Wrapping Up The Year

Shopping at the last minute for Christmas is the most stressful activity concerning this holiday month that I can think of. The only thing that makes it easier is that I more or less know what I am going to buy for each of my friends and family.

The best thing that you can do if you know you will be late on shopping, whether you get paid late or you don’t have enough time, is to go around town and window shop. If you see something that sticks out or you know someone will enjoy, pop by and put it on hold. Another thing that helps with this dilemma is that town will be opening till late the closer we get to Christmas Day.

Now if you want to be super organized like me, I suggest getting a wrapping paper from Cosmorama that you can use for only the gifts you are giving. This helps to eliminate any confusion between who bought what when it comes to gift giving.

This year between my friends however is that we are going to try and do a Secret Santa gift giving; not only is it more affordable but also less stressful. When you only have one friend to focus on, you won’t end up messing up and buying the wrong gift for the wrong person.

My only problem is that I enjoy buying gifts for people. It is one of my favorite things. I know my friends so well that when I see something I know one will like, i get the impulse to just buy it, despite not knowing whether they reciprocate. I don’t mind not getting anything in turn, it’s the happiness that is enough for me.

Bake Off

Creativity and craft is something that comes naturally in my life. My maternal side of the family is composed of mainly women; all of which are talented in many ways. We have artists and jewelers, bakers and chefs and I wouldn’t change it for a thing.

Because of my family, I also have seemed to inherit this skill. Mine is art but I do dabble in baking.

This year, my baking skills have been put to the test for Christmas. My mom, whom I am still convinced is a event dictator, has put me in charge of all the cookies and cakes that will be given as gifts, tokens and charity for the month of December.

No pressure.

Every day after work, I spend my time elbow deep in flour and sugar, whipping up cream and frosting and burning my fingers on the oven. I think it’s worth the outcome though.

So far I have completed my batch of Chocolate Crinkles (recipe below.)


INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar or cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (optional: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, for coating the cookies

DIRECTIONS:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the oil and granulated sugar. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time, beating on medium-low speed until combined.  Add in vanilla, beating on medium-low speed until combined.  Then gradually fold in the flour mixture, and beat on medium-low speed until combined.

Form the dough into a large ball, and place it on a large sheet of plastic wrap.  Wrap the plastic around it so that it is sealed tightly.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 24 hours) until the dough is chilled completely through.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Scoop the sugar into a small bowl.

Remove and unwrap the dough.  Then roll the dough into 1-inch balls, dip each ball in the powdered sugar until it is completely covered on all sides, and then place the dough balls at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes.  Transfer the cookies to a wire rack, and let them cool until they reach room temperature.

Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container for up to 5 days.  These cookies (either in dough form, or baked) can also freeze for up to 3 months in a sealed container.


It took me a while to perfect this recipe but I think I have the hang of it. Next on my baking list is Sugar Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes.

Wish me luck!

If you don’t feel like getting dirty and would rather have a pre-made cake, then check out Chatterbox and their Christmas Cakes.

Shopping Around The Christmas Tree

Christmas is fast approaching on our less than sunny Seychelles Islands, and along with it, Christmas Shopping.

This to me is a dreaded time of year; traffic in town, lining up and trying to buy as many things before everything is sold out is stressful. What makes all this worthwhile however is the happiness that radiates around the house on Christmas Day when all the gifts are exchanged.

I’m still trying to figure out what to buy everyone this year and it is very important to budget yourself accordingly. You have to guesstimate how much you want to spend on who and what is more important; does something small and significant have more meaning than a bunch of little gifts together?

As each year passes, my Christmas list changes. This year for example, I have moved away from asking for books and instead gone after household items. From cushions to rugs to little decorations for my home. These items have become more and more easier to find as Seychelles also progresses.

I know my mother as well has similar tastes, but instead of asking for a bunch of things, she prefers the meaningful gifts. It isn’t about how many presents she gets but what one of them might mean to her. My grandmother is more indecisive. She never knows what she wants but somehow my mother always knows what to get her.

Friends are easy to shop for. I know who would prefer a voucher of some sort and who would like something more material.

Do you know what your friends and family want for Christmas? Don’t leave your Christmas Shopping to the last minute!

