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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, November 19, 2009; 11:00 AM

Every week, Washington Post Home Section writers Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, Nov. 19, at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions and suggestions. Joining them was Jana Svrzo, manager of Paper Source in Georgetown to discuss holiday wrapping and all things 'paper.'

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Today's Local Living cover story: Holiday Planning Guide

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Terri Sapienza: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. We're excited to have Jana Svrzo, manager of Paper Source in Georgetown with us, to discuss holiday wrapping and answer all of your questions about paper. Let's get started.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi there,

We recently installed curtains and rods on the two small windows in our finished basement, which serves as our family room and play room for our toddler. They look great -- they make the room feel so much warmer and the windows feel larger. I still need to hem them, though (they 98" long -- way too long). How far off from the floor would you recommend going? I like the look of them just meeting the floor, but it's not the most toddler-friendly length.

Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: Without knowing more about your windows (size, proximity to the floor, etc.), it's difficult to comment on this. But curtain panels look best when they are just touching the floor. You may have been better off going with a fabric roman shade, which would end at the window sill. Any possibility of returning your panels and rods?

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Richmond, Va.: I think I'm going the craft paper/pretty ribbon route for my gift wrapping this year. Any suggestions for a classy, diy gift tag to complete the look? And when will you be opening a Paper Source in Richmond?

Jana Svrzo: Hi! I love the craft paper route! As far as the gift tags - it really depends on the overall look - a small origami shape created out of the craft paper is always classic and elegant but you could also write the names in a beautiful sparkly pen on one of your ribbon tails. For an extra kick, you could also sprinkle the name with some rubber stamp embossing powder while the pen ink is still wet and heat emboss it, getting a raised, glossy finish. We are always looking for great places to open new stores - I will pass on your vote for Richmond!

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Milan, Italy: How do you wrap odd-shaped presents, soft-sided present, bottles, etc., when you have no suitable boxes?

Jana Svrzo: In these situations your best bet will be to use a soft, almost fabric like paper or actual fabric. That way the paper/fabric is more malleable and easier to work with around odd corners. As far as the actual technique - think about how a piece of candy is wrapped. Roll the item in the paper securing the paper to itself with a bit of double stick tape then twist the open ends and tie off with ribbon!

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Ballston, Va.: Sorry you cannot put your holiday decorations up outside until after Thanksgiving! This is a crime against nature and the holidays. Santa will not be happy. We know who you are!

The Holiday Decoration police

Jura Koncius: Hmmm. This is a very interesting topic. And at what point should your remove your pumpkins? I say, it's okay to leave them up until the weekend after Thanksgiving. They are looking rather bad by then anyway. What do you all think?

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Sun Prairie, Wisc.: For last week's poster, they can find small round votive candles for deer candle holder at Kohl's I have the info UPC 04 00902 96708 9 in red $14.00 dz, usually on sale 40-60 percent off.

Jura Koncius: Thank you, Wisconsin.

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Holiday Wrapping Tips for Guys: I've found the best way to wrap gifts for my wife is to get some of those pretty bags, then tie up the handles with ribbon the way they do at Chico's.

For anybody else? My wife's delicate fingers and artistic wrapping trump my meat hooks every time.

Terri Sapienza: I would add some pretty tissue paper, too, but yes, that's a nice idea.

But, I have to say, my husband's gift wrapping my not be as crisp and precise as mine, but I love getting a gift wrapped from him. The paper he picks out for me, the time he takes to wrap...it's all very sweet.

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Bethesda, Md.: I am giving a luncheon for my women friends just before Christmas, where I want them to take a lunch hour from work or time off from all their busy errands to stop in and have some food and a quick visit. I need a catchy phrase for the invitations to let them know that this is a drop -in, as -you -are kind of party, to encourage them to come, even if just for brief time. I don't want to call it an Open House. Please give me a few suggestions for the wording.

Jura Koncius: This is a good idea. Drive-by Party sounds a bit rushed. What about = stop by for a Holiday Rest Stop? Or just say Open House, come for 15 minutes for two hours - whatever you want - or come for a cup of tea or a sandwich or whatever.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Ladies! This is not a holiday question, but these chats are always so helpful on pet issues. Can anyone recommend a good vacuum (full-sized) that will really trap cat littler? With every vacuum we've had, there's always some amount of litter that leaks out of the vacuum after it's turned off and we're putting it back in the closet. It's so frustrating! We've taken to using the shop vac, but it's not so easy to drag around the house. THANKS!

