Monday, May 18, 2009

Claire Hanover's Tips for Creating an Effective Gift Basket

Kiki Lowenstein has invited me to give her blog readers some tips about making effective gift baskets. I can tell you that after the adventures I had in Beth Groundwater’s To Hell in a Handbasket, I am ready to return to my basement workroom and just create gift baskets for a while!

One of the gift baskets I put together during that time was a sympathy basket for Angela Contino, whose daughter was killed on a Breckenridge, Colorado ski slope. Here’s what I remember of a conversation between my daughter Judy and me about that basket:

“Thank you cards and a pen won’t fill a basket,” Judy said. “What else do you have in mind?”

“Some soothing things, like scented candles or a book of uplifting poems. Are the Continos religious?”

“Catholic. Nick doesn’t go to church much, but his mom attends mass every Sunday.”

“Okay, some religious poetry or a book about taking your grief to God, or something like that. And some soft music. A gift basket should have something for every sense—taste, smell, sight, touch, and sound. What kind of music do Nick’s parents enjoy?”

Judy thought for a moment. “Classical, I think.”

“Good, I’ll ask at the stationary store where we can find some nice CDs.”

This conversation covers two of my most important guidelines for creating gift baskets that will be appreciated and remembered. The first is to really know the recipient’s interests and tastes. That way you can tailor the basket’s contents to match, the same way I took into account Angela Contino’s Catholic religion and enjoyment of classical music. The second guideline is to include something for all the senses. The music was for Angela’s ears, the scented candle for her nose, and later I found some soothing chamomile herb tea for her mouth.

I usually pick one main color and two complementary accent colors for each gift basket. In this case, I found a dyed wicker basket that matched the colors in the Contino ski house living room so the basket could be used to hold reading materials later. They have a dark green leather sofa and stone-inlaid coffee table and fireplace, so dark green, gray, and brick red were the colors woven into the basket. I also used those colors for the decorations—a fancy bow and dried flowers, and for the lining, a soft, woven wrap scarf that could be used to warm a grieving woman or to drape decoratively over a chair later.

The basket couldn’t take away Angela Contino’s grief, but it let her know that we were thinking of her. It may have brought her some comfort, and it contained useful items such as the pen and thank you cards that she could use in the days ahead. And, while delivering that basket to the Contino home, I happened to discover an important clue to the mystery of who killed Stephanie and why!

With gift baskets, it is truly the thought that counts. I encourage everyone to put together gift baskets for special occasions, and don’t worry about it looking amateurish. To read the rest of my Tips for Making Perfect Gift Baskets, visit the Articles page of Beth Groundwater’s website at . Also on her website are reviews, excerpts, discussion questions, and more information about her books, a schedule of her appearances, and the full schedule of her blog book tour.

I’d love to answer here any questions you have about gift baskets, and Beth will be available, too, to answer questions about her books and writing.

You can purchase To Hell in a Handbasket and A Real Basket Case by ordering them at your local bookstore, or by going to one of the following links:


Contest announcement:

If you comment on this article or ask Claire or Beth a question today, or comment on Beth's blog ( anytime during her May blog book tour, you will be entered into a drawing for an autographed set of both books in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series: A REAL BASKET CASE and TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET. Good luck!

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