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 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!

Gift Guide: Tips for Picking Presents

I love to get presents for other people. The only problem is a lot of my friends and family are lucky enough not to really need or want a lot of items anymore. So the standard gift guides of “get her a robe!” or “get him more tools!” are not all that helpful.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried to get a little more creative for finding gifts that my loved ones will still enjoy and use well, and I’m sharing those ideas here.

1. Food

Homemade pecan tassies

It’s hard to go wrong with food-based gifts. At the most basic level, you can pick up pre-made goodies or a bottle of wine. If you’re so inclined, you can gift something homemade! A budget-friendly DIY is making a bulk amount of pre-made mixes, such as cookie ingredients in a jar or spice blends.

Another great food gift is something your recipient loves but cannot find where they live. Examples here are Trader Joe’s items, ethnic ingredients, or local specialties. One time my mom schlepped a dozen bagels across the country in her carry-on luggage so I could have my favorite ones from home.

2. Things they use frequently or must restock

Nespresso pods

That doesn’t sound super clear, but my example is last Christmas we put Nespresso pods (coffee) on our wishlist and our families delivered. We were set on coffee pods for a couple months. Not only do we like Nespresso, we got to try different flavors and varieties that family members selected.

There are tons of items that could fit in this category, but some other ideas I’ll quickly put out there besides favorite foods include entertainment subscriptions, pet treats/toys, or candles.

3. An experience-based gift

At the cocktail class my mother-in-law found us

Classes, adventures, experiences, or subscriptions can be a fun, personalized gift. Examples include cooking class, bartending class, candle making, museum passes, food tours, book club subscriptions, food sample subscriptions, and more. Depending what you choose, these can be on the pricey side.

A more budget-friendly approach is a gift for an at-home experience. This can be a DIY kit (Uncommon Goods has great ones) like make your own mochi or mini garden kit. Puzzles, games, or things like Lego kits are also great. A fun way to make this personalized is to order a custom photo puzzle or something crafty and custom, like photo paint-by-numbers.

4. Something handmade

Grogu wreath

Let me qualify this by saying this should be something you are either good at and/or the recipient will really enjoy. Last year I made my dad a Christmas wreath of hand-felted baby Yodas because he really likes The Mandalorian. If you have another crafty hobby like knitting, painting, or homemade bath or beauty products, those are fun gifts as well.

If you’re not so crafty, you can check out Etsy. I’ve ordered handmade jewelry, succulent planters, and personalized water bottles from Etsy to give to other people.

5. Lastly, gifts that complement an existing hobby or interest

Cross stitch in progress

Your mind might jump to something like camera accessories for photographers, but these don’t necessarily have to be expensive. I started doing cross-stitch a few years ago, and one of my co-workers gave me a cute little magnetic flamingo “needle minder.” My husband’s grandmother sent me a multi-pack of embroidery floss. I really loved getting these because they were such normal items but they were highly personal selections!

Great options are either supplies they will use up, or something that will help expand their hobby. Some examples are wine glass markers, fishing lures, state/national park parking pass, or spice blends.

How to Fill Stockings on a Budget

Every year when other bloggers and retailers publish their gift guides, I find myself in sticker shock over some of the things people consider stocking stuffers. A $50 cosmetics item? $25 for this other gadget? I like to splurge but don’t understand how people are putting hundreds if not a thousand dollars worth of goods into a stocking.

For me, stockings should have things like candy and socks and little goodies. Here’s my tips how to load up a stocking without going broke. Happy hunting!

1. High volume items

The first time I filled a stocking I was surprised how much it could hold and how empty it looked at first. A nice fluffy pair of socks or a small bag of snacks or candy are inexpensive items that will help bulk up the stocking nicely.

2. Shop according to the quantities you need.

I love shopping online, but I’ve found that buying stocking stuffers online is difficult. Either you have to buy things in quanties of 4-6 or more, or they cost a lot per item in order to get them shipped. If this is what you need (e.g., giving each child or family member the same item), then great! But for me, I’m filling pretty different stockings and prefer to shop in person for stocking stuffers for inexpensive items in single quantities.

3. Buy off season and store them.

Hardcore holiday deal seekers will get things on clearance the previous Christmas and store them away for the next year. This is a great way to save money on things that have a long or infinite shelf life. If you have an opportunity to score a sale earlier in the year, take advantage of that! Another great trick is to stockpile good freebies or samples that you get with other purchases.

4. Look outside the official “stocking stuffer” section.

Items often get marked up for holiday branding. Peruse other sections of the store such as bath products, regular socks, regular candy, regular candles, dollar section, etc. At Cost Plus I usually grab a few items from the sample sized foods that are there all year round that I think are really aimed at making gift or picnic baskets.

