Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year's Eve '09: Light show at the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is now a global icon of France and happens to be one of the tallest buildings in Paris. It has become one of the most recognizable structures and is the most visited paid monument in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built for the 1889 World's Fair.

It was my first new year's eve to celebrate in Paris. There was so much excitement about what was in store for the tourists and locals, alike: a light show at the Eiffel Tower. All bundled up, at 11:00 p.m. my daughter and I walked along the Seine River to get into position.

There was so much traffic on the road as cars made their way through the throngs of people walking on the a celebratory spirit...drinking, eating, talking, and singing. Some had too many drinks and were so drunk that they were falling all over the place, being rowdy as a group, and became unsightly when they could no longer handle or keep their drinks.

Armed with my camera, this is what I watched and captured:
From afar, we could see that the light show at the Eiffel Tower had began.
Along the way, we found some enterprising people catering to the needs of the crowd: 
Champagne for sale by the glass and food to go.
The show was a set program of light patterns, in different colors, changing quickly.
It was somewhere here that we stood, in front of the Trocadero...
which is directly in front of the Eiffel Tower.
I just kept my camera focused on the Eiffel Tower the whole time, clicking away as fast as I could.
Just about everyone was taking pictures, using high-powered lenses, point and shoot cameras like mine, and with their mobile phones.
The tower lights momentarily stopped...
and the running lights began to run from one side to the other...the people got excited and began to this turned out to be the countdown...
et voila...all the lights turned white...
and 2009 had ended and 2010 had arrived.
Everyone turned to greet the person next to them "bonne année!"
Then it was just twinkling lights...
and then the lights went into their usual mode, the color yellow, the light color that the Eiffel Tower can be seen from many places in Paris, all year round.

When it was over, I asked, "Is that it?" It did not have the same pizazz as a fireworks display, but it was uniquely French!

When you come to visit at another time, be sure to see the Eiffel Tower when it sparkles with twinkling lights for 10 minutes, on the hour, every hour!

Happy 2010!!!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Hobby: Flower Arranging

I loved gardening and that is one of the things I greatly miss in apartment living. But God knew this and He sure made a way for me to still be involved with plants and flowers, somehow!
There is a small church about 3 minutes from where we live. One day, the pastor spoke to invite the parishioners to help in whatever way possible. After mass, I asked how I could help and he asked me if I could help with providing flower arrangement for the altar area. It's been 3 years ago since I started my flower ministry. This was something new to me. I now make arrangements for the different seasons.
To get started I looked for flower shops...those were too expensive. Soon, I found a wholesaler at the market and a flower outlet store. With these 2 suppliers, the costs became a bit more reasonable.
My flower ministry begins in the fall when the church calendar is still in Ordinary Time. I try to design my creations symbolically, through the choice of colors and in the materials I use.
When Advent comes around, the first thing to prepare is the Advent wreath.
For the rest of the season, I use lilies and mums, with eucalyptus and some berries in anticipation of the forthcoming season...
and add some evergreens and the color gold for the festive Christmas season's celebration.
In the early spring, more colorful flowers are in bloom. I used to help out in this church, too, taking turns with another lady doing the flower arrangements.
In the season of Lent, when the church is preparing for the Passion of our Lord...roses with their thorny stems remind us of Christ's suffering.
For the Triduum, a side Altar of Repose is prepared. The red tulips are a reminder of the blood our Lord shed for us.
During the Easter mass celebration, all white flowers adorn the altar...a symbol of the resurrection...a sign of God's pure love for us.
And in the weeks after - back in ordinary time, before summer, the flowers and the colors can be as colorful as they can be until the church closes its doors for the summer.

My flower ministry takes a half-day each week, whenever I am in town. It is a blessing in disguise for me, as I have learned more about flowers and how to arrange them, and be in my own paradise! The latest thing I had figured out on my own, is to put a little bleach in the water in the vase. This makes the flowers last a little bit longer and the vases stay gunk free after a week, and so much easier to clean.

Uh oh...I have just less than 24 hours to prepare the flowers for the New Year's vigil mass...then, we will attend the vigil mass and be on our way after to celebrate ringing in 2010. Happy new year!!!

How I Developed my Hobbies

Much of what I do creatively had their beginnings when I was still very young. I used to hang around my mother a lot as I had very few playmates in our neighborhood. My brother, who used to be my playmate when I was little, now, had his own group of friends. I ended up spending a lot of time at home when I was not in school.

My mother was quite creative with her hands and she used to design her own clothes, Christmas lanterns, very unique custom curtains, her landscape design, as well as other things. She was going to be a teacher, but after she and my father got married, the two of them made a decision that my mother was going to be a-stay-at-home wife and mother. As my father used to say, being a wife and mother was more than a full time job.

The choice of grade school for me to attend was based on it's proximity to our home. This turned out to be the school that was within walking distance from where we lived, almost quite literally behind our house. The school was JASMS in Philam Life, Ouezon City, and it was a very progressive and experiential grade school. Our classes were held outside of the classroom whenever it was appropriate, and a lot of the subject matter we had were built in mini proportions inside our classrooms, detailed in molded clay then paper mached, acted on stage, or observed in the environment. I only realized later on, that what we were learning in my grade school was not the typical curriculum in other schools. Aside from the academic subjects, we also had sewing, arts and crafts, electronics, farming and carpentry.

