IMAGINE YOU ENTER A PARTY and cross the living room cutting a swath through the guests, come right up to your hosts and greet them with a HUG and you just happen to have this big basket in your arms. It's swathed in cellophane, tied with glittering ribbon, festively trimmed with holly, green leaves, glitter and birds. .

THAT IS AN ENTRANCE!!!! We see your huge, generous SMILE but also in your arms, this GLORIOUS dream basket with an ice cold Champagne or wine bottle poking out, the classic food items that people love, crackers,  fresh cheeses in cellophane, big bottles of green olives, black olives, herbed and garlicked to a T, a loaf of crusty boutique olive bread, a bunch of basil maybe put up in jars, tapinade. You are going to get gasps.  Onlookers will be stunned and impressed.

Baskets are easy. Filling them with yummies is fun. Putting these costly posh gifts together is also frugal. All the baskets in this article are old thrift store baskets that you painted up. Some 99c store cellophane and some  COSTCO groceries, not very costly for the wattage they provoke, wouldn't you say?

SO LET's SEE what kind of DIFFERENT FLAVORS OF BASKET YOU CAN CREATE:

THE BOOZER BASKET - Martini shaker, Dry Vermouth, A big bottle of English Gin. A few Martini glasses & Lots of juniper branches with the little gray pinecone berries on them. (Gin is from juniper?). CRACKERS AND CHEESE cuz you shouldn't drink hard likker on an empty tum! Maybe a Genoa sausage?

THE CHOCOLATE FIEND'S BASKET - BAKING chocolate, the real deal. A lb. box of SEES CANDIES but must be purchased in the store or it's twice as much! Last I knew it was 15$ a big lb box. Don't get the milk chocolate, get dark and avoid TRUFFLES. Get the regular plain box. NUTS AND CHEWS aren't as dynamite. HELEN's in LAS VEGAS another great hand dipped chocolate candy. INDIANA has a fabulous cream and butter caramel maker. Investigate who it is by googling. Get a few lbs and break them into smaller amts for each basket. They come in tins with a dozen or two dozen caramels. THESE are extraordinary by the way.

CHAMPAGNE AND CAVIAR BASKET-   My restaurant owner pal Max (CHEZ PAULETTE,) swears COOKS' California Champagne  extra dry is as good As French! 5$ is all it costs! Include some caviar, two glasses, called 'flutes',  fresh, iced CREAMED HERRING! A LOAF OF RYE. SPREADABLE CREAM CHEESE. BAGELS! Cream Cheese, Lox, And for holiday greenery, a bunch of Mexican green onions and very fresh just out of the store last minute?  Basil!

THE PERFUME/ SOAP/ LADY's BASKET The soaps at the 99c store are beautiful. CHINA TOWN AND INDIA TOWN offer great soaps, very bon marche. Great perfumes you can find just DUTY-FREE, south of the border, discounted, in Tijuana and other border cities, would be "FEMME", JOY" "WHITE SHOULDERS" "CHANEL 19" PERTEGAZ makes 'DIAGONAL"  from Spain. Fabulous.  LEMON VERBENA and Vervaine both come from Provence & are intoxicating.  Fresh branches of lavendar, rosemary from your auntie's spice garden surround the bottles. RONA BARRETT turned from gossip to A LAVENDAR farm. GOOGLE HER!

THE MANLY MAN TOILETRIES BASKET - Sandalwood soap works for men, INDIA store has it cheap. INCLUDE A SWEAT CATCHER HEAD BAND for the GYM. NEW RAZOR, some outrageous new kind of razor that nobody's tried, yet. MEN ARE DINGY for razors. Throw in some shave cream in a can. HEALTHFOOD TOOTHPASTE with a card that sez, no aluminium in this toothpaste to fog your brain!

THE SALAD BASKET - Great refrigerated vinagrette dressing. Garnishes, croutons. IMPORTANT: Good sturdy SALT/ PEPPER GRINDER and a bag of good rock salt and black pepper corms!. EVERYBODY needs THIS baby and go to the ETHNIC MARKET where 32 oz of OLIVE oil in a can cost 7$

THE WINE LOVERS SPECIAL BASKET! - SHIRAZ from AUSTRALIA and PINOT NOIR from CALIFORNIA. These are excellent choices. REAL LIVE GRAPES look good in such a basket. Trader Joes has BEAR's LAIR  MERLOT 2003, a vintage year, $3.99 and it is really good. Their expert cued me but Pinot has the good rap these days.

THE CHEESE BASKET- Warn your recipient, this must be fridged NOW. GARLIC JACK cheese, UNIQUE! SONOMA CHEESE used to make it. So now I cannot find any garlic cheese anywhere in L.A. You know where some is? Maybe we should swipe garlic over every piece of cheese we ever cut. (sigh.) Put dry cheeses in this package, (Parmesan) include  a big tin grater. Find a CHEESE SERVER KNIFE.  The scandanavian store has these. Ceramic handle. TRADER JOE's SESAME ROUND CRACKERS are wowie!

THE COOKIE BASKET - SESAME ORANGE UNIQUE COOKIES-Cream l stick butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and l egg. Add almond flavoring or vanilla, spices, pumpkin pie spice is good, and 4 tbsp of pan-toasted litely browned sesame seeds, 1 tbsp orange rind. Add 3/4 to 1 cup brown flour or whole wheat flour that is sifted (takes out the bran) or unbleached whole wheat w. a little *NON-aluminum baking powder, (only avail at HFS) salt, stir, add little liquid, (l tbsp, can be orange juice or milk) Raisins, oatmeal, dates, nuts would make them even better. Bake, being careful not to burn raisins which require low temp oven. (*note: Aluminum bk. powder may cause Alzheimers use healthfood store variety). Cool well before you cover w. plastic or cellophane. Store in tins or give away on a thrift store dinner plate with cellophane.

