These days it seems like you need to be making your own charcuterie and canning your own home-grown vegetables to even be somebody. For people who are busy (especially women who are balancing careers with kids), or who have long commutes, or who have no money for craft supplies (upcycling garbage takes a staggering amount of new supplies), the hostess gift in the age of the DIY blogosphere can pose a challenge.
Most people don't really want your hand-crafted tschotchkes. I know, I know...it's an unpopular thing to say. Well then, let me rephrase that: I would not want your hand-crafted tschotchkes. I have nowhere to put them. I live in an apartment, and I hate clutter. If someone would give me a nicknack that she made herself, it would probably end up in the "free stuff" pile in the hallway of my building. Unless an object is inherently useful, or edible, it really could end up in the free box on the sidewalk. Save the effort of making a snow globe out of a jar, and bring one of these always-welcome hostess gifts to the next dinner party you attend. All of these hostess gifts can be purchased at the last minute, in between work and the party.
1. Pie: Pie is delicious and unless someone is allergic to the ingredients, even a store-bought pie is a nice gift to a hostess. Even if the hostess is on a diet and won't eat the pie, her guests or husband will probably eat it.
2. Cookies: If there is a dynamite bakery near your office, a box of scrumptious cookies will never go unloved.
3. High quality nuts: Little nibbles that can either be served immediately or stashed away for the future are always appropriate as a hostess gift. Nobody ever thinks to bring pistachios to a dinner party, but let me tell you, nobody without a nut allergy would pass up some good pistachios. Containers of chocolate covered nuts, shelled and unshelled nuts, and flavored nuts are a fantastic hostess gift, especially when presented in abundance.
4. Flavored seltzers: While wine is the standard hostess gift (and for good reason), exotic sodas or flavored seltzers are always a nice surprise. They are especially great when you know that the host or hostess will be staying sober for the evening.
5. Dried fruit: Would you be insulted if a guest brought you a selection of succulent dates and dried figs? How about juicy dried apricots? Exactly. You'd be happy, and that's why dried fruit makes a nice hostess gift.
6. Designer paper napkins: A package or two of high end paper napkins is lovely. Maybe it's a bit old fashioned, but they're easy to tuck into a drawer and are inherently useful.
7. A box of blank notes: Note cards, again, are old fashioned, but they are definitely useful. They're also an item that someone would appreciate using, but might not think to purchase for herself.
8. A potted plant: Small potted plants are a long-lasting alternative to cut flowers, which are also a perfectly acceptable hostess gift. The advantage of a small potted plant is that it will last a while. Bonus points for edible plants, like rosemary or basil.
9. Artisan grains: A package or two of fancy, expensive grains (like black rice or tri-color quinoa) is a bit crunchy, but original and usually welcome as a hostess gift, especially if you know that the host or hostess is on a health kick.
10. A good vegetable peeler: Sharp Y-shaped vegetable peelers are one of those kitchen gadgets that you can never have enough of. A great vegetable peeler with a big ribbon on it is a very nice hostess gift, but only if the hostess loves to cook. If the hostess orders in every night, I'd recommend choosing another gift lest the vegetable peeler be interpreted as a hint that she should improve her cooking skills.
11. An assortment of great pens: Say you work near a Staples, and that's about the only place you can stop to buy the hostess gift. That works in your favor, because I don't know anyone who would not appreciate brand new Sharpie markers or roller-ball pens. Tie them up with ribbon, and you're in business.
12. Mason jars: They have a million and one uses, and your hostess will appreciate them. Just make sure that you don't turn them into crafts before you get to the party.
13: A stainless steel water bottle: If your hostess is into working out, she'll appreciate having an extra high-end water bottle around, especially the size that fits into those Spinning bikes.
14. Beautiful produce: Did the corn look amazing at the market? Is it strawberry season? Some especially high-quality seasonal produce is an appropriate hostess gift.