Friday, 28 October 2011

Not a normal day at work

I had one of the best days at work last Friday!! Our institute welcomed delegates from all over the European Union for a small congress last week and we had organised a little tour on the Friday afternoon. The bulk of the congress attendees being vets specialised in livestock, we spent the afternoon in the Emmental region to visit a typical Swiss dairy farm and the Emmental cheese plant.

Most of the farm buildings in the area are very old…

…older than the United States!

The farm we visited was very representative of a lot of farms in Switzerland: small, with high levels of animal welfare and definitely not a big money-making business. The farmer had about 30 dairy cows, which he knew very well (in terms of health and specific requirements) and which all had names (I looooved Delila, see below). The calves were reared in separate pens and were cute enough to make Terminator melt! They were so curious and came to sniff everyone and get stroked

I almost came home with one!

And look at these two having a cuddle!
I could have stayed all afternoon rolling in the hay with my new bovine friends but we had to move on to the next visit. On our way out of the farm, the farmer said he never needed a watch as the cows told him what time it was. He said it must be getting close to 4pm as all the cows that were grazing in a pasture nearby were all waiting at the fence near the road, waiting for the farmer to take them home to be milked!

We did not have to walk far to find the cheese-making plant. Every stages of the food production chain is kept locally, some of the milk was produced on the farm we visited, ended up being used to make cheese 50m away which would be eventually sold in the village shop again less than 50m. I know that in this day and age of increasing world population and food consumption, there is a real need for the intensification of agriculture and food production, but it is very nice to still see farming done on a small scale in a way that is perhaps not sustainable in the long-term but definitely healthier for all concerned. We had a guided tour of the plant, with lots of very interesting information of the transformation of milk into Emmental and how the cheeses mature and change taste with age.

If only I could share with you the smell and the sight of all that cheese down in the cellar…I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! We also had a look on how the so-called “mountain cheese” is still being made by hand, following a different recipe and process.
To end an already excellent afternoon out, we had a drink and nibbles at the café in the cheese plant. Swiss wine+Swiss cheese+Swiss meat = Long live Swiss agriculture!

Jealous anyone?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

My first trip to Germany!

Morgen mittenand!

I seem to always be lagging a week behind these days…this post is about our short trip to Konstanz in Germany last week end. A couple of friends we knew from Glasgow have recently moved there and we are very pleased to have some good friends living nearby. So on Saturday morning, Alf, Mr T and I jumped on a train to Kontanz for an overnight stay.

After a quick dip in Bodensee for Alf…

… we sat down for a lunch of German cold meat and Dutch cheese (our friend Marc is Dutch). Feeling full and rather content, we then all went for a long walk in the nearby woods to collect mushrooms. I wouldn’t know where to start collecting mushrooms, but our friend Katja spent a lot of time as a child collecting mushrooms in Russia and she knows her do’s and don’ts.  We didn’t collect any of the mushrooms below as Katja had her eyes set on only picking a type of orange mushroom which name I forgot (honey mushroom maybe?) and which I wasn’t quick enough to photograph. Katja was on a mission and it was amazing to see how quickly she could spot them in a layer of leaf litter! Anyhow, the picture below will give you a good idea of the variety of fungi we encountered in a couple of hours in a relatively small area.

The following morning was spent walking around the old centre of Konstanz. Being Sunday, none of the shops were open (to my disappointment…Konstanz is definitely a cheaper shopping destination than Zürich!) but we thoroughly enjoyed having a stroll. What really surprised us in Konstanz was the architecture and the “OMG, am I tripping on LSD?” works of art throughout the town. Take the “Triumphal Arch” for example:

I don’t even know where to start!! Two fat elderly people sat in a jacuzzi, a naked woman exhibiting herself to semi-human semi-seal monsters, a monkey with a steering wheel and many other caricatures! The fountain is the creation of contemporary artist Peter Lenk.There must be some logical explanation for this I have failed to obtain…

We thought that was the one weird-and-whacky fountain in Konstanz but we were proven wrong 30 minutes later when we stumbled across this one in Marktstätte:

