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The Easter basket is the quintessential Easter gift. It’s pretty much a no-brainer this time of year. Traditionally, a wicker basket (usually in a pastel color) is filled with artificial, plastic grass that in no way resembles what a bunny might ingest. When I was growing up, my parents would reuse both our baskets and the grass from year to year, and at at some point the baskets were past their prime.
Reusing items year to year is great, and my parents certainly got their money’s worth from our baskets. But today another great tradition is re-purposing items for something other than what they were originally intended. In that spirit, here are 6 ideas to ditch the wicker basket this Easter and create a “basket” where the vessel becomes part of the gift and can be used by your recipient every day—not stored away and used once a year.
As a bonus, several of these ideas are less expensive than a traditional handled basket. Still, it’s a good idea to include the cost of the vessel in your overall Easter gift giving budget.
Paint can – Most home improvement stores will sell you clean, empty gallon-size paint cans. They’re lightweight yet sturdy, and with their simple, strong lines they’re a great alternative for little boys. After Easter, they can be used to store art supplies, toy cars – really anything small and collectible that seems to multiply. Hang them on the wall with a coat hook, screw them right into the wall, or simply place on a shelf for easy organizing.
Organizing basket or tote – This is oh-so-practical and great for any age group or decorating style. Available in a range of sizes, materials, colors and prices at retailers nationwide.
Storage box – This is similar to the organizing tote idea, but this one has a lid to keep the contents under wraps. I always seem to find a good supply of these at Home Goods. (Tip: This would also be a good alternative for creating a gift basket for Mother’s Day.)
Garden pot – This idea is a huge hit with boys and girls alike! In addition to traditional Easter candy and toys, include seed packets, small gardening gloves and a few garden hand tools. After Easter, children will have a fun activity that teaches them about nature and responsibility (they have to water their plants!).
Felt character bucket – These little gems are inexpensive and quite popular. They may be found at major retailers around the country. And while they don’t really have an everyday look or use, they’re just so fun I had to include them!
In each instance, fill the vessel with paper shreds, excelsior or plastic grass, just like you would a basket, and include the same goodies and gifts. Each of these options may even be wrapped in cellophane (use a clear cello gift bag, available at craft stores and Cost Plus World Market stores, for greater ease) and tied with a simple grosgrain ribbon bow.
But don’t stop here. Wherever you’re shopping this season, look around for more alternatives. There’s no need to rush around looking for an “Easter basket.” Think about photo boxes, galvanized metal pails, or even a wastepaper basket. Pretty much any container can become an Easter basket! There’s even one idea on Pinterest using a beer carton for a man’s Easter basket! Now that’s ingenious.
Click here for tips on putting together a gift basket – perfect for Easter!Read More
When you’re stumped for a birthday gift, inspiration may be no farther away than the local flower shop. For centuries, a different flower has been associated with each month of the year. There are some variations (for example, in the U.K. April’s flower is the Sweet Pea; in the U.S. it’s the Daisy), but the list below show gives the typical flower-to-month associations.
No one knows for sure how or who started the associations, although it is believed the Romans first used flowers as gifts. Since most of the flowers associated with each month are naturally plentiful in that month, this is a likely origin of the tradition.
So, how does one turn a flower into a gift? The typical thought might be to present the birthday recipient with a bouquet of the representative flower, and that may be the best route to go in some situations. Online floral retailers like 1-800-FLOWERS.com and Teleflora.com have search engines where you can enter the flower you’re looking for and see only those arrangements that include that particular flower. This is a great way to give a gift from afar or at the last minute. (Guys, I’ve not met a woman yet who doesn’t love getting flowers at work!)
But think beyond the vase, and give thought to the flower’s appearance, color and scent. Use these attributes as an inspiration point. Look for a fragrance featuring the flower, or a luxurious item like a silk scarf or cashmere gloves in the same color as the flower. For October birthdays, I suggested making a gift basket with Calendula tea and marigold-colored stoneware mugs. Also, several fine porcelain manufacturers create beautiful home accessories painted with birth month flowers.
Or, consider the flower’s meaning. Yes, meaning. In the early 18th century, the “language of flowers” became popular in England with many books written on the subject. Every bloom held meaning, and every nosegay told a story. Even the color of the flower could project its own meaning. In the chart below I’ve included some of the most popular meanings for each flower. Use these meanings to spark a gift idea. For example, for a January birthday, consider a golden horseshoe pendant, a symbol of good luck, as the carnation too symbolizes good luck.
|January||Carnation||Love, fidelity, admiration, good luck|
|February||Violet/Crocus||Modesty, simplicity, peace|
|March||Daffodil||Rebirth, unrequited love, vanity|
|April||Daisy||Innocence, loyal love, gentleness|
|May||Lily of the Valley||Happiness, humility and sweetness|
|June||Rose||Love, gratitude, appreciation|
|July||Larkspur||Joyful, fickleness, sweet|
|September||Aster||Thoughts, aspirations (literally “star” in Latin)|
|October||Calendula (Marigold)||Hopefulness, grace, sun|
|November||Chrysanthemum||Cheerfulness, friendship, abundance|
Gifts inspired by a memory, an object, a thought or even the recipient herself can benefit from a personalized note to reinforce the meaning behind the gift. Click here for tips on writing a gift note.
