It was from Stuttgart, Germany. I was surprised--it was very unexpected. The envelope said, "Open presents first." Presents, plural--wow!!
Here's the backstory. The two cooking classes that I've taken in Italy and France could not be described as "just a class." The chef, Faye Hess http://www.fayefood.com/ is a friend and former neighbor from New York, and she is unconventional and very laid back. Her classes fill quickly, by word of mouth. No brochures, no marketing. The accomodations are off the beaten path, unique and are the 'real deal.'
Chateau des Sablons: Bourgueil, Loire Valley. Nice digs!
I've travelled to both classes as a single, and have been warmly welcomed. Most of the students are groups of friends, some parents and adult 'children' and some couples. I've come away from both classes with new friendships that will last. Ya just know when they will.
Veronika and Katherine
See what lies beyond the gate for yourself at http://www.saumurfrancemanor.com/
|Photo courtesy of owner's website|
Owners Steven Guderian and Bruce Riedner run it as a B&B, as well as call the chateau home. I'll blog about the dinner separately. Their attention to detail, and the decor was out of this world. And dinner was outrageously good. I mentioned the gorgeous lacquered wood tray that held our champagne glasses, and Katherine said that she collects those trays, which are from Florence. I liked it so much, I snapped a pic.
In our travels that week, we popped into many little shops, as well as brocantes (flea markets.) I loved the deep red and natural grain sacks and table linens. I was disappointed when a linen vendor didn't have a queen-sized quilted duvet...which would have looked great in my master bedroom. Oh well, I took some pix for posterity.
What, you ask, did Katherine send?
A lovely Provencal quilted toile pillow sham in deep reds, a tea towel, some German chocolates, an antique lacquer tray and a bird-shaped Christmas ornament. *Gasp* It's all so perfect, and perfectly unexpected!!
The tray matches my living room colors, exactly--red, green, sage, goldish yellow...I never mentioned other colors and Katherine has never seen my home.
I placed the bird ornament up near the top of my little tiny Christmas tree. A baby, stamped in brass, is my 'tree topper.' It's an antique milagro, or "promise" that a parent likely prayed to, for the health of a child. Either my mother found it in Athens in the 70's, or I found it there when I visited the same little shop in 1983. I merged our collections.
Katherine's card read, "I found this tray at a flea market in Stuttgart this morning. I have one similar to it on my dresser--I use it to put jewelry on before putting it away in a jewelry box. The guys in France used a bigger one for serving champagne. You could probably have 2 glasses sit on it. Did you photograph it? I didn't. Originally the trays are from Florence, Italy. The chocolate is divine! Enjoy. And the bird reminds me of you. Free to fly where you want--NC, NY, France, Italy, then come home. Wishing you a beautiful Christmas in your new home."
Katherine's presents are a true gift, especially at Christmastime. She, Veronika and I shared stories about "where we are" in our 40's, what we've done, what we haven't done, where we've been and not been, and what we hope to accomplish. That Katherine really heard me, and picked up on subleties...then acted upon them, shocks me and makes me feel happy. This Christmas, amidst all the racing and running, I'm reflecting upon the kind of a friend I am to others. If we reap what we sow, then aside from a few speedbumps along the way, I'm doing alright.
I have a wonderful circle of friends, and it just got bigger, by two. And the world just got smaller. I have some ideas about what to pack into a box that's Stuttgart-bound.
Life is good. Level and plumb.