The Art of Elevated Gifting

A set of mugs, a hot water bottle, a voucher to their favourite store… All are lovely gifts on their own. But what if they don’t feel quite…enough?

One of my favorite things to do is to expand on the theme or sentiment behind that first gift and turn it into a sort of ‘kit’, if you will. If you have ever received or sent a care package, you will know just what we mean. A parcel of little bits and bobs, from homemade cakes to little bottles of bath soap. It is usually dispatched to away-from-home students and recuperating relatives. That brings cheer and a big dose of love purely for being so thoughtful. It is an idea that, over the years, I have created lots of variations of…

The classic care package

If ever there was a year when we are all in need of looking after, it is this year. You might send a care package to a family member who has been isolated or perhaps pop one round to a neighbor who has had a tough time of it. Either way, it will let them know that you are thinking of them.

The gifts you include don’t need to be large or expensive. Here, it is truly the thought that counts. Choose items that exude care. A tube of hand cream and a duo of bath salts and essence, a candle, a soothing herbal tea or their favorite blend, and a wellness journal. If you wanted to make it a bigger present, you could also pop in a wool blanket. It will feel like a warm hug. Nestle it all into a box filled with tissue paper so they can slowly peel back each layer to reveal the lovely surprise within.

The fireside set

Anyone who is lucky enough to have an open fire or a log burner at home will enjoy this present. It is one that will instantly bring to mind good memories of cozy evenings and campfire gatherings.

Begin with a basket that they can use for kindling but which, for now, will hold the rest of the gifts. Next, pop in some natural firelighters the sort made from straw or wood chippings. Add a prettily-packaged box of matches, a bundle of pinecones dipped in wax scented with essential oils which you can DIY yourself or buy online, and enough toasting forks for everyone in the family. You can wrap the presents up in the basket, but, as with all these gift ideas, I think it is perfectly lovely just to tie a big bow around the basket and perhaps pad out its contents with shredded tissue. A great fire starter in itself!

The hot chocolate kit

This one is a perfect gift for a family whether the children are young or old, because it is something everyone can enjoy. It is especially good if you don’t know all the recipients well because there isn’t much chance you can go wrong. Depending on your giftee’s tastes, you could also do something similar with tea, coffee, or cocktails.

Start with a mug or set of mugs, and add a clip-top jar or paper bag filled with a homemade hot chocolate mix. Jamie Oliver’s recipe is my go-to and is appropriately luxurious. I do think homemade is best for thoughtfulness. But if you are pressed for time, there are some delicious and well-packaged pre-made blends. Look out for Charbonnel & Walker Drinking Chocolate and Pukka’s nighttime ‘latte’ – both are my favorites. Finish off with marshmallows and, for all-out festivity, red and white-striped candy canes that can be used as stirrers.

The foodie parcel

There are many people who will appreciate a food-themed gift, not least all the cooks in your life. And just like the hot chocolate kit, you can’t really go too far wrong with food. I will start this one either with a chopping board or a tray that they can then use for serving and breakfast in bed. In which case you will probably want to arrange all your gifts in a box or basket.

To that, add a cookbook you know they will love, or else one that is well-thumbed. My personal recommendations would be Magnolia Table and “Cravings” Cookbook, while serious foodies will also enjoy Barefoot Contessa Modern Comfort Food or “Giada’s Italy” Cookbook. If you want to go over the top, include a well-made chopping knife or a beautiful copper milk pan. Otherwise, you now just need to add a selection of ingredients. Go for the artisanal over the everyday. Fleur de sel, spice blends like zaatar, ras al hanut and rose harissa, and traditional festive sweets like panettone, panforte and lebkuchen.

This is another elevated gift idea you could adapt to suit your recipient, switching from cook to baker. For this alternative, begin with a pouring bowl. Add a book like The Fearless Baker Cookbook or Bake The Seasons Cookbook. Pop in a wooden spoon and a selection of cookie cutters. Then put together your own gingerbread mix in a jar and include a note on the recipe. Alternatively, seek out sugars flavored with vanilla and lemon and baking spice mixes.

The home decorators’ starter kit

If you know someone who’s recently moved house or bought their very first or who’s about to undertake a serious renovation, then I am certain that a gift like this one won’t go amiss.

You want your starter kit to mix the practical and the inspirational. So in a small basket include a retractable tape measure. It should be at least five meters long to be useful. Add a metal scale ruler for drawing up floor plans, a paint swatch booklet, and a couple of good-quality paint brushes. To that, add a copy of your favorite interior magazines, and then round things off with a voucher that they can spend on whatever they might need for their home. Tie a bow onto the basket’s handle, and you are done!