October 19, 2009

Our beloved baby turned one!

This little boy has brought so much joy to our lives, and we were very happy to celebrate him. We thought we’d throw a party, but when we thought of all the people in his life that we’d want to be there, it sounded overwhelming.

So we had a pretty normal, but celebratory, day. We snuggled in bed after he woke up. We opened presents with him throughout the day. We had a fun playdate. We also gave him his own piece of cake.

He ate it in about two bites. I really like the expression on his face.

He didn’t really understand the present-opening part, but because this is a blog about gift wrapping, of course I have to mention it. Here is a selection of N.’s birthday presents. (No offense to those that didn’t make the picture! These are just the ones that were around for my daytime photo shoot.)

In the back left you can see a gift from my dad’s parents. This one had a tag with a little origami onsie on it – I think my grandma must have gotten it at a craft fair. In front of it is a gift from my parents. My mom put the gift in chartreuse tissue paper and collaged N.’s name on it, ransom-note style (but cuter, since he wasn’t being held captive, and also since she used a Japanese illustration for the second letter).

In the front center is a present from my in-laws, wrapped in the Sunday funnies. How fitting that the kid-centered For Better or For Worse and Family Circus are the ones on the front! (Not that N. would have minded, but I don’t think Doonesbury would have had the same effect…) The dancing hamsters in the back are a ‘talking’ card that had a message recorded from them embedded in it. N. loved this – the first picture in the post is him flapping this card around.

Last but not least is a gift from my aunt, uncle, and cousins. It is wrapped in a plastic gift bag decorated with stars. They brought it all the way down from Seattle, and the bag struck me as another wrapping item that can withstand travel well.

Happy birthday, baby! We look forward to another wonderful year with you.


This Wrap Story is a part of a mini-series, documenting every present I’ve wrapped since the launch of this blog. For more, click the “Wrap Story” link at the bottom of the post!

Time flies, and before we knew it, our niece was about to turn one! Inspired by the cute baby stuff at Unique L.A. last May, I set out to make her a personalized t-shirt. I embroidered her name onto pear fabric and used this tutorial from the lovely  Shim + Sons blog to affix it to a stripy shirt.

I like how it turned out. The wrapping was quite simple, since I was in a rush to ship it to the opposite coast. I wrote out a tag and pinned it to the shirt to mimic a standard apparel tag. I was excited to use this teeny kitty pin that I have had for ages.

I used some hand-dyed tissue paper to wrap the shirt and popped it into a manilla envelope. Nothing too crazy. I drew a few flowers and leaves for fun.

All set to go!

Wrap Story: Mini Assistant

August 31, 2009

This Wrap Story is a part of a mini-series, documenting every present I’ve wrapped since the launch of this blog. For more, click the “Wrap Story” link at the bottom of the post!

My sister- and brother-in-law have been parents to a beautiful little girl for over a year now. Back when they were expecting, a baby shower was thrown for them with a book theme. The idea was to stock the little one’s library with stories for her to enjoy later.

Being half a country away, we weren’t able to go to the shower, but I was excited to get a copy of a personal childhood favorite for our niece-to-be. When I had the opportunity to babysit in the weeks before the baby shower, I knew exactly the project for my young friend:

Decorate wrapping paper!

Here you see the kraft paper in action. I used a few strips of painter’s tape to secure one end to the table and weighted the roll down at the other end to keep it from curling up. (I suppose that is one downside of kraft paper – it keeps a very strong curl, making it somewhat difficult to manage.)

My young assistant drew some lines himself, but he was more interested in having me hold the pens and then moving my hand around. Hey, whatever works.

I found some cute teal ribbon in my stash that matched one of the colors of ink. I paired it with a sheer gold ribbon to make a bow.  I really like the idea of kid-made wrapping paper for another kid. And I cannot wait until my own baby is old enough for art projects like this one!

Runs in the Family

August 26, 2009

My grandmother, who we call Baachan, is a great influencer of our family culture. She loves paper; my mom loves paper; my aunt loves paper; my cousin loves paper; I love paper.

Here she is at home amongst wedding presents for her granddaughter:

[Related side story: When I put my gift bag (decorated with M. and M.’s wedding invitation image) on the table, my mom said, “Oh, I was going to do something like that!” Seriously. Our family.]

Baachan is the only person I know with a filing system for her greeting cards. She wakes up early on the day after Christmas, not to hit the shopping mall sales, but to beeline to the Hallmark store to stock up on the next year’s Christmas gift wrap.

Her gifts are always beautifully presented, wrapped in quality paper with classic designs. Even when she sends a card with birthday money, the bills or check are – without fail – wrapped neatly in tissue paper and sealed with a sticker. My grandma is the real deal.

Here is one of the presents Baachan wrapped for the wedding. Note the sheer fabric ribbon. Maybe this is where Auntie A. gets it!

Another funny story:
Auntie A.: [looking at the gift above] Mom, I thought you were going to use that other paper.
Baachan: I tried but it was too small. Then I decide to use this gold paper. [Shaking head] Jiichan [my grandpa] leaned on it and it got creased!

I had just started brainstorming for The Gifted Blog and hurried to write this conversation down.

Baachan is very neat. Her linen closets are labeled and orderly, and so are her wrapping supplies. There’s a place for each thing: the boxes, rolls of paper, and ribbons each get their own space.

Here is a detail that made me smile:

I am grateful for my family. The fact that there are things like gift wrapping that bind us together is fun.

Did you inherit any creative traits from your family? What is your family’s gift-wrapping culture?

Gift Wrapping Arsenal is a mini-series on the items I personally find essential for gift wrapping. As you’ll see throughout my blog, there is an emphasis on versatility, thrift, and style! For more, click the “Gift Wrapping Arsenal” link at the bottom of this post.

My Auntie A.’s presents almost always come wrapped with fabric ribbon, as opposed to the shiny curling kind. Often it is a sheer, slightly shimmery variety. I noticed that fabric ribbons do a great job of making a present look special. It’s fairly goof-proof as well. If you mess up, just untie and start over! Even better, the ribbon can be reused if the recipient is so inclined.

Pictured here is my mom, Auntie A., and me in my grandparents’ garage. Auntie A. coordinated the flower arrangements at my cousin’s wedding and you can see her special touch – sheer, coordinating ribbon around the centerpiece vases. Outerwear and blue sweatpants are courtesy my grandparents (it was cold in there!).

Around the same time I bought kraft paper to use as my only gift wrapping paper, I decided to take a similar approach with ribbon. What ribbon could I buy that would simplify my gift-wrapping process, while still looking pretty? I hunted down a 40% off coupon for Michael’s and selected a ribbon that I thought could be used for all occasions. Inspired by Auntie A., I picked a sheer gold spool.

In retrospect, it would have been wiser to pick a higher-contrast color. When used with kraft paper, the brown color kind of camouflages the ribbon. Still, this little spool has still been most helpful, lending a festive touch to many presents over the last year!

As you might have inferred from the ironing comment in the last Wrap Story, I have also acquired a small stash of fabric ribbons from wrapped presents past.

While I would be amiss to dictate hard-and-fast “dos” and “don’ts” for gift wrapping, I must say that fabric ribbon is my preferred type of ribbon. Not that it’s the only way to make a bow on your present! More on that to come.

Wrap Story: M&M Bowls

August 18, 2009

This Wrap Story is a part of a mini-series, documenting every present I’ve wrapped since the launch of this blog. For more, click the “Wrap Story” link at the bottom of the post!

Image courtesy Lisa Higaki

My cousin M. got married! She is a writer (more specifically, a poet), and I was especially excited to pick out a gift for her and her husband because we share some aesthetic sensibilities. She loves handmade things and is an artist herself.

Partially because I have fond memories of childhood pottery classes, and partially because I was stoked about buying some (budget-friendly) locally made goods, I went to Pasadena City College’s ceramics sale. This is an annual event to benefit the Art Department that takes place in the beginning of May. I was a little concerned about the selection beforehand. The sale was over three days, and I wasn’t able to make it there until late on the last day. But there was plenty of good stuff. I took N. out of his stroller and we circled around and around the tables until I found three sets of pottery that I was excited to purchase and give.

Here is the pair of bowls I picked for M. and her husband, M.:

I knew this would pose a bit of a wrapping challenge, since the bowls did not come with a box and would have to be wrapped in a way that protected them and accommodated their unusual shape. Though it wasn’t my first choice, I found a plain paper gift bag in my stash and decided to use it once I realized the bowls just fit inside.

I crumpled plain packing paper to give some protection at the bottom of the bag, then wrapped each bowl well. In thinking of how to decorate the bag, M. and M.’s wedding invitation came to mind. The invitation and reception card came in the mail about a month before the wedding and are lovely:

I cut out the flower design and chose a light yellow rice paper to back it. I finished off the gift with an artificial bud tendril and bow. The tendril and ribbon were from my stash. I am not above ironing out the wrinkles!

Here’s the final present, pictured with gifts from my grandparents and a giant spreadsheet of the wedding day activities, made by M. and M.’s friend and wedding coordinator.

The sad reality of wedding invitations is that often so much effort goes into making them, yet the vast majority are tossed once their purpose is served. My hope is that M. and M. enjoyed seeing the image they selected for their celebration used again on their wedding present!

A Present for Me

August 3, 2009

As an aside, I wanted to note the way G. wrapped his anniversary present for me. After hearing some rummaging around in the paper supplies cabinet, I was presented with this delightful small package:

G. used the cover of CalTech’s Engineering and Science magazine to wrap the box. A paper leaf from our wedding was used as a tag with a note to me.

I appreciated his resourcefulness and use of bright colors. Inside, I found the original pearl from my wedding ring…but no ring! [It had gone missing from my nightstand a few days prior.] G. pulled my ring, newly cleaned and updated with a shiny white pearl, from his pocket. Since pearls are soft, wearing one every day takes a toll on its delicate surface. It was nice to re-receive my ring exactly two years after the wedding band joined the engagement ring. Thank you, honey!