Friday, 6 December 2013


It seems funny how although over 2 years have now passed since our departure from Switzerland, there are still aspects of our life there that still form part of our new one in the UK.  Time has flown, and with much to do have really neglected my blog.  However, in some ways I suppose its indicative of the fact that reverse culture shock for us now no longer exists, just perhaps we are left with a frustration about how inefficient the UK can sometimes be.

As the German brands of Gut and Günstig from Marktkauf wane in my cupboards, (yes, I actually finished the large bottle of rinse aid for the dishwasher just the other day, such was my cellared Swiss stockpile!)  Its a reminder that our Swiss life sadly fades with time. However, two weeks ago, Alice said that we had to bake Grättimaa for today, 6th December.  She always enjoyed picking up the fresh ones from COOP and posting them into a bag.  Even I loved eating them, strangely comforting eating a soft white doughy bread figure with the crunchy Hagelzucker strewn over the top.

Alice put together a presentation last night so that she could tell her friends all about St. Niklaus, and share some of the old photos we took when Schmutzli and St. Niklaus came to visit.  It was great to trawl through these old photos and think about memories past.

First, the logistics of getting some fresh Grättimaa to school, as there is nothing worse than a stale one :-)  As I had a Christmas concert rehearsal for 3 hours last night, I knew it had to be a quick mix and bung in the fridge for a slow rise over night jobby.  

I used this recipe:

500g Soft Extra Strong Bread Flour (Swiss friends: Zopfmehl)
1 tsp Salt
100g Butter (or 50:50 white fat and butter)
75g fine sugar
300ml milk
40g fresh yeast
1 tbsp honey
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg 
1 egg whisked with a little milk for egg wash
Sultanas soaked in water overnight (find they burn less this way)
Hagelzucker (can crunch up sugar cubes for similar effect)

1) Take 2 tbsp of the flour and put into a jug with 300ml warmed milk, egg and fresh yeast and a tbsp of honey whisk and leave to froth up.

2) Add salt to remaining flour, and rub fat into the flour. 

3) Add sugar, zest.

4) Add the liquid to the dough and mix (if you have a machine with dough hook even easier)

5) Leave to rise and double in size (1-2 hours depending on how warm the room is).

6) Knock down and divide into about 10-12 small balls.  Roll small ball for head, and roll larger ball for body.  Roll into oval with rolling pin.  Use scissors to cut arms and legs.  Attach head. 

7) Turn oven to 180 degs C Fan (190 degs C Conventional). Egg wash  tops, leave to rise second time on lined baking sheets.

8) Re-eggwash tops sprinkle Hagelzucker over the bellies. Poke 2 raisin eyes into the head. Bake for 20 mins until golden and hollow sounding

9) Cool and inhale the smell of lovely fresh bread :-)

This morning, Alice excitedly showed all her friends the Grättimaa and at that moment reflected that we were very privileged to have had exposure to other cultures that most other children may never get to experience.  She is going to get her classmates to chant the Santi Niggi Naggi if she has time this afternoon, I will be excited to learn what they think.  When Alice recited it off the computer screen last night, the Swiss accent came out, and it was like we have never been away....

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

St. Georges Day

Saint George's Day is the feast day of Saint George. Saint George's Day is celebrated on 23 April in England and additionally other countries in Europe too; Cyprus, Greece, Bosnia to name but a few. The day is the traditionally accepted date of Saint George's death in AD 303.
In the 15th Century, celebration of St. Georges day was on a par to Christmas, but by the 18th Century enthusiasm waned, and today you are lucky to see a couple of cars with their England football flags flying on them.  Perhaps there is a lack of identity with this Saint in England, unlike when we were in Switzerland, the Swiss confederation is still celebrated in big style with fireworks and breakfasts on farms all over the country on August the 1st.  Everyone comes together and has a great time.  Perhaps England needs a William Tell figure to celebrate, perhaps St. George, a Roman Christian soldier that was born in Turkey (unlikely to have ever visited England…) has less relevance in modern England….?

