Friday, 30 December 2011

Farewell 2011...

I must admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed looking through all the pictures taken this year and creating mosaics to share with you tonight. I have never really looked back on the years that have passed, but since started blogging in March 2011, it is now easier than ever to look back on the events of the year and take it all in...

I was amazed to see how few photos I actually have taken "pre-blogging". So the first mosaic is a summary of our first three months in la Suisse. We moved to la Suisse on January 4th 2011 and we were lucky to find a new home in the countryside (something we were very keen on after many years living in Glasgow). We instantly fell in love with Meilen, our balcony view of lake Zürich and the many great places we will find ourselves discovering on foot. Then in February, we adopted Alf from a rescue centre near Zürich and instantly fell in love with him too. During those three months, I was still working remotel for my old job but Alf and I found some spare time to help some Swiss scientists catching roe deers in Western Switzerland for a long-term population study. We had a little bit of snow but mostly we enjoyed clear skies and sunny days.

Made in Suisse was born at the end of March as a way to share with friends and family back in the UK the stories of our new life in la Suisse, but also, let's face it, as a small project to keep me occupied during my unemployment. April saw Alf and I going on several newt catches to help with a study carried out by other scientists at Zürich University. We enjoyed plaing about in ponds catching amphibians very much! On one of our newt trip, we briefly stopped at the Rhine Falls, the largest waterfalls in Europe. Mr T, Alf and I spent many a weekend discovering our new surroundings on walk, and we particularly enjoyed our walk on the Küsnachter Tobel. We also had some guests in our house in April. Do you remember Posh & Beaks (and babies)?

May was mostly spent outside la Suisse, looking after my niece and nephew in the South of France for three weeks while my sister was away for work. This turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a bit stressful at time, but it was so lovely to spend so much quality time with the kids and enjoy some great day trips. I went walking in the Réserve du Méjean, searching for flamingos; we went on a family trip to the beach;  I spent a day wandering around Montpellier with my camera like a true tourist; and we had a fantastic time visiting the historical heritage of the city of Nîmes.

June was all about the garden, enjoying being outside, enjoying watching the fruits and our crops grow and making the first of my preserves. I took advantage of my unemployed status to go on long walks with Alf in the Meilen countryside. Craft-wise, I had just bought a new sewing machine and my first sewing project involved some Spring bunting to cheer our balcony up. I had my first swim in Lake Zürich in June (Mr T and Alf had already started going to the beach back in May while I was away).

July was a bit of a funny month weather-wise with two almost solid weeks of rain, but this did not stop us from enjoying all that la Suisse had to offer in the summer. First and foremost, there was a lot more of preserving or baking in an attempt to make use of all the lovely fruits growing in our garden. Daily swims in Lake Zürich were enjoyed by all; we visited a nearby goat farm during its open day and enjoyed some lovely farm produces; we attended the Summer Fair in Meilen where we enjoyed some street food and community spirit; and perhaps the highlight of the month was rescuing a bat from certain death on our balcony!

August was a bit of a mixed month as well. On one hand, we were very excited to go on holidays to the French Alps for a week, on the other hand, Mr T was booked in for his back operation after the holidays so it was a little bit stressful. We kicked off August by celebrating the Swiss National Day on the 1st of August and watching the parades in Zürich. We then took 2 trains, a subway, a boat and a taxi to reach Morzine in France for our one week holiday. Once there, we enjoyed a lot of eating out at restaurants, going to markets and visiting some summer pastures during our daily walks. A fantastic holiday!Back in la Suisse, Alf and I conquered Mt Pilatus and I finally revealed to the world my first knitted cardigan!

Before starting my new job in Bern, I surprised another one of my nieces by visiting her for the weekend in the North of France. September was a surprisingly busy month for me craft-wise with sewing my first dress, a beach bag, African animals and some cross-stitching! We enjoyed having some visitors from Glasgow coming over for what turned out to be one of the sunniest weekend of the year which allowed everyone to indulge in more swimming, wine-drinking by the lake and ice-cream eating!September was in many ways quite a relaxing month.

