Be the Most Valuable Guest: 9 Hostess Gifts That Aren’t Candles!

The holidays are here, and with all the upcoming preparations and activities, some details may be forgotten. Don’t let gifts for your hosts and hostesses be one of them! Planning ahead and buying or making those gifts in advance makes it much more likely that we won’t have to stop at whichever supermarket is in on the way to their house for a last-minute fruit basket, bottle of okay wine, or the ubiquitous candle.

 

It’s the gift of having a gift to give away!

So don’t get me wrong, your host or hostess will certainly appreciate the candle, or bouquet, or fresh bread, if that what you choose to give them. But why not bring something unexpected, that the other guests didn’t already think of, something that won’t get regifted at their work holiday party’s Yankee Swap, something they’ll remember long after the party?

Something So Special

Here’s a list of some hostess gifts that may feel a little more special. Try some of these, or let the list inspire you as you brainstorm gift ideas for the very special hosts and hostesses you’ll visit this holiday season.

1) Something for Breakfast

After a night of entertaining, wouldn’t it be nice to wake up the next morning to a ready-made breakfast? Bring cinnamon rolls from a local bakery,  bake homemade banana bread in a pretty dish they won’t have to return, or prepare a jar of overnight oats with a pretty ribbon around it.

2) Something to Make Cleaning Up More Enjoyable

caldrea kitchen set

We get to see, hear, smell, and taste all the great work our hosts and hostesses put into entertaining: the food, the decorations, the playlists. The work we usually miss is all the cleanup that has to happen after we leave. Whether you’ll be sticking around to wash dishes while your host or hostess dries, or if they’d rather leave the cleanup to be tackled in the morning after a long winter’s nap, a luxe cleanup kit is a great way to thank your host and hostess for all their hard work. Let the scents of  nicer-than-their-everyday cleaner and dish soap become tied to their happy holiday memories.

Start with a set of cleaning products, like this luxurious kitchen set by Caldrea. It includes a dish soap, hand soap, and countertop spray. Give these items in the Gilded Balsam Birch scent to help your hosts and hostesses stay in the holiday spirit while they clean. Throw in a nice cleaning brush like this one from Full Circle, or a kitchen towel set from the Pioneer Woman collection. Put it all together in a pretty basket.

3) Spices

I don’t know about you, but I go through quite a lot of spices this time of year. Preparing all the foods for their holiday party or meal may have put a dent in your host’s and hostess’s spice rack, too. Replenish it with an organic spice kit, to help them save another trip to the grocery store and avoid starting the new year with bland foods. Like the other gifts on this list, a basket and pretty ribbon make these items an extra special gift.

4) Something that will last for years: Amaryllis bulbs

amaryllisgift

The first Christmas gift I gave my now-father-in-law was a set of amaryllis bulbs to be forced indoors. They’ve come back beautifully every year since, and he always talks about what a great gift it was. I love the way amaryllis brighten up our homes for the holidays, and really believe in giving these as hostess gifts. You should be able to find them at local retailers this time of year, but if you want to be prepared there are some very reliable companies I trust for ordering bulbs online: White Flower FarmTulip WorldJackson and Perkins, and Colorblends. This is a gift for a real gardener or flower-lover, since the bulbs of course won’t look flashy when you give them.

5) Something Hot to Drink

Help your hostess end the night with comforting hot drinks. Start with a nice mug, and add hot chocolate and marshmallows, a variety of hot teas, or coffee beans from your local roaster. There are some great hot chocolate gift sets available. Harney and Sons teas in their attractive tin containers make a great choice.  Hot Cinnamon Sunset is one of my favorite blends, especially in the winter.They also offer some flavor variety selections. You could even go all out and give them a cast iron teapot or French press.

foxmug

6) Something Grown-Up to Drink

Instead of another bottle of wine, how about a specialty cocktail book? To your well-read hostess, give Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With a Literary Twist.  Make it retro with Vintage Cocktails or Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans. There’s even a book of cocktails based on different fandoms called The Geeky Chef Drinks: Unofficial Cocktail Recipes from Game of Thrones, Legend of Zelda, Star Trek, and More. These can add some fun to everyone’s night, and give your hosts and hostesses more cocktails to try for many parties to come.

tequila mockingbird

 

7) Aprons

An apron is an especially good hostess gift if you know your hostess will be baking Christmas goodies in the coming weeks. This is another gift to be used year after year. I love these by Neoviva, which can be purchased individually or in Mommy and Me sets. Think of all the happy memories of teaching little ones in the kitchen she can make as they wear these gifts from you!

mommy and me aprons

 

8) Something Fragrant

incense set

If you still want to avoid the candle, but home fragrance is your favorite way to thank your hostess, why not give incense? A set of incense sticks, like this beautiful one by Karma Scents that includes a burner in each box, should last longer than a candle and won’t be so expected.

