Sunday, 23 October 2011

What Sundays Are Made For

Sundays are my favourite day. They're lazy and quiet and open to all opportunities for doing whatever you want. To me, Saturdays are the day to clean and do laundry and go grocery shopping. On Sundays I get to do fun stuff like:

lay in bed
lay in bed and drink coffee
lay in bed and drink coffee and do the Los Angeles Times Crossword online
go to yoga
lay on the sofa and watch random movies
talk to my parents (still laying on the couch here)
bake new recipes
cook things that take more than 30 minutes to make
paint my nails
go hiking (thats one I only do in Cali)
read a book

Ahh, Sundays! Today I did 5 of the above things. I started the day feeling very lazy, and as the sun is not shining on Leith today, I decided to lay in bed drinking coffee and doing the LA Times crossword until almost 11 am. Due to this, I missed yoga so just did some incline walking instead. woo-wee! This afternoon, I decided to conquer my new food processor and a recipe I've been wanting to try for ages: GOLDFISH CRACKERS! Oh, the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish cracker. a feat of snacking engineering and one of the only food items from the US that I really miss. Problem is, I do not have a fish-shaped cookie cutter so I made cheesy heart crackers:

the dough is sooo easy to work with!
Baking up some cheesy yum!
Tasty and cute! They turned out really well, and I know I'm definitely going to make these again!

After chatting to my parents and baking the hearts, I needed to use some pumpkin puree I had leftover so I decided to try a recipe I found for pumpkin cornbread. I know, it sounds a bit weird, but it is SO good! And it makes for a really nice and moist cornbread. I ate it with homemade vegetarian butternut squash chili, while watching Toy Story 2 on TV. And the girl was happy!

Almost ready

Sundays...just the thing I need to recharge after one week, and just the thing to ease me into another boredom-filled week at work!

Ok I'm off to go read a book-might as well get as much as I can out of the last few hours left of my Sunday! Happy Week everyone!


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Fête des Vendanges

So I have this friend named Chris. Chris is from Simi Valley, but he lives in the small city of Neuchâtel, 
 in Switzerland. Chris has visited me in Edinburgh three times since I moved here. Not specifically to see me, but because he loves Edinburgh. And after meeting his girlfriend Stephanie in Edinburgh on New Years Day 2009, the city continues to hold special a sentimental spot in his heart. Anywho, Chris has been asking Adam and I (who he also met New Years 2008/2009 through me) to come visit for aaaaaages. So this year we finally did! 

Over the last weekend of September, Adam, Emma and I flew to Geneva on Friday afternoon and spent a few hours walking around there before heading to the Neuch. A giant jet of water spewing up in Lake Geneva is the city's only claim to fame. The excitement was palpable. not really. Geneva is the quietest city I've ever been to. And as I later found, the Swiss in general are a quiet people. 

Trying to be excited about the Geneva Jet, as I like to call it. Adam isn't feeling it. 

After a while we jumped on a train and headed for the Neuch. Trains in Switzerland, like clocks, are efficient and always on time! It was a nice change from the UK where random breakdowns and delays occur far too often. 

Every year Neuchâtel hosts the Fête des Vendanges, or the Wine Festival. It's a huge event, people come from all over to drink wine, eat food from street stalls, buy random souvenirs, listen to live music, and dance the night away under a shower of confetti in the middle of the street. For the stoic Swiss, this is the time to let their hair down. And indeed, they do. 


 People fill the streets from 8 pm until 3-5 am on Friday and Saturday nights. Wine is sold in plastic cups, and what with all the people around and the random confetti-bombings, you better drink fast or else your drink will be either 1) all over you or 2) filled with confetti. Neither option was desirable, so we just drank fast.  Chris here demonstrates the only way to save one's drink:

Chris, Adam, Stephanie, me, Emma (and top of random guy's head)

Once the confetti started raining down we got down to some serious dancing. It was an insane, hilarious, magical event. Confetti falling everywhere, people moving everywhere, the beat of the music defying anyone to not dance-it was like taking a step out of reality into a universe where rain was made of paper and glitter.

Once morning dawned, the Neuch was a different place. Quiet and sleepy streets winding across the landscape, butting up into Lake Neuchâtel. The buildings are quintessentially continental European. Rising taller than they are wide, painted in vivid colours with eaves and shingling that you would expect to only find on a gingerbread house. 

