or... what to get the family who has everything
The Readership knows by now that I am a professional houseguest -- the sure thing, without plus-one who will talk to your grandmother, eat everything you serve, and not expect you to endure sun salutations in the living room at 5am. "Low Maintenance," they tell me I am. Everything I needed to know about houseguesting I learned from English country novels, Stephen Sondheim, and Bewitched.
Respectively, those life lessons are:
1. Be amusing
2. Wear your hair down, and a flower/Don't use makeup, dress in white
3. Bring a hostess gift
As hostess gifts go, I have a few go-tos. ( I hate to give away my secrets. So many of you have hosted me...) If plants, get potted. No one needs another vase, and when the lady of the house is brining a turkey, she can not stop to muck about with cut flowers. I recently had a roundtable with a frequent hostess who talked about the difficulty of guests who bring food -- particularly dessert -- that doesn't match the menu but now has to be served. And my hostess admitted this seemed petty and ungrateful but it did throw her off. Though this wasn't directed at me (I think) it was then I stopped bringing pie.
Unless this is a potluck, a weekend, or a picnic. In which case I bring pie. Husbands will back me up on this -- boys like a pie.
For family events, family gifts. Don't alienate the kids by bringing wine. You are begging for a frog in your chair. Oh wait, that's the list of things I learned from Sound of Music.
In January I was nearly stumped by a family of four: 8 y.o boy, 5 y.o. girl. I'll just tell you they got a DVD of Johnny Tremain.
Today I had plans with the Bs. It was a spectacular unseasonably warm day after the rains finally went to sea, or the earth rotated out of them, or however weather works. I had a day of driving errands planned, and a bribe stop at Shopper's World, which is very close to the Bs' neighborhood. And they had me at grilled meats. The plan was that after my pillage through Shopper's World I would come to their place for the cold beer and the smoky meats.
Trouble was, I had not been there before, so I wasn't sure whether there was a hostess-gift stop on the way. (Cookout qualifies for pie, I think, though I was going to fancy-up with a Boston Creme Pie, which you never buy for yourself but love to get). So I was at Shopper's World looking for the one thing I wasn't likely to find there.
I'll spare you every other store I went into, because I have a list of 10 posts to get through this weekend and I want to spend way too much time talking about where I did end up (colon) the pet store. I don't know which pet store. The one at Shopper's World. The point is I know nothing about Pet Stores and I wondered through this one like Borat, mesmerized by the magnitude of stuff.
Left side, dogs. Right side, cats. Rodents and other ridiculous house vermin down the middle. Fish, by this store's definition, do not seem to be pets. I have to concur that anything you can not actually pet should not be given that name. Dammit. have I wandered again?
Now I haven't had a dog in 20 years, but I know plenty of people who do and I know that there is no middle of the road on things like rawhide and other rendered chew toys (but seriously, you can buy a pallet of them for next to nothing!). Dog toys, like kid toys, can take over the house, so I moved on. From here it was a hardware store for a few aisles: chains, collars, fencing, things you spray, things you wipe, things you dust. Then beds and blankets, then the racks of dog food bags.
Dog food is pretty personal. Once again, I used my kid analogy. I wouldn't show up with baby food. Better steer clear. Back to blankets and beds.
Score one puffy floor cushion, creativity points, and a friendly wet nose in my lap.