Hostess Gift Ideas

Hostess Gift Ideas Somehow in all our moves, I’ve never written a post on hostess gift ideas (can I blame it on moving brain??). But thanks to the suggestion of one of my blogging besties (post ideas are just one of the many perks of have good blogging friends) I’m finally getting around to sharing a few ideas. Of course, the old standby of grabbing a bottle of wine is easy (and totally acceptable), but it’s not the most creative of gifts, so I came up with a few ideas that are just as easy, but slightly more thoughtful and personal. With plenty of summer events, barbecues, and get togethers on the horizon, this list of hostess gift ideas is sure to come in handy.

1. S’mores Kit// Graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate, roasting sticks; if you want to get extra fancy use a specialized chocolate and homemade or flavored marshmallows.

2. A Mini Herb Garden// For a host that enjoys cooking, a mini herb garden filled with things such as thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley or chives, is the perfect addition to their kitchen. Anytime they want to season a dish, the herbs are right there. Go the extra mile and include plant markers.

3. Relaxation Package- Hosting an event can be stressful, so help your host unwind with a few relaxing goodies- a cozy pair of socks, a sweet smelling candle, bubble bath soap, some tea, their favorite magazine, and a sprig of lavender. Also, some wine wouldn’t hurt!

4. Muffins & Jam- Pack a towel-lined basket with muffins (homemade or from a local bakery) and add a jar of jam (and coffee or tea)…your hostess will appreciate not having to cook up breakfast the morning after entertaining guests.

5. Local Fare// If you’re traveling some distance to see your hostess, bring an item that is unique to where you live, i.e. a locally brewed beer, or chocolates handmade in a small shop around the corner.

6. Homemade Items// Of course, in my opinion, homemade items are always the best. Whether it’s homemade caramels, seasoning mix, jam or even pickles, your host will really appreciate the extra mile you took to make them something special.

7. Pasta Dinner Kit// A bag of pasta, a basil plant, a head of garlic, a handful of fresh tomatoes (or a jar of your favorite sauce), and a chunk of parm, make it easy for your host to throw a quick and relaxing dinner together the next night. Bonus points for fresh bread, a bottle of wine, and the red and white checkered table cloth.

DIY Flower Pepper

DIY Flower Pepper When my Mom first introduced me to one of her favorite seasonings, Trader Joe’s Flower Pepper, I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly enthused to try it. Despite my love of tossing flowers in salads or dousing them in sugar, I somehow wasn’t keen on the idea of grinding flowers into my food (go figure). But a few twist of the pepper mill later and my mind was changed. While it’s not a seasoning for everything (or everyone), it has become one of my favorite ways to spice up a salad, a dressing, a piece of fish, or even a poultry dish with just enough of a floral essence to completely change the dynamic of flavors in a totally subtle and effortless way. Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s no longer carries their flower pepper, but, while plotting out the perfect mother’s day gift a few weeks ago, I stumbled on my old flower pepper bottle in my spice cabinet and realized just how easy it was to recreate this seasoning for my Mom (who had been desperately trying to hunt down any remaining bottles). Not only was it easy to make, but the flowers were so pretty and colorful to work with, and of course, call me biased, but nothing beats homemade!

dried flowers diy spice mix dried lavender dried roses peppercorns dried flowers DIY flower pepper Dried rosebuds DIY Trader Joe's Flower Pepper DIY Flower Pepper

DIY Flower Pepper
Peppercorns (I used a mix of black, green, and red)
Rose petals

An empty pepper mill


Measure out your ingredients using the estimated ratio of 4 parts pepper to 1 part flowers. My final recipe was about 1 cup peppercorns, 2 tablespoons of lavender, 1 1/2 tablespoons of calendula, and about 1 tablespoon of rose petals. I layered the ingredients in the pepper mill (it was a clear one from Ikea) for a prettier presentation (this looks nicer if you’re giving it as a gift). However, you can also just toss all the ingredients together. If you choose to layer the ingredients, simply be sure to shake the pepper mill a few times prior ti using.

