Red cherry blossom fabric wrapping

Fabric Gift Wrapping

I love a nicely wrapped present.  I also love wrapping presents.  I take after my mother, the original fashion stylist for gifts.  Her adornments turn them into presents wrapped in presents.  I become giddy when I receive one of her works of art.  I want others to feel the same way, so I’ve adopted her inventive techniques for trussing and embellishing.

I must add that I haven’t bought wrapping paper in years.  So how the heck do I dress up my gifts?  I think outside the box, so to speak, by using fabrics and textiles.  Not only am I recycling–and saving money on fancy paper–but wrapping in this way serves as a surprising and beautiful way to present a present.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist the wordplay!  Using fabric is an easy way to deal with unusually shaped presents too.

If you’re a normal person and don’t have any bolts of fabric lying around, you can still take part in the fun.  I’ve used gently worn (and clean!) clothes with cool designs or fun materials.  This comes in handy when part of the fabric becomes damaged, the style is out of fashion, or you’ve grown out of it (either literally or figuratively).  I’ve even used gauzy drapes that lost their usefulness after a move.  Your imagination is the limit!

Note:  Inventive, beautiful wrappings will most likely be lost on children (of all ages) whose only goal is to beat their gift opening time from last year.  Regular wrapping paper would probably be best for them.  But I think the rest of the people on your list will delight in such personalized attention.

The easiest wrapping technique is to spread out the fabric, place the gift in the middle and bring up all the sides to meet above.  Tie the opposing corners into knots…

or use a rubber band and loop through as if you were making a ponytail.  In the picture below, I didn’t pull the fabric all the way through at the end in order to keep everything tucked in.

For this one, I cut a sparkly tank top down a side seam so it would open up, then wrapped as I would with traditional paper, but used a glue gun instead of tape.  The bow was fashioned out of one of the straps.

This is a bridal shower gift, but demonstrates how a tall present could be wrapped.  I used the ponytail tie method but kept the extra fabric for a different look.

I made a gift tag by cutting off a square from a magazine cover (I save decorative cards and pictures for this too) and gluing the inside of a Yogi Tea box on the other side so I could write my message.

Then I punched a hole in one corner and used a pearl twistie thing (probably from one my mother’s past gifts!) to attach it to the bow.

If you don’t have any little bits of string, ribbon, and doodads lying around your house, don’t despair.  It takes time and planning to amass a treasure trove of gift wrapping options.  But if this is the sort of thing you could get into, keep an eye out for things from now on that you could use to wrap and adorn future presents.  You might even see your wrappings or decorations turn up in next year’s presents.  In our family, it’s a big compliment!

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Yes, I’m still here!

Sorry for being MIA as of late.  Although I have good reasons, I’ve been feeling awfully guilty for being off the radar for so long.  This post is to catch everyone up so we can all move forward…ok, so I can move forward.

Reason #1:  We have new addition to the family…a furry one!

Bright-eyed Riley

We welcomed Riley, a glossy bright-eyed black kitten into our house on August 5th.  It took a lot of adjustment for my husband and I, who haven’t had to deal with a toddler-like bundle of joy for quite a while.  We’d forgotten how much time and energy it took, and how much sleep you have to give up.  It was especially difficult for 6-year-old Starsky.  His brother Hutch, who passed away last October, was the only cat he’d ever known.  Now there was a tiny terror in the house.  After several weeks carefully integrating Riley into Starsky’s home, all our hard work seems to have paid off.  Starsky is getting his daily workouts in again, and we foresee some serious snuggling in the near future.  Riley’s ability to transition from knocked out to cracked out in two seconds flat has presented a challenge for me.  Since I work at home, dealing with his boundless energy and my responsibilities has been a juggling act.   However, he and I are both getting better at our roles.

Starsky and Riley, early morning bird-watching

Reason #2:  I’m writing a book!

So far it’s been exciting and depressing and thrilling and scary and fulfilling and arduous all rolled into one big ball of emotion.  And it’s not nearly done yet!  Right now I’m finishing up my (hopefully) kick-butt proposal to send off.  I got some interest in April when I pitched the idea to agents, but now I’ll be in better shape when I pitch again in October at the IWWG’s Big Apple Conference.  More details on my book soon!

Reason #3:  I’m writing an article that ties in to an upcoming television series!