Jura Koncius: This is a great question. I'll send it out there. I do hear the Dyson is very good.

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RE: Sorry you cannot put your holiday decorations up outside until after Thanksgiving!: That's the way it should be! Let's get through Thanksgiving before pulling out the Christmas tree and decorations.

Jura Koncius: Yo!

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Richmond, Va.: My holiday and year round wrapping tip: Purchase a roll of butcher paper from Costco ($14) and a package of white tissue paper ($6/300 sheets) and use both to wrap ALL presents over a two year period. Place present in white tissue paper, then cut a piece of butcher paper in the right size and place present inside the butcher paper and wrap with tape. Once it is wrapped, you can simply paint a Christmas tree on the top with green water paint (Ikea colors are best!) then place red water color dots on the tree and make a star - all with paint. Once it is complete, YOU"RE FINISHED! No need for a bow or ribbon! Yeah!

For wedding gifts, graduation and birthday gifts you can simply tie a silver ribbon around it and tie a knot -- no need for a bow.

Plus, no need for any boxes for gifts prior to wrapping! If we feel creative and have time, we watercolor a simple message or something special for the recipient to distinguish the gift from others under the tree.

This family tradition has saved us much time, expense and has gotten the whole family involved!

Jura Koncius: So true. Good for you.

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Clifton, Va.: Purchase gift cards. That way you aren't contributing to millions of tons of wrapping paper and ribbon that ends up in landfills.

Folks can get what they want, etc.

Wrapping gifts should be outlawed.

Terri Sapienza: Hmmm...I get your point, but I have to disagree. I have mixed feelings about gift cards. I sometimes think people give them b/c they are easy, which defeats the purpose of a "gift." Personally, I prefer a gift that's more thoughtful in nature. That doesn't mean it has to be expensive, just thoughtful. When I get gift cards sometimes, I feel like I'm just receiving cash.

Anyone care to weigh in here? I'd love to know how people feel about getting gift cards for the holidays.

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Gift wrap secret?: Can our guest share with us a gift wrap secret or rule-of-thumb that's often overlooked?

Jana Svrzo: Hmm...double stick tape is pretty amazing at helping achieve a seamless result as well as crisp edges! My big rule of thumb for wrapping is that simpler is better - anything requiring more than 3 steps/items is probably too much.

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Arlington, Va.: Just in time! I have 12 artificial wreaths for all the front windows of my home. Last year I hung them from a velvet ribbon that I put through the top sash of the window and duct-taped down. Unfortunately, sometimes the wreaths and ribbon got yanked out of the window by the wind. I do not want to put a nail in the window frames on the outside and I can't feasibly tie the ribbon to anything on the inside. Any ideas on how to keep this from happening? Thanks -- I read your chats every week!

Jura Koncius: Could you use double stick tape?

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Curtain rod height, Md.: Another curtain question...I'm painting (painter's here now) and doing new curtains. I'm raising the height from the last curtain rod to be closer to the ceiling. I have standard 8 ft ceilings and I want the illusion of a higher ceiling. how far from the ceiling should I install the rods?

Terri Sapienza: It really depends on how much space there is between the ceiling and the window molding. Do you have the measurement?

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Question about book cloth tape: I want to recover some books and use Paper Source's book cloth tape for the spine. Can you recommend a way to emboss/print/etch/transfer the title onto the tape?

Jana Svrzo: Good question! You can certainly use rubber stamps (no embossing though). I have printed on it before although it was definitely a tricky process due to the weight and size. Some kind of rub on letter system might work as well although I would recommend sealing the title afterwards with a PVA or Mod Podge which might make the spine stiffer which wouldn't really work for a soft spine technique.

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Green Wrap: Hi Ladies --

So much for Going Green and recycling! All that paper wrapping seems wasteful. Yes, I know about reusing old wrapping, paper made from recycled materials and making up your own gift tags. But a ton of wrap goes to landfills on Dec 26. Any thoughts on reducing this carbon boot print!?

