31 Dec 2009

On the Seventh day of Christmas


I'm in Barcelona celebrating the end of 2009 and welcoming in 2010!

Hmm... I can't think of anything to do with the number 7 (to match the title)... I know! We'll be having 7 bottles with varying degrees of alcohol tonight! :p We've got 1 bottle of "fresita" which is a Chilean drink I picked up at the supermarket in Liège and is basically strawberries in chapmagne, it's for the "apéritif". Then with dinner 1 bottle of white and 2 bottles of red wine. Then two bottles of cava (Spanish champagne) for dessert and to ring in the New Year. And finally as a "digestif" a bottle of pékèt (a special drink typical from Liège) "fruits des bois" (forest fruits macerated in that gin-like alcohol) which I also brought from Liège! So that's 1+3+2+1=7! Whew! I've been having trouble with this idea of mine of getting something match the Christmas Day number! We'll see if I manage to continue pulling it off...

I wrote up a post on year-end traditions last year, those in Spain include the consumption of Cava (Spanish bubbly) and eating 12 grapes during the 12 strokes of midnight to ensure good fortune throughout the new year. My mom says that when she was a kid my uncle used to cheat by peeling the grapes during dinner and then taking the seeds out so he could eat them faster, lol! But no cheating for us (unless buying seedless grapes counts)... ;o)

I'll leave you off with a very Spanish Holiday Greeting, the Freixenet TV add. It's one of the main two brands of Cava -Spanish Bubbly-  and one of the things people look forward to during the holidays here is seeing what gorgeous new TV spot Freixenet will be doing for the holidays (since 1977, some years it has been 5 minutes long!). If anyone has read my Christmas posts from last year then you might recognise this spot. The company decided to not make a new one for this year as a sign of solidarity to the families suffering from the economic crisis (they thought it would be too ostentatious, probably as a help to their own budget as well, lol!). Anyhow, last year's was so wonderful -with our Olympic synchronised swimming medalists- that I think it's just perfect!

So have a WONDERFUL time tonight! Make sure you eat your 12 grapes in time!!! And if you're out and about, beware the nasty combo of bubbles and wheels! See you next year! ;o)

PS: I'm not sure how punctual the writing/posting of the rest of this series is going to be... I've got even more limited internet access since I'm out of town, and when I get back I'll have a friend visiting so I won't be able to hang out at my parents' using their internet as much! I'll try to prepare as much as possible in advance (the previous two posts were "scheduled" ones, I love that option!)

30 Dec 2009

On the Sixth day of Christmas...

Am remembering the six Christmas movies my Dad and I watch every year during the holidays!

Imagine a movie being made just based on the concept of a songwriter, and being totally structured around the songs he wrote for the film? Not nowadays that's for sure! But if it's the 1940s and that musician is Irving Berlin then... why not?! Bing Crosby's singing, Fred Astair's dancing. Some goofy songs, some lovely ones (particularly the first time we hear White Christmas). Definitely a must see! :o)

29 Dec 2009

On the Fifth day of Christmas...

I saw five Christmas stockings hanging.

Well actually they've been hanging there for a while, but they're my favourite house decorations and there's five of them (for the five of us) and since it's the Fifth day of Christmas I thought it was a good choice. ;o)

My favourite is actually mine (with Santa carrying the tree). It was my mom's sole attempt at knitting a Christmas stocking (she made my 1-month older cousin's as well). My grandmother did the others.

27 Dec 2009

On the Third day of Christmas...

I visited the Alicante "Christmas Market" and remembered the THREE much nicer ones I visited in Belgium and France.


26 Dec 2009

On the Second day of Christmas...

I saw two Nativity scenes!

The building of a Belen (the name for Bethlehem in Spanish) in the home is a big Spanish tradition (the introduction of the Christmas Tree in Spain is actually very recent, many families just do the Belen). The basis is just the Crèche:

24 Dec 2009

Christmas Questions?

