December 16, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
It’s a week before Christmas and my kids got out of school early today. To add to the tower of things that were required to end the year, I had to make a surprise lunch for someone in my older kid’s class—some sort of round robin of secret lunches, which a less doting parent might have just made their own kid do, tant pis if that other kid got an overly jellied PB&J and a bruised apple.
Nope, Dan and I made homemade chicken noodle soup (the lovely girl has been sick). Then we sliced Manchego into white little triangles and nestled it next to pretzels and spicy chick peas; we put cubed pineapple into a little container; put two clementines and a turkey pepperoni stick in the bag and added in a container of some dried mango. We included an extra spoon for a French petit pot of chocolate pudding. Talk about Bread and Jam for Frances.
This year, though, and maybe this was sane (was it actually cruel?) once I heard about the extra lunch, I said forget it to cards and gifts for the teachers at school. In the clear light of January I will give them each a much more thoughtful card than I can muster right now. I saw the pile of cards and gifts mounting by the front door in each carefully labeled bin. They won’t notice, is my guess. Or my fervent hope.
The other day I found some thank you notes from last Christmas which by accident were packed away with Christmas things and never mailed. I will mail those with this year’s gifts, if you can believe it. This reminds me of the year my aunt Maggie sent us her scissors and tape inside the box with our Christmas gift. And then asked for them back. Dan mused, “How did she get them in there?” “Oh shut up,” I said.
These days Dan likes to say, “Cait, even superwoman needs a break once in a while.” Does she?
However, probably unlike superwoman, I seem only able to think in terms of lists. I am making lots of lists and putting them all over the house, like some sort of Hansel & Gretel situation, but without the courage those two had and more like the witch mid-nervous breakdown. So, without further ado, I hope you will forgive me and tolerate my housekeeping list, below, which I made for you. I won’t spend any more time wasting what precious few moments you have and going on and on with more narration on this gray, snowy afternoon. I have so much I want to give you in content before I take some time off starting next Wednesday: a new “Rue du Soleil,” a new “Bouffe,” a new “Bouquin,” movies, those links I promised 2 weeks ago, gateaux, etc.
Caitlin’s housekeeping, or tâches ménagères, in 20 random thoughts:
1. Will you make a bûche de Nöel? Or buy one? If you decide to make one, here is Kate Christensen’s. She made it for us–our Frenchly community, you and me– and even made it dairy and gluten free. This was an enormous labor of love on her part; she did it two weeks before Christmas so that we all could benefit. Take a look and try it, too? She even gives you music to listen to as you work!
2. Holidays far away from home—that is the subject of Karen Karbo’s new Rue du Soleil. She writes about how far away home can feel around this time of year and how she makes do.
3. Soccer. Wow. I took my kids out of school early on Wednesday to come home and watch. I had laid out snacks for them: pomegranate, edamame, salted pistachios, peeled clementines, Nutella crepes. Yes, we were rooting for France. But we were also rooting for Morocco. Something would have felt just so juste in the world if Morocco had won.
4. Here are the links and notes from the Off-the-Beaten-Path Zoom presentation we did for you. Finally! Forgive me. Scroll down, they are at the bottom.
5. Three people won the Valrhona chocolate trivia competition: Tatiana Hernandez, Françoise Akiya and Ivy Engel. Valrhona will be sending you a chocolate holiday surprise. Please send me your addresses.
6. Many of you have written to me lately. I love hearing from you. I will do my best to respond soon. Thank you for your notes and chocolate answers and goose answers, too. You make my work here so much brighter and more lovely.
7. Do not watch the Netflix series on Johnny Hallyday. It’s charming only for episode one, and then you realize he was a deeply troubled, sexist, miserable person and a jerk.
8. Do read this terrific piece by Molly Ringwald about working with Jean-Luc Godard on King Lear.
9. Do read this fascinating piece on ancient French beer, called cervoise.
10. Sign up for my friend Alice Elliott Dark’s wonderful “Sunday Downloads.”She is like the most soothing fairy godmother you can imagine. When I get her download on Sundays, it sets my day right.
11. Don’t forget: You’re allowed to forget one thing. Or was it remember?
12. Do check back on Frenchly.us, I will be setting up content for while I am gone until the early days of 2023. (A new Emily in Paris coming next week….)
13. Donate—anywhere. Whether families and kids now in deep winter in Ukraine, an animal shelter in Louisiana, a stage company in Maine—your generosity will change and save lives, sometimes in less obvious ways, or ways you may never know.
14. Go light on stuff and big on experiences this holiday. Here’s a list I wrote up of things that are good quality and are thoughtful. Make a wonderful quiche or soup. Light candles, put on good music—the vibe will matter way more in years to come than the quantity of things you give your loved ones.
15. Next Wednesday I will be sending out our regular Wednesday newsletter.
16. I shared some videos this week about making Christmas a little French—how to’s. I love the last one in particular.
17. Has Frenchly inspired you this year to incorporate one of our ideas into you fall or winter festivities?
18. Do you plan to do something French this holiday season? If so, what? Email me!
19. Please email me and tell me something that is holiday-traditional in your family. It can be small or simple or extravagant—I want to know! (French, Cajun, African, Bostonian–anything goes!)
20. Lastly, there will be no Le Weekend next Friday or the Friday after. I will be back in January. I need a little break—I have been sick all fall with every virus out there and had a lot of work to do on my novel Pete and Alice in Maine which comes out next summer. I need to clean my bathroom, declutter my crazy computer and darn some socks.
21. In the meantime: Have wonderful holidays and a very happy happy New Year!!!! I will think of you as we eat our annual fondue this New Year’s Eve. See you again on January 6th!
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