Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas at home: last minute hosting and decorating ideas

Christmas came so fast and it’s already over.

I learned less than two weeks ago that I’d be having 10 people for lunch on Christmas eve, a challenge that I gladly accepted. It was the first time that I was the one hosting Christmas for my family.

I was psyched, but had a lot of work to do since there were no decorations installed and I needed to prepare a menu. Generally, I do pretty well with last-minute decorating and cooking so the event was very successful and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Here are a few snapshots from that day, along with tips:

Funky paper christmas tree

Funky christmas tree

I have to be honest, Christmas wasn’t really on my mind this year for various reasons that I won’t get into. That’s why we hadn’t decorated at all before December 23rd. I didn’t have the time or money to go out looking for a tree so I decided to get creative with some funky paper that I had in my craft drawer. Does the job pretty well doesn’t it?

Vase with christmas ornements inside

Mason jar christmas decorations

In 2010, I worked for 6 months at a year-round Christmas store. A year-round what????? you ask.

Yep, a store that sells Christmas ornaments and other holiday related items, 365 days a year. It was fun! Amazingly, I never got annoyed about the constantly playing holiday music, or the fact that I was being called an elf. We, Santa’s helper’s, spent our days decorating trees, drawing on glass balls and setting up  Christmas villages worth thousands of dollars.

In those short six months, many funny things happened, like the time when I had to run after Denise Richards into the street when she left half her things on our store counter, or the other time when I recognized and caught a frequent robber (at one of my former jobs) trying to steal a 50$ Stanley cup shaped ornament. Just another day at the Christmas store!

Needless to say, that is where I stocked up on my own (small) collection of Christmas things. I have a few pieces, most of which are actually too fragile to set out because of my cats. Putting a couple of them inside mason jars makes for a nice and safe display!

funky gift wrapping

Tree design wrapping paper

The pretty blue and red wrapping papers were created by graduating design students at Concordia University. They were picked up at a vintage event. For the other gifts I covered them in silver tissue paper, then used pictures that I had cropped out of a local theater venue’s brochure.

Sprout salad Purple dinner table

The food we prepared was about as far away as you can get from tradition. My mom and I forgot to consult each other before we prepared our dishes, so we ended up making something incredibly similar, but everything was good nonetheless. Everyone seemed happy with the food, including my stepbrother, a chef, so YAY!

The menu:

Butternut squash purée

Quinoa with lime and cilantro

Beet salad with tomatoes, lentils and goat cheese

Beet salad with mackerel

Spreads on crackers: Olive tapenade, creamy salmon

Jalapeno poppers (stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon)

Sprout salad

Dessert:

Pear tiramisu (the ladyfinger cookies where covered in apricot/apple jam and apple cider)

Baklavas

What did you guys eat for Christmas? Any tips for last minute decorating?

Advertisements

The big reveal: my blue and white kitchen

After having lived here for over a year, we’re finally able to say that our kitchen is pretty much complete and looks like a real, functional kitchen. That feels nice.

I’d already shared glimpses of the kitchen’s white and blue decor in this previous article. Here’s the full reveal (Please excuse the bad grain in the photos, I’m having trouble with the indoor lighting of photos these days):

Kitchen blue and white

white and blue kitchen

blue and white kitchen greece

The room’s white and blue color scheme was inspired by the Cyclades, a group of Greek islands situated in the Aegean Sea.  There, the local architecture mostly consists of cubic, whitewashed houses with colorful roofs (often in deep blue shades that mimic the color of the surrounding waters).

kitchen island bar stools

magnets and refrigerator photos

Street photography in Europe: Spain

After France, here’s a selection of street portraits I took when I traveled to Spain (in 2007 and 2009).

I’ve been to Barcelona and Figueras, both of which are situated in the autonomous community of Catalunya. Here, like in Quebec, the common language (Catalan/French) is different from the main country’s official language (Spanish/English). They also have their own culture and traditions.

