Just Checkin' In

Hey, friends! If you're wondering where I've gone, never fear. Posting has been light due to my final finals' week, job searching, and a surprisingly demanding apartment hunt. I'll be back soon with more fun gift wrap tips and a big surprise! In the meantime, check out this 4-some Bud Vase from CB2!


Diaper Cakes: almost as gross as they sound.

So, I don't have kids, nor do I plan on becoming a mom for quite some time. But when I do reach that stage of life, I'll tell you what I don't want: a diaper cake. Yes, that tasty looking creation above is not a wedding dessert, but rather, a decorative tower of baby underpants. And I don't get it.

I readily acknowledge that diapers are crazy expensive, and to purchase them for new parents is a big help. A great gesture. But in my mind, a cake constructed from diapers is the archetypal symbol of, "you are no longer cool, and all youth/aesthetic sense you ever had is now in the hands of a screaming infant." Not OK. Also, what are you supposed to do with that gaudy thing? Display it in your nursery? Nothing about a sheath of plastic that will soon be defecated in is attractive to look at!

If you know a mom-to-be, don't waste your money (upwards of 65 bucks!) on the diaper cake. Here's what to do instead. Run out and spend the money on a fabulous bag with tons of room and plenty of pockets. Like this here Marc Jacobs number:

Or this demure tote by Orla Kiely:

Or even this cutie by DwellStudio:

Once you've picked the perfect purse, stuff that monster full of diapers. And voila! The perfect gift essential for the care of a new baby, but it's really all about the mom. See how tricky I am? It's practical, beautiful, and way better than some 5 tier bloomer tart.


To Thank, or Not to Thank?

Have you read Alexandra Jacobs' article in the NYTimes Style section? It brings up an interesting debate over thank-you-notes, something we scratch the surface of a lot here at The Gift Wrap Blog.

Jacobs' conjecture is born of the idea of thanking someone in a 21st century fashion; what is the appropriate way to do it? Is it appropriate at all? Jacobs brings up the fact that thanking someone for a great party on Facebook is too casual, might slip past the receiver, and its public nature might make uninvited guests who see the post feel left out. I have to agree with the whole "out in the open" issue--I don't necessarily think a thanks needs to be on widespread display. But I do think it's a quick efficient way to reach someone, especially by private message. And as anyone with a Facebook page knows, it won't go unnoticed.

But an old-fashioned thank-you-note can be super generic and unoriginal, too. Dear BLANK, thank you for the BLANK! I have gotten many compliments on it. You are very generous. Goodbye. I can understand Jacobs's point on the need for a new millennium spin on the old thank you.

In my opinion, any thank you is better than no thank you, and you just need to make it a little original. Did someone sponsor you to go on a trip? Send a disc of photos with a card. Or did somebody get you a great outfit? Draw a cartoon in which you wear the ensemble and conquer the world. As far as I know, the best thanks for a fantastic party is a nice bottle of wine. This never goes overlooked.

And of course, a note on great stationary is a must.


Mother's Day Gift Guide

Mom's Day is right around the corner, and I don't want to remind you twice! Your mom is awesome. So go out right now and pick her up one of these beautiful but reasonably-priced keepsakes.

1) The only type of bomb you can appropriately give your mother. And she'll love the the resulting explosion.

Seed Bombs
$6.00 at Anthropologie

2) Bring her breakfast in bed with a twist.

Serving Tray by Liberty of London
$12.99 at Target

3) Her beloved Bible of interior decorating, Domino, has tragically folded. But the best tips have been bound into a veritable manifesto of home design--don't let mom miss out!

Domino: The Book of Decorating
$16.00 at Amazon

4) You might not have enough dough to pay for her day at the spa, but with this delicious bubble bath, everyday can hold a taste of luxury.

Fragrant Bubble Bath
$22 at Tokyo Milk

5) Claire Robertson is just one artist featured in the most recent collection of Cloudy Collection prints. Frame her mother/daughter piece and prepare for the waterworks.

Collection of 7 Assorted Prints
$35 at Cloudy Collection

6) You're a little too old for macaroni necklaces, and so is she. But that doesn't mean her jewelry must be matronly. Keep it fun with a flowered chain.

Floral Bib Necklace
$39.50 at Express
(Tip: There are tons of beautiful, handmade inexpensive versions of this necklace available on Etsy!)

7) April showers bring May flowers. But you should still be prepared for surprise spring storms.

Marimekko Umbrella
$40 at Finn Style


If only Rodarte had a gift wrap line...

