Recently I've been thinking more and more about how important the quality of friendship is.
I've also been making more effort to spend quality time with the friends I don't normally get to see on a regular basis.
Of course its great to host parties and large dinners so you can get all your friends together at the same time, especially when you are not around often and find yourself constantly juggling your diary. Sadly this does mean you don't get to spend good quality time with any single person.
Being an expat, this time spent with good friends, is one of the things that I really miss.
Hours spend doing nothing but walking along the river, or through a park, chatting, is something most people take for granted, but when you can no longer do it as a spur of the moment thing, you realise how much you enjoyed it.
This year I managed a few good dates with friends. I spent a weekend in Rye with one of my oldest girlfriends, 3 days travelling on the Swiss Train network with a friend from Asia and quite a few days out in London with UK based friends. I really enjoy visiting an exhibition, gallery or event (Taste London, Ideal Home Show or Chelsea Flower show) or even just having a long lunch with one friend instead of a group is so much more rewarding than a group date, and it certainly makes up for months of absence punctuated by short Facebook interactions.
I really enjoy these moments and so one of my resolutions for 2015 is to make more time to do this. As much as I'd like it to be in person I have to accept that this may also be a SKYPE moment, but sometimes you have to take what you can get !!
So my message to all of you reading this is to treasure the moments you have with family and friends, don't rush through them, the way so many people do with their busy lives.
Set aside time to really enjoy your friends and the times you are able to be together.
These are the times you will remember and with fondness when NYE 2016 comes around.
Although we have Christmas Markets in Switzerland I have to say that in my opinion the ones in the UK are far more fun to visit. I think the main difference between the UK Markets and the Swiss ones is the number of food and drinks huts. In the UK these completely out number the ones selling handmade gifts and Christmas decorations, as you can see in the video below !! The whole Market experience is much more social, about going for the day / evening and meeting friends and enjoying the food and drinks.
I used to go to the one that takes over Manchester city centre every year and it is a must visit for any Mancunian.
This year we didn't head up North and so the London Christmas Markets on the Southbank were where we got our Bratwurst and Mulled Wine fix.
Just as in Manchester the London markets are a great meeting place for people after work who want to meet up with friends and have a relaxed few drinks an some hot, tasty food, whilst enjoying the lights and getting in the festive spirit in the run up to Christmas. This year they stretched all the way from the London Eye to Tate Modern with small clusters as far as Tower Bridge at More London. It was a great walk along the riverside in the early evening, grabbing small bites to eat whenever we were tempted by the delicious smells wafting our way.
There were LOTS of tourists so you have to bring plenty of patience with you, but when you are with a bunch of friends strolling through speed isn't a priority, so walk at a slow pace and take time to enjoy all the food and drink on the way and you'll have a fabulous time.
Another thing I love about the markets are the Christmas Mugs. You pay a deposit for your Christmas Mug from the first vendor you get your Mulled Wine from and then you can keep it, only paying for a refill along the way. Take it back to the last vendor for a refund or take it home as a souvenir.
I'm hoping to go to the Markets in Germany next year, but if you can't get there the ones in the UK are a fabulous alternative !! If you are planning a trip to London towards the end of the year, I'd certainly recommend looking at the Christmas Market dates before booking flights, you don't want to miss them.
A few years ago we had been to Deuxave for dessert after a disastrous dinner at a French Fondu restaurant across the road. Sadly at the time we didn't have any more evenings left in Boston and so couldn't return.... This year, as soon as I had booked my flights for this trip I made a mental note to return to Deuxave.
Thankfully, nothing much had changed in three years, except they are much busier especially in the bar !!
Service was excellent from the moment I walked in the door. I had a drink at the bar whilst waiting for my friends and as soon as they arrived we were seated immediately. The Restaurant wasn't overly busy, but it was a wet Monday evening early December, so I didn't expect it to be, it was perfect for us.
We were given menus, advised of the specials and given time to chat and make our decisions. The waitress was very professional and patient with our questions. On the suggestion of my friend, we ordered one of the wines they serve by the glass with our meal and it was delicious.
My starter was the 9 hour French Onion soup. It was perfect. So often this simple dish is too sweet or the onions are burnt. Not here, it was tasty and piping hot. I would order it again and again.
Next I had the duo of venison. This was also excellent. It was cooked perfectly.
Version isn't a meat we can easily find in Switzerland so its a nice treat to have it when I am away, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. The menu (pictured below) had a good selection and we had quite some trouble choosing between all the dishes we wanted to try.
