Gifts for holiday house visits

Each year at this time, the Passage places gifts in the window, in time to make before you are a party or house guest; they can also be given for birthdays and other occasions.

Three handmade pleaures
There is a particular generosity in a gift you made yourself.

1. Overnight guest: Spa-day facecloth

If you can knit, make a covetable cotton facecloth.

A friend knitted one for me like the waffle-texture at left, in cyclamen pink. I carry it when travelling, because, as she observed, hotels and rental apartments often do not provide them.

If that first pattern looks daunting: here is one for a simpler knit-and-purl facecloth.

2. To a potluck: Individual phyllo apple-walnut pies

These little bundles are easy to make and look impressively chic on a table. (The phyllo handles easily because you tear it—so it doesn't have to look perfect.)

You can bring them baked, or finish at your host's. The recipe (from calls for Granny Smiths, but I think any baking apple will work.

If you want to leave the ramekins as part of the gift, you could; you can often find them perfect condition in thrift shops.

3. Girlfriend gift: Re-usable makeup remover pads

When a cool gift is also socially responsible, double win! A house guest left a small mountain of soiled cotton discs after every night's toilette, and I figured there had to be a better way.

Here are directions to make terry cloth rounds bound by a zig-zag machine stitch, and I'll bet that, if you had the patience, hand-sewing the layers together with a tidy blanket stitch would be an option.

If I wanted them to really last, I'd backstitch first, but that's more work. Give a small mesh wash bag with these; the little pads can get lost in the machine.

No time (or too many women)? You can buy them here (with a pretty storage box and wash bag), or order just the refills here and include a small wash bag from a dollar store.

Not crafty?

A homemade gift simple as making a sandwich:

1. Buy some cotton "favour bags" at a local craft store or on Etsy.
2. Buy some dried lavender buds.
3. Fill bag 3/4 full with lavender buds; tie closed firmly with a ribbon. In a pinch, use a twist-tie.
There, all done.

Give a set of three, to keep drawers fresh. (These deter moths but do not kill mature moths, eggs or larvae, so they don't "moth proof".)

The lavender scent can be restored for six or eight months by crushing the bag in your hands, and when it's used up, it is easy for the owner to refill.

Them, again: Finding something different

I could not do better than this list from The Strategist, and I like that it includes $10 items. But, if I can't buy the perfect thing locally, incurring the environmental load for only one $10 item is not a good idea, so I batch my orders. Besides, I would like one of those avocado thingys myself.

My idea: Lifetime Clothespins. Wonderful for any home laundry and for travel.

Last minute but thoughtful

When you have no time, keep your #1 objective in sight: that the recipient feels treated to something a bit more special than the everyday. At least one of the items below can be found in your locale; it's a good idea to have one or more on hand.

How about...?
  • Good coffee beans or tea
  • A bottle of top-grade olive oil
  • Fresh kitchen utensils, like a silicon spatula or a new paring knife

  • A new food dish for the pet (shown, Arrowhead dog bowl from PetSmart)
  • A set of silicone stretch lids (Walmart)
  • Every cell in my body would like to add "books" but this is harder to get right than you think. I'll sometimes pick up a few deluxe magazines that match my friend's interests.
... and please contribute your own ideas; thank you!


I knew you couldn't overlook Lee Valley! A friend bought me one of these little lights (to wear on clothing etc if walking, cycling, being a dog etc in gloomy weather) and I bought more for myself.

I've avoided going there so far, since they opened a branch in Laval, near Montmorency métro, but will give in sometime. A perilous place for the purse!

The bowls are good for messy dogs, but Livia (small black cat) eats out of those pretty ramequins, sourced at charity shops.
LauraH said…
These are great ideas, very creative, thanks for doing the thinking and legwork:-)

I'll make or buy the reusable face pads for myself. Something I've been trying to figure out as part of a major drive to reduce plastic and waste from my life. Not easy but doable if taken step by step. Luckily Toronto has a number of places that offer refills of household products.

And I'll check out that list at the Strategist.
LauraH said…
Me again. Have you bought/used the bamboo pads? I want them for toner rather than make up removal so wondering if they are too thick or scratchy for my purposes.
Jane said…
I like to support local, small businesses. I've gifted wine, soaps, candy, cheese and wreaths. I tuck in info about the business. These small businesses often have interesting stories. My chocolatier has been handcrafting candy for 79 years, in the basement of a little house, in a residential neighborhood. You walk in the side door and go down a flight of stairs. Only ten people at a time will fit. They're only open seasonally. Unique place. -Lily
Leslie M said…
I may have to use my rudimentary knitting skills for a cotton face cloth. The face pads, too are a winner.

I found an iron-forged key ring screwdriver set years ago that my stepsons love. I also carry a set on my key ring and have found them immensely useful. I have gifted these several times. A similar item here:
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Don’t have to tell me where that new Lee Vally branch is! Oh it is wonderful!
Jane: I once shopped in a similar store whose own chocolate molds were 75 years old. I usually end up spending more in such special places but it feels so good to support them.
LauraH: I gave as gift, they are soft. Suggest you ask maker. I don’t use pads as I do not use facial products that need remover to take off.
LeslieM: But no pearl alongside? Thanks, this would delight several persons I know.
Duchesse, I was certain that you honed in on the Laval branch of Lee Valley as soon as it was open. I was mentioning it for other readers. I'm rather afraid of that; the merch is what I want far more than handbags. Plant care, cooking, a wide range of crafts and kool stuff like the little visibility lights that are effective without being naff.

I have relatives in Ottawa-Gatineau and tagged along on those expeditions.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: I went with a gardener friend; with only a balcony where we live now, most of the enticing things were better suited to my former life. Still, it's such a haven!
Leslie M said…
The pearls are for my stocking this year. 😉
Laura J said…
Artisanal chocolate seems to work for many occasions and we have several excellent sources locally
Rita said…
1. Please don't bring anything to a potluck that needs to be "finished" in the host's oven (or WORSE, assembled in the host's kitchen)!

2. "In a pinch, use a twist-tie." - noooo!

Otherwise, some good ideas here.
Duchesse said…
Rita, I agree about not surprising a busy host re using oven or prep space. However, I go to some communal dinners where it is arranged ahead of time with host, in which case it is fine. One should always pre- clear what is brought to a communal dinner for cooking or platingvrequirements.

Twist ties:I was given a bunch of thick gold- foil twist ties along with the Provençal cotton bags for the lavender. Agree not as pretty as real satin ribbons, but better than sewn- shut bags that are work to refill.

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