Thank-you gift for family moving to France?
August 11, 2014 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to think of a gift for a family that has generously offered my spouse and me the use of their house while they are abroad for the coming school year.

This the house of my husband's work colleague. We'll be covering all utilities for the year but we're not paying them rent, at their kind insistence. We'll be living in their house a couple nights each week (we also have our own place, where the bulk of our stuff will be, but it's less conveniently located). The family consists of a college professor, a mobile self-employed businessperson, and their 6-year-old kid. They'll be living in France for the coming year for the professor to do professorly research at some libraries. I'd like to get them something special to express our thanks to present to them before they leave, when they meet with us to hand over the keys, but what?

*It should be useful to them-- so far I've only thought of impersonal travel-related tokens (nice new luggage tags?) but something especially well-suited to their situation would be even better.

*Ideally it would be compact/unobtrusive enough to be taken along. So a bottle of wine is out. Or it could be something for their house, but then they wouldn't be able to enjoy it right away, and besides, that's probably better saved for the time when we vacate the house and they return. Or I suppose it could be a service-- we'll mail you anything! we'll drive you to the airport!-- but that should be in addition to something tangible, right?

*The family's living logistics are mostly already taken care of-- they've lived in France before and already have an apartment, school arrangements for the kid, presumably a daily work routine, etc. I don't know them well enough to know their particular needs and tastes.

*I have access to shops in the northeastern US and in Germany.

*I'm happy to spend a substantial amount of money, but I don't want to embarrass them.

Ideas? Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by ms.codex to Grab Bag (5 answers total)
I think you should save it for when they get back. You are also doing them a favor; taking care of their house while they are gone. But they don't need anything more to lug on the plane! So when they get back, perhaps cook them a lovely meal. Or have their house professionally cleaned, or replant some things in their garden (or leave some lovely bright houseplants, if they would like that). Do something for them that they would normally dread on return, like cleaning out their gutters or the ashpit, or any other kind of house/yard drudgery. If I was coming home from France after a year, that's what would make me happy!

You could also commit to sending them little letters/pictures "from the house" throughout the year: here is the spring! Here are the leaves turning! here is the first snow! things like that that might help any homesickness.
posted by emjaybee at 4:42 PM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would keep a blog of their house, with pictures.

Take photos of their garden in the different seasons. Tell stories of what's going on in the neighborhood.

This will let them stay connected to their home and neighbors.

Keep the house in tip-top shape, doing all the nasty chores homeowners dread. That's the best thank you I can think of!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:49 PM on August 11, 2014

Contact the landlord of their apartment and have it stocked with toilet paper, basic groceries and a bottle of champagne or restock their house when they return.
posted by 26.2 at 7:23 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe have the front door repainted ( in the original color they chose ) or some other chore to brighten the place up for their return. Agree with above about keeping it in tip, top shape.... Little things make a big difference....
posted by pearlybob at 8:14 PM on August 11, 2014

What about a terrific gift certificate somewhere in France where they'll be? Something fancier than usual?
posted by EtTuHealy at 8:18 PM on August 11, 2014

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