Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joyeux Noël

Happy Christmas everyone! I hope that the joy of Christmas is with you as you wake up this morning.

The last couple of days have been a flurry of last minute shopping, decorating and of course eating.  The weather smartened up enough on Wednesday for us to take Elise and Aid on one of the mountainous walks that surround Marseille. The views were breathtaking and the wind was invigorating. Otherwise most of our time seems to be devoted to eating and drinking.

Christmas Eve we had an amazing seafood dinner and then stuffed our faces with chocolate while watching “White Christmas”. 

Yes, after much tearing of hair on my part and tons of patience on Keith’s part we were able to hook up our computer to our newly acquired T.V.! Merry Christmas to us. Unfortunately our cable box doesn’t work and has to be sent back. (This only took about 40 minutes for Keith to communicate over the phone to the service representative!) Anyways it all worked out and we were able to initiate Adrian into our “White Christmas” tradition. Poor guy, I’m not sure how much of the actual dialogue he heard as we promptly spoiled every punch line. “I got no squawks, no beefs.” Oh Bing, how we love you.

We were all dreadfully tired after the movie but had a tough time sleeping. No, it wasn’t because we couldn’t wait for Santa, it was because it sounded like the apartment windows were going to implode at any time. The wind was so loud it brought back memories of times when Keith and I have camped on the east coast and it felt like any minute the tent would blow away with us in it. The wind banged on the shutters and according to meteo France it was gusting up to 95 km/h.

So far we have had a lazy day, opening stockings, eating a fattening brunch and lounging in our pjs. At the moment the boys are in the kitchen working on cabbage rolls! Yes many long walks are going to be needed to recover from the eating that has been taking place. Later this afternoon we will talk to parents and get an update on the snow report in E-town. What a lazy Christmas day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Un four, une clementino, et les visiteurs

I have been corresponding to some of you about our recently acquired “oven,” but I seem to have raised some levels of confusion. I am going to use the term “oven” here loosely. Our “oven” is actually an all in one microwave, grill and convection oven, and to make things all the more interesting you can combine the functions. Yes you can microwave and grill your roast at the same time. We are very pleased with this appliance, though it is still taking quite a bit of getting used to to figure out how long to cook things for and what the temperature should be in degrees Celsius. Now what I think has caused some confusion is that as soon as I say oven you think about your standard size oven that fits a turkey and at least two cookie trays. Oh my lovely North American readers, that is so not the case. Our kitchen space is definitely limited and really an actual size oven would never fit. Instead our oven is on top of our fridge.

Ah! I can see the light bulb going on. Tu comprends?

The oven will definitely add a bit more diversity to our culinary adventures, but it is definitely not the same as at home. Another culinary addition we have made is a clementino tree to our balcony. We actually got it especially for Christmas, and instead of a Christmas tree we will have a Clementine tree and then eat the clementines for our Christmas oranges! The tree is supposed to be outside all year round and it grows its blooms between November and March.

In addition to an oven and a Clementine, we have also acquired some visitors! Elise and Adrian arrived at our place at 3:00 am Tuesday morning after rearranging flights and multiple delays. It was a bit of an ordeal on their part, but we are now together and beginning the Christmas preparations.

Unfortunately their first day in Marseille consisted of a continual downpour that left all of our shoes beyond soggy. Good thing we invested in some washable slippers for guests for our cold floor.  

Hopefully the weather will cheer up and Père Noël will find us!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Venez Venez Messie

Yes advent is in full swing and Christmas seems to be fast approaching. This realization really hit when this past Sunday at mass we sang “venez venez Messie” which you might know as “ O come, divine Messiah. The world in silence waits the day ...” And yes this ever so catchy song has been stuck in my head for the past week. I only know one line in French, but I know pretty much the whole thing in English, so around and around it goes.

Another exciting sign of the upcoming festive season has been my constant emailing with my sister-in-law who will be arriving on Sunday with her petite ami. For the past two weeks we have been planning presents and plotting jokes with the help of my wonderful blackberry.

Throw into the mix that we received two packages from parents on Wednesday full of Christmas goodies and really I am ready for Christmas. One of our best investments has been spending 0.75 on this Ikea bag. It has not only allowed us to haul multiple loads from Ikea, but I don’t think that I could have got home the parcels without it. Wednesday itself was like Christmas because along with presents and some Christmas decorations from my mom, she also included a bunch of placemats and napkins which she made in apple green just for our kitchen (at my special request). Not only are they a fantastic colour, but so easy to just throw in the wash when they are dirty. The French really seem to be into using paper napkins which erks my green side a bit.  In addition to the kitchen additions, I got to be Celia’s little elf and box away presents for Keith, Elise and Aid. We will wrap them all up after we have decorated our wrapping paper. Yes all those sheets of paper that separated the various parts of our tables, bookshelf, ect., that required so much assembly, will now be turned into marvellous gift wrap. I really don’t have exceedingly high expectations for the quality of the artwork, but it will be a bonding experience. Poor Aid, I don’t think he is prepared for us when we get into a giggly mood. Oh well trial by fire, or should I say fools.