This tastes great on salads (especially ones with fruit), mixed into goat cheese and then served with crackers, and on chicken and pork.

*If you have trouble finding dried flowers, I recommend checking your local health food stores as well as a place like Whole Foods. You can also order them online from stores like Amazon (although they tend to only come in larger amounts). For those of you in New York, I got my dried flowers at a shop in the East Village called Flower Power.

How-to: Marble Nails

How-to: Marble Nails || Runway Chef My love affair with marble is nothing new. I have long dreamed of a sleek, marbled kitchen (something along the lines of this) but unfortunately, the only marble happening in my kitchen is this. So you could say the marble print popping up in fashion is getting me slightly excited. Ok, really excited. Like uber, over-the-moon excited. After all, if I can’t have a marble kitchen, why not go for a marble closet?!

Now I haven’t actually taken the plunge on any marble pieces just yet, so I thought the perfect way to start incorporating the trend was with marble nails. It’s easy (no water, tape or plastic bags needed for these marble nails), it’s quick, it’s pretty much foolproof, and for those of you who aren’t quite sure of this trend (or only prefer it in small doses) this has your name marbled all over it.

easy marble nails marble nails marble print nails


White Nail Polish (I used Sally Hansen White On)
Gray Nail Polish (I used OPI Suzi Skis in the Pyrenees)
Top Coat (I used Sally Hansen Clearly Quick)

marble nails tutorial 1. Prep your nails- make sure they are trimmed, filed, and cleaned.

marble nail tutorial 2. Unscrew the tops from the nail polishes and set aside (it will make it easier to work if you keep them open the entire time). Working on one nail at a time, sporadically drop on a couple drops (2-3 for the smaller nails, 3-5 for the bigger nails) of the white polish.

marble nails without water 3. In between the white drops, add in a couple drops of the gray polish. To give my nails some variety, I used 2 drops of gray on a few nails and 3 drops on others.

marble print nails 4. With a toothpick, immediately begin swirling the polish around as you simultaneously spread it across the entire nail bed. If you find you are short on polish, simply add on another drop or two.

marble nails without water 5. Continue on in this method until you have completed all your nails.

easy marble nails 6. If needed, clean up any stray polish with a q-tip and nail polish remover. 

easy marble nail tutorial

7. Finish your nails with a clear top coat and let air dry for at least 30 minutes.

Year of Surprises

I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Millennial Central for Marriott Rewards. I received Marriott Points to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Box of Surprises I’ve always liked the idea of surprises but I’ve never actually liked surprises. I make no sense, I know. But case in point, I remember when I was younger telling my best friend how to throw me a surprise party, which basically eliminated the surprise part. I also remember my Mom planning a big surprise party for my Dad’s birthday that involved things like riding a train across upstate New York with our family….as soon as I found out, I spilled the beans on that one, of course. Nowadays, anytime I catch wind of a surprise headed my way, I beg and plead to know what the surprise is to the point of being so unbearable for the surpriser that they just end up telling me. So basically if you’re planning a surprise for my birthday (which is just a few short weeks a way)…DON’T DO IT!

However, there are two kinds of surprises I do love. One is surprising other people, and the second (which I guess kind of ties into the first) is sending and receiving unexpected notes, gifts, and packages. I don’t think I’m alone in saying, in the day of e-mails, texts and tweets, finding a letter or a small present amidst all the bills in your mailbox can truly brighten your day like nothing else. Since college my Mom has sent me little surprise boxes here and there with things such as chocolate or stickers, sometimes even items from the dollar section at Target (which I love, by the way). It has never been anything crazy but it’s always a wonderful surprise.

