Things to Know

5 Holiday Hostess Gifts for Last-Minute Shoppers

The great thing about the holidays is all the chances we have to get together with friends and family. That's also the hard thing about the holidays. Keeping up with our regular activities and adding in social engagements can put a serious strain on our time, not to mention our budget.

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Still, it's really important to let people know how much we appreciate their hospitality. The tradition of bringing a "hostess gift" along does that, and there are plenty of options besides the tried and true (and quite acceptable) bottle of nice wine. This year, why not wow your host or hostess with unique gift ideas that you can whip up at the last minute? Here are # of our favorites.

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Scented candles - Most anyone would enjoy a gorgeous candle that fills the room with their favorite scent. There are candles to suit every nose- spice scented, aromatic herbs, fresh citrus or floral scent – and any décor. Even a plain pillar candle can be dressed up to go out. Consider studding it with peppercorns or wrapping a festive ribbon around the base. Take a look at some of the more upscale possibilities at NeimanMarcus.com.

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Specialty baked goods - Holiday baking is a family tradition for a lot of us, and baked goods make a sweet hostess gift. Even if you aren't a baker, this is a great option. Just be sure you're aware of any food allergies your friends may have, and then make your selection from a local bakery or an online source, like Harry & David. Remember that presentation is important: use decorative gift boxes, or make your own by wrapping a shoebox and its lid in sparkly holiday paper.

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Flowers - Yes, flowers! If you know that your hostess is fond of gorgeous flowers, this is a thoughtful gift. Just be sure that you don't hand her a bouquet for which she'll immediately have to find a container. Bring them in an attractive vase. You can pick up some great ones at consignment shops for a few dollars. A dozen red or white roses can really set off holiday décor.

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Warm wishes - For cozy after-party relaxation, bring a selection of gourmet coffee or herbal teas and a nice big mug. These can be kept on hand for last minute invitations, and are just right for the crisp holiday months.

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Gourmet goodies - The gourmet grocery store is a goldmine of last-minute hostess gifts. Consider a bottle of extra-fine olive oil or balsamic vinegar, artisan bread, or old-fashioned candy. Wrap these up with a nice ribbon, or choose some lovely blank notecards, gourmet jams, or unusual spices. You can also get potted herbs here for a mini kitchen garden.

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No matter how short you are on time, a thoughtful hostess gift is within your power. Keep it simple, and remember your presentation. One of these ideas, along with the gift of your company, will make any host or hostess beam.

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