5. My favorite places to shop for stocking stuffers:

My favorite is Cost Plus. They bring in an enormous holiday-themed area, but as I mentioned above they have a lot of things that are not holiday-specific that make great stocking stuffers. In the sample food section you can find mini condiments, sausages, tea/coffee, cookies. They have international foods and an extensive selection of bath/body products as well.

The Container Store also has a great selection of little knicknacks, typically near the register. Some of the items are a little pricey, but they have a good selection of things that are under $10 and you can order most of them online as well.

Target usually has a dollar section at the front of the store (all year) full of great stocking stuffer options. And lastly, Home Goods and TJ Maxx have great offerings, though depending what you’re looking for and price point these may be better options for finding gifts rather than stocking stuffers. These stores will have things like mugs, beauty products, and accessories all year round but the fun extra gift stock they bring in at the holidays tends to be around $10-15 or too large to fit in a stocking.

Other Uses for Dryer Sheets

Get smoky smells out of your hair.

I’ve mentioned this before, but you can use dryer sheets to get smoky smells out of your hair after spending time by a fire without needing to wash your hair. I’ve experimented with a lot of dry shampoos, baby powder, and more without success. I have trouble sleeping with smoky scented hair, but also hate washing it before bed because I have thick hair that takes a while to dry. But a dryer sheet works really well and is easy to pack for trips as well!

Ward off bees and other bugs.

The strong scent of dryer sheets deters a lot of bees. Bees frequently come by our deck and are especially attracted to some of my plants. In order to keep them away from myself and the dogs, I bring a dryer sheet outside to ward them off. I will either clip it to the railing or weight it down. Note in the heat they tend to leave a little oily residue, so be mindful of where you put the sheet or lay it on a napkin.

Use for cleaning.

Dryer sheets are useful to wipe down areas in your house that need a little cleaning and a lint/fur scrub as well. Think your baseboards, cabinets, or window blinds. Just swipe them over to pick up all the dirt and grime quickly! Test a small area first to ensure this does not discolor or leave white marks on flat paint or older materials.

How to Prevent Blisters

Have you ever put on a great pair of shoes, then hobbled around barefoot later because they gave you blisters? Here are my best tips to help make your shoes more comfy and avoid blisters!

Blisters are caused by friction, or when your shoes rub too much against your skin. This can be cause by shoes that are either too loose or too tight, so I’ll be sharing tips for getting them to fit just right.

Breaking Shoes In

For me, all shoes except sneakers need to be broken in a bit before wearing for a full day with lots of walking or moving around. I test them out indoors at home – if there are any serious fit issues, you can return them without damaging the shoes or dirtying the soles. Try your shoes out on hard floors, carpet, and stairs.

I like to put them all on with a thin pair of socks to help them mold to your feet. This also lets you discover any potential friction or pain points without getting a blister right away.

If the shoes are really tight, you can try a shoe stretcher or get them professionally stretched.

Learn Your Feet

I have narrow heels, long toes, and my left foot is a half size smaller than my right foot. That said, my foot tends to slip out of shoes and will usually only fit one foot really comfortably. The first thing to combat this is to generally learn what kinds of shoes do or do not work for you, such as wide/narrow width, specific brands, wide calf, etc. For myself, I don’t wear shoes with a wide heel (e.g., Vans) and get a better fit with ankle straps or lace-up shoes versus completely slip on shoes.

Comfortable Add-ons

I’ve also used shoe inserts or similar accessories since childhood. A common one is a stick-on heel grip to make the back of your shoe a bit narrower and provide a better grip. I prefer the soft heel grips with a padded end versus the flatter ones. For high heels, a ball of foot cushion can improve both the fit and comfort of your shoes, while I like a 3/4 length insole for flat shoes. I prefer the fabric or suedelike items over silicone ones because they are less slippery while wearing.

My absolute favorite add-on for shoe comfort is lambs wool padding. This is kind of hard to find in stores but is easy to find online. These are literally small packs of lambs wool, and they provide a great, customizable cushion for your shoes. Ballerinas stuff this in the ends of their toe shoes. I typically cut off a 2-4 inch section for each foot (depends how much space is in your shoes), ball it up, and then stick it in the toes of any shoes that need a tighter fit. This is particularly great for high heels or pointed-toe shoes where your foot tends to slide forward.

The lambs wool will eventually mold to the shoes and your toes, providing a really soft, custom fit cushion for your feet. For me, this also ensures my heels fit tight enough against the back of my shoes. I can add a bit more padding for my left foot versus the right. It is also moisture wicking to keep sweat off your feet without smelling. I only put this in the toes of my shoes, but have heard other people stick a bit under their insoles for arch support.