We decided to go to a National Trust free weekend at the Vyne, a large country house close to Basingstoke.  The National Trust woods to the back of the property; Morgaston Woods,  had an orienteering course to complete, but the beautiful bluebells were also out in force.  Admittedly, I did think it a little early for them, but no.  So I took a few pics whilst I was out.  There were also Wood anenomes and pale yellow primroses dotting the woodland floor too.

We gained free entry for the whole family to the house and the St. Georges Day event they had laid on. Arrival was just in time for lunch, a lovely free range pork hog roast.  Wholemeal bap, apple sauce, pork, watercress, crackling and some stuffing, just divine.  I could have eaten another straight after :-).

.......was very tasty even more so as it was a cold day!
Alice soon wolfed hers down too!

The walled garden at the Vyne is  being cultivated by a group of gardeners who use it as therapy away from coping with their disabilities.  They have apple trees espaliered along the walls, and succulent plants and a nursery in the greenhouse.  They had planted some broad beans, but they looked like they had become lunch for the birds!  Rhubarb was certainly on its way up ready to pick. 

Succulent in the greenhouse
Look carefully inside the hen, is a real live brown one, a hen in a hen!

  There was a thatcher showing how they build up the thatch on a roof, wood turning, and the girls even donned safety glasses to try out a little stone masonry!  They carved their initials into a chunk of slate with a mallet and chisel. 

Laura tries stone masonry

There were also a group of morris dancers who seemed to be having a great time, not taking themselves too seriously, dancing with umbrellas at times.  At one point they did abandon dancing due to a downpour, but in the normal English spirit went back out as soon as the shower stopped.  They performed some traditional handkerchief and stick dances.

The Kennet Morrismen

The Vyne also made it more interesting for the younger children, trying to spot 15 toy baby rats they had hidden around the house.  Alice had a great time spotting them. 

Beautiful moulded ceiling at the Vyne

Got back to the car just in time for the heavens to open once more, and the sky to go quite black….

...welcome rain, as we have had hosepipe bans in place since the beginning of April here in Berkshire.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

To Strike? or not to Strike? That is the question…..

Source: Daily Mail 28 March 2012

Well, Cameron and his Cabinet minister Maude, have done a great job of handling an imminent strike by Tanker drivers.  This smacks of the year 2000, when I remember queuing up twice over to fill our cars with fuel.  Unfortunately now, as everyone turns to diesel as a fuel that supposedly has better miles to the gallon, this is the fuel that runs out first on the pumps.  Today, even the Police cars were filling at the pumps, along with all the tradesmen’s vans, and taxi’s.

Yesterday, everything was reassuringly normal at the pumps, which I greeted with a degree of optimism, a good sign that queues had not instantly formed at the first whiff of a fuel distribution problem.  However, all change today.

As Cameron announced that he thought a Strike would be ’irresponsible’, I am inclined to agree.  Like our economy needs a bit more bashing.  As fuel prices reach an all-time high, and now commonly exceeding 1.44 GBP a litre, that is getting towards twice the price it was back in 2000.  Everyone knows that fuel duty is a nice little earner for the government (even though they strenuously deny this despite the post-budget realisation that customers will be paying another 3p more per litre after the summer….).  In Switzerland, prices were pretty low considering the cost of living as the fuel duty was quite low. Now, instead of 85CHF (60GBP) a fill up, it’s costing me about 90 GBP (130CHF) a fill here in the UK for diesel.  In Switzerland, if you really had to, you could depend on public transport to get you anywhere.  It would take a bit of planning, but it can be done.  Regular interconnected affordable mass transit.  Here, the investment has been woeful, and the bus network remains skeletal at best.  What few buses run run empty just because they are so infrequent they are not worth the effort. It’s not that cheap either.  I have to use fuel every day for a 10 minute drive to school because there were no Year 3 places in Wokingham town centre together with Year 6 vacancy in the same school.  I have a school run to do every day.  I must admit, I am looking forward to the time when both girls are in the same town, and our fuel bill will go down by about 45 GBP a week!

