Category Archives: Travel

An Expat’s Shopping Basket – weird yet wonderful!

On Sunday night, RR and I arrived back in Switzerland after a wonderful but exhausting trip to England. RR had driven over 2 weeks ago, and I joined him partway through the first week. I managed to fit in seeing a large number of family and friends, we took in 2 rugby games, went to see the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain play in Basingstoke, got my sewing machine serviced, and did a not insubstantial amount of shopping.

Whilst the journey back home to Lausanne was long and extremely tiring, one of the major advantages of driving over has to be the opportunity to fit in a proper supermarket trip, and to stock up on what I consider to be all the ‘essentials’ of British life. Whenever I do one of these major grocery shops, I always wonder what the checkout person thinks about what can only be described as the rather odd assortment of products lined up on the conveyor belt.

Not your average weekly shop, that’s for sure!

So, if you’re at all interested in what a longish-term forty-something expat misses the most about England (apart from friends and family, that is), here, in no particular order, is my rundown of the essentials of my shopping basket (or, in our case, a rather large shopping trolley!)

1. Assorted cleaning products.

Swiss cleaning products are rubbish. They are waaaay too eco-friendly, and just don’t seem to get things clean enough. We normally source ours over the border in France, at the local Carrefour supermarket, where one can generally find a large number of British and American expats in the cleaning products aisle, fighting over the last bottle of Domestos 🙂 (for my American friends out there, Domestos is the British version of Clorox …)

This trip back, I took the opportunity to pick up some products that you can’t find in Carrefour, or pack into a suitcase to take back on the plane.

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2. Proper marmalade

Not Bonne Maman bitter orange jam or any other inferior substitute – the real deal 🙂

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3. Assorted curry ingredients and spices

Ok, so maybe we went a bit crazy here, but they were £1 a jar and there was loads of choice, whereas they cost a fiver a pop here for a choice of 2. Poppadoms are self-explanatory, and the assortment of spices – well, you can never have too many. And we do eat rather a lot of curry…

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4. Marmite

Love it or hate it (I love it, RR hates it) – in my opinion, it’s as much a breakfast necessity as marmalade…

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5. Ribena

Not available here. Especially not the reduced sugar version 🙂

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6. Heinz Baked Beans

Ok, so you can get a tin of beans here if you’re willing to shell out £2, but we can get a four-pack for the same price back in the UK. So we bought 2…

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7. Assorted Cadbury’s chocolate

I know, I know, Switzerland is awash with chocolate, all of it delicious and creamy, but trust me when I tell you that there are times when only Cadbury’s will do.

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8. English cheese

Ditto for cheddar and Wensleydale cheese. Swiss cheese is yummy, but for a decent cheese on toast or cheese sandwich, you need a proper, sharp cheddar. Gruyere just doesn’t cut it.

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9. Crumpets

I used to live on crumpets back in England, so I really do miss them. And guess what – you can’t find them here…

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10. Baking products

Yes, I know you can make self raising flour by adding stuff to regular flour, but it never seems to work as well. This should last me a while, I hope…

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11. Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder

Despite it’s name, it’s not actually Swiss, and you can’t get it here. We find other stock powders waaaaay too salty. And we use it a lot.  

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12. PG Tips

Last, but by no means least, the mainstay of a British expat’s store cupboard – proper teabags. British teabags don’t come individually wrapped in namby-pamby packets of 20 envelopes. They come in boxes of 240 (which will generally last us 4-6 weeks, depending on how thirsty we are). An absolute essential 🙂

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So there you have it. I love living in Switzerland, really I do. We have a wonderful life here, and have no plans to move away any time soon, but sometimes a little taste of home is just what’s needed to put the world to rights.

What do you think?

Dreaming in Turquoise

Over the winter months, I tend to do less dressmaking. In the summer I love wearing flirty skirts and pretty sundresses, both of which are fun to make, but during the winter I usually feel less inspired. I’ve been working on the same dress for a couple of months now. It’s a simple shift dress, made from an off-cut of beautiful grey wool which I picked up for a song in New York back around Thanksgiving, and I’m lining it with a gorgeous turquoise coloured satin. The dress is coming along well – all that’s really left to do is line and hem it – and if I like the end result, I’m planning to use the same pattern to make a dress to wear to Miss S and Mr E’s wedding in May, using some glorious pale blue French linen I bought in Paris a few weeks back.

