Friday, 4 December 2015

The Happy Art of Wrapping

Every year in mid-December my Facebook feed is full of people bemoaning all the wrapping they have to do.  It seems to be a last minute and ridiculously time-consuming chore to many people.

May I suggest another approach? Enjoy it.

I love wrapping presents. It's one of my favourite Christmas rituals. I set it out Just So and I look forward to it as a lovely quiet interlude.  This is how it works:

First of all, get all chef-y about it and set up your mise en place.  (That's a poncey French restaurant way of saying laying out all the things you need where you need them. Don't Mess With My Meez is an essential tenet of my life.  I hate it when people mess with my stuff.)

I need all the presents stacked on the living room floor.  A cup of coffee - or a pot of coffee with milk and a mug as this will be a multi-coffee activity - a mince pie or two and the Christmas film of your choice will keep you going.

My wrapping film of choice is While You Were Sleeping. Christmassy and cute.  I used to watch White Christmas but you can't wrap and watch dance numbers. 

For the wrapping you need your wrapping paper, scissors, tape, ribbons, decorative bits, a pen and labels.  I strongly recommend Scotch tape or Sellotape. Fannying about with tape that tears off in ragged points or that you're endlessly picking at with your nail trying to find an edge makes the whole enterprise needlessly painful. A bin bag per person/destination is also handy, unless your family keeps all the presents under the tree.  I do a bag per child then a bag for the people we see at my parents' house and a bag for those at Mark's parents' house.  It just makes it easy when we're driving to North Wales to have a bag to grab and pop in the boot to take in rather than root about through a mound of gifts.

You're all set - drinks, mince pies, film and supplies. Before you press Play you must do the most important thing - barricade the door.  I'm not kidding, properly block it.  I move a stool in front of the door and sometimes write a note too, along the lines of "DO NOT COME IN. If you do come in I get to keep your presents and eat your chocolate." The only possible way to relax into wrapping in my experience is to be left the hell alone. If you have kids, the prospect of having someone else do the wrapping can be a good incentive for one's partner to keep the kids entertained. Or do it while kids are napping/at school/in bed/at a friend's house. But peace and solitude are important.

For the wrapping itself, may I suggest brown kraft paper? You know the stuff - thick plain paper with faint pinstripes. It's cheap, comes in big rolls, doesn't tear easily like some wrapping papers, gives a nice crisp folds and is appropriate for every occasion.  I love it and use it for Christmas, birthdays, everything. I just swap the Christmassy ribbon for brighter colours. I do buy patterned paper to use for the younger kids' present too, because they like it, but I try and stick to things that look nice together.

The fun of kraft paper is what you put with it.  I like ribbons of jute, satin, velvet, small Christmas tree decorations, white or silver pens, rubber stamps - anything really.  Butchers twine - that twisted red and white string - also looks good on it. I often pick up nice bits in the after Christmas sales and pop them in my Christmas box to use the following year.

This year it was oversized jingle bells and painted wooden hearts and stars.

I found a set of tiny rubber stamps in a winter motif in a craft shop year ago, reduced to £2. I thought they'd be nice on gift tags. Yes, I have plain brown luggage labels as gift tags. They come in bulk, they are cheap and I like the minimalist chic vibe going on here.

Instead of feeling like I've a hateful chore I'm trudging through, I have a lovely peaceful afternoon with a romcom of my choice and a growing stack of gifts that (I think) look pretty.