Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


Foodie Penpals September 2015 Reveal

My foodie penpals package for September is heeere!
I was excited to receive it this month (even more so than usual I mean) because the person sending to me is someone I know pretty well from blogging and even met once – the lovely Charlotte. This month’s parcel was a giant envelope, so on opening it I tipped it all out on the floor:

FoodCheck out those noms! Here’s a more detailed look at what my parcel contained:

Fruit bearsA strawberry bear and a raspberry bear. I’m not 100% sure what these are but I can’t wait to find out!

ChocolateBritish chocolatey goodness <3

GrazeThis is really cool! Chocolate pieces, raisins, dried cranberries and cherries in a little pack. Immediately after I finished taking the photos I ripped this open and devoured it. It was delicious – and it counts as one of my five a day!

Food mixesThe savoury stuff. A sausage casserole mixture and some Jamie Oliver stuffing mix that sounds amazing!

Skittles“The dark side of Skittles”. I’m very intrigued by these.

Green tea Finally, some fruity green tea that says it’s good for my immune system. Charlotte said she included this so I wouldn’t catch another bad cold – how thoughtful is that?

She also sent me this cute pasta postcard (the rules say you must include something written with the food – it is supposed to be “penpals” after all!).

Pasta postcardI’ve been totally spoiled with this months package. So many treats! Thank you Charlotte :-)

As for me, I was again sending to somebody without a blog. Alice, from England, told me she’s gluten intolerant, which ruled out a lot of the traditional Swiss things I usually send. This is what I ended up putting together for her:

Swiss parcelAmazingly, I managed to squidge all of that into one rather small box. Check it out:

Food parcel

If you want to take part in Foodie Penpals, you can read the rules and sign up here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.). Matches go out on the 5th of each month and the deadline for sending packages is the 20th. It’s a lot of fun and if you do decide to sign up I promise you won’t regret it!


Foodie penpals: August 2015 reveal

The time has come again to reveal what I received in my latest foodie penpals package.

August ended up being a little different – I was originally matches to two people in England, but then the person who was supposed to send to me failed to contact the person who was supposed to send a package to her. Under the rules of Foofie Penpals, if you fail to contact one of your partners by the 13th of the month, you’re taken out of the running for that month and your two partners are rematched to each other.

Coincidentally, I was rematched to somebody I already know from the blogosphere. Alie is originally from Britain and now lives in Germany. She blogs about expat life in Germany and travel at Starting Over in Stuttgart. Go visit her :-)

Alie sent my package a little later than the deadline (with my agreement) as she had a trip to England planned and made the offer to also put some British goodies into my package. As it happens, I only had one request so most of the contents were German, but we’ll get to that.

My package arrived this morning and I immediately opened it up. Please try to ignore the fact that my photos were taken on the floor (again!) and my rug desperately needs hoovering…

I swear my penpal packages get better every month! I just hope I’m doing as good a job with the ones I send out! Here’s what Alie sent me in detail:


Tea bags! I can’t wait to try them, especially the Caramel Apple Pie ones. They sound perfect for autumn!

Apple chips

Apple chips. But not just any apple chips – Swabian ones ;-) A nice healthy snack for me to munch on.


Dessert items. Two Angel Delight type things that I just need to add milk to and a pack for making lemon-flavoured frosting. Yum! I think I need to do some baking soon…


Sweeties. A Double Decker, which was my one request from the UK (for some reason I really fancied one – and yes, I ripped it open as soon as I was finished photographing my goodies!)and Grün-Schnabel (Green beak) gummi sweets. I’ve never tried these, but I love Katja’s pig sweets so these are bound to be yum.


An Indian spice mix and a herbes de provence spread. Jan and I both enjoy Indian food and I can’t wait to give this spice mix a try! And I bet the spread will be good on toast or crackers.

Just how amazing is that package? I am a very lucky foodie indeed!

Alie also sent me a card, and even drew her own little stamp on the envelope. Love it!

Again, the person I was sending to doesn’t have a blog, but I took a quick photo before placing her goodies in the envelope. Here’s what I sent (this time I actually took the photo on the table, like a normal person!)

Swiss food

The new matches go out on Saturday, so you may be too late to sign up for September, but you can give it a try anyway. If it doesn’t work this time you’ll automatically be added to October’s list. To read the rules and sign up go here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.)


Foodie penpals July reveal

I am a terrible blogger and forgot to get my foodie penpals post ready for the big reveal on the last day of July. Oops. In my defence, I received my parcel relatively late in the month and I had a wedding to attend. In the UK. Those are my excuses and I’m sticking to them! Anyway, my foodie penpals this month were both in UK. I sent a parcel to the lovely Selina and received one from Kate (I would provide links if they had blogs…). Here’s what I got from Kate:

Foodie package

What? You can’t see everything? Here – I took the items out of the box for you!

Foodie parcel

I have to confess, I very cheekily requested the beef Hula Hoops. I love beef Hula Hoops! (Also Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch, Skips, Bacon Fries, Mini Cheddars and Wotsits, just in case anyone was thinking of sending me a care package ;-) ).

