Thursday, December 19, 2013

True Meaning of Christmas

I am probably guiltier than most for being so busy during the holidays that I don't take enough time to reflect and rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas.  With the juggling of business and personal tasks, shopping, baking, decorating, and party planning, I am always on the go.  But knowing that I want to inspire others causes me to make the time to reflect and think about the true meaning of Christmas, from my own spiritual and religious perspective as well as the perspective of reaching out to others.

So in that spirit of Christmas, I found this story. Originally published in 1982, it's not a new story. Whether you are familiar with it or not, I hope you enjoy reading it and it brings you to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

 For the Man Who Hated Christmas

by Nancy W. Gavin

It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas--oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it--overspending... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition--one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

- Feeling inspired?  Visit 

Have a happy day!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gifts for the Caregiver

November was National Caregivers Month, and Christmas is an especially good time to show your gratitude to those who do so much in the form of caregiving. Rosalynn Carter believed pretty much everyone at some point in their lives is touched by a caregiver:

"There are four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers."
My life has been touched by caregivers at various times.  In years past, we had wonderful caregivers for my parents, and now I am in the caregiver role for my mother-in-law. 

With caregiving prominent in my own life right now, I want to encourage everyone to remember any caregivers currently in your life.  Christmas is a wonderful time to honor them, and give them the most treasured gift of time and care for themselves.

If you are thinking of a gift for a caregiver, consider something that encourages them to refresh, renew and take care of themselves, even if just for a few hours on any given day.

These are some of my special gifts available for caregivers:

Christmas Spa Gift Basket
Our Christmas Spa Gift Basket features Do Not Disturb bath and body products, packaged in elegant holiday silver and purple.
Good Fortune Gift for Men
For the male caregiver, this all natural spa collection also gives back, and comes packaged in a stylish toiletry bag.

This Pamper Me gift collection is also made with all natural bath and body products from France.  Both of the candles in the men's and women's spa gift are handmade soy from Green Daffodil in Michigan.  This women's version also comes packaged in a stylish cosmetic bag.

This deluxe spa gift basket, which we call Indulge and Inspire, is a lovely collection of spa and home products, including bath and body from Homespun Naturals, a relaxing instrumental CD, and an inspiring framed quote from Kindred Hearts.  There are other spa delights in this basket as well.  Read the complete description.

Have a happy day!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ten Things for which I am Thankful

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for...
1. A husband who makes me laugh and feel loved every day.
2. A family who places the greatest value on togetherness.
3. Fond memories of my parents who are with me everyday in spirit.
4. Nearby friends for the constant joy they bring.
5. Faraway friends for their permanent place in my heart.
6. Daily work that keeps me always on my toes.
7. Two crazy puppies for their daily antics and amusement.
8. The comfort and warmth of home.
9. The beauty of nature in fall, winter, spring and summer.
10. Our God, who provides me with all of the above and more.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Custom Gift Baskets and Products We Love

It's been several months since I've done a feature on individual products we love. 

All of our gift baskets are custom made with products that we carefully select for each theme, occasion, or customer.  And we are very selective about quality, uniqueness, and how well each product applies to the overall theme of the gift.  You won't find our products at your local dollar store, big box store, or another gift basket company.  Each of our gift baskets is handmade and features products we would be proud to give our own family and friends!

Now I should add a little caveat that I love all of our products, or I wouldn't choose them for our gift baskets, but admittedly I do have some favorites.  So here you go:

Five Products We Love!

1) Do Not Disturb fortune cookie fizzie - Our Do Not Disturb gift basket contains a collection of bath and body products by Do Not Disturb.  Since these products are all lavender, we put them together in an elegant purple, white and silver design, with an all-occasion or a holiday flair.  Along with the all natural ingredients of Do Not Disturb products, I especially love the uniqueness of the fortune cookie fizzie.  This little bath time beauty fizzes away in your bath water, while leaving behind silkiness for your skin, and when all that silkiness has disbursed into the water, a little fortune comes floating to the top! Delightful!

2) Kindred Hearts framed quotes - Solid wood frames with elegant, fun, or modern designs surround expressions of faith, love and friendship.  We use several designs and quotes in our new home, wedding, men's and women's gift baskets, and these artful gifts stand just as well on their own.


3) Cast iron pot candle melter with cookie candles - This is one of our new Christmas gifts this year.  I love that these melters are perfect replicas of melting pots and are made of actual cast iron.  And along with the amazing fragrance, I love the packaging of the little cookie melts that go with the melters. So fun!


