Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Eve with the Bruns

This was a truly magical night. As the evening passed, I kept thinking to myself, “I cannot believe that we are actually in France, celebrating Christmas with these wonderful new friends. We are truly fortunate!”

It was almost surreal . . . from the delicious meal Sandra cooked to the piles and piles of spectacular gifts to the classic American Christmas carols playing in the background.

Let me begin at the beginning . . .

Did you know that Pere Noel (Santa Claus) delivers his gifts to the children of France on Christmas Eve? Before it gets dark? It was amazing! While Sandra and I were in the kitchen (Dado, Max, and Josey were still at home, and Jean-Louis, Noah, and Victoria were in Sete wishing on the Christmas star!!), we heard some commotion in the living room. When we looked in to see what the noise was, the room was covered in gifts! There were gifts for everyone! Santa remembered us all – even Max & Josey!

Sandra has had her house decorated for weeks, and the garland, the tree, the lights . . . even the garland around Shadow’s neck (he’s their adorable black lab) was perfect! And I have mentioned before how much Sandra loves the US, right? As you can tell by some of the artwork in the background.

Dado, Max, and Josey arrived first. The kids stared around, wide-eyed with surprise. Suddenly it dawned on them – maybe Santa had already visited our house, too.

When Jean-Louis, Victoria, and Noah arrived a few minutes later, it was delightful! Everyone was so happy and smiley and joyful. Gifts were passed around, and there was a flurry of wrapping paper as little and big hands alike set into those beautiful presents.

Santa brought Josey a baby doll – and Victoria received one, too, because those two love to play baby together. They both also received Hannah Montana barbies.

Santa brought Max a Pirates of the Carribean art set and a set of Pirates of the Carribean Mega-Blocks boats that shoot at each other.

Dado picked out perfect gifts for Sandra, Jean-Louis, Victoria, and Noah. He always has the best ideas. He got a Zippo lighter for Sandra that has the American flag on the front, a box of Nyquill gelcaps, and Pay Day candy bars (her faves, which you cannot buy here). For Jean-Louis, he got the first season of Rescue Me in French and Independence Day in French. For Victoria and Noah, he got remote control helicopters. I picked out the gift for Michelle (Sandra’s mom). She wears scarves, and I picked out a dusty pink scarf for her. Everyone loved their presents!!

Apparently, it is French tradition to eat dinner on Christmas Eve at midnight. Luckily the Bruns took pity on the Americans, and we ate closer to 9:00pm.

Dinner was spectacular. Sandra spoiled us with several traditional French cuisine treats.

The first dish was salad . . . mixed greens, tomatoes, and des gesiers de canard confits. That means that the salad was topped with sautéed fig and duck gizzard. You all know I am an absolute food wimp, and Sandra knows it, too. So, she didn’t tell us what we were eating until I told her how delicious it was. I was serious! Even after she told me what it was, I ate every single bite on my plate! The salad was served with foie gras de canard (duck pate), which I also loved.

We were all absolutely stuffed after the salad course, but there was more yumminess to come. Sandra had made a roasted, stuffed turkey, mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon, sautéed potatoes, and chestnuts. It was all absolutely delicious.

Dessert was another French tradition: la buche. This is a dessert shaped like a log, either made with ice cream or cake. Sandra had two ice cream versions: crème brulee and fruits rouge (strawberry, raspberry, and cranberry). Mmmmmm!!

Our contributions to the meal were strawberry margaritas (this was a special request from Sandra) and homemade shortbread cookies (Mike’s grandmother’s recipe!). The margaritas were a great party starter. Unfortunately, we forgot about the cookies in the excitement of the buches. I hope the Bruns ate the cookies!

The children all played together like a dream. It was really impressive. All those new toys, and Noah and Victoria shared every single thing without a second thought. There were cars and trucks, Bratz and Barbies, My Little Ponies, helicopters, and babies. Everywhere we looked, there were more fun things to play with.

One of the big hits of the evening was the Hannah Montana tattoo parlor. Oh my. Josey may be the next Kat Von D.

Throughout the evening, Sandra was playing her favorite Christmas music. Her favorites include Christmas carols by Frank Sinatra! It was terrific. Several of us were singing along – in English – during this fete de Noel! Sandra and Noah even took a turn on the dance floor.

Merci mille fois, Sandra & Jean-Louis, for the terrific and unforgettable Christmas Eve in France.

Love to all!

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