Wrap up holiday shopping

Wednesday, November 23, 2005
A variety of packaging can be recycled and used to wrap holiday gifts. (Callie Clark Miller)

Christmas is quickly approaching. Or more appropriately, the biggest shopping day of the year: the day after Thanksgiving.

For some, visions of Friday are already dancing in their heads. For others, the nightmares and cold sweats have been haunting them for weeks. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Call me impersonal, but I'm going gift cards this holiday season. That's the only way to make everyone completely happy and to make sure your gift is well used. Forget the crowds, forget the disgruntled clerks, go into the stores on a Wednesday morning and get all of your shopping done in less than an hour.

A CD case can be decorated to make an interesting holder for a gift card.

But don't turn your noses up and call foul yet. If one is "impersonal" enough to pass around gift cards then the packaging should be the time-consuming part of your gift giving.

In the Japanese tradition, a poorly wrapped gift is a personal affront. Remember Mother's Day when you gave Mom her gift in a plastic shopping bag. Tying a knot in the top does not constitute wrapping. If you were in Japan, you would have told your mother "Drop dead" for Mother's Day.

It is in the spirit that a poorly wrapped gift is worse than no gift at all that I can purchase gift cards with great pride.

As with many other projects, themed wrapping can really boost the joy. Giving a music gift certificate? Find an old CD jewel case (or better yet a tape case or record sleeve) and create your own holiday liner notes. Computer store? Cut a slit in the top of an old 3.5 by 5 inch floppy diskette (circa Apple IIE) and slip the gift certificate inside. Toy store? Build a LEGO cube around the gift certificate and give two gifts in one.

But not all gift certificates are so easy. For the difficult ones try one of these ideas:

Takeout takeaway

Deplorable Styrofoam containers have taken over the takeaway industry. But there are rare occasions when small restaurants will use posterboard boxes. When you see a nice shape ask if you may buy (or have) an extra take-home to take home.

When you get home, carefully unfold the box, trace it on posterboard and create many more of the same great box. My favorite recent find was the takeaway box at the Royal N'Orleans. It's just the right size for a dozen cookies or brownies to supplement a gift certificate. And decorated with a simple bow or dolled up with paper and stickers, it's an eye-catching package.

DVDelightful

AOL desperately wants my business. All the mail they send me could alone fill an outdoor trashcan. Luckily, I don't throw it all away. The paper is recycled and the CDs are used in my coaster project (shared in an earlier column).

But what to do with the boxes all that comes in? Those shaped like DVD boxes are a perfect fit for photo CDs to give all the relations. Printing landscape on an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper will provide a clean and personalized look for your case. And, if you've got anklebiters to keep busy, let them decorate the family digital photo gift.

For a quick fix on your own, cut the front of a standard Christmas card and slip it in the front of the case to "wrap" your homemade gift.

And don't limit the DVD cases and CD boxes to circular certificates or CDs. It's the outside that counts. Once the case is opened that CD-shaped impression is just like tissue paper … only getting in the way of getting to the good stuff.

With just a little forethought gift certificates can be personalized and make the perfect holiday gift. Avoid Black Friday and still get the most compliments on your gifts at the holiday party. It's a win-win (and hopefully white) Christmas.

Vanessa Cook is a former Southeast Missourian copy editor who dabbles in decorating.

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