October was without a doubt the month of wine! The grapes had been picked a few weeks beforehand and it was time for a degustation of this year's harvest! It was also time to start thinking about making presents in time for Christmas and I was very pleased with my first attempt at quilting. A very good friend came to visit from Glasgow for a week and his visit coincided with the local Pumpkin Fair where we enjoyed pumpkin soup, pumpkin sausage, pumpkin beer and pumpkin brownies!We also indulged in some not-very-successful storking at Lützelsee. Back at work, I enjoyed a day trip to the Emmental region with some colleagues, visiting dairy farms, touring the Emmental producing factory and eating our weight in cheese and meat! October was also the month of my first trip to Germany, visiting friends in Konstanz and taking lots of photos of fountains!

November was a bit of a stressful and emotional month, leaving Meilen and moving into a new house in Brugg. It took a while to find our marks again but we were soon reassured to find that Brugg had plenty of interesting walks to offer Alf either in the forest across our road, or along the river Aare. I finally used the fabric bought in Morzine in August to make some Alpine-looking cushion covers for our new living room. Back in Bern, colleagues and I sneaked out on work early one afternoon to attend the annual Onion Market, a very unusual Swiss tradition.

Oh December, where art thou gone? It feels like November was only yesterday and yet January will be upon us in a couple of days. December has been very festive indeed despite our underwhelming experiences of Swiss Christmas markets. Christmas decorations were made, and Alf and I went foraging in our local forest for some festive greenery. I took part in my first Swapping event on blogland and decorated our first Swiss Christmas tree.We also enjoyed the first of the snow and showing around some of our UK visitors around our Christmas wonderland. Santa has once again been good to us (even Alf had some treats left for him under the tree) and it is that time of the year to think of the year past and the one yet to come.

I am very thankful for what 2011 has brought us. Our new life in la Suisse has turned out much better than we could have hoped for: we've found two nice houses, enjoyed spending a lot of quality time out in the countryside, we've found a perfect (if not slightly retarted at times) dog to share our walks with and I have found a good job too. There has been patches of greyish skies with health worries and stress during my unemployed days but I feel that I have achieved and enjoyed much more during 2011 than I had in the previous couple of years. Investing some of my spare time crafting and blogging has also helped me achieve some more personal goals and I am ever so glad to have "met" so many of you in Blogland.

May this all continue in 2012. Thank you for following me in 2011, please do come back next year!

Made in Suisse xx

Friday, 23 December 2011

Winter Solstice

I have seen on blogland that I am not the only one rejoicing in slowly clawing back some daylight...Mind you, winter in la Suisse has be very good to us this year with well above average temperatures and enough daylight in the afternoon to not want to crawl into a hole and hibernate like a bear all winter. This is a welcome change from the last 7 winters spent in Glasgow.

We woke up on the winter solstice day to the first of the snow...

... and given that we had some visitors over from the UK on holidays, we celebrated in style with a walk in the woods and some sledging!

A day to remember!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from la Suisse xx

Monday, 19 December 2011

Call me cheap...

I put my hands up, I will admit it... I often don't see the point of spending money on things which will end up virtually unused in the bin or things that I can make myself. Take for example, Christmas present wrapping. I went to the supermarket the other day to buy a couple of rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and I almost had to be given CPR in the middle of the shop... 7CHF for 3m of wrapping paper???Are you kidding me??Not that we have hundreds of presents to wrap but I would still probably need to buy 2 or 3 of these rolls to do the job at hand. And then I remembered that I had bought a 50m roll of brown paper at the Post Office for a few francs to wrap parcels with a while back. This would very well do the job of covering the presents for a few days before ending up virtually unusued in the bin on Christmas day. All is needed is some ribbon to cheer the whole thing up a bit, and I can always recycle ribbon in crafty projects after Christmas.

Than, came the question of the Christmas tags... They cost a small fortune here, no one ever bothers reading them before chucking them in the bin so what is the point of buying them when you can make them for free?

Take some pictures from the December edition of one of your favourite magasines...

Cut and glue onto a piece of paper or thing cardboard

Press in a book for an hour or so to make sure they dry flat, et voilà!

