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.