|Holiday apératif with AFEV|
|My friend Bahet and I unknowingly chose each other's white|
elephant gifts. I received tea and she received tea cookies.
Great minds think alike?
I also attended a holiday potluck hosted by Espace Créa-Harmonie (the yoga studio I attend in Perpignan). Despite having had the stomach flu and not being able to stuff my face as much as I would have liked with all the gourmet food, I had a truly beautiful evening. I'm having trouble finding the right word to describe the wonderful feeling I was experiencing in that moment...but I think it was...JOY. And I can't really pinpoint why I felt that way. Was it the scent of creme brulée and chocolate lava cake wafting in the air? Was it the gorgeous alter? The live music? Certainly, it was a combination of everything. But without a doubt, the biggest factor was being in the company of so many kind, compassionate, mindful, and joyful (joyeux) individuals. We laughed, we sang, we danced, we ohmed...we lost track of time. It was after 1 am when we started to clean up. I had no desire to leave. When I got home, I felt high on life. I didn't want to get off the joy ride.
Holiday party at Espace Créa-Harmonie
Luckily, I didn't have to. The following day, I went with my friends Marine & Camille to a farm just outside of Perpignan. The official purpose of the journey was to do mounted archery (shooting bow & arrow on horseback), although Marine was the only one who actually tried it in the end. Most of the time we were there, we simply walked through the fields. We skipped, sang disney songs, climbed trees, and simply delighted in the beauty of the countryside.
I felt like a child. The moment was so simple and yet I felt so much joy! I felt grateful to have a healthy body, a beautiful planet, and good friends. It was a good reminder that to be happy, we don't necessarily need everything we think we do.
On Sunday morning, Michael and I woke up early to head to the mountains for a day of snowshoeing. My friend Paola (who I had met a week prior at the Créa-Harmonie holiday party) organized the entire outing. For 1€, we took a bus that got us to the ski resort in two hours. Having only slept 4 hours the night before, Michael & I crashed during the ride.
Once we arrived, we had a slow start. Coffee & croissants to wake us up. Getting to the trail. Putting on our gear. Stripping off our layers because when the sun came out, it must have been 60 degrees.
After a super weekend with Michael, he returned to Montpellier and I went to Amel's house to celebrate Christmas Eve. Amel lives in a smaller town just outside of Perpignan. They have a huge garden where they grow their own fruits & vegetables. Their back yard is made up of miles of open fields, and a large body of water, which is the home of some pink flamingos. Anyway, Amel was kind enough to invite me to join her family for Christmas Eve dinner and to spend the night after. To say Amel is a gourmet cook is far from an exaggeration. After appetizers in the living room, we moved on to a 5 course dinner with wine pairings, which was truly unforgetable.
1/ Seared scallops
2/ Foie gras with onion & fig confit
3/ Kangaroo meat, bacon-wrapped green beans, winter vegetable medley & potatoes au gratin
4/ Rasberry mousse Bûche de Noël, homemade rasberry sorbet & "opera" pastry
5/ Dried fruits, clementines & christmas Cookies
As I walked hand in hand with the kids, the feeling of joy overtook me once again. It was Christmas. A holiday that I have never really celebrated nor one that I have ever really understood. Well I think for the first time I really get what it's about. For secular people it's not about Jesus. It's not about the gifts, nor is it really about the food. In my opinion, it's about Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy is not something you have. It's not something you get. It's something you create. You create it by laughing, by singing, by connecting with your inner child. By finding beauty in the simplest things. By taking the time to be fully present. However, the most effective way to create joy is through generosity. When you do something for someone else - whether it be as simple as smiling at them, listening to them, teaching them something, writing a note - you warm their heart, and you also warm your own.
So in case you haven't had enough joy this holiday season, I'm going to give you an opportunity to create some more.
As some of you may know, I am the co-founder of a non-profit organization called Supplies for Dreams.
We founded this organization upon the belief that quality education is the foundation for a strong, healthy and prosperous society. In my home city of Chicago, many of the children come from families that struggle to put food on the table, much less provide school supplies or healthy learning environments for their children. Some are homeless, others come from broken families, or have lost friends or family members to gun violence. They face challenges that many of us cannot even imagine – and they deserve better.
Supplies for Dreams is fighting to create equal opportunities for students in Chicago by providing school supplies, mentorship and extracurricular activities. I'd like to ask you to consider making a donation this holiday season - even $5 makes a significant difference, not to mention all the joy you'll experience knowing that you've helped a child in need! Thank you in advance for anything you can afford to contribute! (And I promise, this is the only time I will ever advertise on my blog - thanks for reading!)
Well I'm off to Rome to celebrate the New Year! I'll give you an update when I get back! Happy holidays!
Peace. Love. Joy.