Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween Swiss Style

I wish you a Happy Halloween with scherenschnitte, a wonderful traditional Swiss craft from the German part of Switzerland.  My little boy and I designed this one, but if you want to see some scherenschnitte by an accomplished comtemporary paper cutter, look at this blog site...  For traditional scherenschnitte by a contemporary artist, see

Friday, October 21, 2011

Build a Little Dam

Build a little dam!

First, put down the big rocks, then fill in the holes with some smaller ones.

It's starting to make a pool!

Now find some muddy clumps of leaves.  There usually are some around the edges of streams.  They are good for blocking some of the leaks.

Put some gravel and sand on top of the muddy clumps of leaves, and you should have a pretty good dam.  Watch the little pool fill up! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Swiss Labels

Swiss products usually have a little Swiss flag on them, which makes it easy to support the producers of food in this wonderful little country.  Did you know there was such a thing as Alpine salt?  Some day, we'll visit the salt mines at Bex and see what it is all about.

Naturally, there are beautiful scenes of the Swiss countryside on many of the packages.  This one has a little ibex in it.  Other wild animals of the Swiss mountains are the chamois, the mountain goat, the roe deer, the elk, the marmot, and the recently reintroduced lynx.  Wild wolves, which were wiped out in Switzerland long ago, have begun to migrate back into Switzerland from Alpine Italy.

The Terrasuisse label means that a food was produced by a nature and animal-friendly Swiss farmer, thereby encouraging biodiversity.

I find it hard to resist any food which has a picture of Heidi on the label.

This is the half and half which I put in my coffee every morning.  Printed on the back of the Heidi products is a quote from the book....

"'Oh!  The cute little creatures!  Oh!  The pretty little cats!'  she repeated over and over, jumping around the basket...."

Tete de Moine is a strong cheese which has been cut into long delicate slices which ruffle together like a flower bud.  "Tete de moine" means "monk's head."

Mmmmm...fromage blanc.  I'm going have to learn how to make it!

Jambon cru is a wonderful, tender, salty, cured raw ham, sliced thinly, like prosciutto.  There is the beautiful castle in Gruyere on this label.

I also adore all the Swiss cows I see in meadows on the mountainsides, and in paddocks sprinkled in neighborhoods and villages everywhere, and love them on the milk labels.

This is a picture of a Swiss race of milk cows, the Brown Swiss.  There is a another race of cows, the Hèrèns, which fight to establish the heirarchy of the herd.  I haven't seen a cow fight yet, but festivals are held in the Valais region to watch the cows push one another back and forth until one is declared queen of the herd.  It is hard to imagine, and it sounds kind of funny, especially since if a cow isn't in the mood to fight it is alright if she just stands there or walks away.  There is also a cow race in Flumersburg every October.  Some of the cows actually do run, and some walk because that's as fast as they go. That also would be something to see!

Monday, October 10, 2011

L'Armoire Magique ll

 I completed the refinishing of the magic wardrobe.  Appleshoe, one of my readers, pointed out how nice it looked cleaned up, but not painted.  I realized I liked it that way, too.  So I scrubbed and sanded it some more, until it was as fresh and smooth as I could get it, and

 then I rubbed it with beeswax furniture polish.

I love the pretty color and soft sheen.  It smells wonderfully of honey.

 Inside the door there had been an old string, perhaps for ties, as another reader suggested.  I replaced it with a piece of colorful ribbon.

 I painted the shelves sky blue, and finally put away my son's clothes, which have been sitting on his desktop these last six weeks.  I'm already thinking of refinishing another piece of furniture, an old chest which someone pickled.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Making Spelt Bread Using a European Recipe

 I was looking for bread flour and this is what I found at one of our local groceries.  When I got home I found out that epeautre is spelt.  Today was cool and cloudy and my housework was calling to me.  It was a perfect day to make bread instead!

I found a recipe for spelt bread on the back of the package.  I've never used a recipe in French before, but have been wanting to try.

 I had to use a scale to measure dry ingredients in grams.

 The recipe called for 1 cc. of salt.  A cc. is a cuillère à café.  I used a European teaspoon, and leveled the salt when I measured it.

A cs. is a cuillère à soupe.

I used fresh cake yeast, and measured it using my scale.  Do you see how everything is written in three languages on the food packages?  The main languages of Switzerland are Swiss German, French, and Italian.  Romanche, a fourth official language of Switzerland, is spoken by about 60,000 people.

The yeast had to be dissolved in warm water.  To figure out how much water to use I used a conversion table I found online.

The recipe called for sunflower oil, but I use virgin olive oil for just about everything, including pancakes.

Out came my mixer and the dough hook.  I kneaded for a while, and added some extra flour, but the dough stayed very, very sticky.  I finally decided to just let it stay sticky.

Here is the dough after it rose in the "moule à cake" for about an hour.  I removed some plastic wrap about halfway along.  It stuck to the dough and made some little waves on top.

After placing the bread in the cold oven and then baking at 200 celsius for about fifty minutes, here is the result.  The crust is very crisp and crunchy.  The interior is airy and chewy, and it is delicious,

especially with la buerre à gros sel des Alpes, (butter with chunks of salt from the Alps.)  Did you know salt is mined in the Alps?  I didn't, until I moved to Switzerland.  This afternoon I brought my boy a snack of spelt bread with a slice of chocolate sandwiched inside.  He loved it!  Wouldn't you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dèsalpes in Saint Cergue

We went to St. Cergue to see the Dèsalpes, the descent of the milk cows from the summer meadows to the valleys for the winter.  The best milkers wear flowery headdresses and their enormous festival bells, and the sound is deafening.

Lines of cowherds kept the cows from veering off the road, and controlled the pace of the herds.  The pace was brisk, and I'm sure they came far.  A friend of ours joined some cowherds for the Dèsalpes one year, and he walked 18 km. to get down from the mountains.

Many of the cowherds wore traditional white blouses and puff-sleeved black velvet jackets.

A fruitière is a fromagerie, a place where cheese is made.


The cows were nervous and the roads got very messy.  My son's reaction: "I hate cows."
This man is carrying an alpine milking stool on his back.  Why do you suppose the milking stool only has one leg?

That's right, so the milker can balance on a hillside, like this boy is doing.

These people were getting ready to play the alpenhorn.

After watching the dancers for a few minutes I was overwhelmed with an urge to put on a costume, learn folk dancing, and be Swiss.


 We saw many beautiful bells.

 Some of them had elaborate leatherwork, embroidery, and hand painting on the collars.

 These men are preparing raclette.  After the heaters melt the cheese, they scraped it off onto potatoes, and served it with cornichons and mini corn.

 These men are competing to see how far they can throw a heavy log of wood.

 We saw food stands with garlic, sausages, cheese, beer, wine from the Canton of Vaud, homemade fruit liquers and traditional clothing.

To make up for the cows, we got our son some Barbe à Papa.  Barbe à Papa means Papa's Beard in French.