Monday, May 18, 2009

Claire Hanover's Tips for Effective Gift Baskets

The kind authors at Killer Hobbies have invited me to give their 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!


Monica Ferris said...

I hadn't thought of giving a gift basket to a mourning friend -- what a good idea! And the ideas for its contents were nice, too.

Terri Thayer said...

Thanks, Claire, for stopping by. I will look at gift baskets in a whole new way now.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Glad to have you, Claire. I hope my friends take note of how to do a gift basket!

Beth Groundwater said...

In response to Monica, I want to say that any time when you want to express a sentiment to a friend, relative, business associate, etc. is a good time to accompany that sentiment with a gift basket. The basket makes so much more of an impact than a card, e-mail or Facebook wall post!

- Claire

A. F. Stewart said...

Nice tips for preparing a gift basket; I wouldn't have thought to give a gift basket to someone in mourning, either.

Chris Verstraete said...

Beth (and Claire) I never thought of having the items in a basket relate to all senses - it's like writing, but with materials instead of words. A neat concept to remember! That requires much more thought than just throwing things together that you like (and hoping the recipient does too.)

Sheila Deeth said...

I had never really thought about what goes into a gift basket, and especially not about the thought that goes into one. This was really interesting.

Betty Hechtman said...

I used to make a lot of gift baskets for the holidays. Presentation is everything and somehow putting things together in a basket always made a special package.

I'd always connected the baskets with some kind of celebration. Like Monica, I'd never thought of giving one to someone in mourning. My basket making horizions have been broadened. Thank you.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Nice blog, Claire. You've given me a great idea for an event I have planned for early June.


Beth Groundwater said...

In response to Patricia's post, I sure hope you aren't planning to be mourning someone during that event in early June!


I think I know what that event is, Claire. No worries...I hope!

- Beth

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I enjoyed the post. Including something for all the senses is such a great idea.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Kenna Coltman said...

This was a fun alternative to an author interview, with some very useful advice. We put together quite a few gift baskets for our Market - usually food-related. But your tips on appealing to the senses is a great one.

Thanks for sharing!

Kim Smith said...

Wonderful post, Claire, and the ideas are stellar!

Dana Fredsti said...

I love gift baskets, especially those hand-picked for the individual as opposed to the ones you order online via Gourmet Wine store, etc. Not that I turn up my nose at those, but the thought put into one such as you described makes it a very special gift indeed!

Beth Groundwater said...

This is Beth chiming in. Though Claire may not appreciate a store-bought gift basket as much as a homemade one, given her special talents in that arena, I certainly wouldn't turn up my nose at a basket from Gourmet Wine Store either! My nose--and taste buds--would be diving right in. :)

Camille Minichino said...

Chiming in here to say 'ditto' on the great ideas. I think my next year's worth of gifts will be in a basket!

Camille/Margaret Grace

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wonderful ideas for making gift baskets! I'm not as crafty as I'd like, but your post has given me some confidence to try! I'm looking forward to reading your book.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Wow, Beth. Some really great gift basket ideas here. If only my brain would remember them until I need them.

enjoyed the post and best of luck with your sales.

Your Five Star pal, Maggie

Anonymous said...

I'm envious of those of you who can create lovely gift baskets. Mine always look like a five-year-old put one together!

And what a fun name for a blog--Killer Hobbies!


Maryann Miller said...

Nice suggestions for a basket for a grieving friend. Especially like the idea of the Thank You cards. Those are always needed and the funeral homes often don't supply enough. Plus, those often aren't as pretty as ones you can buy. I'm sure a grieving person would really appreciate the thoughtful gift.

traveler said...

Your creative and inventive baskets are a delight. What a well thoughtout and lovely selection of items. Extremely lunique idea which would be appreciated by everyone no matter what the occasion.

Holly Y said...

Great ideas, Claire. As others have said, I like the idea of the five senses. Great tip!

People in mourning so appreciate any thoughtful gesture. This idea would show concern and thoughtfulness.

ralang said...

Clair thank you so much for the great ideas. I've made special occassion gift baskets but never thought of one for someone in mourning. I love to sew and I think the idea of including a wrap is wonderful idea and will be easy to personalize. Thanks again.

Do you love to read? said...

I had never thought of giving a basket to someone in mourning either. -- its a great idea to let them know that you are thinking of them, and to put your personal touch on a wonderful gift for them.

shelly said...

Thanks for this post guys. I have read the entire article. Glad to have you, Claire. I hope my friends take note of how to do a gift basket!
Looking for a Spa Gift Basket - all natural bath and body products- you might find a unique gift basket at Castle Bath Spa Products!
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Sylvia said...

When looking for something to fill your christmas gift basket with this year, I would think about maybe using a new brand of wine: One Hope. 50% of the proceeds go to charity!