Forget the Wine, This is What Your Host Wants

Almost always, when we have friends for dinner, there comes a point when Andy turns to me or vice versa and says “Should we check on her?” And by that we mean, should we try to lure back whatever guest has walked in our front door only to be whisked upstairs to Abby’s lair for a “tour” of her room. It’s not that we don’t think our seven-year-old is doing anything but charming the pants off  her, but receiving a personal introduction to all 8,000 of her Littlest Pet Shop Pets is a task I believe only a mother could love — scratch that — I mean, a task only a father could endure, and definitely not in the job description of “dinner guest.” Unless you are my friend Lia that is, who, oddly, seems to like my children as much as I do. Last Friday, she came over for some minted pea dip (with potato chips…mmmm) and tagliatelle, but spent the first half hour locked into conversation with the girls as they all crafted Papertoy Monsters together from the book she bought them. To the point where I felt bad interrupting them to, you know, catch up with my friend. I should’ve known Lia would show up with a gift that killed. When Abby was at the height of her Hello Kitty obsession, she came with a fleet of Hello Kitty books, calendars, and magnetic dolls. Last year, she arrived with two kids’ umbrellas from Pylones. And as if this isn’t enough, she is almost always armed with Magnolia cupcakes, chocolate chocolate for Phoebe, and assorted for the rest of us. Believe me, this is all any guest ever needs to do to a) win my friendship forever  b) warm my heart  or c) be invited back.

The Papertoy Monsters book was in heavy rotation long after Lia left — not just making the monsters, but playing with them, too. If you are visiting a family for dinner this Memorial Day and there is a 6 to 10-year-old in the house, I highly recommend picking up a copy along with a bottle of rose. If you have any suggestions for hugely successful host gifts for kids, please enlighten!

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Melissa@Julia's Bookbag

I MUST MUST MUST get this book, how fun!!! Julia is obsessed with Littlest Pet Shop, My Little Pony….. and also dragons and monsters, go figure. Thanks for the reminder that it’s MINTED PEA TIME!! xoxo


That’s such a cute idea. And I know a few kids who would love that book for a birthday present!

Vanessa G.

Sculpey clay is my favorite thing to take with me when I babysit. It comes in tons of colors and hardens only when baked so it won’t dry out on its own! You can use it to make pretty much anything but if you create almost flat creations, you can use stick on magnet strips after you bake to make your own magnets!


i made your yoghurt and caramelised onion pasta last week, it is absolutely delish, I can’t wait to make it again 🙂


This sounds like a great book. In a similar vein, the Klutz activity books ( are always a big hit. Window Art, The Paper Flowers book and The Paper Airplanes book are all big hits with my kids, but there are so many others to choose from as well. And the thing I really like about them is that I can order additional materials for most of their kits when we run out, which keeps the books useful much longer.


Tara – I forgot about that paper airplane book — I love that one and I think it’s time to revisit. Thanks for the other suggestions, too.


My kids just bought this and they love it!! Don’t use glue though, tape works much better 🙂


I bought this book last night from my friend’s son, a little difficult to find in Border’s but I did find it eventually. He can’t wait to start making the monsters from this book! A hit!


This looks like a ton of fun– will definitely pick up a copy for an upcoming trip in July as I think it’ll be a hit with my oldest (she’s 7). Thanks for the great suggestion!
Some favorites of mine are the books by Taro Gomi–“Doodles” and “Scribbles”. They have always been well received in the past, and I just love Gomi’s style of drawings.
P.S. Your newsletter sent me. Do I win the apron?


I Secret Santa-ed an office friend DOODLES AT DINNER from Blue Apple Books, a publisher who always has beautifully fun interactive items for the around 7 crowd.

We were invited for dinner not long after and did in fact doodle. I mistakenly thought we’d be allowed to take our place mats home. Nope! Our hosts kept them in a folder to flip through on their own.