Have you heard about ABC’s new series Pan Am?  Well, it just so happens my grandmother was a stewardess for Pan American Airways in the 1940’s.  And she wasn’t just a stewardess, she was the ambassador of the airline, greeting dignitaries and historical figures, as well as appearing in magazines and advertisements.  My grandmother has enjoyed recalling her whirlwind years, and had her first on-camera interview by a news reporter a few weeks ago.  Her story has always been amazing to us, but seeing that others would now be interested in it got my cousin and I thinking about pitching her story to newspapers, which we’re in the midst of.  So no more details yet, but if it gets published I’ll post the link here…and if it doesn’t get published, I’ll post the article here.  Either way, you’ll hear about it.

So you see, there are reasons why it’s been quiet around here.  But all the while, I’ve been cooking up some tasty posts to serve you very soon.

green cleaning

Green Cleaners That Really Work!

We spent the better part of last week painting our kitchen.  In the process of giving this room a much needed face lift, there was a lot of cleaning of stuck-on dust and grime, sticky residues, and paint drips.  The experience reminded me how much I love my cleaning products!  I wanted to share some of the miracle cleaners I use that not only work like a charm, but contain no harsh or toxic chemicals.  It’s cleaning that’s mean and green!

2 all-purpose, 1 for scrubbing, 1 for polishing

Second scrubbing and polishing sides

Explains the uses of each sponge

Unger Microfiber Sponges (pack of 4, $5.00)

I found these at Home Depot in their green cleaning section.  The package has 4 dual-sided sponges: one for polishing, one for scrubbing, and two all-purpose.  These sponges are amazing!  The first time I used them, I ended up cleaning for hours.  Not because I like to clean, but because I was getting stains and grime out of crevices I’d never been able to get out!  They can be used with just water, but I usually spray the surface with Thieves Household Cleaner (below) to zap any germs.  I highly recommend getting a second package so you always have some sponges ready to whip out if the others are in the hamper.

Thieves Household Cleaner from Young Living (14.4 fl oz, $28.29)

This is a fabulous all-purpose cleaner that kills germs and bacteria with a mixture of therapeutic-grade essential oils of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary.  It’s super concentrated–only a teeny tiny bit is needed–and you can adjust how much you add to water for different uses (glass, light to heavy degreasing, carpet, fabric/upholstery, hands).  Don’t worry, there’s a ratio chart on the back of the bottle.  For stubborn surface spots, I spray the solution right on there and let it sit for a minute.  Bye-bye spot!

Lemon essential oil from Young Living (15 ml bottle, $12.83)

One or two drops of this oil is great for removing stubborn, sticky spots from gum, adhesives, paint, and glue.  You can also add a few drops to a spray bottle for general cleaning that leaves the house smelling of fresh lemons.  Oh, and a drop in a glass of water is like squeezing a lemon wedge in there.  Yes, it’s very multipurpose!

Good old white vinegar  (at any grocery store for about a buck)

Vinegar might smell nasty, but it shows mildew who’s boss!  I pour distilled white vinegar (5% acidity) in a spray bottle, spritz generously on the inside of my shower curtain liner, and watch water stains and scum disappear with the help of a sponge.  It works well on bathtubs, sinks, and toilets too.  The odor doesn’t last long, just open the bathroom window, if you have one, and let the breeze take care of the rest.  I use this cleaner for bathroom duty only; although the smell isn’t too bad, I’d rather not have my whole apartment smell like a bottle of vinegar!  For more ways to use white vinegar (1001 to be exact!) visit Vinegar Tips.

Happy green cleaning!  Have any natural cleaning tips?  I’d love to hear them!

Top Ten Posts

Top Ten Posts of 2010

It’s been nearly a year since I first shared this blog with the world.  In some ways, it seems longer because I’ve learned so much from this year.  In other ways, I feel the time has flown by; it has been a complete joy writing these posts and connecting with all of you.

As we approach this new year, we see a prevalence of stories centered on looking over the past 365 days:  Countdown to 2011, Year in Review, Best of 2010, etc.  I thought it wouldn’t hurt to jump on this bandwagon and celebrate Words Are Food’s first year with Top Ten Posts of 2010.  How did I figure out the winners?  Well, Word Press, the blogging platform I use, made it simple by calculating the number of visits for each of my posts.  I anticipated some of the winners–predicting older posts were more likely to have more visits–but there were a few surprises.  Here is the countdown:

Click on the titles to read those particular posts!

