The holiday season is approaching, and that means parties and trips to visit family and friends. Of course, a good guest always brings a little something to show appreciation for the host’s efforts.

You can grab a bottle of wine on the way, but why not be a little more creative?

Stock up on gifts such as fancy soaps or shimmery candles in advance. The host will be delighted—and you’ll be sure to make the guest list again next year.

  • Ice cubes melt quickly and dilute the alcohol in cocktails. Whiskey Stones keep drinks chilled and don’t water down the spirits. Keep these soapstone nuggets in the freezer and simply rinse and dry before refreezing. Purchase a set of nine stones with a muslin storage bag for $24.95 at the Paper Source in Bethesda (301-215-9141;
  • This soap collection is pretty, sweet-smelling and comes in a colorful package. The Claus Porto Gift Box of five hand soaps (assorted scents) is $55 at The Blue House in Bethesda (301-656-6088) or at
  • Candles are holiday classics, but take a break from the traditional red and green with these Metallic Glitter Pillars. Alone, in glass hurricane holders or in a grouping, they add sparkle and glamour to a holiday table or fireplace mantel. The 3-by-4-inch pillar is $10; 3-by-6, $14; 3-by-8, $18; and the 4-inch sphere is $10. They’re available at
  • Personalized gifts, such as these heavyweight paper coasters, show that you put some thought into your gift-giving. Add three script initials for a touch of sophistication to an otherwise disposable (and recyclable) item. They’re available in a choice of colors for $48 (set of 100), with an acrylic holder for $10 at Neiman Marcus in Chevy Chase, D.C. (202-966-9700;
  • A small, elegant tray is a useful, decorative gift. This proud peacock can grace an entry hall table for outgoing mail, or a bedroom dresser to hold small jewelry. The tray retails for $27.95 at the Paper Source in Bethesda (301-215-9141;
  • These mod bowls look like lacy porcelain, but touch them and you’ll realize they’re made of a pliable, lightweight thermoplastic. Use them to hold fruit or as a decorative piece. The Netzwerk bowls come in two sizes: small for $15; large for $45 at
  • A weekend trip calls for a more generous gift, and a thick, fluffy blanket is always a welcome addition to any room in the house. The 50-by-60-inch Temi throw has a chunky poly-knit that gives it a modern texture. It’s available in nine vibrant colors, each for $80, at
  • Make your host’s next card game a little more colorful with a personalized deck. The floral or motif designs come in various jewel-toned colors and may be personalized with up to 10 characters. The decks are available for $38 at Neiman Marcus in Chevy Chase, D.C. (202-966-9700;

Carolyn Weber is a freelance writer who specializes in architecture and design. She lives in Silver Spring. Send product ideas to