I know that the political situation is complex so I won’t get into that. For now, this region is still part of Spain and it made such a good impression on me that I went back a second time after my initial visit. Exploring other parts of the country is definitely something I plan to do in the future, because of my love for the language (I’m working on learning it right now!) and my general fascination with that country’s culture, cuisine and landscapes.

Barcelona

People ask what my favorite city in the world is. I can’t pick one so I usually give a top 3: Montreal, Istanbul and Barcelona. I don’t think I have to explain the first one, as I’ve professed my love for the city I live in quite often on this blog. Istanbul is a city I’ll gladly address  in another article.

This is what I wrote about Barcelona last year on another blog (in french):

Much has been said about this city in the last few years. Young people head there for the legendary nightlife. Art lovers go to visit the numerous museums and to contemplate the architectural gems. Foodies try to get reservations at Ferran and Albert Adria’s restaurants and upon failure, go to visit the many other eateries serving a tasty, audacious cuisine.

Most travelers that visit Barcelona come home truly entranced and enchanted by their visit in the Catalan capital. Everyone will find something that they like, even those that don’t usually like urban environments.

The effervescence and the warm atmosphere will almost assuredly succeed in casting a spell on the most blasé of travelers. Furthermore, it’s geographical situation is ideal, mixing the sea, the mountains and a Mediterranean climate (mild winters, warm summers).

Barcelona does not carry the historical weight of other big European cities like Paris, London or Rome. In a way, it is possibly what makes it so interesting and so modern. The first stones in this city where laid more than 2000 years ago but the relics of the past are not what characterizes it.

The city as we know it now exists mostly since the end of Spanish dictator Franco’s rule, in 1975.

Once they were released from the tough censorship (particularly severe against the Catalans), barcelonians took over the construction of their city, which had not really progressed since the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. In 1992, the holding of the Olympic Games served as a pretext for the renewal of several of the city’s infrastructures and for the construction of new, more modern buildings that remained in tune with the dominant architectural styles of the city (modeled mostly by famed architect Antoni Gaudi).

Here are photos of people, taken in the streets of this lovely ciutat:

Man on the street in Barcelona

Boy and his father at the Sagrada familia cathedral

Young man taking a picture at Casa Mila(la pedrera)

Street artists at Parc Guell, Barcelona

Man near Sagrada Familia street portrait

Figueras

The small, sleepy town of Figueras (Figueres in catalan) is where notable surrealist Salvador Dali was born. Fans of the artist should make the day trip from Barcelona to visit the Teatre-Museu Dali which is dedicated to his work. The building and premises were imagined by the artist himself, making it all the more interesting a place to view his paintings, sculptures and various creations (like the famous living room setting in the shape of Mae West’s face).

Man playing with a Dali themed installation, Figueras
girls street portrait spain
Street portrait dali museum spain
Street portrait girl spain
street portrait man with dreadlocks spain

Songs about Montreal

I love to make lists.

Just for fun, I’ve compiled a list of songs about Montreal, the city where I live and my favorite subject to write about (see this, this and this).

Lots of singers, both local and international, have used the francophone metropolis as a muse over the years. Here are the best ones according to moi.

Locals, en Français: 

Malajube- Montréal, -40c

Sample lyric:

Oh Montréal
T’es tellement froide
Une ours polaire dans l’autobus
J’m’inspire du pire
Pour m’enrichir
Et je t’aime tellement que j’hallucine

(loose translation: Oh Montreal, you are so cold, a polar bear in the bus, I’m inspired by the worst to enrich myself, and I love you so much that I hallucinate)

Arianne moffatt- Montréal

Sample lyric:
Je reviens a Montreal
Le coeur emballe de courage
Je serais rentree a la nage
Si je n’avais pas eu tant de bagages

(loose translation: I’m coming back to Montreal, my heart wrapped in courage, I would’ve swam back home, if I didn’t have so much luggage)

Xavier Caféine- Montréal

Sample lyric:

Cette ville va me rendre fou,
Cette ville va me rendre complètement fou,
Elle va me rendre complètement fou

(loose translation: This city is going to drive me crazy, This city’s going to drive me completely crazy, it’s going to drive me completely crazy)

Loco Locass: Spleen et Montreal

Sample lyric: Poetry that sort of pastiches Baudelaire. Way too complicated to translate. More about depression then it is about the city of Montreal, but it still describes the feeling of urban isolation.