BASKET is lined with napkins, never excelsior. That crap sheds like a Sheepdog in Summer. NOTE: COOKIE basket must have a few LB BAGs OF COLUMBIAN WHOLE BEANS and maybe a MOLINEX GRINDER, 12$, and /or SOME IMPORTED BLACK TEA.  CHINATOWN STORE owner must be prompted to come up with the good brand; They know the good jasmine teas. IF YOU PRESS THEM, not the tourist stuff!!

THE CAKE BASKET : Those FRUIT CAKE jokes should not exist. I am nuts about fruit cake if it's made with real butter batter, dried cranberries, dried cherries, walnuts, pecans , toasted almonds --and you would be nuts about one too. CITRON, eh. Maybe grated lemon and orange rind. MAKE A FEW UP,wrap in cheese cloth, soak in rum, brandy or scotch, bourbon or cognac, you have a DELICIOUS  item!

DRIED FRUIT BASKET - Dried Apricots are gems. a BAG of them, bag of prunes, bag of dried cherries/ cranberries or Mix them with hand made CANDIES you did at home like:

PINATAS- These are little paper wrapped collections of sweets which you store in a jar in fridge. Each colored paper cone is filled with ribbon-chopped dried cherries, apricots, peaches, raisins, and my all time favorite, dried pears, also home-blanched almonds. You can also make peanut brittle. Make hand-dipped chocolates (use a fruit center, for instance a red whole seedless grape..) all made w. no sugar. (Use brown sugar loafs and rice bran syrup to create a high Vitamin B brittle, or rice bran syrup in your dipping chocolate) You can also stuff larger dried fruits like dates, figs with nuts or homemade marzipan, (below) set in paper cups. HOMEMADE JUNGLE MARZIPAN-(Grind dates, walnuts, blanched almonds, lemon juice, lemon rind, dried figs and fresh grated coconut in blender, add almond extract.) Scoop into balls, wrap in square of plastic wrap, twist neck and tie. Or roll in sugar, put in fluted cups in a box

CANDLE BASKET - AROMATHERAPY CANDLES. Sniff them before you buy them. MAKE certain they have a strong and good aroma. Add fake flowers or real. MATCHES would be nice..99c Store has glass mosaic candleholders, handblown, pierced, all kinds.

TROPICAL FRESH FRUIT AND JAM BASKET- Stick a little Indonesian Wood palm tree, pineapple, mangoes, Little wooden tigers and gazelles, big fat chiramoyas. Bottle of HAWAIIAN PIKAKE PERFUME. A COCONUT! BAGS OF NUTS. DRIED MANGOES are unique. BAGS of coconut flakes. Add a few jars of your homemade jam, ask me for recipe to KIWI with lemon peel, KUMQUATS with lemon peel, GUAVA, RASPBERRY with Lemon peel. ORANGE MARMALADE wi. lemon peel. I wonder why I don't just make LEMON PEEL JAM!


CD-BASKET - INDIA TOWN has great music. Not costly. JAI UTTAL is Fabulous, google him online, buy a dozen you won't believe how good he is. ALI AKBAR KHAN! SARANGI music, beats Miles Davis for music to fool around with. NIGERIAN IMPORT STORE HAS FELA. I don't know the good African artists. PUTUMAYO has been doing a great job of introducing world music into the mainstream for many years now, with their innovative marketing methods, gorgeous CD packaging and consistently good compilations. This time, though, instead of putting together a CD that brings obscure artists into focus, they've created Putumayo World Hits, a CD that brings together several songs that did actually have some success.

LAST? A gift card that clearly states your name and PUT AN INVENTORY THERE. Sounds weird but your gift card  purports to tell recipient what you find special, not that it should LOOK like an INVENTORY Note states a little something about EACH PIECE INSIDE. THIS WINE is said to be the Best California Riesling, goes with fish. this PERFUME the rage of PROVENCE, this CHEESE so unique as GARLIC is found in almost no cheeses, which is too bad.

REASON FOR INVENTORY? Because the maid may take the gift apart, refrigerating parts of it,or the very GUESTS MAY pounce on it and EAT IT UP! So that's why the card is the final witness to your GENIUS. Tomorrow, when HOST finds a cheese rind, he knows who to thank! And WHO TO KILL. Who knows if hostess will see it if you cannot make that entrance and carry that sucker thru the whole house seeking your HOSTS! Or if your hosts are a couple, can you hit both of them? This is all very chancey.. So you have to run that thing to both of them, knowing it will disappear or go into melt down and the CARD with notations is ALL that may be left.

SMARTER is to say to host 'I'm putting the cheese in the door of the fridge where no one will find it and The basket will go in your room under the desk"
 

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Our POSTER is ANITA SANDS HERNANDEZ, Los Angeles Writer, mother of 4 and career Astrologer. Catch up with her websites  TRUTHS GOV WILL HIDE & NEVER TELL YOU, also The  FUTURE, WHAT'S COMIN' AT YA! FRUGAL LIFE STYLE TIPS,  HOW TO SURVIVE the COMING GREAT DEPRESSION, and Secrets of Nature, HOLISTIC, AFFORDABLE HEALING. Also ARTISANRY FOR EXPORT, EARN EUROS...* Anita is at astrology@earthlink.net ). Get a FREE natal horoscope "my money/future life" reading now + copy horoscope as a Gif file graphic! No smarter, more accurate career reading out there!

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