Tag Archives: seasons

Pumpkin time

9 Oct

As we bought a pumpkin last week at Jucker Farm, I decided it was finally time to cut it up and make something with it. Even though the pumpkin was one of the smaller ones, I knew that I would need a couple of recipes to use it all up. I decided to make: a vegan pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin gnocchi and roasted pumpkin kernels.

Pumpkin pie

This was a vegan recipe that I adapted slightly. I needed to purée the pumpkin first which mean steaming it for 50 minutes before putting it through the blender. I then added silken tofu, a variety of spices and some sugar (but not as much as the recipe recommended to put in!) I made the crust using porridge oats that I had grounded down to a powder in a blender, water and oil. It then took about an hour in the oven to bake. I actually ended up making two pumpkin pies because my baking tin was clearly not the same size as the one that was used in the recipe. My initial idea was for my boyfriend to take one of the pies into the office with him so that we didn’t have to eat both of them but that didn’t happen because they were too delicious.

Pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup is one of my favourites. I added some fresh ginger and served it with roasted pumpkin kernels and some delicious pumpkin oil.

Pumpkin gnocchi

I haven’t made gnocchi before. I have always thought that it was far too complicated to make it at home but I found an recipe online and it looked fairly straightforward. It also meant that we wouldn’t be left with 5 litres of pumpkin soup to eat. It turned out to be easy to make, although I think that I didn’t cut the dough into small enough pieces. If I do it again, I know that I need to make them smaller. I served it with a butter and sage sauce.

Roasted pumpkin kernels

As I don’t like to throw anything away, I decided to roast the pumpkin seeds so that we can use them on other soups and salads. I just put them in the oven with some butter and salt until they turned brown. Although you can buy these in the shops, it did feel satisfying to use every part of the pumpkin so it was worth the effort.

Now I am a bit pumpkin-ed out! I am tempted to go to the supermarket and buy another one so I can have homemade soup again. But as the pumpkin season will run until December, I have plenty of time to get my pumpkin fix before the end of the year.

Swiss Trips

30 Sep

The last week has been packed with even more trips around Switzerland. Here is what we got up to:

Regensberg 

We went to visit the Tower at Regensberg, a little village that isn’t that far away from where we live. The views at the top of the tower were spectacular and we were lucky that the weather was nice and dry. I didn’t get too close to the edge of the tower because it was blowing a gale up there. After collecting some conkers from a nearby tree, we had a look around the village and had a drink at a local cafe sat outside in the sunshine.

We then went to Runway 34, which is an airplane-themed restaurant near Zurich airport. There is an old Russian plane inside (which doubles as a cigar-smoking lounge) and most of the seat are old airplane seat. I was really impressed by the food but it was more expensive than I thought it would be – certainly more expensive than what you would pay for something similar in the city. I felt a bit sorry for the waiting staff because their uniforms were what you might expect a cabin crew member to wear but, of course, they never go to fly anywhere. That would be my idea of a nightmare!

Thun and Bern

I have only been to Thun once before and that was about two years ago, so it was nice to show my mum around and explore a few more places. The town itself is a lot bigger than I remember it being. But it still retains a certain charm about it. The place was packed because it was the day of a local festival. I looked it up online and I still can’t work out what it was that they were meant to be celebrating. This meant that the streets were full of people with instruments and people dressed in traditional costume. It was a nice atmosphere and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

We stopped off at an Irish pub and had a drink and some chips. I have to say that they were the best chips that I have ever eaten while I have been living in Switzerland. They weren’t the thin types of chips that are normally served here and they had sprinklings of rosemary on them which made them extra special.

As we had to come back through Bern to get back to Zurich, we decided to stop off there for a few hours. We had hoped to go inside the parliament building but as Parliament was in session it wasn’t possible. We still enjoyed a walk round a large market and a hot chocolate in a great cafe that we went time last time we were there.

Jucker Farm

It is now pumpkin season and I have been meaning to visit Jucker Farm for as long as I can remember. I thought it would be something different to see and do. There were huge pumpkin exhibitions which were so creative. I have no idea how you would even begin building one of these structures, so hats off to the people who made them. I never knew that there were so many different types and colours of pumpkin. It felt like autumn had arrived, even though the sun was shining.

Of course, we sampled some of the goods at the farm restaurant and I bought a pumpkin to bring home. I want to make a pumpkin soup and maybe a pumpkin pie as well so I will have to look up some recipes in the next week. The pumpkin was only 2.5kg but I have a feeling that it will make quite a few dishes so I will need to make sure that we have some space in the freezer for things I make.

