Clever ways to present gifts of food, flowers and money

Jul 20, 2002 (Updated Jul 20, 2002)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Beautiful photos and intriguing ideas


The Bottom Line: If you're looking for innovative ways to present generic gifts like food and money, check out this book!

As a publisher of a print newsletter and website on imaginative gift giving (, Iím always searching for unique ways to wrap and present gifts. Therefore, I was intrigued when I ran across the book A Gift for Giving: Making the Most of the Present by designer Donna Lang.

This 128-page hardcover is filled with clever ideas for giving money, food, flowers and service gifts. Throughout the book Lang shows us how to turn these generic items into marvelous gifts by employing thoughtful presentation techniques.

Indeed, the book tickled my imagination with its unique ideas, colorful descriptions and appealing, magazine-quality photographs. In addition to conceptual gift ideas, each chapter included several complete projects with step-by-step instructions and diagrams to assist the reader in successfully completing the project.

Lang begins the book by introducing her philosophy on gift giving. She gently chides us; telling us we have a "real responsibility not to clutter other peopleís lives with things they neither need or want." (Who, in eleventh hour desperation, hasnít been guilty of doing that?)

She then lists 11 questions to help us give the perfect gift, such as "What is special about this person?" "What does she never have enough of," and "What would he enjoy tasting or smelling and seeing?" Weíre encouraged to use the answers to determine which gifts will be truly appreciated by the recipient.

Although Langís tone was a bit overbearing in this section, I must admit that her point is worth pondering. Indeed, her statement that "sentiment, not stuff, is what fills us with delight" couldnít ring more true, especially in todayís material world. Besides, I couldnít resist trying her ingenious ideas after viewing the beautiful photos scattered throughout the book!

The remainder of her book is divided into six sections:

1) Giving Money
2) Giving Flowers
3) Giving Food
4) Giving Other Gifts
5) Wrapping and Other Presentations
6) Resources and the Personal Gift Registry

Giving Money
I avoided giving money before reading this book. To me, the term "cold, hard cash" said it all--an impersonal present given without thought or meaning. However, I definitely donít feel that way anymore!

In 24 pages, Lang illustrates a variety of imaginative ways to give money. Crumple up some dollar bills and toss them into a glass salad bowl to create a "bowl of greens." Or dress up an ordinary potted plant with fanfolded bills, turning it into a "money tree." My favorite presentations include a brilliant "banknote pad" (using a stack of crisp new bills) and a whimsical "quarterly report" (made with coin collector sheets). She even shows the reader how to give a little "extra bread"--simply tuck some of the green stuff inside an actual loaf of bread!

Giving Flowers
Truthfully, I wasnít impressed with this section of the book. I had already seen--and used--many of the ideas in it. But there are a few gems hidden throughout the chapter.

Her improvised container recommendations were unique. For example, she suggests that you fill an old coffee can with flowers, then give it to your coffee break buddy at work. Or tuck some yellow daisies in an empty "Gain" laundry detergent bottle and give it to a hardworking mom. My favorite idea was called "Blackboard Jungle"--Lang painted a large terracotta vase with blackboard paint, then used chalk to write a message on it.

Giving Food
In the third chapter, Lang shares her ideas for tantalizing presentations of food gifts. Naturally, she mentions that old standby--gift baskets. However, she encourages us to think beyond the predictable woven basket and use more imaginative containers. For example, a wok can be filled with stir-fry ingredients to create a "Taste of Asia" gift; a galvanized garbage can be stuffed with Oreos, Twinkies and other snacks to create the "All American Junk Food" gift.

Youíll find seven other nifty ideas in this section, including a suggestion to personalize a bottle of wine with a custom label. (One note: Lang suggests soaking off the vineyardís label and replacing it with your own. However, I donít recommend this. Because many people have allergies and food restrictions, I suggest that you simply design a new label which will completely cover the original. The recipient can then peel back the customized label if he needs to know more about the wine.)

Giving Other Gifts
Okay, letís say that donít want to give flowers or money. The recipient is on a strict diet, so food is definitely out of the question. What else can you give? This section answers that question by demonstrating how to give the gift of "wonderful experiences." Tickets to a concert, a basket of relaxation products for the bath, even a gift certificate to a posh restaurant can be memorable gifts, especially if you take the time to present them in unique packaging.

Handmade soaps can be wrapped in unusual paper, tied with wire and then topped with the recipientís birthstone. A book on wine can be covered with corrugated paper then tied with cords embellished with corks. Car wash coupons can be tucked between a toy car and a bar of soap, then tied together with a ribbon. Lang even gives ideas on how to create and present a "Gift of the Month" package.

Wrapping and Other Presentation Ideas
Lang devotes the fifth chapter to a mixture of gift giving hints. You will find tips on maintaining a "gift wrap pantry," building a stash of all-occasion greeting cards, using innovative wrapping materials and personalizing paper. Those of us who are "all thumbs" when it comes to wrapping will appreciate the two page primer on wrapping boxes and the page on tying floristís bows.

She finishes the chapter by sharing some unique ways to wrap gifts. My favorite was her witty "gift on a stick" presentation. She attached a craft stick to a small rectangular box then gathered some tissue paper and clear cellophane over the whole thing, securing it with a a length of curling ribbon. When finished, it resembled a popsicle!

The sixth--and final--section of the book includes a miscellany of information to help you search for that perfect gift. It includes lists detailing the dates and gems of the zodiac, birthstones and flowers of the month and suggestions for traditional and modern anniversary gifts. The next two pages are filled with Langís recommendations for mail-order companies that sell food, flowers, wrapping materials and craft supplies.

Finally, the last page of the book consists of a registry for tracking friends' and family membersí birthdays and anniversaries. It also includes spaces for recording their hobbies, favorite food and color, and other information about their preferences. Lang recommends that you make copies of this page and use it to jot down notes about each person on your gift list.

The Bottom Line: should you buy this book?
If youíre searching for clever new ways to give money, food, flowers or service gifts, you should make room on your bookshelf for this publication. I refer to it frequently when I need inspiration, and have recommended it people who have asked me for unique presentation ideas. Itís a definite keeper!


Postscript: a "Christmas in July" sale at my local craft store motivated me to start brainstorming gift ideas for the upcoming holidays. Whenever possible, I love to make my own gifts. I know that others, too, are thinking about creating their own Christmas gifts. Therefore, I wanted to share my favorite gift-making books. This article is the second in a series of six reviews. Please watch for the other five, including:

Trash to Treasure: The Yearís Best Creative Crafts
Gifts That Taste Good
Friendship Gifts of Good Taste
Tasty Holiday Gifts
Quick and Tasty Christmas Gifts

Iíll post one review per day until all have been uploaded to Epinions. Hope you enjoy them and they inspire you to make a few gifts this year!

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