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Creative Hostess Gift Ideas: Easy DIYs Offering Gratitude at Summer Dinner Parties

Creative Hostess Gift Ideas: Easy DIYs Offering Gratitude at Summer Dinner Parties

“I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer—its dust and lowering skies.” – Toni Morrison

dinner party summer spread
Savory summer bites | Photo courtesy Unsplash user Brooke Lark

As the sensations of summer loom on the horizon—the blooming of roses, strawberries making their way to the stands at the farmers’ market, spring sweaters staying put in the closet and being replaced by sundresses—I begin to daydream of summer dinner parties.

As with each new season, my favorite part of summer tends to revolve around gatherings, time spent sharing meals and stories with friends and family. In the warmer months, the options for dinner party dining are plentiful, from tables inside adorned with fresh flowers, to picnic blankets on the lawn, to twinkle-lit decks and patios.

When I receive a summer dinner party invite, I like to be prepared with some creative hostess gift ideas that feel genuinely thoughtful. From a s’mores kit, to a treat yourself lounging bucket, to a picnic basket filled with goodies, here are three of my favorite gifts I like to bring along with me to summer parties. But, more important than the gifts themselves, are the feelings I hope they leave behind: contentment, gratitude, and a little bit of self-indulgence.

A Make Your Own S’mores Kit for the Sweetest Hostess

The tradition of s’mores is one I’ve loved and looked forward to every summer since I was a kid. Whether I’m roasting marshmallows at the beach or around a backyard bonfire, it’s still the sweetest-smelling dessert I’ve ever made. And, as they’re usually reserved for the summertime, they’ll forever remind me of the season of sand, sea, and sun.

s'more summer treats
S’more summer, please | Photo courtesy Etsy seller FavorBoxParty

I love putting together seasonal cookie kits as gifts (a mason jar filled with layers of flour, sugar, and Halloween sprinkles in the fall, anything green and red for winter, and pastel colored M&M’s in the spring), but in summer, I step out of the box, and the jar, and wrap up the makings for ooey-gooey s’mores.

They’re fun to have on hand for last minute camping or beach trips, and they don’t require any time on the recipient’s end spent measuring ingredients or sweating over an oven when it’s hot outside.

The Ingredients List:

  • 1 chocolate bar
  • 2 big marshmallows
  • 2 graham crackers
  • A piece of clear cellophane
  • A length of cute baker’s twine or raffia

To put the kit together, break the chocolate bar and graham crackers in half. Then, on an open piece of cellophane, place two pieces of graham cracker, followed by a piece of chocolate, then the marshmallows, then another piece of chocolate. Top it all off with the last two halves of graham cracker and there you have it! Now just wrap it all up and gift to a lucky hostess.

Hostess Sand Bucket, er… Gift Basket… Ideas

gift basket for summer
Poolside lounging in style | Photo courtesy Etsy seller InfinityLOVECo

This hostess gift is for your friends and family who could use some rest, relaxation, and a bit of lounging. It was inspired by my sister who chases three kids around daily and always feels like a million bucks when she’s able to paint her toenails, slather on some sunscreen, and lay her head back to lounge in the sun with a good book.

Sometimes, summer calls us all to take a few simple moments to unwind and enjoy being by some form of water—and that is exactly what this gift is offering your favorite hostess.

What to Put in a Beach Bag Gift:

  • A pair of flip flops
  • Nail polish
  • Sunglasses
  • Magazines or a new book
  • Sunscreen or lotion
  • A new beach towel

Stuff all these goodies in a sand bucket or woven tote and gift it to a hostess who may be in need of some summer poolside rest and relaxation. Remember, if you don’t want to go with this detailed of a gift, any one of these single items will make a beautiful hostess gift on their own. You know your hostess best and what will encourage her to get footloose and fancy free this summer!

Picnic Basket Gift Ideas for Summer

a summer picnic gift
A picnic ‘neath the shady trees | Photo courtesy Unsplash user Bonnie Kittle

My love for summer picnic baskets started a few years ago and now it knows no limit. Summer evenings spent in Portland always meant packing a basket with favorite things from the local market down the street before venturing to concerts in the park or outdoor gatherings with picnic party foods. We’d grab a baguette, a few selections of cheeses (like bacon cheddar or dill Havarti), a bottle of San Pellegrino, and top it all off with some kind of sweet or tangy spread, like tomato jam homemade from the spring or summer season’s bounty. Throw in some raw vegetables and salumi and you have all everything you need for an easily transportable meal.

This gift is wonderful to bring your hostess in the summer; perhaps it will spark the idea of getting together as a group to venture to some neighborhood outdoor activities. Even if a live concert isn’t on the calendar, there’s still something so nice about spreading a picnic blanket down on the grass, opening a basket, and spending a few hours of the day chatting and eating bit by bit as the summer sun goes down.

To properly pull this hostess gift off, you’ll need:

  • A vintage-style picnic basket (check your local thrift stores)
  • A fresh loaf of bread from a local market or bakery
  • Some specialty cheeses available at high-end marketplaces or local cheese shops
  • Bubbles, like a bottle of San Pellegrino or a light sparkling lemonade
  • Homemade tomato jam, or a locally crafted option from your farmers’ market

A Homemade Tomato Jam Recipe to Preserve Summer’s Bounty

While I like to include my homemade tomato jam in a picnic gift basket, your hostess would be equally delighted with a couple jars of this as a stand alone present as well. Here’s my go-to recipe for preserving summer’s fresh tomato bounty:

summer tomatoes make jam as a gift
Sweet and savory summer tomatoes | Photo courtesy Unsplash user Vince Lee

The Ingredients List:

  • 2 pounds of ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

The Recipe:

  1. Add the ingredients to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring consistently so that the bottom does not burn.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir until the mixture thickens into a jam. Remove from heat and cool.
  3. Transfer to well-sealed jars and enjoy!

Arrange your jam alongside your other items in your hostess gift basket, or simply add some twine for a rustic bow, then gift as a show of your gratitude for the gathering.

Whether you’re making a sweet treat s’mores kit or pairing a cute pair of flips flops with a brand new towel, I hope these homemade hostess gifts have given you creative tidbits of inspiration for the season of summer dinner parties ahead.

The warm and sunny weather seems to bring along with it the best excuses to gather together and share a meal with those you love. And, it’s always more fun to arrive with full arms and a full heart, offering your own unique token of appreciation to friends and family who generously open their homes and kitchens to you each summer.

For more ideas on hostess gift giving for summertime soirees, explore our summer gift guide. Or, connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

5 Awesome Ways To Make Summer Great for The Whole Gang!

5 Awesome Ways To Make Summer Great for The Whole Gang!

060Memorial Day weekend has arrived and so has the unofficial start of summer! For my family, that means packing the kids and the dog in the car and making the four-hour journey up to our beloved lake house in the mountains. It’s a magical place that takes our family back in time — where we all love to unplug, kick back and enjoy all that summer has to offer. Not only does Memorial Day weekend allow us to enjoy time together, it is also a chance to honor our country’s veterans, including members of our own family, by attending our local parade. This marks the start of being outdoors almost all day, every day, for fun, meals and adventure. With that in mind, I wanted to share my top picks for summer fun, no matter where you are heading.

Soak Up Summer

All winter long, I dream of the warm days and sunny skies that await us at the start of summer. I also long for the days filled with family fun — no school, no schedules. Take advantage and plan awesome activities that make a big splash for the kids and kids-at-heart alike, like a day at the pool, trip to the beach, or hike in the woods. Whether you travel far like us or stay in your own backyard, make time for a cool treat. I love these unique Zoku Classic Pop Molds from Elfster’s School’s Out Gift Guide, designed with easy cleanup in mind. Just add your favorite ingredients to the mold, like juice, yogurt, smoothies, or sugar-free drinks to the make six delicious popsicles. I especially like to throw in fresh-picked berries we harvest to add extra texture and flavor. Add some alcohol for an adult twist on frozen flavors, like spiked creamsicles, Kahlua pudding pops, or mojito pops!


Make Every Day a New Adventure

For us, summer is all about the roadtrip. I love to get out the good old-fashioned road atlas and pick a spot we have never explored as a possible target. Our whole family loves to get into the planning to make sure we check out all the great sites our destination has to offer. I guess you can call us a family of adventure seekers.  If your family needs inspiration for planning your next summer adventure, a great resource for us offered in Elfster’s Summer Travel Gift Guide has been this handy journal — I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded. It will help you navigate and explore the easily overlooked and wonderful everyday details encountered while traveling, whether near or far away. It’s packed with unique and fulfilling journeys that can be undertaken in any city, as well as prompts to record every whimsical discovery.

