The reason my last post included scented candles as something to resist this Christmas is simple: I have received a lot of scented candles as hostess gifts, and we can't use them. Allergies in the family make most scented candles unbearable for some of us. So, I end up giving most of them away.
Some gift items I like to give to hostesses, or have been happy to receive:
a small potted plant
a box of tea, coffee, or hot cocoa mix
a bottle of wine (sparkling cider for nondrinkers)
some homemade sweet bread, wrapped ready to freeze - mini loaves are great
a small ornament for the tree - if appropriate
local farmstand jams, jellies, honey...
coffeehouse syrups for Italian sodas and espresso drinks
One year someone gave me a little pot of pansies. They brightened my kitchen windowsill for a few weeks, then I planted them outside. If I thought about it, I'd bet that cost less than a dollar, but boy it sure was a nice gift. I remember it and the giver after at least 3 years. The only reason I mention money is because hostess gifts can really stress people out if they have a small gift budget. I don't live like the frugal ladies, stashing thrift-store finds all year long. I don't have the space, the initiative, or the kids to go thrifting and stashing. (I don't like to torture my boy any more than necessary.)
Some homemade gifts we've seen in craft books or on the internet: felted soap scrubs, bath salts, glycerin soaps, lip balm...
Most people appreciate some good chocolate. Make mine dark, please! Of course you have to know if that's appropriate for the recipient. But if it's someone you don't know - for example, at your husband's (or your) work colleague's open house - most anything will work because they can pass it on if they don't like it. In my experience, an alcoholic beverage would be the only thing that could offend.
What other consumable gifts have you enjoyed giving or receiving?