If you're hosting Christmas at your house this year, you could end up with more people than you were expecting. It's hard to play the part of a gracious host with the pall of forgotten presents looming over you – which is why we have the last-minute guide on gifts for unexpected guests.
The main problem with preparing for unexpected guests is they're, well, unexpected. You don't want a pile of unopened and unwanted presents sitting around your house at the end of the festive season. The answer is to prepare a few gifts that you can use yourself if the occasion doesn't arise.
1. Cake-in-a-jar. This is a crazily easy gift to make, and it looks great. Just get the dry ingredients of a cake or biscuit mix, layer them in a jar, and attach a tag with the final instructions for baking. Biscuit mixes are particularly good to use with this method, as the final step usually involves just whipping up some butter. The recipient has the enjoyment of making the easiest biscuits ever, and you can always just use the mix yourself if the gift doesn't get used.
2. Homemade raisin and walnut loaf... or variations thereof. Homemade goodies are the best kind of quick presents, because they're tasty and disposable. On the other hand, the last thing you'll want hanging around is more food if your gifts don't get given. Fruit loaves are a great option. Wrap a piece of cloth ribbon around them for a beautifully presented gift, or stick them in the freezer on Boxing Day.
3. A hot chocolate kit. Few people treat themselves to really good hot chocolate, and it's ridiculously easy to make. To assemble a kit, prepare a small jar (or sachet) of cocoa, another of castor sugar (you can put a vanilla bean in it if you're feeling fancy), and some good quality dark chocolate. Instruct the recipient to gently melt the lot in some milk. Add a nice mug if you feel like it, but you know this gift's going to get used whether it's given away or not.
4. Handmade confectionery. 'Confectionery' is a daunting term unless you've ever drizzled chocolate over anything. A basket of quickly-prepared rocky road, some cellophane-wrapped chocolate bark, or – if you're feeling adventurous – some fudge: these will always go down well, and they last long enough that you can snack on them over the coming weeks of Christmas let-down. If your preparation time's running short coming up to Christmas Day, a swiftly-assembled basket of bought sweets is a good substitute.
5. Wine. A bottle of wine is almost always appreciated, and it's the easiest gift of all. Just have a couple of bottles of decent wine in your cupboard, and some bows and ribbon at the ready. Instant thoughtful gift.