How to wrap presents like you know what you’re doing.

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Theoretically, I like the idea of wrapping presents perfectly, with crisp corners, perky bows, and well appointed tags and ribbons. I have an entire pinterest board devoted to pretty packages. But in practice, I haven’t always taken the time to wrap things beautifully, and I’ve been more likely to slap it all together in the final hour, with odd angles and prolific tape. But not any more.

Now that I am in the business of making pretty accoutrements of present wrapping, I have a fresh interest in the subject. And I am lucky enough to have something of a gift wrapping  expert in my family. My mother-in-law organized a charity gift wrap station through out the 1970’s and 1980’s, spending hours there cheerfully wrapping presents for others and all for a good cause. And she didn’t just wrap presents, she taught countless volunteers to wrap “the proper way.” Oh, and I can’t neglect to mention, she wraps presents for friends and family without using tape.

Here’s what it looks like to open a package wrapped without tape. So easy! So effortless! No tearing or ripping; the paper falls away like petals from a late summer rose.

Lucky for me,my mother-in-law is a generous person, who not only has graciously tolerated my slap dash wrapping efforts over the years but also recently agreed to come over and share a few of her tips for making your own pretty packages. And now I am happy to share them with you. (With her permission, of course!)

I realize all of you can probably basically wrap a present, so I’ll share with you here the two most important tips I took away from my personalized instruction:

First of all, take the time to measure both the box and the paper, and then the present practically wraps itself.

Second, never, ever twist ribbon on the bottom side of the box – its just sloppy, and makes the box wobbly. 

I’ve put each step in the form of a picture below, so you can quickly scroll and look for specific details.  If you don’t know how to twist your ribbon at the top, take a look and you’ll be glad you did! Its so easy and does make a difference.

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So there you are! The “proper” way to wrap a present, via my mother in law. She also taught me some advanced bow making techniques, but those will have to wait until another post.

Happy wrapping!

Scottish Adventures: Stirling

 

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Roses growing wild near Stirling castle, Scotland

When I started this blog, my plan was to stick with a narrow focus – creative projects and inspiration. But now, a few years later, things are different.

I’ve started a small business and a lot of my creative energy is going into that – keeping my online shop fresh, coming up with new cards and prints, and best of all, keeping interesting plants in my garden so I always have fresh botanical inspiration. Aside from my garden, those other creative endeavours don’t lend themselves to thoughtful blog posts, and besides, they have their own little space on the internet.

So, I’ve decided to open up this space a little, and post about other topics, and today, I’d like to share a little about my recent family trip to Scotland. I’d be honored if you’d stick around – there are landscapes, castles, and, of course, gardens and plants.

landscape around sterling scotland

With a home base in Stirling, we were in the thick of some of big moments in Scottish history, including the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert Bruce defeated King Edward II of England in 1314, and the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which was woefully misrepresented in the movie Braveheart as we learned more than once.  With boys in tow, we visited both sites, of course!

We also regularly enjoyed the dramatic views of Stirling castle and the highland cows grazing beneath it. Sadly, I did not get a good photo of the castle which is quite dramatic in the landscape, perched high up on a crags. (Its easy to find one online.)

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One view from Stirling castle

Dating mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries, Stirling castle served at royal residence to James IV, V, VI of Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned there and Bonnie Prince Charlie beseiged it. (Not exactly in that order, of course!) So I’ll stop there – having me try to recount Scottish history will do none of us any good. Suffice it to say that Stiring castle played a key role in much of Scottish history, and it was a delight to explore; my boys spent a lot of time discussing paraphets, keeps and murder holes.

We also visited the museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders within Stirling castle. They could have easily landed one new recruit, but for the barrier of his being only ten years old, and a US citizen.

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We also took several day trips, visiting St. Andrews, Falkland Palace and Garden, and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, among other places. Stay tuned, if you want to hear more … I’ll be posting those later in the week.  In the meantime, here was my favorite personal discovery in our adventures in and around Stirling: wild woodland foxgloves growing along the path to the Wallace monument.

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Just say the word?

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Like many Americans, I admire much about British culture. I admit to devouring British literature, binge watching Downton Abbey, and a somewhat alarming habit of excesive ordering from Boden. Yet, I live in fear of becoming one of those kind of people who peppers her dialogue with pithy British expressions, in a flat American accent. Or worse, in a fake accent that vaguely echoes of the British Isles.

Still, I find myself closer and closer to uttering aloud a word so unfamiliar to your average American, it might as well be a foreign language. If I were to use this word in my daily life, I would likely receive a polite but blank look in response. Or worse.

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But it is not the BBC, or all those Ian McEwan novels that have catapulted this word into my lexicon. Oh, no. I blame instagram for introducing me to the term faffing.

I have spent many (too many) hours arranging and fussing and organizing little bits of nature, flowers, and leaves,  photographing them and then posting them. And in the process, I have found my people — others who like to do the same. They are a global bunch with one thing in common: the use of the term faffing. Check out this hashtag #fridayfaffingcompetition to see what I’m talking about.

I realize the term can be used more generally to mean ineffective activity, or wasting time, but I think of it mostly in the context of ephemeral arranging, because that is where I run across it in my daily life. Only, I can’t quite bring myself to use the word without feeling pretentious.

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My iphone voice-to-text does not recognize the term faffing, and alternately substitutes laughing, chaffing, faxing, fat thing,or fat fame – this last one is my personal favorite. Obviously, there are better substitutions I could make, though I struggle to come up with one that doesn’t make my inner teenager giggle at a double-entendre: Piddling? Messing around?

So, my dear readers, perhaps you can offer a better substitute? Or, should I bravely move forward and start dropping “faff” or “faffing” into general conversation in hopes that it will take root on this side of the Atlantic? After all, it really is a great word for one mof my favorite activities!

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