Saturday, 19 December 2009

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum.....

I was recently amused to read Chantal's story about buying a Christmas tree. Yep, can relate to the ins and outs of that. Having grown up in England, I was used to having an artificial tree with a string of lights on and for me, that was really Christmassy. 21 years ago I moved to Austria where Christmas trees are the real thing, for goodness sake and you only bring them in and decorate them on the 24th, not put them up at the end of November and have them jollily twinkling away for the whole of the Christmas period. I always found it a bit of a chore to go and buy a real tree, transport it home, attach it to its base, remember to add water or else the needles would fall off sooner than they already did etc etc. Not to mention the fact that I always missed the date when you can dispose of your tree, so therefore had it forlornly hanging around outside for months. Oh, the memories of that uncomplicated, artificial tree. However, living in Austria and now in Switzerland, I felt it would be unheard of to mention the word "artificial" in the same sentence as the words "Christmas tree". Especially as some people in Switzerland (and I have experienced this) go to a designated area of the forest on a special date and CHOP DOWN THEIR OWN CHOSEN TREE. Imagine my surprise and delight, when, a few years ago, I went round to my ex-neighbour and good friend Monique's house for a coffee around the beginning of December and saw that she had a lovely artificial Christmas tree. Oh, how lovely, I exclaimed. Yes, she said, isn't it. We've had it for years now and always put it away carefully so that it looks nice year after year. No apologies for it not being real, no excuses about not wanting real candles on a tree with 2 small children around. Well, I thought that was my license to buy, so I went out a few days later and purchased an artificial tree. My husband was shocked (he is Austrian), but when we put it up again this year, he did comment on how nice it looked....And Monique? I met up with her last Saturday and asked her if she had her tree up. No, she said. After 18 years of an artificial tree, we thought it about time we got a real one!!

And talking of Christmas trees, how about this easy decoration to make with the kids:



Cut out a Christmas tree from corrugated green paper. Cut out a hole large enough to accomodate a Christmas bauble - our hole is a bit wonky, but you can maybe help with the cutting out. Cut a smaller hole above this hole. Take your bauble and 2 lengths of thin ribbon in green and red (or other Christmassy colours). Thread ribbons through the hook in the top of the bauble and then thread the 2 ribbons first from front to back through the large hole and then from back to front through the smaller hole in the Christmas tree. Tie the four ends of the ribbon in a bow at the front so that you can't see the smaller hole. Add star stickers to decorate if you wish. Pierce a small hole right at the top of the tree and add thread to hang up.

Have a great Christmas everyone. Back in the New Year!

Friday, 11 December 2009

In the interest of integration....

As you might know, we have recently moved from Basel to our present address near to Zürich. Keen to meet new people and integrate into the community here, I always say yes to any invites I receive and I never cancel. This week one of my neighbours had asked me if I wanted to go with her to Aquafit at the school swimming pool. As this is only a five minutes' walk and as I do like water etc, I saw it as a good opportunity to do a bit more, well, integrating. I thought it was going to be like keep-fit, or aerobics, in the water - you know something jolly and a little bit sporty. Instead it was extremely, excruciatingly embarassing. First of all, we had to put on what looked like a huge, black nappy thing, velcro strips and all, to help us stay afloat. Then the whole "lesson" consisted of jogging round the pool, with a couple of minutes of other exercises in the middle. Have you ever tried jogging in water? It feels a bit like that dream, you know when you want to run away from something, but you can't get away fast enough. Well, the others had all had 8 lessons, so knew the technique but I just ended up feeling self-conscious and ridiculous and wishing I could get out. We spent a good half an hour going round the pool, jogging, I should say, in a figure of eight and had to criss-cross with other people in the middle. Well, I was almost always too slow and consequently constantly missed my "gap". The crunch came when, for one part of this figure of eight circuit, we had to take 2 polystyrene floats, wedge them under each arm and, well, flap with them whilst still jogging. I have no idea what the point of this exercise was, I just knew that I was doing it wrong. As soon as I "flapped", my whole body catapulted upwards and out of the water like Superman or something. But, get this - when the others did it, their bodies stayed in the water. How weird is that? I'm actually having delayed hysterics writing this! No, not my thing. The lesson to be learned here? Integration is good, but there are limits:/

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Don't judge a book by its cover and CELTA, I'm in!

Actually, that's just what I normally do. So when I received this book from my Uncle Brian I was bemused to say the least:



To me the cover promised Mills and Boon romance, definitely not my scene. Anyway, I gave it a go and it was actually a good read. It is set in France and America, with the main character, Mischa, returning to France in later life to conquer his demons.
BTW Santa Montefiore is Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's sister, just FYI.

I also recently read this book:




This was terrific. If you like Dan Brown, you'll love this book. A real thriller, faster-moving than the Dan Brown novels. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Anyway, that may be the last of my leisure-reading for the moment, as I am busy ordering books on teaching English as a foreign langauge. Yes, I made it onto the CELTA course in January, so my reading matter will be more theoretical for a while. The interview went well and was not as scary as I thought it would be. I've got to complete and pass the course now - keep your fingers crossed for me.....

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