4) Owl tea light holder - I love that owls are so trendy right now, because I think owls are so cool! These particular ones are designed in warm autumn colors, and although they'd be great gifts year round, they've been especially popular in our fall gift baskets.

5) Retro TV musical Christmas village - This one was selected by Ken and I love it too! I love music boxes in general, but I especially love the miniature retro TV concept and the Christmas village scene it contains.  Continue watching my blog, and in a few weeks you'll see our life size Christmas Village, and then you'll really get why we love the idea of miniature villages.  We hope you love them too!

Have a happy day! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

America Recycles! DIY Projects for Home and Family

Add a touch of natural beauty to your home or garden and support America Recycles! We've chosen four projects that can be done on your own or enjoyed as a family.  Add to your seasonal décor or give as a gift! These crafts are that good!


An empty can, natural wood, a little paint and winter décor make this beautiful planter from

This is an idea I could use for my gift baskets from Save by Love Creations! All you need for this colorful bowl are some brightly colored magazines, mod podge and a glue gun!

Owls are all the rage and these earth-wise owls from Empress of Dirt add a little nature to the everyday!

This rope vase from Spark and Chemistry can be made seasonal with the right flowers and greens.  Make multiple in various sizes for a unique collection! 

If you have a favorite recycling craft, please share and have a happy day!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Video: Christmas Gift List by Thoughtful Presence

With the holiday season quickly approaching, you're starting your Christmas gift list and soon you'll be trying to come up with gift ideas that are unique and meaningful for the many people on your list. Well, don't fret! Gift baskets don't have to be generic or filled with a bunch of things you don't want. Take a look at our video and see how you can tackle your list quickly and easily with quality products they'll love!

Okay, so I know this is a bit of shameless advertising and all of the best blogging advice tells me to do otherwise, but Christmas comes only once a year, and my goal is to make your shopping easier! So indulge me and visit our website.  If you don't find the perfect gift, contact us about a custom order.  
And now you can help us with our planning - leave a comment here to tell us what your perfect gift basket would look like!
Enjoy and have a happy day! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Veterans Day: A Tribute and How You Can Help

This Monday, November 11, is Veterans Day. My Uncle Len, now 91 years old, is a WWII veteran.  My dad, who passed away almost 5 years ago at the age of 94, was also a veteran of WWII.  We grew up hearing many stories of my dad's time in service to our country. We heard many of the stories repeatedly as they were so well ingrained in his life; and often told with laughter, though I'm sure felt with tears.

Just over a year ago, I was at the funeral of my Uncle Al, also a WWII veteran.  It was the first time I had been to a burial that included a full military salute, and it was deeply moving. As I spoke with my Uncle Len, after the funeral that day, he iterated a story that sticks with me and especially comes to mind on Veterans Day.

Uncle Len lives in Wisconsin, where he and my dad were born and raised, and also has a home in Arizona for the winter months.  He told me the story of the year he flew to Arizona on Veterans Day  on US Airways. At the start of the flight, the pilot made an announcement about this special day and asked for all veterans on the flight to be recognized.  Uncle Len was 88 at the time, and the flight attendant approached him, advised that he was the oldest veteran on the flight, and  in honor, they would move him to a first class seat.  Once seated, now in first class, the flight attendant asked him if he would like water, a drink, or champagne.  He replied, nothing, as he didn't want to have to get up during the flight to use the washroom. (after all, he was 88!)  The flight took off, and he was well on his way to the warmth of his winter home. The flight was routine.  After landing, as he walked into the terminal, (he told me with a big smile on his face), people from the flight were applauding, shaking his hand, and thanking him for his service.  And what struck me most was what he said next (with a chuckle): it was the first time since I returned from the war that I was thanked for my service. (at the age of 88!)

And this is a story I will tell repeatedly with laughter (as he did), but feel with tears.

Thank you Dad, Uncle Len, Uncle Al, and all other veterans of all wars for your brave, unquestionable, and honorable service to our great nation!

Find out how you can give back to all veterans for their service!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Video: Custom Gift Baskets by Thoughtful Presence

We recently made this video as a part of our entry into the Intuit Small Business Big Game contest.  We didn't make it to Round 3, the top 20, but that's okay.  There will be other contests in our future, for sure :) There were many awesome companies in the contest, and congratulations to those top 20 who are still in the running!
A big thank you to my friend, Sylvia, who put this video together in record time.  She's amazingly talented with a camera.  I hope you enjoy watching our video to learn more about our business!

If you're interested in hand designed gift baskets made with unique, high quality products, visit our website and join our mailing list.  We put together a fun monthly newsletter with seasonal tips, company news, and other fun tidbits.  Connect with us on Facebook for fun posts and contests. We'd love to have you join us!

