the easiest holiday hostess gifts

Sunday, December 3, 2017
One of my favorite go-to hostess gifts - a Nest candle with a pretty bow atop it

If there's one thing that is certain, it's that each December, our calendar becomes a beautiful mess of family commitments, gatherings with friends, cozy meals with neighbors, and squeezed in between, time to kick back and appreciate our own decked halls, aglow in late-night candlelight.

Yet sometimes, when the rush of the season feels overwhelming, these celebrations begin to feel more like obligations ... I can't count the number of times that either me or my husband has had to convince the other not to simply give up and nap on the couch instead. It's normal, I tell myself, for a homebody like me to sometimes require a pep talk before a seemingly fun night out.

The good news is, I never regret swiping on some lip gloss and getting myself out the door once I've done so. And every day, I'm truly grateful that we have friends and family that are able to carve out time to connect and clink glasses during the busiest time of the year.

To make life easier on those hectic holiday weekends, I've started stashing some of my favorite hostess gifts into a "gift box" (essentially, a giant storage container in the closet) so that they're ready to grab-and-go when needed. 

Here, a few of my favorites:

  • A good candle. Candles can sometimes fall into the bucket of thoughtless gifting, but when they're a quality make - like my personal favorites, Nest or Capri Blue - they're almost always immensely appreciated. I love the seasonal Birchwood scent by Nest, and the above photo was snapped before dinner at one of our good friend's new homes. I tied on a gold bow with a sprig of faux greenery to spice things up.
  • Fresh bread. On Saturday morning, I make a beeline to the Amish baker at the nearby farmers market. Whenever she's not sold out of her Cheddar Garlic Bread, I buy a loaf for myself, and if I'm in need of a hostess gift for the weekend, I grab another. To make it a bit more presentable, I like wrapping it up in a festive tea towel (Anthropologie always has some fun options, but you can also find far less expensive options at craft stores and other kitchen stores.)
  • Sweet-smelling kitchen products. The scent of Mrs. Meyer's Iowa Pine kitchen soap and counter spray almost makes me enjoy wiping down our granite. You can find gift sets of smaller sized products at shops like Target; or try Williams Sonoma's range of holiday scents and gift sets, which are equally delightful.
  • Breakfast goodies. After an evening of company, there's nothing I appreciate more than an indulgent breakfast waiting for me the next morning. Yes, the sink might be full of dirty dishes and the floor is likely covered in sticky wine spills and crumbs, but by God, I'm eating a cinnamon roll first. That said, a loaf of banana bread, a round tray of ready-to-bake or baked cinnamon rolls or bakery english muffins with a fancy jam fit the bill in my book.
  • A classic drink. Whether it's a bottle of bourbon or a bottle of red, nobody turns a nose at boozy gifts. Scope out the best buys at Trader Joe's here and then drape a Christmas ornament around the bottle's neck. Voila!
  • Fancy fromage. I adore this mini marble cheese board that's just about $10, but it'd look even better with a creamy cheese tied atop with kitchen twine. Again, check out Trader Joes for delicious cheese picks at great prices. 
If you're in need of more ideas, don't ever rule out the power of a small bouquet (pre-arranged in a mason jar is just fine; in case the host is busy when you arrive).

But more important than any hostess swag is simply to be gracious, grateful guest. Breaking bread with folks is a time-honored tradition and quite frankly, cleaning a house and keeping food warm can be hard work, am I right? So, arrive with a smile, offer to help, and as soon as you're ready, return the favor and send an invite to your own table.

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