The holidays seem to always add extra stress to life. As much as we try to enjoy ourselves it is impossible to avoid feeling stressed. Planning ahead of time and preparing gifts in advance always seem to be the answer, but there is always that last minute crisis to address. It may be an unexpected holiday party you must attend, an unexpected gift received that must be reciprocated, or my favorite is the unexpected visit that must be made to a family or friend that was not anticipated. I prepare myself for the holiday by purchasing a variety of specialty products early in December. First I make a list of all those who we intend to exchange with, including those who we intend to visit during the season. Basically I will buy a variety of products that can be used in a gift basket or a gift bag.
When planning either gift, you must keep in mind height and width. For example as a center you might use a bottle of wine, oil, vinegar, or even a box of spaghetti. The reason for this is to create a focal point to build around. When creating a gift basket, it is necessary to have a center item (or items) to create the pyramid-like structure. When using a gift bag, the balance of weight is very important. For example you might fill the bag with a bottle of oil and vinegar to keep the bag balanced.
The theme should be decided when purchasing the items. One year we created a gift basket with olive oil, linguine, heads of garlic, fresh chili peppers, baby eggplant and zucchini, and a wedge of parmigiano cheese. Basically the idea was to give all the ingredients necessary to create a dish of pasta. Another year the theme was coffee, tea and dessert. The items included a can of espresso, a few boxes of tea, various types of cookies, fine chocolate bars and even sugar cubes. Other items to include could be Colombian coffee, non dairy creamer like Coffee mate, Parmilat milk, sugar substitute, honey, jam, small toast crackers, fresh bread and fruit.
The theme and items really depend on the person or family receiving the gift. Of course the basic fruit basket of apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes is always appreciated by even the most difficult of critics. Chestnuts, walnuts, dried figs, apricots and chocolates can be included to make the basic fruit more interesting. Keep in mind the variety of colors of the fruit and accessories to please the eye. Try to use clear cellophane to wrap the basket so that the colors will show. When the basket is ready to wrap up, place it in the middle of a sheet of cellophane. Before cutting measure leaving about 10 inches extra for the top of the basket. Tie the top first and then fold he sides under the basket so the tape will not show.
Basically, the basket or bag can be as simple, or creative, as you like. Usually, it will depend on how much time I have to prepare. The idea is to keep the items on hand to help you throughout the holiday. The holidays should be a time of enjoyment, not stress. These inexpensive ideas are a win- win situation, the recipient will be happy to see all the thought that went into their special present, and the leftovers will be in your pantry for your family to enjoy!
©2000 – Roseanne Cantisani
About the author: Roseanne Cantisani is a freelance writer and editor of dateable.com/simplydelicious, a web site dedicated to simple, healthy cooking. You can find articles, recipes, kitchen and cooking products, and a forum for any cooking or entertaining questions. If you like this article please sign up for the simply delicious newsletter at http://dateable.com/simplydelicious/ or send an email to the firstname.lastname@example.org