Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

It’s How Long Until Christmas?!

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Dear Father Christmas,

All I want for Christmas is a very clear sign involving flashing lights and someone handing me a piece of paper with lots of detailed information outlining what I am going to do and where I am going to live next year. And maybe some sort of delicious cake to eat.

Thanks!

Love Jess xx

So apparently it is already December and Christmas is a mere three weeks and one day away. That, of course, means that 2013 is four weeks and one day away. My natural instinct to count down days and reflect on the previous year etc. means I am now going into slight panic mode as I realise that I have some fairly major decisions to make within the next few weeks. I had been feeling a-okay with my “Holland or England” concept but now that isn’t even really definite enough as visas need to be applied for and apartments found. It is true that it doesn’t matter where I end up, I can always move. But the idea of moving all of my stuff multiple times appeals about as much as someone stabbing me with a fork so I’d kind of like to get it right. Or, at least, not completely wrong.

Anyway, that aside, the Christmas festivities have sprung throughout Paris with decorations and markets coming alive across the city. On Saturday evening I met my friend Chuck on the Champs Elysées and we wandered through the Christmas markets drinking vin chaud. The markets were as commercial as I expected and I didn’t actually look at any of the stalls apart from the man selling hot spiced wine. The decorations down the street were quite pretty and you can’t help but feel somewhat happy and festive as you walk past fairy lights, wooden huts, ice skating rinks and people eating churros. The cold winter air certainly made it feel Christmasy.

Christmas markets

So many people on the Champs Elysées

A decorations throughout Paris are fairly simple – lots of fairy lights which I always think are the best lights to have. If it were up to me, one hundred helicopters would fly across the city and dump huge lengths of fairy lights over buildings and streets, creating a web of twinkling stars. So pretty. The decorations on the Champs Elysées are a bit sci-fi and look like aliens have wrapped laser beams around the trees but at least they’re simple. There is a distinct lack of religion in the decorations which I find quite interesting. No Jesus or Marys hanging from lamp posts here.

The other day I was wandering aimlessly through Paris and walked through Place Vendôme, near the Ritz. There were some intriguing Christmas decoration statue things that appeared to be reticulation pipes stuck together at angles and then covered in sparkly fairy lights. They improved as it got darker, but in the day light they looked quite average. It is somehow pleasing that even in a city like Paris, their Christmas decorations are just as tacky as Perth’s.

Christmas decorations

Jaunty.

Still no sign of snow in Paris and I’m not getting my hopes up this year. I still REALLY REALLY REALLY want a white Christmas but I don’t think Sheffield is going to deliver. It did snow when I was there in April so there is a chance. But I think it will require a Christmas Miracle or lots of soap suds.

Holiday Snaps

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

For anyone interested in seeing where I went and what I ate over Christmas and New Years, you can see my holiday photos on my Flickr site. Highlights include movies of crazy Dutch fireworks, a hill in Holland, and a GIANT spring roll.

Back to Business With Galette

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Happy 2012 to one and all! My year started with insane Dutch people setting off fireworks in their back/front yards, carparks, petrol stations etc., plus lots of olliebollen, appelbeignets and general consistent eating.

Olliebollen

Mmm... olliebollen.

It is strange to think that I have come back to Paris with the idea of now being able to eat ‘normally’ and hence hopefully return to my original pant size. I have hit one slight set back – La Fête des Rois. Also known as the Epiphany when the three Kings or wise men visited Jesus and gave him birthday presents, the French have taken hold of this great day and turned it into something even greater. Everyone eats galettes – a round puff pastry delight filled with almond paste goodness. OH, IT IS GOOD.

Galette

Galette

Inside the galette, the bakers place a small item (yesterday I was witness to the discovery of a jigsaw puzzle piece, a green cow, and a miniature ScoobyDoo) and when the galette is divided, the person who finds the item in their piece of galette is crowned the King. They then get to wear a crown for the rest of the evening, lucky buggers.

While we had plans yesterday evening to have a galette party with the other residents at the Récollets, as Ben is a budding baker, we went in search of a GOOD galette (as opposed to one from a supermarket) for morning tea. We decided to go to Julhès, a family empire of deliciousness where you can buy bakery goods, wine, cheese, tapenade, foie gras, chocolate, and every other delicious thing you can think of. Ben, Tom and I divided the galette into 12 pieces and then invented a complicated mathematical formula for deciding who received which piece of galette. Ben was the winner with his second piece of galette and wore, with pride, the golden crown.

