Monday, December 31, 2012

La Nuit de Noël

Salut mes amis, 

A few weeks ago, I boarded a plane for Paris! Since my twin sister, Juliette, has been taking advanced ballet classes at the Paris Opera Ballet School, my family decided that it would be easier for me to fly home for the holiday season (versus all of them coming over to the United States). I honestly had no problem with that - this is actually the first year I've flown home for the holidays! I hadn't been in France since . . . since, well, never mind how long! Needless to say, I was SO EXCITED to finally get a chance to return to my hometown!

In France, we celebrate more on La Nuit de Noël, Christmas Eve, more than on Christmas Day. This year, both sets of my grandparents joined us (even my paternal grandparents from the Bourgogne region!). While our parents and maternal grandparents were busy preparing la Réveillon, our special Christmas Eve dinner, our paternal grandparents took Juliette and me out for a day of "window-licking." What is "window-licking," you might be asking? It's the literal English translation of faire du lèche vitrines, which means to window-shop! Most stores aren't open on Christmas Eve, but Juliette and I think that window shopping is just as fun - especially during the holiday season! Our grandparents took us over to le boulevard Haussmann, a wide tree-lined boulevard in the 8th and 9th arrondissements where world-famous department stores like Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are located. Just like the stores lining New York City's 5th Avenue, the stores on le boulevard Haussmann set up elaborate holiday window displays and adorn themselves with lots of festive lights. It was quite thrilling to link arms with Juliette and skip down the sidewalks, glancing up every now and then at the storefront windows and drooling over all of the designer clothes on display. When our feet got tired, our grandparents led us over to an open restaurant, where we ordered a mug of chocolat, hot chocolate. We lingered here for a while, telling our grandparents about life in the United States, Juliette's ballet classes, and simply our thoughts about current events. We don't get to see our paternal grandparents very often, though our maternal grandparents live right here in Paris. It was great to be able to catch up with them!

After our day of window shopping (and - consequently - being on our feet for a long period of time), our apartment never looked better! The sapin de Noël, Christmas tree, was up and decorated, and so many delicious smells were emanating from the kitchen! Juliette and I couldn't help but smile as we ran around, taking it all in. When Maman finally caught up to us, she too was smiling - I guess our enthusiastic feelings were contagious! Maman pulled us into her arms and told us to go into our chambre à coucher, our bedroom, because there were surprises for us waiting there. Surprises? Already? Our parents normally don't allow us to open presents until after midnight, a tradition many French families like to follow, unless . . . maybe . . . these presents were intended to be worn this very night! Juliette and I exchanged glances. We both knew what would be awaiting us in our bedroom: new clothes for Christmas!

Juliette found a lovely purple party dress draped on her bed, while I found a glamorous red velvet gown on mine. Do you think they resemble dresses sold at American Girl? These are even better - they were custom-made especially for us!

Wriggling out of our plain everyday clothes, we wasted no time in putting these dresses on and finding appropriately matching shoes and jewelry to go with them. 

Once we were all dressed and feeling like princesses all the while, Juliette and I waited for our parents and grandparents to ready themselves. Next on our holiday agenda was attending a mass service at the Sacré-Coeur, the Roman Catholic church right in my own backyard - well, right in Montmartre, the arrondissement where my family lives. 

After mass, it was time for La Réveillon, our special Christmas Eve meal. We French call it La Réveillon (the awakening) because we are staying awake late into the night to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Consequently, the meal is long, and there is plenty of food to go around! This year, we munched on escargots, foie gras, and smoked oysters as appetizers while we waited for the main dish - the turkey - to finish cooking. La Réveillon is a bit like American Thanksgiving in that, traditionally, a turkey is served with cranberry sauce and gratin dauphinois (potatoes). Of course, there was also plenty of vin (wine) and fromage (cheese) to go around!

Because our maternal grandmother is Polish, we like to incorporate Polish traditions and cuisine into our Christmas Eve celebration. In Poland, Christmas Eve is called Wigilia, which is from the Latin term vigilare (to await). As Polish tradition dictates, a special prayer is said at the start of the holiday meal. We then exchange a special bread wafer similar to what is used for Holy Communion (oplatek). Each person present takes a bite of the bread, beginning with the parents and older relatives and ending with the youngest. With each bite that is taken, wishes for good health and success in the new year are exchanged. Dinner begins after the prayer and the exchanging of the bread. A white tablecloth is spread on the table, and an extra place setting is set for an unexpected visitor who would not be turned away (i. e.  Baby Jesus). A true Polish Christmas Eve dinner doesn't include meat, but as the French Christmas Eve dinner does, we overlook that! This year, my family served carp (fish for Wigilia is to turkey for Thanksgiving!), pierogi (dumplings filled with sauerkraut, cheese, or prunes), noodles with poppy seeds, and kutia (boiled wheat, poppy seeds, and honey) to honor our Polish side.

The best part of La Réveillon is the dessert and one French Christmas Eve tradition that is never overlooked in my family! Have you ever had a slice of the Bûche de Noël, the Yule Log? It's a pound cake that has been rolled up and frosted to look like a log of wood, and it's delicious! Juliette and I were so stuffed from dinner this year, but somehow we both found room enough for a slice of cake.