2 peacocks, a life-size horse, rabbits with fish tail spurting water and a lady with a bird on her head and nipples coming out of her top! After searching on the Konstanz tourist information website, I found that this is called the Imperial Fountain (Kaiserbrunnen). It was created in 1897 by the sculptor Hans Baur, but the fountain lost its original decorative figures during the 1940s. The artist couple Barbara and Gernot  Rumpf  redesigned the structure and concealed within it a number of allusions to Konstanz’s past. The website (visit link) tells us:
 "The Emperor Fountain in Marktstätte assembles several figures and scenes that tell of the medieval history of the Holy Roman Empire in reference to Konstanz. We see portraits of the Emperors Friedrich Barbarossa, Otto the Great, and Maximilian around the central column. A bust of Maximilian's wife Bianca Sforza sits on the balustrade. The little bird on her bonnet at intervals spits water into Maximilian's outstretched hand. A pair of pigeons is classified as bishop and emperor, religious and worldly power. The document of the Konstanz Peace Treaty of 1183 is represented in bronze. The three-headed peacock with his three tiaras stands for the three Popes and Antipopes during the Great Schisma before the Council.”

Erm....interesting...The last water fountain we stumbled across that morning seemed very demure in comparison.

I must admit that these random artefacts and the lovely architecture in the old town make Konstanz a very interesting city to visit and walk around.

We will be back!!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Slow crafting

Happy Handmade Monday everyone!

It has been a few weeks since I last contributed something crafty to Wendy’s blog…I blame the looming house move (D-8) and my general lack of energy coming home after work and 4 hours of commute. But, behold…I have at last managed to put the finishing touches to my latest cross-stich creations!
For my new readers here at Made in Suisse, you can read here about how I conquered my fear of cross-stitching thanks to a present from my friend Vic back in April. Since then, I have stitched 2 postcards in September and I have just finished another lot. The giraffe was cross-stitched. The little pack from Hobbycraft contained the pattern, needle, canvas and threads. This is my third cross-stitch pack from Hobbycraft and I am seriously addicted. They are very fun to make.

The pack for the second postcard was also a present but came from Boundary Mills in Yorkshire (England) and also contained everything needed to make the card, including the envelope and frame for the card. This wasn't done using cross-stitching but rather a single diagonal stitch in each square (technical term anyone??) and I did not find it quite as easy as cross-stitching. Because the desgn is rather full as well, I fear that my irregular tension  may have distorted the picture a bit. I am also convinced that the frame for the card was bigger than it should have been hence the not-so-perfect fit in the picture below. Still, I was pleased with the end-product considering it had taken me hours to get there!

I know, this isn’t much in terms of crafty achievement in the last few weeks but it will have to do for now! If you need a bigger fix of crafty goodness, go and visit the Handmade Monday page!

Until next time ;-)

Thursday, 20 October 2011


After our visit to the pumpkin farm two weeks ago, we stopped at Lützelsee on the way back to Meilen to go “storking” (stork stalking). We had been told that this small lake was a very good spot for storks and we felt that we could do with a bit of an extra walk after all our pumpkin eating. After a rainy start to the day at the pumpkin farm, the sun was out and shining by mid-afternoon on Lützelsee.

The sky was so blue that we had amazingly clear views of the mountains in the backgrounds which were already covered in snow at the beginning of October…I wonder how long it will be until we get our first white morning?

We searched very hard for storks and kept confusing these guys (herons) for the real thing…

…until we finally spotted them in the distance! Even the large zoom on my camera wasn’t quite good enough for the job so you’ll have to take my word for it.

There is no doubt that this is a very good stork area as the trees were full of nests.

But I guess that most of them do migrate to Africa in the winter and will only come back next spring to nest in Switzerland. We’ll have to be back at the right time!
But nevermind, the walk was extremely pleasant and we crossed what has to be one of the sweetest hamlets I had ever seen. They cannot have more than a dozen houses each but look at the architecture!

I want to move there!!

Do you enjoy going out to look for birds?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

We went on a Pumpkin holiday

Guten Morgen guten Morgen!

I can’t believe it has been 10 days already and I still haven’t told you about our wonderful trip to the Jucker Farmart two weekends ago! Our friendly neighbours invited us along to their annual outing to this pumpkin farm near Pfäfiffkersee. They were full of praise about their visits in the previous years but we still a bit unsure about what it was all about (I mean pumpkin obviously but how they made it exciting enough to have hundreds of people come back every single year…)

We knew when we saw these wheelbarrows at the entrance to the event that there was going to be some serious pumpkin shopping action that day!

