Tag Archives: Christmas

Beautiful Barcelona

With our daughters here for Christmas, one of whom speaks fairly fluent Spanish and the other basic conversational Spanish, the best gift we could imagine was a trip to Spain. The fluent student also has beginning French under her belt (better than mine, to be sure), leaving the younger sister feeling a little overwhelmed in this country where she can’t communicate at all. Seeing this made me especially glad we planned a 5-day vacation in Barcelona. Our little jaunt into Costa Brava earlier in 2012 did not prepare me for the striking architecture and beautiful sights of this city. In truth, there was so much to see and I have so many photos, I’m not even sure what to share or how.

I’ll start at the beginning. We stayed at a lovely little boutique hotel downtown in the very nice and less busy Gracia district of Barcelona called The Petit Hotel. The staff was very helpful, especially little Petit, a terrier who let us rub behind his ears. They recommended the best Catalonian breakfast at a little spot a block away: omelettes called tortillas (which had no tortillas) served with split baguette pieces brushed with a tomato dressing and all drizzled in olive oil. Very tasty!

cat eggs

The district was loaded with interesting shops.

Incredibly adorable Christmas cookies!

Incredibly adorable Christmas cookies!

Sweets for Christmas

Sweets for Christmas

An incredibly innovative stationary bike. Design seems like a HUGE part of Barcelona.

An incredibly innovative stationary bike. Design seems like a HUGE part of Barcelona.

Italian in Spain

Italian in Spain

Everything is in Catalan, so we really didn't know what these things were.

Everything is printed in Catalan, so  it’s really helpful to see something in English, even if you don’t know what a turron is.

I’ve got lots more to show, so stay tuned!

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I intended to post this BEFORE leaving for our family Christmas present: a vacation in Barcelona (of which many photos and postings will follow). Oops. But better late than never?

The reason for the Season...our baby Jesus doesn't appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

The reason for the Season…our baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas morning.

We enjoyed a merry Christmas with our college-age daughters, who flew in to celebrate their holiday with us. We were so happy to have them all with us for Advent!

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our magi are still traveling to Jesus.

Our traditional Christmas dinner has long been ham, not turkey. In France, not only is it turkey, but you can pretty much only buy turkey in December, short of special ordering. The thing is, French hams don’t look like American hams, for the most part. I cook a Southern brown sugar ham with pineapple, cloves and maraschino cherries, like my good Daddy taught me. We perused the charcuterie counter at the store quite awhile before deciding on the end piece of what I am sure must have been a lunch meat ham. This is a place where you can easily buy a whole pig leg ham, and I have no idea how to ask for just a certain section of it. Still, it worked. Except for the cherries, which I have never seen here, we had a delicious ham for dinner, with potatoes and carrots and salad and sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don't have  easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Sweet potato pie is easier here, because I don’t have easy access to sweetened condensed milk, which is how I make my pumpkin.

Christmas does seem a bit foreign and strange here. The lights are all in pink and purple, and they often have a dripping icicle element. Many houses have ninja-skilled Santas climbing the house, instead of arriving on the rooftop via reindeer. We sang carols to the neighbors on our little dead-end street with a few friends from church, and we gave THEM a surreal experience doing so…it is all but unheard of here. Most welcomed our short seranade, though. But the insanely crowded malls were very familiar!

Still, Christmas is Christmas for its spirit, not its red and green, its striped hooked candy canes, its carols blaring from every public speaker for weeks, as the Grinch found (I think I’ll need to see if that’s on Hulu…missed it, too!). Having my daughters with us for Advent, singing together, unstuffing stockings and devouring ham and pie, all made Christmas warm and cozy and comforting.

I’m curious what essentials keep Christmas cozy for you, wherever you go?

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Filed under celebration, France

Toulouse Christmas Market Part 2

The Christmas market is sort of like a gi-normous, very festive version of Toulouse’s weekend market. It is also in the Capitole plaza, and is row after row of vendor stall. In this case, though, only a few are for produce, meats and breads. And many of the stalls seem to be for handmade items.

Vendor booths fill the whole Capitole square.

Vendor booths fill the whole Capitole square.

doghat

macarons

These little meringue sandwich cookies are VERY popular here. Some vendors even have savory flavors just for the holidays!

pretzels

spices

Fresh spices to the fore, and fresh tea mixes to the back. My youngest son loves fresh, looseleaf tea mixes!

I wish I had taken some photos of the scarves and wood carvings. Find the rest of the market here

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The Toulouse Christmas Market Part 1

Stoney and I had been hearing a lot of good press for the Christmas marché in Toulouse; apparently it is a real shopping destination. What I did know was that evening traffic toward Toulouse was intimidating. We wanted to check it out, though, especially for unique gifts from France for the family. Considering the traffic and parking challenges on a normal day in Toulouse, we opted to try a new adventure for us all (though only partly for Stoney the Urban Commuter).