This part of Europe has given the world so many images of a time and way of living through literature and art. I still love seeing it for myself. 

On Saturday, while the other Fête revellers slept, we toured the town, breakfasting at a cafe in the square with delicious pastries and visiting the castle, a lovely church, and generally taking in the view.
Pondering my ethnographic future...

View of the Neuch from the Castle
 What a happy building! 

Saturday night, we had a traditional Swiss dinner at Chris' flat-Raclette!  Raclette is a type of cheese, and also a dish indigenous to parts of Switzerland. The way it is often served involves an electric table-top grill with small pans, known as coupelles, to heat slices of raclette cheese in. Generally the grill is surmounted by a hot plate or griddle. The cheese is sliced, accompanied by platters of boiled or steamed potatoes, other vegetables and meats. These are mixed with potatoes and topped with cheese in the coupelles that are placed under the grill to melt and brown the cheese. It was AMAZING! And a really enjoyable way to start the night! 
 Ready for Raclette!

On Sunday we went hiking in the Jura Mountains to the Creux du Van, a beautiful natural rock formation. The mountains lie between France and Switzerland and although the Jura aren't as high as the Alps, that hike was HARD! Probably the steepest hike I've done, and slippery ground to boot! But there were little amusements along the way...
 Goats just chillin' on the trail
 Creux du Van
 Doing ballet on top of the Creux du Van
 France is over there

After a the hike, and a filling but delicious dinner of fondue, I was well and truly wine and cheese-d out. After a relaxed last night, Adam, Emma and I headed back to the UK on Monday. As we walked through the town, vestiges of the festival were still present, slowly being torn down for another year. 
 As Stephanie and Adam waved us off (he left a few hours later) Emma and I settled in for another efficient train ride back to the airport. 
One more vacation over, summer behind us, and good memories to hold onto until Christmas! Viva la Suisse! 

<3 Kim

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Aphrodite's Isle

Summer 2011 was full of vacations for me. Being so close to so many places, and with a job that gives me 6 weeks paid vacation plus national holidays, how could I resist? Now, before you all start hating me for getting that much vacation time, let me remind you that my job is really VERY unpleasant, and without a chance to escape for long weekends, I might have gone insane by now!

So this year, as the mania of the Edinburgh festival was winding down, I flew off to the Island of Cyprus for 4 days of sun, sea, and Yara time! 
On Aphrodite's Beach

The first thing you must know about Cyprus is that it is FAR away from the UK. Context: Cyprus is closer to Lebanon than to any part of Europe. Yet, when you step off the plane and start driving across the small island, you immediately feel like you're in Southern California. The terrain is SO similar to Simi Valley, it's kind of disconcerting. Especially because the climate was so different. Hot, just like I had expected but also very humid. Walking outside was like walking though a bath. Definitely conducive to a slow island lifestyle! 

But Cyprus is also very Greek. The Greeks and the Turks, amongst many other civilisations, have fought over Cyprus for centuries. The Northern part of the Island is still under Turkish control, while the southern part is part of the European Union. There is so much history in Cyprus, so many old ports, ancient roads, and crumbling ruins that when you walk around you can actually feel just how powerful the ancients were, and just how devoted they were to this tiny island and it's claim to fame: Aphrodite. 
Aphrodite's Rock

According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite (the Greek Goddess of love and beauty) was born when Cronus cut off Uranus' genitals and threw them into the sea, and from the sea foam (aphros) arose Aphrodite. According to the Cypriots, this sea foam was off the coast of Cyprus, and they claim their land as her birthplace. There are temples to Aphrodite all over the island. 
Aphrodite's temple in Limassol
Such posers!

I had such a good time visiting Yara and meeting her mom and sister. They were so welcoming and generous, and Yara's friends were a lot of fun. We lounged around by the beach, visited ruins and mosaics in Limassol and Paphos, ate delicious Mediterranean food, and tried not to move too quickly until the sun set each evening! 
The view from Yara's flat
Paphos Mosaics
Climbing the ruins
It was such a nice way to spend bookend the summer, especially since Edinburgh experienced the WORST summer ever this year. It's nice to know that I'll always have the Mediterranean to save me from the rain and cold! :-) 
<3 Kim