Friday, December 6, 2002

SAY IT WITH FLOWERS: A poinsettia symbolizes Christmas like no other potted plant and will add a splash of color to any holiday gathering. It's easy to snap one up with a quick stop at Long's ($4.99 to $7.99) or any garden shop on the way to the party. Liz Huppman, research assistant at Lyon Arboretum, said poinsettia, originally from Mexico, are outdoor plants that are hardy enough to be kept indoors near a sunny window. She suggests leaving the pot outside during the day, and enjoying it indoors nights and weekends.

If you question your host's green-thumb capabilities, choose a floral centerpiece rather than a live plant. Flowers by Jr. Lou & T in Moiliili offers one with ornaments ($45) to brighten the holiday table. There's no need to make an extravagant display as the simplest holiday bouquet of flowers is sure to warm the heart.

Ho Ho Host

By Ruby Mata-Viti

It's better to give than receive, it's said, but at Christmastime we get to play both ends of the scale; unless, of course, you're the host of a party, the ultimate giver.

Hosts open their hearts and homes to family and friends, to what they make seem an effortless feat -- setting the scene for food, festivity and fond memories.

Never once do they show panic, even if they've miscalculated the meat portions. Nor do they drop hints about facing a sink full of dishes and a mess at the end of the night.

Sure, they may flinch if the neighbor's kid starts yanking Fido's tail, but seasoned hosts are forever gracious and gentle, employing an array of damage- control tactics they've managed to hone over the years.

For this, they should be rewarded, and those who show up at the door with a present of appreciation as they enter the fete will likely find themselves on the guest list for the next party.

Here are a few suggestions for hostess gifts.


WINE CHARMS: Present the host with a gift that can be used right away. Wine glass charms help guests keep track of their drink all night. Available at Executive Chef at Ward Centre at every price range, the ones above go for $10.99 for a set of six. Beer charms, made of thin rubbery hoops to go over the neck of beer bottles, cost $16.25.

If you simply want to woo with wine, Richard Field of R. Field Wine Co. recommends champagne as it goes with almost anything. Something "not too dry," he said, like Veuve Clicquot Brut or Moët & Chandon White Star. "It's celebratory and it's white." These are pricey -- at more than $50 -- so the alternative is a sparkling wine from California or Italy. Field wouldn't suggest a red unless you know what's being served, so call ahead to see what's on the menu. Then ask your local wine merchant for a pairing suggestion; they're usually more than happy to share their expertise.


A HAND IN THE KITCHEN: No one can ever have enough potholders and towels. Two mini surfboard designs from Island Heritage, above, expand when soaked in water, into a 13-by-13-inch towel. Recipe boxes with recipe cards come in the same patterns ($7.99). Potholders ($5.99) and oven mitts ($7.99) can be found on the company's Web site


GOODIES: Even if the party's potluck, arrive bearing food for the host. A well-packaged combination of treats like the one shown at right will go a long way. Attractive, thoughtful and practical, it contains items that can be served at the party (Calamata Olives, $4.75) plus a colander ($22) to use long after the goodies have been consumed.

Executive Chef manager Vicki Kaleopa'a said a sales assistant can help put together a fitting presentation and will work with any budget.

Even a couple of boxes of hors d'oeuvre crackers from Costco and deli cheese, like brie, wrapped in decorative cellophane, topped with a glossy bow, will suffice.


ENTER THE RAM: 2003 marks the Year of the Ram (or Sheep) in Chinese astrology. People born in the years 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 fall under this sign and are characterized by their elegance, wisdom, kindness and compassion; all, coincidently, traits of the perfect host.

Help hosts get a jump on the Chinese New Year with a Year of the Ram etching ($29.96), shown above left, or a charm ($8.90) -- both available at Sedona in Ward Centre -- that can be hooked over a bottle of wine. Similar ornaments, like the jade one shown above right, are available in Chinatown.

Wrap it up!

Pick up some fresh ideas for holiday giving through our weeklong series:

Monday: Presents for the pampered pet
Tuesday: Glittery gifts for girls
Wednesday: Send a little taste of aloha
Yesterday: Toys for (big) boys
Sunday: Tuneful ideas for the music lover

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