our no fail hostess gifts: part 2

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Megan Barone: Yummy smelling body butter or candle
My favorite hostess gift of late? Something from Pacifica; either a body butter or soy candle, depending on the host/hostess. I discovered their yummy smelling and nourishing body butters on a trip to Hawaii, and have been obsessed with all of their scents ever since. There really is something for most everyone in their line, as the scents run from guava (perfect for my 10year old niece) to Coconut (my favorite) and earthier, unisex scents like Sandalwood and Juniper. And they just happen to be all natural, cruelty & GMO free, and made in the USA. Best thing, however, is being able to conveniently pick up those hostess gifts while running around town. You can find Pacifica products across the US and Canada at Whole Foods and Sephora locations.

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Katie Donbavand: Mermaid bottle opener
My favorite part of any party is always the last few hours. Your shoes are kicked off, the dawn is peeking over the horizon, and everyone (and everything) is mellow. It’s the perfect time (if your host is game) for a hand of cards and one last beer. My standard hostess gift has you covered for the last, dwindling moments of the party. Combine these dazzling, silver playing cards from Kikkerland ($11) with this fantastic, cast iron mermaid bottle opener from Fishs Eddy’s ($19) and your hostess will always be ready to entertain those last few stragglers.

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Becki Singer: Feather tray
If you’re planning ahead, these gold-plated feather trays from Vanillawood (a favorite local shop of mine) are my latest obsession. The tiniest size is just $32, and is one of those little luxuries she’ll treasure. It’s perfect for catching her jewelry next to the sink or on her nightstand. For the last minute, I read recently that Ina Garten frequently gifts her hostess a pound of coffee from a favorite micro-roaster and a bag of homemade (or bakery-bought) granola. I love the idea of not interfering with their serving plans for the evening, but instead making sure they have a delicious breakfast the morning after. Happy Holidays! –Becki S.

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Ginny Figlar: Monogrammed mug
My go-to gift right now is Anthropologie’s Homegrown Monogram Mug for $8. I bought one for myself this Spring, and have since bought others as thank-yous and gifts for my daughter’s preschool teachers (filled with fleur de sel caramels … yum!). You can go with first name initial, last name initial or both, or spell out a word like “joy.”

a fuzzy wuzzy holiday: felt takes over

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Front door wreaths aren’t the only thing popping up in felt this holiday season. We spotted this lovely felt menorah over at Etsy (via iVillage). This clever design allows kids of all sizes to partake in the lighting of the flames — or rather, the buttoning of the flames! The wool felt is from upcycled sweaters, and is a great new homey tradition. ($60)

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Another great seasonal tradition is the mistletoe. We love this one from branchhome.com. Each one is unique and comes ready to hang. Though kisses are not included it does come with thanks: Sales of this product help provide an income stream for sheepherders and artisans in the Rajasthan State of India, where it is made. ($26)

cataloguing the holidays: retro renovation helps us buy american

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Well, I think my holiday shopping may finally be drawing to a close: if I can’t find something worth buying from the more than EIGHT THOUSAND made-in-America holiday gifts that Retro Renovation’s Pam has hunted down, I think I’ll have to officially give up this year! Okay, Pam concedes that she hasn’t literally listed more than 8,000 gifts, but she has provided enough links to American-made goods that readers could find that many if they really try. So think locally (as far as the planet goes) and check out the enlightening list here. — Mary T.

real life test kitchen: gingerbread men

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I have yet to find any time for holiday baking, but our friend Elizabeth and her daughter Sophie dropped by some yummy and extremely cute gingerbread men the other day. Naturally I coaxed her to share her recipe with us! Here’s her take:

I made it from scratch from a recipe in my favorite baking cookbook: the King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion. This is the first time I’ve made them. Sophie was sick on Monday and couldn’t go to school, but I didn’t want her to miss out on making gingerbread men (which her classmates did that day). So, I turned to my trusty cookbook, and we baked. Sophie loved spreading the flour, rolling the dough, cutting the cookie shapes, and making the eyes and buttons with red-hots. As for tips, I prepared the dough Sunday night and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The recipe gives a range for the baking time — I found it really hard to judge when they were done since the dough is so dark. I baked them on the shorter side, and they were pretty soft. If you prefer crisper cookies, just bake them a bit longer if your first dozen are too soft for your taste.

Hopefully I’ll find some time for baking this weekend, when I’ll be pulling out a few of my old favorites as well. What about you, have you baked any holiday cookies yet? Please tell us! — Angela M.

Click through to the next page for the recipe. (more…)

our favorite no-fail hostess gifts: part 1

We asked Shelterrific’s amazing contributors to tell us the one hostess gift they always go to during the holidays. Here’s their picks!

Sarah Lyons: Doggie treats
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Holidays can be stressful for our canine friends, with all the hustle and bustle and new people in the house. While I never forgo a bottle of wine for human hosts, for the canines in the home, I love to pick up gourmet doggie treats. As an added bonus, it keeps guests from feeding Fido party food. Always a good thing. — Sarah L.

Sarah Christensen: Slate cheese board
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It may be having the best year ever as far as hostess gifts go, but even mainstream popularity doesn’t dissuade me from reaching for a slate cheese board every night the clock strikes party time. Available in red or black, the natural slate slabs are a chic way to display cheese and other nibbles on the holiday table. Each comes packaged in a cute burlap bag equipped with chalk for labeling by the savviest of hostesses. $28 for the 10” x 14” at Brooklynslate.com.

Mary Sheely: Tea infuser
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I love getting a small tin of tea from Tuscan Tea Room, a local West Seattle shop. They aren’t selling online yet (but plan to), so think local and visit your nearby tea shop for tiny, colorful tins of yummy flavors. (I love Tuscan Tea Room’s creme brulee.) I usually sweeten the deal with a tea infuser as well, so my hostess has no excuse to not try the tea! I like this one by Tovolo a lot (and it comes with a built-in stand).