22 December 2010

Cheap Gift-Wrap Chic

I love every stage of gift-shopping: the planning, the list-making, the strategizing--where and when to shop (or make). But the finishing touch, the icing on this shopping-cake, may just be my favorite part: the gift-wrapping. Allow me to share my philosophy of wrapping, just in case you are in need of ideas or inspiration, and just in case you too are a self-styled, gift-wrap artist.

Start by thinking about your theme, your palette, your media. If they're going to be under the same tree, you'll want visual harmony. Keep things simple. If you want to play with color, then you'll want to restrict the amount of variation in texture and pattern of paper and ribbon. If you want to play with texture, on the other hand, you'll want to limit your palette, leaving more focus on the contrasting textures. You could decide on a red theme, for example, and then hunt down velvet ribbon, shiny garlands, matte papers, etc. You could vary huge bows and cascading ribbons. If you want to go with patterned papers, then restrict yourself to simpler bows. If you want to combine several shades of red, then try to keep to no more than two colors per gift and try to repeat shades over several presents, to create overall visual harmony.

This year I collected brown paper shopping bags. And I checked for pink and cream ribbon at pretty much every store I went to for a few months--thrift stores, boutiques, chain stores, until I amassed an eclectic collection of different shades and shapes of light pink and cream ribbon. I used only cloth ribbon, like lace and sheer ribbon, in keeping with the rough-hewn look of the brown paper. In lieu of nametags, I used cream and brown block letters from an old address book. Each letter is assigned to a present in a sort of code.

I've included the work of a few others here for ideas. I like the use of old books. The destruction of books is not to be undertaken without reflection, though. If it is a good book, honor it by not making it into wrapping paper. If it is not a good book, do not sully your gifts by garbing them with unworthy words. But if it is a book, of which there are many copies, and you will still have a copy, and everyone you know who needs a copy has one, then I say it is probably okay. I do tend to be liberal about these things, as I have a high regard for the art of wrapping. At any rate, if it bothers you, you should probably find another medium. It is your book-conscience, after all.

(Both of these pieces from the tomate d'épingles blog on eco-friendly fashion.)

One of these artists also uses buttons. I used buttons one year too. I got a whole jar for two dollars at the local thrift store. I used light blue and navy buttons, in various shapes and sizes, again with brown paper. I strung them like ornaments. The cascading movement was nice.

Get creative. You could use the pages of an old Atlas. Wrap each person's gift with a region important to them. Newspaper is a little messy, but classic. Black-and-white newsprint with monochromatic ribbon could be quite classy. Try dressing up the cheap and commonplace with something fancy, like rich velvet ribbon. Thrift can be chic.

Even you don't have time or inclination to try something more unconventional, you may want to pick up one of Target's gift-wrap packs (with pre-packaged harmony). You'll get something like four rolls of distinctly patterned, yet matching paper. I believe they throw in matching ribbon as well. Think of it as training wheels for your inner gift-wrap artist.

It's still the thought that counts, but if you can have fun with wrapping, then why not do that too!

Papyrus papers. Very chic. Not so cheap.

A Therapeutic Dog

A few years ago I lost several important things all at once--a love, a home, a job that I liked. My health decreased. Even my laptop chose that moment to die. I returned home, broken. My parents received me back graciously. But this time there was also a furry animal living there. He didn't know about all of the things that were lost. He was just happy that I was there. He was happy to company with me during my convalescence. I would sit in a lawn chair in the sun in the backyard, reading children's books--the saltine crackers of the sorrowful--and Frodo would sit under my chair, as if his only job in the world that day was to be near me, to be part of what I was doing. That little dog was instrumental to my healing. I think pets can be an important part of our concept of home. 
They demonstrate the loyalty, the unconditional love, that is essential to "home." This holiday season, as we see our loved ones, may they know that we are happy simply that they are, happy to see them, and that nothing else really matters. And let us not forget to extend this same grace to ourselves.

10 December 2010

Snow Walking

I like snow. I like to walk in snow. I like the print that my boot makes. It is that of a penguin conference, convened on ice floes. If I hop with both feet, then the penguins of the left and right feet are looking at each other, which is better for communication. I'm sure they would prefer that I hopped all of the time for the sake of their conference, but that would tiresome. I'm sure they rendezvous in the closet, anyway. It's nice to have a good footprint.

I was once a papergirl--trudging through feet-deep snow, papers piled on my back in a giant sack--the Santa Claus of local news. I enjoyed those walks. They reminded me of a time when all we had were our legs to carry us where we wanted to go--our legs, our backs, our arms--to light the fires and build the shelters which kept back the cold--places to snuggle in, to tell stories in, places to dream new worlds in.

I enjoy starting a new trail--just a single pair of footprints across a vast expanse of white. I feel like the only human, with sky of night and planet white, "a child, in the first part of an instant, numb to it every other night but this!" (Mein Bruder schrieb dieses.)

The cold can be dangerous. It is essential to be properly armored. I have an ankle-length green coat. My brother calls it the celery coat. I probably waddle... a giant, waddling stalk of celery. A friend of mine is
afraid of both women and celery. I must frighten him very much as an enceleried woman, but he is very polite and doesn't say so. I lace my headphones through my coat, so I can have tunes while I wander. This all adds up to a waddling cocoon of winter wandering happiness. Architecture in Helsinki is the perfect soundtrack for winter waddling: Heart It Races

Moving through snow presents many interesting options. You can make footprints--close together, far apart, right... right... left, right... right... left.... You can glide through it, as though you were skating or skiing. When its powdery, you can fluff it up in the air with every step. If it's crème brulée snow, you can punch holes through the surface. (I think this is the result of a
slight warming in temperature and then rapid refreezing at the surface. The molecules of the surface snow have a closer, more ridgid relationship than the softer, more particulated under-snow.)

Walking is good exercise. Walking in snow is especially good exercise. Not only do you have the added resistance of extra layers of clothing, but your steps meet with more resistance. I recommend going off-sidewalk, where the terrain is less even, requiring more stabilizing effort from, and thus toning of, your cal
f muscles. When you go off-sidewalk you're also more likely to fall, but falling in sno
w is kind of fun. You might even want to fall down on purpose.

So whether for your health or for the sheer beauty of a walking in a winter wonderland, put on your boots, get out there, and make some footprints!

For more ideas of what you can do on a snowy day, try Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day.