If you're like most of us, you probably haven't had the luxury of planning your family's holiday celebration at your leisure. Most likely you've been able to take care of all the related tasks in small spurts here and there, as your schedule permits.
What to do if you still need to wrap some last-minute gifts? Whether you wrap them two weeks or two minutes before you give them out, it's nice to use recycled materials instead of store-bought wrapping paper. You may think that you don't have anything in your home that can be used to wrap gifts, but if you keep on reading, you'll realize that most anyone can come up with a recycled "wrapping" that is certain to be as unique as what is on the inside.
The Sunday comics are an obvious choice here, but in my opinion, not the best choice. It's more unique to use the news or feature sections (food, of course, is usually a winner), selecting an area with a dramatic color photo to cover the part of the gift that you'd like to emphasize the most. The color photograph will pop, since the rest of the newspaper is in black type printed on an off-white background.
Most of you will not have these kinds of newspapers lying around the house, but I like to use newspapers in Spanish or Asian languages if possible.
2. Brown kraft paper grocery bags - using the other side and stamping the outside with a classic design
Those who are into fancy, elaborate wrap will probably not like this suggestion. But it's easy to create a nice-looking gift by cutting open an grocery bag (printed side on the inside) and stamping the outside with a decorative stamp and festive color. In past years I've used a simple circle stamp and made wrapping paper reflect the festive winter season by using a silver stamp pad (see photo).
3. Furoshiki - Japanese-style wrapping using a nice piece of fabric
You can use a high-quality piece of fabric (or scarf) and wrap that around the box or object. In Japan, this practice of wrapping gifts with one piece of cloth is called furoshiki. While I am not familiar with the exact folding technique (and let's face it, at this point you just want to get the gift wrapped) -- you can just follow the overall approach (call it an unofficial American-style furoshiki, which in my book would be to wrap the gift in the fabric as you please and then tie it in place with raffia or ribbon. If you are highly motivated, there are many websites that teach the wrapping technique as well.
Important note: If the fabric that you use is something that you don't intend on giving away at Christmas, let the recipient know ahead of time that it's the inside of the gift that is being gifted, not the outside.
This may not apply as much as it did even just 10 years ago, but before Google Maps, smartphones and GPS devices, there was something people used called a map that was printed out on paper. (Call me old school, but in addition to digital directions, I also have maps on hand because I like the way they look and still use them from time to time).
A gift wrapped in a map -- whether it be using those free AAA maps you get of San Francisco or California, or from your vacation in Barcelona or Istanbul -- can remind the recipient of a memorable road trip, or be part of the gift itself if it is of a place the recipient plans to go to in the future.
5. Poster art of favorite events, calendar art
Some big events (, , music shows, road races such as marathons/half marathons) often have splashy art posters/color flyers of various sizes they give out for free as promotional material. Save these throughout the year and use that wrap for your favorite surfer, music scenester or runner.
You can also reuse your calendar art of the previous year as wrapping paper, if you haven't set it aside already to keep as mini-posters.
Glass jars make a nice way to present certain gifts. To make sure that the recipient can't see what is on the inside, you can wrap the gift in a pretty scarf, nest it in raffia, or bury it in a multicolored mix of dried beans or corn, which will make a pretty mosaic-type pattern through the jar.
Important note: If you choose the latter route, make sure the recipient knows that the gift is not a bean soup "kit," but has an actual gift inside. Otherwise, your gift could languish in a dusty cupboard for years, or become a surprise ingredient in a not-so-tasty bean soup.
7. How to Tie It All Together
The gift can be accented with a brightly colored ribbon you've saved for reuse, or raffia (see photo). Raffia looks like straw from a distance, but it actually comes from the Raffia palm tree. Its neutral color makes it a versatile "ribbon" for packages in all colors.
Good luck wrapping the last of your gifts, and don't stress too much if the wrapping doesn't come out looking like it was professionally done. They'll understand, and appreciate your effort to create unique and recycled wrapping.
Ed. Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 25, 2010 in Half Moon Bay Patch.