Over the Twelve Days of Christmas I'm going to try and do a Christmas-related post a day. We'll see how well I succeed! (and how Christmas related they'll be) They're probably going to be short 'cause I don't have full internet access at the moment, but I intend to fully enjoy the season which in Spain truly ends on 12th Night! ;o)

To start with, two lovely bloggers I follow (Rhonda from Shellbelle's Tiki Hut and Nancy from Life in the Second Half) both posted this fun Christmas meme and I've been saving it up to start off my Christmas blogging!

So here goes my Christmas interview!

(1) What is your favourite Christmas movie/s?
A Miracle on 34th St (the b&w original w/ Maureen O'Hara and Nathalie Wood) and White Christmas (with Bing Crosby)

(2) What is your LEAST favourite Christmas movie/s?
most of the recent ones... they're all pretty bad so I actually can't remember them well enough to pick one! :p

(3) What is your favourite Christmas Song?
Just one? To sing or to hear? Both? Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Minuit Chrétiens. White Christmas... my dad and I usually sing Carols together over the holidays and I just love most of them!

(4) What Christmas song(s) drives you crazy?
Any of them in "elevator music" or "on hold" versions.

(5) What is your favourite Christmas drink?
Gluhwein!!! I'm sad I couldn't make it to one of the German Christmas markets this year... the stuff they sell in Belgium isn't nearly as good! I enjoyed my last glass in Valence Sunday morning while walking around town.

(6) What is your favourite Christmas memory?

I think I'll go with Christmas 1994. We lived in Florida. My Grandmother was down from DC to spend it (her last) with us. My Uncle and Aunt were up from the Keys with 3 month-old baby Jake. And two of our best friends from Mexico were spending Christmas with us (two girls my Dad used to call his adopted daughters). Full house, lots of fun!

(7) What is the best toy/gift you've received on Christmas?
Oh my... these are some Salomonic questions!  I think I’d have to say my flute. And now that I think about it I wish I hadn’t stopped playing in college… 6 years of lessons just gone? I have to start again!

(8) What is the worst toy/gift you've received on Christmas?

I’ll be generous and say I’ve forgotten! ;o)

(9) What do you LOVE about the holidays?
Feeling happy, surrounded by loved ones, all in a joyful good mood.

(10) What annoys you about the holidays?
That they're so short! :p

(11) Do you prefer a star or an angel on top of a Christmas tree? Or something else?
An angel! We have several lovely papier-maché ones from Mexico reigning atop our tree. :o)

(12) What is your family favourite recipe at Christmas?
My dad's stuffed turkey and candied yams. Miam!

(13) Are you a Grinch or a Who at Christmastime?
Huh? Well I know I'm not a Grinch so I guess I'm a Who! :p

(14) Christmas light displays - Love them or Hate them?
Love 'em! But I do think some people go a bit overboard at times...

(15) Santas at the mall - Fun times or Creepy?
haven't seen any of those in years, so no opinion!

(16) Christmas cards - do you send them, yes or no?
I used to, but for several years now I've been to disorganised/busy and this year is the same... :o(

(17) What is the best thing about Christmas, in your opinion?
Having all my family together and seeing their faces light up when I've figured out the perfect present. :o)

(18) What is the worst thing about Christmas?
The pushing of crazy commercial consumerism.

(19) When do you put the tree up and take it down?
We used to put it up the 2nd weekend of December, now we do it at the latest the weekend before Christmas. We take it down right after Three King's Day on January 6th.

(20) Out of the 12 days of Christmas, which day and item would you want your truelove to give to you?
Seven Swans a Swimming. As long as I can get the lake to keep them in as well!

(21) Why do you think that Grandma got run over by a reindeer?

(22) Who is your favourite reindeer?
Dancer! With a name like that he must be a twinkle-toes!

