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Action: Bring your appetite — and a hostess gift — to holiday dinner

Thoughtful hostess gift shows your appreciation

Turkey day is less than a week away. If you're lucky enough to not be hosting the big meal this year, you're probably going to be a guest at the home of friends or family.

Don't arrive empty-handed. It's good etiquette, and just plain good manners, to acknowledge your host and hostess with a small gift. Here are some ideas to take the guesswork out of choosing what to bring.

Classic gifts

Flowers. Always appreciated, flowers are best given by delivery. It saves the hostess the chore of finding a vase and cutting and arranging while also tending her guests and food. Another tip to keep in mind is that lots of folks are allergic to flowers with strong scents, like lilies. Avoid those when ordering your arrangement.

Wine. Don't worry about choosing a wine to accompany the meal. Your hosts may have already decided which wine to serve, and the gift is meant for them to enjoy, not to share with their guests.

Chocolate. Make this gift extra special by visiting a specialty store for the very best varieties.

Candles. A large, decorative centerpiece candle, with or without a candle wreath, makes a lovely gift. As with flowers, stick to unscented or lightly scented varieties, like vanilla, so as not to overwhelm a room or compete with the food. A great option for hosts with children or pets is the flameless candle. Widely available, these candles create the same ambience as the traditional variety with none of the safety concerns.

Cheeses. Fine cheese, like good wine, is meant to be savored. Put together a selection of sharp, mild and creamy cheeses. Then present them on a small cutting board, with a cheese knife or wrapped in a seasonal dish towel.

Picture frame. When choosing, stick to a small or medium-sized frame that reflects the decorating tastes of your hosts. If it's appropriate for the gathering you're attending, take a photo or two of the hosts and send them along with your thank-you note.

Contemporary gifts

Wine charms. These decorative rings help guests keep track of which wine glass or water goblet is theirs. A set of 12 is usually sufficient.

Hand soap and lotion. The preparation of a large meal requires lots of hand washings, not to mention continuous sink sessions to keep the used pots, pans and bowls washed and the counters clear. A mild hand soap and good moisturizing lotion will soothe the cook's hands.

Serving tray. Endlessly useful, look for inexpensive trays made of wood or plastic and decorated in bright, fun colors to help create a fun atmosphere.

Christmas ornament. With a nearly infinite variety of ornaments to choose from, you're sure to find just the right one to show your appreciation. Your hosts will think of you fondly each year when hanging your gift on their tree.

Breakfast in a bag. Tuck small sizes of pancake mix, syrup, preserves and coffee into a decorative gift bag.

Take time to wrap your present festively or present it in a creative, unexpected way. And to make sure your hosts know how grateful you were for their invitation, don't forget to write a thank-you note.

Action: Bring your appetite — and a hostess gift — to holiday dinner 11/22/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 22, 2008 10:23pm]
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