How to make certain they'll ask you back next year

Sunday, December 5, 2004

The pile of holiday party invitations is staring back at you. Good news: You're really popular. Bad news: You've actually got to show up at a couple of these things. And certainly not empty handed.

But what to bring? Not what you might think, say PR mavens/event coordinators Lara Shriftman and Elizabeth Harrison, authors of "Fete Accompli! The Ultimate Guide to Creative Entertaining."

Flowers are "one of the worst gifts to bring to a party," they say. "Your host will have to drop everything, find a vase and arrange them to fit the decor."

What about wine? Yawn.

No flowers? No wine? Then what?

The part-time Miami residents, who put together P. Diddy's August post-MTV Video Music Awards bash at Ice Palace Studios in Miami, give you their picks for the host gifts with the most.

1. Pamper me: What host in her right mind wouldn't give her best Teflon pan for this? A certificate for a massage -- a godsend for overburdened party planners. For an extra touch, they recommend adding a bottle of "it" color nail polish (try Essie's latest Frozen Assets collection in a cool shimmer-berry color like Hot Commodity, (800) 232-1155).

2. Pack it up: Everyone loves baskets. But use creativity about what you put inside one. Harrison and Shriftman recommend the following goodies that will guarantee a repeat invite next year:

Bath products galore; for guys, a shaving kit.

The host's favorite movie on DVD and microwave popcorn.

A leather journal with profound inspirational quotes on the cover.

For the sports-obsessed, Caseworks International manufactures high-end sports collectible cases (if you've got a Dan Marino-signed ball, this is how to show it off). From

A crystal vodka ice cooler from Petrossian with matching vodka flutes (, 800-828-9241). Simple and stunning.

Ralph Lauren chrome picture frames at Ralph Lauren at Bloomingdale's and any Ralph Lauren boutique.

A beach towel, flip-flops, SPF and a trashy chick-lit novel; or for guys, a car magazine and a bottle of Armor All Car Wash Wipes.

Long-burning candles in pretty holders are au courant crowd pleasers. Acqua di Parma's deliciously unisex-scented Colonia Assoluta Large Votives work for most households as white goes with most interiors (Neiman Marcus fragrance counter). Or get festive with Crabtree & Evelyn's new Noel home fragrance collection, which includes glass-poured candles in Santa-red holders decorated with stars or stripes. (800) CRABTREE.

3. Give the gift of fitness: Harrison and Shriftman tout this idea as not only healthy but highly "original." Inside a pair of boxing gloves, place a certificate for a boxing lesson. Is your host showing signs of nervous distress? Deep breathing might be the only thing that keeps him in balance (especially if they keep giving all these back-breaking parties). Harrison and Shriftman like the idea of giving a yoga class. Tie up a certificate inside a straw yoga mat (available at most gym shops and athletic stores).

4. Look but don't read: Always good, the two fashionistas say -- trendy recipe books, the glossier the better. Just so long as they have more color pictures than text. A few at the front tables of most bookstores:

"Top Secret Restaurant Recipes: Creating Kitchen Clones from America's Favorite Restaurant Chains," Todd Wilbur

"Nobu: The Cookbook," Nobuyuki Matsuhisa

"Eat at Joe's: The Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant Cookbook," by Jo Ann Bass and Richard Sax

5. A taste of New York: No need to jet up to the concrete metropolis, says Harrison, just go to the source, via the Internet ( The NY Breakfast Crate, from bagel king Zabars, comes with fresh bagels, nova, cream cheese, as well as other goodies like chocolate babka, coffee and a mug. Bonus: Its packaging, in an urban-chic wooden box.

6. Class act: And lastly, if you really want the invitations to roll in for years, this might be the mother lode, say Lara and Liz: Parisian caviar giant Petrossian's Six Months of Caviar, a pack of Royal Ossetra, Beluga and other salty goodies as well as mini-blinis every month. At, (800) 828-9241.

But, then again, for that kind of money, you can probably throw your own party.

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