For the past few weeks, I’ve been grappling with the idea of Christmas presents. I am blessed to have several selfless people in my life, friends and family alike, who would do anything for me. Answer my 2 A.M. phone calls. Dig my car out of a snowbank (in a snowstorm). Let me stay in their guest room for as long as I need when I’m having a difficult time. Watch my terrible dog when I go out of town. This list is endless. Given my shoestring budget, what can I possibly give these wonderful people that would convey just an ounce of my appreciation and gratitude? Somehow, a Starbucks gift card doesn’t seem to cut it.
The idea to mail thoughtful, hand-written letters to each of them came while listening to Oprah’s What I Know for Sure (feel free to roll your eyes). Oprah, the woman with everything, saves letters she’s received along these lines in a box and counts them among her most treasured possessions. I do the same. One of my favorite things is a letter from my grandfather composed on his old typewriter and given alongside a gift for my sixteenth birthday. He died later that year. The gift eludes me, but I keep the letter at arm’s reach.
I doubt my note will have the same effect on my family and friends, but hand-written letters are a rarity these days and receiving mail is exciting (at least, it is to me! though it takes very little to excite me these days). I’ve just ordered pretty cream stationary and another box of my favorite pens. I thought about enclosing a polaroid snapped with the receiver in mind inside the letters, too. We’ll see.
Now I just need to think of gifts for my professors and the two French managers at the little bistro where I work part-time. As heartfelt notes might scare them, I'd love to hear your suggestions :)
(image via instagram)
- Jean-Dominique Bauby,
In the little bit of free time I have on Sunday afternoons, I’ve been cooking. Nothing too fancy, just preparing a few simple meals that I can eat throughout my busy week. Yesterday, however, I was overcome with an intense craving for Salade Niçoise and decided that I needed to make one this upcoming Sunday. Salads typically do not hold well enough to last for the week, but that is OK — I am happy to eat it all in one day.
For the novelty of it, I’ll use Julia Child’s recipe in The Way to Cook (which she named one of her 100 favorite recipes of all time). Lucky for me, an old episode of The French Chef in which she prepares it is available for viewing on YouTube. In this particular episode, she carves out some time to visit a beautiful farmer’s market in Nice (if you love capers like I do, go to 24:00 — you’ll freak out!). Le marché est très charmant, and her bellowing voice speaking french makes me smile. I could honestly watch this for hours.
Pray my salad turns out well. You really can't mess a salad up that much anyway, right? (Famous last words :).
"Near the end of his life, Henri Matisse's preferred attire was evening wear,
by which I mean pajamas."
-Holland Cotter, "Wisps from an Old Man's Dreams",
published in today's NY Times.