Call me cheap but I have probably saved well over 30 CHF here (the equivalent price of 3 chickens in la Suisse!) and it does not look bad at all:

Not to everyone's taste but my purse is satisfied!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Green craft

The other day, Hunter & Gatherer (Alf & I...) went for a walk in the woods just up the hill from our house on a mission... we were foraging for material to help me recreate some of the beautiful Christmas decorations you see in florist shops at this time of the year. Christmas wreaths and Christmas plants are expensive everywhere but even more so in la Suisse and I am not the only one on blogland trying to make do with what's at hand (my friend Petit Filoux is an example).

So off we went on our morning walk, and one hour later we came home with some ...



and pine branches...

It then only took an extra 10 minutes and some pretty ribbon to create these hanging green bunches for my house:

Total cost = 0 francs .

Thank you Mother Nature!

"Hunter" exhausted after all the morning's work!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Butter biscuits recipe

I was asked for the recipe for the biscuits I made 2 weeks ago and that I shared with you on my Christmas-theme baking post. In case you'd forgotten how yummy they looked, here is a reminder:

You will need:
500g flour
1tsp baking powder
2 eggs
200g sugar
Dash of vanilla extract
250g chilled butter

Combine all the ingredients and mix to form a smooth dough.
Refrigerate for 30-40 minites.
Roll out to a thichness of about 3 mm and cut out shapes.

Place biscuits on a greased baking tray and bake at 175° for 8-12 minutes

This will produce a lot of biscuits so I usually divide the ingredients by 2 and still end up with about 30 biscuits.

Happy baking!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas stocking swap

Happy Saturday everyone,
A couple of months ago, I entered a Christmas stocking swap that was hosted by a fellow crafty scientist blogger The Undomesticated Scientist. The swap rules were:
- It must include a stocking
- A christmas decoration
- Nibbles
- Something useful
- Smellies
- Something to playwith
- a tangerine - or something that represents it
I was actually paired up with the host herself and received my parel at work on Friday which cheered me endlessly on a rather grey and busy Friday. So here it is then:
My adorable stocking!! The Undomesticated Scientist had blogged about this stocking back in November when the stocking came second in the sewing directories christmas creativity competition... how amazing is that? The stocking has fairy lights all over it, I love it!

The stocking included...

Chocolates and a Terry's "tangerine"
Lovely hand-made decorations, some funky fabric to play with, a little game and some sweet strawberry clips
Smellies including those awesome button-shaped soaps!
This was my first swap ever on blogland and I am so chiffed with me and thankful for the time and care spent by the Undomesticated Scientist putting this stocking together. I can't show you what I included in mine yet as the parcel hasn't arrived just yet but I'll let you know when my partner blogs about it.
Right, we have visitors coming from Germany this weekend, I'd better go and get that coconut cake out of the oven.
Have a lovely weekend :-)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

An early present from myself to myself

Why wait for someone else to give you presents?? I say, do it yourself! I had seen this necklace by a fellow blogger Zsazsazsu from Belgium back in the summer but I decided to wait until my first pay check to buy it from her. Having been unemployed for 6 months and living off one salary, I couldn't really justify giving myself presents. Typical really, by the time I found a new job the lovely necklace had been sold and I told Zsazsazsu I was really disappointed. She was kind enough to send me a message the other day to let me know she had made another necklace using African jade beads in case I wanted to pop over to her Etsy shop and have a look at it. How nice??

Skip a week, and I received this in the post yesterday...

If you like unique designs and jewels with a twist, I can only recommend checking out her shop online here!! I am already thinking about which piece I should invest in next ;-)

Another Swiss christmas market, another disappointment

Not defeated by our first experience of a Swiss Christmas market in Zürich main train station, we set off on Sunday to Basel to check out one of the biggest Christmas market in la Suisse. Not wanting to put a downer on the whole Christmas market spirit, but I must admit that once again we were disappointed by our day trip...

Granted, (some of) the stalls there had a more Christmassy feel and theme to them, a few of them even sold decorations, but we still found that many stalls sold the exact same products, there wasn't a great deal of variety on offer and the prices were often a rip-off. You really had the feeling that this market was geared towards tourists (and there seems to be plenty around) and people just charged over the odds because of that. We once again came home empty-handed with only a few pictures to share with you.

We had never been to Basel before though and found the old city to be very nice so we'd like to go back next year to explore it a bit more. And we shall not give up our quest for a magical Christmas market in la Suisse!
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