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Gift baskets with a creative twist

By Michelle Pinch

This themed basket contains a Yankee video, mouse pad, T-shirt, hat, coffee mug, baseball and more.
This themed basket contains a Yankee video, mouse pad, T-shirt, hat, coffee mug, baseball and more.

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(CNN) - This holiday season, don't fuss around with sticky tape, rolls of wrapping paper and boring cardboard boxes -- summon up a little ingenuity and create a theme gift basket filled with goodies to tickle that special person's fancy.

Theme gift baskets are an easy alternative to the traditional holiday present. Although they take a little time and effort to make, the thoughtfulness behind them is a pleasure for recipients.

The following steps outline how to bring together eye-catching themed gifts and a crafty container to make the ultimate gift basket:

First, decode your gift recipient's personality: Consider his or her unique pastimes and tastes, then think about gifts to enhance what they like to do best.

"It's important when giving a gift to personalize it to the recipient's taste," Melissa Rosen, of 1-800-FLOWERS, says. "Keep in mind their likes and hobbies."

Unsure about your gift recipient's personality? Take the Holiday Shopping personality quiz. (Go to quiz>>)

"Before you start, focus on one idea," says Olivier Arizzi of Olivier & Co., an international gourmet gift company preparing to launch its holiday gift basket collection filled with treats from the Mediterranean. "Try to match that idea with what you think the person would like to receive."

Next, think theme: Once you nail down the personality of your gift recipient, develop the central theme of the basket. Some general themes are sports, parenting, books, movies, cooking or gardening -- all of which inspire an array of fun presents.

To truly highlight the recipient's personality, you can choose a specialized topic within the theme. For example, if your gourmet food lover's taste runs to Chinese fare, spice up the basket with Asian ingredients, chopsticks or a wok.

Creativity is essential when choosing items to fill the basket. Mixing up the sizes and shapes of gifts creates an attractive basket, says Julie Linhart, founder of Gift Basket Boutique.

Next, choose a container: Once you've assembled the goodies, finding an appealing container to match your theme becomes the next challenge. Despite the name, gift baskets don't have to be made of woven wicker.

"Anything with an opening can be used as a basket," Linhart says. The Gift Basket Boutique names coffee mugs and watering cans as their hottest sellers. It's important to package your themed items in a re-useable gift basket, Linhart says.

Rosen agreed. Her 1-800-Flowers site features wooden boxes, toy baby carriages, colorful totes and a miniature sports stadium.

But you don't need to buy your gift basket and gifts in the same place to make it look professional. Local craft stores, party stores and online merchandisers sell specialty baskets and boxes as well as gifts to fill them.

Finally, fill your basket: Once you've gathered all the pieces, it's time to arrange them in an appealing and aesthetic way. Oliver suggests singling out one larger item and positioning it the center, such as a large bottle of olive oil, then arranging smaller objects around it.

After arranging the main items inside the basket, personal trimmings can be added. Rosen says the gift basket creator should "add homemade touches to their basket, like ribbon, for a festive touch."

Trade Secrets: Let these basket ideas from the pros inspire your homemade theme gifts

Movie buff: Can your pal recite the lines from favorite movies? If so, he or she might appreciate a basket that appeals to a love of cinema.

Container: A large movie-style popcorn bag or an old movie reel can be found online or at specialty stores.

Both are fun novelty receptacles that resonate with the spirit of the theater.

Gift items: DVDs are an essential gift for the movie lover but other items can also accent their joy of Hollywood. Think posters of classic films, microwaveable popcorn, movie theater coupons, pop-culture games, books about Hollywood and the cinema and a blanket to curl up in.

Pampered princess: This themed basket can appeal to almost anyone that likes to feel pampered and deserves a little R & R.

Container: An elegant jewelry chest provides the perfect backdrop for an array of spa treats and items to indulge in. Other possibilities include a shower tote, flower vase, ice bucket, hand-painted bathroom trash bin or a decorated hatbox.

Gift items: Treats that cater to the senses are a perfect fit for the pampered princess on your list. Homemade soaps, scented candles, a split of champagne, bath bubbles, a loofah sponge, a pedicure kit and aromatherapy lotions make great filler items.

New parents: Parents would welcome cute clothes, baby gourmet food, and fun toys in addition to the basic commodities their newborn requires.

Container: A baby tote bag, pre-filled with the delightful items you've purchased, makes a perfect container. Other adorable containers include a baby mug, baby carriage, baby's potty, baby bathtub and a child's red wagon.

Gift items: A keepsake album is a great gift for any parent who loves to record the special moments in their little one's infancy. Other thoughtful presents include bibs, toys, onesies, bottles, diapers and baby toiletries.

Bookworm: The friend or relative who loves to dive into a novel will appreciate your thoughtfulness in catering to his or her greatest passion. A basket filled with items that complement the need to relax with a good book make for the perfect bookworm gift.

Container: The container for a bookworm can range from an oversized coffee mug to a flowerpot. Other alternatives include a bookshelf (try resting your presents along the shelf, then wrapping it in clear gift wrap), teapot, or a picnic basket.

Gift items: Creating a cozy reading nook is essential to enjoying a good read, so don't confine gift items to the actual printed books and bookmarks. For a literary enthusiast without much time to read, books on tape are a great alternative to the real thing. Objects you can include to create their cozy corner are a throw blanket, scented candle, a library card, books from their favorite genre, books on tape, herbal tea bags or coffee beans, personalized book mark or a book store gift certificate and comfy slippers.

Sports fanatic: A sports theme basket is sure to hit a home run. For extra points, customize it to the recipient's favorite sport or team.

Container: While recipients must dig deep to find the gift hoard at the bottom of a golf bag, the luxury of such an unusual container make the mystery goodies deep within all the more exciting. Other alternatives include a beer cooler, football helmet or a gym bag.

Gift items: Tickets to a fave sporting event will light up the eyes of any sports' lover. Other great goodies are a video of great moments in their sport, sporting equipment, athletic wear and a T-shirt and cap with their fave team's logo.

Partygoer or sophisticated connoisseur: Know a social butterfly? Have a friend who loves to boogie down? Help him or her keep up with the Joneses by making a stylin' basket that includes everything necessary to hit the party scene.

Container: An oversized martini glass serves up a festive gift basket. Other alternatives include a beer cooler, ice bucket, or a deep-set chips and dip bowl.

Gift items: Trendy drink I.D. ornaments are popping up at home and entertaining stores. These decorated tags wrap around the stem of wine or cocktail glasses to ensure drinks don't get swapped. Other handy party favors include a bottles of liquor, beer or wine, bartender's drink manual, coasters, dance CDs, mini-strobe light, wine directories and party games or a deck of cards.

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