For the first time in my life, we did not celebrate Christmas this year. For our family in California, the price of flights to Paris for New Years was less than a quarter of what it would have been for Christmas. I thought I was sentimental about trees and ornaments, but it turns out I’m not. Christmas passed without much notice and with no regrets for Rick and me. Instead everyone arrived on New Year’s Eve and spent the first week of 2020 with us at Maison Conti. New Year’s Day has always been my favorite moment of the year anyway, so I found it an especially nice time to come together.
Let’s begin by talking about the food. Most of the family loves to cook, and all of us like to eat. The main celebratory meal we had together was on the 1st. It included the essentials, such as oysters, foie gras and roast beef.
But there were a few surprises too. Emily, being a vegetarian and an excellent cook, always has something special to share for our meals together. This time it was a galette made with a crust of ground nuts, topped with avocado purée and mushrooms. I have added a link to the recipe as I highly recommend this dish. It was spectacular.
We bought some beautiful côtes de boeuf from our local shop. They directed us to cook them over an open fire, so we turned our downstairs fireplace into an indoor barbecue.
We had several organized activities planned for the holiday, but most free time was spent walking, sitting by the fire, reading, chatting and doing crossword puzzles.
The weather was mild but not bright and sunny.
In the past we have often done some crafts projects together during holidays. One year, inspired by Calder, we made lo-tech mechanical toys. (Calder had a fabulous collection of handmade puppets which he used to create magical circus performances for his friends.) We have often done sewing projects. This year we decided we would make a book together, and I was left to arrange it. I prepared all the pieces in advance, so that we could put the journal together in a reasonable time frame.
Since I have had so much fun with eco-dyeing, I decided to begin by having everyone make a title page using this technique. I collected leaves and asked James to bring me some eucalyptus from the U.S., which he kindly did. Eucalyptus is one of the best leaves for this process.
I chose to show them how to create a little book that binds the pages together with elastic so that pages are easily added and removed.
Everyone seemed pleased with the results. Each had a unique book well put together. Each cover and the decorative inner lining pages were different one from another.
Several people have told me since that they have put their little books into daily use.
Another project we did together was some canning. We made pear chutney, lime pickle and pickled vegetables.
One day we decided to show Daniel the first house we bought in France, which is about an hour northwest of Montmirail. We visited the old haunts on a very chilly day.
In those early days, we literally lived in the middle of a forest beside a little stream. The old house has fallen into some disrepair these days. It is really a little paradise in summer, but not so much in winter. It’s hard to picture now the life we lived there, especially at this time of year. We used to roam the woods looking for fallen branches since there was only a small fireplace and no central heating.
After everyone had gone back to their own homes, ours got very quiet. Still, it has given us some time to get a few things done around the house and to start projects of our own. I’ll share some in future posts.