Galette

Keeping things fair

The second rule of galette is whoever is crowned King is also, therefore, rich and must purchase another galette for his lowly citizens/friends/family. So Ben bought a second (smaller) galette from my favourite boulangerie to have with lunch. As this was a galette for one or two persons, there was no item hidden inside so no one had to buy another galette. HOWEVER, we did then meet my fellow residents in the evening for dinner and galette eating. Almost everyone brought a galette so there were plenty to go around. This time we followed even more traditional methods and the youngest person was sent to sit under the table to call out names of people and select which piece of galette they would eat.

The youngest person at the table was three months younger than me, and as he was quite insistent that I take the honour of sitting on the floor, I spent the next 15 minutes or so calling out names from under the table. What fun! I failed at choosing a winning piece of galette for myself on both the first AND second round of galette distribution. Once everyone had had two pieces, there were still a few kings missing but everyone was a little bit sick of puff pastry and almond so the rest of the galettes were attacked with knives to find the final items. It was a lot of fun and galette is definitely high on my Deliciousness list. The search for the hidden item is highly entertaining and the fact that you’re eating delicious galette instead of looking for a penny inside stodgy plum pudding is definitely an additional benefit.

Things are returning to normal now after the Christmas and New Year’s break. I have just dropped my brother off at the train station and sent him back to England to continue his baking. My plans for today mostly involve cleaning as I still have christmas presents, decorations and general “I’ll deal with this later” items scattered around my apartment. We returned from our two week trip in Germany and Holland with a lot of excess baggage in the form of presents and food. Lots of food. Tom got excited by the price and availability of Jagermeister in Germany, while I went a bit nuts buying chocolate sprinkles and biscuits in Holland. Luckily there’s no such thing as customs when crossing European borders. Ben is currently travelling back to England with a two kilogram bag of flour in his suitcase. That flour has been through Holland, Belgium, France and now England.

I am trying to work out how I can bring everything that is delicious from France to Australia. I have 20 days left in Paris until I get on a plane and fly away home. While everyone around me is telling me how great Australia is and how much fun I am going to have, the whole process of having to get on a plane for 24 hours, have jet lag, fly to and from Sydney, and spend the entire time crossing my fingers that I am allowed a visa isn’t really making me jump for joy. Yes, yes, beaches, sunshine and family. But also a lot to think about and hope that the French government doesn’t think of a stupid reason not to let me come back to France. What will I do then? Plus what cheese am I going to eat in Perth?!

Well this post is getting very long and I have cleaning to do. Spread the word that Zaum is back in action for 2012 with more stories, more adventures and plenty of photographs of food.

Stroop wafel

Like this fresh stroop wafel I ate in Gouda

Christmas is Coming!

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

There’s something about Europe and it turning me into an anti-scrooge – I actually like Christmas here. Weird. As a result, I went and bought a mini Christmas tree and decorations from my favourite store, the Hema. I managed to get a tree, red baubles and lights for a mere 9 Euros! BARGAIN!

Christmas decorations

What a great buy.

Today Tom and I ceremoniously started decorating our apartment, getting into the festive spirit for our first Christmas living together (Nawww! How romantic!)

Christmas decorations

Technically these are stars, not baubles.

This afternoon I am going back to the Hema to buy more baubles because there just isn’t enough bling on our tree. So stay tuned for “Finished tree” photos but for now here is the gang getting ready for Christmas in Paris.

Christmas trees

Everyone is excited about Christmas – particularly Martin

We have hung the fairy lights above the couch because there were too many for the tree. They look so sparkly and provide additional light in a normally dark corner of our apartment!

Christmas lights

Ooh sparkly!

That’s Not Rain

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

It is apparently raining today. I say ‘apparently’ because the ground is getting wet and the forecast says there is a 100 per cent chance of rain today, however the stuff falling from the sky at the moment is more like a mist than rain. Like many things in France, the rain here is a bit… well… weak. Since my arrival, I have very rarely seen huge downpours. In fact, I can literally count on one hand the number of times I have thought, “Whoa! It’s raining!”

