If you haven’t already been invited, no doubt your social calendar is about to explode with holiday invites – from open houses and kitchen parties to office potlucks and family gatherings. Heed my warning and stock up on hostess gifts now so you can easily grab one and go. Now you might be wondering – what are the rules for hostess gifts again? Let me give you a quick recap of my golden rules:
– When in doubt, bring a bottle of wine. When wanting to be awesome, bring an actual hostess gift that calls to mind your gracious host’s personal interests.
– With that rule in mind, you’ll typically want to spend about as much on a hostess gift as you would on a good bottle of wine – between $10 and $30 dollars. that’s not a hard and fast budget – the occasion may call for more or less to be spent – but it’s a good guideline at least.
– Fresh cut flowers are no good. Anything that takes the host away from his / her duties (i.e. trimming stems) is a cumbersome gift choice. The one exception? Already-planted holiday poinsettias – even if someone already has one, they’re a festive addition to anyone’s decor.
– On that note, seasonal gifts are okay…in moderation. Not sure that someone’s going to dig your quirky snowman ornament? Skip it and go for something a little more generic but still festive – like a peppermint-scented bar of soap or a jar of gourmand hot chocolate.
– Just as wine is meant to be enjoyed at the occasion you’re attending, consider hostess gifts that will work well with either the actual or future events.
– Hostess gifts also work mighty fine as houseguest gifts. Whether you’re staying at a friend’s chalet for a weekend ski trip or crashing with your in-laws over the holidays, these are all apt choices. The longer the stay, the higher the value your gift should be.
Alrighty! Now without further ado, here are my favourite finds for holiday hostess gifts this year!
Ninutik Squeeze 250 – $21
A lovely choice in advance of a yummy Christmas morning brunch. Ninutik is a pretty fascinating Canadian company that actually marries a signature Canadian product – maple syrup – with a serious dedication to art and design in all of their yummy, sugary products. The one featured here is a refillable squeeze bottle that makes it easy for the budding chef (or star hostess) to gently drizzle the brand’s signature syrup like an artful culinary connoisseur on whatever dish they’re serving up…or they can go all out and drench their pancakes and desserts. This fun gift set isn’t simply a bottle and syrup though – you’ll also get a 100g bag of pure maple sugar, perfect as a natural sweetener for your favourite winter warm-up beverage.
Go Plates – $19.37 for 10 @ Kegworks
If you’ve done the awkward dance of a drink in one hand and appies in the other all while trying to socialize and not spill sauce or soda on your holiday finery, then you’ll greatly appreciate these reusable snack plates. Simply fit them around your cup, can, bottle, or glass and load them up with goodies from the holiday buffet (or Superbowl party or birthday bash) so you can easily saunter around the party with food firmly in hand. When you want to take a drink, just set the plate down for a moment and have a sip. A great choice for a big holiday open house or reception.
The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents: Christmas in Tinseltown by Frank De Caro – $13.65 @ Indigo (online)
Author De Caro’s first Dead Celebrity Cookbook was a fun celebration of a more decadent time of sitting around the dinner table at 6 PM on the nose. The recipes in this book, as in the first volume, are an homage to classic culinary experiences coupled with real-life anecdotes and viewing guides for the deceased celebrities that (in their lives) contributed these recipes to the greater public. Of course this time around, there’s a definite holiday theme – each of the stars featured here has either been in a holiday film or has a fun story of holiday hijinks attributed to their public history, and of course, the recipes themselves are appropriate for serving up at your holiday feast. Combining old school Hollywood with party-tastic dining? An awesome gift for your retro-loving friends.
Transform your holiday cocktails into a festive winter wonderland with these Canadian birch tree paper straws. Let me clarify something since paper straws are SO chi chi right now – your drink won’t disintegrate your straw when you have a sip. They’re coated in a non-toxic wax, which also makes them biodegradable and way more eco-friendly (and prettier) than your regular old plastic straws. Bring a set for the kid’s table, or to sip on some hot cider.
Flour Sack Towels – $30 for 3 @ House Industries
I really feel like you can never have enough tea towels, especially when they’re as cute as these flour sack ones from design collective House Industries. They come in three colour palettes – orange, grey and black – with three unique designs per colour using typography, symbols, and abstract patterns. It’s a funky hostess gift idea that will go over equally well with your daughter and your best friend. Stock up and split up the sets (or mix and match) or gift and entire collection as a sweet houseguest present to your mom.
Color Drip Candles – $7.95 @ Nasty Gal
A pair of tapered candles is always a welcome addition to the dinner table – particularly if you were the one to spring for a set of candlesticks as a wedding or housewarming gift in the past. These ones are particularly cool as they drip down in an array of colours for a psychedelic effect (an effect made complete with the retro box). Don’t want to wreck candleholders? Stuff ‘em in a couple of wine bottles from the party.
Fair Trade Mahogany Animal Napkin Rings – $34.99 @ Future Shop
There are a few times I’m willing to make an exception when it comes to budgets – one of them is when a great gift idea is actually fair trade, meaning the Kenyan artisans that crafted it were paid a reasonable wage. Each set of these whimsical napkin rings features six safari animals, and is made from real mahogany wood carved from only the most rudimentary tools. Because they’re made by hand, no two are exactly alike, making this a one-of-a-kind pick for your very best hostess friend.