After dinner comes the best part: presents! Juliette and I like to leave our slippers out where Père Noël (Father Christmas / Santa Claus) can find them and fill them with treats. We still kept that tradition up this year - we are not too old yet! We also had a few presents from friends to open, but our traditional French grandparents would not let us open them until after midnight!

When we were finally allowed to open presents, Juliette and I made a mad dash over to the sapin de Noël, the Christmas tree. We each grabbed a present and tore through the wrappings, so eager we were to see just what our friends and family had given us.

Wrapped in a pretty floral box, Juliette found a white corduroy jacket and coordinating black corduroy skirt. Doesn't it look like something Coco Chanel would've designed? We thought so. This was a gift from our paternal grandparents for both of us to share.

My friend Sadie was kind enough to send me a long-sleeved black shirt and a green choker necklace - both of which she made herself! Merci, Sadie! Thank you! I especially love the necklace; the color is so pretty.

My next gift was from my best friend, Nathalie. Oh, what could it be? 

I ripped off the gift wrap and uncovered a book called Real Fitness! Of course! Nathalie, the athlete, is always trying to get me to exercise more . . .

 Nathalie sent Juliette a gift, too:

When Juliette tore off the gift wrap, she found a Hello Kitty blind bag! Cutting the mysterious package open revealed this Hello Kitty figurine holding a lollipop; isn't she cute?

Finally, Juliette and I found the last gifts of the night: two identically wrapped boxes with ribbon bows. There was no difference between them, except for the color of the bows on top! Certainly whatever was inside one of them had to be the same as what was inside the other . . . right?

Ever curious, we inspected the packages further. They were from our good friend, Inky! And isn't the Paris-themed gift wrap just perfect for us?

Neither of us wanted to rip the special Paris-themed gift wrap, so we took extra care unwrapping the gifts from Inky. Once the gift wrap was off, each of us found a plain white box. Inside the box, however, was something furry . . . something orange and furry! But what could it be?

Squishables! Squishables are some of Inky's favorite toys, and she sent us each one of our very own. I got a red panda, while Juliette got a fox. Cool! Thank you so much, Inky!

After we played with our new toys for a while, Juliette and I went to bed two happy campers. We had a great Christmas Eve together, filled with family, fun, and festivities. Our Christmas Day was spent at home enjoying each other's company (and the leftover food from the night before!).

Did you have a nice Christmas? Chanukah? Whatever it is that you celebrate? What did you do to celebrate? What kind of presents did you receive?

Ton amie,

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ma chambre à coucher!

Salut mes amis, 



Bienvenue à ma chambre à coucher! Welcome to my bedroom at Fair Hollow School for Girls, or - at least - my bedroom at the moment. I usually like to revamp it at least once a year. Would you like a tour?

This is an overall view of my side of the bedroom: 

I keep so many treasures stored away in my room! Sometimes I can entertain myself for hours just looking at everything I own:

At the foot of my bed, I keep my wooden chest that I brought all of the way from Paris! A special gift from my grandparents, I store important documents like my passeport and visa inside. On top of the trunk, you can see Nathalie's purple skating bag. She's always leaving her stuff in my room! I also keep my trusty headphones and basket of fashion magazines here:

This is my bed. It's nothing fancy - just a plain wooden bed reminiscent of one a pioneer would use. Still, it serves its purpose! Do you like my French flag comforter? It was a gift from some of my very best friends!

Here are some of my posters! I love having a lot of posters on display in my room. Not only do they jazz up the walls, but they remind me of past adventures I've had, friends I've made, and shows I love:

Cécile, my American Girl doll, stays in her special place of honor at the foot of my bed:

More toys inhabit the head of my bed, and you can see my calendar on the wall above the bed. There's also my personalized New Hampshire license plate, as well as a television (playing Nathalie's favorite movie, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel).

Meet my toys! From left to right, we have Ninja Batty Shogun, Ice Bat, Mathilde, Abima, and Secret Mission Ice Bat. Obviously, they are all UglyDolls, with the exception of Mathilde. She was a special gift from my grandfather when I was a little girl:

This is my nightstand. I keep reading glasses, flashlights, and other small things in the drawers. On top of the nightstand, you can see my box of tissues, my new alarm clock, my copy of Meet Cécile, and my iPad:

These are my bookshelves. I have a huge collection of books - everything from American Girl books to textbooks - on these shelves. I also keep a few travel souvenirs here. Can you see my figurines of La Tour Eiffel and the Big Ben?

My desk dates back to the 1930s; how cool is that?! I do everything from homework to surfing Facebook at this desk, as you can probably tell just by looking at what I keep on it!

I store cards and letters from my friends on the ribbon board that hangs above my desk: 

This is my extra bed. It's where Juliette sleeps when she's here (She's currently taking advanced dance courses at the Paris Opéra Ballet School!) and also where a friend would sleep, should anyone come for a visit. Juliette and I keep Rose and Félix, our Valentine's Day bears, on this bed.

