I've already stockpiled a supply of pashminas, shawls of woven wool and silk, to give as hostess gifts. My pals Gitu and Malini Ramani import the best ones from India (from Fragments; $275 and up; 888-6FRAGME). I discovered Edith Mezard's Eau de Linge Lavande when interior designer Victoria Hagan came for dinner and discreetly placed a beautifully wrapped bottle on my hall table. I assumed it was wine and ignored it. When I opened the gift the next day,I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was Eau de Linge. A note told me to pour the water into my iron when pressing sheets. The result? A wonderful hint of lavender wafting into my dreams (from Waterworks; $38 for 32 ounces; 800-998-BATH).
flowers, books and one nutty idea
You can never go wrong with flowers. Have you ever heard of anyone returning them? I send some the day after a party, such as this floral arrangement from Ronaldo Maia Flowers (212-288-1049). My mother once gave my husband 12 orchids, one delivered to his office on the first of each month. He loves orchids, and I love that he no longer steals plants from our house to bring to work! Most people are dying for new books. Write up a list and take it to your local shop with instructions to send one to your hostess each month. (If you're lazy, click on Amazon.com.) Then give her the handwritten list on lovely paper with a book or two. Food is always welcome, but skip chocolates and go straight to pralines from Aunt Sally's Praline Shop ($15 for a box of 12; 800-642-7257).
My friend Sandy Hill and I are both gadget freaks, and we're always looking to outdo each other. Once I gave her a "spy" camera; she gave me these walkie-talkies. Luckily, I had one with me when I got stranded in my kayak over the summer. My husband heard my SOS from a half-mile away ($125 for Motorola's Talk-About Plus; 800-448-6686). Picture frames are great--but not when they're empty. A favorite of mine holds a photo of me and my pals, Chanel's Joy Henderiks and Count Giovanni Volpi ($49 from Framed on Madison; 212-734-4680).