As we get closer to holidays, I was thinking about cool host(ess) gifts. These are great items to stock up on year-round, for those "just in case" multipurpose gift-giving occasions. They don't have to be complicated or costly, just of really great quality.
-- tea towels. You can never have enough kitchen towels. They can be festive, inspirational, humorous, or purely functional - but you can always use more tea towels. Flour-sack style towels are especially great for people who're big drinkers or entertainers, as they don't leave lint on glassware. I also love the intricate patterns and delicate weave of traditional European linens, like those from Garnier-Thiebaut. Their vibrant pops of color are sure to brighten any kitchen or space, and are of amazing quality and durability.
-- candles. Just like tea towels, you can never have "too many" candles. Their light, warmth, and fragrance turn a sterile space into the most romantic room. If you know your host(ess) well, pick a fragrance that you know they'll enjoy or invokes their personality. If you don't, standard wins are always balsam, cinnamon, lavender, and vanilla. One of my favorite candle companies is Nest. Once Laura Slatkin had sold her home wildly successful fragrance line to Bath & Body Works, she started the more luxurious, incredibly special Nest. Better fragrances, less junk ingredients and fillers, and a lot more love, I'm always so impressed with the quality and longevity of their products. For fall, I'm especially loving their "winter fireplace" inspired Hearth, and know it'd make the most wonderful way to show thanks and giving.
Santa Maria Novella's Pomegranate soap, it is
impossible to imagine wanting to use anything else. Triple milled, each
exquisite bar is hand molded one by one using 19th century equipment,
aged for 60 days in ventilated cabinets, and then hand-wrapped. The
all-natural whole milk formula is infused with the classic Florentine
scent of pomegranate oil for a lather that is rich, gentle and softly
moisturizing. And because each soap is hand pressed, all Santa Maria
Novella soaps will last about three times longer than ordinary soaps
while maintaining their shape and scent. Suitable for all skin types.
-- wonderful, seasonal ingredients. If your host(ess) is a foodie, consider a small assortment of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe present them in a sweet basket, or a reusable grocery bag. I'd also recommend a small collection of herbs, seasonings, and spices. If your recipient is a drinker or entertains frequently, a great bottle of wine or small batch bitters makes a lovely gesture of appreciation.
The gifts need not be expensive, either. If you're being hosted by a
family, one of my favorite gifts is a "movie night in a bowl" - take a
large bowl, add a box of microwave popcorn, some sweet treats, and a
family friendly / audience appropriate movie. Wrap in cellophane, tie
with a bow, and voila - instant gift, less than $20, that also
encourages the family to spend time together (often a gift within
-- I love gifts that keep on giving, like a subscription to Kinfolk or Saveur. It's no secret that I love to cook, to eat, to entertain, and to travel.
So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I opened the letterbox
about a year ago and discovered Saveur. My best friend ordered it as a gift, and
I'm still thankful. Both Kinfolk and Saveur are simply beyond. Travel. Food. Drink.
Beautiful photography. Compelling writing. Fabulous recipes.
Come se dice "delicious subscriptions" in Italiano? "Kinfolk" and "Saveur" obviously.
The most important thing to remember is this: your gift should not offend. I try to refrain from bringing wine unannounced. When I'm planning a party, I take great care in selecting the food and drink on offer, making sure everything is in perfect harmony. I'd hate to bring a bottle of my favorite wine as a gift but give the unintended impression that I didn't trust the host(ess)'s ability to properly pair, let alone bring something that wouldn't compliment the other menu items. This is why I also refrain from bringing flowers - the host(ess) probably has decorated accordingly, so I try and avoid this option, unless you know the recipients well or have established past precedence. (Don't get me wrong - sending flowers in the days following the event is always a wonderful gesture of thanks and praise.)
But then I got to thinking about the ultimate gift - that of sharing time and talent. Kinfolk, one of the coolest communities of creative people on the planet, posts a little video section. Here's one of my favorite: a flower potluck!
Next time you're planning a cocktail party or small gathering to sip and snack on all things delicious, consider throwing your own "flower potluck" as well. I'm sure we all have a small collection of vases from previous arrangements. Set out a few vessels, sharp sheers, flower food, and other ribbon / accouterments, then invite your friends to bring some of their favorites - whether from the garden or yard, or their favorite florist or market. You could be specific and assign categories, like greenery, fill, centerpiece, etc., or just keep it open and free.
Once you've had the "flower exchange", continue on savoring the refreshments and company. Everyone gets a personalized take-home gift!
Gifts don't have to be expensive, but they should always come from the heart. Remember, the ultimate gifts to give are that of time, love, and friendship. What's the best host(ess) gift you've ever received?