Several posters hang above this bed, too. Behind the bed, you can see my closet! I keep most of my favorite clothes in here, and you can see some of my other toys on top of the closet (including Palin, the Alaskan moose; Oliver, the otter; my travel gnome; and Belle).

The other bed is also where Wippy, Juliette's UglyDoll, hangs out:

What is your bedroom like? What's your favorite item in your room? Least favorite? 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

{Video} Joyeux Anniversaire, Sophie et Juliette!

Salut mes amis,

Here is a short video of select photos from our birthday party!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Le 22 août: La fête de l'anniversaire!

Salut mes amis,

Since I was traveling on our actual 14th birthday (August 9th), Juliette and I decided to celebrate our special day on a later date. It was important to us to have a party together with all of our friends from school. We decided to hold the event on Wednesday, August 22nd from 2-4 pm in the Fair Hollow recreational room. Do you like our party invitation? We picked a set of them up earlier this summer!
This is what Juliette and I decided to wear for the day. I'm on the left, while Juliette is on the right:

Our first party guest to arrive was Chiara Martini, a fellow foreign exchange friend of mine. She is from a small town outside of Florence, Italy! 

Juliette's friend Jessica McConnell arrived next:

Maura Cassidy, another good friend of Juliette's, struggled in next, her arms full with two rather large boxes:

Finally, our last party guest arrived - my very best friend, Nathalie Thibodeau! Nathalie's another foreign exchange acquaintance; she's from Montréal, Québec, Canada:

Now that Chiara, Jessica, Maura, and Nathalie had all arrived, the party could finally begin. We decided to start off with a classic party game: Musical Chairs! Juliette and our friends got into place around a group of chairs, while I prepared to turn on the music:

When I turned the music on (Fifty Sixty by Alizée), the girls moved around the group of chairs, some even dancing to the music while doing so. When I turned the music off, they all quickly scrambled to secure a chair. The problem was that there were five girls and only four chairs. One girl was going to be chair-less and, therefore, out of the game. That was Chiara! 

The game continued. Jessica was out next, then Maura. Finally, only Juliette and Nathalie were left with one chair to walk around. Who would secure the chair and be the winner?

 When I stopped the music, both Juliette and Nathalie dashed over to the chair. There was such a ruckus being made that I wasn't sure who had won at first. Juliette was clearly sitting on the chair, but . . . wait! Did I see legs sticking out from underneath her? I sure did! Both Nathalie and Juliette were trying to claim the chair, but Juliette was barely hanging on. She soon found herself on the floor beside the chair, which means that she was out of the game.

. . . so Nathalie was declared the winner! As a competitive figure skater, she takes winning very seriously, even winning a little party game! She screamed with delight and called herself the "Champion of the Chairs" for the rest of the afternoon. Silly Nathalie! 

After playing Musical Chairs, we decided that it was cake time. After our teacher lit the candles, our friends sang Happy Birthday to us - in French and in English!

The French version goes like this:
Joyeux anniversaire à vous,
Joyeux anniversaire à vous,
Joyeux anniversaire Sophie et Juliette,
Joyeux anniversaire à vous!

We decided to have cupcakes instead of an actual cake. We ordered them in a variety of colors and flavors, so that everyone could pick their favorite:

When the singing stopped, Juliette and I made our wishes (nope, I'm not telling you what we wished for!), and then we blew out our candles:

We all must have been hungry! For several minutes, there wasn't much talking as we dug into our cupcakes, tortilla chips, and juice (or milk): 

Juliette and I both opted for cupcakes with chocolate icing - yum! In addition, I had chocolate milk. Juliette was more sensible and chose plain white milk:

When we finished eating, it was time for PRESENTS! I won't bore you and post them all here (though you'll be able to see them on my Facebook page in a few days), but we got some fantastic things . . .

. . . including our very own camping tent! This was a gift from our teacher:

My friend Marsali sent us a tin of French candy. Thank you, Marsali, the candy was delicious! 

Our fellow twin friends Quinn and Trinity sent us a lovely card and a bag full of presents, including . . .

. . . pink hair extensions and princess wands! Thank you, Quinn and Trinity! We loved everything.

Maya and Katherine, the friends I met at the Natick American Girl store, sent us . . . 

. . . the Weekend Fun outfit! I've been wanting this outfit so badly. Thank you, Maya and Katherine! This will get a lot of use: 

Our friends Susie and Tessa had some gifts for us as well, both of which they wrapped in American Girl catalogue pages (how thrifty!):

I received a stuffed otter whom I named Oliver, and Juliette received her very first UglyDoll: a pink one named Wippy! Thank you, Susie and Tessa! We love our new stuffed animal friends:

Maman and Papa sent Juliette a new LL Bean purse; isn't it cute?

For me, Maman and Papa sent a brand new backpack, notebook, and water bottle:

When we finished opening presents, we decided to take some fun group shots with our friends. From left to right, we have Chiara, Maura, me, Juliette, Nathalie and Jessica: 

Here we have Chiara and Maura posing for a picture and then Nathalie and Jessica posing for a picture:

And, finally, the birthday girls: 

What was your last birthday like? What kind of presents did you receive? Did you have a birthday party?



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