Wrap Session - Gift Wrapping Tips and Ideas

Gift wrapping can be fun! Personally I like to use unexpected materials for my presents. One of them that always makes a statement is wallpaper. In the video below I show you how it can make your gifts stand out. Another favorite idea is to use fashion accessories as gift trims. It makes the gift so chic! I'll also give you a tip for what to do if you have too little paper to wrap that gift!

This video is from my original cable show here in New York. It originally aired in the late 1990's. I hope everyone has a lovely holiday!

Oh! And see Mary Ellen open that gift here:


Holiday Flights of Fancy from 1969 - The Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book

Welcome to my new blog! Please have some patience as we get the design worked out. You'll find all my old holiday posts archived below with more to come soon! This is my first new post for the blog and I hope you enjoy it.

Alix, of the blog, posted pages from the Sears Wishbook from 1975 last week. That charming post brought back a lot of memories and reminded me of a find from a few years ago at the paper ephemera convention in Pasadena CA. It's a 1969 Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book. Click on an image to open the slide show.
This catalog from the Texas department store has a long and storied history. It began in 1939 and, thanks to a publicity gimmick in 1952, has featured outrageous and at times ridiculous gifts for equally outrageous sums. The gift that kicked it off was a - and you have to remember that this is Texas - live Black Angus bull and a sterling silver barbecue cart for $1925 - a hefty sum in '52. Since that first whopper they've featured his and hers T-birds, solid gold potty seats, a fully stocked Noah's Ark, tanks, jets and mermaid suits. Along with those flights of fancy are bread and butter items like clothing, jewelry and comestibles. It all started in 1969 with this charming fold out cover by artist Antoni:

Isn't this a lovely spread? This jewelry page has a rustic feel, thanks to the beautiful barn wood used as a background. Some of the items included in the spread are a pebble textured, hidden face wrist watch (21A) and my favorite - an 18ct gold giraffe swizzle stick with a jeweled eye. What a glamorous way to stir a drink! On the men's side are 14ct gold collar stays and an 18ct gold tape measure.
The clothing was equally posh. for the girls we have some Pucci in the form of smart separates, an entire lipstick wardrobe and the most charming nail head trimmed purse. I would gladly carry that purse right now! The gents have it all sewed up too, with Lily Pulitzer Men's Stuff pants printed with patterns representing their Alma Mater - schools include Texas U (shown), Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Cornell. 
If you love your man in Aramis (and let's face it girls, who doesn't?) you might want to get him the giant economy size - 100,000 gallons of it was only $5,000,000 - stock up and save! Smaller options were available if you wanted to be cheap.
Of course we can't leave out the boudoir. NM envisions it either in pretty pastels or in his and her's "Grr." And yes, that's a bejeweled Carol Channing tucked under those pretty sheets.
Let's not leave out the kids. I love those "animal bags," and the kiddie juke box, which can store and play 40 45rpm records.  The under 5 crowd is covered too - under $5 that is. I'm especially fond of the mushroom handkerchief and butterfly pomanders.
Animals were frequently a part of the Niemen Marcus catalog. Why not give a precious live baby pachyderm? It's only $5000. From large to little, NM also had gerbils. If that doesn't appeal to you, why not a fully stocked petting zoo? Complete with a zoo keeper for a year, it's only $13,750.
Among the quirky gifts they had to offer in 1969 were these for him and her. The gumball machine filled with Gelusil stomach aids and complete with coins to work it would be appropriate for today's economic climate, though the $10,600.00 kitchen computer console for organizing your recipes and balancing your checkbook is perhaps a trifle out of date now.
Comestibles are a holiday staple and NM didn't scrimp on them. How about a cotton candy machine? No? Then maybe a fruit cake in the shape of Texas? Hmm...
They also provided photographic services. Just look at that happy family! Eunice and Lloyd have matching outfits made from crazy quilts. NM was, and is well known for their creative gift wrapping services. Just look at that charming elf and the umbrella with birds on it. I think my favorites are the doll gift towers though.
Neiman-Marcus still produces a holiday catalog and the tradition of featuring fabulous gifts such as these still stands. These catalogs were, at one point, the piece of mail most stolen from mailboxes and it's no wonder. The fanciful flights are a delight and set the imagination a light.

Merry Christmas!


Creative Decorating the Craigslist Way - Treasures for Tuppence

Hi people! Sorry for the long silence. I've been so busy helping Ben launch The Obscurity Factor that I haven't had a lot of time to post. I've also been doing a lot of Craigslist shopping lately. It's been a very fruitful period of acquisitions from the site. I've been shopping for my apartment and my mother's place. The results have been quite impressive.
The time has come to set up my dining room. I've become convinced that the big, beautiful Windsor chairs I wanted to use are just too large for my apartment, so I've banished them in favor of these little ballroom chairs. They're ubiquitous at weddings and the like, but are rarely used in the home. I plan to give them a makeover to resemble the hutch they're posed in front of - ivory base coat and green detailing with aged affectations. I got quite a bargain on these. They came from two different sellers, but were only $10 a piece.
Now most of you know how much I love to entertain, so a good bar cabinet is a must. I spent some time looking for one and came across this from the 1970's. It has a caned front and plenty of room for libations and their accouterments.
It also has a flip up top with a bin for your bottles and a laminate work surface with an inset ice bucket. Very chic! This one was $100.
My mother recently moved into a new apartment and is gradually replacing old pieces with new. The apartment is much more modern than their last place so I've been helping her find pieces that harmonize. I came across this dresser was lucky enough to snag it for her. She's so pleased with it and it makes quite the statement in the bedroom! The body of it is walnut, but the facade is actually molded plastic. It's really beautifully done and very solid. You can't tell even examining it closely or touching it. This was also a bargain at $500.

Finding deals on Craigslist is time consuming, but it can be done.

- Keep your search terms broad but narrow down the search platform - for example, say you're looking for a vintage refrigerator, search for the term "vintage" only in appliances. That will weed out all the non-vintage refrigerators, but will not weed out the listing with "fridge" or refrigerator misspelled in them. If you're searching for vintage also use the term "retro".

- You have to make it a mission. I search for the items I need every night and email or call the ones I like right away.

- Persistence is the key. Sometimes the sellers aren't that motivated, so you may need to email them several times.

- It really helps to have a car. If you can look at the item and take it away the same day you can usually strike a deal. I enlist the help of friends and family. You can also join one of those rental companies like Zipcar.

- Don't be shy about bargaining, but do it in person. If you have the ready cash the seller is usually willing to give a little - a bird in the hand...

Your results will depend on the market you live in, of course, but I've done some regional searches and found that there are interesting pieces to be had in small markets as well as large. The key is to keep looking.

Here are some of the great Craigslist items that are up right now in the New York area:
This looks like an Adrian Pearsall couch. (Thanks to Pam at for the heads up on Pearsall)
This all-in-one kitchenette is really unique. It's the perfect solution for loft living or for an office that doesn't have a kitchen.
These great Geneva metal cabinets are also up for grabs here in NY. The price is good too.

When you're on a budget, or just looking for something unusual, Craigslist can offer great opportunities. I've also been so delighted with the pleasant human interactions the transactions sometimes provide.

What have you found on Craigslist?