Graduation and bridal seasons are upon us. To help you in your quest for a present that sends the grads and newlyweds over the moon, I've pulled together my short list of never-fail gift picks. Here's to short but successful shopping expeditions. Mary Carol Garrity, Scripps Howard News Service
Best bets for brides and grooms
Trays: Trays are incredibly versatile. Newlyweds can use them as serving pieces when they entertain, hang them on the wall as artwork or employ them as the base or backing of a tabletop tableau. They can also be placed on a coffee table to corral the remotes or on the kitchen table to hold the day's mail.
Cake plates: These gotta-have decorating pieces can be used to serve the delectable dishes the new bride and groom cook up in their first home, or as a base for seasonal decorative displays. For even more drama, stack them on top of each other.
Pitchers: Another essential, pitchers are not only practical for everyday purposes, filled with iced tea or orange juice, they also make wonderful vases for flowers. Or, use them to hold kitchen utensils or linens. I also love to cluster collections of creamware pitchers atop kitchen cabinets.
Lanterns: One of the best year-round decorating tools you can find. For a spring display, fill one with a fern and you're done. In summer, fill it with a battery-operated candle for outdoor dining. In the fall, toss in some bittersweet and gourds and you have a great display. For winter, try pinecones or Christmas tree bulbs.
Kitchen gadgets: For a cute shower gift, select a few gadgets, then package them in a mixing bowl or apothecary jar the bride can use as well.
Adapted from the blog nellhillsblog.com, which can be accessed from the nellhills.com home page.
Gifts for grads
Lamps: Today's dorm rooms are not like the dorm rooms we remember — cold, sterile and institutional. Today's coeds are decorating their dorms, sorority rooms and student apartments to the nines.
Glass jars: Organization is key when you're living in a small space, whether it's a dorm room or your first apartment. I can't think of a better way to hold your stuff than in an array of attractive glass jars, from small lidded jars to larger apothecary jars. The grad can use them to corral stuff like spare change, pens and pencils, candy for late-night study sessions and hair accessories.
Bedding: In a dorm room or studio apartment, the bed is often the focal point of the room. So treat the grad to some stylish or funky bedding, like washable quilts, accent pillows or duvets.
Picture frames: Starting out at a new college or a job in a new city can be scary at first. So give the grad some picture frames to fill with photos of friends and family.
Votives and scented candles: Ever smelled a boy's college dorm room, frat house or first apartment? If so, you know why scented candles are a must. But some dorms may not allow burning, so get battery-operated scented candles instead.
White pots: Live plants are a perfect way to bring color to a dorm room or apartment. And there's nothing better to put a plant in than affordable pots. If plants aren't your grad's thing, they can use these pots to house any number of things, from granola bars to classroom assignments.