For furniture ideas check out Island Living and DIY.

Check out Sarah’s Kids Corner for children.

For spa vouchers check out this list of spas here.

For a wider range of shops check out this page.

Christmas Ready

As our calendars make their way to mid-November, a lot of people make the decision of decorating for Christmas early; or if you’re anything like me, remind those that do, that it is still November!

My mother won’t listen to me as she makes me go get the Christmas decorations out of storage and dust off my father’s custom made Palm-like Christmas tree. Her theme this year is Under The Sea. The baubles are all colored shades of blues and greens, glimmering in the late afternoon sunlight on our veranda. I am still insisting that it is “only November!” but she ignores me in favor of her Celtic Christmas music.

Being half-American means that Thanksgiving is also thrown in the running along with our yearly Holidays in Seychelles, and in my home it usually means a quiet meal shared with family and remembering the history of such a ‘holiday’ However, my mom has decided to forgo this Thanksgiving meal and remind me that we (her, my grandmother and I) all have birthdays in November.

This means that we are just going to jump straight to into Christmas spirit and drink liqueur coffee while watching the rain pour down outside. Being a humid country means no snow but plenty of rain for the rest of the year. The rain can’t drown out the Yuletide cheer though. It’s thick and distinct and smells like vanilla and cinnamon and it shouldn’t because its “still November!”

No one hears me still. My Grandmother has decided to  pull out a small faux tree to place upon her coffee table and my mother has once again convinced me to decorate something else; it’s the fake bamboo plant and it is now adorned with burgundy baubles.

It seems like our town of Victoria is the only one who’s rational; the streets are yet to be fully decorated to the max as it had been last time around. But the resolve is slowly breaking as Seychellois’ comment on Facebook about the lack of festive cheer. Slowly, but surely, lights are being strung up and the Christmas music is playing on almost every radio channel.

We have almost over a week left of November and I tend to cling to it as hard as I can. It isn’t that I hate Christmas; I love the food my family shares and the gifts we give. Perhaps it’s the American in me that is used to having holidays forced upon me, one after the other as another year comes to a close.

What I won’t do though, is begrudge my mothers happiness and instead I’ll complain to the dog as I light all the scented candles that smell like sugary goodness and have my ears berated by cheery flutes and harps.

Although, don’t let my Grinch like behavior get you down! Christmas is a wonderful holiday (when it’s December!). Think of the treats and the Advent Calendars and the warmth of family.

What is Christmas like in your home? Is it cold and white or sunny and bright? Are you excited or just not that interested? Leave me a comment and let me know how you feel about one of the biggest holidays of the year!

For decorations check out Cosmorama and Pineapple Boutique for scented candles.

Flora and Fauna

When you’re on the plane and coming in for a landing on the hot tarmac of Seychelles Airport, the first thing you might notice, besides the ocean is the lush green vegetation, covering a majority of the island like a thick carpet.

The Seychelles Islands are home to over 100 endemic plant species; 75 of them being on the granitic islands and the rest on the outer atolls. The most well known plant species of Seychelles, but not endemic to our islands, is the Coco De Mer; a rather suggestive looking nut, but valuable and beautiful none the less. We have also become a World Heritage Site for the species and have controlled trades and protections in place to ensure their longevity and safety. The main area of these nuts is the Vallee De Mai on Praslin.

The Jellyfish tree however is endemic to Seychelles. What makes this tree so special is that none of its seeds have been able to germinate in the wild, leaving it up to botanists to ensure their survival. Three known populations of this plant are protected by Morne Seychellois National Park in three different locations.

For the fauna part of Seychelles our main endemic species is that of birds. We have around 12 different species that inhabit our islands.

The Seychelles Kestrel is one of my favorite native birds. This bird happens to be one of the only day-flying birds of prey on our islands. Its diet consists of a variety of small animals and insects including lizards and mice. A pair of kestrels will defend a territory they reside in and keep other kestrels away, making it easier for them to hunt and not run out of space and food. Most people, like my grandmother, believe that kestrels are bad omens that bring about bad luck to those it visits. This has yet to be confirmed by me, seeing as kestrels live around my house and seek shelter from the rainy days! If you haven’t caught sight of this gorgeous bird in real life, have no fear! You can see a picture of it on our 500 Rupee bills.