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Shift dress                       Lining

But as February is coming to an end, my thoughts have once again been turning to the warmer months ahead, and, in particular, to our upcoming holiday. In two weeks’ time, RR and I are flying away for some summer sun in the Caribbean. We’ll be spending 3 days relaxing on Barbados, followed by a week-long cruise aboard a Clipper ship. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to it immensely! We’ve never been to the Caribbean, and we’ve never been away in the winter to some place sunny, and we love Clipper cruising, so we’re both very excited! But what to take to wear??? Back in January, I had a massive re-organisation of my sewing room, and since then all my dressmaking fabric has been moved from the top shelf of the spare room wardrobe. It’s now temptingly on display in my glass-doored fabric cupboard, bang in the middle of my sewing room. I see it every time I’m in there or walk past it (which is most of the time, to be honest!) And sitting on the top of the stack of dressmaking fabric are some beautiful prints, ideal for making pretty, summery skirts and dresses. DSC00644 So the combination of our upcoming holiday and having all my fabric on view has got me inspired with my dressmaking again. So far, I’ve made two summery skirts, and I’ve earmarked some fabric to make a sundress to take with me on holiday (which is also turquoise – my new favourite colour, it seems!)

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              A-line skirt with wide yoke and box pleats      Panelled straight skirt with flared hem

I’m back in the UK at the moment (hopefully the skirts will still fit by the time I get back home!), but now I’m absolutely raring to go with the sundress and my wedding outfit for May. And I’m pretty sure that when I do get started next week, I will have plenty of ‘help’ from my chief sewing assistant, Mr. Boy. Whilst Mimi Bubba likes to help me quilt, usually by plonking her not insubstantial bulk on top of whatever I happen to be piecing or quilting, Mr. Boy prefers to help out with dressmaking. And his favourite activities to help with are stealing tape measures and lying on top of crinkly-sounding  pattern paper. DSC00665 What a helpful boy! It’s a good thing I love him, isn’t it?!

Long time, no see

Well, once again it seems like an absolute eternity since I found the time to it down and blog, but now I’m back from New York, Christmas is over, and my time is once again my own (at least for a week or two, anyway!) And what a lot has been going on this past month! Where do I start??? Well, here are the highlights:

– Had a reasonably quilty birthday – charm pack central! (Fortunately, RR is brilliant at choosing fabric!)

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– Celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving with our lovely, lovely friends (and the Thanksgiving Squirrel Placemats went down a storm!)

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– Bought a mountain of dress fabric in New York’s garment district, enough to keep me busy sewing clothes for at least a year!

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– Visited my favourite quilt store on Long Island, where I caught up with the lovely Sara and bought a cute kit to make a quilt for my friends Ms S and Mr M’s new baby, Daniel

– Saw lots of our friends in NY – sadly, there’s never enough time to see them all, but made a brand new friend in the gorgeous, chubby, smily Baby Chase

– Picked up all the fabric I’d ordered online, including some to make Christmas presents for RR with

– Made gifts with aforementioned fabric…

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– Made a giant, bed-sized Christmassy quilt (despite the well-founded scepticism of several friends at the Patchwork du Léman quilt club, who were convinced I wouldn’t have time to finish it before the big day!)

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– Had a reasonably quilty Christmas too! And got a new camera for taking photos for my blog, which I’ve been learning how to use.

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– Ate, drank and was generally merry!

Phew!!!  I’ll be writing a bit more about some of these over the coming weeks, but it’s now Boxing Day, the lovely Ms JJ is coming over later for a cup of tea and mince pies, and I’m back in my sewing room contemplating my next project – finishing off this red, black and white beauty…

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So, until we meet again, dear blog-readers and fellow-quilters, I wish you all a belated merry Quilt-mas! Hope you had a good one 🙂

Off to New York – woohoo!!!

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