Thankfully, we are pretty close to the town centre, so we will be able walk and shop locally for a while, and this will blow over.  Today, I genuinely needed to fill up, and I was queuing with the panicking masses in the search for diesel.  One Shell station in Wokingham has already run dry today.  Luckily, just down the road, BP still had some this afternoon.  Even there, people’s tempers were fraying, as some cars were trying to barge in and jump the queues.  I suppose there is still a degree of English queuing etiquette despite panic buying conditions!

The Army are now being called upon for contingency measures to supply emergency services with fuel, so that really gives us confidence that the government believe that the strike will be averted through the use of the ACAS conciliation service...  I am not sure that everyone is completely crystal clear as to why a strike is completely necessary.

The government were not only advising a top up, but extra storage in Jerry cans, so you can guess what will be the next thing to run out in the shops….

Monday, 5 March 2012

Painting, Decorating and some new DIY skills…

When you walk around properties on the search for a new home, sometimes you know straight away that it may not be for you.  Others, it may have the right feel, but just have the wrong décor.  The latter is our home at the moment, some of the colour choices are just not us, like our terracotta feature wall in the bedroom for example. 

Wow, even Steve's old 1990s duvet cover matches...

 Our house has been fairly well looked after on the inside but is in need of updating here and there.

It has been quite difficult choosing what to do colour-wise inside.  In Switzerland, the Swiss would look strangely at anyone who wanted anything other than white on the walls.  Our new build was white on the outside and white on the inside.  The aisles in the DIY shops had just one colour, white…. In various shades from super-duper brilliant white to slightly off white to white-ish with a hint of white, stretching off down the long aisles into the distance.  I knew a Chinese neighbour of mine in Switzerland who had to have her house Feng Shui’ed and this involved having certain colours on certain walls throughout her house.  She told me that she had paid about 1’000CHF per wall to have this done professionally when the house was finished, it was a new build.  Wow, in England, a can of Dulux has cost us about 20GBP, way cheaper!

Of course, we did our homework whilst waiting the long process of contract signing, so we got a little bit ahead.  We had to do this, because there is a complete rainbow of paint colours to choose from, almost too many.  A great tip I read somewhere, involved getting paint testers and painting them onto an A4 piece of plain paper.  That way, you don’t need to paint a rainbow of testers on the wall (and have a nightmare painting over them when you have decided from the myriad of colours available), and you have a block of colour that you can move around the room and appreciate in different lights.  I initially went for brown hues for the lounge, but now that has evolved into something slightly different...  Perhaps harking slightly back to our now Swiss roots, we have managed to paint most of our house in Jasmine White.  It’s not brilliant white, it just has a creamy hue to it, so it’s not quite as cold feeling as Swiss brilliant white, but not as dark as the universal 80s Magnolia.  I may be blandifying our house, but let’s face it, those lovely in-vogue dark brown truffle chocolate and  raspberry/mulberry feature walls may be passé in a few years time, and dark colours are a real pain (to put it mildly) to get rid of.

Alice’s room (my youngest, 7) was the worst, here is a pic to show what it was like in all its’ blue glory.  At a guess, the teenage son was handed the paint brush and told to get on with it.  From a coverage point of view I would score him a 10.  He managed to get satinwood bold blue finish everywhere including the underside of the white coving and all over the light and power switches as nothing was masked off.  Then the inside of the window recess was given a dark blue satinwood finish too, along with navy skirting boards.  It was one of those demoralising rooms which went nowhere fast, needing 2 coats of undercoat on the skirting boards to get rid of the dark colour, and 2 basecoats on the wall to get rid of the deep blue.  The paint was slightly shiny, and there were numerous huge globs of filler roughly slapped on every wall and over painted with no sanding.  It was hideous and made a room that is actually larger than the Master bedroom feel much smaller and very dark.

