Easter 101: Baskets, Decor and More

Easter rabbit on fresh green grass

Easter is almost here! And that means, baskets to be assembled, tables to be set, and spring cleaning to be tackled.

 

iphone april 2012 053No basket? No problem! Get tips for alternatives to a plain ‘ol wicket basket that adds to the gifty-ness of this year’s Easter treasures. And some non-candy gift ideas, too!

 

 

 

 

Powder and basket 018Basket brush-up: Once you’ve got that basket (or non-basket!) use these principles and tips to create professional-looking gift baskets.

 

 

 

 

Easter centerpiece collageTable time: Need a quick and cheap centerpiece! Try this $12 idea!

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow TulipsFlower power: Keep spring flowers fresh as a daisy with these pro tips.

 

 

 

 

 

March 2014 030Last minute decor: Add a splash of color to your Easter festivities with scarves!

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Africa Studio/Fotolia

Clean it up: Get tips on spring cleaning, although maybe just a tidying up before Easter. It’s early this year after all, and nobody’s going to see the garage. I hope.

 

 

 

 

Need more inspiration? Browse all my Easter articles here for bits of history and even some extravagance.

Rabbit photo copyright levranii/Fotolia.com.

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How to Shop for Gift Baskets: From Plain to Personalized

One of my friends is having a baby (yay!). For her shower gift, I shopped from her registry at Babies R Us and selected items for baby’s bath and personal care. But rather than dump them into a box or wrap them individually, I decided to create a gift basket. So, off to Michaels craft store I went in search of the right basket.

I felt a little like Goldilocks in the basket aisle. Some baskets were too large, others were too small. Some were too expensive, while others were too, well, baby specific. I wanted something that would be useful and could either grow with the baby or be used in another room of mom and dad’s house.

Baby baskets

There, in the back of a shelf nearly hidden from view was a simple navy blue woven basket. At $10, it was priced right (less expensive than baby-specific containers), but it was a little plain I had to admit. Hmmm. What if I could embellish it somehow?

Baby basket and Hween 1013 002

I headed over the wood craft aisle where, lo and behold, I found painted wood shapes of palm trees, flowers, dolphins, dinosaurs … and rubber duckies. As many of the items on the gift registry featured whales and sea creatures, I had hoped for a whale, but thought the yellow duck looked great against the blue. At 59 cents, it was a no brainer. Sold!

To attach the duck and make it easy removable, I used one 3M Command® picture hanging strip (size small) and cut it in half. I placed it so the half with the removable tab would be on the basket, and the other part on the duck. So cute!

Duck basket

Next, I removed the whale bath towel and washcloths from their packaging but put the packaging in the bottom of the basket, just in case mom wants to return the items (I included a gift receipt in the card).

Baby basket and Hween 1013 010

Then, I added a layer of excelsior (you could use shredded paper) to fill the basket and provide height to the items.

Baby basket and Hween 1013 014

I arranged all of the items, and added a rubber duck and some travel-size toiletries to round out the gift.

Baby basket and Hween 1013 013

Finally, I used a cellophane gift basket bag (99 cents at Michaels) rather than trying to wrap it in a sheet of cellophane. Although this basket was on the small size, I needed a large bag; these bags seem to run small.

I used almost every color of curling ribbon I had to create a bow, and tied it on with the card to top off the gift basket.

It was super easy and very fun to create!

Baby basket and Hween 1013 021

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Creating a Signature Wrap

One Wrap Many Moods

 

One of the Top 10 Tips for Stress-Free Gift Giving that I talk about in Gift Giving for Busy People is to create what I call a “signature wrap.” No, it doesn’t involve a flatbread and some yummy fillings (sorry, I guess I’m hungry) … what it does involve is keeping one simple style of wrapping paper on hand to wrap all the gifts you give. Then, that one paper may be embellished to suit the occasion.

Creating a signature wrap simplifies gift giving; it means you’re not scrounging for paper or spending time deciding on how to wrap a gift. It’s also much less to store; the roll of paper takes very little space in a closet, and a simple plastic shoebox can store enough ribbon to create a variety of looks.

So have fun with it! Choose whatever wrap you like, just make sure it’s plain enough to be a backdrop for a variety of embellishments, but interesting enough so the recipient knows it’s from you! Hallmark stores and The Container Store both have great varieties of roll wrap. (Click the store name for a store locator.)

Happy gifting!

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How to Make a Gift Basket

Gift Basket

Maybe it’s the crunch of the cellophane, or the visible abundance of gifts that makes gift baskets so much fun to give and receive.

 

Gift baskets are a creative way to give multiple gifts at once. They’re a great alternative to gift wrapping, and I think recipients are even more excited to unwrap and dig into a gift basket than they are unwrapping a box. They are perfect for nearly any occasion, but especially wedding and baby showers and housewarmings.

There are three elements to a gift basket: the container, the goodies and the finishing touches.

Container

For gift basket shown (a housewarming gift for my assistant), I used a gift basket kit ($4.99 at World Market) that included the basket, excelsior (I’ll explain that in a minute), a gift tag, a raffia tie (I used my own ribbon) and a cellophane bag.

But the container for a gift “basket” doesn’t have to be a basket at all! Always consider the container as part of the gift and something the recipient can use later. Be sure to include the cost of the container in the cost of the gift, too. Alternatives to a wicker basket could include a fabric bin, a colander (for a kitchen-themed gift), a flower pot, a jumbo-sized coffee mug, a storage box covered in pretty paper … be creative! I once used a waste basket for a bridal shower gift. The bride had registered for it, so I filled it with other bath items from the registry. How about a popcorn bowl for a movie night gift, or a wine bucket for a wine-themed gift?

Of course, make sure the container is large enough to hold the gifts you’ll put inside it, but not so large that the finished gift looks skimpy.

Goodies

Here’s the fun part! Assemble the gifts you wish to place into the gift basket. Generally speaking, follow a theme. This gives the gift a cohesive feel, rather than looking like a scattered hodgepodge. You can still have a variety of gifts, but they will relate to each other.

For this housewarming gift, I included stemless wine glasses, a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates made to pair with wine, cocktail party kit with recipe cards and jazz music CD, cocktail napkins and wine pour spouts. All the recipient has to add is some cheese and crackers and they can entertain their very first night in their new home!

Keep these essential elements for a gift in mind when choosing the items for a gift basket:

  • Instant sensory gratification – is there something that smells or tastes good, something with an interesting texture, or something that sounds good? I have this element covered with the chocolate, jazz CD and wine.
  • Long lasting – is there something that the recipient can keep, that won’t be consumed or perish? In this gift basket, this element is represented by the wine glasses, the pour spouts and the basket itself.
  • Sentimental – is there something that speaks to something sentimental or meaningful to the recipient, or a shared experience? It can be just a little detail that the recipient will appreciate. Here, my assistant was a French major and enjoys French culture, so the Paris-themed cocktail napkins were a perfect fit.
  • Educational – is there something that informs or educates the recipient in some way? This element is particularly important for children’s gifts! Here, this element is covered by the recipe cards.

You will also want to consider the relative sizes of the items, striving for a mix of small, medium and large items for visual interest.

Finishing touches

You’re ready to assemble your gift basket! Place the container on a sturdy surface and add a layer of excelsior (that straw-like substance) or shredded paper to the bottom of the basket. The bedding material helps to lift the gift items up off the bottom of the basket, giving them a more abundant look and feel.

If the basket is particularly large or deep, add some crumpled newspaper or tissue paper to the bottom of the basket and then place the excelsior or paper shreds on top. Be sure to fluff up the excelsior with your hands to give it more volume.

Next, add the gift items to the basket, starting with the tallest and/or largest items in the back and working forward to the smaller items. Use the smallest items to fill in blank spots. Gift tag

Now it’s time for cellophane, either in a roll (available at craft stores) or a bag like I used here. It was nearly impossible to lift the filled basket and wrangle it into the bag, as I was worried about tearing the bag. I even placed the bag on a chair to make it lower than the basket. I ended up removing some items, got the basket into the cello bag and then reassembled the items in the basket. Even with this extra consideration, I found using the bag easier than cutting, gathering, tucking and taping a sheet of cellophane around the basket.