This month I actually managed to restrain myself for long enough to take individual photos of some of the items, so here’s what I received in detail:

Foodie penpals

Baking stuff, specifically mini loaf cases, chocolate honeycomb decoratey type stuff and cardamom pods. I’ve never used a cardamom pod for anything in my life! Research shall have to be done…

Foodie penpals

Yummy sweet treats! Fruit crumble sweeties, treacle tart flavour chocolate and raspberry flavoured pieces of dried coconut. SO TASTY!

Foodie penpals

Beefy stuffs! The aforementioned Hula Hoops and some sweet/sour/spicy flavoured beef jerky. Kate is a vegetarian but she sent me meat. How nice is that?! The beef jerky was yummy.

Foodie penpals

Smoked chilli flavoured mayonnaise. I haven’t tried this yet – it’s sitting in my fridge waiting for an opportunity. What does one serve spicy mayonnaise with?

And that was this month’s package. Yes, I took my photos on the floor. So what?

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, here’s what I sent to Selina:

Foodie penpalsSwitzerland in an envelope, so to speak.

The matches for August came out today, so if you haven’t already I’m afraid you’re too late to sign up for this month, but you can sign up right now to take part in September. To read the rules and sign up go here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.)


A Wedding in Wokingham

Bearwood College

My cousin got married this weekend at Bearwood College in Wokingham, so I had a (literally) flying visit back to England: flew out on Friday morning, attended the wedding on Saturday and flew back yesterday afternoon. It was worth it though – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many members of my mum’s side of the family in one place! In fact, the last time I saw some of my cousins some of the other cousins weren’t even born! (That includes the bride, who I hadn’t seen in at least 12 years and unfortunately didn’t really see at the wedding either, other than to say congratulations as we left the room the ceremony was held in. She had a baby a few weeks ago and by the time I went looking for her she’d already taken him home).

I can’t post any pictures of people because I don’t like to do that without permission, but I can show you few of the venue and the decorations. The location was amazing! We even saw a deer when we first arrived and were waiting outside for things to start happening! Unfortunately my camera ended up on a wrong setting and most of my photos turned out blurry or too dark, but a few are vaguely okay.

Here’s Bambi, plus a shot of the hall (yes, there are people on that one but I think they’re far enough for it to be okay).

The groom’s mum  made the cake! I was amazed – it looked so professional. And she also made the chocolate lollies that each person had at their place at the table.

Wedding cake

Instead of a number, each of the tables had the name of a place that holds some significance for the bride and groom. Ours was Bruges, which I presume is just somewhere they’ve been on holiday. The most important tables were Slough, which is where they met, and Windsor Great Park, where the groom proposed.

The food was delicious! Pork belly with Bramley apple sauce and chorizo to start, followed by steak with hand-cut chips and then Tart au Citron for dessert. The vegetarian’s obviously got something different, but I don’t remember what that was.

We continued partying until around 11:30, took a taxi back, then headed to the bar at the hotel for a night cap as it was my mum’s birthday the next day and she wanted to stay up until midnight. It was a really nice wedding, the bride looked beautiful (I’m sure I won’t look anywhere near that amazing less than 2 months after giving birth!) and it was amazing to see so many members of my family. It had been four years since the last big family gathering. Hopefully this time it won’t be as long before I see them all again!


Olten Street Food Festival

I’ve mentioned the Olten Street Food Festival on my blog before because it happened to take place on June’s photo an hour day. However, I also meant to write a full post dedicated to the festival and Olten, and that hasn’t happened yet. There’s another Monday Escapes linkup happening today, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

Olten is only about half an hour from Basel by regional or inter-city train (faster by ICE – express train – but more expensive), but it’s already in another canton, namely Solothurn, and some of its surrounding towns are in another one again – Aargau. The town, which has a population of roughly 17,300, is located on the River Aare.

The food festival was taking place in Kirchgasse and Baslerstrasse. On the way there, we admired the streets of the old town.

Before deciding what to eat, we had a walk around the festival to see what was on offer. It wasn’t particularly large, but there was still quite a range of foods! Quite a lot of Indian stands, but also Japanese, Argentinian and Italian, just to give a few examples. And, of course, there was raclette!

Finally, we decided to start with something “local” – there was a stand offering tiny burgers (just the right size to be able to fit more food in afterwards!) and proudly proclaiming that the beef was from happy, Swiss cows.

The choice was a good one – the burgers were delicious! Tasty beef and yummy melted Swiss cheese.
Next up was a Columbian/Venzeuelan speciality – Arepas, corn bread with various fillings! Jan chose a vegetarian one with black beans and cheese while I went for chicken, which also came with cheese. It tasted a bit like the enchilada fillings you get in Mexican restaurants, but less spicy. Very tasty though! We had to wait a while for our order to be finished, so while I queued and Jan fetched drinks, the camera came back out ;-)

As you might have noticed from the photos, it was a bit of a weird weather day. One minute it was bright sunshine, like in the photos above, the next it was cold and chucking it down, only to clear up again and become far too hot for rain coats 10 minutes later!