Another fan favorite and endemic bird is the Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher.  The Flycatcher, or Vev in Creole, was once widespread on the island of Praslin and then moved to La Digue where they are quite common. Nearly 30 birds were transported to Denis Island in hopes of bringing their population up to 50, in 2008. The Vev is known to thrive in native trees such as Bodanmyen and Takamaka. Just like its name, this bird consumes insects by catching them in mid air. Its population is said to have gone up to nearly 300.

Animals such as dolphins, and turtles are also on a watch list of sorts, due to the fact that Seychelles culture had made it a possibility to consume these creatures. Dwindling numbers caused the government to place certain restrictions on the poaching of dolphins and turtles and now made them known as ‘Manze Rar’. Other creatures that are not quite endemic but famous in Seychelles, are the Land Tortoise and Fruit Bats.

Festival Kreol

Every year for the past twenty six years, the people of Seychelles come together to pay homage to their culture.

The Festival Kreol is held every end of October and always represents beautiful Creole culture through food, art, music and more.  The week long celebration from the 20th of October to the 30th, is bursting at the seems with fun events. Restaurants also participate with special deals and activities to commemorate this week.

Despite the festival taking place in Seychelles on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the week long celebration recognizes and welcomes all Creole cultures from across the globe.

The itinerary for this years Festival Kreol is as follows

 

A Brief History of Seychelles

According to historians, Vasco de Gama came across islands as he was traveling from India to East Africa in 1503. These islands then became known as the Amirantes. In the year of 1608, the East India Trading Company came across land that was in abundance of resources after getting caught in a storm. Despite reporting the island they inhabited for a short time, the British took no claim over the land.

The Isle de France which is now known as Mauritius had been occupied by the French since 1715 and by 1742, an administrator by the name of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais sent an expedition under the command of Lazare Picault to chart the islands northeast of Madagascar.

By November of the same year, the boats Elizabeth and Charles had anchored in Mahé at Anse Boileau and Ile d’Abondance was born. However, due to the fact that the mapping was so poor, Picault headed back to the island in 1744 and renamed it Mahé after La Bourdonnais. The islands ended up being forgotten two years later once La Bourdonnais was replaced.

The Seven Years War between England and France in 1754, reminded the authorities of Mauritius and its neighboring islands and thus two ships were sent to claim them once more. Under the command of Corneille Nicholas Morphey, the largest island was renamed Isle de Séchelles in honor of Viscount Jean Moreau de Séchelles. This name then became Anglicized as Seychelles and was then used as the name for the entire group of islands; Mahé becoming the largest island once more.

After the French Revolution, a Colonial Assembly was formed by the settlers on Mahé In 1790. It was decided that they would run their colony themselves, according to their own constitution.

In 1794, Jean-Baptiste Queau de Quincy took command of the colony, making Seychelles a haven for French corsairs. Despite trying to stay under the radar, in 1794, three British ships arrived under commodore Henry Newcome to Mahé. He gave Quincy an hour to surrender.

Alas, the British didn’t feel the need to claim Seychelles due to the fact that they believed it to be a waste of resources. This made the island a neutral ground to British and French folk alike, supplying newcomers.

If you fast forward to the British rule of Seychelles, around 2.400 men women and children were brought to the islands over a period of thirteen years from 1861.

The main town had been known as Victoria since 1841 and was growing exponentially. By 1879 there were a range of businesses in town; two auctioneers, five retailers, four  liquor stores, an attorney and a watchmaker to name a few.

When Seychelles wanted to become a colony in its own right, the Mauritian governor of the mother colony sent a petition to London but Seychelles did not become a Crown Colony until 1903 when Sir Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott became Governor. The French language remained dominant and the botanical gardens were created along with the clock tower residing in the heart of Victoria.

But just like the French, the British saw Seychelles as the perfect place for exiling political prisoners.

It was not until 1964 that any new political movements were created, giving birth to the Seychelles People’s United Party led by France-Albert René. The party rallied for socialism and independance from British rule. The late James Mancham’s party called the Seychelles Democratic Party, represented businessmen and planters and wanted closer integration with Britain.