Claude Dubois: J’ai souvenir encore

Sample lyric:

J’ai peu de souvenirs d’une vieille maison
Que l’on dût démolir, rongée par les saisons
Adieu, rue Sanguinet
Adieu, mon coin Vitré
Mais ce soir, je te laisse
Un peu de mes pensées

(loose translation: I have few memories of an old house, that we had to demolish, damaged by the seasons, goodbye Sanguinet street, goodbye my Vitré corner, But tonight I will leave you, a little bit of my thoughts)

Tomas Jensen: Montréal

Sample lyric:
Au milieu du Parc La Fontaine entouré de chiens et de chiennes
Et de leur mère tenus en laisse qui chuchoteraient comme à la messe.
Au milieu des chants des oiseaux, qui sait si ce jour-là il fait beau, ils me siffleraient des chants d’amour. En tout cas c’est ce que j’me dirais car Montréal,
C’est pas la ville rose mais quand même elle s’impose c’est pas dur, de mourir d’amour à Montréal.

(loose translation: In the middle of Lafontaine Park, surrounded by dogs and their masters held in leashes that whisper like at mass, In the middle of the bird’s chirps, who knows if that day the weather is nice, they’d sing me love chants. Anyways, that’s what I’d tell myself because Montreal, it’s not the pink city but it imposes itself, It’s not hard to die of love in Montreal.)

Bernard Adamus: Rue Ontario (song starts at 2:30)

Sample lyric: A bit too vulgar to post (not that I mind personally, but this just isn’t what this site is about). It describes a part of town known for it’s brothels, drug dens and interesting characters.

Les soeurs Mcgarrigle: Complainte pour Sainte-Catherine

Sample lyric:

Moi j’ me promène sous Ste-Catherine

J’ profite de la chaleur du… métro

Je n’ me regarde pas dans les vitrines

Quand il fait trente en dessous… d’ zéro

(loose translation: I walk around under Ste-Catherine, I don’t look at the store windows, When it’s 30 under zero)

Sans Pression/ Treizième étage- Le coeur de Montréal (Kind of kitsch but still catchy!)

Locals, in English: 

Oscar Peterson- Place Saint henri

No lyrics, just pretty music

Rufus Wainwright- Hometown waltz

Sample lyric:

You travel the world and find all the answers
Everything operates on the unattainables
And then you hear your mother laugh attached to the phone
Could have walked around the block ’cause all roads lead to home

Bran Van 3000- Montreal

Sample lyric:

One day God walked on old Mount royal

Just to dream up the human form

Threw stones and cans and comic books in a kettle

And you came out like a shining goddess heavy metal

Local, en Espagnol:

Poirier- Que Viva

International artists:

Tété- Montréal

Tété hails from France/Senegal.

Sample lyric:

L’automne à Montréal
Ou rien
Entre l’orange et le
Carmin.

(loose translation: Fall in Montreal, or nothing, Between the orange and the carmine.

The Devlins- Montreal

The Devlins are originally from Dublin, Ireland.

Sample lyric:

My feet are slippin’ in the snow can’t understand what’s on the radio
I’m just trying to count the cost of all these days spent on my own
I’ll meet you later in a bar
Somewhere on St. Laurent Street

Grand corps malade- À Montréal

Grand Corps Malade is a french slam poet.

