Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Post: An Expat in Switzerland Demystifies Those Christmas Cakes

Each December, the Swiss grocery stores overflow with different Italian cakes and it didn’t seem like a good idea to keep myself wondering just what the heck they all were. So I tried them, and here’s my take:

The first cake I tried was Pandoro. I admit that my husband and I bought the cake more out of our excitement at opening a “Pandoro’s Box” than anything else (terrible pun, I know, but I’ll use anything as an excuse to eat new desserts). Anyhow, the Pandoro was a tall yellow cake, which came with a packet of powdered sugar. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. To my over-sugared American taste buds, the cake wasn’t sweet enough—even with the packet of sugar—but it was still a fun thing to eat, made more fun when I found out the cake originated from the Verona area in Italy, where some of my ancestors were from. To be fair, the Italians call this stuff bread, not cake, so maybe I had the wrong mindset when I ate it. Darn, I just might have to try another for the sake of justice. Poor me.

Panettone, sometimes known as Italian Christmas bread, originated in Milan. My ancestors would be disappointed, but I preferred this bread to the Pandoro, mainly because the Panettone was filled with raisins, candied oranges, and almonds. If I only could have added the powdered sugar of the Pandoro to the Panettone it would have been perfect.

Anyhow, before you invest in a big Italian bread/cake thing, I recommend buying a mini one of each kind to see which you prefer. Mini Panettones and Pandoros can be found at Migros, perfect if you just want to sample each (or bring some home to the family). Some people even pack these for their lunch. Sounds like a good idea to me. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Do you have a favorite Christmas treat that you enjoy in Switzerland? Please share.
Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. She’s the author of One Big Yodel and Writer Abroad . She also blogs for a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guest Post: Why Being an Expat Blogger in Switzerland is a Great Thing

by Chantal Panozzo

When I started my expat blog, One Big Yodel, back in 2006, I had no idea what I was doing (and also no idea that anyone would actually read it besides my mom). It was an innocent little hobby that helped me relieve the stress of not knowing a German word from a Swiss German one and it was just an added bonus when someone like my husband would actually leave a comment.

Fast-forward three years, and my blog is now getting over 3,500 visits a month and comments from people I actually don’t know but can’t wait to find out more about. Maybe it’s lame, but now I’m addicted. How many comments will this post get? Will someone else subscribe to my blog today? I’ve gone from blogging newbie to blogging nerd. And it hasn’t taken much.

I’ve made friends through what I’ve deemed “Blogger Blind Dates”, gotten writing and blogging jobs, and found a sense of community here in Switzerland that I couldn’t quite find through traditional organizations meant for the proper Hausfrau that I am not. And I’ve got my blog to thank for it all.

If fact, blogging has been so great, that I recently started another blog, Writer Abroad, for all of you expat writers out there (and those just dreaming of being an expat writer). This hasn’t done much for my Internet addiction, but I won’t blame myself, I’ll just blame the power of the all-mighty blog.

But now I’m starting to get nervous. There are thousands of unread blog posts in my Google Reader and I’m determined to read them all.  Because if I don’t, I’ll feel like I’m letting down my big blogging family. And that would just be wrong.

Why do you blog? Does it make being an expat in Switzerland (or elsewhere) more bearable? Are you as addicted to blogging as me?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. Besides keeping her own blogs, One Big Yodel and Writer Abroad, she also blogs for a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living in abroad in Switzerland and many other countries.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


So Chantal asked if we could detail what cleaners we used and I was all ready to write up a big report about how expensive but how great they were, but then they SCREWED IT UP! Let me explain.

When you move out of your apartment in Switzerland, the place has to be clean. And this is Switzerland after all, so they mean eat off the toilet seat clean... they mean so clean you can sterilize things just by placing them in the uber clean oven. We are talking spotless. So when it came to deciding whether we would clean the place ourselves or hire someone, we decided to hire someone... mostly because hiring someone meant that we had a guarantee that during handover the cleaner would be there on site, mop in hand, in the event that something needed to be spot cleaned... AGAIN.

We knew this would cost a pretty penny from stories we heard, but we also had heard that if the cleaners were not called in and the apartment was not handover ready and the rental company had to call in cleaners to clean up after you, they would take the cost of this out of your deposit anyway - so you might as well pay for it the first time and save yourself the back ache. This was our plan....

So I got two quotes for cleaning. Both four digit figures. I am NOT kidding you. (Keep in mind, these quotes were based on our Swiss equivalent  4.5 room apartment with two bathrooms...)Now, I imagine there are back door services you could use that would indeed be cheaper, but I used services that came recommended on the expat sites - I got quotes from Markus Leutenegger and MrClean. In the end, I went with MrClean because their quote was CHF 500 cheaper... plain and simple.

To be honest, MrClean really did a great cleaning job. I did in fact eat off the toilet seat before leaving the apartment and didn't taste a thing... just kidding. But really, all was SUPER clean. We are talking every nook and cranny, they powerwashed the blinds (lot of work), cleaned the oven, machine washed the carpets, got all the calk out of the taps, and did a makeover on our two bathrooms. They even locked up on their own and showed up to the handover on time... but...

When I arrived at the handover, I noticed something on the floor and thought, 'Well, good thing they are coming as they will have to do that again for the price I paid them...' but after I showed it to them, I realized after much scrubbing on their part that it was not just dirt, they had chemically burnt the wood flooring in two places - right in the middle of the entry and near the dishwasher. At first they wanted to blame it on the movers but I made a big hoo ha and told them that I walked the movers through the place the day before after all was packed - no damage - and that this was their mess and they would pay for it. After some arguing, they decided to send their specialists and Wincasa sent theirs and the latest word is that it is chemical damage... and someone (NOT US!) will have to pay... that is the nightmare part of this whole story....

I am not sure how we could have avoided this, or if we could even, or if this means I would not recommend MrClean as it was obviously a spill from one of their super cleaners, but I cannot help but be disappointed that my handover was marred and my bond is being held until this crap is dealt with... so Cleaner Nightmare indeed, but I am still really glad that we had the professionals do it.

Moral of the story - professionals good.... just take photos of everything before they clean so you can assess damages afterward. I realize that is crazy as I type it but what else could we have done.... ah the joys of moving out of your Swiss apartment.

There you go, Chantal! ;) Speaking of Chantal - she will be guest posting on Swisstory tomorrow about
Why Being an Expat Blogger in Switzerland is a Great Thing... do join us will you? ;)

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Update! 10 Days in Australia and counting...

Hello all! Well, I am still alive. I am totally off the grid, but alive. How did we ever survive a life without cell/mobile phones and the Internet before? I have NO idea. All I know is that I cannot wait to be connected again. The application is in with iiNet (any former colleagues want to do me any favors? now is the time! :) and Virgin owes me a mobile phone that I ordered before I left Switzerland. Once I am back in touch with the world, you will hear and read more from me. I promise. Until then, a short update.

We have been REALLY busy getting back into the Australian way of life. Last week I started my new job - that is right, I already had a job lined up before I left Switzerland, and I started oh three days after landing back in the country. Finding the job before leaving Switzerland - brilliant. Starting the job before getting over jetlag - DUMB. Needless to say, I am over the jet lag as of this past weekend but for some reason I REALLY suffered this time. We are talking waking at midnight and not getting back to sleep until 4 am, and all that the night before my first day of work.... NIGHTMARE. But I made it through and I am really enjoying the job so all is well on that front. Thank goodness they did not throw the towel in on me during those first few lethargic days! ;)

We are back in our house as well - which is also lucky as the tenants could have been in the house until December 11th. On the other hand, that means we are sitting around in an empty house until January 10th at the earliest when our container arrives. Thankfully, a few good friends and family have set us up with extras - extra fridge, extra bed, etc. With that and the stuff we had stored at family, we are set! Just don't be stopping by for dinner unexpected as we only have so many camping chairs and frozen pizzas to go around. ;)

Sometimes I feel like Switzerland is so, so far away in my mind and like it never happened - being back in a familiar place with familiar friends and places. It makes me sad sometimes that we left, especially during my favorite time of year - Christmas. The holiday season is just not the same when instead of snow and Gluhwein you have Santas in board shorts and barbecues. I have to keep reminding myself that when I see 'Summer' on campaigns at work it means they go live NOW and not in six months. But I will suffer through the seafood buffets and Christmas pool parties and endless days of sunshine and blinding tinsel, thinking of you all that I left behind.... oh yes. I will suffer. ;) But what I wouldn't give somedays for some Apfelchuechli and some snow... once I get this Internet hooked up at home and don't have to 'borrow' it from neighbors I will read all the Swiss Christmas blog posts with a tear in my eye... and perhaps some hot cocoa (probably a la mode - this is Australia) to remember the good times.

I have not been blogging much on the new blog, Aussie Story Blog, but only because of the lack of Internet. Rest assured I am taking lots of photos and blogging in my mind, waiting for the day when I will be back on the net... until then, know we are doing well, that we are happy to be home, and that we are thinking of all of you. Thanks again for all the well-wishes... moving back home is a lot of work, and it is sad to leave those behind, but being the first time I have returned to a place I can call my home, I am happy to say it is a really nice feeling to be back.

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