In 2015, the New York Times added a column to its Sunday magazine called “Letter of Recommendation.” Each week, a writer makes their case for a place, person, object or experience they want to share with readers. The subject matter is extremely diverse—Uni-ball Signo UM-151 pens from Japan, arroyos, William Blake’s grave, attending movies alone—but always thought-provoking.
It made me wonder: What would I recommend if given the chance?
The options are myriad: fluffernutter sandwiches, the New York City subway system, scuba diving, but one experience is a standout, and that’s reading to a child. As the aunt of fourteen, I could make a case that I’ve read “Is Your Mama a Llama” more than some parents. When the kids were little, nothing made me happier than curling up on the sofa with a good book and a snuggly, curious audience. I loved watching their eyes widen with excitement at the turn of the page and their delight that things always turned out exactly as expected. Reading was a wonderful excuse to take a breather and share a few quiet minutes together. I highly recommend it.
What about you, Reds? What would be in your Letter of Recommendation?
RHYS BOWEN: What would I recommend more than anything for a healthy, happy life? Time with family and friends, sitting around a dinner table and laughing. Time in nature, wandering along the edge of the ocean, sandals in my hand, letting the waves wash over my toes and just letting my mind wander. And Ben and Jerry's Heath bar Crunch ice cream.
HALLIE EPHRON: Go for an early morning bird walk with birders. There's a whole world most of us miss. Here near Boston, the prime spot is Mt. Auburn Cemetery, prime time spring (now!).
And if you get seduced by the birds, put on your bucket list a trip to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, south of Albuquerque. Join other birders driving down before the summer sun rises and stand with them at the water's edge and wait. And wait. And as the sun starts to lighten the sky, the birds start to stir. Thousands of snow geese and sand hill cranes wake and start to rustle their wings. And then, as if a conductor has tapped his baton, the snow geese rise into the air. All of them. At once. Darkening the sky. They soar low, back and forth right over your head before heading off to the fields where they spend their day grazing before returning. It's breathtaking. Stay a little longer and watch the majestic sand hill cranes take flight in twos and fours. Stop on the way back to Albuquerque at the Owl Bar & Grill and treat yourself to a green chili cheeseburger.
Oh, and don't miss sunset at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. No birds, but oh, the shadows.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm going to go for a very small thing. It is glorious spring in Texas, and I have a flowerbed full of fresh mint. So on nice afternoons, I've been making a cup of fresh mint tea with a teaspoon of local honey, then sitting on my deck while I sip it. And just thinking. That quiet half hour makes the world seem a little more manageable.
LUCY BURDETTE: Wow, this is hard because it could be so many things! I'm going to say bike with your sister and the husbands through Provence near Coustellet until you reach a cute little town. There, order an éclair (vanilla custard filling with mocha icing) from the local patisserie. You will deserve every bite! http://www.provence-cycling-holidays.com/how_tours_work.html
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I always look at the sky. Day and night. Jonathan will say--what are you looking at? And I say--just checking in. But a transporting experience? when we go to Nevis, we sit on the perfectly white beach, perfectly empty. I mean, not another person in sight, white sand, blue water. Then: the pelicans come. They fly parallel to the shore, skimming, looking down, watching for a fish. Then: Boom. They dive bomb, straight and fast and unerring and blam, into the water. Boom. They two seconds later, they're up with their fish. They gulp it down and twitch their little tail feathers in delight. We watch them for hours. They never miss. And: Pina coladas. Old-school, and foofy, but man. Delish.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm going to step away from beautiful and life-fulfilling experiences and recommend the two most practical purchases I know: an AAA membership and a subscription to Consumer Reports magazine. I can think of a few people who wouldn't benefit from Triple A - city dwellers who rarely drive, car owners with emergency roadside assistance on their insurance or from their dealer, or a driver whose father/brother/boyfriend owns a towing company. For the rest of us, being able to dial that number and know that someone competent will show up to charge the battery, tow the break-down, bring the gas or fix the tire is worth far more than the annual fee. Hint: a membership makes a great graduation gift.
Consumer Reports is a boring magazine that has invaluable information on anything and everything you might ever have to pay money for, and a few things you won't. Just in the past few months, I've used its well-organized online search function to research oven ranges, house paint, used cars, and vitamins. CR has been around since 1936 and continues as a nonprofit and ad-free. They go to what seems like ridiculous extremes to test consumer goods, and when they say a product is a 'Best Buy' or 'Top Rated,' you can rely on it.