The arrival of winter

9 Dec

Winter has finally arrived and not just because real Christmas trees are now being sold on every corner that you turn. It has snowed. I did snow a few weeks ago but only a light covering that started to come down early in the evening and had disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived. But it looks like the snow has finally decided it is going to stay.

Last night we were working in the office until late to hit our deadline for the last month of the year. I had had a bad feeling about it all week and when, on Thursday we had a technical issue that brought a 10 hour delay, I was fearing the worst.

However, we caught up and apart from a few hiccups on the way, we were finished around 10pm on Friday evening. I was over the moon, as I had expected to be working until about midnight or later. We had finally done it. The last month end close of 2017. Home before the witching hour. Yes!

But oh no! Having been firmly fixed on our computer screens for 15 hours, we had failed to notice that the snow had come down. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as torrential snow but this was something like it. Ok, I have my hat, boots and a big winter jacket (I actually call it my football manager’s jacket because can be found in the wardrobe of any self-respecting Premier League coaching staff member), I thought. I can do snow.

Then news somehow filtered into the office – I still have no idea how, as there were only 10 of us left in a building for eight thousand –  that there had been a accident and none of the trams were running from our offices into town. Great. This was not in the script. I was meant to be home in an hour. This was looking increasingly unlikely.

I left with the plan to walk to the nearest train station, get a train from there to the main station and then get my usual train home. I start walking and I see a tram drive past. Hang on, didn’t someone say that the trains weren’t running? But that was a tram and it was definitely running.

I jogged to the next stop to get the next tram that was making its way down the hill. I looked like Bambi on ice. I had to get a bit of speed up to make the next tram but I wanted to avoid falling flat on my face even though no one would be around to see my embarrassment. I made it! Great not long and I would be at the main station and I just have to wait for the train.

The tram didn’t move for about 5 minutes. Then the driver said that there were two other tram stuck in front of him and he didn’t know when we would be able to get moving again. He left the doors open so that anyone who wanted to get off could do.

I decided it could be ages before we set off again so I got out and headed on foot to the train station that would take me to the main station. I was glad that I did. Not only had 2 cars collided just next to the train station but there was also a bus that had managed to crash into a lamp post and was blocking all trams going up and down.

Luckily, the train arrived just as I was climbing up the steps to the station. I had to wait for half an hour at the main station but at least I knew I wasn’t too far from home.

By the time, I got home the snow was really deep. As most people were inside or already asleep, I had the privilege of being the first one to walk through the newly fallen snow. I love that crunch sound that comes from under foot and being able to look behind me to see the footsteps in the snow. It was clear that this snow was here to stay.

Today it has continued to snow. I’m happy that I don’t have to work or use public transport and I can watch the winter wonderland from the comfort of my home.

Summer regrets

12 Sep

It hasn’t escaped my notice that the nights have been slowly drawing in, the sun is half asleep when my alarm goes off and there is a slight chill in the air. My fans are now back in the basement as I have resigned myself to the fact that the nights of it being too warm to sleep are over for another year.

Autumn is on its way. I like autumn. I am more accustomed to the milder weather and it means that I don’t have to make up a bad excuse to stay inside and curl up with a good book and shut out the world.

I never appreciated the summer as much as I should. Every year I promise myself that I will enjoy the summer months: late night drinks, swimming in the lake and watching the sun going down. Every summer I fail. This summer I don’t think I have been up late enough to see a sunset and I have been swimming once in the lake (and that wasn’t even in Zurich).

The thing that I will miss most about this year’s summer is my vegetable garden. It sounds daft but I have enjoyed tending to the garden this year and I have had so many vegetables from it that I have hardly had to buy any from the shops. The weather was perfect for vegetable growing. Hot, dry weather followed by rain and downpours meant that the plants grew, at times, far quicker than I could eat them. And that is saying something.

I have had tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, basil, radishes, onions and kohlrabi. I don’t know what a kohlrabi is in English – online translation tools translate it as kohlrabi. Very helpful. It’s not like a turnip or swede but similar. You can eat it cooked or raw.

The overwhelming success was the cucumbers. At one point I was eating a whole cucumber, which was on average about 25cm, a day for lunch and I still couldn’t eat all of them. When my mum visited, she took back some for relatives, otherwise they would have gone to waste.

I daren’t take my eyes off the cucumber plant because every time I did, it seemed that two more had suddenly grown. I was beginning to be anxious about wasting them or about them growing too big so that I wouldn’t be able to get them through the patio doors to the kitchen.