Between what I learned from my mother and from my grade school, at the age of 8, I was starting to be productive: sewing my pairs of pants, cooking simple recipes, doing arts and crafts projects with my mother around the Christmas season, and had taken an interest in gardening, as I shadowed my mom all around the house. She took the time to teach me how to do things in the house, the kitchen, and in the garden by showing me and by explaining step-by-step. By the time I got to school, I knew a little bit more than my classmates when it came to our cooking, farming, and arts and crafts classes. As I grew older, in the intermediate grades, I learned how to put together a radio and fashioned out a wooden tray.

As with most Filipino parents, my mother wanted me to learn how to play the piano, just like my older sister whose ambition was to be a concert pianist. After a classical music teacher told my mother that I was not cut out to learn the classical way, but had a good ear for music, my mother got me a teacher to teach me to play by ear. So when I hear something, I can go home and play it in my own version.

At my age now, I have developed some hobbies because I have more time on my hands. I am not professionally trained, except in sewing and dressmaking, but a course or two here and there, reading about it, watching a demonstration, or simply daring to experiment or try something new have gotten me to doing a number of things which I find enjoyable and worth my time. I count among them experimental cooking, sight seeing, ceramics, flower arranging, photography, and the most recent one is painting.

Just like in my piano playing, when I taste something, I can pretty much duplicate it in my kitchen. When I see something I like, I get inspired to create my own design whether that be a ceramic piece, a fashion item, or something. When I need to come up with a design, I can picture it in my head - as it is in flower arranging. When I take pictures, there's some kind of a story that I follow and then it gets its structure once the pictures are organized into an album. As for my painting, that is a most fun activity for me as I just start to put my feelings, thoughts and ideas onto a canvass, where the words are the colors I use in the strokes I make.

Christmas Market: At the Trocadero, Paris, France

Christmas markets are about to close...the holiday season is almost over.

For a last visit, I went to the one at the Trocadero.

The bonus to this location is having a good view of the Eiffel Tower, up on the Trocadero courtyard.

As I mingled with the crowd, I was attracted to check out the aroma leading me to the food stalls...a glass of vin chaud (hot wine) was just perfect for this very cold evening.

Families were having fun at the skating rink. How I wished I had my kids with me...
except, they are all grown up now.

There was a big to do by the staircase...a man on his bike was entertaining us with his stunt - to bike/jump down from the top of the banister to the ground without falling...and he succeeded!

Briefly, I paused to watch the Eiffel Tower light show, changing hues and color patterns.

An hour at the market was getting to me. I was freezing. 
By the time I took one last look, the half moon was out.

The Trocadero will be the place to be this New Year's watch the light show and a fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower, and to view the blue moon that will happen because of a partial lunar eclipse from December 31 to January 1.

Well, I need to prepare for this celebration, pack my pic-nic bag with some glasses, a bottle of champagne, some toast and foie gras, nuts, cheese and fruits, to ring in the new year!

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2010 be a year of many blessings for you and your family!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

In the Kitchen: Twice-Cooked Adobo style & Taquitos

After a day or two of eating the holiday foods, I begin to look at ways to recycle the leftovers, so they can get eaten right away. For left over meats or poultry, I recook them into Twice-Cooked Adobo style or make Taquitos out of them.

1. Shred the left over meat or poultry (in this case, its turkey) and set aside.
2. Chop some garlic cloves - this is what gives the adobo flavor.

In a warmed skillet or low-deep frying pan, put in a Tbsp. of cooking oil (not Olive oil) and brown the garlic in medium-low heat, until it turns light brown, while stirring constantly.

Then, add the shredded meat, a little bit at a time so it is spread out evenly on the bottom of the pan and will get crispy. You may need to add a little bit more of cooking oil from time to time.

Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the shredded bits turn into crispy flakes. Toss around, every now and then, for even pan-frying.

Repeat the pan-frying step for the remaining shredded meats until your supply is all recooked into crispy flakes.

Serve with a sunny-side up or scrambled egg, with garlic fried rice. This can be your breakfast or luncheon meal.

Procedure: TAQUITOS
1. Shred the left over meaty parts and set aside.
2. Place a number of corn tortillas on a plate, and drape over a wet paper towel that has been wrung out a little beat. Cover with a bowl and microwave for about 20 seconds. This will make the tortillas more pliable when you start assembling the taquitos.

Warm up your skillet at medium heat, then drizzle some cooking oil on the pan.

On a tortilla, place a row of shredded meat, off centered, and roll it to form a taquito and pan fry in your skillet, turning it around to get it browned on 4 sides.

Continue the process, until you have the desired number of taquitos done. Calculate at serving 2 to 3 pieces per person.

Serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, with a touch of lemon juice. Then, prepare a side salad of mixed greens as accompaniment.

* Note that my taquitos are a bit darker as I used whole-wheat tortillas. It actually taste better when you use corn tortillas.

These are really simple recycling recipes that will be well liked by whoever you are cooking for. Get started and finish up your leftovers!


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