the 2013 holiday gift awards

pocket convex mirror reflection: kitchen pantry storage

I was already in cull mode again well before Christmas, taking another bag of mostly clothes to Goodwill on Christmas Eve day. Post-Christmas, I'll be hosting family guests for a few days, so today is all about a little early spring cleaning and reflection to start wrapping up the year.

Though I've always enjoyed the Christmas season—the lights, the songs, the small kindnesses—I dread gift exchanges. Because I'm picky, it's rare to get exactly what I want, unless I stoop to handing out a list, and even then, people often veer from said list. So by this age, I tend to prefer receiving nothing—or else consumable treats such as candles and chocolate. (And who knows how desirable my own gifts are to others, though I enjoy giving them.) Still, sometimes people surprise me. So here are my personal 2013 holiday gift awards—tongue-in-cheek, of course.

 1. Most Enigmatic

mirror compact message: "You have everything you need right here"
This was a surprise gift from a friend-of-a-friend. When I thanked her, saying, "How did you know I needed a pocket mirror?" she asked intently, her blue eyes piercing, if I'd read the message. I'm trying to ignore the specific gift context (which is too complicated and personal to explore here) and focus on the more general meaning: Be content with what you have. That's a hard one. This gift, which I suspect was not purchased but gathered from a corner of her house, also wins for most philosophical and economical.

2. Best White Elephant

secondhand gift: vintage Cuisinart Pro Custom 11 (Model DLC-8S)

Because my friend Jeff, his mom, brother, and sister-in-law have turned secondhand resale into their family business, they all go thrifting regularly and often. And since I've been wanting a real Cuisinart food processor for ages and since Jeff's mom had two extra ones just lying around, waiting for resale, I ended up with the yellow one, which runs perfectly, has all its parts, and only needed a good scrub. (It's disgusting how inadequately many people clean their appliances, dried food gunk left stuck in all corners. Just use a hot, soapy rag right after cooking, sheesh!) Jeff's mom thinks she paid around seven dollars for this one—quite a steal. This gift also ties for most practical with #3.

3. Best Gift to Self

new eyeglasses order receipt

Long delayed and right before Christmas, I finally went to the eye doctor after seven or so years, now that I have vision insurance, ordering myself a new pair of eyeglasses and new contacts. Self-care? Check.

4. Most Decadent

box of chocolates

The winner was actually the Belgian chocolate box my sister sent, but those are already gone (ahem). After eating this box, I'll be going on a diet (of the "eat less, exercise more" kind). The homemade cookies Jeff's mom gave me came in a close second—delicious but fortunately made with shortening, making them easier to decline.

5. Most Masculine

mahogany teakwood scented votive

If candles can even be said to be masculine, this scent wins, smelling like aftershave. Whenever I walk anywhere near the bathroom, I find myself wondering where the strange man is hiding.

6. Best Meal

still life: onions, garlic, and butternut squash

Though my mom's potato salad recipe is the best ever—full of mustard, dill, and vinegar—crowning the Christmas Eve buffet, Jeff's garlic-thyme mashed potatoes at Christmas dinner were delectable, my own wee Brussels sprouts cut from the stalk and oven-caramelized in yet another Le Creuset pan were naturally sweet and endearing, and I was told Jeff's prime rib was melt-in-your-mouth tender (though to me it just looked like dead, bleeding cow). I don't have a photo, so you'll just have to trust me.

Here's hoping you, too, are enjoying a memorable holiday week!


  1. If you ever find the strange man, let me know.

  2. I just hope he's cute and not wielding a knife—unless he's planning on making me dinner. I love men who can cook.

  3. Anonymous17/9/15 07:23

    Hello. I recently acquired the custom 11 food processor, which works amazingly. However, I don't have the manual. I was wondering if you'd be willing to sell me a copy of yours? Thank you. Here is my email fbueno@att.net

    1. Actually, I don't have the Cuisinart Pro Custom 11 DLC-8S product manual, either, because I got the machine secondhand. The manual isn't currently available on the Cuisinart website, but it seems to be available on different product manual websites, if you search for the name and model number, though I can't vouch for those sites since they aren't Cuisinart. Good luck!


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