November 29, 2011

A Swedish Christmas feeling

The winter night cold is hard,
The stars glimmer and blaze.
All are asleep on the lonely farm
Deep in the midnight hour.
The moon wanders its silent course,
The snow shines white on pine and fir,
The snow shines white on roofs,
Only the gnome is awake.

Viktor Rydberg

Last week a Swedish friend of mine took me off to explore the Christmas bazaar at the Swedish Church of Paris. I admit I have a soft spot for the Swedes and their design. My mother used to collect hundreds of little wooden, hand-made Swedish Father Christmases and every year she added a few to her collection. We definitately had more Father Christmases on the table than food on Christmas day!

In Sweden, like in many of the Nordic countries, it was someone dressed up like a goat that originally distributed the Christmas gifts. When Viktor Rydberg wrote the poem Little Vigg's Adventure on Christmas Eve in 1871, the Tomte - a small, benevolent elf-like creature - he commissioned a less ugly-looking Santa as an illustration from an 18-year-old artist. Jenny Nyström (1854 - 1946) used her father as a model and gave her "tomte" the body of an old Lapplander. She created the image of the modern Swedish Santa and as she continued to draw him for 70 years, her "tomte" was firmly established in Swedish Christmas traditions.

In 1933 her son, Curt Nyström Stoopendahl, followed in her footsteps and also became a popular postcard and poster artist, staying very close to his mother’s artistic style.

No Swedish church would be complete with the portrait of their King and Queen. Below a smaller photo of the Swedish Crown princess Victoria and her husband.

Swedish food ... lots of it! I chose the Glogg (Swedish mulled wine)

Hand crafted goods with a Swedish touch

Little wooden Father Christmases bring back warm childhood memories

The most memorable part of this outing, however, were the beautiful National costumes the ladies behind the counters were wearing.

These charming, committed Swedes revealed that each costume comes from a different part of Sweden 

Each costume is hand made and has its own history I was told.

This one topped them all!

My aquisition: a Swedish version of an Advent wreath 

The Swedish Post receives some 35 000 wish lists and letters addressed to Santa each year. In the past volunteers at the old postal office at the Skansen open air museum wrote the replies but now ten extra staff take care of that at the Post sorting facility at Tomteboda and you can also reach the Swedish Santa through his email at

Go ahead, give it a try! 

November 26, 2011

The Independant Winegrowers of France

Living in Paris how could I pass up the opportunity of visiting the Salon des Vins? You are right, I could not! Together with four other adventurous souls (from UK, Canada, Cech Republic and the Philipines) we took off to discover the Independent Winegrower's exhibition. In every French wine-growing region, the Independant Winegowers cultivate the land, they elaborate their wine and they commercialise it. 

To leave a mark of their involvement and the quality of their work, they sign the Vignerons Indépendants de France's charter. The Independent Winegrower: 

- Respects his soil
- Cultivates his vine
- Harvests his grapes
- Turns to wine and grows his wine
- Bottles his production is his cellar
- Commercialises his wine
- Betters himself in the respect of tradition
- Welcomes, advises about wine tasting and takes pleasure to present the results of his work and cultivation

Ready, Set, Go....

Each of us received a proper glass for our personal wine tasting experiences.

We are obviously not the only tasters.

But where do we start???

We decided to go for the best looking label or maybe winegrower???

Armed with our glass and a baguette avec foie gras we gave our palate a treat.

One of our favourite stands....terribly French!

Everywhere you look there is wine and more wine!

But what is this???

An alcohol breath tasting machine...and I've past the test!!!

The end result of some serious French wine shoppers.

Never leave home without your glass....or your trolley!!! Hicks...

November 25, 2011

A stroll through the Jardin du Trocadéro

Les Jardins du Trocadéro (Gardens of the Trocadero) is an open space in Paris, located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, between the Palais de Chaillot and the Tour Eiffel. The site was formerly the garden of the original Palais du Trocadero, laid out by Jean-Charles Alphand for the Exposition Universelle in1878. 

Expat boy is lucky to call this path his daily route which means he gets to breath and see a bit of nature (no matter how small it might be) every day on his way to school. This morning I dropped him off, gave him a big hug and had a peaceful stroll back home though the Gardens of the Trocadéro. Come walk with me!

November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

November 22, 2011

A trip to the top of the world

Last weekend we took off to mount one of the best known monuments worldwide. We were extremely lucky with the weather and having booked the tickets online we managed to avoid hours of standing in line at the ground level.

An iconic symbol of French culture, liberty, and progress, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was completed for the 1889 World Fair, which happened to coincide with the 100th anneversary of the French Revolution. From the numerous designs submitted as part of a national competition, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel's design won, and he became responsible for constructing the Eiffel Tower in the heart of Paris.