We rode the bus/metro into the Capitol station (gare?).

We took the 65 to the Aréne station mid-morning, and the bus wasn’t overfull on a Saturday. It went past the Hippodrome, which appeared to be set up for steeplechase, an event I’ve never seen. That might make a fun future field trip for me.

Leaning on ledge seats on the bus.

Leaning on ledge seats on the bus.

We disembarked at the metro station, where it became a new experience for all of us. The ticket machine was a little confusing, but a metro employee immediately recognized our naive ignorance and stepped up and converted the machine to English for us, asked in Franglaise whether we wanted tickets for the three of us just for today, and pointed out our best deal, which would not have been our first response. He was friendly and AWESOME! Frankly, the vast majority of Toulousains are delightful, helpful people. He made sure we headed in the right direction for our destination, and we tackled the next leg of our trip, the metro. Couldn’t have been easier.

My guys heading for street level after our metro ride.

My guys heading for street level after our metro ride.

Here is where we emerge from the metro at the Capitole station. Gorgeous view to welcome you, eh?

Here is where we emerge from the metro at the Capitole station. Gorgeous view to welcome you, eh?

We had lovely day at the Christmas market, which was actually smaller than we had expected. I also think the reason incoming traffic is crazy at night isn’t because the residents are off work and heading to the market, but because it is obvious the light show of the market will be Vegas-quality. We need to come back at night and compare! My next post will show scenes from the daytime Christmas market, but until then I just want to point out the safety, cleanliness and universal use (school kids to the elderly) of the Toulouse mass transit system. I am impressed.

Wish we had this in Wichita.

Wish we had this in Wichita.

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Troubles with “leaving” my work at work?

Perhaps it’s the way snowfall (even computer generated) makes everything seem so quiet and muffled, but it has definitely been quiet here on the ol’ blog. Mostly, this is because I have been crazy busy. I spent about 20 hours a week of my December wrapping gifts at an upscale department store. Combined with Bible Study Fellowship responsibilities and teaching art at school and to homeschoolers, I’ve been busy. The blog definitely took a back seat.

a home demonstration of my mad wrapping skills, from practicing 4-6 hours a day

My daughter noted that, in my increasingly busy state, I had overlooked posting her favorite fall project, the perspective blowing leaves. This was a project my third and fourth grades did, first practicing watercolor washes and applying their knowledge of horizon line. Then they were supposed to paint a branching tempera tree near their horizon line, although one table was obviously NOT listening as we went over this part. However, we got to do some problem-solving to still achieve the objective of the lesson the next class, and that was fun and helpful. At that class we added our painted leaves in tiny, medium, and large-and-running-off-the-page, with greater detail added to the largest leaves with Sharpie. Some students had very successful projects:

4th grader

I like the random scattered-ness of these leaves, though workmanship will have room to improve

4th grader

And some in spite of overcoming their tree right in foreground…

this third grader's leaves still seem close in spite of the proximity of the tree, as they fly off the page

Some students are still growing in their concept of space, of course.

third grader

third grader

Basically, and not surprisingly, more fourth graders “got” the concepts in the lesson than third graders. I introduce horizon line, relative size, and lower and higher on the page as space concepts in first and second grades, but we really work to incorporate it more, and get into the three grounds specifically, in third and fourth grades. By the end of the year, the students who don’t really “see” it now, likely will. I love watching them grow in their perception and application!

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Filed under Art, Teaching, Third/Fourth Grade

Christmas Cookie Plate workshop

With my focus this school year being art around the world, time for a ceramics unit for Christmas cookie plates just wasn’t in the schedule. Yet, I have been dying for a couple of years to do this project that I’ve seen on a couple of other art teachers’ blogs. My school was gracious enough to allow me to offer an after-school workshop, though, and I even had a couple of teachers participate! I think the results were adorable, and so I include them here. We looked at a variety of designs and brainstormed some of our own before each student tackled their own unique plate.

Classroom teacher designs! (So fun to have my coworkers in the mix!)

a sixth grader

My son's, also a sixth grader.

This boy’s plate was for his mom. The design was really detailed, and I loved the prickly texture of his tree. He also included ski marks in the snow, resulting in the crash exhibited by the upturned purple foot in the snowbank. We had underglazes issued in little condiment cups as they requested certain colors, and I suspect he was finishing off several surrounding cups he took to be white, as his snow exhibits three different underglazes! It is really cool, though, I think. I’m calling it “snowy bank at sunset.”

a fifth grader

fourth grader

another fourth grader

a very meticulous third grader

second grade

my youngest workshopper, a first grader

Students all kneaded and rolled out their own slabs by hand, and their only patterns were paper plates and cookie cutters (which some students opted out of). My own plate:

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