I was glad that firstly, I'd remembered the name of this restaurant and secondly, glad I had some friends to go with as it made for a lovely evening.
I have included a few photos below, but I have to apologise we were having so much fun I didn't take quite as many as usual !!
My friend who lives there is a regular, and she is a bit of a foodie, so when I suggested Deuxave and she gave it a big thumbs up I knew we would have a great meal.
If you are in Boston this is well worth a visit.
Deuxave 371 Commonwealth Avenue Boston MA 617-517-5915 Website
Baking is my new hobby. (And quite a good one for the winter months). I don't have a particularly sweet tooth so I'm happily feeding everyone I know with my experiments, usually the family here in CH.
Most people, I am happy to report are quite pleased with this set-up - me randomly showing up with home baked goodies !!
I really enjoy being in the kitchen, music playing, the food processor whiring, the oven blowing out yummy smells and just the chaos that cooking creates.
I've love cooking for people and having people for dinner, so baking was really the next step. Since my desserts had always been a bit 'simple' this has given me a whole new culinary avenue to explore. Before I'd manage maybe a Tiramisu or profiteroles made with ice cream inside - but now I am really enjoying making cakes and 'proper' desserts, and I'm looking forward to trying out some petit fours in the New Year.
I bought some new cook-books and downloaded the Great British Bake Off TV shows which really inspired me to get started.
My first attempt was a chocolate cake with piped roses (in the picture above), then a lemon cake with lemon roses piped on it, followed by cupcakes, fruit torte, chocolate torte, lemon torte, apple strudel and even my own Christmas Stollen. My cookbooks are plastered with post-it's stuck to recipes I want to try next and my cupboards are filled with different types of sugar and food flavourings.
The next big influence was the macaron class I took when I was in London in September.
Both my husband and I love Macarons but it is not easy to find a good one and when you do they are so expensive it really has to be a special occasion to justify the cost. Since the class I've been making them on a weekly basis, much to the pleasure of my husband.
I made them for friends when I was visiting the USA for Thanksgiving and I made a small mountain of them to give to friends and family here in CH instead of Christmas Cookies.
Its been a rough road trying to perfect the technique and also getting the ingredient quantities right when changing the flavours. Everything right down to the oven temperature needs to be spot on... so believe me there have been many mistakes, albeit tasty mistakes, and a fair bit of 'colourful' language, but it has still been fun.
The other thing I want to start making in the New Year is Ice Cream.
I want to eat an ice cream with ingredients that I know, not the E-numbers in the shop bought ones, and also it will be a great use for the left over egg yolks from the macaron making.
Both cooking and baking make me happy, my day is filled with something productive, we eat relatively 'clean' food with very few preservatives. Also there is nothing quite as rewarding as the look on someones face when they taste something (and enjoy) something you have created.
If you are visiting Tokyo or have friends taking a trip I'd highly recommend Andy's. Visit early on in your trip - as you will probably want to come back !!
If you are given a seat at a sharing table, don't be upset, we have had some great conversations with people we have met in here. After a few sakes the locals relax and I can almost guarantee a fabulous evening and great memories.
Andy's Shin-Hinomoto. 03-3214-8021 Website
We were introduced to Andy's by some of my husband's colleagues and we have been back every time we visit Tokyo. We've taken friends and relatives there and everyone loves it.
Its easy to find under the tracks of the JR line, close to Hibiya Metro station and staggering distance from the Peninsula. Inside its low arched ceiling that rattles with every train that runs overhead adds to the overall atmosphere.
The crowd is VERY mixed. There are tourists who have heard about Andy's and cleverly managed to get a reservation, and there are business man who have come straight from the office sharing tables with groups of young Japanese out for the evening with friends. Some people come for the food and move on after dinner, many come for the evening and eat several sharing plates to absorb the large draft beers and bottles of sake. Whatever brings you to Andy's the atmosphere and friendly service will ensure yo come back again and again. A menu in English and English speaking staff is also a bonus as after a week of having mostly no idea what I have been eating its quite refreshing !!
We almost always pre-order snow crabs. These are enormous and the meat is incredibly moist. So much easier to eat than the regular crabs and their fiddly legs and served with a light vinegar dip they are perfect accompaniment to a nice sake. For those who don't like fish - there are plenty of other options on the menu. Steak with garlic and fried chicken were favourites of one or our guests. I personally love their sashimi platter. The last one we had contained the most delicious swordfish I have ever eaten.
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