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When all is said and done, cucumbers are not so versatile. Your options are basically salad or salad. I once saw a recipe for cucumber soup. I saw sense and decided not to attempt that.

It felt good to be living at least a portion of my life in a sustainable manner. I think that generally people waste a lot more food than they need to. I was lucky that I could go out to the balcony and sometimes make a salad from the ingredients there. I picked things as and when I needed them. No wastage at all.

I have also dried some basil or, at least, tried to so that I can use it in the winter in soups and stews. So part of the summer will remain with me a little longer.

I am also hoping that in the next few weeks that I will get a few more gifts from the garden. I have planted carrots and leeks. Let’s see my sustainable life continues into the autumnal months.

 

Uninspiring times

2 Mar

Lately I have been feeling a little uninspired, hence the lack of blog posts. Work, German learning and trying to reinvent a social life have been taking their toll on me in the past few weeks. I hardly even noticed that we are already in March. How can we possibly be in March? As an account, I would say that the first quarter is almost at its end. How sad does that sound?

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I spoke to a very good friend of mine last night for the first time in a long time. It was something that I was looking forward to as soon as we realised that we were both free and arranged the call before something else got in the way. She was telling me all sorts of things that she had been up to lately, film recommendations, work nights out with colleagues. Then she turned to me and said “So, what’s your news? What have you been up to?”

I was more than a little disappointed that I answered with “Oh, you know, not much”. Not much? I haven’t spoken to her for about 3 months (a quarter in accounting terms) and, during that time, I have been up to “not much”. I think she was a little disappointed with the answer!

Of course, I was ecstatic when I started to notice that the mornings were getting lighter and that there have been a few evenings where I have been home before it is dark. I was starting to have a spring in my step again after a cold winter of self-inflicted hibernation. I think it might have been a false start. Is it even possible to have a false start to a new season?

What threw me was on Tuesday morning when I woke up. Monday had been like a spring day. The city was basked in sunlight and I was fooled into thinking that maybe it would be soon time to get my spring/summer jacket out because my knee-length quilted jacket is getting a bit on the warm side. Open the curtains on Tuesday. Four inches of snow and the snow is still falling. Out come the winter boots again and the scarf and gloves.

Maybe if the seasons would be able to make up their mind it would help. I’m confused as to what I should wear each day and I’m finding it draining and tiresome. It will be nice to get up in the morning and not have to look outside the window and on four weather apps to have an idea of what the appropriate attire for the day will be.

What won’t help shift me out of my uninspired phase is my tasks in the office. We are about to come up to our busiest time of the month, where I usually end up working long hours and feeling pretty stressed. Hopefully, all uninspired thoughts will disappear completely soon and more blog posts and creative things will keep coming.

As British as it sounds, a change in the weather for the better would also help.

Spring is in the air

23 Feb

When I left the flat this morning to get the train into the city, I was delighted to see the first signs of spring starting to appear.

The sun was already beginning to rise and  the sky was a lovely rich, electric blue colour and on the horizon there was a lovely burnt orange colour in the distance. As I left the front door, I was greeted by a cacophany of birds tweeting their songs proudly to whomever was awake to hear them. At 6.30am this gave me a spring in my step and for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t so reluctant to start the walk to the train station. It makes a huge difference not to have the cold and the dark to greet you first thing in the morning.

It seems strange that the first signs of spring are already here when we are not yet in March. January was so unseasonably miserable that it is nice to see the start of the seasons to come. I am a little bit skeptical that this somehow seems to be a false alarm. That Spring woke up too early and when it does finally realise it will disappear for another few months.

I find it difficult, like most people, to deal with the depressing, daily chore of waking up in the dark and coming home in the dark. And, of course, the bit in the middle being dark and uninviting as well, especially if during this time you are expected to work and do something productive to earn your wage.

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Spring and summer for me works a bit differently. I normally leave the curtains open just a touch so that my wake up call is not the nerve jangling tone of the alarm clock but a greeting from the sun who is welcoming me to a new day. Even though I end up sleeping a bit less during in these seasons, somehow I feel more energetic and motivated to get up and do things. Possibly it is more biological than psychological. Either way it is my much preferred method of rising in the morning.

I am bracing myself already for the end of the March, when the clocks go forward: an hour less sleep which alway throws my body clock completely but also briefly the mornings become darker until the sun rises earlier again. Then I will spring out of bed ready to face the world. Until realising I have to go to work and wishing it was weekend again…