As we turned the corner into the farm yard, we became overwhelmed with colours, smells and shapes! The theme this year was “Switzerland” and we were surrounded by pumpkin sculptures of Swiss images…

Did you recognize William Tell? Heidi’s house?and an alphorn player? The sculpture of the 3 hands in the middle may not ring a bell for non-Swiss residents. It symbolizes the Rütlischwur that we celebrated on the 1st of August this year (you can read about it here). The Rütlischwur is a legendary oath of the Old Swiss Confederacy, taken on the Rütli, a meadow above Lake Lucerne near Seelisberg.

How about more Swiss stereotypes?

Everyone loves a Swiss army knife, a marmot or a Bernhardiner!

What really amazed us was the diversity of pumpkins from all over the world. I would never have thought that pumpkins (and its relatives) came in so many sizes, colours, shapes, textures!

I was also really shocked at how big they can grow! This one below was only the second largest pumpkin that had been grown on the farm this year and weighed in at 377kg. The heaviest one was on a European tour and would have made this one looks tiny weighing in at over 700kg!

As always in Switzerland for these kinds of events, tables and benches had been laid and delicious food was waiting for us. What a tasty lunch we had, starting with pumpkin soup (in which we added pumpkin oil and pumpkin seeds…yum!)…

… followed by pumpkin sausage and pumpkin beer for some…

…ending with pumpkin brownies (these were so good they did not last long enough for a picture to be taken!)

The farm offered breathtaking views over the Austrian Alps.

Lunch was followed by a nice walk along Pfäfiffkersee during which many walnuts were collected. I would certainly recommend this annual event to anyone leaving near Zürich and we’re already looking forward to going back (and buying more pumpkin oil) next year! I will leave you with a photo which I think summarises the essence of the farm pretty well.

Do you have similar autumn/food festivals near where you live?

Monday, 17 October 2011

7 little things about me

Happy Monday everyone from La Suisse,

It was so nice of Juanita Tortilla to send me a message last week to let me know she had nominated me for a Blog Award entitled "7 little things about me". I am still very new to blogging so I am unsure of the whole Blog Award etiquette, but, from what I gather, all I have to do is to:
 - share 7 things about myself;
 - pay it forward to a few bloggers that I like;
 - contact those bloggers about the award!

So here we are for my 7 little things (interspersed with photos of Zürich):

1- I don't like eating sweets...I know crazy! Even as a child, I never had cravings for sweets...cakes (yes), chocolate (yes), ice creams (yes), pretty much anything really but I never saw the appeal of sweets!

2- I am physically unable to keep plants is a scientific fact! I have killed cacti for goodness sake! I either water too much, forget to water for weeks, feed my plants twice a year when I remember, don't give them enough light...the list is endless! Plants are too difficult for me!

3-I really wish I could pull it off but I cannot walk in heels. The heels only come out of the shoe cupboard when we’re driving somewhere for a special occasion and the risk of a broken leg is kept to a minimum between the car park and the entrance door.

4- I could easily spend a whole afternoon watching my DVD boxset of Murder She Wrote… the stories are always more of the less the same, Jessica Fletcher must have dozens of nephews/nieces involuntarily involved in crimes but I do love Angela Lansbury and her beautiful house in Maine (and don’t get me started on the opening music of each episode, I heart it)

5- I learnt to roller-skate aged 25…not something to be proud of. My sisters tried to teach me when I was a child but I was so rubbish at it that they gave up. Not that my body coordination has improved with age (see point 3 above) but I decided one fine morning that I would not be defeated. I took lessons with a 68 years old instructor (picture this) who took pity on me but who eventually recognized that it maybe wasn’t my thing. We left it there…

6- I cannot properly function without my morning coffee…especially now that my day starts at 6am. After my long commute to work, when I arrive at the office at 8.45 the first thing I do is to put some coffee on. I only need 2 cups and I don’t drink coffee in the afternoon but I dread to think what my productivity at work would look like if we ever were to have a world-wide coffee shortage.

7- I will leave you with a quote from my fridge magnet which I think summarises my feelings towards my hair pretty well: “Life is full of frustrations but eventually you find a hairstyle that you like”

Let me pass on the award to 3 fellow bloggers I have recently discovered:
- Nicola at Nic's notebook

Have a lovely day x

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Urban wildlife

Slow worm

Species of otter possibly endemic to Lake Zürich ;-)

Isn't it wonderful to be able to spot all this wildlife in our back garden? What species do you see in your neighbourhood?
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