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).
Soaps and candles are lovely but done to death. I'd far prefer a roll of stamps or a six-pack of tummy-control panty hose.
As a person who is often stalled along the information superhighway, I crave Web sites. Give a list of favorites (with www.foodandwine.com) on nice paper using your computer's calligraphy font.
www.foodtv.com For weekly recipes from the programs Molto Mario and Michael's Place.
www.chowhound.com For info on ethnic restaurants in all five boroughs of New York City from an obsessed food lover.
www.zagat.com For mini-reviews of restaurants across the United States.
www.bitterwaitress.com For funny anecdotes from wait staffs about rude customers.
the best gifts I ever received
A stack of holiday CDs individually wrapped in colorful tissue paper...exquisite sachets from Anne Bass, filled with lavender from her Fort Worth, Texas, garden...a black mohair snuggly (a little sweater shaped like a cocoon) knitted by a friend...a white leather dog muzzle, painted with white daisies, given to me at a time when I had been indiscreet and said things I shouldn't have...a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts...lip balm, moisturizer and a few more Kiehl's beauty products from makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin...a leather album from Allure editor Linda Wells, with photos of us in Morocco...funny Polaroids of me washing the dog and doing other tasks over the course of a day.