From a recipient of spa items -- "wow, you made this?" This individual was particularly delighted with receiving items that I had made, and specifically so, because they were beauty items. A long conversation followed, about how to make a variety of things. And my second-hand information was that she was very impressed with the packaging of the items.
I bring this up because Valentine's day is just around the corner and a sweet little envelope, made from a sheet of a favorite love poem, could contain a handwritten note or card, or homemade treats, to someone special, for very little cost.
Another gift recipient was blown away that you can actually make soap, easily. I explained how melt and pour soap is combined with extra ingredients, then poured into a mold. Most of the people to whom I give hand-crafted soap have no idea that melt and pour soap base exists. So it's always exciting to see their face or hear their voice when they realize that I made the soap. That makes it worth it.
My hand-knit dish cloths were also well-received. This recipient happens to be the person who taught me how to knit, in the first place. So she could appreciate my progress in knitting, as well as the beauty of the pattern used. I hope they give her many years of good service.
The stand-out comment that I received on the homemade soup mixes was again, about the packaging. Several people in the room commented on how the packaging looked like something they might see in Williams-Sonoma, possibly due to the coloring (red/white twine, combined with black/white label). In any case, I took that as quite a compliment.
I gave a family these individual packages of homemade cocoa mix. I deliberately chose this gift for this family, as I knew they didn't bake many desserts or treats from scratch in their house. They do cook fabulous meal items, however. Baking and other sweets isn't their thing. We had a bit of a conversation about how I made these, combining milk powder, cocoa powder, sugar, chopped chocolate, and adding the candy cane and marshmallows. In their house, at the beginning of winter, they have often bought boxes of different flavors of cocoa mix, such as raspberry cocoa, peppermint cocoa. I've seen these boxed assortments at Cost Plus, at holiday time. This family was delighted to receive the cocoa packages, and informed me the following week that they had all enjoyed them, already. (That's always a good sign when something you've made does get used or consumed.)
And finally, the "display soap". At the very end of the holiday season, I needed a couple more hand-crafted items. So, I made a small batch of molded soaps for two different recipients. The comments that I received cracked me up, on these. Upon receiving, the wife repeatedly said they were too beautiful to use. And I kept reassuring her that they should be used. A week later, the husband told me that they had put the soaps "on display". I just imagined the conversation in their home when that happened, because I recall similar "discussions" and "instructions" in my own home, growing up. You know, when you have fancy soap in the house, someone is the self-appointed "guest soap monitor". As a kid, we weren't supposed to use the guest soap in the guest bathroom. If we really needed to use the guest bathroom (which we were discouraged from doing, but sometimes is a necessity), we were often followed to the bathroom door by my mother, as she would shout out instructions through the guest bathroom door to "don't use the guest soap! That's for company! Use the soap in a dish under the sink." We'd oblige, inferring how important this must be to my mother, as why else would she interrupt some important work in the kitchen to inform us to keep this guest soap pristine. So, the "display soap".
I did tell our friends to please, use this soap. I can always make more. It really isn't a piece of art, but something to be used. I hope they have all gotten over this feeling like they need to keep the soap pristine. I'll find out when I visit their home, someday.
I've thought of a twist on this gift, just for these folks, a soap-of-the-month gift, where I deliver a new and different bar of guest soap to them, every month, for the year. Maybe that would take the need-to-save-this-forever thinking out of receiving the soap. Hmm, maybe that could be a retail gift package -- the soap-of-the-month club.