Juanita Lee
"Breakfast is Served"

Christmas isn't the only time of year we find ourselves in need of the perfect present. It's just that at Christmas time, we need more of them and for many different reasons. Whether it's a gift for someone near and dear or a donation for a benefit or silent auction, we strive to find or create that special something the recipient will enjoy. Gift baskets are a great option for so many gift-giving occasions, whether you know the intended beneficiary or not.

When the gift is for someone you know personally, it's pretty easy to create a collection of goodies to complement their likes, interests or hobbies. It could be an insulated cooler full of tailgating snacks, beverages and team-specific sports memorabilia for your brother or a beauty bag of self-pampering home spa items for your mom. You just need to spend some time brainstorming what might be on your friend or family member's wish list and then have fun playing Santa and gathering the perfect collection.

If your basket is for a silent auction, the goal is for your basket to bring top dollar. For starters, think about what might be a fun compilation that would be popular with a large audience. Stick to ideas that will have broad appeal. A chocolate lover's basket, for example, will likely be more successful than a rice cake lovers basket. (Not that there's anything wrong with rice cakes. I'm just sayin'.)

Think beyond the basket

When you think of a gift basket, a woven basket comes to mind. It is true, some gift baskets are baskets filled with goodies, but a traditional basket is not your only option. Any type of receptacle can be used to hold your gift medley. For example, you can use a cooler, a crockpot, a shower caddy, a baking bowl -- any canister that evokes a theme and corresponds with the gifts inside. This way, the "basket" itself will be part of the gift.

Fill 'er up

A theme gives you a starting point in deciding what to purchase for the insides. These may be filler items, such as loose pieces of chocolate for a candy-themed basket or golf balls for a sports-themed basket. Others items may be more specialized or high-end. For example, in a baby gift basket, you may include a few toys, baby clothes and baby products like shampoos, lotions and diapers. Generally, you want to include at least five different gifts in a basket to add variety, but this number of items can vary based on the size of the container that you are using.

Wrap it up

For a finishing touch, you may want to wrap your gift basket. A clear plastic wrap or fine mesh material such as tulle works well. You can top it off with a color or theme-coordinated bow. However, if your container is deep enough, wrapping it may not be necessary. Just make sure the items inside are secured. The items should be arranged in the container in a way that all, or at least most, of the contents can be seen. Place taller items in the back and shorter in the front. Some items may need to be elevated using crumpled or shredded paper or a basket filler. Presentation is important. It creates the first impression.

You're limited only by your imagination when it comes to creating a gift basket. And if your imagination is already on Christmas vacation, you can personalize one of these ideas and make it your own.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Container: Large Christmas gift bag

Contents: Assorted wrapping paper, coordinating ribbons and bows, smaller gift bags, gift tags, tape, scissors

Slow Cooking

Container: Crock-Pot

Contents: Slow cooker cookbook, large mixing and serving spoons, pot holders, an array of cooking spices and pre-mix packets

She's Blushing

Container: Make-up bag

Contents: Lip glosses, eye shadows, make-up brushes, mirror, make-up remover, hair products, hair accessories, hair brush

Breakfast Is Served

Container: Griddle pan

Contents: Variety of pancake and waffle mixes, chocolate chips, pecans, assorted syrups and canned fruits, pancake turner, "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" book

Pasta Night

Container: Strainer

Items: Assorted pasta, olive oil, pasta sauce, pasta server, Italian cookbook, loaf of French bread, pot holder

Sweet Treats

Container: Mixing bowl

Contents: Cupcake pan, cupcake liners, cake mix, can of frosting, sprinkles, wire whisk, spatulas, pot holder

Just Chillin'

Container: Ice bucket

Contents: An assortment of favorite brews, beer mugs, beer nuts, bottle opener, gift card to a local liquor store

A Night In

Container: Traditional basket

Contents: Hot chocolate and/or apple cider packets, mugs, slippers, fuzzy blanket, a best-selling book, recently released movie

Juanita Lee and her husband, Jon, have three children in what they fondly refer to as their FamLee. She's a lover of sauerkraut and '80s hair band ballads, a tamer of chaos and a recovering shoe addict. Her day job is communications manager at Bismarck State College.