Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

101 Gift Ideas for the Host or Hostess

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

101 Gift Ideas for the Host or Hostess | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamWell, maybe not quite 101, but a whole bunch anyway! If you’re like me, you do a lot of visiting and hosting over the holidays, whether it’s in our home area of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton area or elsewhere, and you don’t want to arrive empty-handed. But what are the best things to take as a thank you token for your host? On the list below are lots of things you’ve given in the past, but there may be a few things you haven’t thought of! The cost of the item will be up to you. If you know your host well – a good friend or family member — then you may want your gift to be more extravagant and more personally attuned to the person’s taste. Otherwise, we’re looking for items generally under $20 and less personal in nature.


  • wine, spirits, liqueurs, craft beers. A nice hostess gift for someone who likes to try different liqueurs is a half dozen mini bottles in a pretty basket.
  • special coffees, teas such as David’s Tea, or gourmet hot chocolate mixes. Starbucks and Tim Horton’s both package items especially for this time of year.
  • unique bottled beverages such as special bottled waters, or other drinks with unusual flavors (look in the international section of your favorite large grocery store).

High-quality chocolate

This year Purdy’s Truffles retail at $14 per box, and this is a gift appreciated by pretty much everybody!

Specialty food items

  • If you know what your hosts like, treat them to a favorite item they wouldn’t purchase for themselves – caviar, maybe!
  • Look for artisanal or craft items made by specialty producers in small quantities: special syrups or honey (Manuka honey is prized by many people); salts, spices or herb blends (Himalayan sea salt is trendy right now); pepper mill filled with fancy peppercorns; special barbecue or hot sauces; dips or spreads such as antipasto or jalapeno jelly (even better if you make them yourself!); gourmet olives; specialty pickles or jams (again, even better if homemade); special cooking oils or flavored vinegars; special popcorn or nuts or trail mix; biscotti.
  • Or put together a “gift in a jar”:  a Mason jar filled with ingredients for cookies and the like, together with a recipe card, and beautifully decorated. Google “gifts in a jar” for tons of ideas.
  • A gift that seems mundane but I guarantee will be appreciated:  a super fresh loaf of bread hot from your own oven, or from Cobs Bread.

Hosting items

  • beautiful paper napkins or Christmas crackers
  • a pair of unusual placemats (made of twigs or bamboo, perhaps!)
  • dip servers or spreaders
  • stemless wineglasses (all the rage right now), or a set of unusual shot glasses
  • cheeseboard and slicer
  • cocktail shaker
  • coasters
  • cocktail picks
  • salad servers
  • pretty seasonal tray or dish
  • wine stoppers
  • wineglass charms
  • tapas trays (or other tiny serving dishes)

Kitchen things

  • cookie cutters or stamps
  • wooden or bamboo utensils
  • unusual gadgets that your hosts might appreciate but which they are unlikely to buy for themselves, such as a rasp grater or garlic rocker
  • specialty dishes and containers, like a garlic pot, olive serving dish, herb oil infuser, oil spray bottle, etc.
  • herb chopper or pizza cutter
  • crocheted dish cloths (a staple at our local farmers’ markets!)
  • Check out all the kitchen gadgets at Canadian Tire, or get fancy with something from Gifts and Gadgets, or visit the Crooked Pot gallery in Stony Plain for one of a kind pottery items.

Book, calendar or pretty journal, music…

Take a look at online retailers such as Indigo for ideas.

Flowers / plants

Etiquette mavens suggest not bringing a loose bunch of flowers (because then your hostess has to find a vase, trim the flowers, etc.) so:

  • either put your flowers in a vase yourself,
  • or look instead for a small potted plant such as a colorful pepper plant,
  • or a tea garden or herb garden in a box. If you have a green thumb, consider making some yourself next summer; directions can be found online. Tea plants would include things like lemon verbena, mint, etc. A herb garden might include chives, basil, oregano, parsley, etc.

Special soaps

Lush Cosmetics will cut you a chunk, or look for pre-packaged soaps of all kinds at the Body Shop, Bath and Body Works, Spruce Grove’s Gifts and Gadgets, and the like. Or make your own! Or pick up a pretty container of liquid hand soap for your hostess’s kitchen sink.

A beautiful one of a kind Christmas tree ornament

Many gift shops, such as Gifts and Gadgets, carry items like this.

Photo frame

Practical gifts

  • microfiber cloths packaged with a natural cleaner, such as Green Works
  • pretty tea towels or apron or oven mitts (check out the Ove Glove at Canadian Tire!)
  • grocery carry bags made from heavy recycled plastic or cloth
  • miniature LED flashlights to hang on a keychain or tuck in a purse (see for a selection)

I wasn’t going to include candles or mugs in this list, but lots of people still like to receive them! (The Bay has a candle that looks just like its iconic Hudson’s Bay blanket!)  Jazz up your gift of a special candle by adding a unique lighter or fancy matches. Fill a pretty or unusual or holiday-themed mug with candy or sachets of tea or hot chocolate or a Starbucks or Tim Horton’s gift card.

Got other ideas for great hostess gifts? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Helping at Christmas

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Helping at Christmas | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamThe holiday season always seems to bring out the spirit of giving in people in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton region.  While most of us exchange gifts with family and friends, many of us actively look for ways to help others.  My assistant told me about her brother and his family living in Vancouver who load up their vehicle every Christmas Day with sandwiches, cookies, oranges and warm beverages to distribute to the homeless on Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver.  I started wondering what opportunities for helping beyond tossing bills into a Salvation Army kettle there might be in our area.