Jana Svrzo: You can certainly be more green and still have your packages look great by wrapping them up in those nifty roll up bags that come in a million colors. That way you are being green and you are encouraging your friends to do the same by giving them a reusable bag!

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Gift cards: I love getting them. Maybe my family is just unusually prone to giving knick-knacks and things I really don't need, won't use, can't store, etc. No, it is not "personal," but if everyone got me a Target or Home Depot gift card, I'd be so happy.

Terri Sapienza: Good point.

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Dining room paint: When painting my dining room, do I need to take into consideration the color of my china? I want to paint the room taupe and coral, but my china is a sort of blue and white Delft pattern. Should I just make sure all the colors are the same intensity? Or am I going overboard here? Love the chats.

Also loved the article on holiday entertaining. I'd love to start such a tradition -- I have a whole set of Christmas china that needs to get more use than just Christmas dinner. Thanks much!

Jura Koncius: Thanks for the compliment and we are glad you liked today's Local Living section. We really don't think your decor should match your china. Your tablecloths and centerpieces should be geared around that, but not your paint colors. Besides, many families have more than one set of china. I think your paint color should reflect the mood you want in the room, and go with your rug and furniture. Taupe and coral sound cool.

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Carytown, Richmond, Va.: Yes, pumpkins are Halloween AND Thanksgiving decorations. Must be gone when we've left fall and entered winter.

Jura Koncius: Richmond Rocks.

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State College, Pa.: Re: Holiday Wrapping Gifts Tips for Guys.

My husband is FAR better at wrapping than I am. He's very precise with cutting the paper and such.

I wish I had time to do an elaborate wrapping job -- I'd love to have a space devoted to wrapping gifts, but I always seem to be doing it at the last minute in a rush on the living room floor.

Terri Sapienza: I'd love to have a designated wrapping station somewhere in my house. Wrapping on the floor is so annoying, but I do it often, too.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hi ladies! I just moved into a new apartment and the shower curtain rod is installed on an angle, due to a sloping roof. I can't change the angle of the rod, so any tips on buying a slanted shower curtain? Am I stuck buying a regular one and trying to cut the bottom of it at an angle? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Yikes! I've never seen a slanted shower curtain - I think those have to be custom cut!

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Washington, D.C. : I so love to receive gift cards. I just rarely buy anything "fun" anymore and gift cards are a reason to buy something you don't necessarily need, but would love to have. I find when I give them, there's still the same gift excitement if they're wrapped -- small box is a must, don't just put it in the envelope -- and include a nice card with your wish for them to buy something fun. Nordstrom, Sephora and LL Bean work well, buuut, I don't know how I feel about an AMEX or VISA gift card. That is a bit too much like cash. And, often hard to use -- especially online.

Also, yes, what is up with all the carved pumpkins lingering around? If it's not carved, I get it, but carved? People.

Terri Sapienza: Another vote for gift cards.

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Questions for Ms. Svrzo: I'm really trying to minimize my use of new decorations/wrapping paper this year in hopes of minimizing my carbon footprint (and ridicule -- I do live in ultra-green Portland, Ore.). For birthdays, I use old blueprints and used twine for wrapping gifts but have no idea for Thanksgiving/Christmas. Any suggestions?

Jana Svrzo: I love Portland! I was there for two weeks opening our new location there last summer and just fell in love with it! Paper grocery bags (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's etc.) actually make great wrap. The color of the recycled paper is perfect for fall gift giving and works as a great base for great holiday ribbons for Christmas. Also it is a great surface to rubberstamp on giving you a world of possibilities for decor. Same thing applies to that crunched up kraft paper you receive in your shipping boxes - just flatten it out and you have a great textured wrap.

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Wrap it up!: A question and some suggestions -- -1) how and where in your home do you store your gift wrap paper? This issue is a huge bone of contention in our house.

-2) Perfect gift tag suggestion: SAVE LAST YEAR'S CARDS and find a corner that does not have writing on the inside. Cut a small square from the card and punch a hole in the corner.

-3) Perfect gift tag suggestion, number 2: buy a package of 3X5 unlined index cards. With a glue stick, glue the cards to spare scraps of gift paper. Cut around the card, fold over, poke a hole.

