Gift: Life’s a Picnic

Outdoor concerts, impromptu dinners in the park and cocktails on the beach––it’s picnic season. An alfresco-ready basket, bag or box makes a thoughtful, useful gift for the hosts you’ll drop in on this summer.

As the lucky recipient of a colorful melamine bento box like this I can say, with confidence, that this is the perfect gift for friends who dine outdoors. The dividers in the top tray are just right for olives or other nibbles, and the impressive presentation makes everything taste just a little more interesting.

Timeless picnic hampers remind me of packing into the sticky Oldsmobile and piling out into the cool grass at a local park or taking a windows-down mini road-trip from the Chicago suburbs to someplace more exotic…like Milwaukee. Etsy hosts a feast of vintage baskets and hampers in beautiful condition.

Loaded with all the compostable gear you’ll need––from napkins to serving trays––the portable picnic packs from Boxsal are eco-friendly chic. Half the fun is choosing a theme: Office Escape (in a sneaky briefcase), Today’s Date (icebreakers included to combat awkward lulls in conversation) and Urban Picnic Box (disguised as a boom box).

I like this smart, compact insulated Metro Basket. It appears easy to tote, and it would fit nicely into a bike basket. And, if you really want to get fancy it can be monogrammed too.

This lightweight Picnic Pack is always prepared for cocktails on the go. It fits two bottles of wine, sturdy glasses and a cheeseboard––hello happy hour. 



Gift: Apron Strings

If you are in need of something for the host or hostess with the mostest (really, as in the person who has everything and you’ve run out of ideas) a short, chic or multi-purpose apron might be just the thing. The demure apron may have been made popular by June Cleaver, but with pockets and updated patterns it’s ready for a comeback. Not just all flounce either, a more rugged waist apron is handy for the garden or tool-shed tinkerer. In skulking around the web looking for aprons I discovered that there is even an apron museum in Ioka, Mississippi. Road trip anyone?

I have to give credit for this idea where it is due to Emily, the clever, generous maid-of-honor to my dear friend Sarah. In a nod to the the-bride-to-be, a charming hostess herself, Emily gifted kicky cocktail aprons to guests at Sarah’s bachelorette dinner. Not only is it a sweet reminder of the bride, but it’s so useful too.

Emily found many of the aprons from Lorraine Mahoney’s vintage collection. This classic gingham number makes me want not not only bake a pie, but even attempt a crust from scratch.

A trim demi style apron with a damask print and roomy pockets from The Hip Hostess qualifies as kitchen evening wear.

And, for a less frilly host or hostess, this hard-working cotton duck Carhartt apron has pockets for tucking away tools for any trade––from grilling implements to paint brushes.

Or, keep it short and simple with a restaurant quality cotton blend bartender style apron from Sur La Table.

Gift: Friday I’m in Like/Luv/Love

I think the last time my husband and I attempted to celebrate Valentine’s Day we surprised one another by having both made cards with an anatomical heart theme (complete with graphic arteries and ventricles). Ours is a curious brand of romance.

That said, I’m not entirely unromantic either. Irregularly shaped construction paper hearts, bunchy tissue paper flowers and teeny cards with corny knock-knock jokes do make me swoon. And really, any opportunity to let others know that your heart skips a few extra beats because of them, should be taken.

So, for those marking Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, here are a few gift ideas for friends, family, significant others and even yourself.

Express how you feel in prose short and sweet with these bold, graphic postcards of affection from Enormous Champion.


Present something less expected than roses like this flowering bonsai tree kit from Sprout Home (an endless source of wonderful finds). Just like your fondness, it’s the gift that keeps on growing.


Get creative with your littlest sweethearts. The glitter, feathers and other trimmings included for tricking out folded hearts and animals make this origami kit truly awesome.


Share the obsession of Downton Abbey with anyone keen on intense family drama, smoldering romantic tension, lavish dinner parties and fanciful hats. Sparkling eye candy aside, it is an engaging, well-cast mini series. I’ll be crushed when it ends.


Need an antidote for all the Valentine’s Day schmaltz? Taking a break from love this year? This t-shirt from Love Is Lame will alert suitors to back off. Warning: some might take it as a challenge.


I kinda can’t believe I found this hand embroidered pillow, but that’s the magic of Etsy. And Plumed appears to have stitched pillow designs for every brand of romance too. Be still my heart.