Local churches

If you belong to a church, you already know the programs and opportunities offered by your church.  If you are looking to join a local church, check out the comprehensive list in my Community Connections Business Directory.  Click on “Jump to Category” and then “Churches: Parkland County”, “Churches: Spruce Grove”, “Churches: Stony Plain”.  This information is also available in the Green Book Community Resource Directory.


Parkland Food Bank, 105 Madison Crescent, Spruce Grove AB T7X 3A3


The Food Bank’s Stuff a Bus campaign ended on November 30, but donations of non-perishable food items and cash are welcomed with gratitude and enthusiasm all year round.  Volunteers will be put to work too!


Tender Hearts Foundation

See article in The Grove Examiner entitled “Santa’s local workshop in Parkland County

Shoeboxes containing small gifts and treats are assembled and given to the elderly residents of nursing homes in the Parkland region.  Contact Joann Babineau to donate or volunteer:

#2, 52224, RR 275, Stony Plain AB T7Z 1Z3

Phone 780-968-0065



Kinette Club of Spruce Grove Christmas Hampers

Working with local schools, businesses and other service clubs, the Kinettes assemble and distribute 100s of hampers containing food, food certificates and gifts to needy families in Spruce Grove.

PO Box 3664, Spruce Grove AB T7X 2A9



Kinsmen Club of Stony Plain Christmas Hampers

PO Box 2231, Stony Plain AB T7Z 1X7



Parkland Area Youth Emergency Shelter (PAYES)

PO Box 2732, Stony Plain AB T7Z 1Y2



Christmas Bureau of Edmonton

“Providing a Festive Meal to Edmonton Families in Need”.  Donations are used to provide food hampers and food certificates.  The Christmas Bureau also coordinates with 630 CHED Santas Anonymous and the Edmonton Sun Adopt-a-Teen program.

Mailing address:  Christmas Bureau of Edmonton, PO BOX 16000, Edmonton AB T5J 4B4

Street address:  2nd Floor, 4230-118 Ave NW, Edmonton AB T5W 1A4 (2nd floor of Servus Credit Union Building)

Phone:  780-454-6074



630 CHED Santas Anonymous

Since 1955 providing toys for needy children in Edmonton.  Donations and volunteers welcome all year round, and toys right up until Christmas.  Toy deliveries for 2013 are taking place on December 14 and 15; drivers are always needed.

Santa’s Depot 12345-121 St, Edmonton

Mailing address and year-round donations:  5204-84 St NW, Edmonton AB T6E 5N8


780-428-TOYS (8697)


Edmonton Sun Adopt-a-Teen Program

Providing gifts for teens aged 13-17 from low income families in the Edmonton area.

2nd  Floor, 4230-118 Ave, Edmonton AB T5W 1A4


Women’s Shelters:

Women’s shelters are always in need of clothing, bedding, toiletries and children’s articles including toys, but the need is especially acute at Christmas.  Contact them to find out how you can help.

Edmonton Women’s Shelter (WIN House)

PO Box 20088, Edmonton AB T5W 5E6


Lurana Shelter 



Youth Empowerment and Support Services

(formerly Youth Emergency Shelter Society)

9310-82 Ave, Edmonton AB T6C 0Z6



The Mustard Seed Edmonton 

Christmas Giving Opportunities.  Click on this link for a list of specific items (such as a travel mug filled with a coffee gift certificate, thermal socks, hand wipes, bus tickets, pocket hand warmers and a note of encouragement) that this organization gives to the needy at Christmas.

Mailing address:  PO Box 1842, Main Post Office, Edmonton AB T5J 2P2

Street address:  10568-114 St, Edmonton AB



So many formal organizations exist for helping others all year round, and many are specialized by type or age of person.  If this style of giving doesn’t appeal, why not look even closer to home?  Maybe there is an elderly or disabled person, or a young mother alone with her kids living on your street who could use your help in many ways, such as shoveling the driveway or getting groceries or providing a ride to an appointment.  And the best part is that when you help others in this way, you help yourself too!

I always welcome your comments and questions.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.


Christmas in Spruce Grove’s Central Park

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Christmas in Spruce Grove's Central Park | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Central Park and Lions Log Cabin on King Street. Photo from City of Spruce Grove website:

Those of us who live in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland County know that the tri-municipal region has much to offer residents no matter the season.  One of my favorite things in December as the darkness closes in and the days get shorter is to drive past the magical light show that is Central Park.

Christmas in Central Park is an annual FREE event sponsored by the City of Spruce Grove.  Lots of activities for the whole family help kick off the festive season and get Spruce Grove residents into the holiday spirit.  This year, the celebration runs from 2:30 to 5:30 pm on Saturday, November 30, 2013.  Take a stroll through the lights, strap on the blades, enjoy a hot beverage and experience the beauty of the park.

2:30 to 4:30 pm:

  • Photos with Santa (bring a camera)

2:30 to 4:45 pm: 

  • Skating with the Spruce Grove Saints
  • Cookie decorating for the first 500 guests
  • Crafts and games
  • Sugar Shack (Cabane à sucre)
  • Complimentary hot dogs and brats from Johnsonville (while supplies last)

2:45 to 4:45 pm:

  • Wagon rides

4:30 pm:

  • Stage entertainment with Jeff Miller on guitar

5:00 pm:

  • Light up ceremony begins, followed by a mini fireworks show

Spread the Christmas cheer by bringing an unwrapped gift item for the Kinettes Christmas Hampers and/or a non-perishable food item for the Parkland Food Bank.

Want to get more involved?  Volunteers are always welcomed to assist in the City’s events.  Contact the Event Coordinator at 780-962-7634, Ext 143, or send an email to

I’d love to tell you more about what makes our region so special and a great place to call home!  Phone or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.


Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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