Gather the cellophane at the top of the gift basket. Here’s a trick: use a rubber band to secure the gathered plastic. This makes tying on the bow so much easier!

Write a gift tag or short note to your recipient; it will be tied onto the basket with the ribbon.

Cut one yard of ribbon (wire-edged works the best) and tie a simple bow, adding the gift tag before making the loops.

That’s it! You’ve just created a gift basket that looks a pro did it. One final tip: when transporting the gift basket, always carry it by its container. Do not pick it up by its “neck” by grasping the cellophane.

 

 

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Give a College Survival Kit

Off to college! Me, Lisa and Ann Marie

I can still remember the day in August 1987 when the first of my close high school friends left for college. My friend Ann Marie and I rolled out of bed much earlier than usual to say goodbye to our friend Lisa. I don’t remember if we gave her a gift, but we could have.

An estimated 1.5 million newly-minted college freshmen will head off to school this month. Along with the necessities of dorm life – a fridge and a TV for sure! – send them off with a college survival kit. Fill it with a mix of fun necessities and things that remind them of home, and of fun times shared together.

Here are a just a few possibilities:

  • Energy/snack bars
  • Vitamin packs
  • Highlighters
  • Duct tape
  • Mini tool kit
  • Small sewing kit
  • Gas gift card
  • Restaurant gift card
  • Laundry instructions
  • Laundry detergent samples
  • Adhesive putty (for posters)
  • Framed photo
  • Quote a day book

Include things that are meaningful and even evoke a private joke or shared moment. The possibilities are endless! Of course, this isn’t limited to a new freshman – returning students would appreciate it as well!

Package it in camouflage gift bag as shown, or print this College camo graphic with a color printer, cut it out and adhere it to a kraft paper gift bag with double-sided tape or glue stick.

No matter what you put in your college student’s survival kit, be sure to include a note of encouragement and good wishes for their journey and their success.

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How to Wrap an Oversized Gift

If wrapping a gift seems daunting, wrapping an oversized gift might seem impossible. But, with just a few tricks and supplies, anyone can get a crisp, clean wrap on any-sized gift box.

One thing that’s a necessity here is double-sided tape for the sides. Other than that, wrapping an oversized box starts out like any other box. (Click here for instructions on wrapping a perfect gift.) For the best results, I find that a patterned paper helps to blend in the cover pieces on the sides of the box.

Supplies:

  • Gift wrap
  • Scissors
  • Gift wrap tape
  • Double-sided tape
  • Choice of embellishments

1. Position the box on the paper, placing the box upside down on the paper. Wrap the paper around the box, overlapping 1½ to 2 inches. Don’t worry about the sides just yet.

2. Cut the paper to length.

3. Before wrapping the paper around the box, fold under one edge of the paper for a neat appearance.

4. Wrap the paper around the box and secure with at least two pieces of tape at the seam.

5. Fold down one end of the paper over the side of the box and crease the paper on the edge of the box. Place a piece of tape where to two edges of the paper meet, lightly tacking it to the box to hold it in place.

6. Holding the paper against the side of the box, make crisp creases creating a triangular shape on the two adjacent sides.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 on the opposite (lower) edge of the box.

 

 

 

8. Fold the adjacent sides into the box, creasing the folded edges. Tape down the folded edges, placing the tape close to the unwrapped portion of the box. (You’ll cover up the tape later.)

 

 

9. Repeat steps 5 through 8 on the other side of the box.

 

 

 

10. Cut two pieces of paper at least 2 inches larger than the unwrapped opening on each side of the box.

 

 

 

11. Working on the reverse side of the paper, fold the edges of the two pieces in by 1 inch on each side. To miter the corners, fold in the corner before folding the edges.

 

 

12.Tape down the corners and secure the folded edge to the reverse side to keep the edges secure.

 

 

 

13. Place strips of double-sided tape along the edges of the cover pieces; place a cover piece on each side of the box.

 

 

You’re ready to embellish! For this wedding shower gift, I used black tulle and white tulle and included a pretty set of measuring spoons as a package topper.

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