I have three experiences getting handmade gifts. I had to be polite about accepting them. I appreciated the effort very much, but the gifts themselves weren’t things I would have at my place. (One, I changed my mind about, but I knew, even as a kid, that it was kind of tacky.)
On the other hand, I will say immodestly, I gave two gifts I made to my sisters that they treasured. One sister used one for years until it was completely worn out.
So I would say the important thing is not to “get your wires crossed”. The gifts that were the best, not surprisingly, were also the ones that took many, many hours to make.
If you are a talented painter, illustrator, writer, carpenter, or clothes maker, you may be able to make something that is very much appreciated.
If you don’t have those advantages, look for someone locally who does! Many artists and skilled craftspeople need money.
If you can poke around someone’s house a little, you may see things they are “missing”. Nice salad bowl? Rack to hang kitchen utensils? A closet organizer for shoes? One of those standing racks to hold magazines?
Maybe you can make them some extra-special dish they like, perhaps using higher quality ingredients than usual? Some “upgrades” I like are: Fresh bottled milk, fresh spices (or maybe just replace a couple dried ones that you’ve had around a couple years), gourmet cheese, fresh pasta noodles. Throwing in a little Grand Marnier or Cointreau makes a rich orange taste. And there’s Chambord for a raspberry taste.
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