That most wonderful time of the year…

December 15, 2022 at 9:25 am 2 comments

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration here a few weeks ago: a nice mix of French and American friends. There was a lot of food, all of the usual menu items for Thanksgiving (except cornbread! I couldn’t find any cornmeal this year). But! We were treated to not just one but two different kinds of homemade (!) pumpkin pie. And we had both cranberries, thanks to our friend Rosanna who snatches them up whenever she sees them, and freezes them. And we tried airelles also, as a cranberry substitute before we knew Rosanna had the cranberries. Both a success! This being France, we also had escargots during the apéro, and a cheese course after the meal, during which we were treated to some very special cheeses brought by my son’s French friend.

This year we instituted a new way of “giving thanks,” suggested by our friends Darcy and Roger, who shared a family tradition of theirs. Before the meal, as we were enjoying our aperitifs, each person was invited to write down what they were grateful for and place it in a vase. Then, at a certain point in the evening–after the main meal and before dessert–we went around the table and each person drew out one of the pieces of paper and read it aloud.

This was a wonderful way to make sure not to miss the whole point of Thanksgiving–giving thanks! without that awkwardness and putting people on the spot that can occur sometimes in other ways of doing so. It was really fun to see what everyone had written and although some of the slips of paper were not credited, we were able in all cases to guess who the author was. There were some funny juxtapositions: one slip said “I hope you like the cheese I brought,” and the next one gave thanks for a meal with “not too much cheese.” That brought a big laugh!

The final note was the perfect one to end the exercise, and le mot juste went to our good friend Rosanna, who covered it all by saying “Merci, la vie!”

There was also a lot of live music–banjo and guitar and trumpet. I even picked up my flute for the first time in years and tried to sidle into some of the jamming, rusty as I am…

The following weekend I was excited to be invited to a very cool Christmas party in Paris–this one given for patrons and guests of The Earful Tower podcast, creation of the wonderful Oliver Gee and his lovely wife Lina Nordin Gee. If you don’t know about The Earful Tower, you need to know! Oliver, who is Australian, and Lina, who is Swedish, are just brimming over with creative good energy and they have drawn a wonderful community of interesting, nice people around them. And their podcast is the best! Oliver and Lina really get into exploring each and every corner of marvelous Paris–their enthusiasm is infectious and the videography is superb. Check it out!

The party was held at the beautiful Cercle Suedois/Cercle Norvégien on the rue de Rivoli. There was live music, there was fun and games, a lot of lively conversation–and a delicious buffet of warm and cold treats, served in a room decorated with extraordinarily beautiful Nordic landscape paintings by Odile Fontaimpe.

I’ve worked with Oliver on all four of his books–the last three are a collaborative endeavor of this dynamic couple, a series of children’s books featuring Parisian animals (so far a crocodile, a liger, and a giraffe). Oliver writes the text and they are beautifully, charmingly illustrated by Lina. In each case, we have had fun talking over some of those last-minute decisions that go into every work of literature. Oliver even had me on his show once, to talk about my work as an editor.

Next week my kids will be heading home and it will be so nice to have them here for Christmas. As I write this morning, a light sprinkling of snow is covering everything, imparting that quiet winter beauty so dear to my heart. Of course, as the temperature drops, life becomes harder for those who are not lucky enough to have warm, cozy homes to be in and plenty of food. As you count your own blessings, try to remember to spare a thought for those struggling, whether in Ukraine or Africa, or right next door, and figure out what you can do to help. There are so many ways, and each of us can do something.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the US and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You. Her memoir, A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France, will be published in early 2023.

Entry filed under: Neither Here nor There....

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. DJB  |  December 15, 2022 at 1:37 pm

    Janet, loved your description of Thanksgiving and the way everyone wrote out what they were thankful for so someone else could read it. Great idea! Hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. DJB

    Reply
    • 2. Janet Hulstrand  |  December 15, 2022 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks, David, yes it worked really well! Thinking of you and all the Browns at the holidays, and so grateful for the nice memories I have of Christmases spent with you! ❤

      Reply

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