NEW YORK, July 20 So, you finally got the invitation and you're off to your friend's beach house. Since they've most likely taken the time to prepare for your visit (and will spend a lot of money to host you), you need to be ready to be the perfect guest.
That means showing up (and leaving) when expected, keeping your room clean, never complaining, and presenting your host/hostess with a thoughtful gift-like one of the nautically-inspired ones, hand-picked by yours truly, at a variety of price points:
Signature Sweet Sloops
These sailboat-shaped almond butter crunches are a perennial favorite. Covered in white and dark chocolate, with a spindrift of crushed pecans, they're also highly addictive. Gift box of 24 pieces, $19.50. (www.harborsweets.com)
Coastal Cocktail Stir Sticks
Because it's five o'clock somewhere! Pair this boxed set of four handcrafted, blown glass stir sticks - featuring an assortment of blue aquatic sea life - with a bottle of your host's favorite liquor.
Set of four, $19.95 (www.homeatsea.com)
Box Picture Frame
Why not capture that perfect, classically lazy moment of your host/hostess at the beach (or perhaps the two of you?!), and showcase it in this pale blue, 10-inch square wooden box picture frame that says it all: "ON BEACH TIME."
One frame, $28.75 (www.primitivesbykathy.com)
Summer Chair Gift Bucket
If it's presentation you're after, this reusable gift bucket - which contains fresh scented soaps (liquid and bar), as well as one of Mary Lake Thompson's trademark printed flour sack towels (30" x 30") - fits the bill.
One bucket, $29.99 (www.marylakethompson.com)
Between $30 and $50
Does your host/hostess have young children? They may enjoy this buoy bat - made from authentic lobster buoys and finished with bat-grade hardwood handles - as much as adults will. It's got a giant "sweet spot," making it easy to send the soft "Blaster" ball (included) flying. So what if it ends up in the ocean - it floats.
Bat and ball, $34.95 (www.dailygrommet.com)
Lobster rope doormat
Made from recycled float rope once used by lobstermen, these textured, handwoven mats-available in three different sizes-are not only colorful, but they're virtually indestructible. Oh, and no two mats are alike!
One mat, starting at $39.95 www.thenewenglandtradingcompany.com)
These 18" x 18" wool and cotton hook pillows - each one showcasing something nautical, whether an octopus, squid, starfish, seaweed, or a sandollar, for example, are a classic.
One pillow, $48.95 (www.thebeachhousestore.com)
Between $50 and $100
Rope Ice Bucket
This three-quart, insulated ice bucket is not only practical (Use it to keep your beverages cold or to serve snacks at the beach.), but it's also attractive enough to use as a centerpiece for plants or flowers.
One bucket, $52 (www.jonathanadler.com)
Time and Tide Clock
Anyone who lives on - or near - the water always wants to know what the tide's doing. Swim now or later? This combination time and tide stainless steel clock - synchronized to the moon's daily cycle - takes the guesswork out. After all, the moon's gravitational pull is one of the primary influences affecting sea levels. But you knew that.
One clock, $54.95 (www.wetsandsurfshop.com)
Clamshell Serving Dish
While this handmade serving dish - in luminescent white ceramic - is practical enough for anything from crackers to spreads, we think it's best suited for shrimp and cocktail sauce. But remember, no double dipping.
One dish, $65 (www.sourceperrier.com)
Fish Candle Holder
What a catch! This white porcelain fish candle holder is 14" long and holds three regular taper candles.
One candle holder, $68 (www.lekkerhome.com)
It's the phrases and colors on these plush beach towels that make them so popular. Choose from SEASHORE (sand), POOLSIDE (aqua), SATURDAY (sky blue), PARADISE (green), and RESERVED (navy). Towels are 100 percent cotton and made in the USA.
One 32.5" x 68" towel, $85 (www.chanceco.com)
Dockside Serving Tray
Specifically designed for outdoor entertaining, this teak tray is not only durable, but its dock cleat carrying handles - placed on the side, and fitted with brass screws - give it a masculine/handsome look.
One tray, $90 (www.asummershop.com)
Color Blocked Baguette Boards
These distinctively shaped, handcrafted sycamore boards, tipped with bold colors like marine blue or crimson red, are reminiscent of buoys. Use the backside for chopping; the front to present your favorite delicacies. Available in four sizes.
From $95 (16" x 7") (MARCH 415-931-7433)
Custom Map Beach Tote
This attractive cotton canvas tote is not only spacious (there are two exterior pockets), sturdy, lined, and salt-resistant, but most importantly, it's customized: just choose the nautical chart you'd like. Silkscreened by hand, the map illustrates your favorite seaside spot: your host's.
One bag, $150 (www.uncommongoods.com)
Decoupage Shell Platter
A beautiful work of art from talented New York City-based decoupage artist, John Derian, this handmade, signed platter is the ultimate show piece for any beach house countertop.
One platter, $220 (www.johnderian.com)
Lobster/Sea Horse Quilted Throw
A fantastic addition to any room, this handscreened quilted throw is reversible, featuring one big lobster on one side; multiple seahorses on the other. 100 percent cotton.
One 50" x 70" throw, $250 (www.shopthomaspaul.com) (Editing By James Dalgleish)