When the elections began in 1966, SDP won. Further elections in November 1970 brought about a new constitution, putting Mancham as Chief Minister. With elections in 1974, both parties ended up campaigning for independence. After that election the British agreed to allow Seychelles to become independent under the Commonwealth on June 29th, 1976. Sir James Mancham became the first President and René as Prime Minister.

René, however was not satisfied and threw a coup d’état on the 5th of June. 1977, overthrowing Mancham while he was overseas. This resulted in Seychelles becoming a one party state for the next 16 years. A number of Seychellois were displaced and exiled within these times

On December 4th, 1991, President René  announced the return of the multiparty system.

This failed to remove President René and his political party from the Presidency and the now SPPF, remained in power for the next 22 years.

By 2016, and after years of losing presidential elections, the opposing party SNP joined forces with other oppositions in the National Assembly elections. This resulted in a 15 to 10 district win for the newly formed LDS, and the first time in 38 years that there was a new party that claimed the majority of parliament.

A Brief History on Food and Dance

Two main things most people would associate with Seychelles could be argued as food and dance. These two things almost always go hand in hand and are incredibly popular among Seychellois and tourists alike. The traditional music and dance shows the culturally diverse background of our nation’s history.

Seychellois Dance

There happens to be a plethora of different traditional dances that are practiced in Seychelles but I will be writing about my three favorite.

The Moutia is a fan favorite with its percussion and string instruments. It contains foreign influences from when Seychelles had been colonized by the French in the 18th century followed by the British in the 19th. They brought about the guitar and violin which play a large part in Seychelles’ music today.

The Sega dance is the most popular of dance styles; the go to when learning Seychelles’ dances. With its characteristic hip-swaying movements, it is believe that it began with the slave population on the islands of Reunion and Mauritius. Sega music is traditionally performed with hand drums and rattles. while the feet remain planted on the floor in a rhythmic shuffle.

Kanmtole music is always fun to listen to. It bears a resemblance to the French Royal Court’s contredanse as well as Scottish square dancing. Accompanied by an accordion, violin and banjos, the contredanse was a French version of English country dances integrated with steps typical of the French court. Dating from the early 19th century, the kanmtole is a lively blend of all these dance styles.

Other musical styles in Seychelles include hip-hop, country, modern jazz, rock, ballads and choirs performing traditional popular, sacred, ancient and evangelical music. It’s thanks to Seychelles’ diverse past that these music and dance styles have evolved over the centuries to give the nation its rich musical heritage.

Seychellois Cuisine

Fish is definitely a big player in Seychellois cuisine and fishing happens to play a large part in our Blue Economy. Fish can be prepared in several ways, including, but not limited to: steamed, grilled, baked, boiled, fried, salted, smoked and wrapped in banana leaves. However, fish isn’t the only sea dweller that locals enjoy to catch and eat.

Other big ‘fish’ that were consumed in most Seychellois homes back in the day, included dolphin and turtles which were known as manze rar; rare food. These meats have since been forbidden by local authorities and marine parks, but some still risk it for that old Creole feeling. Sharks however, are fair game. One thing Seychellois can pride themselves in is using every part of the animals they consume. For shark you can make soup, salads/chutneys, curries and more with different parts respectively. Shark chutney, a personal favorite, typically consists of boiled, finely mashed skinned shark, and cooked with lime and bilimbi juice. Fried onions and spices are mixed along with it and makes this a perfect side dish or samosa filling.

Another type of meat that is popular in Seychelles is bat meat. Bat curry is something that can be found in authentic creole restaurants who can gain access to these creatures and is a great delicacy. Other curries can be found in almost any crock pot on the island! These curries can vary from salty to spicy, coconut cream enriched to tangy. Rice is also available with any meal.

Growing up, my family would enjoy eating a dish called ‘ladob’. Depending on the ingredients, I always found it to have a strange smell and was never fond of it, whether it was in savory or dessert form. The savory version usually had salted fish along with plantain, cassava or breadfruit with salt and boiled with coconut milk until soft. Its dessert dish omitted the fish (thank goodness!) along with the salt. It could be cooked with plantain, bananas, corossol, sweet potatoes, cassava or breadfruit and was seasoned in coconut milk with sugar, nutmeg and vanilla pods.

A few delicacies and specialty dishes include:

Bouyon bred
Kari bernik
Cassava pudding
Satini reken
Kat-kat banan
Salad palmis
Tec tec soup
Kari sousouri

Find more information on Creole cooking here.

A Brief History Lesson on Folklore

The history of folklore in Seychelles, stems from fantastic storytellers and singers that pass on rich Seychellois culture through fables, proverbs and songs.

Since the first settlers, Seychelles has been responsible for its own history and culture that it puts out. Folklore plays a large part of that. Old sayings, riddles and stories were a way of explanation and entertainment for children and adults alike. Like most educational stories, these had morals to them that would teach children a proper way to live as they grew up.

Apart from theses fables, ghost stories were and still play a large part in Seychelles legends. Tales of superstition and spells were a means of Instilling fear in disobedient children, as most spooky stories do. Despite the fact that not all the tales of ghosts and ghouls might be real, the reactions that they would receive were enough for people to believe in.

Small innocuous superstitions that were told to children, including myself were that whistling in the house was bad luck as well as having your feet swept would make sure you never married. A majority of other superstitions can be found linked to money; if you happened to sweep money, you would lose what you earned or sweeping after 6 would result in sweeping your money away.

Other superstitions include:

– If a cockerel sings during the day, it announces a visitor
– Dropping a fork during dinner announces a male visitor, dropping a spoon announces a female visitor.
– If you eat from the pot, it will rain on your wedding day.
– Do not start a project on a Friday, you will surely fail.
– Do not play with fire, you will wet your bed.
– Do not give someone money through the window or you will be ruined.
– Do not allow a baby to stare into a mirror, he/she will not grow teeth.
– Do not lend your broom to anyone, it will rob you of your luck.
– Do not count stars, you will get warts.
– Pointing at vegetables will stop them from growing
– Staring at a pregnant woman will result in an eye infection
– If you get pimple around your mouth, someone likes you

If one thing is for certain, superstitions can be funny to read about and even make you cautious!

Travel Essentials

When you are making your way to the beautiful islands of Seychelles, make sure you have fully researched all necessary items and papers you may need as well as other essentials when arriving.

Visas

Visas are not a requirement for tourists to come visit however you will need a valid passport from date of entry to exit from Seychelles, a return or onward ticket, contact details for your stay as well as sufficient funds for your duration of your stay. Once you have presented this information, a Visitor’s Permit will be issued to you upon arrival by the Department of Immigration. This Permit is free and valid for up to a month and can be extended to three months. After the three month duration, renewal of the Permit will cost SCR 5,000.

duty free

Now that you’ve made it through customs, you should head over to the Duty Free, but not before being aware of what you can buy and how much. Each person is allowed the following.

  • 2 liters of spirits
  • 2 liters of wine
  • 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco
  • 200ml of Parfume or Eau de Toilette
currency

Once you’ve left the Duty Free you probably want to change currency. The Seychelles Rupee is the local currency; coins come in 5, 10, 25 cents and 1, 5, 10 Rupees. The notes are available in 25, 50, 100 and 500 Rupees. When exchanging foreign currency, it is highly advised to do so at banks, authorized money changers or other licensed operators. Do no exchange money with random individuals as it is a criminal offense!
If you prefer to handle your money in card form then you should know that Visa and MasterCard are accepted anywhere with a card machine. ATM’s can be found in a variety of places around Mahé, Praslin and La Digue and dole out cash in Rupees only.

public holidays

Another thing that might be important to note is Public Holidays due to the fact that a majorty of businesses in town are closed for business on those special days.

Official:
New Year – 1st & 2nd January
Labour Day – 1st May
Constitutional Day – 18th June
National Day – 29th June

Religious:
Good Friday – 14th April
Easter Sunday – 16th April
Corpus Christi – 15th June
Assumption Day – 15th August
All Saints’ Day – 1st November
Immaculate Conception – 8th December
Christmas Day – 25th December

Find various medical practices here, information here, and transport here.