It's time for spring parties. Show your hosts that you really care by passing on the generic wine/candle/flowers and zeroing in on something that suits their tastes.
Be creative. For someone with little darlings, you could bring along Chalkmats -- the brainchild of local mom Grace Paik -- which do double duty as placemat and chalkboard and will keep kids entertained, at least for a little while.
Sam & Bellie chalkrolls, $24 each at Cosmo Tots, 2729 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, and Piccolo Piggies, 1533 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
(Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)
If you don't know the hosts that well, "it's completely apropos to send a gift after the party," says Christine Dimmick, a New York-based designer and founder of the Good Home Co. She recommends showing up with something inexpensive (perhaps from your favorite local bakery), "but while you are at the person's home take a look, listen, keep your ears open" for something that might be more personal.
If all goes well, says Dimmick, you'll get asked back and "probably priority seating as well."
-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond