featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Today's Book Club Friday guest is Claire Hanover, owner of a part-time gift basket business in Colorado Springs, CO, and the creation of mystery author Beth Groundwater. In addition to the two already published Claire Hanover books and a new contracted third one, Beth writes the Rocky Mountain Adventure mystery series featuring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. That series will debut with Deadly Currents in March, 2011. To find out about new releases and appearances and to enter a contest for free mystery books, sign up for Beth's email newsletter at her website: http://bethgroundwater.com/ -- AP

Claire Hanover’s Tips for Creating an Effective Gift Basket

Anastasia Pollack has kindly 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 http://bethgroundwater.com/ . Also on her website are reviews, excerpts, discussion questions, and more information about her books, and a schedule of her appearances. She writes a blog, too, at http://bethgroundwater.blogspot.com/ .

I’d love to answer here any questions you have about gift baskets, and Beth will be available, too, to answer questions about her mystery 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:
Thanks for visiting today, Claire. Gift baskets make such lovely, thoughtful presents. I’m sure our readers will want to try making one the next time they need to give a gift. -- AP


Janet said...

I have never done a gift basket....it never occurred to me what a comfort a basket could be. Thanks for giving me ideas. Do they have to be wrapped in celephane or can they just be a basket full of things?

Karen Bostrom said...

Thank you for the tips on creating a more appealing basket for an upcoming gift auction I'm involved with that raises funds for the local 24-hour hotline and the shelter for adolescents. I also enjoyed exploring the author's website and want to read the first book with the massage therapist.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Janet,
Thanks for your question. No, gift baskets don't have to be wrapped in cellophane before being presented to your happy recipient. In fact, it's often hard to see all the items under the cellophane when a basket is wrapped.

I usually only use wrapping when the basket is going to be shipped. And, then I'll use the kind that shrinks down when you blow it with a blow-dryer to keep the contents in place. Or I might use cellophane for a charity auction or some other public event to keep items from falling out when the basket's moved or to prevent a item from being taken out and pocketed by someone in the crowd. In that case, it's important to smooth out as many folds and wrinkles in the front as possible, so people can easily see through the cellophane to what's inside--and to include a list of the contents.

However you wrap the basket, add a large decorative bow, sprig of artificial flowers, or some other embellishment to make it look festive.

- Claire

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Karen,
Thanks for praise about my tips, and I hope they'll be useful to you as you create your gift basket for the charity auction! And, I'm sure Beth will be glad that you want to read her first book about my terrible experience with that massage therapist. As for me, I'd be happy if I never hear Enrique's name again! What I found out about that scumbag made me so embarrassed that I ever had anything to do with him.

- Claire

Michelle Mach said...

Clever blog entry! I like the tip about including items for all the senses.

Stacey said...

Very clever having Claire write the blog. Loved it, and the gift basket tips. I'll have to read the book about the massage therapist. I also had a terrible experience with one years ago. I have a question for Beth. Do you also have a gift basket shop in Colorado Springs like Claire does?

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Stacey,
That's a common question I get from readers. I have researched the gift basket business by interviewing owners and reading books & trade magazines, but no, I don't have a gift basket shop of my own in Colorado Springs. My business is writing mystery novels! ;-)

I do, however, create gift baskets for friends and family members and charity auctions as a hobby. And now that I've written the series, people ask me to create gift baskets more often. I'm not as good at it as Claire is, though. She can tie lovely big bows, for instance, and I'm all fumble-fingered at it. I often resort to buying pre-tied bows.

- Beth

Cricket McRae said...

So nice to meet Claire! You've inspired me to put together a gift basket for a friend who's ill. The advice to include something for all the senses is terrific.
Hearth Cricket

Janel said...

I agree with the other comments, appealing to all five senses is not something I have considered before when making a gift basket. Thank you for the tips!

Jeanne S. said...

Thanks for the tips! My grandma's 85th birthday is coming up and I think I'll put together a basket for her.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Jeanne,
Grandmas are so special, aren't they? I wish mine was still alive. One hint I have for you and others who are creating gift baskets for older people is to include things that get "used up" like food items, lotions (nothing feels better on older, dry skin), a book to read that they can pass on to a friend, etc. Most elderly people are in the process of whittling down their possessions versus building them up, and the last thing they need is another knick-knack. Think of "treats" for them, that will provide small special experiences and are luxuries they wouldn't normally buy themselves.

- Claire


I want to thank Claire for stopping by today and providing such wonderful advice on gift baskets. And thanks to author Beth Groundwater for creating such an interesting protagonist!

Beth Groundwater said...

And thank you, Anastasia, for hosting us! We enjoyed chatting with your blog readers.

- Beth & Claire