#10

All-Natural Ginger Buffalo Wings

This was my first time making buffalo wings and I know why.  I’m not big on eating meat off bones.  However, I put my aversion aside in honor of two American traditions, wings and football.  I’m happy I did…it’s an awesome recipe!

#9

Juniper Spice-Crusted Steak with Sapphire Collins

Another really fabulous recipe.  And another opportunity to practice a fancy meat-centered dish.  I made a big batch of this spice mix to use on other meats too, with very favorable results.

#8

Mango Sorbet with Thai Basil and Coconut

Packed with exotic flavors, but no guilt, this sorbet is such a treat in warm weather months.

#7

Life Lessons I Learned from Dad

Our parents have passed along some pretty useful information to us, haven’t they?  I thought I’d share some of the gems I’ve learned from Dad.

#6

Super-Natural Recovery Shake

Totally natural and totally delicious, this shake is the perfect post-workout meal.

#5

10 Marriage Commandments to Love By

Sound advice from couples who know what it takes to keep the love alive!  This was a really special post because while interviewing these family members, I got a whole lot more information than I was able to share in this post.  Stories I had never heard before, stories that lead to related stories…the time I spent with them was so enjoyable and such a privilege.

#4

It’s Affirmative…Affirmations are Powerful!

Some may think they’re silly, but I’m a firm believer in affirmations.  This post explains why.

#3

Natural Makeup Review:  Alima Pure

We’re exposed to way too many chemicals in our daily lives without even knowing it, so why put chemical-laden products on our largest organ, our skin, every day?  This post is the first in my search for pure, all-natural products to use and share with you.

#2

9 Food Blogs You Must Visit

We all have to start somewhere in the blogging world, and we usually look to others who are established and successful as a template.  These are the blogs from which I gained inspiration and why they rock in the food blogosphere.

And here’s #1

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead:  A Documentary

Joe Cross isn’t afraid of having the odds stacked against him.  This successful but horribly out of shape Aussie lets us join his cross-country journey as he loses a ton of weight and changes the lives of everyone he meets.  I was lucky enough to view his fantastic film earlier this year, but watch for its DVD release Spring 2011!

Well, there it is!  I’d love to know what you think of this countdown.  Do you have any favorites that didn’t make the list?

Cappuccino

Friends With Benefits…Why I Can’t Live Without My Morning Cup of Joe

I thought this might be appropriate for the holiday season.  A time when we add to our already hectic schedules the responsibilities of Bargain-Hunting Santa, Cheery Decorating Elf, Baker Extraordinaire, Generous Host(ess) and Entertainer, Tireless Traveler, and Party Planning Expert…all while the daylight hours are shrinking and the temperatures are dropping.  I have a feeling you get through these days with a little help from your friend and mine.

Image by Lea Csontos

….think of all the good coffee does for us.  It makes us productive, sociable, cheery citizens of the earth.

After the first few moments when my eyes adjust from their slumber, my thoughts drift to my morning cup of coffee.  It’s a valuable and loyal friend.  It gently welcomes me into the day, supports me with it’s delicious aroma, and hugs my taste buds with it’s full, warm embrace.  The first sip is always divine.  After a few more dips into the steamy liquid, I can feel the corners of my mouth lift slightly upwards, my eyes open to their full range, and my movements speed up a notch.  Ahhh, the magic of coffee.

Aside from the possible health issues with caffeine and drinking it in excess, think of all the good coffee does for us.  It makes us productive, sociable, cheery citizens of the earth.  Nothing wrong with that.  Of course, I would rather be one of those au natural people who doesn’t covet a hot, creamy cup of deliciousness to spark her day, and doesn’t need it to check off all her duties on her to-do lists.  I’ve tried time and time again to end my friendship with coffee, hoping I would be able to function without it.  The longest I lasted was two months, and only because I was drinking green tea.  I do admit I felt great for about a week or two (after two weeks of caffeine-withdrawal agony) but then it became harder to wake up, stay awake, and remain busy…and happy.  The question is:  Is it better to be a pleasant, prolific person who drinks a large french press pot of coffee a day, or a caffeine-free martyr who is crabby, confused, and unmotivated?  Hmmm, I’ll take what’s behind door #1 please.

While medical and scientific experts zip back and forth on the debate of whether coffee is our friend or foe, I’ll stick with what’s best for me in the time being…starting each day with my old reliable friend, Mr. Coffee.