Happy gifting!Read More
One of the secrets to giving gifts that really make an impact is to find a gift that speaks to the recipient’s values. In my book, Gift Giving for Busy People, I talk about imagining yourself in your recipient’s home or office and ask you to see what’s there. What does she fill her space with? What colors do you see? What sports teams does he follow?
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, what we spend our time on, what we surround ourselves with and where we retreat for some relief all point to what we value most in life.
Now I’d like to add something to the value mix: social issues and lifestyle. Think about the causes your recipient supports, or any significant aspects to his or her lifestyle. Is she vegan? Has he stopped consuming alcohol? Does she contribute time and money to a homeless shelter?
Being aware of these parts of your recipient’s life takes gift giving to a whole new level. For example, giving someone a pink sweater when she looks best in blue is a slight miss; giving someone a leather wallet when she’s vegan and anti-cruelty to animals is a bomb. “It’s the thought that counts” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I once committed such a gifting sin. I wanted to give a gift to a speaker and coach who inspired me to finish my book. He had once worked as the manager for the lead singer of a rather famous rock band, so when I found a wine that was a play on the band’s name, I thought it was the perfect gift.
Except, my recipient and his wife didn’t drink alcohol. I was very grateful for my recipient’s graciousness in receiving my gift and making light of my faux pas (he still had friends who drank with whom he would share the wine), but it taught me a valuable lesson.
Although you may have different beliefs or make different choices, take some time to think about these aspects of your recipient’s life. My friend Lisa gave up all animal products years ago. While I still enjoy a good leather handbag, I’ve come to learn about brands that feature cruelty-free, manmade products.
It is possible to give the perfect gift that speaks to all the facets of your recipient. It just takes a little more planning and research. Show your recipient you understand her, and the gift is that much more special.Read More
Early in a new year is the perfect time to create a gift giving plan for the year. Think of it as goal-setting for your gift giving!
Creating a gift giving plan gives you a bird’s eye view of your gift giving needs, allows you to budget accordingly and ensures that a gift giving occasion doesn’t surprise you. Here are a few simple steps to create your personal gift plan for this year; set aside about 20 minutes and pull out your calendar, address book or wherever you keep track of important dates before getting started.
- Working month by month, create a big picture view of all birthdays, anniversaries, known occasions (such as graduations and weddings), as well as holidays. Much of this step is copying from last year’s calendar, but be sure to think about special occasions occurring this year. For example, I know of two graduations coming up, and my oldest brother is having a milestone birthday this year.
- Although not everyone on your list will receive a gift—some may receive a card, for example—you’re creating the universe of occasion and dates to remember. For the holidays, write down each person for whom you plan to purchase a gift.
- Be sure to include holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween if you give gifts or send cards at those times.
- Write each occasion into your planner, or schedule it on your phone. Then make yourself a reminder note at least one week ahead of each occasion. This should give you plenty of time to purchase a gift or send a card. If you believe you will need more time (say you’re knitting your niece a scarf) make the reminder entry as early as necessary.
- The winter holidays are typically a heavy gift giving season, but look for groupings or clusters in the rest of the year. Maybe you have six birthdays and an anniversary in April. That’s a signal you will need to budget more for those times of the year.
- Create an annual budget, paying particular attention to winter holidays or any cluster times identified above.
- Use the Smart Solutions Gift Tracker to write down everyone you need or want to select a gift for, a price point for the gift and any ideas or things to remember. (I help you think through every person on your list to arrive at the perfect gift in my book!) Throughout the year, if an idea comes up or a recipient mentions an item he or she needs, jot it down on the tracker. As each occasion nears, consult the gift tracker for ideas. Download the Smart Solutions Gift Tracker in PDF format or in Word format.
- If you purchase gifts ahead of time, be sure to mark it on the gift tracker and store the item in a gift drawer.
- For card-only occasions and holidays, use an online service such as hallmark.com to remind you to send a card or e-card to each recipient on your list.
By taking just a few minutes now to think about your upcoming gift giving needs, you will be better prepared to give the perfect gift, or to simply remember someone on their special day.Read More
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. Maybe it’s the crunch of the cellophane, or the visible abundance of gifts that make gift baskets so much fun to give and receive. 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.
For gift basket shown (a housewarming gift), 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.
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.
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.
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.