Don’t Show Up Empty Handed

Hostess gifts to get you invited back again and again
Melanie warner spencer

A few weeks ago, we had houseguests for a long, fun-filled weekend. They arrived laden with multiple cans of Skyline Chili and a six-pack of Little Kings Cream Ale beer, which are food and drink indigenous to our hometown in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio area. As their hostess, I felt appreciated right out of the gate. In return, I was over-the-moon with warm, fuzzy feelings towards them for bringing me items I can’t get here in New Orleans. Over the years, our friends and family have gifted us with bottles of bourbon and bubbly; coffee from far flung locales; spectacularly scented linen sprays, candles and soaps; fun kitchen towels and cocktail napkins; and gourmet or homemade spreads, jams, marinades and marmalades. When it comes to hostess gifts, our guests always seem to knock it out of the park. We try to do the same in return, and as a Southerner, I was taught to never show up empty handed, which has prompted an ongoing mental list of go-to items that I love to offer up. Below are a few of my favorite hostess gifts to give when we are invited to cocktail parties, dinners, barbecues, weekends at our friends homes or vacation getaways or for any other reason it is warranted to offer up a token of appreciation.

Caldrea products for the home and body are a frequent indulgence of mine. The line includes aromatherapeutic household cleansers, hand lotions, candles, laundry products and housekeeping tools in a variety of gorgeous fragrances. The Basil Blue Sage Linen and Room Spray is infused with essential oils and freshens up the ironing, bed linens and every room in the house. I love to spritz it in all of the rooms after cleaning or right before guests arrive for a visit. As a gift, I’ll often wrap up a bottle in a pretty fabric ribbon or fancy up a gift bag with tissue paper, twine or curling ribbon. The gift sets, which are sometimes as simple as a hand soap and lotion in a ceramic or stainless steel holder or as elaborate as the six-product Variety Sampler Set, which comes in an adorable galvanized bucket, are beautifully packaged and the perfect marriage of form and function. Get Caldrea products locally at Lovejoy Day Spa and Shop in Metairie.

Scented candles are a classic hostess gift. After living for many years in Texas, I’ve become partial to Tyler Candles (a Tyler, Texas-based company), which are highly fragrant and easy to spot by the sassy leopard patterned lids. Gordon’s in Metairie has a large selection. Place few votives and holders in a fun bag or box and gift away.

Stationery is the perfect hostess gift for your friends who enjoy writing letters and notes. Recently, I found the most charming New Orleans postcards at Scriptura. They are letterpress featuring a French Quarter streetscape. With a length of grosgrain ribbon tied in a bow and perhaps a little sprig of rosemary or lavender, you’ll make a big impression.

Coffee is one of the easiest and often most appreciated gifts I give to my friends who are lovers of the bean. Community Coffee is the one I usually grab, since it’s a Louisiana brand. A cute little scoop sweetens the gesture. The fleur de lis scoop pictured above is from Roux Royale in the French Quarter. Fine tea is also a lovely gift for those who prefer the leaf.

Last year, after spending a few days in Mobile, Alabama with friends, I ordered custom monogrammed soaps from Mark and Graham. This is a couple we stay with often, so I wanted to do something a little special and with a personal touch.

Art books, the aforementioned foods and beverages from home, chocolates and gourmet food items (olive oils, marinades, barbecue sauce and so forth) are also often in the repertoire. It’s best however to avoid fresh flowers, because your host or hostess will then have to take time away from their duties to place them in fresh water.

Whatever you decide to give — large or small, beautifully packaged or in the brown paper bag from the store in which you acquired it — your host or hostess is sure to be touched by your thoughtfulness and invite you back again and again.


What are your favorite hostess gifts to give or receive? Share in the comments or email Melanie@MyNewOrleans.Com.




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