(23) Do you believe in Santa Claus?
But of course! AND the Three Kings! My stocking gets stuffed every Dec 25th and there's something in my shoe every January 6th. ;o)

(24) What is your favourite smell at Christmastime?
the Christmas Tree.

(25) What would make you happy at Christmas this year?
For the whole family to be together. But with one sister in New Zealand and the other spending Xmas with her boyfriend's family in London... sigh! At least we've got aunts and cousins coming over this year!

23 Dec 2009

Snowy Road Trip back South

So, you remember from my previous post how disappointed I had been by the lack of snow and then how excited I was my last night in Liège 'cause of a little bit of snow? Well I got plenty more snow on my way back down to Spain! :p

This is how things looked in Liège (on campus) when I left (I didn't have much time to wander around taking photos, had 2 meetings that morning and had to finish packing, last-minute chocolate shopping and loading the car, only got it all done thx to a friend's help!):

By the time I finally hit the road it was getting dark and I was stressed out about the possibility of driving at night through the Ardennes over snowy-icy roads (I wasn't worried about the dark since Belgian roads are all lit-up!). Well damn was I lucky!!! All along the drive the radio broadcast was punctuated by the "info routes" every 20', which kept informing me of a snowstorm moving across Belgium from the coast inland, with Brussels paralysed by the snow (and I later heard ditto the Eurostar, poor people stuck in that tunnel -which is a rather cool one by the way!), snow covering the country, accidents all over the place... except in the provinces of Liège and Luxembourg (Lux is the country, but the neighbouring Belgian province that covers the Ardennes is also called Lux)! In other words no problems at all on the E25! YES!!! And then I cross into France, and ditto! Radio talking about Paris under the snow etc, well when I got to my friend's house in Nancy, they hadn't even seen the tip of a snowflake! Situation which quickly changed since I woke up Friday morning to see this:

not too much, not bad, wasn't going to use it that day anyway since hanging out with my friend and her new baby and going into town for the Christmas market...

Things got a bit more complicated on Saturday when I was scheduled to continue on down the road. I woke up to find quite a bit MORE snow on the car:

but managed to have some fun with it anyway:


So I continued on South, pretty much following the inverse path I took in August on my way up. A beautiful crisp winter's day, with lovely white fields...

and highways covered in salt to keep the cars from slipping, but icky salt that kept being splattered up on my windshield and after a while making it impossible to see through (even worse when the sun was hitting directly on it, like a white wall instead of glass!) and so having to stop every 50km or so to pore water on it to clear it off (the windshield wiper liquid sprayer thingy being blocked, grrrr!)!!! The day's étape ended up taking 90' longer than it should have. snif!

I spent the night in Valence instead of Lyon (my stop on the way up, big confusing city if you don't know your way around, which I don't). It's a lovely little city (about 100'000 inhabitants) I'll tell you about some other time (not much to see but what there was was beautiful!). I wandered around town Sunday morning for a bit to visit and enjoy the "last" of the snow:

Did you notice anything curious in that photo? Hmmm, apparently someone else had been having fun with the snow recently as well! Look in closer:

My original plan had been to head straight down to Barcelona (5h drive) from there, but when reading a little folder about "things to see" in the region I came across the mention of the tallest "donjon" (the keep or main tower from a medieval castle) in France just a short drive away and I knew I HAD to stop and visit! :p

Doesn't that "paysage" look gorgeous? The light came and went throughout the day...

Here's the Donjon overlooking the town of Crest:

And a more impressive look:

I spent a short hour (could have spent 2!) wandering up and down stairs (very impressive place and very informative if you're a fan of the middle-ages, which I am!), and then continued on my road... with a very dirty car:

thanks to all this damn brown stuff:

which I guess I should be thankful for since it keeps the roads from being icy.

