pick him up. Had to wait for the laundry to be ready to be transferred to the dryer.

Usually they send him to the bathroom before I arrive, so he just needs to put on his shoes and jacket, grab his backpack, and we are ready to go.

Not this time. 

They had only just gotten back from the playground and were brushing off their dirty shoes at the entrance when I arrived. The first thing I noticed about Colin when I saw him was… a large dark area on his pants. "Hey C, how are you? Are you WET?" 

Hey said NO!!! 

Sent him to the bathroom and raced back to the parking space to get spare clothes from the car (don't you just love how organized I am for once? Yeah, me, too!!)

Finally on our way - late - I spotted sheep. Not just any sheep. Black headed sheep. Did you know they exist? I didn't. 



As I was in the car and couldn't stop I had to sneak this picture off the Department of Agriculture of a German region. 

I originally called this post "random thoughts". That's why I mention the sheep. No deeper meaning. 

In the meantime it had started raining.

By the time we arrived it was pouring. And I figured out the reason for the heavy traffic I had been noticing. The circus was in town.


Nothing against the circus, I just hate when the people who visit the circus take up our parking. Especially when it's raining and we're late.


This already happened to us a couple of weeks ago. However I was prepared back then. I knew they were having their fall fair, and  the city would be crowded, so we departed super early. 
It was a good thing because the only parking space I could find was a semi-legal one at the Ferrari dealership almost at the next town.


So we had to shlep our hockey bag across town. At least the weather was nice!




So on the rainy circus day we parked a bit closer to the hockey arena, but my mood - and my hair, and my boots - were ruined by the time we made it to the locker room. Also I needed to pee.

Couldn't remain grumpy for long though. The little people on the ice just make me smile. 


The next day I went grocery shopping when I heard this:

video

This is the coolest thing I have seen about our army in a long time. Actually ever. Yes, I live in neutral Switzerland, and we do have an army. Once us voters were asked if we should abolish our army, but there weren't enough people (even so 35.6%) who said "sure". 

Apart from helping out on peacekeeping missions we don't have anything to do, so why not playing some music for the shoppers?

Speaking of shopping, I had a plan.

C needs a new winter jacket. With him being in school and me working there aren't a lot of opportunities to go to the mall together. That's where my plan came in was supposed to come in:

I would pick him up at school (3:15pm), drive to the mall, arrive around 3:45, have a snack at SBUX, have him do his homework (4:15), shop (4:45 - he's a guy!), go home (5:15), make dinner (5:45). Doable, right?

After only a couple of minutes on the road, traffic reports told us about an accident en route, and delays should be expected.

It was one h*** of a #$@&%*! traffic jam! Took an hour to get there! The good news was he didn't have any homework. the bad news was we had to skip the snack d/t time restrictions.

Snap a pic of the awesome Swarovski xmas trees, then off to clothes shopping.


 



On our (long) way I had asked him about his jacket, what did he have in mind?
It needs to be orange, have a warm lining, and a zipper rather than buttons.

So when we walked into H&M and I saw THIS, I thought "perfect! We're done!"


Mr C didn't think so. He wouldn't even try it on or explain why he didn't like it.
Instead he went into ref mode and stretched out his arms for "no goal"



Then he folded his arms for pretty much the rest of the conversation. 
I won't repeat it to you, let me just tell you: I need to learn a lot until he turns into a teenager.

Btw I have been teasing him by shaping our Grittibänze like the ref and the sulking guy ;-)


So THIS week… We had to do better!

No traffic disruptions. School - Mall in 25 minutes. Sweet!


He didn't have enough homework for me to even get my notebook out. I so wanted to blog while he did math, but we'll do that another time ;-)


Instead we went to the book store… Yes, my first grader reads devours books now!
When it gets silent at home, you can usually find him - in odd places and positions sometimes - starring into a book. I'll have to blog about that some day.


And checked out the new seasonal products at the Body Shop.


This is his new jacket. It's the follow-up model from the one he had.


So THIS week... I made sure to bring enough food for our drive to hockey town.


Treats, too!


I got a treat as well. Look at those snow covered mountains! Don't mention the headache that this kind of weather conditions tend to bring, though.



