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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joyeux Noël

This is why I don't make New Year's resolutions. I not all that long ago resolved to maintain my blog weekly (what was I thinking?) and yet here it is about six weeks since the last post and two months before that. This is why my New Year's resolutions typically boil down to one: don't make any New Year's resolutions (particularly after a glass or two of Champagne).

Christmas has taken on a whole new dimension since I ditched my solid salaried job and left the USA for a freelance career tucked in a little country circa 1800 farmhouse (well, outbuilding of a former farm spread; it could have been the original pig sty or chicken coop for all I know). Making about 20% of my former wage means that splashy gifts are a thing of the past and the tiny table that I can squeeze four around means that it's a bit challenging doing the scale of entertaining I've done in the past. But that's okay. 

I'm loving the new Christmas, sans high pressure shopping in huge malls spending more than I make now in a month, no more brining huge turkeys (not at $15 a pound anyway) that arguably might not even fit in my oven, should it be possible to even find a bird as big as they mutate them in the US, and no starting my planning weeks, even a month, in advance formulating complicated menus and to do lists.

Instead, the last few Christmases have been very low stress, sometimes never getting out of pajamas, hanging out grazing on cold or hot buffets that we've built or bought over the course of a few days and doing whatever we feel like doing, such as walking Tilly and her brother, Finlay, my friend's dog.

Today, we spent the first half of Christmas Eve in the medieval village of Loches where we bought our last few charcuterie items, such as a roast pheasant with pear, some boucheres with creamed seafood (in huge vol au vent puff pastry cups) and such, then dropped into nearby friends this evening bearing torches, gifts and singing Christmas carols, which the one friend said nearly reduced her to tears. (I confessed the sound of our voices has often been known to evoke such a response.)

Tomorrow will be a holiday first for me--dinner out at a Michelin-starred restaurant with a group of likeminded, carefree friends intent on wringing every crumb of enjoyment from the holiday and focusing on being grateful for the blessings in our lives.

Tilly, meanwhile, has been haranguing me with whining cries ever since I hung up her Christmas stocking — would someone please tell me how she could possibly know there's anything tucked inside for her? — a reminder of childhood impatience as to when the tearing of giftwrap was finally considered permissible.
Even among my friends here, the agreement is that gifts remain unquestionably modest, again taking the pressure off so that we can enjoy the days leading up to the holidays.

That said, decorating took a decided backseat to work this year, as I've been quite inundated with large projects, yet another thing to be quite grateful for. Although the lifestyle is a bit hermit-like and the pressure intense during certain cycles, I have the freedom to work at 6am or 11pm. I confess I did regret not having had time to put up my tree, especially since it sits outside in the porch which means the neighbors get to enjoy it, too, but, as they say, c'est la vie. There just wasn't time. The French don't go in for splashy decorations anyway, although the villages do put up nice, mostly handmade decorations by volunteer residents.

I guess if I have any New Year's resolution, it's to find a wee bit more balance between my work and personal time, as I'm far too quick to put work above all else, including "Tilly time." And she does deserve at least one walk a day.

I hope everyone has a Joyeux Noël and a very Bonne Année, and may we realize that, with all the troubles that we deal with, that God has indeed bestowed on us more blessings than worries. May 2012 be a return to prosperity, continued good health and a reminder that time is precious — we need to seize each day as if it were our last and put all regrets behind us. Now, please pass the foie gras ...

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