Before: dark blue vanity unit and blue paint
After: upcycled white unit with LED mirror above
We have now colour changed it, to Jasmine White (of course) with a lime feature wall (as per Alice’s instructions). 

We also changed a rather dated plastic shaver point (the kind you would find in a cheap BandB on the wall) for a nice new LED mirror with shaver point to the side and a demister pad for the mirror.  It has a sensor underneath for switching the LED lights on and off, but moving your hand across the underside.  Alice is now convinced she has a magic hand, after our maintenance man found it hard to activate!

Before: blue skirts slowly disappear...
We added a floral Roman Blind, Alice chose the material, and she was very excited to see it put up a couple of weeks back.  It has taken a few weeks for her now finally to move back in after the last glossing of the cupboards was finished this weekend.  The room has a much airier feel, and this is great. 

After: new look, lighter room!

Laura’s room also had some DIY delights in store for us.  Her room was also a teenagers room, but was decorated some time ago in a 2-tone lilac and deeper purple paint combo.  Of course, the skirting boards had to be painted in a beautiful dark lilac too, just to give us a little more work to do!!  Back in January we steamed off the wallpaper in the lounge, and we also started on Laura’s room by steaming off the lovely scroll lilac border that was ¾ the way up the wall.  Whilst we were steaming, the border was coming off nicely.  Then, all of a sudden, cracks appeared in the plaster.  A faulty final skim on the plaster (that was possibly lurking there already) literally popped off.  I peeled off the top layer of skim to reveal the plaster wall beneath.  It was surprisingly therapeutic!  I have just acquired a new skill, plaster skimming. 

 Actually, my cake skills came into play, it was a little like smoothing buttercream on the many cupcakes that I used to make in Switzerland.  I used a ready mix skim, which made life infinitely easier, as I then did not need to worry about how much water to powder ratio.  I simply applied some watered down PVA to the old exposed plaster and let it dry overnight.  The suction effect on it was quite noticeable, the glue water mix almost disappearing instantly into the wall as I applied it with a roller.  The PVA helps seal the plaster and help (she says hopefully, fingers crossed) bond the new skim to the wall by slowing the drying rate, so it will or should stay there up on the wall…

This room is a north facing room, so Laura said that she also wanted it to have the Jasmine treatment all over, the purple she said was just too dark. 

mmmmm....  Purrrrrpppple

 It will undoubtedly have the effect of brightening up that room too, especially now I have removed the forest of blue-tack blobs that were inhabiting a large chunk of the ceiling in her room.  We will have to wait and see whether they change their minds to black upon reaching the age of 15 now won’t we?....

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Move complete, second time within 6 months.

A pretty bouquet from our Estate Agent David Cliff

We took some time out today from unpacking, and took the girls to the local park and explored some footpaths local to our house.  The snow arrived last night in a big flurry and laid about 2 inches thick on the ground.  Knowing that the snow clearance in the UK no way matches the Swiss standard, I know I could be in for an interesting drive/ice skate to school tomorrow, as the snow was melting this afternoon and creating pools of water on the roads.  The scenery was beautiful out,  and even Laura could not resist making a snowman and creating a snow angel, you are never to old to have a little fun in the snow.  It did make me laugh, I do feel when good snowman snow has fallen, all the dads come out to show their prowess in snow modelling skill.  At the park, one dad was chamfering the edges of his childs figure with a plastic snow shovel.  One dad produced a large snow dog complete with tail, whilst another created what can only be described as a snowman inspired by an Easter Island figure….!  Not sure whether or not that was intentional..

I love taking pictures in the snow, it has a magical quality to it, but can be quite tricky to get good results, so I had to play around with the white balance a little.  The snow lay on these red berries, they looked like they had been a left over from Christmas.  