9) Something Homemade

Taking the time to make something that will be useful to your host or hostess shows that you really gave your gift some thought and appreciate their hospitality. Something that is not too hard to make, can really come in use this time of year, and feels special is homemade crème fraiche. I started making my own last year, and it is so nice to have for recipes or even just to replace sour cream as a condiment. I prefer it to sour cream. It has a more mild, pleasant taste. All it takes is heavy cream and buttermilk. Here are some good directions at Food and Style. Just remember to make 12 to 24 hours ahead so that it has time to get nice and thick, and put a pretty bow with a small Christmas ornament on it before you hand it to your hostess!

I hope you’ll enjoy spending time with friends and family this season in their homes and yours. Give any of these gifts and I think they’ll be sure to invite you back next year!

(Many of the links in this post are to Amazon listings for the items I recommend. As an associate, I earn from qualified purchases.)

Bitsy’s Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Party, Part III (Decorations and Takeaways)

If you keep hanging out here, you’ll see how much I love to reuse and repurpose. One of the best decorations for Bitsy’s first birthday party was made from a shipping box. I used the great big one in which the play balls for the ball pit and toy fruit for the feed-the-caterpillar tossing game were shipped to make a big # 1 covered in pictures from Bitsy’s first year.

1 birthday

The only materials needed were the box, scissors, strong scrapbook glue (I really like Elmer’s Craftbond Scrapbook glue set, which I already had for baby scrapbooking), construction paper, and photo prints. Once you’ve completely unfolded the box, it’s easy to see how the flaps make a 1. Leave the bottom flaps and top left flap in place. Cut off the other side flaps. This decoration works for a first birthday party, no matter what theme you choose. I tied it in with The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme by making grass for the bottom out of green construction paper, and making some of the colorful construction paper circles into caterpillars, as you can see in the above image. This made a great entrance display beside the front door, along with a few balloons for the porch and some other purchased decorations. Most of what I bought came from Oriental Trading Company’s adorable The Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday collection, Michael’s, and nearby dollar stores.

flower pinwheels

These flower pinwheels were a lucky Dollar Tree find. They worked so well with the party theme and colors. I put three on each side of our front path. One of the kids liked them so much I let him take one home.

The “Best Day Ever!” banner at the dessert table and the cutouts on the food table, as well as some paper cake plates, napkins, a bib for the birthday girl’s smash cake and other cutouts at the entrance and around the house came from Oriental Trading Company. I was really happy with the quality, and they shipped much more quickly than expected.

cake bib

Decorating, setting up activities, and picking up the cake from the bakery were the priorities on the morning of the party. Some of the food had been prepared the night before, and it’s okay to keep putting out food as guests are arriving. One thing I just couldn’t get done before I ran out of time was decorating Bitsy’s high chair the way I’d planned. I ended up just tying a few balloons to the chair. Really, that was all it needed. The spectacle of a baby eating her first birthday cake is cute enough without a lot of adornment.

My biggest takeaway to share with you is not to get too overwhelmed with the details. Do you think the party was any less enjoyable because I didn’t put butterfly wings or a caterpillar spelling out “one” on the birthday girl’s highchair? No! As long as you have some food, drinks, activities, and a cheerful atmosphere, everything will be fine. What really matters is celebrating the birthday of one you love and spending time with your guests, making sure they feel welcome and comfortable.

After the party, I kept a few of the decorations for memory’s sake–my husband wanted the photo collage “1” for his home office, and a few smaller items can be scrapbooked. Others I donated to my local public library. The staff were thrilled to have them. I can tell you from my own experience as a library paraprofessional and current Masters of Library and Information Science student that your library probably won’t be able to use your old books, but donations of materials for storytimes and arts & crafts will be very useful to the library’s children’s department. Just check with the staff before bringing in craft materials. Some libraries restrict certain materials, like glitter. If you give a Very Hungry Caterpillar party, or any other children’s book-themed party, please support your public library by donating decorations and craft materials rather than throwing them in the trash!

Throwing the party took some planning and a bit of hectic running around to finish things up in the hours before party time, but it was well worth it. It brought so much joy to my family and me, and we’ll always have happy memories of the day. Joy is best shared, and it was so important to me to share with others in our joyful celebration of this most precious year!