For some reason (running late? tired?) I didn't stop for anymore pictures on the way down. I will say the countryside was gorgeous all the way down. I didn't see the snowy Pyrenees since I crossed at night. And the last snow caps I saw were on mountains around Tarragona. The thermometer didn't hit (and stay above) 0ºC until Avignon. It hit the double digits when I entered the Comunidad Valencian, and then stayed above 15ºC once I entered the province of Alicante. Quite a difference arriving home to 17ºC weather when it had been -10ºC when I left Nancy 2 days before! Unfortunately I had also changed gorgeous blue skies for grey rainy ones! It didn't stop raining until I left Cataluña! But at least it "washed" the car... lol!

Now it's time to prepare and enjoy Christmas. I'm going to try to put together a "12 Days of Christmas" series... but I don't have internet at home any more (no point paying for 4 months of non-use) and I don't have time to figure out how to get service, too busy settling in and preparing Christmas! So I can only connect sporadically when I come to my parents'.

And I'm sorry I missed the Fishy Friday post last week... I was on the road and the days before was going crazy trying to get everything done for the trip. :p

16 Dec 2009

what Cris did her last night in Liege...

GO CRAZY!!!!          ;o)

Ok, I know I've been too busy to actually write about what I've been doing here these 4 months, I'll get to it eventually (short version: teaching scientific English at the University). But in a packing interlude (I'm leaving tomorrow) I just wanted to share a few photos of what I did my last evening here...

I woke up this morning happy to see this:


because I hoped it would be a sign of possible snow before I left tomorrow. I had an ice-covered car 2 days ago (took me 15' to defrost it!), and was really hoping to have some snowy, goofy fun before heading south to the snowless lands.

Well this evening I was meeting friends to go ice-skating at the outdoor (but covered, it rains a lot here!) rink downtown in the Christmas market, and as I left at 18h I saw this:


(there were some Brazilians out enjoying their first snow earlier, lol!)

So, big event of the evening:

crazyness on the ice!


Helping a friend skate for the first time:

Warming up later with melted cheese:

then admiring all the snow downtown (where it almost never sticks, this is pretty rare here):

trying to catch snowflakes:

and going crazy again:

Back up on campus there was even more snow:

I hope some of it's still there in the morning so I can get some daytime shots before I go!

Now I've got to get back to my packing, and looking forward to getting home in time to hopefully still see this:

Also quite rare, to have snow-covered mountains behind Alicante! (photo taken 2 days ago by my mom)

5 Dec 2009

Monthly Reading: November'09

Woah! Have I really only read 2 books this month?! I hope I didn't forget anyone... :o(
Why so little? Too much work, too much "life", too little reading time! :p

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
Gregory seems to have decided it's not worth writing about Jane Seymore (the Queen who finally gave Henry VIII what he wanted: a son!) since this book follows her previous novel The Other Boleyn Girl and we appear to have skipped a Queen! It starts out with the impending departure of Anna of Cleves (wife #4) for England, with Jane Boleyn's (the Boleyn sister-in-law who accused her husband and Anne of...) hopes of returning to court to attend upon the new Queen and silly Kitty Howard's dreams of dresses and boys. With 3 narrators, it was hard to keep track of who's story it is we're reading! Each new chapter I had to double check who's the one whose supposed to be talking... A bit bland and confusing, but it's got me looking forward to the Tudor's take on young Kitty Howard after the holidays!... And I couldn't help feeling sorry for Anna of Cleves who was completely clueless as to what was expected of her and how to please the crazy English monarch! ;o)

A Spanish historical mystery novel set in the early XIVth century. A knight of St John (old rivals of the Templar Knights) with someithing of a reputation as a detective (il Perquisitore) gets sent on an assignment by Pope John XXII to find out if the Templars were really responsible for the death of his predecessor Celement V as well as the French king Philippe IV (historical background: both were cursed -to their 13th generation- by Jacques de Molay, Preceptor of the Templars, after the order was disbanded as "heretics" when he was being burnt at the stake... all died within a short period of time under mysterious circumstances, and all the king's offspring fared badly as well... ending up in the 100 years' war between England and France), as well as what happened to their treasure that was never found in their main fortress in Paris. The mission will take him from Spain to Avignon to Paris and then back down to the Pyrenees to follow the greatest pilgrimage route of Medieval Europe: el Camino de Santiago all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. (mental note: I want to walk that -or part of it- some day!) 
A pretty good thriller with some mysterious characters and a thrilling period of history as a background. I zipped right through it! :o)
How's your Spanish? You can download first chapters of any of her novels here.

Have also read a Star Wars novel from the Legacy of the Force series (#2 - Bloodlines), but am saving up talking about those as a group once I'm done with all 9. ;o)

4 Dec 2009

Fishy Fridays ep. 8

On our last Fishy Friday episode we had finished off with the temperate (or cold) sea water section (with the moray eels, the grouper and the scorpionfish). I'm sure those of you who, like me, are entering into the depths of winter now would enjoy a little bit of warmth... so it's time to start up with the TROPICAL SPECIES! Still marine species, mostly from the Red Sea or the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Be prepared for bright colours and snazzy defense systems!

We're going to start off small: small aquarium and small critters!

Sadly they're also critters who WON'T STOP MOVING!!! So the pictures might be a tad bit fuzzy... :p (I need a good tripod, but they're too damn expensive!)

As per usual clicking on a name will take you to its FishBase page for more scientific info,a dn clicking on a photo makes it bigger! And now, on with the show!

Funky, huh?! Wait 'till you see them close up! ;o)

3 Dec 2009

Movie Magic: One Night At The Movies Long Ago

So there's little Blog-A-Thon going on today (we write) / tomorrow (we all get linked up to) organised by the Kid In the Front Row, and I thought it might be fun to join in! The idea is to all "share a memory from a memorable time we had at the movies, from some time in our past".

My only problem has been choosing just the one!

1 Dec 2009

Monthly Movies November'09

A rather diverse movie-month! Little-known WW2 resistance fighters in Paris. A crazy mega music festival. Vampires and werewolves. Russian ex-Bolshoi musicians impersonating current Bolshoï musicians for a Tchaikovski concert in Paris. Corporate whistle-blowers. Dolphins. Even linguistically: Rumanian, Hebrew, English, Russian, French, Japanese...

Care to take a look? ;o)

29 Nov 2009

Movie Madness: The Cove



What can I say, these guys sure know how to get their message out, albeit in a highly manipulative-tug-on-the-heartstrings kind of way.

28 Nov 2009

Movie Magic: Le Concert

I think this is my favourite movie of the year so far.

I walked out of the cinema with tears in my eyes and yet feeling completely zen. A Franco-Russian musical fairy tale. :o)

15 Nov 2009

What's up this weekend?

Running around with this little girl (whom everyone is following in love with wherever we go!):

(plus her parents)


My 3-month old niece... first of the next gen on my mom's side. My "little" (26 today!) cousin's daughter. The three of them have come up for a long weekend and we're wandering around Belgium and Holland.


9 Nov 2009

TV Addiction: remembering Firefly

I just came across a great post on the realtvaddict.com about Firefly and it made me feel all nostlagic! Now I want to pull out my dvd set and watch it... except it's in Spain and I'm in Belgium! :o(
So I had to settle for forwarding the post to my Dad saying "read this and then go look for my dvd set and WATCH IT!"

6 Nov 2009

Fishy Fridays ep. 7

Time to peek into our last "temperate" seawater tank at the Liège Aquarium and see who's there... ready for a swim? ;o)

These guys are all pretty much Mediterranean inhabitants, and I've run into all of them on more than one occasion when I've gone through the effort of squeezing myself into a wetsuit and jumping into the water. How about I introduce you to them one by one?

4 Nov 2009

Monthly Reading: October'09

Quite a few loans this month (some of which I haven't finished yet)... it's nice to be around other people with similar literary tastes so I can discover new material or fulfil a guilty pleasure. ;o)

So here's what was on my night stand this month: The Seven Daughters of Eve, The Private Patient and The Constant Princess.