I like rain when it is purposeful. It has a presence, a reason of being, a strength. Here is it wimpy and pathetic and it just exists. Right now if I look out the window and stare, I can see that there is a very light drizzle falling from the sky. Most people are walking outside without umbrellas, so they are getting wet but it isn’t raining enough to require coverage. The footpaths are just getting slippery, and it is grey and dull. Why doesn’t it pour? Where is the thunder and lightning? WHERE IS THE SNOW?!

It is going to be like this for the next week so I am likely to become severely depressed and my desire to return to Australia to fill out visa forms is going to increase significantly. SUNSHINE! COME TO ME! The biggest problem with this rain is that for as long as there is rain, the temperatures are staying quite high, and while the temperatures stay high, the less likely it is that it is going to snow. I agreed (with myself) to move to Europe on the basis that I would have a white Christmas. This is not looking likely. With only three weeks to go, the temperatures have to shift dramatically for me to get my dream. It really isn’t fair. Is it that big a deal to request to the weather Gods that it snows on Christmas? All I want to do is dance and sing and run through the snow and build a snow man. Just once or twice. It doesn’t have to be anything significant – no massive storms, no road deaths, no closed airports. Just a little bit of white. Please?

Christmas Market Time

Monday, November 28th, 2011

The Christmas Markets have arrived in Paris, with young Audrey Tautou (of Amelie fame) turning on the Christmas lights along the Champs-Élysées last week. Tom and I dared the crowds on Saturday afternoon and elbowed our way through, mostly in the hope of finding a warming Nutella crêpe. We had been out walking all day heading from our house, down to the river, a quick duck into Sainte Chapelle, and then towards the Grand Palais. It was bloody cold and my hands were falling off so I needed something to warm them up with. We found the solution:

Vin chaud and crêpes

Hand warming.

Vin chaud and crêpes. Ahhh… I love Christmas in Europe. I hate it in Australia because of the excessive commercialisation and the too much food and too many presents. But here there is something more festive and REAL about it, although the Christmas markets in Paris really disappointed me as they are largely commercial stalls selling awful mass produced goods that are ugly and tacky. Plus, our Nutella crêpe was made using Nutella substitute which just did not hit the spot. Then I saw the vin chaud lady pouring more wine into the urns to heat up and it came straight out of a giant cask. It was essentially goon with spices, and it was all pre-mixed. Nothing real here.

I will go and have a better look at the markets when it isn’t a Saturday afternoon. I think a Monday morning when everyone is going to work with a depressed look on their faces is probably the best time to check them out.

Martin is NOT a Reindeer

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Everyone, meet Martin.

Martin the Zebra

Hello Martin

Martin would like to make it clear that he is NOT a reindeer. He is a full-blooded zebra, born from a zebra mum and a zebra dad and he will always be a zebra no matter what stupid costumes people force him to wear. Unfortunately for Martin, his mother made him join a youth group that puts a Christmas show every year for all of the parents to come and watch and his body shape and general appearance makes him perfect for the lead role of Rudolf. Put a red nose and some antlers on Martin and BAM! Instant Rudolf. The play leaders love it and don’t understand why he hates it so much. He was born to play Rudolf, they say. Really, Martin would prefer to be backstage where no one can see him, instead of up at the front of the stage with a bunch of elves singing about how he has such a shiny nose.

Martin the Zebra

That's not his real nose.

Martin is in second year of high school and certain ‘incidents’ that happened in the past two years have led him to having to join the youth group. It is hoped that by being part of the group he will find some direction and stability and help him stop spray painting swear words all over public spaces. Really, he is just bored and wishes he could grow up faster. Being a teenager is boring, annoying and pointless. He wants to be old enough to leave home, get a job and travel the world on his own. One day he wants to be an astronaut but apparently to do that you need to be good at maths and science and he hasn’t attended many of those classes lately.

Martin the Zebra

Martin

Martin won’t admit it but he’s in love. There’s this girl that he often sees at a local beauty salon – she has amazing hair! He has never said anything to her and she probably doesn’t know his exists but one day he hopes they might be able to go to the movies together. Martin has never had a girlfriend and the idea scares him a bit but some of his friends have been out with girls and they said it was ok. You just have to buy them presents or pay for their lunch and then they seem to like you. Martin reckons he could do that.