I wasn't terribly interested in Laura and Kate Mulleavy's designs until I read this article in The New Yorker that explains the history of their couture brand, Rodarte. As much as I resisted fascination and didn't want to like them, I do. I really do.

The California born sisters aren't formally trained in fashion. But after graduating from college, equipped with an Art History and Literature degree respectively, the girls combined their intellects and eyes for beauty in unexpected things to develop their instantly popular lines.

Their design philosophy, in my words, is "bastardization of textiles." They literally burn, dye and shred fabrics until they hardly resemble their organic forms. Then they weave the materials into unbelievable fashion creations. I'd LOVE to see how they take this ideology and apply it to gift wrapping.

Their take on fishnet stockings are particularly haunting, and I'm not sure if my legs could properly execute this look with the finesse the Mulleavy sisters intended. But, this material would look awesome overlaying a gift wrapped in midnight black or slate gray or pewter wrapping paper. I hesitate in calling inanimate objects "sexy," but that gift would be SEXY.

Yes, Laura and Kate excell in creepy when it comes to their designs, but they also have a knack for collaborations of soft, flowy fabrics to form a hybrid of strange color and graceful movement. I can envision their gifts wrapped in cheesecloth dyed blue, maybe with a silver sash draped over the top and tied together with an emerald tulle bow.

Maybe if they do another Target line my prayers will be answered. I predict Rodarte Home with a great, big giftwrap section.


Gift Bags: Lovely or Lazy?

I have recently been accused by two trusted academics (my blogging professor and my mother) of being anti-gift bag. "Do you hate gift bags?" they asked me. "Because you never blog about them, and you always emphasize the importance that coincides putting effort into wrapping. You must detest gift bags."

Well. I was stymied.

Because I haven't ever given it much thought, honestly. On the one hand, bags can be a fast way to wrap easily, and they could look mighty pretty. On the other hand, it's the definition of lazy with a capital L. You know I love just a little more thought and effort than, let's say, tying your gift up in an ugly shroud of neon polyester. But who am I to criticize laziness anyway, huh? I'M LAZY! So that argument, I must dismiss.

All in all, I've decided, yes, I like gift bags. I really do! My reasons?

1) They are time savers. There are some birthdays that EVERYONE seems to have. September 9th? I know like five people with that exact birthday (I've since determined that New Year's comes nine months before that date, hmmm.....). Nevertheless, if you must wrap five separate tokens of affection, your feelings associated with those tokens might be considerably less affectionate after all that cutting and taping and folding. A gift bag can save the hassel.

2) They are easily reusable. Unless you get really pumped about opening presents like Nintendo 64 kid, it's much simpler to salvage a gift bag unscathed and pass it forward to future receivers of your generosity.

3) They CAN look really pretty. I have a friend who goes to the Fashion Institute downtown, and I feel like I'm treading on extreme turf whenever I give her a gift; it's probably not going to be cool enough, but I try. A couple summers ago for her birthday I found a nautical-themed gift bag in our wrapping closet. It had like, sailboats on it or something. Very Connecticut. But I stuffed it with clean, white tissue paper and draped a fresh hydrangea from my mother's garden over the edge. My friend was highly impressed. This is an example where I think that gift looked better than anything I could have wrapped that day.

4) Sometimes they have handles, and it makes the gift more portable. Does this really need explaining?

This gift bag is simple and well constructed. (Also, something about animals can always work). This particular bag is from Papyrus, a stationary store that I LOVE but I don't get to feature here very often because they don't sell a lot of gift wrap. They have a big selection of gift bags though; maybe I should be taking this as a cue.

So what's your take on gift bags? Lovely, or lazy?


Theme Wrap-Up: "Designer" Gift Wrap

In light of my Orla Kiely showcase of the other day, I started wondering if I could find gift wrap made by real, bona fide, educated designers. Like maybe Marc Jacobs had some secret paper store for hipsters or Karl Lagerfeld had a line of all black gift wrap. That would actually be awesome.

As it turns out though--like you really need me to tell you this--actual "designer" paper is not so easy to come by. The closest I was able to get was this alligator print by Lilly Pulitzer:

Print Available at Kate's Paperie

Yes, this is actually perfect for you preppy, yacht-party-going, sweater-draped-over-shoulders east coast types. I mean, I *am* from Connecticut, so in a way I really identify with this print. It also is a great gender-neutral design and suitable for the young and the old. Plus, this print stays very true to the designers bright color scheme and fresh, bold graphics. While Pulitzer's clothing only reaches a small demographic, anyone could fall in love with this paper.

Print Available at Hello! Lucky

The above print is by graphic designer Julia Rothman. While not necessarily the most popular name in aesthetics, she is one of my personal favorites and I wish she made more gift wrap. Her philosophy is clean and simple, as she says, "Ordinary items are the most exciting because it's unexpected--things people forget about. You know, everybody makes flower patterns." (Remember when I said how some florals suck?) So instead she makes a chandelier gift wrap. So unexpected, so cool. Cards Available at Fine Stationery

OK, so the thing I really learned on this hunt for prints is that if you want to find designer items in the gift giving cartel, look to greeting cards. You will find more meat there. The above card is by Vera Wang, who is renowned for her wedding gowns. Personally I think by now it's kind of dull to wear a Vera Wang but that's just me. Her cards, on the other hand, could be the perfect invitations or thank you notes. And they're a million times cheaper than a gown, right? So if you want the name, just stick with the paper accessories.

Cards Available at Saks Fifth Ave.

These Kate Spade cards are also super pretty for spring, albeit quite feminine, but that's Kate Spade for you. There was an interesting piece in the Times a couple weeks ago about her and her husband; they;re a very interesting couple and you should check it out, although neither one of them are associated with their brand names any longer.

If you're wondering about price points here, the gift wrap will only cost you about 7 buck a roll/st of sheets, but the cards are pricey. Vera Wang greeting cards run upwards of 2 dollars per card, and Kate Spade costs $35 for a box of 12 cards. So..err...yeah.

Well, that was fussy. I'll let you know if I dig up any news on the latest, greatest designer gift wrap in the coming months, but don't hold your breath.


If only Orla Kiely had a gift wrap line...

I've hinted at some of my favorite designers on this blog, so by now you may have gathered that I enjoy Orla Kiely, a UK based designer who makes bold, chipper items of whimsy that range from clothing to bags to home accessories. My obsession started last year when I met her at a press event for her Target line, which was exquisite and I regret not having bought more of. She was sweet and innocent, yet composed and quietly powerful, and those elements of her personality really shine through in her design.

That's why I wish beyond wish that she had a line of gift wraps. Her signature pattern is a multicolored leaf print. It is clean, effortless and doesn't appear to try too hard. The wallpaper version looks like this:

This, to me, would make a lovely gift wrap because it can handle mutliple seasons, holidays, and accessories. Maybe a bit girly, but there's nothing wrong with that. Here's another print of hers:
Again, super fun and simple. Her philosophy is no frills, no fuss. Most of her designs are simply abstract things found in nature, like fruts leaves or flowers. But they're mature while still being whimsicle. I would probably buy this wrapping paper and use it as gift wrap...if it didn't cost $95. So yeah. Perhaps not appropriate to use as wrapping paper, but really a great accent piece for your home. I'd like to get some and paper one wall of a room, but take a look at one one person did to their stairs:

So stunning, yet not over the top. Just enough color to pop. (That wasn't intended to rhyme but I'm keeping it). I think what I best like about Orla Kiely is that her prints aren't super popular here in the USA, so I feel really unique with the pieces of hers that I have, and it's not like Louis Vuitton where there are tons of knock offs. The sad thing is that her flagship store is in Covent Garden, London, and they have sooooooo much more stuff there than they do here in America! Looks like I'll have to take another trip to Europe soon. Until then, I can dream.


No One Cares What You Had For Lunch

I recently bought a book by the wonderful Maggie Mason. She is a writer from sunny San Francisco who runs Mighty Girl, the most interesting personal blog I have ever read. Her book is call No One Cares What You Had For Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog.

Miss Mason uses many of the ideas in her book on her own blog, including her Mighty Life List, a slew of amazing things she'd like to do before she dies. So far she's been dog-sledding, eaten a ton of fruits, traveled to exotic countries, and fed her son his first ice cream cone (among many, many other things.)

No One Cares is not only a great reference for us writers, but also the perfect gift for a friend or loved one who is starting a blog. I plan on giving mine to a dear friend's mother who is chronicling the crazy year she has had via weblog--I would post the link but she is keeping the site private for now. But this book is a great way to seek inspiration for your personal blog and gets your brain ticking.

The reason why I choose to post Maggie Mason's book is not only because it's a great read, but also because she has three shopping blogs that have always inspired me to start a gift related blog, and here I am! ACTUALLY doing it! Well, today, Maggie announced that her shopping empire, Mighty Goods, Mighty Junior and Mighty Haus, are now for sale. So soon they'll be off her hands, she she will head forth to conquer the mighty world.

I don't know Maggie personally but through her writing she has been a friend to me and many other bloggers. I really recommend that you go over to Amazon and pick it up for a friend or even yourself. Maggie, you rock!


Theme Wrap-Up: Florals That Don't Suck

We all like a good floral print. Even boys--I know you've got some secret neck-tie or pair of boxer shorts ensconced in blossoms. But I worry we may not all know what a good flowered print looks like.

To demonstrate, I'd first like to present a floral print that sucks. Behold:

I've gotten millions of gifts from older ladies who use wrapping paper cloaked in designs like this one. Incidentally, the sofas in those ladies' houses don nearly the same prints. Guess what? Neither are cute. What I fear is that everyone's mom has a roll of gift wrap in a floral that sucks, and we're all just going to revert to that floral because we don't feel like buying a new roll.

The solution: don't let your mom fall into the bog of quicksand that is preposterous horticultural patterns in the first place. Go out and buy her a great, new print. Starting with something a little more traditional, like this:
Print by Paper Source

I like this pattern because it looks like a Julia Rothman. She crowds a bunch of common images together in the same scene but sticks to a soothing, uncomplicated color palate so it's not too overbearing. It kind of imitates what the ugly florals try to do, but the images have an outline so they look more cartoonish and whimsical. This particular print is not designed by the great Roth herself, but it captures the charm of her designs.

Print by Kate's Paperie

Now we get a little more cartoonish. This print has thicker outlines and white spaces that creates a more artful, more fun look than your grandma's disgusting floral dish towels. I love this design because it reminds me of illustations from Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, or the pictures in Rold Dahl books I read as a kid. The thing is, flowers are fun. They're around for a short while and then they die, but THEN they come back again. So we can't really take them too seriously.

Woah, now we're getting abstract here. Florals that don't look like flowers are great because they're more unisex and less fussy. For example, we have this wrap above that looks like sunbursts...

Print by Whimsy Press

...or this wrap that looks like some sort of cellular protoplasm. Cool, right? Flowers don't have to be frilly or girly. But we still get the idea that these are flowers, the colors of nature, and blooms of happiness that we get a small glimpse of once a year. (Awww).

As for accessories, Suzanne B. Webbil created these super pretty rosettes for gift wrapping. Slap these mamas on a brown paper gift and prepare for the "oohs" and "aahs" to roll in.

So kids, Mother's Day is only about a month a way. You have a cool mom; wrap her gift in cool floral paper that doesn't suck.


I'm hoping this means one of you is going to buy me a car now.

Someone asked me the other day, "what do you think about bows on cars?" And I replied with a rousing, "I think they are AWESOME."

The thing is, a car is great looking on its own, whether it's a mid-80's Olds or a Beemer hot off the press. If you are fortunate enough to be associated with someone stable enough to be able to give you a car as a gift, there really isn't any additional decoration necessary. Still, I love how the idea of a big old bow dramatizes the effect of a new automobile. Sort of like when Lady Gaga wears that ridiculous hoop.

Anyway, I was wondering, where can you actually buy these enormous bows? Are they exclusively sold to car dealers? Or to people who frequently give cars away like Oprah? Or, can simpletons like ourselves entertain the prospect of be-ribboning our cars?

Well, it turns out that at the website Car Bows--love the name, jumps right to the point--you can buy an assortment of garish auto-hats for 40 buckaroos each. Yes, a lot for a bow, but by the time you've bought the car, why the heck not?

I've always secretly thought it would be hilarious to put a bow on one of the cars my parents already own as a joke to confuse the neighbors. So while I might not be giving any cars away anytime soon, I might just order a bow.


Colors for Spring Part II

And the second set of perfect colors to illustrate your spring 2010 are...

This spring our beige-like hue is lighter and more relaxed. It is the color of sandstone, and they're calling it Tuscany, most likely because it resembles the light, stone buildings in Italy's Tuscan countryside. I saw a girl in the park yesterday wearing a bikini of this color, and well, she just looked naked. So for gift wrap, I would say Tuscany is a definite yes. For swim wear? Not so much.

Amparo Blue For the most part to demonstrate these colors, I have been trying to find pictures of things found in nature. With amparo blue I suppose I could have found a rolling ocean or a pile of ripe blueberries, but it turns out amparo blue has had its biggest influence on a slew of Ford cars. You probably see more cars a day than you see flowers anyway, right?

Champagne Pink
Ah, so bubbly, sweet and refreshing. Champagne pink is another color that has a beautiful shade spectrum, all hue of which are usable for the spring of '10. It's different from coral, which is a but ruddier, but just pinker than Tuscany. I think I'll err on the side of enforcing gender stereotypes and wrap my little cousin's christening gift in champagne pink.

Dried Herb and Eucalyptus
Frankly I don't see much difference between these ones, but I think the idea is that cooler, minty sages are the shades to stick by this season. A great gender neutral, all-season friendly color.


Colors for Spring Part I

Wow! Sorry for the sparse posting in the past week, but the snow melted and spring arrived in the blink of an eye! Here in New York it's a whopping 88 degrees, I'm actually relieved to be in the library after a sweltering walk to campus.

The very sudden temperature spike has been tough on all our seasonal adjustments--rotating pants with shorts, switching from cocoa to lemonade, and putting all our winter gift wraps in the basement. To help you with this adjustment, I wanted to introduce the popular colors in the Spring 2010 palate.

Jewel-toned purples have dominated the color charts in recent seasons, but now we're seeing a switch to something more refreshing. The violet spectrum spans from light and fresh to dark and soothing, so there is a shade for everyone.

Like purple, we have seen harsher, smokier teals in the palates of late, but turquoise is more fun. Channel waters of the Caribbean when picking out your gift wraps in this shade. I spotted a Dodge Dakota in this hue the other day and it was all the inspiration I needed to get me on board.

I was getting so tired of mustard yellow. Thank goodness Spring 2010 is bringing something a little sunnier and they're calling it aurora. The picture to the left is The Ocean House, an historic hotel on my home beach, Watch Hill, RI. I went there just the other day and its color always makes me feel like warm weather is here to stay. (YAY!)

Fusion Coral
Fusion coral is less like the ruddier, salmony corals we usually see, and more light and pink like the inside of a conch shell. Cool and tasty, perfect to wrap any spring or summer gift of any occasion--yes, even for guys. Because guys like pink, but real men like fusion coral.

Tomato Puree
Reds are taking a natural turn this season. No fire engine reds, just ones you would find in nature, perhaps in your favorite ragout. I saw a gorgeous dress at Target yesterday in this shade. A perfect color to wrap a gift for your cousin's spring wedding or your dad's summer birthday.

Yum, these hues make me want to grab a smoothie and go lay on the lawn. Which color is your favorite? More to come tomorrow.


Gift Guide: Easter Items for Grownups

Easter is a kids' holiday? Poppycock! The season of rebirth is the best time to treat a loved one--or yourself--to a vibrant gadget or pretty doodad.

Same rules apply as always: gifts are attractive, on a price point, and just thee right items.

1) Brooklyn-based electronica band, The Bird and the Bee, have just released "Interpreting the Masters Volume 1," a Hall and Oates tribute album. The 10 song disc features one original track and nine H&O covers, including "Private Eyes," "She's Gone," and so much more. Talk about renewal!!

Interpreting the Masters Volume 1
$5.99 on iTunes


2) I spent my Easter last year hungover on a hostel couch in Barcelona. This year, I pay tribute to my past transgressions with a bit more class. Red Guitar Wine is a Spanish Tempranillo/Garnacha blend, rich with raspberries, cherries and vanilla. A perfect companion to your holiday ham, or lovely alone. Plus, the price is right.

Red Guitar Navarra
Around $9.99 at most wine and spirit shops

3) It's sooo easy to devour all your Easter chocolate in one sitting. But in powder form? Not as simple. This "Choctail" mix makes tasty, frozen shakes in a snap and helps your ration that sweet tooth. Nice.
Choctail Mix
$10.90 at Max Brenner


4) Magnets are magnets. Unless Julia Rothman designs them. Then, they are art. And we all love a little art on our fridge, don't we?

iPop Magnets by Julia Rothman
Set of four for $11.50 at Amazon

5) Last year I visited the Zak! Designs showroom and I almost fainted from excitement; that place is BRIGHT. Luckily though, every piece is made of 100% recycled melamine, so this stuff never breaks. Also? So cute.

Confetti Nesting Bowls by Zak! Designs
$29.99 at Kitchen Kapers

6) April showers bring May flowers, and where better to put those flowers than in a teardrop vase? God I am corny with these write-ups sometimes. You should've read the description on Pier One's website though. "A person could get lost in a vase like this. OK, maybe not a person. But a flower, definitely." I'm not quite that bad. Let's disregard poor word choices and just deem this vase a winner.

Turquoise Vase
$35 at Pier One

7) For every pair of Tom's Shoes your purchase, another pair is given to a child in need. It's the perfect mix of philanthropy, capitalism and straight up style.

Classic Tom's Shoes
$48 at Tom's

8) I've been looking for a watch with the perfect pop of color, and a face that actually tells time. The solution is ODM, maker of whimsical watches, or what I like to call "wrist candy."

ODM Spin Series Watch
$66 at Amazon