December 15, 2017

It's cool to be kind

Today the International community of the kids' school spread their love again at the Holiday Bazaar. The organising team had even chosen a theme: "It's cool to be kind". I was happy to support their cause by participating with a Christmas gift stall. Admittedly, I had a secret Santa in the US who supplied me with lots of glittery ornaments.

Walking through the gates half an hour before school started I was greeted by Christmas carols sounding out of the Principal's office adding an extra spring to my walk, despite feeling a bit under the weather. I passed little messages of kindness and love along the wall of the Primary school before I entered the gym that had been decked out from top to bottom with Holiday cheer by the good fairies that worked until late last night to make this an unforgettable experience for the little ones.

Sure enough one class after the next came through the gym admiring all the handmade merchandise that was at offer. Many parents had been busy for weeks crafting, creating, teaching and learning from each other sharing experiences and traditions that form this supportive community.

The children did not know which stall to visit first as their eyes tried to take it all in. The little ones needed help with their coins while the big ones already bargained. I overheard one little boy tell his mum: "Look I bought you this lovely jar so you can make me home-made jam." That's what I call Christmas spirit.


Home-made jingle bell hairbands


Fancy a little gift box?


You always need a pompom keyring.


Giant paper wind mills


You are so smart!


Recycling a tomato basket


Many clever hands have been at work here.


Original gift boxes


Paper flowers in my favourite colours


Feeling the love


Christmas tree decorations


It's cool to be kind


It's all in the tradition


Candles in recycled yoghurt glasses


Recycled Christmas wrapping paper


Delicate paper stars: big and small


Colourful gift boxes made from toilet rolls


Couldn't resist these little fellas


These decorative nutcrackers were a hit with the kids... who knew?!?


Candy cane got everyone dreaming since it is hard to come by in Paris.


How to decorate the gym with a little imagination.


It is definitely cool to be kind!

December 10, 2017

A Norwegian Christmas market in Paris

Be it French, Swedish, or Norwegian with less than one month until Christmas, more and more festive markets are popping up all over Paris. No need to wait until Christmas Eve to get the festivities started in my eyes.

For the past five years I have been looking forward to a very special Christmas market celebrating the best of Swedish festive traditions. Their stalls serve fresh salmon, cranberry jams, brioche and other tasty winter recipes from the Nordic country. The candlesticks and Advent chandeliers are particularly beautiful and are as big a tradition in Sweden as they are in Switzerland.

Embracing change, I decided to visit the Norwegian Christmas market this year. Much to my surprise the queue was enormous eventhough I arrived 15 minutes before the official opening. Who knew Norway was so trendy?

With melt-in-the-mouth waffles, cinnamon rolls and Eau-de-vie made for potatoes, as well as jumpers and other cozy items in traditional prints, the Norwegian Christmas market combined fashion, food and Nordic design. 

Producers, artisans and artists from Norway travelled to the French capital to present culinary specialties such as elk sausage, salmon, cheese, chocolate and alcohol as well as gift ideas like reindeer skins, knitwear, jewellery, design objects and books at their unusual Christmas market. 

This is probably what makes it so attractive to Parisian searching for something special and unique and who are gradually becoming aware that Christmas markets are an essential part of the festive season.

Time to embrace the holidays, Scandinavian style... God JUL!



Welcome to a piece of Norway


God Jul


Norwegian delicacies


A original Christmas tree ... recyclable for years to come!


Obviously a Norwegian traction?!?


Trolls...


... a term used to describe various supernatural beings in Nordic folklore
and storytelling traditions, which has roots in Norse mythology.


Reindeer sausage requires a bit of effort for the feeble hearted...


... as does reindeer fur!


He made me smile 


The Norwegian version of a rocking horse?!?


Intriguing... Eau de vie made from potatoes


God Jul to all!

December 4, 2017

From one world to another...

It is amazing how far removed you can get within a 50 minute plane ride. Such are the advantages of living in Europe. If you can manage to get passed airport security control without too much hassle, it is actually all worth it.


Going from a grey metropolitan Parisian city life...


... jumping into the glorious healthy Hampshire countryside!