As I have said before our apartment is quite bare at the moment and we are waiting for Elise and Aid to help us with Christmas decorating. The only thing we have set up is our crèche. Provence is famous for its Santons. Santons are miniature clay figurines. They range from unpainted to highly detailed colourful resemblances of the manger scene. In addition to the holy family, animals, shepherds, and wise men, there are a range of characters that represent life in Provence. These include such memorable characters as “Man with squash”, “Coriscan Bandit” or “Basket Maker”. For our little crèche this year, which is actually a box which comes with some bread Keith likes, we bought Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Hopefully over  the next couple of years we will be able to add both biblical and Provencial characters to the display.

I have included the above pictures to demonstrate the actual size of our Santons. Ours are 4 cm, but they come as small as 2 cm and some are not even made of clay but are actual dolls dressed up. I find the latter just a bit on the creepy side, but each to their own tastes. Below is a picture of the stalls where the Santons are sold near the Old Port.

As we continue settling into our new apartment, we have run into some difficulty setting up our T.V.. It seems to be working but will connect with our cable box. This obviously needs to get sorted out as I think both Keith and I would suffer bodily injury if Elise cannot watch “White Christmas” on Christmas eve. It will definitely be an ironic viewing this year, as I don’t think there is a chance of it is being a white Christmas here at all. In the early morning and once the sun goes down there is ice in the gutters, but although the snow seems to be billowing around you all back in Canada and everyone in Northern Europe, we will be celebrating our Christmas with only the mistral howling down on us. I swear this morning it sounded like it should have been a snow storm, but in fact it was just wind gusting freezing temperatures down from the alps.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


(A brief note to all of my wonderful readers. This was actually written on Dec. 14th, but someone did not post it. I now have internet! From henceforth postings should once again be back to normal.)

So life continues without internet. Yesterday our line was opened but we still need our “neuf box” to be delivered before we can have access to anything. It is funny that at one time in my life the internet did not exist, later I used the internet for some forms of research and basically checked my email once a week. Now it is my main source of information and communication. It is fascinating how ingrained immediate communication is to our lives. I would never classify myself as someone who is addicted to facebook or email, but I find myself feeling detached without it. Part of this is that I am in a new city and am limited in by abilities in the language, but part of it is the expectation that I will be able talk to family and friends whenever the need arises. So instead of relying on modern technology and all its gadgets, I have instead found solace in receiving my first piece of mail today. There is nothing like a good old fashioned Christmas card to make one feel like you are connected to the world and worthy enough to have someone take the time to write it out and post it to you.

I have never been a big writer of Christmas cards, although I do love receiving them. I am just never organized enough and I guess I have just never made it a priority. I find Christmas cards paradoxical because they are seen to be a great way to stay in touch with people you never see, and yet they usually say absolutely nothing. Even the Christmas newsletters, which are chalk full of information, are somewhat impersonal. Now don’t get me wrong I love getting them and they always make me think about those who took the time to send them. Hence with this in mind, it is my Christmas resolution this year not to send Christmas cards but to personally answer all of the ones I do receive with an old fashioned letter. Oh I know I could email all of you who will be sending me something, but we so rarely get what Keith and I term “fun mail” that I think it deserves a reciprocal response. I am also keeping in mind that very few people actually have our new address considering I haven’t been able to send out a big email because of the lack of internet situation, so this task won’t be too daunting. In addition to this, we realized recently that somehow our address book got packed away and shipped off to Edmonton during the move.  So even if I wanted to send Christmas cards right now I think the only people who would get one would be my parents, as that is the only address we know by memory. If anyone wants our address send me an email and I can reply, otherwise once we are up and running again I will send it out to everyone.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we are (I think) thoroughly finished with the Ikea instructions which in fact use only pictures to communicate. Below is a photo of such an example. As you can see by the following pictures we have tried to follow the directions as precisely as possible.

This last picture is our guest room. It is still a work in progress in terms of decorations and furnishings, but the basics are all there. Tell me what you think of the comforter. I love it, but Keith’s response when he saw it was, “So you’re going all Ukrainian on me?”  The room is filled with vibrant colours, and is ready and waiting for anyone who chooses to drop by. (Hint, hint we love company). Oh yeah and it has heat now too, after an efficient discussion with the plumber and the turning of a few washers.