Parking: check
Locker room: check
At the board in time: check


Blow a kiss to mom: check



Monday, November 17, 2014

Fall Fair Basel

Halloween is over, for us adults it's just s short while until Christmas, but if you're a kid, almost two months seem like a long time.

Good thing many regions have their annual fall fairs with crafts and food booths, fairground rides and other money traps entertainment to offer.

Even before we were married and had kids, a couple we are friends with, my boyfriend / hubby and I have been meeting for the Basel fair almost every year. 

Basel is the city the two major pharma companies Roche and Novartis have their HQs, and it's also the region where Roger Federer is from. Some Swiss trivia just as you're reading my blog, you're welcome.

Now on to the fun part!


One vendor we never miss is the evil witch's candy stand.

First the window shutters are closed. Just you wait, though!


It won't take long, and they go open, and the evil witch makes her appearance!


They sell roasted almonds, butterscotch toffee, a special kind of gingerbread and - our favorite - chocolate covered strawberries or pineapple pieces! 

Lately they've gone fancy and started using marshmallows, too!

 

This is probably the most classic ride, and I remember when we took C for the first time, I had to stay with him and hold him. Our baby was less than 14 months old!


Look at him now, climbing on his horse all alone!


I liked the retro tin boxes they were selling at this booth. The prices weren't retro at all, though, so I was a good girl and didn't buy anything there.


Speaking of retro, those folks are really from another time:



If you're asking yourself where you've heard this melody before… 

Maybe here?


If the Mom song was new to you, surely you want to know what the Dad song is all about:


Allright. Back to our fairground. Some Dalmatian balloons went for a walk flight, too.


There are several areas all over the city to where you can walk or take a tram to.


A good opportunity to pay attention to the nice old houses all over town.


Before you know it it's getting dark! Time for the highlight of the day!





Spending our last money on "dinner"


See you next year!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Grittibänze

This post is one that I've been meaning to do… for a year! 

But then - you know how it is - once December had begun, I got busy!

So this year… ta-daaaaa! 

Little Swiss yeast men, called Grittibänze!




But then - you know how it is - in our tiny country, every region is proud of their own dialect and their own names for the same thing. So the folks in the Zurich area where I live call them Grittibänze. Drive an hour and you'll get to Basel where they are called Grättimänner. Cross the border a couple of miles away, the German neighbors say those are Weckmänner or  Stutenkerle, the Alsatians Männeli, and our French speaking fellow Swiss bake their Bonhommes.

And just as many names that are out there - at least the same amount of recipes exist. Some almost double the measurements for butter, others mix in sugar, experiment with curd as an ingredient, etc.

I say save the sugar for the cookies! Here is the recipe that I use:

Grittibänze Recipe

4 cups flour - all purpose flour is fine, if you can find anything finer ground, even better
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup whole milk, warm
8 teaspoons liquid yeast or equivalent dry yeast

Mix, knead well, cover with a cloth and let rise for 60 - 90 minutes.

Form little guys ("freestyle" or roll out your dough and use a gingerbread man cookie cutter) and  decorate with chocolate chips, nuts, raisins,…

Let rise for another 30 minutes, coat with egg yolk or egg wash.

Bake at 350°F for 20 - 25 minutes

This is how nice the dough looks after rising for at least an hour
Shape as best as you can

The rising process may pop out your little guys' eyeballs…
Just squeeze them back in ;-)
My cute little helper in 2013
My cute little helper in 2014



It drives me crazy how they turn out sometimes.

So I use the cookie cutting method

Less is more ;-)

Once the Holidays are over, you can use the same recipe and shape braids. It's a very typical and yummy Swiss breakfast pastry. There is even a recipe on Allrecipes.com (she forgot to mention that the dough needs to rise until doubled in size before shaping)













A word to the braiding… there are people out there who use 6 or even 8 strands!! I am challenged enough with 2, but you'll be fine ;-) Otherwise you may watch this video. Some Swiss (Bernese) guys camping and baking in Alaska!




Did you catch that technique? Here's another one, closer up:





And if you don't want to do the braiding… just use cake loaf pans, works fine, too:


There's not many things smelling nicer than freshly baked Zopf. Cinnamon rolls, maybe. But that's it!

Give it a try, will ya? Let me know how it turned out!