Following our some fun facts about the Eiffel Tower that I shared with my kids while enjoying the extraordianry view:

- Erection of the Eiffel Tower began on January 26, 1887 and was completed on March 31, 1889
- Erection of the Eiffel Tower took 2 years, 2 months, and 5 days from start to finish
- The Eiffel Tower stands 324 meters tall

- The Eiffel Tower has a total of 1710 steps to the topmost third level small platform, 674 steps to the second level, and 347 steps to the first level, all counted from the ground
- The Eiffel Tower was to be dismantled and the metal sold as scrap 20 years after it was constructed, but this never happened
- The Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure when it was built, but this has been surpassed over the years
- Today, the Eiffel Tower is open to the public every day of the year

- Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was the main architect, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier were the main engineers, Stephen Sauvestre was the main architect, and Jean Compagnon handled the construction of the Eiffel Tower
- Alexandre Gustave Eiffel is the very person who created the internal frame of the Statue of Liberty in the year 1885

 - In clear weather (very seldom seen today) you can see approximately 42 miles from the top of the Eiffel Tower
- The Eiffel Tower belongs to the city of Paris and is given on a renewable contract to a limited company named Societe d'exploitation de la Tour Eiffel

- Over 200 million people have visited the Eiffel Tower since its inception
- Almost 7 MILLION visitors visit Eiffel Tower every year out of which 75% are foreigners

Somewhere down there is our appartment

Oh oh, all of a sudden I am not so sure this was a good idea?!

I was born exactly 5849 km from here!

I'd say we've deserved "une petite flûte"

My back garden where I go jogging 

I dare you to go all the way to the very top

Mr.Eiffel's apartment ontop of the tower. I wonder if he slept well?

Paris at my feet

November 21, 2011

Swiss-American Thanksgiving recipes

This week is Thanksgiving and although I have lived thousands of miles away from the United States most of my life, rarely have I missed Thanksgiving. When I was a little girl the main reason for loving this special American holiday was that I was granted special permission to take the afternoon off from school. Today, I cook the meal myself for family and friends. Days spent in the kitchen are worth all the work when you finally sit down with a good glass of wine at hand and can enjoy your oeuvre d'art, because that is what is!

I have celebrated Thanksgiving in Zurich, Geneva, Washington D.C., Milano, Madrid and Lugano. This year we had an early Parisian Thanksgiving yesterday since Thursday is not a holiday in France.
16 Italians and 1 Swiss-American (the undersigned) gathering around a table turned out to be an animated afternoon to say the least. Lots of shouting, laughing and gesticulation combined with curiosity of discovering savoury-sweet Pumpkin/Maple syrup soup or bright orange sweet potatoe purée. A totally new culinary territory for Italians.

Over the years the following recipes have proven to be my absolute favourite. Go ahead and experiment yourself!

Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage Butter
1 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 bunch fresh sage, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 to 14-pound) fresh turkey, giblets, neck, and liver discarded
8 strips bacon
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons hot water or bouillon
Preheat the oven to 320 degrees F and remove the top rack of the oven.
Put the butter and sage in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork or spoon until the sage is well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity and skin liberally with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, gently lift the skin from the turkey breast and slip the remaining seasoned butter under, massaging the breast meat as you go. Truss the bird by crossing the legs over one another and tying with a piece of kitchen twine. Shingle the bacon strips over the breast so it's totally covered. Put the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan, cover the turkey with aluminium foil, and place in the oven.
In a small bowl, stir the maple syrup with 2 tablespoons of hot water to thin. Roast the turkey for 2 hours, basting with the maple glaze every 30 minutes. Continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F. The thigh juices will run clear when pricked with a knife, about 4 hours total (20 minutes per pound). About 1/2 hour before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil so that it can brown. When done take the turkey out of the oven and put the roasting pan on the stovetop. Transfer the turkey to a serving tray to rest at least 20 minutes before carving. Serve with Turkey Gravy.

Roasted Turkey Gravy
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large, smoked turkey wing or 2 small ones
1 medium onion, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
1 ribs celery, chopped
1 head garlic, split through the equator
4 stems fresh sage
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 parsley stems
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the wing, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs, and cook for 5 minutes. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place over medium heat. Remove the wing and set aside. Add the flour and let cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock and simmer until it has reduced by about 1/4, about 15 minutes. Strain the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Sauce
1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
1 cup honey
Wash the cranberries and discard any that are soft or wrinkled.
Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.
To unmold and serve, immerse bottom of mold in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds and turn upside down on plate or serving dish. If necessary, carefully run a warm knife around the edge of the mold.

Please check out my recipe book where you'll find more Thanksgiving recipes.
Just click on tab below and go directly to:


November 19, 2011

A lovely autumn day in November

“In Paris, everybody wants to be an actor; nobody is content to be a spectator.”
Jean Cocteau

Eglise de St.Sulpice

Walking up Rue Férou

Musée du Luxembourg

Un gendarme solitaire

Le Palais du Luxembourg 

The Jardin du Luxembourg is the second largest public park in Paris located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. The park is the garden of the French Senate, which is itself housed in the Luxembourg Palace.

The garden is largely devoted to a green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and centred on a large octagonal basin of water, with a central jet of water. In it children sail model boats. The garden is famed for its calm atmosphere. 

Surrounding the bassin on the raised balustraded terraces are a series of statues of former French queens, saints and copies after the Antique.

The gardens are featured prominently in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables. It is here that the principal love story of the novel unfolds, as the characters Marius Pontmercy and Cosette first meet.

The Jardin du Luxembourg is Paris' favorite place to sun, stroll, picnic, and play. 

 Université Sorbonne de Paris is the main inheritor of the old Sorbonne, which dates back to the 13th century. It was one of the first universities in the world.

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