We also did a little exploring down what must be an ancient drovers lane to the south of Wokingham.  We emerged at Grays Pick Your Own fruit and vegetable farm.  It is certainly nice to have countryside within walking distance of our new home, and to be 5 minutes away from town.  We will have to wait and see what happens with this countryside, as they have been planning for years a Southern relief road for Wokingham, and a mini town to be developed to satisfy the government building targets for the South East, a great loss if that section of green belt is swallowed up by homogenous estate housing.

The temperatures here are nowhere near as cold as in Switzerland.  I took a sneek peek back at Reinach, BL just to see how cold it was.  Wow! -15 Degrees Celsius.  It’s been over 0 to about +2 degrees C. It is no wonder that our Swiss house was so well insulated.  That is one thing I really missed initially when I came back to the UK.  Our rental house was as cold as sin, but then it was no real surprise when even though the cavity wall had been filled, albeit retrospectively, the insulation in the roof was just a layer of dust really.  Thankfully our new home even though it was built 18 years ago, has a decent layer of insulation in the loft.  I have also started to lag some of the pipes (all done as standard in our Swiss house).  The boiler room in our new Swiss home emitted very little heat.  The hot water tank did not feel even remotely hot from the outside.  The pipes, the outside of the house was externally insulated with thick polystyrene blocks, the floors thermally insulated and underfloor heated.  The windows protected by shuttering and thick glazed composite frames.  Energy wise, it was a real low user.  The UK is lagging behind in this respect really, and these aspects are now only just starting to become important here, particularly as energy bills have risen sharply over the last 5 years.  Now having to energy rate your home at the point of sale is making some people realise how leaky their homes are.  We are currently losing 20% of our heat straight out the window.  It does not help however, that our vendor took all the curtain and track fixings off every single window, and there is a 6-8 week lead time for our new curtains and blinds!

I think that the novelty of packing the contents of our house into cardboard boxes and then emptying some or all of their contents into a new abode has finally worn off.  I felt there was sufficient time in the run up for the Swiss to UK move to plan that everything run with Swiss efficiency and Swiss timing.  I knew that everything had to be wrapped up and officially stamped before leaving, so our departure would be as smooth as possible.  Our move on the 25th-26th January we felt suddenly crept up on us, and suddenly found ourselves a few days prior scrabbling around sorting mail redirections and changing our addresses.
We decided to reluctantly go with a local mover to save a bit of money, and boy you get what you pay for.  I am not sure our crew really liked each other that much.  Instead, the 2 days was spent with them tolerating each other.  I tried to sweeten them up with Hot cross buns, fried egg rolls, bacon and sausages rolls, but little seemed to make them happier.  Our international movers loved my food, and they were a good laugh too, making a stressful event go a little easier on the nerves.

A week on, and Steve set the challenge for us to empty all the local move boxes. We were pretty amazed to learn they will charge 5 GBP a box if we retain any, no wonder they are able to keep their quotes so low. We retained some of the international move boxes, as these weren’t unpacked for 6 months.  Luckily these boxes are white and our local move boxes brown, so it makes for an easy ID. I am now facing the demons of all the things that I failed to get rid of in Switzerland.  However, I do have a much wider range of charity shops here in the UK to send it all to!  My wardrobe was something I had been meaning to spring clean for some time, it’s one of those jobs that I would do anything to avoid.  I still have stuff I wore years ago.  I admit, I do have too much sentimental value attached to things.  I need more will power to throw it out.  I did do this with some cheap skirts I bought yonks ago for teaching in.  Now I have not been in the classroom for 8 years, so I thought it was finally time to let them go.  I did feel strangely better for loading it all into a charity bag, taking it to Cancer research in town before I could change my mind and think I could wear it again.

