Almost everyone I know tends to leave the city at some point in the month of August – heading out of town to visit friends and family who are lucky enough to live near the sea or in different parts of the world. Everyone seems to take off for a week here or there and all re-appear magically tanned, rested and ready to go in September. It’s also the time of year where the need to have hostess gifts stored away for an impromptu weekend getaway goes from only-for-the-crazy-organized to mainstream.
I have received several guests over the years and whilst I am truly and honestly happy each and every time to welcome them into my home and share my city with them, I’m always a little surprised when they don’t bring a gift, provide a gift while visiting or send one afterwards. Last week I talked about modern etiquette and this is one of those cases where the societal rules needs to be followed- when you stay as a guest at someone’s home, you must thank them profusely, and provide a token of your appreciation for their hospitality in the form of a gift.
Now we’re not talking about expensive necessarily. Some of the best gifts I’ve received are unique items that the person obviously put thought and time into finding for me at a vintage store, homemade ones or even gifts of the individual’s time while staying with you. Here are some of my favourite budget-friendly gifts you can provide a hostess:
- A rare, out-of-print cookbook you found covered in dust in a secondhand book shop
- Jams, jellies and other homemade delights from your kitchen (packaged with care, obviously!)
- Cheaply bought jelly beans in an antique (or antique looking) glass jar
- A framed vintage map of the country of their ancestors, or their town
- Bulbs and blooms for the garden with the offer to help plant them
- A photo of you and the recipient from time gone by in a frame
And if your hostess is the type to not turn away a nice little gift? Here are some of my favourites to give myself (I’m accepting applications for visits!)
- Flowers: Lovely if you can bring them with you – even better if you send them after you leave. I have a colleague who received guests for whom she went far above and beyond the call of hostess. The visitors sent a small bouquet of flowers every month for a year after they left, all arranged with a local florist before leaving. Swoon. I like to bring a small gift me and send flowers after I leave, as I often see people arriving at someone’s home with flowers only for the flowers to be forgotten or the hostess to run around looking for a vase. If you are bringing them with you, be sure they are already in a vase and just ready to be admired. Better yet, bring a potted plant that will last longer – unless you can find fresh peonies. I always vote peonies!
- New Linens: I’ve yet to meet anyone who would be insulted by the thought of receiving fresh, lush and fluffy new bath towels. Stick with white as they will go with practically any bathroom colour or décor scheme and will always be welcome. I also have gifted thick and impressive table linens if I knew the individuals well enough to know the number of seats at their tables. I have these towels in my own guest bathrooms and they always get compliments.
- Champagne: Not something people often buy for themselves in my experience, but lovely to receive. Personally, I keep a bottle in my fridge at all times for impromptu celebrations and often bring a bottle with me when I arrive at someone’s home to toast the time we will spend together. I happen to prefer Veuve Clicquot champagnes (and the rosé is tasty for Summer toasts) but there are many smaller sparkling wines or proseccos that are lovely. If you live in a region with wineries and are visiting someone far away, bringing a bottle of local bubbly is always thoughtful.
- Kitchen Utensils: Have a wooden spoon you found and loved? New gadget that you want to share? If your hostess likes to cook, bringing one when you arrive is a nice touch. You many be wondering about the wooden spoon reference – I’ve never been as excited to receive a wooden spoon as when I received one recently that had a rubber end so I could touch the iPad screen while cooking. Genius and thoughtful. The iPad spoon is also only $6.99!
- Cheeses: Cheeses are surprisingly expensive when you get into the better quality blocks, so bringing along a nice selection for your hosts is a nice touch. I try to find local cheeses with unique characteristics to bring with me – and often pair this gift with a bottle of wine. If you want to be safe given the high incidence of dairy allergies, I like to bring a variety of goat cheeses. I also have gifted a DIY cheese making kit that always results in a fun experience.
- Cashmere Scarf or blanket: One can never go wrong with cashmere. Ever. One of our favourite scarves runs on the expensive side, but think of how much money you’re saving not being in a hotel and paying for food! Blankets are also a nice idea as if you’ve not curled up in a cashmere blanket, you’re not living.
- Gourmet Picnic Basket: Very few people own picnic baskets yet they truly are a refined way of saying “let’s eat outdoors” versus a paper bag or stuffing items into a tote bag.
- Unique notebooks: I love receiving thoughtful little notebooks or stationary items. One friend travels frequently for work and stays at the homes of colleagues on occasion and thusly orders personalized monogram notebooks for the hostess before leaving so she can leave a very personal and thoughtful gift behind.
- Soaps: Buy some expensive hand soap for the powder room or bathroom. It’s often something people don’t think to buy themselves but that future guests to the home will see and use. I have Diptyque soaps in my home powder room and often have people come out smelling their hands and asking me about the soaps. For a summer update, check out the new line of Jo Malone soaps with summery foliage and fruit scents.
The other touch to thanking your hostess that will put you over the top? Write a handwritten thank you note and put it in the mail. Make reference to the time you spent together and if possible include a snapshot from your travels, thanking the host for their time, their home and their generosity. The bad part about being an excellent gift-giver to your hostess is that you will certainly be invited back next year where you will have to live up to your high gift-giving standards. But there are worst things in life, aren’t there?