Grillin’ and Chillin’

There’s no better way to enjoy summer with family and friends than gathering for a great barbecue. Plan an epic gathering and make it a team effort by encouraging guests to bring their favorite summer dish for great variety of delectable homemade specialties. Many hands make light work, leaving you all plenty of time to relax and enjoy your time together. Perhaps my favorite thing in our Summer Fun Guide to help make party planning and organizing easy is Pottery Barn’s Galvanized Metal Rolling Wagon — looks perfect on my patio, but I love the flexibility of moving food and drinks to any part of the yard.

Turn It Off and Tune In… to each other

Within our lake community, we truly embrace a laid-back vibe all summer long. We are often technologically-lacking in our remote location, so we make it a point to just enjoy being with each other and leave the phones at home. Throughout the summer, we love to gather on the lawn outside the community clubhouse for a special night at the movies, featuring a box office family favorite. Elfster’s Outdoor Fun Guide features an easy to set up portable outdoor movie screen that your family can use in the backyard or anyplace you want a 120-inch projection screen. Just add the projector found on our site, too. Get cozy and don’t forget the popcorn!


Eat More S’mores!

No summer night at the lake is complete without at least one ooey, gooey s’more around the campfire. If you are limited by space (or time) and stuck without a fire pit, have no fear. You can still enjoy the staple of summer deliciousness! Just add chocolate and marshmallows to your favorite waffle or sugar cones and pop them on your grill using the innovative Sur La Table S’mores Cone Rack, another awesome pick from Elfster’s Outdoor Fun Guide. It’s a clever new way to enjoy the best treat of summer with less mess.

Bring on summer! (I know I can’t wait!)  What’s the best product for summer you can’t live without? Hope this helps you get your summer started! Be sure to add what you love to your Elfster summer wish list or plan a summer-themed gift exchange with your gang. We would love to see what you are giving and getting too, so post your best gift pics on Instagram, and add the hashtag  #elfstergram. How do you celebrate summer? Let us know! You can visit us on Facebook or tweet us @elfster, too.



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How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow?


Spring is in full swing, so whether you are creating your own backyard oasis or planting a bountiful vegetable garden (or maybe both!), it’s time to get outside and get your garden growing.

Does your garden to soak up the sun or is it made in the shade? Either way, we’ll help you get your hands in the dirt and your heart back to nature. Need a little inspiration? Check out Elfster’s Gardening Gift Guide, which features fresh, new garden essentials for you or your favorite green thumb.



Cool Tools

It’s time to dig into spring with just the right tools to make your springtime clean up a snap and summer maintenance a breeze. Not only does our guide offer handy garden tools, but solutions to keep them organized, too.

This large Picnic Time Garden Tote from Target is the perfect way to keep tools in reach anywhere in the garden. Combining convenience and practicality, this is a gardening tote you will want to use all the time. It comes with three metal gardening tools secured in an easily accessible exterior pocket. Attractive and durable fabrics with a stain-resistant interior make this tote the perfect gift for those who love to garden.


Perfect Planters

Looking for the perfect container for summer herbs and annuals? Elfster’s gardening guide features a great selection of planters, including creative solutions to keep flowers and herbs at your fingertips, and hungry critters at bay.

Add a new dimension to gardening with this rustic vertical planter from one of our favorite garden retailers, Williams-Sonoma. Inspired by vintage wine crates, it’s an easy way to enjoy the fresh flavors and aromas of homegrown herbs. No actual planting is required: simply place nine pots of herbs in the tray system — and harvest whenever you like.


Sowing Summer Seeds

With a little careful planning, your garden will fill your salad bowl with its bounty all summer long. Keep is simple or go all out — you decide. And it’s a perfect activity for the kids, too!

Sow the seeds of warm weather vegetables with this prettily packaged Veggie Garden Maker set from Food52. It has everything you need to grow a classic collection of organic vegetables. The seeds were chosen because they’re easy to grow, versatile in the kitchen, and beautifully ornamental. You can grow them in containers or a garden plot — included are 8 organic seed varieties, a recycled steel case, garden stakes, a pencil, and instructions.

Host a Springtime Garden Exchange

Enjoy getting your garden in shape this spring and celebrate the beauty of the season with your friends and family by hosting a secret santa style springtime gift exchange on Elfster, too. It’s a great way to motivate each other to make your garden glorious by exchanging tools, seeds and inspiration! Need help using Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.


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Plan Your Summer Adventure

Plan Your Summer Adventure

Summer Gift Ideas


Summer is here — so what’s on your to-do list? Planning a road trip? Spending time outdoors? Relaxing with family and friends? Wherever your summer adventures take you, make the most of them with some help from Elfster. The options for summer fun are endless…







Enjoy a Backyard Adventure

The last bell has rung on this school year! Get outside and celebrate summer with the kids. Elfster’s School’s Out Gift Guide has plenty of great ideas to help you explore the world around you this summer. Cool off on those hot days to come and make your own backyard the destination for an adventure. We have just what you need to keep the whole family busy all summer long.













Hit the Road

Going by car? Or by plane? Heading East? Or West? Elfster has some great ideas for your ultimate road trip. From travel guides to spark your sense of adventure to convenient travel gear to keep you organized on the road, Elfster has all the must-haves in our Summer Travel Ideas Gift Guide. Your world awaits!










Get Outside & Get Moving

Try a new outdoor activity with friends this summer. Take a cruise around town on Cardiff Skates, paddle the relaxing waters on a stand-up paddleboard or take in the beauty of nature in a kayak built for two. You’ll find something to motivate everyone in the crowd in Elfster’s Outdoor Fun Gift Guide. So get out there, give it a try. Make it an adventure.





 Go On The Adventure of a Lifetime

Looking for the ultimate adventure this summer? We have something to challenge anyone, anywhere in the world, in Elfster’s ultimate Bucket Lists Guide. From zip lining through the treetops in Costa Rica to swimming with great white sharks in Perth, Australia to exploring Hawaiian waterfalls.. with plenty of inspirational ideas in between. And now Elfster proudly offers the option to create your own Bucket List of ideas to use now or save for a few years down the road. Let your friends and family know your ultimate dream.

And how about sharing your sense of adventure by hosting a summer gift exchange with friends and family. Elfster’s secret Santa style gift exchanges are a great way to connect, no matter what the occasion. And Elfster’s Summer Gift Ideas Guides have something for everyone and just what you need for inspiration for your own wish list. Need help? We are here all summer long. You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

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What’s YOUR Summer Swap?

What’s YOUR Summer Swap?

Summer Gift Ideas



Summertime is here. Time to kick back, relax and enjoy the lazy days ahead. This summer, why not celebrate the season by hosting a summer-themed gift exchange with Elfster? We’ve got plenty of great ideas to get you started. Just add friends and family.





Summer Hostess Gifts


 Secret Summer Swaps

Secret Santa gift exchanges aren’t just for Christmas anymore. And Elfster groups all over the world are busy gearing up for the fun and carefree summer season. One group of fitness enthusiasts is getting “Fit, Fierce & Fabulous” as group members exchange inspirational gifts to help each other get beach-ready. Dozens of groups will be celebrating their summer babies’ big days with special packages for their secret pals. And lots of book lovers will Splash Into Summer” with an exchanges of popular e-books and paperbacks—a perfect way to relax at the beach or lounge poolside.


Another group hosting a “Summer Survival Swap” is ready for gifting and describes its exchange like this — “Oh, Summer! Season of sunshine, lip gloss, pedicures, fun drinks, long nights, good reads, arts & crafts, good music! Put together the most creative package you can spending $20 (no more & NO LESS so it’s fun and fair for all!) Wrap & ship it pretty….”  Sounds pretty perfect to us!


Summer Gifts for Kids



Celebrate with your Beach Buddies

Heading to the beach or on vacation with family and friends? Why not host a gift exchange of beach towels, outdoor necessities, or travel gear to kick off the festivities. The kids will love getting in on the secret exchange, like one large extended family using Elfster this summer to celebrate their time together at the beach. Looking for ideas to get you started? Check out Elfster’s Beach Getaway Gift Guide for some hot gift ideas for the summer of 2015.





summer-wines-mr-article-x Host a Summer Soiree

Planning a summer gathering? Pick a theme and start an exchange for you and your guests to share fun gifts—summer barbeque essentials or unique delicacies are just a few great summer gift ideas to get your party started. One family is using Elfster to help plan an “Unbirthday Gift Exchange” to add a fun twist to a get-together. And even though they can’t be together in person, one online community will be hosting a “Hometown Hop,” swapping gifts to represent their own hometown’s unique flavor. No matter what the occasion, Elfster has great summer gift ideas.


Make a Summer Connection

Can’t get together in person this summer? Are you a part of an online community looking for a way to get to know each other better? Online communities all over the world use Elfster to help them connect. Why not start a summer swap for your unique group? It’s easy to get started. It can be as simple as a handwritten “snail mail” letter or an interesting postcard, like two groups using Elfster this summer to get to know each other better.

Elfster’s Summer Gift Ideas Guides have something for everyone and just what you need for inspiration for your own wish list. Need help? We are here all summer long. You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

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