I do also admit to being a terrible food hoarder too.  After seeing how much food came out of the rental place (and the kitchen was not that big either) I was embarrassed.  However, I do have a lot of 'from scratch' ingredients and herbs for cooking.  I did vow that I would reduce the amount of excess food in the house, after about 10 or so big removal boxes came into the new kitchen, and I had to figure how an earth I was going to cram it all into the limited storage space I now have……!

Off to unpack a few more boxes no doubt...and hoping to find yet more miscellaneous missing items, and today found that the desk has been put back together with fewer screws that it was originally.  Same goes for the cupboards, let's just hope it won't all fall apart...

Monday, 16 January 2012

The calm before the storm....

This week is relatively calm, then week starting 23rd January is when you just don't want to look at the calendar because so much is written on it.  This week, all being well we get the keys to our new home in central Wokingham.  It has seemed a long time coming since exchange of contracts back in November and the offer made in September.

The process of buying a house in the UK seems very slow compared to the speed of contract writing in Switzerland.  In fact, I doubt we would have bought a house in Switzerland had we had the amount of documentation we have just waded through for this sale.  Although the Swiss have restrictions for those on some residential permits, as an EU citizen, on a C-permit, buying a house for sole use was a fairly straight forward process.  Even though I was working in a different language, I managed to understand and translate all of the communal rules and regulations, and understand the contract that we signed..  Here in the UK we have come across way more paperwork, and of course with 1 solicitor dealing with each house sale, this slows the process down.  Swiss house sales can be done through a private notary, however we found the public notary in the community in which the house was designated in Arlesheim very efficient.  The added bonus being that the land registry and the notaries are all under one roof, all the information just gets passed around the same building.  Within 4 weeks we had our Swiss sale contract complete.  Both parties meet and sign the same contract, rather then passing them backwards and forwards between solicitors that often happens here in the UK.  Then the searches with the Land Registry have to be done, and this may throw up small issues like extensions and conservatories that do not have planning permission.  In our case, the search showed that we may have some liability for Chancel repair of the local church, owing simply to the age of the land that the property sits on.  Before the summer, I had never even heard of this before.  It is best to be prepared for any liability by having an insurance policy.  This follows a case where a couple were asked to foot the bill for Chancel repairs to their local church.  These repairs totalled 1/4 million, then with legal costs of their fight ontop, the final costs were approaching 1/2 million.  It is fine in areas of land that have been well developed, like town centres, as the costs are split between the community, but in smaller settlements, a sizeable bill can land at your door and you have no choice but to pay it.  This is down to an archaic medieval law.  By 2013, all churches will have to register their interests, this could lead to a rash of claims in various communities for churches where the chancels are in poor state of repair.  It probably does not help that in many communities throughout the UK, the sizes of some church congregations are falling, and so the finances of some churches are being affected.

So, week after next for the second time in 6 months, we pack our belongings and get the house straight again.  We still have 2 rooms in a rental house that are full of packing boxes from our Swiss international move.  With such a short time lapsing, I still have not forgotten the mountain of stuff that greeted me in the kitchen once the crew had departed.  It took 3 days to get most it away.  I think its worst at the start when there is just so much of it lying everywhere, you don't know where to start.  As a reminder of just how bad it looked, I just had to take some pictures.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

I still remember a UK move that I did when Steve and I bought our first house together in Aylesbury.  We had been unpacking most of the day.  I recollected that the crew very helpfully said, would you like us to unpack your clothes?  We thought this was wonderful, so of course agreed.  We staggered upstairs at the end of a long and stressful day, and were about to collapse on our bed were it not for the pyramid of clothes resembling Mont Blanc that appeared before our eyes.  Thankfully, that night we had space on the guest bed.  Now after moving 3 times, since then, we say, 'No thanks, we'll unpack the clothes, please leave them in the boxes.'  At least that way we know what we are facing when we get to bed at night....