Sample lyrics:

Je prétends pas connaître la ville, j’suis qu’un touriste plein d’amitié
Mais j’aime ce lieu, son air, et ses visages du monde entier
J’me suis arrêté pour observer la nuit tomber sur Montréal
Et l’dernier clin d’œil du soleil changer les couleurs du mont royal
Les phares des voitures ont rempli les interminables avenues
J’me suis senti serein, un peu chez moi, un peu perdu

(loose translation: I don’t claim to know the city, I’m just a tourist full of friendship, But I like this place, it’s air and it’s faces from allover the world, I stopped to watch night fall over Montreal, And the last blink of the sun change the colors of Mount Royal, the car lights filled the endless avenues, I felt serene, a bit at home, a bit lost)

Irving Berlin- Hello montreal

Irving Berlin is a Russian-American music composer famous for writing God Bless America and White Christmas.

Merton (the chatroulette piano improv guy famous for this video)- The Montreal Song

Street photography in Europe: France

A few years ago I really got into street photography, specifically, capturing portraits of strangers on the street.
I’ve decided to do a series of posts sharing these pictures, going country by country.

First is France.
France is the country where I’ve spent most of my life after Canada. I’ve both traveled and lived there over the last 6 years (in 2006, 2007 and 2009-10).

When I go to Europe, it’s always the first place where I land (the plane tickets are cheaper due both to the number of french people that want to come live here and the Quebecers that want to visit the Old World countries).

Europe, for a north-american gal like me, is a treasure-trove of architectural gems, fascinating museums, poetic languages, varied scenery and gastronomical mastery. OK, so that’s definitely the simplistic, fully idealist portrait of what is a large and complex continent, but it represents how I imagined it when I was a young girl, reading my National Geographics, dreaming of the day that I’d set foot there.

I just want to keep a bit of that beautiful naiveté. So far, I’ve managed pretty well.

These are pictures of people on the street in France.

Let’s start by Paris, the mecca for people-watching.

Stylish people, tons of tourists and loads of adorable children floating their boats on the city’s many beautiful fountains.

Young girl dancing in Paris

Tourist in ParisHandsome man in Paris

Bordeaux is another city that I love.

Like Paris, it is a great place to sit down and just watch the world go by. The first picture shows a young girl playing on a public art installation.

The second image is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever photographed. I was sitting down at place de la Victoire, relaxing after a long walk. As I played with my camera, trying to be subtle whilst captured the faces of the people surrounding me, I noticed this man. He was just standing there, with a sort of perpetually pissed off look on his face, not aiming it at anything in particular. I was fascinated not only by his attitude but by his very particular physiognomy. Each time I stumble upon this photograph, I study it for a few minutes. It just puts me in a good mood.

GIrl playing in the street Bordeaux

THE OLD MAN

Britanny is where my workcamp friend Sarah lives. We met in Bordeaux in 2006 and I went to visit her in her native region in the summer of 2007. Though the geographical region they live in is rather cold, even in the middle of summer, I must say that Bretons struck me as a warm and friendly population. It also helps that the area is strikingly gorgeous.

Playful girl in Concarneau

Poney and man in Britanny

I never planned on going to visit La Rochelle, I just sort of ended up there when my travel plans got shuffled around. It was a crazy move on my part, because I ended up in this beautiful medieval town during the popular Francofolies festival, with no place to sleep. I worked it out and ended up having a blast. I also got to take some pictures of a few rather famous artists (in France).

The first two images show street performers.

Street performer La Rochelle

Street Performer in La Rochelle France

I caught a free outdoor show organized by local TV station France 4 where artists featured at the fest were invited to play one or two songs.

Some of them were relative unknowns, but others were household names. Here are photos of three of those artists (click the name to hear a song of theirs)

Laurent Voulzy

Laurent Voulzy La Rochelle

Ours (Charles Souchon)

Ours- Pierre Souchon

Tété

tété

I hope you enjoyed these pictures. Soon I’ll be posting more from other countries in Europe.