Holiday time! Party time! Host and hostess gift time! Etiquette and tradition state you never want to arrive empty handed to a party, whether you've the recipient of the invitation, or a plus one. These gift suggestions, while meant for the rounds of parties that erupt during December, can apply all year round, as graciousness never goes out of season.
If you know the hostess and know she likes flowers, by all means bring a bouquet and include a vase. I pick up glass vases at thrift shops for a couple bucks each and have them on hand for when flowers arrive or to bring to friends with a bouquet. Arriving with a vase saves the hostess having to find a container for the blooms.
If the party-giver has green thumb, consider a houseplant. Spider plants, pothos, orchids and African violets are hardy and easy to maintain, as are rosemary plants, which serve a dual purpose of decoration and as herb for cooking and baking. (You might want to think twice about the ubiquitous holiday poinsettias; they die quickly unless replanted outside, and can be hazardous if your host has pets or children, as the leaves and flowers are poisonous).
Gourmet tea or coffee make a great host/ess gift. Trystero Coffee in Los Angeles offers small batch roastings of exotic coffees, while with a little forethought you can order personalized blends of fair trade and organic coffee from Deans Beans.
Personalized gifts can range from monogrammed coasters to a life-sized marshmallow sheet printed with an image (maybe your face!), but again these require some lead-time. If it's a sudden invitation or you're being brought along as a guest of a guest, you can grab a box of gourmet chocolates or macaroons at Laduree, or a bottle of wine (consider an interesting Sicilian or Basque wine for a unique take), or a sparking beverage like Champagne or Prosecco at a liquor store. Medea Vodka, a premium spirit with a programmable LED label with six celebratory messages already set up makes an novel and easily personalized gift. Pick up a bottle of lavender or rose floral elixir and you've made an exciting, memorable additional to your host or hostess' bar.
Koval Whiskey, made in Chicago, offers a variety of flavored liqueurs, including honey and chrysanthemum, ginger, caraway, orange blossom, rose hip and walnut which can be sipped alone or used to make cocktails.
California-based St George Spirits also makes a line of fruit brandies, but its their Absinthe Verte, the first legally made absinthe in the U.S., that makes a stand-out hospitality gift. (Drink responsibly!)
Thoughtful, simple and easy is the key for bringing a gift for your host or hostess and carries the feeling of hospitality forward beyond the winter season. Never arrive empty handed, and your calendar will always be full.