But then again, we all know that both sides have lots to offer. Without going into further detail, I thought I'd share a discovery that stopped me in my tracks while Christmas shopping in England last week.


Seriously? Pick & choose your frozen pastry in a British supermarket.
 This cannot have passed the Food& Drug Adminstration test?!?


It might be more expensive but I'll stick to my "café avec pain au chocolat" in a French bistro anytime.

December 3, 2017

To share a Christmas wreath

When visiting your bestie in the English countryside chances are you'll experience "un dépaysement"  from Paris. A thatched 17th century country house with chickens running around in the garden, cats lounging on the window sill and tail-wagging dogs waiting to go for a walk in the freezing cold was awaiting me. I passed the muddy wellingtons and green tweed jackets lined up in the entrance and headed straight for the warmest place in the house, the AGA in the kitchen!

My friend doesn't hang around so she's never cold. Sure enough, I dumped my bag in the hall way (something I never do at home) and we were off to visit an Austrian friend of hers. Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) was what I was expecting but oh, the fun was only about to begin.

We entered her most amazing white kitchen and it felt like walking into a photo of Homes and Gardens. The exposed wooden beams were fully decked with Christmas decoration. Now, this is a lady after my own heart. But it gets better, we were offered a mug of coffee and invited to create our own Christmas wreath. She had laid out the materials on her enormous wooden table with light streaming in the window from all sides.

Over the next two hours I stepped into the daily routine of by best friend, meeting people that share her English life, digging in and getting my hands on some serious crafty work. Admiring how different each of our homemade wreaths had turned out given we had all used the same materials, I could not help but think how wonderful it was not having to rush around worrying about being late in my hectic city life.

These ladies took time to listen to each other, learn from each other, laugh with each other and truly appreciated each others company while creating something from scratch to make their homes more beautiful for families and neighbours in celebration of Christmas.

Thank you ladies for a lovely gift, for I consider time spent that morning a wonderful present of Christmas cheer and friendship.


A tiny little detail to set the mood.


The bare necessities are no longer a secret.


Everyone brought greenery from their gardens...


... and got to work.


Off to a good start 


A little break with scrumptious little Mincemeat pies


One beautiful Christmas wreath by one of the ladies


A joint effort with my friend...


... after having decided not to add any red roses!


Picture perfect cottage entrance


November 30, 2017

The joys of travelling by plane

Trying to catch a flight nowadays is like an obstacle course and I cannot rid the feeling I am participating in a TV reality show challenge.

Braving heavy Parisian traffic on the periferique (ringroad) at 7 o'clock in the morning and - 35 minutes later - managing to find a parking spot a million miles away from the terminal, I enter the airport to be stopped at the sliding doors and asked to open not only my handbag but also my carry-on for a standard security check. At this point, I have not even set foot in the terminal yet... Let the gymkhana begin!

Having not being allowed to check-in online because of some obscure reason, I set off in search of flybe's check-in desk.

About to go through my first passport control to reach the desks when the friendly airport usher tells me the check-in is the other side with Air France. 
Off I trod only to be told by yet another friendly Air France assistant to return where I came from. A friendly banter with the first usher to tell him Southhampton is indeed located in England and not in the US for him to let me pass after having checked my passport.

3 minutes later - after another passport control - I am holding my boarding pass.

Heading towards the boarding area I am asked to show my boarding pass and stand in line for yet another passport control by the police this time before I go through security control (after queuing patiently) and a second check of my boarding pass.

A good 50 minutes and I have finally made it from the airport entrance to the boarding area. I wonder how long this would take during high season?!?

A quick coffee and a croissant and it is time to board. Another passport and boarding pass check and I am expecting to board the plane.

But wait, we are now ushered into a bus and driven half way around the enormous Charles de Gaulles airport for 10 minutes to another terminal area before we are allowed to cross the tarmac and finally board our little plane to Southampton... WITHOUT having our Boarding passes checked.
The crew were clearly not expecting their passengers since we "caught" them enjoying their breakfast break on the plane.

The flight from Paris to Southampton took exactly 45 minutes!!!


Where  on earth are we heading to... the UK via bus?!?


Is it the aircraft company or the airport authorities
that is making a traveller's life so complicated?!?


Finally taking off!!!!
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