From one South-American cuisine to the next… we were getting quite full by this point, but we decided we still had time for a little Coxhina from a small Brazilian stand. This time, Jan chose chicken and I went for beef. Jan’s was delicious and mine had a nice flavour but unfortunately was still slightly cold inside. The filling was precooked though (they just reheated them at the stand), so I ate it anyway.

CoxinhaAt that point, Jan decided he would like a coffee and I remembered seeing a sign for Turkish coffee at the entrance to the festival, so we headed to the Turkish stand. I chose a homemade lemonade, as I’m not a fan of Turkish coffee. The stall owner tried really hard to get us to also take one of his pastries, so we chose a pistachio-filled one to share.

The lemonade was lovely and refreshing and the pastry was not too sweet.
Having done enough eating for the day, we decided to have a walk around the rest of Olten while we were there. The old ton area is pretty but fairly small. Outside the old town, the buildings aren’t quite as nice, but the entire town is surrounded by mountains and greenness – a description that could apply to anywhere in Switzerland really ;-)

Once we were back at the river, we were also almost back at the train station. With no room inside for more food, we decided to take the next train home. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon out and after reading so many other bloggers’ accounts of food festivals I was happy to finally get one of my own to try! There are more street food festivals planned by the same company for Lucerne (7-9 August 2015) and Berne (14-15 August 2015) and I’ve just read about another one in Solothurn (the city that gives the canton its name), which is taking place on 29 and 30 Augzst 2015, so hopefully I’ll make it to another one this summer!

Have you been to a street food festival? What would you have chosen to eat if you’d been in Olten with us? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve got a travel tale for Monday Escapes, click the button below.

My Travel Monkey


Apple, walnut and cranberry salad


With all the ridiculously hot weather we’ve been having lately, the idea of cooking full meals is just not pleasant. The result: lots of salads for dinner! This one is probably technically more of an autumn salad as it uses apples, but since they’re available all year round these days it’s an easy one to make at any time and the fruit is lovely and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Here’s the recipe:

Apple, Walnut and Cranberry Salad

100g lettuce leaves (I use lamb’s lettuce – I find it goes well with the walnuts)
1 apple
100 g walnut halves
75 g dried cranberries
2 dessert spoons walnut oil
2 dessert spoons apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Toast the walnuts by placing them in a hot frying pan for around 5 minutes (or do them in the oven), then set aside to cool for a while. While they’re cooling, core and slice the apple.

2. Wash the lettuce and place it in a salad bowl, then add the walnuts, sliced apple and dried cranberries and toss everything a bit to mix it evenly.

3. For the dressing, mix together the walnut oil, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt plus black pepper to taste.

4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss so everything is covered in dressing. This amount serves 2 as a side dish. We had it with marinated grill cheese, but I imagine it would also go well with pork (thanks to the apples) or grilled chicken.



A photo an hour: 20 June 2015

In the middle of last week I read about a street food festival that was taking place in Olten (about 45 minutes train ride from us) on Saturday, which seemed like perfect timing – usually I find out about these things just after they occur rather than just before. When Jane pointed out that Saturday was also photo an hour day, the timing felt even more perfect. Obviously it was my fate to go! I’m planning a full post about the street food festival for later in the week, but for now here’s Saturday’s photo an hour:

10 a.m. I’m up! As usual, a cup of tea is needed before I do anything else. Trying to switch things up a bit by taking a photo of my cups in the cupboard.

11 a.m. Shower time! Look, it’s the shower in the new flat!

12 noon. Sorting out dry washing. *Yawn*

1 p.m. On the train (actually not 1 p.m. because we were busy buying tickets then and I kind of forgot about the photo. But 1 p.m. ish).

2 p.m. Still on the train. At least the view from the window was nice!

3 p.m. Waiting for some food at the festival! The weather kept switching from bright sunshine to rain literally within seconds – I felt like I was back in Britain! In this photo, it’s about to rain again.

4 p.m. Drinking lemonade from a Turkish stall. Very tasty and actually cheap!

5 p.m. Back on the train. I think we were near Sissach at this point.

6 p.m. Home! Doing a bit of cross stitch.

7 p.m. Erkältungstee time! I’m still not sure how a bunch of herbs can cure a cold, but anything’s worth a try, right?

8 p.m. Taking a break from cross stitching to read.

9 p.m. A late and light dinner since we spent the afternoon stuffing ourselves at the food festival.

10 p.m. (Ahem. Sort of). Rush (the film about Niki Lauda) was on Channel 4 so we decided to watch it. We get Channel 4 in Switzerland (and E4, More 4 and the BBC and ITV channels!).

11 p.m. Still watching Rush.

Midnight. Will this film ever end?!
It actually did end 15 minutes later then I went to bed without taking a photo. I don’t want to ruin my symmetry though, so here’s a bonus photo of the bedroom that I took a while ago to show my grandma our new place. You can see from the noon photo that we have different bedding on now.

The photo an hour roundup post isn’t up yet, but once it is you’ll find the link here.


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