Monday, January 3, 2011

Week 32: Happy New Year

A beautiful winter day in Montmirail! Happy 2011.

If the year ahead portends its themes on New Year's eve and New Year's day, then we can look forward to a year of very hard work and lots of sunshine.

Last year was the first time someone requested Maison Conti to host a New Year's eve dinner party. I was happy to oblige, as frankly new year's eve has never been one of my favorite holidays. I'd just as soon be putting on a party as attending one. A participant from last year's party contacted us again this year. Wayne and his wife Katherine are Canadian but have lived in Paris for seventeen years. Wayne works for the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and wanted to organize a feast for a group of his co-workers. He proposed a menu for us to prepare. It was much more complicated than last year's, including six courses and several choices (two entrées, two main courses, two desserts) Plus homemade rolls. We were full-steam ahead all day long making the various dishes.

Our guests were international, French, Italian, French Canadian, English Canadian, Irish, English and Thai. The party went off well. Many bottles of champagne and wine were killed and the festivities went on into the wee hours of the morning. A few arrived at breakfast with swollen heads, but after a few cups of coffee and some orange juice, all seemed to recover. Jonathan the Brit told us a groaner of a joke:

Why does a Frenchman only have one egg for breakfast?
Because one egg's an œuf.


This year brings an exciting new project for our family. My daughter Emily, who is creative from head to toe, invited her brother James and me to participate in an idea she had cooked up. She wanted to launch a web site where we could share creations. The idea was that we would choose a monthly theme and take turns posting our response to that theme. We could post prose, poetry, art, videos, recipes, quotes, photography, and anything else that strikes our fancy. It gives us the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas.

We have been working for many weeks to put together our new web site. We joined Squarespace and learned how to build a very nice site with all the widgets we could ever dream of. We will continue to add more functionality as time goes along. We searched for a name and finally came up with a line from the poem Horse Fiddle by Carl Sandburg, one of Emily's favorites:

FIRST I would like to write for you a poem to be shouted in the teeth of a strong wind...

We call our site To Be Shouted. I hope you will come by and visit us. We also invite you to be a guest collaborator, if you have anything you'd like to share around our themes:

January: Home
February: Maps
March: Sunday
April: Green
May: Birds of a Feather
June: Bread
July: Capture
August: River
September: Kitchen
October: Branch
November: Soft Spot
December: Tomorrow

James has inaugurated the site and will be posting various entries during the coming week. I will take over next week and Emily on the third. And how about you? Do you have anything to share on the fourth week?


I was overjoyed to see the sun come out this weekend. Clients gone, dishes washed, beds stripped, and our calendar clear, we had the chance to get out into the countryside for a brisk walkabout. It was chilly, but with blue skies it didn't seem to matter. Even in winter it is very beautiful in the village.

It was quiet in town, not many people were out and about, although we did see Guy with his baguette under his arm, and Patrice leaning out of his window, as he often does.

Bonne Année!
Meilleurs Voeux!
Pour tout l'année!

The guardians of the castle were at home but not at work on the grounds. They stayed inside by the fire in their cozy bungalow.

 Down by the bus stop one can look up and see all the layers of the village. The road spirals around like a snail's shell.

There  are several grand stone houses throughout the village, built during different centuries.

 Some have incorporated parts of the old defensive walls into their facades.

 The winter sun cast its long shadows and we tried to stay within its rays.


I have made my resolutions; the usual ones. I also like to use the impetus of the new year to reorganize. I have devised a new system for storing my plates and prints, making it much easier to find them. I have been working on labeling and packaging my cards and tags and designing a few new objects for the boutique when it reopens in the spring. I have come to love the winter months when days are very free and quiet.


I am happy to have green hills to look out upon again. I do not miss the snow, although Mme Guedet, the baker's wife, says it comes again this week. Goggle disagrees. We'll see who is more reliable.


Quinn turns two at the end of this month. He got a haircut while he was in Belgium visiting his other grandmother. He looks like such a boy now. He used to call himself "baby" but now when he points to himself he says "boy."

"How big is Quinn?" we ask.

"So big!" he replies:


  1. Nancy, encore très bonne année mais je ne suis pas inquiète pour toi !Tu es si active et entreprenante, si inventive et créative en tout, y compris l'art de recevoir et même de te promener ! Il est vrai que les paysages autour de Maison Conti sont superbes, mais encore davantage pour qui sait bien les regarder. Je me suis déjà inscrite en guest sur "to be shouted" !

  2. Happy New Year Nancy! That house with the wall as its facade is gorgeous. The family blog looks like a lot of fun - what a wonderful idea. I would love to join in sometimes, health allowing.