Monday, November 28, 2011

Swiss Chalet Ornament

 I sat down in my new studio for the first time since our move and made a little ornament for the little tree we are going to get.  It's made of wool felt, and is hand sewn and embroidered.  I can't wait to show it to my little boy when he gets home!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week Away

I'm going to be busy with a visiting friend this week.  Hooray!  See you next week, with lots more Swiss fun!  love, Beth

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Fondu Pot

 I saw it among the many fondu pots at Manor, the department store.  It was the "caquelon" I liked best.  I wanted one with cows and a herdsman, but it was expensive, like most things in Switzerland.  I hemmed and hawed.  I could pay less and get a plain one.  But I plan on using this pot a few times a month for a long time, I reasoned.  It would be fun to use with guests.  It is Swissy, and since although I am an American and new to Switzerland, I adore anything Swissy, anything with a Swiss flag or Swiss imagery of any kind.  I almost have a sort of Swiss patriotism.  I "buy Swiss."

 I discussed it with my little boy.
"You should get it, Mom.  I'll help pay for it.  I'll pay 5 francs."  How could I refuse that sweet offer?  Of course I said yes!

 We bought it and then went straight down to the fabulous Manor food hall to buy a baguette and some cheese.  We were able to get a bag of delicious fondu cheese, a mixture of vacherin and gruyere, already grated.  Did you know that some Swiss have a fondu room in the basement?  Some gardens have a little fondu building in them.

 It is customary to have hot tea or white wine with your fondu.....

 and to kiss everyone at the table if you drop a piece of bread in the cheese.

Mmmmm.  Delicious school night dinner in Switzerland.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Villages of the Valais

This past weekend, we explored a little part of the Valais, and the villages of Vissoie, St. Luc, Grimentz, and Ayer.
These beautiful, ancient towns are full of little houses made of "madrier," solid, squared blocks of wood which notch into one another on the corners like Lincoln logs.
These are granaries in the picture above.  Many of the granaries, and some of the houses, are built on stilts, sometimes with flat stones on top of the stilts, to keep out mice.

Since this is a traditionally Catholic area, there are many roadside shrines and crosses.  This beautiful little roadside shrine carries a carving of Mother Mary carrying baby Jesus.  Carved at the bottom are the words, "Notre Dame de La Route, Protege Nous," or, "Our Lady of the Roads, Protect Us."  And we do need protecting on the narrow, cliff-edged roads of this area.

The wood on the old houses has turned black with age and exposure to wind, rain, snow, and sun.

Some of the streets are too small for cars, and are pedestrian only. 

Some of the buildings are decorated with hand carving.

This area was settled by farmers who herded their cows into the mountains for the summer, to eat the fresh grass and herbs of the alpage, made cheese with the milk, and tended their vines in the Fall after coming back down into the valleys with their herds.

I like the weathered wood on the old granaries which line the cobbled streets.

I wonder what this kettle was used for.  Making cheese?

We saw a wonderful garden with a miniature village carved by a grandfather who lived in the chalet where we stayed.  We were fascinated by the time and care which he put into creating the little buildings.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas Crafts on Acorn Pies

Make an Advent Wreath
Make a Pine Cone Swag
Make a Wooden Robot Ornament
Make a Grass Reindeer
Make a Tea Cozy
Make a Lovey
Make a Snow Child Toy
Make a Fall Swag
Make a Pomander Ball with a Small Child

While replenishing my links I came up with some good Christmas Crafts.  Catholics among you will want to try the Advent wreath.  A pine cone swag makes a beautiful decoration for the house, and small children can help make it.  Children can also make wooden ornaments, like the robot my son made last year.  Grown-ups can tackle a grass reindeer ornament, or make a tea cozy as a very special present.  A lovey or a snow child would make wonderful handmade presents for someone you love.  Tiny children can make a pomander ball with help from a parent, and both child and parent will feel tranquilized (in a good way) after doing it.  A pomander ball is a sweet-smelling present which can be from a child.  Americans looking for a great Thanksgiving craft the whole family can do together, check out the Fall Swag.  It's gorgeous, easy, and fun, and I've been using mine for about 10 years!  Lots other Fall and Winter crafts I've listed would also be fun at Christmas is you are looking for some handmade fun.  See links in the right hand column.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Native American Crafts on Acorn Pies

I have been replenishing my links and have put up some Native American crafts from the Acorn Pies archives for those of you interested in doing Native American crafts with children at home or at school or with scouts.  Check out the right hand column for instructions on How to Make a Trail Kettle, How to Make a Paper Model of a Trail Kettle, Grinding Corn, and Bead Weaving with Children.  Have fun!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Campfire Baked Apples

 We climbed from a parking lot near the Auberge de Sonchaux, which is already closed for the season, to a wonderful lookout on the mountain above.  We gathered firewood, which some park workers had helpfully piled up nearby just for that purpose.

 My boy whittled some tinder from some dry kindling.  Unlike in the picture above, we piled the kindling log cabin style to make our fire.  (See How to Make a Campfire, in the column to the right.)

 My husband got it going wonderfully well.  He had some Alpine dried beef on baguette for lunch.  My boy and I toasted some gruyere cheese on baguette next to the fire.  The cheese didn't melt, but the bread got hot and crunchy.

 When we had some good embers, we put in the apples for baking.  I had prepared them at home.  I dug out the middle of some baking apples using a knife, (leaving the bottom intact.)  I filled the cavity with some crumbled homemade sugar cookies and some plain tasting cookies (like English digestive biscuits,) from the store, and some butter.  You could also use wheat germ, or crumbled bread,  or oatmeal, and then butter and brown sugar.  Don't add sugar if the filler is sweet.  I wrapped them upright in a double layer of aluminum foil, sealed them tightly, and made a little handle out of a pinch of foil at the top.

While the apples baked, and we started to hear some sizzling, my boy used a magnifying glass to melt some gummy bears on a piece of foil.

 I think we waited about fifteen or twenty minutes.  I gave a hot apple a little squeeze with my pot holder.  It was soft enough to eat.  We let them cool on the edge of the fire for a few minutes, until we could touch the foil without getting burned.

 The apples had collapsed, making a tasty and juicy mess, with the cookies in the middle.

 I remembered to bring forks to eat them with.  There were some dark brown spots on the skin of my apple, but I ate the whole thing.  It was delicious.  And there were some sweet juices to drink in the bottom of the foil, too.

 It was so beautiful up there.  I want to go into the mountains every weekend for the rest of my life.

 We watched clouds roll in to the valley from Lac Leman, far below.

 We walked further up the mountain a ways after putting out the fire.  I am always behind.  I like to stop to take pictures.  Look at the beautiful little ferns growing from between the rocks below.

We walked up to a cave we knew about.  It was farther away than we thought.  In this picture, I think my husband is trying to get my boy to go into the cave, saying something like,  "Bears aren't hibernating yet, at this time of year.  At least, I don't think they are."

We went inside about 40 feet, lighting matches.  It felt like an adventure!  Next time, we are going to bring flashlights and go a little bit further.

Then, as the light started to fade, we went home again.