Once we have the new house in process, the handover of our rental property ensues.  We have to ensure that all the light bulbs are functioning, otherwise we get charged for the bulb and for contractor time to change it.  I suppose that is where the Swiss are quite sensible, when you rent, you are just supplied with the bare wires coming out the ceiling unless you arrange to buy the previous tenants lights.  This means no lights or bulbs to check.  We made the mistake of not buying the previous renters lights, forgetting that the ceilings are made of reinforced concrete, and a mighty drill of great power is required to get through that stuff.  It cost us the same price as the lights were worth to get them installed!
My UK checkout should hopefully be fairly stress-free as I have to supply the property back in a 'professionally cleaned' condition.  This helps me out, as it means I do not have 2 properties to clean simultaneously!  The house, the oven and carpets will all have to be done.  However, the prices are perhaps a little less than in Switzerland, I know some expat friends of who spent almost the same as their deposit to  ensure there were no deductions on handover.  I spent 3 days with my mum, and got about 180 CHF in deductions, mainly for picture hook holes in the wall, costed per hole and a dishwasher service.  In Switzerland, the tenants have to service the appliances before return, however in the UK, the landlord has to ensure they are in working order.

It will be nice once more to get our own space back....

Friday, 6 January 2012

Dreikönigstag, 3 Kings Day

In the UK, the 6th January perhaps is a day like any other, the only significance being that for those of us who are superstitious, the Christmas decorations must be tidied away, otherwise bad luck will follow. In Switzerland, they will be celebrating Dreikoenigstag.  Alice loved last year, as she was king twice over, so that meant being able to tell everyone what to do and having 2 plastic kings hidden in her bread and wearing 2 different crowns.  Alice has a good memory and reminded me it was the 3 Kings Day in Switzerland today.  Of course, today would not be able to go by without the making of a Dreikoenigskuchen.  Easily bought in Switzerland in bakeries and supermarkets, but the expense led me to start making my own in the last 2 years of our 8 year stint there.  I started my dough off this morning before taking the girls on the school run, and completed the rise and bake when I got back.  I was also thinking of Kim who I know will be going to Kueblers in Aesch to get an exclusive Fasnacht figurine bread, very special.  Normally, though a bread circle consisting of 8 or 9 buns baked together are eaten on this day.  I like to add lots of sultanas and some ground almonds or marzipan to my dough, I am missing the high gluten flour they use called Zopfmehl  and their mini blocks of fresh yeast which makes for very soft bread.

My recipe for  Dreikoenigsbrot or 3 Kings bread can be found here:

With Christmas in the bag, we are now feeling suitably relaxed as the hectic preparations, buying and wrapping has ceased. …  Surely none of us would be thinking about how long we would have to wait for Christmas 2012….. or may be not….

A question asked by my youngest last night as she lay in bed thinking of good excuses as to why she shouldn’t be asleep;
 ‘Dad, how many days is it until next Christmas?’  

My husband cunningly turned it into a maths question, and she almost worked it out, had she not realised it was actually a leap year this year…

I would not perhaps necessarily be thinking of when Easter will happen either, but it seems the minute Christmas was complete, Tesco and Morrisons both got their Easter displays out the second the wrapping paper was emptied from the shelves.  I found that a little depressing.  There is no breathing space now between major celebrations as there was before, even hot cross buns are available all year round.  In Switzerland they could not do this, as they had Valentines Day and Fasnacht Lenten Carnival scheduled in before Easter, so Easter eggs came into the shops nearer Easter time, the Swiss seem able to wait til March.  We have Easter eggs on the shelves in the first week of January, that just seems wrong to me.

We decided to have a quiet family Christmas, and squeeze in seeing the family either side.  Although my mum always insisted on breaking the Christmas Day dinner Turkey rule, I still like to cook turkey on Christmas day. I am not sure whether it’s because I am a stickler for tradition, or whether it’s because as a child we were given anything but Turkey at Christmas time, and perhaps now subconsciously, years later, I am now making up for that.  I do agree with my mum that Turkey is essentially quite a boring meat, so why an earth do so many people want to eat this on such a great day of family celebration?  We ate everything from goose, to pot roasted pheasant and ribs of beef and they were, I must admit, way more tasty than a Turkey dinner.