Holiday Crackers with Tea – $14.50 @ DAVIDsTEA
The ultimate hostess gift is to take care of a holiday tradition: snapping crackers before your meal. These six retro-themed crackers from DAVIDsTEA don’t contain a mere plastic toy from China however. Instead, you’ll unwrap a sample bag of gourmand looseleaf tea, plus the requisite paper crown and a tea-themed joke. Cute, practical, and a totally fresh spin on a holiday classic – love it!
President’s Choice Holiday Treats – $2.99 – $7.99 @ Loblaws
Here’s what happens to me every season when I walk into my local Superstore and discover there’s a new Insider’s Guide. I literally stop in the produce section, probably to the annoyance of everyone around me, take in every single page, and ultimately spend the rest of my shopping trip hunting down the top of my must-try list. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, when in doubt – bring wine as a hostess gift. The second option? Bring dessert. You can never have enough nibbles, especially as the evening wares on, and all three of these offerings are a fun change of pace from homemade holiday baking, and just sumptuous enough to have a bite or two and be satisfied. The Salted Toffee Cheesecake Lollipops are a fun finger food the hostess can break out with the cheese course and wine, while the Mini Chocolate Cupcakes – which only look like tiny cakes, but are actually premium Belgian chocolate – will bring out the inner kid in everyone. And the Banana Creme Dulce De Leche cookies? Absolutely melt-in-your-mouth divine, with a semi-tropical taste that’ll transport you from a winter wonderland with a single bite.
Saipua Winter Citrus & Balsam Fir Soaps – $13 each @ Room6
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a Christmas-themed gift doesn’t have to be an ornament or Santa-shaped marshmallow. It can be as simple as a nod to the season in the form of a beautiful handmade soap, with fresh outdoorsy scents that call to mind Christmas trees and citrus cider. Incidentally there’s also a light and bright ‘Sea Salt’ scent – and even more notably, I also love these beauties as fun luxury stocking stuffer picks.
Moustache Markers – $6 @ Up To You Toronto
Be a hero and help everyone keep their drinks straight with these quirky moustache drink markers. Pick your silicon ‘stache of choice, adhere it to your glass or bottle, and ensure everyone’s paws are own their own beverages only. Bonus points for the fact you’ve got some virtual facial hair whenever you take a sip! A cheap and cheerful solution if you’re attending a coworker’s open house, or if a younger member of your family is hosting Christmas dinner.
Maxwell & Williams Slice and Dice Cheese Knife Block Set – $24.95 @ Linen Chest
If the gracious hosts are the type of folks to introduce you to a new brand of spiced nuts or a delicious butter cheese you’ve never tried before, indulge their foodie find tendencies with this cute and quirky cheese chop set. With four utensils designed to handle the crumbliest, creamiest, and toughest fromages alike, this is exactly the type of hostess gift you can expect to see on the table the next time you’re invited over (and you will be).
Chat Pack – $14.99 @ Cindy’s
Holiday parties can be a total blast, but they can also be a tad on the awkward side if you’re mixing and mingling with new folks. Help the hostess spark conversation with these handy question cards. Whether surreptitiously studied and unrolled during a dinnertime lull or hauled out as a straight up party game, this is a great way to get to know people without stepping on hot button issues like politics or religion. They’re also questions you’ve probably never thought of before – like, if you could fly a hot air balloon over any city, which one would it be?
Provencal Stoneware Cookie Jar – $19.95 @ Even & Odd (via Shopcaster)
Everyone loves to share and indulge in holiday baking – in fact many Christmas dinners and parties actually have some sort of ‘cookie exchange’ component to them. Shake things up a little by bringing your goodies in a beautiful stoneware jar for the hostess to keep. The classic French-inspired styling will make it a standout piece in any kitchen.
Make My Day Claude Cookbook / Tablet Companion – $39.99 @ Sears
Admittedly this charming gift idea is a touch outside of my typical hostess budget scope, but as I noted earlier, a hostess gift also typically pulls double-duty as a houseguest gift (at least in terms of ideas), making it okay to spend a little more if say, you’re crashing with the in-laws for a week over the holidays. Or if you want to use a hostess gift-giving occasion as a chance to pull double duty by spending a little more to cover the holidays and the event you’ve been invited to, by all means, do it. On that note, may I suggest this way-cute cookbook / tablet companion? Available in cheery red and classic white, this jubilant pseudo-sculpture is also ready to lend you a hand (or foot, as it were) by holding open your cookbook to your selected recipe, or by holding up your tablet when you watch that demonstration on how to properly julienne a carrot. Charming and genius – can’t beat that.
Okay then my hostesses with the mostest. I’ve got a grand prize package to give away including a Make My Day Claude Cookbook / Tablet Companion, and a recipe book to prop open come Christmas dinner: The Dead Celebrity Christmas in Tinseltown Cookbook. And if you don’t win that, I’ve got four additional copies of the book you could win! Here’s how to enter:
1) Leave a comment by December 31st (the ULTIMATE hostess gift night) with your favourite gift idea from this list.
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around January 1st to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry: Check out all new, non-contest posts over the contest period. You’ll see an opportunity to earn a bonus entry in each one.