Jams - Borough Market, London
Everyone has a social life. If you're lucky, you might be visiting someone's house for a lovely summer weekend.
What do you bring?
First, consider your host's preferences and interests. Not every gift is perfect for every person. Second, don't worry about the price tag. It's not necessary to spend a lot of money to please your hostess.
Here are some ideas:
- Interesting non-perishable food items, particularly those which aren't found everywhere. For example, flavored olive oils, imported salts, handmade chocolates, etc. A nice selections of jams as shown in the picture above brings the bounty of summer right into the home.
- The picture below shows a selection of bottled sea salts, and the names alone tell you how unique this gift would be. The names include: shallots sea salt, mushroom sea salt, fresh truffle sea salt and many other interesting varieties.
- If you provide homemade food, the presentation is key. Use pretty jars or tins, and interesting ribbons. Once I was attending a Christmas Yankee swap. For the gift, I used a decorated box and wrapped it in netting tied with a ribbon and a sprig of fake flowers (all materials found someplace like Joann's Fabrics). I can't remember what was inside the box, but I remember the gift getting chosen over and over.
- Board games and their accoutrements make fun and useful gifts. (Be sure your friend doesn't think board games are boredom in a box.) Table Topics is a box of questions on cards. It's a fun way to start conversations when you have a large group. (If you got a tattoo, what kind would you get and where would you put it?) One of the best hostess gifts I ever received was a nice dictionary. We use it all the time while playing games like Scrabble or Scattergories. I always think of my friend when we pull it out.
- Personalized items are wonderful if you have the time. You can monogram most anything nowadays (ice cream scoop? Yes). Even cocktail napkins with the right initial will be appreciated.
Be careful of these gifts:
- Food or drink which must be consumed right away (unless, of course, your hostess is expecting it). It makes work for her and may not fit with her plans.
Flowers can be difficult if you're attending a large party. They require immediate work (finding the right vase, cutting the stems, choosing a display spot).
- Don't ever do this: Bring your own homemade wine! Yes, this happened to me. A guest brought a case of her own wine, wine she'd made somewhere, complete with personalized labels. The wine was undrinkable and presented a huge problem. What to do with a case of bad wine when the giver is right there? Well, I opened 1 bottle and hid the rest.
A few minutes of thought given to your choice will ensure that your gift doesn't end up as the Trash in someone's Trash or Treasure party.
The pictures are from Borough Market, London, a fabulous fresh food market of individual stalls each selling something different. You can see more pictures from the market here: