Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Hostess Gift Dilemma

A bowl to give or keep?
In our diplomatic circles here in Albania not only is it customary to bring a small gift when you are invited to dinner at some one's home but you also give a gift to guests when they are visitors to your home.  Because of this, I'm always looking for unique hostess gifts.  Whenever possible I try to give out gifts that are meaningful to us and are reflective of who we are and where we come from.  This isn't always easy.  For our first year in the country our standard gift to say thank you for dinner invitations was a bottle of Maryland wine which played homage to Glenn's upbringing.  If our host was married I always included a small gift for his wife as well.  Whether it be note cards designed by a Maine artist, pineapple bookmarks (a traditional symbol of American hospitality), or American history themed tea towels and coffee table books, I try to  select thoughtful gifts.  When it was our turn to host the monthly social, we dug into my New England roots and gifted our guests with L.L. Bean boat bags filled with wild Maine blueberry jam, maple syrup, and pancake mix.  When the stash of gifts I had brought with me from the U.S. was depleted, I discovered a local monastery that produced traditional Albanian pottery.  While it wasn't American it fit my gift giving criteria since they weren't mass produced items either. 

After a year plus of gift giving, however, I feel as though my creativity level is dropping rapidly.  Of course we'll be giving out more wine in the coming months- more from Maryland with the addition of some California thrown in for variety.  This year Christmas gifts will include the 2012 White House Christmas ornaments since they are about as American as you can get.  These will be our standard gifts for our remaining months in Albania but when I started thinking about what we could give as our more personal gifts for the coming year I drew a blank.  Everything I thought of was either too expensive, impractical to ship to us, or not representational of who we are.  More wine is fine but after the bottle has been emptied, the memory is gone.  Then one day while absently surfing through Facebook, the perfect gift idea appeared on my wall.

My very talented cousin Sarah Caruso is a potter in Falmouth, Massachusetts. She sells her hand thrown pottery at shops and craft fairs throughout eastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod under the name Sarah Caruso Pottery.  Her designs are beautiful, represent the Cape, and because she is my cousin, they definitely have a personal connection to us.  I had a hard time deciding which pieces I wanted to buy but after several back and forth emails a decision was made.  I purchased several pieces with the idea that I would give them out as gifts to our closer friends and colleagues here in Albania.  When the box arrived the bowls were more beautiful in person than they pictures I had seen. I've now been faced with the dilemma of choosing which pieces to give as gifts and which
one(s) to keep for myself. The decision isn't easy.  I have already parted with one bowl which was received with great enthusiasm. 

A sampling of Sarah's work

A mortar and pestle I am keeping to replace the one that was lost during our last move

You can find Sarah's work at nicer gift shops and craft fairs across Cape Cod.  Or you can do as I did and order on line.  To see more of Sarah's work or to find out which shows she will be visiting soon, click  here.  Whatever you do, be sure to check out her work.  Its beautiful, unique, and if you can part with it, makes the perfect hostess gift. 

1 comment:

  1. Your cousin's pottery is gorgeous. What a lovely custom. Giving and receiving hostess gifts really makes an occasion out of your gatherings.