Have a happy day!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Twist on Traditional Pumpkin Carving

I love traditional pumpkin carving for the ability to light up the inside with candles and scoop out the pumpkin seeds for baking, but it's a messy job and a little too dangerous for the wee ones! So I was looking at some ideas for alternative pumpkin decorating, and found some wonderfully creative ideas out there!

Most of these I chose because they are unique and look easy enough to duplicate!

With some basic paint and craft store supplies, you can come up with any of these funny faces or make your own.  Be inspired!

For this squirmy pumpkin caterpillar, you can use all paints or glue on the spots with paper or felt circles. Easy to duplicate and looks super cute! (Source: taloolakids)

Simple and fun designs made with tacks, paint, and white first-aid tape!
(Source: kixcereal)

If you're looking for a trendier design, go for chevron! Easy to create with paint and tape for straight lines. Looks great indoors or out!
(Source: My Sweet Savannah)

Since Frankie is our personal favorite, I love this design! And with just a little paint, easy to recreate! Use your imagination and make a few of his friends too!


Lastly, available at your local craft store, pick up some metallic and glitter paints, and mix and match designs and colors! You can make these as simple or artistic as you like!
(Source: zuuzstyle)

Enjoy your Halloween preparation, however you choose, and have a happy day!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Autumn Inspiration

I'm always inspired by the seasons, each in its own unique way. Autumn, with its colors and cooler weather, brings inspiration for orange hues in home décor, cool hikes in colorful landscapes, and warm and comforting foods!

Enjoy these autumn-inspired photos, and tell me, what inspires you?




Have a happy day and share your inspiration!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Whew! Busy Gift Basket Makers - See What's New

Here we are mid-month and it's been a busy time!

On a personal note I started off the month with a visit to Indianapolis to visit my brother and sister-in-law and spend a day at my niece's school.  Claire is in first grade and had grandparents' day on October 4th. She has only one grandparent still living, who (unfortunately for Claire, but fortunately for her), is on a river cruise in Europe! Well, it was fortunate for me too! I got to be Claire's stand-in grandparent, and it was truly a special day!

Now, on to the business news! Many of you have probably seen my persistent promotions in Facebook for our place in the Intuit Small Business Big Game contest! Thanks to all who voted for us, we've made it through Round 2 and will soon hear if we make it to the top 20 finalists in Round 3.

As much as I am determined to be in the top 20, I know it's a wee bit of a long shot given there are thousands of other awesome companies in the contest! As my husband, Ken, says, it's all about the ride. We had a great time putting together our video, (which I will post here and on our website after the Round 2 contest judging), and petitioning all of our friends and customers for votes. It's a great experience to take on whether you make it all the way or not! A special thank you to my dear friend, Sylvia Springer for her work on the video!

Along with the contest, we've also been working on redesigning our website.  It's been on our road map for a long time and I'm thrilled to have it complete!  Thanks to our design team at
E-cart Customs for their creativity and hard work! Take a look and send us your feedback or leave a comment here.  Would love to know what you think!

Have a happy day and stay tuned for more exciting things coming in the weeks ahead!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Roundup of the Best Homemade and Decorated Cookies

I am very much in a cookie state of mind!  First off, my husband and I are currently on a diet so cookies are a forbidden pleasure, which makes me think about them and dream about them way more than the average person! Secondly, yesterday was Homemade Cookie Day, so I had it going on all over Facebook.  Thirdly, I am on point to make some very special cookies for the sweet table at my niece's wedding in 3 weeks.  If all that isn't cookie pressure!

So I've given into the temptation of those way more than average thoughts and dreams and have scoured the web for the most enticing and tasteful cookies I could find! Now I'm inspired to get through my diet and have my first indulgence, and to make the most beautiful and tasty cookies for that very special table on October 25th!

Enjoy viewing these, and if you are inspired enough to try them, please let us know your results (comments and pictures please!)

These Chocolate Rolled Cookie Hearts, decorated in my niece's wedding colors, would be perfect!

Courtesy of

Or these Hand Painted Valentine Cookies would look beautiful on a wedding sweets table!

Courtesy of
Then there are always Classic Snickerdoodle Cookies
(I might just make these immediately following this dumb diet!)
Courtesy of

Another favorite and a lovely look for the sweets table, these French Filled Macaroons are a definite consideration!

Courtesy of

And for the kid and chocolate lover in all of us, I would totally go for these S'more Cups!

Courtesy of
(My final two selections are heart shapes again, since I'm in wedding cookie mode.)
The first, Linzer Sandwich Cookies, have always been a favorite of mine for Christmas.
Courtesy of

And, saving the best for last, these Salted  Chocolate Cinnamon Shortbread Hearts sound amazing!
These, I will be making for sure!