So as far as this Christmas play goes, Martin is trying his best to get out of it. Last year he tried to pretend he had a stomach bug but no one believed him. This year he is considering breaking his own arm but he knows they’ll just find some way of decorating his plaster with green and red tinsel. The least they could do is give him some antlers that weren’t back to front. It’s seriously embarrassing.

Martin the Zebra

He hates these antlers

Martin is available for purchase from my Etsy Store. Save him from his Christmas concert shame…

Christmas Eve is Here

Friday, December 24th, 2010

For a while there I just wished it would hurry up but now it has arrived with a big WHACK! It is suddenly Christmas and tonight Father Christmas will come in his sleigh with his flying horses and give everyone presents. Excellent. When I was a kid this moment was one of most unexplainably exciting things that could happen. I would have written a list, made a giant stocking, prepared a glass of milk and a carrot for Santa and his crew and then been far too excited to sleep. This year I have spent the last 2 weeks fretting about what to buy people, complaining about how busy shops are and being a general grouch. Where has my festive spirit gone?

I have realised that I should have just made everyone biscuits. Today I made a batch of Greek Easter biscuits (yes… I know) that are delicious AND the mix makes heaps so I could have given them to everyone. Instead they are forming part of two presents and there are lots left over. Which is also good because I get to eat them. Anyway, this post isn’t really going anywhere – I am currently sitting at home trying to think of things to do. I woke up this morning with a huge list and I have been far too organised and finished way too early. I have two hours until I need to be dressed and ready to go to the boyfriend’s family’s christmas eve party. I might go for a walk.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.

Brain Wave

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Clearly all I’ve been thinking about this morning is Christmas and food and weather because I’ve just realised what we should all eat for christmas lunch this year – Christmas flavoured icy-poles. Imagine the possibilities – so much Christmas deliciousness without the heat. We’d be cool as cucumbers. You could have turkey flavoured, fruit mince pie flavoured, ham flavoured, salad flavoured… Endless.

Christmas food

Imagine all of this in ice-version

Christmas pudding

You could end the meal with one giant ice-pudding that you shave into people's bowls!

Merry Stupid Christmas

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Tis well and truly the season so I figured I had better get into the spirit and send a jolly ho-ho-ho to every one. To be honest, I can’t wait for 1 January when all of this festive-spirit disappears and everyone gets back to normal. I admit I like the excess red in all of the shops and most people become a lot friendlier and jollier around this time of the year. But other than that, I despise Christmas and all its joy.

I’m not a religious person so it has no sacred and holy values for me, and all it seems to be these days is an excuse to eat and drink too much and to buy each other presents that we don’t want. Throughout the year I see things for people that I’d like to buy them, but when Christmas rolls in and the shops bump up their prices, all they seem to put on their shelves in rubbish. Pure rubbish. Unless you’re willing to buy the people you love overpriced chocolates or ugly sparkly christmas decorations, you’re stuck. There is NOTHING good. I resort to buying everyone I know books (although I usually do that anyway) but having just spent the last 40 minutes wrapping presents, everyone is getting a rectangular ‘book-shaped’ present that they’ll probably never read because they ‘don’t read’.

The other thing I hate is that I am forced to go to shops that are full of people. Everyone is out buying sparkly things for each other and they get in my way, fill up car parks and take far too long at checkouts. In the past week, I have set out to the shops at least three times with the aim of buying presents and returned home early, having given up because the thing I thought I could potentially buy for someone isn’t good enough to waste 30 minutes of my life standing in a line for.

And you can’t go out for dinner in December because everywhere is booked out or just full of drunk work colleagues who sing and dance and say things they’ll regret when they get back to work the next day. Yes, I am officially a scrooge but I don’t think I am the only one who is feeling this way at the moment. And it is just going to get worse as I attend more gatherings, eat more food and feel generally more fat, sluggish and hot. Thanks to the wonders of Perth weather, it is slowly heating up this week to a lovely top of 38 degrees on Christmas day. WHAT LUCK!

I did help decorate our Christmas tree though. And as you can see, it is beautiful and red.

Christmas tree

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree... how lovely and plastic you look to me!