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Creative ideas for DIY hostess gifts, including items for the home and garden, treats from your kitchen, gift basket suggestions, and more.
The After-Dinner Kit
Start with an exceptional red vermouth—this one is a favorite of food editor Christine Albano -- and then round out the gift with foods that complement its flavors: citrusy butter cookies, candied blood-orange peels, hazelnut honey, and a special variety of California pear. Complete it with a paring knife and wooden tray (handy for your host long after the last pear has been sliced).
San Giulano Sicilian Orange biscuits, zingermans.com. Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, astorwines.com. Blood-orange candy, junetaylorjams.com. Warren pears, froghollow.com. Paring knife, by Opinel; brookfarmgeneralstore.com. Olive wood cutting board, conranusa.com. Chestnut Honey with Hazelnuts, by Cata Gourmet; despanabrandfoods.com. Ribbon, paperpresentation.com.
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A set of votive candles makes the perfect compact gift for any hostess, and making them yourself out of beeswax adds a personal touch.
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Scented sugar adds a subtle perfume and flavor to coffee, tea, fruit desserts, or baked goods. Mix a small batch in a pretty jar for a creative and aromatic hostess gift.
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The Paella Kit
As a houseguest, one of the greatest gifts you can offer -- aside from pitching in to clean dishes -- is to give your host a night off from menu planning. This paella pan holds almost everything you need to concoct that savory rice dish, including a book of 108 recipes, specialty Bomba rice, Spanish paprika and olive oil, and dried chiles. Come dinnertime, just add protein.
Paella, by Alberto Herraiz, amazon.com. Paella pan, 13 1/2 inches, by El Cid; Naturvie Frantoio Serie Limitada Monovarietal extra-virgin olive oil; Arroz Bomba Cebolla; Chiquilin Nora dried peppers; SPP Pimenton de la Vera Dulce D.O.; despanabrandfoods.com.
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This small, thoughtful gift is a good way to thank a hostess. Wrap two loaves of your favorite crusty bread (we like French baguettes) in a linen dish towel, and top with a jar of homemade jam. Tie them together with a colorful ribbon to match the towel, securing a wooden spreader in the knot of the bow.
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This special wine-label keepsake kit will allow your hostess and her family to preserve labels from their favorite bottles.
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Create a handy flower-arranging kit that packs all of the essentials inside a jar that's pretty enough to double as a vase.
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Give a botanical hostess gift a creative twist by placing the flowers or herbs in a wooden sake box topped with plastic wrap.
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Each chocolate-pecan toffee is a small present on its own, but line several in a container for a delicious hostess gift.
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Elevate the classic bottle of champagne by dressing up the wrapping. With its airy pom-pom, this sprightly package hints at the effervescence hidden inside.
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The Best Basics Kit
Even less-experienced cooks can appreciate the power of a really great salt (or olive oil or vinegar). Our food editors swear by these finishing touches for all kinds of dishes: a complex red-wine vinegar from California, a delicate hand-harvested sea salt, and a fruity extra-virgin French olive oil. A wooden salt bowl and pepper mill make thoughtful extras, as does a dish towel, which can double as gift wrap -- just bundle everything up and tie at the top.
Extra-virgin olive oil, by A l’Olivier; igourmet.com. Napa Valley red wine vinegar, organic fleur de sel, and organic whole peppercorns, St. Helena Olive Oil Company; sholiveoil.com. Beechwood pepper mill, brookfarmgeneralstore.com. Striped towel, by Cote Bastide; johnderian.com. Wooden salt bowl, globaltable.com.
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Like well-written thank-you notes, homemade treats are thoughtful gestures. Caramel bourbon vanilla sauce tastes good over fruit -- or even straight from the jar; cover the top, and secure it with string tied to a small spoon.
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A Good Morning
A healthy breakfast is often the last thing on your hostess's mind when she's planning a night of entertainment. Line a basket with vintage tea towels and fill it with everything she needs to start the day off right -- coffee, tea, milk, sugar, orange juice, scones, butter, and marmalade. All she has to do is find the kettle and French press to recover from the festivities.
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The Breakfast Kit
This gift gives everyone many incentives to leave their warm beds on a chilly morning, starting with organic coffee made in a French press. Blackberry–Meyer lemon jam partners perfectly with the lemony olive-oil cake. And the crunchy pepita, pecan, and coconut granola will kick off a new morning addiction.
Blackberry–Meyer lemon jam, ellellekitchen.com. Bella Donovan coffee beans, bluebottlecoffee.net. Farmhand’s Choice granola, earlybirdfoods.com. Olive-oil cake, zingermans.com. Erik Magnussen coffee press, in Red, by Stelton; shophorne.com. Whitewashed wood bin, small; containerstore.com.