Holiday Gift: For her or you?

by cv harquail on December 13, 2011

I ran into one of my friends while shopping at Williams-Sonoma this afternoon. I was supposed to be getting a Christmas gift for my BIL, but instead my arms were loaded with stuff to upgrade my own kitchen. What can I say? I really needed some pinecone place card holders… But I digress.

My friend was buying a fancy cookie press. Was she planning a cookie exchange, or a big Channukuh party?

Nope. She was getting the cookie press for her au pair.

Her German au pair has been baking up a storm, getting into the Christmas spirit, and pushing my friend’s pantry to the limit. The au pair mentioned, ever so casually, that a decent cookie 0press could make all the difference between yummy cookies and ‘yummy & beautiful’ cookies.

“Do you think she’ll like the gift,” I asked?

“Well, I’m not exactly sure it counts as a gift,” L. replied. “I admit it, I want her to be happy. And if baking cookies makes her happy, doesn’t it end up being a gift for me?”

Image: These pretty cookies were made by Sara at CaffeIna. Check out her blog, which is all about baking with kids (not as ingredients. As co-bakers.)


Taking a Computer Lunch December 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm

We have tried, over the years, to differentiate between what is a gift for the AP, and what is the gift for the house (because the AP needs it or wants it but is unlikely to take it home with her).

– a heater in a basement bedroom is a gift for the house, because it will be used by a succession of au pairs

– to me a cookie press is a gift for the house (but said with a warm thank you to the AP for baking cookies with the kids and expressing a desire for it)

– new flannel sheets for the bed because you couldn’t buy them in the heat of summer when she arrives is a gift for the house (I bought these for your bedroom, I know you need nice warm sheets and so will the next au pair).

In my opinion, gifts for the house are not wrapped, but handed over with warmth and generosity, so the au pair knows you were thinking of her when you bought them (because you bought the flannel sheets with horses because you know she likes to ride).

Gifts for the au pair are wrapped (unless it’s spontaneous – like the time I purchased my AP a large tin of cashews and a phone card because she had removed my child’s hamster from a glue trap and gave him a peanut butter massage to get the glue off his feet and fur — and she hated the smell of peanut butter!) – a warm pair of slippers because you noticed she didn’t have room in her suitcase for them, a nice pair of lined gloves to keep her hands warm while she schleps your kids in the car on winter mornings, silk long johns so she’ll play outside with the kids on snow days, a gift certificate to her favorite store, or a photograph of your kids in a nice frame.

Gifts for her are things for which she’ll spend extra money at the airport to take them home at the end of her year.

angie host mom December 14, 2011 at 12:25 am

I had to laugh at the cookie press gift. I gave my au pair a rolling pin as part of her going away gift. She was getting married and we had joked for the last six months about how in her country the wives hit the husbands on the head with a rolling pin if they get out of line.

If it stays with the house, it’s a gift for the house. If it goes with the au pair (and you believe it is something they will actually want to take with them through customs and in that overfull return bag) then it is a gift for the au pair. A cookie press could count – depends on the au pair.

At least major points for knowing what your au pair likes.

laetitia PH, December 14, 2011 at 1:00 am


laetitia host mum December 14, 2011 at 1:09 am

We are hosting our 2nd aupair, and to me, my aupair deserves to have her own present for christmas, the one she will take with her to her country, and so, I wanted something special from our family that she will remember for the years to come.
I am making a scrapbook of all the moments she has spent with our children/the family over the year.
My point was that we all take pictures but they often stay in our computer…
Pictures are great memories. But they need to be seen!
So here I am, with my kids and my pictures, trying to make something original for her.
We will be making crafts and hand paintings over the next few days that will be added to the book.
I am hoping to see a big smile in her face next sunday ;-)

Calif Mom December 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I would love to have time for scrapbooking photos — I’m lucky if I remember to pull them all and burn a CD.

I am doing the remembrance ornament this year though. Such a very sweet, accomplishable idea– Thanks CV!

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