But what about the other parts of my feet?

I’ve got two last recommendations. The first is moleskin padding, which is a flannel-like super band-aid that can be used on your skin or shoes to provide a protective layer against friction. Cut a small piece as needed to protect the area of your foot the shoe rubs against. I typically put it on my skin, but others opt to put it directly on the shoe for longer use. If you already have a blister, do NOT apply the adhesive to your blister. You can cut a hole out of the middle if needed to avoid putting the fabric on any blisters.

The next one is an aerosol anti-blister spray like preheels. I spray this on my feet for special occasions like weddings, where I need to be in high heels for long periods of time. There is absolutely no chafing, blistering, or even as much pain from my shoes! You spray it on your foot on any areas of concern, let it dry for a couple minutes, then you’re done! This stuff works wonders but I do want to be transparent with a few caveats: it’s a little pricey (you get a travel-sized hair spray can), it smells terrible when wet, and you need to scrub it off well afterward or it will start to peel off and your feet look flaky.

There you have it! Try these out and hopefully your feet will thank you!

Odds and Ends: September 17, 2021

1. No Costco membership? If you have a Costco gift card, you don’t need to show membership to shop the warehouse or fill up on gas. Note: a member does need to purchase the gift card. Read more details and other non-member hacks at The Krazy Coupon Lady.

2. I’m a fan of this odd little thing called a Scrigit Scraper. It’s about the size of a pen and I used the edges to scrape off labels, pop up can tabs, and more without destroying my fingernails.

3. Start looking into pillow inserts and removable covers instead of throw pillows for every occassion! They are so much easier to store and machine wash. I’ve got these velvety covers in a few colors and they’ve held up really well against the dogs and washing. Tip: get your pillow covers 1 inch smaller than the insert size so they look full.

Photo by Pixabay on

4. Learn your measurements for buying clothing and shoes online! If the retailer has a detailed size chart this can be super helpful to determine how something will fit, and it’s even better if those measurements are item-specific rather than their general brand sizes. Sizecharter has helpful diagrams about where to measure on your body.

You can also use the pictures to gauge fit. Some retailers (ASOS, Old Navy, Dagne Dover) have started letting you select pictures of different heights or sizes, and makeup brands are providing more photos of the product and swatches on different skin tones. For myself at 5’1″, if the sleeves look really long on the model, it’s probably a sweater I shouldn’t order for myself unless I am willing to alter it.

Photo by Lukas on

5. Send important documents as PDFs instead of Word or Google docs unless you specifically need them to edit it. For example, your resume. Saving it as a PDF generally gets rid of extraneous document information, like tracked changes or comments. It also preserves the formatting of your document across computers. If the recipient doesn’t have the font you used installed on their computer, the Word doc may have funky formatting and weird characters when they open it. Most editing programs and web browsers have built in functionality to print to or save as PDF.

How to Prepare Bacon in the Oven

I used to hate cooking bacon. I needed a really large pan or griddle, it made a huge mess of splattered and leftover grease to clean up, and there were only so many pieces you could cook at a time if you had a group to feed.

Enter oven-baked sheet pan bacon. You need to be doing this unless you have some kind of industrial flat-top in your home kitchen or don’t have an oven at all. Cooking bacon in the oven is much more efficient and requires less cleanup.

Set your oven to 400 degrees (F). It’s fine if it doesn’t preheat all the way before you put the bacon in, similar to letting bacon or sausage start in a cool pan.

Take your sheet pan and line it with aluminum foil, then a layer of parchment paper. If you don’t have the latter, it’s okay to go without but I think the parchment makes the bacon a little crispier. Note that a sheet pan has sides in order to catch the grease (do not use an open cookie sheet). The foil doesn’t have to completely cover the pan but should also form a little tray inside to catch the grease. You can skip the foil entirely but will have more cleanup.

Lay your desired number of bacon strips out flat on your pan until full. You can fill multiple trays as needed depending how much bacon you need and the number of pans you own. You can use any metal pan with sides you have (jelly roll, sheet pan, a rectangular cake pan even).

Put the bacon in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. Depending on the brand and thickness of bacon, this typically takes 15-25 minutes to cook. Remove the bacon from the oven when done to your liking, then move the bacon to another plate to drain the excess grease.

Let the pan cool (the grease may solidify), then dispose of the foil and parchment by removing the edges and rolling it up. Your cleanup is done, and you’ve made plenty of bacon!

Our favorite bacon brand is Nueske’s, which you can find in a couple grocery stores or butcher shops locally (for those of you in ATL, I’ve found it at Buford Highway Farmer’s Market and New York Butcher Shoppe). The taste is really excellent and the bacon is much leaner with less shrinkage versus other brands. You can otherwise order it online from their website. I typically order a lot of items and freeze some if ordering since the shipping is on the pricey side to cover the 2-day shipping with refrigeration packs. If I need to grab bacon at my local Publix, I typically pick up the Wright brand bacon.

How to Pack in a Carry-on

Nowadays I’m more willing to check my bag, but if you can swing it, try to pack light! You’ll save time and can also save money. I really learned to pack light in order to literally have a lighter bag, as I’ve gone on a few trips where you have to haul your own bag around several flights of stairs or bumpy cobblestone roads.

Lay out all the clothing you want to bring, then eliminate a bunch of it

Be honest with yourself – what do you really need to bring versus what you want to bring? For most trips you only need 1-2 pairs of shoes and 1 jacket. Bring items you can rewear (especially pants/bottoms) and items that you can easily mix and match, so you aren’t wasting space on “single-use” clothing. There are situations where this may not be avoidable, such as traveling for a wedding or business trip.

Wear your largest items

When possible, wear your heaviest, bulkiest clothing to save space in your luggage. Typically this is your largest pair of shoes, and your jacket (you don’t have to keep it on, I sit on mine on the plane). Wear a hat or scarf, or tie it onto your personal item for the plane.

Put odd-shaped items in your personal bag

I don’t personally do this, but my husband typically puts his toiletry bag in his backpack to free up space in his suitcase. This tactic works well for anything lightweight that is difficult to pack around in your suitcase.

Maximize every space

I pack my socks inside of shoes so there is no dead space in them and to keep them from getting crushed. My suitcase also has some uneven hollow spaces where the handle rods are attached, and I make sure to tuck my pajamas into those spaces so I don’t leave empty space there either.

Packing methodology

I have these packing cubes and have gifted them twice. I roll nearly all of my clothing inside them for travel. I will fold pants and things like PJs into the hollows of my suitcase. Delicate or wrinkle prone items can be rolled or folded around other clothing. I think I could actually fit slightly more into a bag without using packing cubes, but they are really helpful for organization. If you’ve ever had to open your bag at the airport or somewhere public to find one thing it’s so much less embarrassing to move a few cubes around than to empty everything. Other people use color coded packing cubes for different kids or different days of the trip.

How to Pack for a Trip

Make a Packing List

I recommend making an actual packing list, unless you like to live in chaos. I typically use the Microsoft To Do app (formerly Wunderlist) for packing as well as my normal grocery list. You can sync the list to a desktop or share with other people, and it has a satisfying check off with sound options. For a short trip, I typically use this list to jot down items I cannot pack until the last minute (e.g., makeup, glasses) or things I absolutely do not want to forget. If you haven’t nailed down your basic necessities, a template packing list is a great place to start! You can download free templates online, make your own in a Google doc, or use a paper version.

For longer trips or special events, I will use either a Google doc or piece of paper to plan out my clothing as well as any specialty items needed, such as formalwear, hiking shoes, etc. Be sure to note destination-specific items, such as extra sunscreen and a swimsuit for the beach.

Choose Your Clothing

Narrow down the clothing you need to bring by asking yourself a few key questions:

  • What is the typical and forecasted weather of your destination?
  • How long is your trip? What portion is travel time?
  • Which items can you wear multiple times? Will you have access to laundry?
  • Do you need any special types of clothing? E.g., formalwear, athletic wear or hiking gear, waterproof gear, head or shoulder covering for religious sites, etc.

Keep in mind that shoes, jackets, and other bulky items will take up the most space in your luggage. Mentally walk through your normal day and add everything to your list you will need, such as underwear, socks, jewelry, or sunglasses.

Try to pick items that are either neutral or in a similar color family so you can mix and match everything you bring on your trip. Layers are also great to adjust for different temperatures as well as get more wear out of sweaters and heavier layers. It’s much easier to pack an extra t-shirt to wear under a sweater than to pack multiple different sweaters.

Prepare “Travel-ready” Items

If you can, prepare and store travel-specific items so they are easy for you to toss in your bag. After I forgot a toothbrush one time, I started keeping my travel-sized toiletries ready to go in a zippered pouch complete with a spare toothbrush, contact case, mini hairbrush, and razor that always stay in that bag. I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. I don’t usually bring my own shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, but also have refillable travel containers of these that I’ll add in if needed. I even have one that acts as all 3 plus soap or laundry soap – REI or camping products are great places to look for space-saving or multipurpose items.

I store my other travel accessories in one plastic bin in my closet so when I go to get one item, I can quickly see if there’s anything else I might want to bring. This includes an inflatable neck pillow, waterproof phone bag, jewelry holder, extra TSA lock, and more.