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As the leaves turn

I love autumn.

My eyes always delight in seeing the different hues of red, orange, and yellow as the leaves change their colors and slowly fall to the ground.

My girls enjoy collecting the leaves and making mounds to jump in, or throw the leaves up in the air like confetti.

I always take this in, as you never know how long it will last. You blink and the trees are bare-naked, with the leaves scattering on the ground. So, I take as many pictures as I can and just revel in the beauty of nature.

3 Sisters Grotto; right, a section of the St. Beatus caves*

Earlier this month we went to St. Beatus caves, which is along Lake Thun. It was a little over an hour away by car. From the parking, we needed to walk around 10 minutes uphill to get to the entrance of the caves, which is also by a restaurant. There is a waterfall flowing out of the caves into a stream that runs into Lake Thun. We got our tickets to get into the cave and began the self-conducted tour. There are screens on each section of the caves telling us what the name is and some history behind. The paths were well-lit, however the segments not on the walking path are completely dark and Sarah was a bit scared, especially at the section where the waterfalls were flowing through as the sound of rushing water was loud! But I was proud of her for pushing through and not crying, just holding on tight to me. The deepest part of the cave was almost 1 kilometer into the Niederhorn Mountain and along the way we saw stalactites and stalagmites, with some reflecting pools in the different grottos. Truly beautiful.

Afterwards, we ate at the restaurant. Since we only had brunch, I was hungry and ordered the Älpermagronen, which is a Swiss-style macaroni which has potatoes in it. It is usually served with some apple compote, ham (or bacon) and crispy onions.

And in other news, I joined the workforce again! Effective start of October, I have been working from home 50%, for a Luxembourg company. I was recruited by a friend (the CFO of the company) who needed support in the Finance department. It took me a while to get comfortable working on Microsoft Excel again, after all, I have not been working since 2015 (when I gave birth to Rebecca)! But the adjustment was not bad. We had to add an extra day for daycare for Sarah, but so far so good.

From left, autumn colors; Sarah and Rebecca; Älpermagronen with bacon and apple compote*

I tried making the Älpermagronen at home and I was delighted to learn that it is not hard to do and the kids like it!

Älpermagronen (Swiss-style Macaroni)

Serves 4

300 g potatoes, cut in 2-cm cubes

300 g macaroni

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

300 ml cream

Salt and pepper to taste

½ tsp ground nutmeg

150 g grated cheese, like Gruyere

Optional, but highly recommended: bacon bits, apple compote and crispy onions to serve

Butter for sautéing and greasing the pan

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a casserole dish (roughly 10 x 6.6 inches) and set aside.
  2. Place the potato cubes in a pot and add enough cold water to cover. Salt well. Cook until almost done then add the macaroni (and probably additional boiling water) and a bit more salt and cook until the macaroni is al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium pan, melt the butter over medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent then add the minced garlic and cook further until the garlic bits are golden brown.
  4. When the pasta and potatoes are done, drain well. Pour back into the pot then add the onions and garlic, cream and half of the cheese.  Season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and pour into the casserole dish then top with the remaining cheese.
  5. Transfer the casserole dish into the oven and bake until the cheese on top is brown, around 20 minutes.
  6. Serve on its own or with the optional add-ons.

To make apple compote: peel and dice 500 g apples. Put in a wide saucepan and add 50ml water and some sugar (1 to 2 tbsp, if wanted, can omit too). Let mixture simmer for 15 minutes or until the apples are soft. Puree.

To make crispy onions: thinly slice 1 or 2 onions. Place ROOM TEMPERATURE oil in a frying pan and add the onions. Cook over medium high heat until the onions are golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.*

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