These days I like sending my own little surprise boxes. Often times people think they need an event, a birthday, or a party to celebrate, but I disagree. Celebrate a friendship, celebrate a supportive co-worker, celebrate a loving family member, or just celebrate being alive. 

box of surprises gift idea Year of Surprises || Runway Chef Need some ideas of what to include in your box of surprises? Try one of these combos-

French// Macaroons, Eiffel Tower Notecards, Paris Towel, Striped Straws

Gardener// Seed Packets, Gardening Gloves, Hand Lotion

Coffee or Tea Lover// Mug, Coffee or Tea, Cookies or Biscuits

Beauty Addict// Nail Polish, Lip Balm, Lip Scrub, Nail Files

Children// Animal Crackers, Activity Books, Coloring Pencils, Stickers

Guys// Beef Jerky, Socks, Chocolate

Hostess// Candles, Jar of Jam, Tea To

Year of Surprises || Runway Chef Want to surprise your loved ones with something a little bigger than a box of surprises? I’ve teamed up with Marriott Rewards® to help you do just that. In honor of Marriott Reward’s 30th birthday they are celebrating with their members all year long with not just one surprise, but a whole Year of Surprises. So along with sending your friends and family little boxes of surprises, you can also nominate a loved one to receive an awesome surprise party thrown by Marriott Rewards. 

There will be a total of three nomination periods throughout 2014. The first round of nominations for Year of Surprises takes place February 1 to February 28. Nominations will be reviewed based on creativity/uniqueness of entry, overall appeal of nomination essay, and feasibility of the surprise party. Three winners will be awarded and announced in March and parties will be scheduled each month throughout the year.  The second nomination period is during the month of May, and the third is during the month of August. Limit one (1) entry per person/email address per nomination period. Please see the “Nominate” section at for the nomination entry form and requirements.

To enter you don’t have to be a Marriott Rewards member, but if your nominee gets picked you will both have to register. Marriott Rewards is actually the only hotel rewards program I belong to so I highly recommend joining. You can do so for free at For more details on the contest, check out the Year of Surprises official rules at

I’m so excited to be working with this program to help you surprise your loved ones. I’ll be back two more times over the next 6 months so stay tuned for more “surprises”, and in the mean time, best of luck to all who enter!

DIY Lip Scrub

DIY Lip Scrub I’m sure I’m not alone when I say my skin is a total nightmare in the wintertime. My lips, in particular, are a real trouble spot. Apparently an entire tube of chapstick a day just isn’t enough to keep them moisturized because those puckers continue to stay chapped and dry. Using this diy lip scrub is one of the only things I’v found to help. I’ll use it every couple days, along with scrubbing my lips with an old toothbrush (tip: rubbing your lips with an old toothbrush and a drop of peppermint oil is a great way to naturally plump your lips before applying lipstick). Since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought there was no better time to share this diy lip scrub, as I’m sure you’ll want to have those puckers in tip, top and smooth shape.

Grapefruit Lip Scrub homemade lip scrub

Coconut Oil
Exfoliant: Baking Powder, Brown or White Sugar, Ground Oats, Ground Almonds, Salt
Extras: Grapefruit Juice, Lemon Juice, Peppermint Oil, Cinnamon, Cocoa Powder, Herbs (such as Rosemary or Lavender), Rose Water

honey and coconut oil lip scrub 1. For the most basic lip scrub, you simply need coconut oil and honey. You can also use this mixture as a base carrier for other ingredients.

coconut oil and honey lip scrub 2. To make the scrub with additional ingredients, mix together equal parts honey and coconut oil. I usually do about 1 tablespoon of each.

DIY Grapefruit Lip Scrub 3. I chose to make a brown sugar grapefruit scrub, so next I will squeeze in about 1 teaspoon of fresh grapefruit juice. If you are using any other extras, now is the time to add them. Play around with your measurements…something like cocoa powder you would use a teaspoon of, but peppermint oil would only require a few drops.

how to make your own lip scrub 4. Finally mix in about a teaspoon of brown sugar (or the exfoliant of your choice). Bottle it up and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Just remember to take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes prior to using, or run it under hot water to loosen the oil up. Use a spoon to stir it up if necessary. Then rub a small amount on your lips for 30 seconds before rinsing off with warm water.

diy lip scrub