12/17/2013 02:52 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2014

The Sneaky Secret Holiday Hosts Really Want You to Know

With holiday celebrations well underway, you're probably about to stock up on some small gifts to thank your party-throwing friends for doing the heavy lifting. But before you grab the usual chocolates, flowers and wine, think about getting them something they haven't already had to act excited about receiving five times before you got there.

While we'd like to think the holidays are not about what you bring the hostess, but what you bring to the friendship -- let's be honest -- we all like a little surprise from time to time. At the end of the evening, after your host washes the dishes and sweeps the floor, I guarantee they'll be tearing open those little gifts in the same way they would if they had just discovered Santa's secret stash. So why not be the guest that they call gushing the next morning?

Here are my top 10 sneaky suggestions for hostess gifts that will separate you from the crowd and put you on the top of next year's guest list:


I'm not suggesting that you stay til the next morning and set up in your friend's kitchen. But my guess is your host will be wiped out the next day. So why not bring bagels and flavored cream cheese or the very best gourmet breakfast bread you can find, along with a special holiday coffee blend? My favorite thing to do is to bake something I know my host loves -- but I wrap it like a present, so they won't put it out for the party. I attach an envelope that says, "Open me first thing tomorrow morning. No cheating!" and then, I give them the gift I know they really want -- I slip my Sneaky recipe inside. This one, for Sneaky Chef Guilt-Free Chocolate Donuts, is always a great way to start the morning -- even the morning after!

Spice Things Up

Those of us who enjoy entertaining, love to find exotic ingredients. One of my all-time favorites gifts was a beautiful bottle of barrel-aged balsamic vinegar and Greek olive oil that I could display in my kitchen. If you know your host likes to cook a particular kind of ethnic cuisine, find some great spices or even a cookbook you've heard them talk about. Something as simple as a magazine subscription for the gourmet cook is a gift that keeps on giving.

Picture Perfect

For your very best friends, pull out your camera and start snapping pictures. Then present your host with a note that tells her about your plan to have a memory book made. There are lots of online photo services available where you can upload your favorite shots and they'll send back a custom-made book.


There's no greater gift than laughter -- especially when it's coming from a room full of children. If you're invited to a family event, why not bring an old-fashioned board game for the kids? With the host's permission, set it up in another room and let the kids enjoy the party with some new friends -- while you catch up with your old ones.

Cold-weather Favorites They'll Love Having on Hand

Hot cocoa mixes, hot apple cider or a selection of fabulous teas. Or how about a certificate from a local roaster that allows your host to fill in their favorite blend and simply mail the card in? Within weeks, freshly roasted beans will be delivered to their door.

Great Gadgets

What do you get for the host who has everything? Something that will help them be an even better host! A great kitchen gadget. I'm not suggesting that you invest in the latest cappuccino or bread maker, although I'm sure they'd love that. Something as simple as a really cool carrot peeler or cork screw will leave a lasting impression on anyone who loves to cook.

Give Them a Break

They've spent weeks planning an event you'll remember. So why not give them a break -- a gift of a manicure, pedicure or facial.

Help Them Start the New Year Right

Have you overheard your friend vowing to take up yoga in the coming year? Or feeling badly that they don't have time to get to the gym? Bring the class to them! A great DVD that will get them in the swing of things.

Simple Pleasures

There are just some things that most of us never think of buying ourselves. But it's the little luxuries in life that make all the difference. A scented candle, bubble bath or a decadent body lotion seem simple, but for the host that needs a little pampering, these are the perfect start.

Next-day Treat!

When the party's over, there's nothing better than yummy treats the next day. Try one of my favorite desserts -- deliciously decadent but sneakily healthier Brilliant Blondies. Just remember, wrap it up and include a note -- so they'll be able to savor your special gift the next day. Happy holidays!