Courtesy of
Enjoy and have a happy day!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Favorite Fall Recipe: Curried Pumpkin Soup

With just the right touch of curry, this delicious pumpkin soup, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds is perfect for a fall dinner starter.  Or serve it with a loaf of rustic bread and butter for a festive weekend lunch!

Curried Pumpkin Soup - 8 servings

  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour 
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 29 ounces canned pumpkin 
  • 1-1/2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar                   
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Toast pumpkin seeds in single layer on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, until just browned.
2. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in flour and curry powder until smooth.

3. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to bubble. Gradually whisk in broth, and cook until thickened.
4. Stir in pumpkin and half-and-half. Season with soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat.
5. Serve in individual bowls, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Photo courtesy of

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Decorating Ideas and More

Everywhere I turn, I see fall inspiration.  It's in the magazines that come in the mail and on my favorite blogs. It's in storefronts, on websites, and Pinterest, of course!  Inspiration is everywhere, and I'm ready to tackle my new round of fall projects.  If you're feeling the same inspiration but not sure where to begin, I've gathered a few sources for your autumn inspiration! 

I've always loved filling a room with fall fragrance, whether it be candles or something awesome cooking in the kitchen.  Here are some wonderful ideas for creating your own natural fragrance.

Natural room fragrance for fall

Photo courtesy of

If you're looking for creative ways to wrap your fall occasion gifts, try using a natural colored paper with a few sprigs of fall leaves, or ribbon and tie made out of fall patterned fabric.  This source also includes a delicious recipe for a fall gift bread.

Photo courtesy of

As the cool weather rolls in, and you start pulling out your favorite sweaters, you tend to start craving soups, hearty pastas and other warm, comforting dishes.  Kick off the season with this inspiring cheesy mac.

Photo courtesy of
 Whether it's your dinner table, side table or foyer, adding a fall centerpiece keeps the season festive and inspirational.  Use your favorite vase, candle tray, or glass bowl, and fill with fall colored decor.

If you're looking for unique fall gift ideas, consider a custom gift basket with an autumn theme! Ours shown here include a mix of tasty fall treats and home décor items they're sure to love!

Have a happy day!

Friday, September 20, 2013

5 Ways to Celebrate World Gratitude Day

Saturday is World Gratitude Day, and although it is not a traditional gift-giving holiday, I love the idea of taking a day to be grateful and showing your gratitude to those around you.  Whether you do it through words or actions, don't let the day go by without giving thanks. Here are 5 simple ways to show gratitude on this special day:
  • Bring treats to work - For those you work with who provide endless support and an ear when you need it, bring in some cupcakes, cookies, or other office favorites and let them know you appreciate them.
  • Have a conversation - In this day of texting and social media posting, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member to let them know you appreciate them.
  • Fresh cut flowers - It can be a single flower or a bouquet, but choose a favorite flower for a friend or relative and surprise them with a big thank you!
  • Send an e-card - Free e-cards are easy to find online.  Send a "thank you" or "thinking of you" card to a special someone in your life.
  • Be spontaneous - Invite a friend or loved one out for lunch or dinner last minute and insist on buying.  Let them know you just want to say thanks for being you!
Post your own ideas here and have a happy day!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Inspiring Gifts of Gratitude

This time of year brings many occasions to give thanks and show appreciation:

World Gratitude Day
World Teacher Day
Bosses Day
Sweetest Day
Veterans Day
With all of these inspiring occasions to say thanks to those who make life brighter, happier, and even a bit easier, we put together some favorite gift baskets that are a perfect way to show your gratitude.

This colorful gift collection includes a large ceramic mug, daily planner, and mini wallet, all with inspiring, whimsical quotes for the modern woman!

This taupe ceramic planter, which can also be used as decorative storage, contains our favorite shortbread cookies from Too Good Gourmet, Highland Select tea, and a trendy ceramic owl tea light holder in inspiring autumn colors.
I love this "Laugh" ceramic container, for home décor, with its collection of Highland Select tea, an elegant portfolio of useful stickable notes, crystal owl paperweight, and all natural liquid hand soap from European Soaps.  This gift is perfect for World Teacher Day or Bosses Day!
Perfect for the hostess or housewarming gift, this fall colored metal container includes "Home" wooden votive candle holder, bamboo wood salad servers, pumpkin chocolate malted milk balls, delectable potato soup mix from Country Home Creations, and Highland Select tea. 
A perfect fall gift!

Have a happy and inspiring day!