Perhaps I stick with traditional because it is also easier.  I always like to have the tangy cranberry port and orange sauce along with pigs in blankets, and devils on horseback, which my girls love to eat; prunes wrapped in bacon. I adore parsnips, and in Switzerland and in France, these neglected root vegetables were relegated to pig food status, mainly as this was the only option available to many during WWII.  Now parsnips are not universally adored.  The low demand meant that my parsnips cost me about 5GBP for 2-3 rather large and woody specimens!
  Even though I am not a big fan of Brussel sprouts, those lovely little green spheres of goodness still get an invite to be part of my dinner.  Alice my youngest loves them, but not surprising considering she likes everything cabbage.  My eldest, Laura takes more convincing, although she did add an extra sprout to her obligatory minimum of 2 this year, purely voluntarily I might add.  I think it’s important never to give up retrying flavours with children.  I always tell my two if they don’t like it, they have to try it at least 20 times before they can say they don’t like something (I back this up by saying that they have researched this, and of course they never count how many times they have actually tried something, so it’s a clever rouse….).   Yesterday was testament to this, as the cranberry sauce that both of them declared that they did not like on Christmas day was sweetened with a little sugar and had slow cooked red onion and balsamic vinegar added, and that went down very nicely.  In fact, seconds were asked for!  This was loosely based on an idea from Jamie Oliver, see this recipe:

 I possibly like the post-Christmas relax more than the day itself.  I suppose like my mum, I now realise how much work goes into the day, and it’s hard to sit down when there are so many things to prepare, and this is not something that I associate with Boxing Day, leftover day.  I do admit to speeding things up with my 2 willing helper girls this year.  Both armed with kitchen knives they helped me prepare the vegetables whilst listening to the choir from Kings College, Cambridge.  I will make a note of this and hopefully it will become a Christmas family tradition, rather than me cooking in the kitchen all on my own.  My husband definitely loves the Christmas dinner the best, however I still like the left overs in the days that ensue.

With an emphasis on reduction of food waste these days, I relish the chance to make the amazing amount of food generated by Christmas last for as long as possible by making turkey and or ham into something tasty to eat.  On the day, the carcass gets put straight into the slow cooker, and the remaining meat divided into small bags and frozen so there is less risk of OD from turkey.  We ate a Kelly Bronze free range bird, this year, so yes the meat was more expensive that the run of the mill supermarket bird, but it enthuses me more to make good use of the meat.  So my Turkey plan as follows:

Christmas Day:  Roast Turkey 5.25kg bird cooked and partly eaten

Boxing Day:  Cream of Turkey soup and rolls made from slow cooker stock

27th December: Meal for 8 from leftovers with my sister-in-law, so make Delia’s leek and turkey flan:

Using the frozen meat:
but being frugal, did not buy the soup but made the Corn chowder for the base, as I had all the vegetables, (see last post on this thread:  )
Then added some grated cheese to the top, leftover from the cheeseboard.
Turkey Pie: Vikki just for you, here is a chicken pie that I like, you do not necessarily need shortcrust for the base, I just make a single crust pie with a puff pastry lid (if you can get Betti Bossi’s Butter Puff pastry all the better for my Swiss readers…)
I also bung in the leftover stuffing into this pie too.
Turkey curry is also planned with some Naan I got for less than half price as no one wanted Naans for Christmas day dinner it seems.

Then one more bag of Turkey to think about what I will do with, by then everyone may sick of turkey by then! That will also be 7 meals out of my Turkey which is not bad going…..!

The Christmas cake was simply decorated in random snowflakes by the girls this year, mainly because all of my cake equipment is sitting in removal boxes.  Hopefully by my next post our move to our new house will be complete and for the second time within 6 months I will be unpacking removal  boxes!