1 Nov 2009

Missing Mexico

Have I ever mentioned I lived in Mexico once upon a time? No? My bad! When I left there I felt more Mexican than either Spanish or American, and I sure sounded like one when I arrived in Spain! Not surprising since I lived in the country for 9 years, from the ages of 10 to 19... 2 years in Chiapas and 7 years in the D.F.. I've lost the accent (but some of it comes back whenever I talk with Latin-Americans) but some of the vocabulary is still there.

I miss my friends and reminded of them at pretty random times (and almost always around their birthdays), but when it comes to our life in Mexico I actually miss it most now around Halloween and then in January-February (we used to go see Swan Lake... on a lake! once a year then). Why now? Today is "Todo Santos" and tomorow is "El Día de los Muertos", big, BIG holidays in Mexico. I miss the ambiance, and I miss the food, particularly the "pan del muerto" (above, photo from Wikipedia) only baked for this occasion... I miss going to see Don Juan Tenorio, a 19th century Spanish play (a version of Don Juan) that several theatres would put on every year at this time. We went several times to see it in an "open air theatre", I think it was in the courtyard of an old convent? Very appropriate for the "mood". And in the intermission they served spiced hot cider... yum!

Good times. :o)

Monthly Movies: October'09

Woah! A whole month without going to the movies?! OUCH! That's how long between the last film I saw in September and the Ugly Truth which I saw with my dad, sister and cousin last weekend in Alicante... scary! I couldn't let the month go by with a Rom-Com having been my only cinematic outing, not when there were so many I'd wanted to see and had missed due to lack of time (or last-minute motivation), so I purposely stayed downtown later today to catch another one! ;o)

And yet... it kept having mixed feelings throughout the movie, kept asking myself how could I be enjoying this so much if there were so many elements that kept getting on my nerves?! Meryl Streep is splendid, but that voice! Argh! Like nails on a chalk board!!! Although I'm told by my Dad (who has yet to see it and will probably be stuck seeing it in Spanish, poor fellow! I so love Les Grignoux and their passion for subtitles!) that it probably sounds quite a bit like the real McCoy. And much as I admired Julie Powell's endeavour (and Amy Adams wonderful portrayal of her), she really got on my nerves! She's right, her husband is a saint!
I'm sure many people will identify with different elements in the film, my moment was when Julia and her husband are talking about "going home" and she asks where that is and he answers "home is where we live". That is so me and my life...
Speaking of her husband, Stanley Tucci complemented Meryl Streep really well, they made such a great couple it kind of reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada. :p

The Ugly Truth
Very predictable (as usual for so many romantic comedies) but quite funny! There were several moment's when Heigl's "dumb blonde" act were a bit tiresome though... And Gerard Butler was yummy! (except when he was being too despicable) ;o)

31 Oct 2009

Happy Halloween!

I hope you're all having a SPOOKY evening!

I don't have anything special planned this year. Halloween's not a big deal on this side of the pond, although I did have a blast organising a big fiesta two years in a row when I lived here before... I re-discovered a love of Jack'o'Lanterns:

27 Oct 2009

TV Addiction: combining two favourites!

I haven't seen last night's Halloween episode of Castle yet... but seeing this clip online makes me really impatient!

Rick Castle disguised as Captain Mal Reynolds?! Oh yeah!!! :o)
(and the dialogue with his daughter is priceless!)

Now if Joss Whedon could only give Nathan Filion a proper excuse to wear the space cowboy togs... preferably onboard the Serenity! ;o)

26 Oct 2009

Fishy Fridays ep. 6 (late!)

It's time to give the fishies a rest and talk about another group of underwater critters: crustaceans!!!


You know, those things with lots of legs, usually a set of claws and a hard shell around their body (which they have to ditch by moulting every time they want to grow...)?

Like this guy: