Thursday, December 26, 2013

Aunt Laurie, Queen of Curling Ribbon

Aunt Laurie's birthday is today.  I mailed her a small package Saturday afternoon, and according to the postal tracking, it arrived Christmas Eve, just as I'd hoped it would.  "Late-breaking" Christmas Eve gifts are especially fun, I think, although Mom, Dad, and I still laugh about the fact that a few Christmas Eves ago, the mail carrier stomped through the snow up to my parents' door and delivered a package that turned out to be a box of vitamins my dad had ordered.  Boo.  Booooo.  :)  Aunt Laurie and my mom always ship their Christmas gifts to each other--and include in each other's boxes a few birthday gifts too, since Aunt Laurie's birthday comes right after Christmas and Mom's is the first week of January--and receiving and unwrapping Aunt Laurie's Christmas box every year has been one of my favorite parts of the holiday for as long as I can remember.  Her Christmas package had arrived at my parents' house for the holiday the same day I did this year, December 16th, and my mom let me be the one to open it when I got in that night.   
My dear aunt understands the power of presentation.  Receiving one of her gifts is an "Oooh!  Ahhhhh" experience.  (This goes for not only Christmas gifts, but also Easter baskets and presents for showers, birthdays, and "anytime.")  Better than anyone else I know, Aunt Laurie wraps and package her offerings in ways that add to the gaiety and sweetness of an occasion.  The gifts our families exchange are not extravagant, but opening gifts from her makes us feel rich just the same because she puts such care into their wrappings.  A loaf of homemade bread will arrive wrapped in a checkered tea towel with a  sprig of Holly tucked inside the folds of fabric.  A snowflake-shaped spatula will be tied with colorful ribbon to a pouch of pancake mix and come packaged in an oven mitt.  Her signature sprinkled Christmas cookies are almost always displayed in clear-topped containers--this year's cookies were inside shallow plastic-lidded boxes that Christmas cards had originally been sold in--that are then finished with curling ribbon.  
Always, curling ribbon!  Probably because my mom used those shiny peel-and-stick bows, Aunt Laurie's elaborate curling ribbon bows and wraps made a big impression on me as a kid.  They always made everything seem more cheerful.  She uses curling ribbon not only to make bows, but also to keep multiple little gifts for one recipient held together, and she is known for attaching ornaments and other package tie-ons with it, as well. 
And the ornaments and tie-ons she finds just add to the fun. Last year was the first year I took the time--and/or started my Christmas preparations early enough--to search a few local thrift shops to find something appropriate to attach to each of my presents given to family, and I concluded from my searches that Aunt Laurie surely looks for these tiny items all year long.  Things like Holly and berry sprigs can be found, especially on-sale, for pennies at craft stores on holiday clearance-- 
--but other things, like a miniature stuffed dog for my nephew--
--likely appear in thrift shops for ten or twenty-five or fifty cents all year.  A single plastic tea cup from a child's toy tea set?  Tied with curling ribbon onto a prettily-wrapped box containing a vintage tea cup, mismatched vintage saucer, and some of my mom's favorite tea bags.  Holiday-themed pens or pencils taped onto coloring and puzzle books for my older niece and nephew.   "My" embellishments this Christmas were the sprig of red and white berries and the glittery snowflake ornament, both now on the tree.  
The round tin below has a Rite Aid (drugstore) label on the bottom, and if I'd seen it there this year, I probably would have picked it out for myself, I love it so much.  (This was part of our gift from her this year.  The fabric under the tin's lid is a green plaid dish towel, and under it was a package of green cupcake or muffin papers, a green candle, and a vintage candle pedestal.  See?  So simple, but so sweet.)  Aunt Laurie has a knack for finding great tins and hat boxes and baskets to use as gift containers too.  The gifts in the first photo at the top of this post were all kitchen/dining-related and had been layered into a mixing bowl for my mom.  When I once again squealed to Mom over this thoughtfulness this Christmas and repeated for the umpteenth time that I really want my own gifts for others to be packaged this cleverly, she understood but reminded me that her older sister has her entire attic set up year-round as a crafting/gift-wrapping area so enjoys more storage space than most people do.  That's true.  I shop year-round for Christmas gifts but lack a single place to keep them all til the holiday--and I surely lack space for an assortment of ribbons, laces, tapes, tissues, and tie-ons, to boot--so my own preparations are, so far, lacking the organization Aunt Laurie's got going for her.  I keep a few rolls of gift wrap in a tall wire basket, and I usually have a few stick-on bows and a roll or two of curling ribbon on-hand, but I have nothing like Aunt Laurie's set-up here.  However she manages it, the gifts she creates are lovely.  
Even the stickers she adorns the outside of her boxes with are adorable.  The "Christmas long johns" stickers she used on her package for my family this year-- 
 --matched some of the sheets of tissue paper inside, and we all got a laugh out of the design.  Sometimes she'll layer sheets of tissue between layers of presents.  One of the fun things about her packages--and why I've always loved opening them--is that she uses so many different wrapping paper styles, tissue paper colors, and tie-ons that each person's gift is somehow unique, even on the outside, from everyone else's.  Sometimes a tiny container of cookie-decorating sprinkles or colored sugars will simply have a to/from label stuck to it.  Sometimes a pair of gloves for my dad or brothers will contain a candy cane.  The "Ooh!  Ahh!" comes from slicing open the cardboard and seeing the sea of assorted colors and textures and patterns, truly Christmas-in-a-Box. 
The beautiful gift-wrapping Aunt Laurie is famous for in our family is one of the skills I most want to learn from her.  I think I get a tiiiiiny bit closer each year, but I'm not there yet, and I'm certainly not organized about it.  If someday my nieces and nephew appreciate looking at--not just unwrapping, you see, but even just looking at--the gifts I send them the way I've always anticipated seeing Aunt Laurie's, I'll know I got it right.  The little package I sent to her and her family last Saturday was colorful and sweet in its way, but I had waited too long/was too disorganized, so while the modest gifts inside were things she, her husband, and their son will enjoy--a Christmas-themed gnome tin filled with peanut butter cups, a small aqua vase for her aqua dining room, a few yards of green floral fabric, an album of family photos, a birthday card that "looks like her," prints of some of my Christmas/mantel decorating with notes on the backs, some green floral fabric, and a package of stickers she had admired before but hadn't been able to find locally--the way I wrapped them was more slap-dash than I had wished:  No ornaments or tiny "extras" tied to the presents, no pretty tissue paper to cushion it all, and no variety in the gift wrap.  But next year!  Next Christmas!  Because I really want this to be one of  the things I learn from Aunt Laurie.  And I want this to be the year I make a real effort to get better at it, although that will mean periodically making trips to the craft store for ribbons and pretty wrapping supplies, frequenting thrift shops throughout the year--instead of in one frantic December visit to search for ornaments and tie-ons--and then finding room here to store it all.  Some would say this is trivial--"Gee, Val, what a goal for the new year"--but it really isn't trivial at all.  Nothing that makes your loved ones feel more loved is trivial. 
 "There is something about receiving a beautifully wrapped gift 
that touches the child in all of us."  
~  Christine Fritsch


Nellie said...

What a lovely story about your mom and Aunt Laurie! I'm sure your birthday gift was very welcome! xo Nellie

Val said...

Thank you, Nellie. I'm sure she and her family enjoyed it, yes. We all enjoy any gift, of course--no matter how it's wrapped--and especially if it's peanut butter-filled, in Aunt Laurie and her family's case. :) xox♥

Marie said...

I really enjoyed reading this Val! The best presents of all come tied up with heart strings and I think yours surely were. My mother's oldest sister struggled her whole life trying to bring up five children on her own, but she always managed to send us something for Christmas. She would bake lovely loaves of bread and decorate them with icing and candied cherries and they were the most beautiful things in the world to us and we looked forward to them each year more than anything else. They were wrapped in love!! xxoo

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a lovely post and tribute to your Aunt Laurie's gift wrapping talents, which are gifts in themselves.

Quite the inspiration to present gifts better.

Have a wonderful 2014 ~ FlowerLady

La Table De Nana said...

LOve the way you appreciate EVERYTHING.:)
Cute post:)

Val said...

Thank you, Marie, Lorraine, and Monique. And Marie, I can just picture your aunt's loaves of bread. How lovely. ♥