Easy Holiday Decoration Tips

1. Light your tree easily. There are a few options here – I specificially use net lights, which are a large net of lights instead of strings. These are really easy to fling over the top of your tree and spread out evenly, no tangles. They are often meant for bushes or shrubs so mine are rectangular but they also come in triangles, which is better for trees. Another tip for very large trees is to string your lights vertically instead of around, as it is a bit easier to manage. And finally, you can get a pre-lit artificial tree!

2. Throw pillow covers. An easy way to change up your decor is to change the pillow covers on any throw pillows you have. The spare cases are inexpensive and easy to store the remainder of the year.

3. Use other people’s cards to decorate! My sister made me a clothespin wreath I can attach them to, but you can also string them or just hang them up for festive, easy decor.

4. Smart plug outlets. Save yourself from a lot of hassle and use these to control any lights remotely or on an automated timer. I don’t have a set schedule for mine and like to turn the lights off when I go to bed. This lets me get multiple stories of lights at the same time without going outside in the cold. I can set them to a timer, control them from my phone, or yell at Alexa to turn the lights on/off. The rest of the year I use one for my patio string lights.

2021 Gift Guide – Sales are on Now!

A few weeks ago I shared my top tips for picking out a personalized gift. For anyone seeking concrete ideas for their gift list, I’ve put together a few selections of items at different price points. I either have or have given several of these items myself! In full transparency, I also wanted to practice my Photoshop collages. Retailers are running major sales right now to get ahead of supply chain and shipping delays, so be sure to comparison shop and snag a good deal! Prices listed are as of posting time.

Le Creuset 5.5-qt Dutch Oven ($300, on sale), TRUFF Hot Sauce ($17), Adult Paint by Numbers ($13), Nerds Gummy Clusters ($12.50 for 3), Photo Ornament ($15 on sale), Photo Mug ($10 on sale), DIY Ravioli Kit ($32), Smart Plugs ($16), JBL Waterproof Speaker ($130)
Faux Fur Cable Beanie ($19), Twisted Satin Headband ($17 on sale), Pearl Climber Earrings ($17 on sale), Fresh Lip Balm Set ($25), Himalayan Salt Scrub ($10), Barefoot Dreams Cardigan ($116), Printed Joggers ($10-20 by print), Turtleneck Sweater ($68 on sale), Orthotic Slippers ($16-40 by color), Rebecca Minkoff Leather Bag ($300)
Jack Black Toiletry Set ($48 on sale), WoodWick Crackling Candle ($24), Large/Whiskey Ice Cube Mold ($14), birddogs shorts ($68), Melin A-Game Hydro Hat ($59), Moccasin Slippers ($30), Carbon Fiber Slim Wallet ($125), Flannel Jogger Pajama Pants ($27)
Okay, mostly for dogs and dog owners. White Paw Toy ($14 for two, on sale), Benebone Chew ($11), Photo Mug ($9 on s ale), FURemover Broom ($12), GoDog Dragon Toy ($10-15), Puzzle Treat Ball ($14)

Background graphics from Canva.

How to Wrap Awkwardly Shaped Presents

Now that we’ve gone through how to wrap a normal present in a box, let’s tackle some odd or awkward shaped items!

1. Put it inside a box, then wrap

This works great for smaller items, fragile items, or items with small pieces hanging off prone to breaking. Examples: picture frames, ornaments, mugs or glassware

2. Wrap it like a mailing envelope

Lay your item down and make a loop around it with wrapping paper, similar to wrapping a normal present. Tape the seam. Instead of a traditional fold on the ends, neatly fold it down into a seam close to the end of your present as though you were putting the entire thing in a mailing envelope or a sealed package of chocolate or chips. It’s more important to be neat versus using up the excess paper. Examples: soft stuffed animals, sporting items, kids toys in that are half boxed and half exposed, kitchen accessories

3. Bundle it up

With this you will have excess paper or wrapping material at the top, similar to a gift basket or one of those bundled sacks on a stick. Lay your wrapping paper out, printed side down. Place your item in the center and then bring all the corners to the center and tie it with ribbon or string. You can also use tissue paper, towels, cloth, or other wrapping materials.

4. Use a bag instead

For small to midsize items, forego the wrapping altogether and put it in a gift bag with tissue paper. For larger items, they make soft gift bags (like a Santa sack or pillowcase with drawstring. Plain paper grocery bags are a great alternative to reuse as well.

5. Don’t wrap it at all

Like the crazy commercial people that buy two cars without telling their spouse, don’t wrap the gift at all and just stick a giant bow or some festive decoration on it. Check out my last post if you’d like to try making your own bow! This works great for large items (e.g., bicycles, furniture) or items that already come in a nice box or bottle. If you want an element of surprise, use a sheet or blanket to cover large items without using up a ton of wrapping paper.

How to Make a Fancy Bow

One of my sister’s first jobs was working in a fancy stationery store at the mall, where she had to gift wrap quite a few items as a store onsite that had wrapping paper and cards. She taught me how to make my own gift bows long ago and I still use that method today.

All you need is some ribbon and scissors. I prefer to use wire-edge ribbon around 1.5-2 inches wide as the ribbon will hold it’s shape and you can bend it to adjust. You can use other ribbon, but wire-edged will be easiest to learn with.

Take your ribbon, and leaving it attached to the spool, create a single loop or circle with the loose end at the very bottom center. To determine what size of the bow you’d like, pinch the center of your loop and each side will become a piece of the bow. Once you have the overall size, wrap the ribbon around additional times until you have 4-5 complete loops. For narrow or more slack ribbon you may want more.

Your last loop should line up in a full circle at the bottom, overlapping the loose end of the ribbon. Cut it from the spool at an angle. Pinch your looped pile of ribbon in the center and then set it aside (note, if it does not hold it’s own shape set something on top of it to hold it in place). Cut off an extra piece of ribbon about 6 inches in length. If the ribbon is wider than 2 inches, fold it in half or cut it in half to make it narrower. Set that aside.

Take your looped ribbon again in one hand. Holding it pinched in the center, you are going to cut out a small triangle on the top and bottom of the center point similar to an hourglass cutout. Be careful not to sever the ribbon in half.

Take your spare piece of ribbon and tie it around the other ribbon to secure. Tie a basic knot at the bottom. Now your ribbon will look very similar to a stick-on bow.

Carefully separate the loop layers to create each piece of the bow. Fluff them and twist them into the desired fullness and shape, then use the loose ends of the ribbon tie to secure the bow to your present!

How to Wrap a Present

When I was a teenager, we used to volunteer at the mall as gift wrappers to fundraise for local schools. I put in a lot of hours learning to wrap quickly, wrap odd shaped items, and also make the most of the thin red wrapping paper supplied for the event.

If you’ve never wrapped a gift before, it can be a little daunting and definitely takes some practice! You will need wrapping paper/material, scissors, and tape. You can certainly get creative outside of traditional wrapping material in terms of using paper grocery bags, newspaper, sheet music, or even fabric. For simplicity, in my example and instructions we will asssume you have a rectangular item or box.

1. Size Your Paper

The first thing you want to do is size out the amount of paper you will need to wrap your gift. You want to ensure you can wrap the paper all the way around your item without a gap. Sometimes turning your item 90 degrees or diagonally is the best way to make this work. If you’re wrapping smaller items, you might also want to cut up your paper so you can use a larger piece for multiple items. If you’re unsure something will fit and it’s not fragile, go ahead and just roll the box along the width or length of the paper to check if it will go all the way around.

2. Cut Your Paper

Once you’ve figured out how much paper you need, cut it from the roll or larger sheet to size. Many rolls of wrapping paper have a grid along the back to follow a straight edge. If you don’t have one, roll the paper up a bit so you can use the roll as your guideline. Try to use full size scissors for this as they are easier to glide through the paper than a smaller pair. With a good roll of wrapping paper you can push the scissors straight along the paper as though it glides. If your paper doesn’t do this and starts to tear or wrinkle, fully open and close the scissors to more carefully snip the entire sheet.

3. Center Your Gift and Make the First Folds

Lay your wrapping paper out with the printed side down. Carefully turn your gift upside down and center it on the backside of your wrapping paper. Fold one side of the paper up and over so it is taut along your gift. If needed, anchor the piece with some tape. Fold the opposite side up and over to completely surround your gift item in wrapping paper and secure with tape. If you have too much paper you can fold over or cut off the excess.

4. Mock Fold the Ends of the Gift

Next you’ll tackle the two open ends of your gift. You want those ends of paper to be no longer than the height of the box or space they need to cover. If you’re too afraid to cut them down right away, you can wait until later.

Rotate your gift item so an open end is facing you. Gently push the left and right sides down toward the sides of your gift so that the top and bottom start to move toward the center like envelope closures.

For your first open end, give it a very light fold like above. Do not crease it or tape it – we will come back to it so you can ensure it is taut. Turn your gift vertically with that section on the bottom so your gift is keeping it in place. It’s okay if it’s a little lumpy or messy at this point.

5. Fold the Open Top

Repeat that same folding motion on the now top-facing end of your gift item. As you push the left and right sides down, push the bottom of the paper down so it follows the natural folding motion. Crease the paper to flatten it. Repeat this in a downward motion with the top piece. If your paper is longer than the space you have, cut or fold it down. With the top piece neatly folded over the bottom, tape to secure.

6. Fix the Other Side

Flip your gift over and fold down the other end for real. This will ensure the wrapping paper is actually tight enough on both sides without extra space or air bubbles.

And there you have it! Look out for a few tips coming up to jazz up that gift with a bow or some ribbon!