To the Hostess with the Mostest
With the holiday season coming upon us, it’s inevitable that one will receive several
party invites. The time of year lends itself to celebration through giving. And thus the
conundrum begins. To bring or not to bring a gift for the hostess. What should I bring?
How much money should I be spending on said gift? As with any other gift, keep in
mind your relationship with the recipient. You wouldn’t give your boss the same gift that
you would give your best friend.
Although there is no tried and true rule book of etiquette when it comes to gifting the
hostess with a little something as thanks for the invite into her home, and although in all
honesty, most hosts and hostesses don’t throw parties with the expectation of receiving
gifts, it’s generally become the trend to NOT arrive empty-handed.
The most popular, simple and easiest option for a hostess gift is a good bottle of wine.
It’s a versatile gift and with the abundance of excellent wines that Niagara has to offer, there is no
shortage of variety to choose from. Whether you choose a red, rose, white, or even an ice wine, a
good bottle of wine is always appreciated.
Artisan jams and jellies in decorative little jars are a great choice. With Niagara also known
for its tender fruits, many local shops carry gift packages of these jams and jellies, ready to be
picked off the shelf. Other mainstream hostess gift ideas are: flowers, candies, potted plants, tins of
cookies, decorator candles, guest soaps…the list goes on. And because the holiday season brings
even more reason to throw a party, a hostess will most always welcome an ornament or decoration.
As great as these ideas are, they are…well…a little boring and safe. It’s time to grab the bull by
the horns and think out of the box for hostess gifts with choices that won’t just stand out and be
memorable, but will offer the personal touch of being hand-made.
Embellished cork coasters are a personal,
practical hostess gift, all the while protecting
table tops from guests’ frosty glasses. And
they are easy to make. All you need are cork
coasters, (available at any craft shop), masking
tape, vinyl letters, stencil brush, and craft paint.
Create stripes with masking tape and initials
with vinyl letters. Apply craft paint with the
stencil brush, let dry and remove tape. Tie them
together with a decorative ribbon and give with
a bottle of wine or a bottle of holiday spirit.
Leave the wine behind and show up with
something hot – like home-made hot sauce.
Depending on how much spice your host
likes, you can infuse vinegar with mild long
peppers, spicier Thai peppers, or five-alarm
habaneros. To make the sauce, sterilize halfor
three-quarter-liter glass bottles by using
the sterilize button on the dishwasher or
boiling them for 10 minutes. Wash peppers,
cut a slit in each (you’ll need about 20 per
half-liter bottle), and insert into bottles.
Meanwhile, heat 2 to 3 cups white vinegar,
or rice vinegar for a Thai version, to just
boiling. Funnel into bottles to fill; let cool,
and cork. Refrigerate. For giving, print tags
and attach them with twine.
Trade in your store-bought cashews for these homemade
pecans that carry a kick. Place the finished product in a jar
and attach the recipe for a hostess gift with some zip. The
recipe is simple and easy. All you need is: 4 cups unsalted
pecan halves; 2 tbsp real maple syrup; 4 tsp of coarse salt;
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes; 1 tsp chili powder; 1 tsp
cayenne pepper; 1 tsp chili paste. Preheat oven to 300º F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine
all ingredients and 3 of the 4 tsp of salt. Toss to coat. Spread
nuts in a single layer on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and toss with remaining tsp of salt and let
cool. Serve immediately or store at room temperature in an
air-tight container for up to one week.
A freshly baked pie is always a welcome gift — even
more so when it comes wrapped inside this unusual
but sensible container. A bamboo steamer is the ideal
size to transport a pie to your hostess’s door and can
hold two pies at once. Bamboo steamers are also easy
to find at pretty much any kitchen store. After placing
a lid on the steamer, secure with a piece of twill tape
tied in a bow.
Scented sugar adds a subtle perfume and flavor to coffee, fruit
desserts, and baked goods. Layer granulated sugar with aromatic
edibles like scented geranium leaves, rose petals, orange and lemon
peel (first set out for a day to dry), or vanilla beans. Mix small
batches, and let them sit for a few days in tightly sealed jars while the
scents infuse the sugar. One jar or a trio makes an unusual present
for whomever you think could use a little sweetness.
A Good Morning
A healthy breakfast is often the last thing on your hostess’s mind when she’s
planning a night of entertainment. Line a basket with vintage tea towels and
fill it with everything they need to start the day off right — coffee, tea, milk,
sugar, orange juice, scones, butter, and marmalade.
The above are just a sampling of some wonderful and unique
ideas that any hostess would love to receive. In the end,
though, the idea of getting together is to embrace our time
celebrating, laughing, sharing, living and loving. It’s about
spreading the holiday spirit and both giving and receiving.