"I mean, what is an un-birthday present?"
"A present given when it isn't your birthday, of course."
Alice considered a little.  "I like birthday presents best," she said at last.
You don't know what you're talking about!" cried Humpty Dumpty.  "How many days are there in a year?"
"Three hundred and sixty-five," said Alice.
"And how many birthdays have you?"
-- Lewis Carroll

My birthday was last week. I made an ice cream cake (above), received cards, phone calls, emails + messages from near and far, a hug from one son, a hastily scrawled card from the other, and the most horrible bouquet of flowers from my husband. I adore flowers, but apparently the aroma of Stargazer lilies makes me nauseated (and in an odd twist, my sons felt sentimental about the flowers and became upset when I suggested that the best way to deal with the offending smell would be to send the flowers on a quick trip to the compost; so the flowers hung around the house, making me ill for several days).

On the heels of what shall heretofore and forever be known as "the horrible birthday bouquet," a magical parcel arrived on my doorstep from my dear friend Christine in France.

The first thing this parcel-of-marvels revealed was a birthday card; you can see the P.S. which Christine wrote at the bottom of the card. After reading this, I went through each item in the parcel, mystified.

After the card, next out of the box was not one but two(!) chocolate bars.  And no door to open.  Then, a pretty little paper packet of acorn caps came out of the box -- each variety of oak tree, across the world over, bears different shape acorns + caps, and I love receiving them. But there was no door here either.  I dug deeper into the box: a fancifully embroidered bag containing two ceramic feves for inserting into a galette des rois(!), plus two paper crowns (for setting atop a galette des rois)!  But no door.  And then...

The final little paper packet revealed... a door! Christine and I laugh when sharing peculiar vocabulary, and so, describing the little house as "biscornu," she asked what the translation might be. The best words I could come up with were lopsided, tumbledown, ramshackle, or simply crooked, which brings to my mind the traditional nursery rhyme, "There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile, He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked style; He bought a crooked cat which caught crooked mouse, And they all lived together in a little crooked house." Can you imagine a little crooked cat (and mouse) peering out of that tiny window beneath the roof-peak?

And then I did finally open the door to find a tiny bird, chirping a happy birthday message...

Detail upon detail... when I turned the bookmark over, there was a tiny apple tree.  The little crooked man, the little crooked cat, the little crooked mouse and the birthday bird, must surely feast well on tiny apple tarts, baked in a little crooked oven, of course.

And can you tell that Christine is part fairy?  Her stitches are so small, surely only a fairy could have sewn them. And surely only a fairy could have imagined such a bookmark...

Thank you, Christine, for this beautiful gift -- a perfect companion for my literary wanderings... xo


  1. The bookmark is charming. Thanks for sharing. Happy birthday! (Mine is next week, and promises to be stunningly uneventful as well. Dad's down with a broken hip. Hubby will be on a business trip. I may as well make my own plan and start thinking ahead. Perhaps a tub of Trader Joe's chocolate pudding, and a good independent film rental.)

    1. Thank you Heather! I have emailed you re: the dubious benefits of drowning one’s birthday sorrows in tubs of Trader Joe’s chocolate pudding. Perhaps we can brainstorm and come up with a better activity (ie I hereby volunteer myself to personally provide cake, balloons, flowers, and whatever else might be necessary).

  2. Can we purchase these somewhere? Would be a wonderful present for my children.

    1. Hi Lea — I’m unclear about what you’d like to purchase. Please clarify and perhaps I can answer your question!
      Best wishes,


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