Jana Svrzo: I actually roll all of my left over paper up together in one big roll. It protects the paper and is space friendly to my little studio!

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Reducing the wrapping footprint: I save the colored funny papers each Sunday to use for wrapping -- my family expects it from me. Once at my niece's birthday, another mom saw and asked (with pity) if I ran out of wrapping paper and I PROUDLY said NO and smiled. My niece LOVED her gift and put the paper in the recyling box.

Jana Svrzo: Great idea!

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Pigtown: Two things:

1) I loved the suggestions for wrapping presents. I always try and do creative wraps. Eddie Ross just showed some creative and inexpensive wrappings, using dollar store items, including bows and papers. I use their printed kraft papers, which you can find in black toile (how chic is that?), blue paisleys and pink and brown dots.

2) Have you stopped blog watch? I loved getting to know new bloggers. Hope you continue that feature.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, your families and your readers!

Terri Sapienza: Hey, Pigtown.

We have not stopped Blog Watch, but the print layouts of the last few weeks have not allowed us space to include the feature. It will be back next week, though. I think.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

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Drive-by lunch invitation: What I've done for parties that are open-house-like is say on the invite, "Come when you can and stay as long as you like."

Jura Koncius: Very nicely put.

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Hanging wreathes securely: I did this last year too with swags, not wreaths and hung them from the middle sashes (or whatever that is called) by using floral wire wrapped around the lock on the inside of my window. The wire was thin enough not to interfere with my window but sturdy enough to keep my swags in place.

Jura Koncius: Great idea.

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Terri Sapienza: Jura and I just discovered that we both know people who ask for the wrapping paper/bag back after giving a gift. You know who you are. Does anyone else know someone like this? I can't imagine doing this...

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Newark, Ohio: Just read what's been posted so far -- some great ideas! I will definitely be using some of them! I also had a suggestion for Arlington, Va., about her wreaths and ribbons -- can you insert a small piece of a dowel rod into the ribbon on the inside? You could paint it or hang a smaller wreath or ornament from it as well. The dowel would prevent the ribbon from being pulled through -- just tie a knot or bow in it and slide the dowel through.

Jura Koncius: Thanks!

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Reuse gift bags!: It always pains me to see people crumple up perfect good beautiful gift bags. I'm always trying to snatch them before some helpful elf ruins them. It's hard to understand throwing away perfectly good things just so you can buy more.

Jura Koncius: So true.

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Anonymous: We've had our Oreck vaccuum for years (both an upright and a smaller hand-vac) and it does fantastic with cat litter. I've never had it spill back out.

Jura Koncius: Thanks for sharing this.

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Washington, D.C.: Gift cards: very useful, especially for people who have been laid off. They need money (Visa or gift card to Shoppers Food Warehouse), not more "fluff."

Terri Sapienza: Gifts don't have to be "fluff," they can be useful, too. A little thought goes a long way.

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Thanksgiving Stain Warning: Ladies, love the chats! I have a carpet shop, and I just want to ask everyone to please, please, please only use cold water or club soda on dye-based stains like red wine, coffee, tea, etc. If you use chemical products and are unsuccessful, the stain will get super set. That makes my job infinitely harder, as dye removers don't work all too well when mixed with who-knows-what types of chemicals. Cold water, white towels, and timeliness...that is the key!

Jura Koncius: We love hearing from you! Thanks so much for your tips!

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Atlanta, Ga.: Tip: Make labeling gifts a snap by "To" and "From" with a small picture of holiday clip art on address labels.

Jura Koncius: Wonderful.

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Bethesda, Md.: I agree about the waste! During the winter holidays, 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags are thrown away. Each holiday North America also uses enough ribbon to go around the world and tie a bow! Jana, if your store carries 100 percent recycled and PCW wrapping paper that uses vegetable-based dyes so that it can be recycled, plug it! If not, folks, so inclined, can do a search for eco-friendly or green wrapping paper.

Jana Svrzo: Oh we definitely carry lots of 100% recycled gift wrap! Over the past 2 years we have been working hard at being as green as we can be so the majority of the Paper Source line is recycled in some way.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I am looking to put a runner for my basement steps to make them less slippery and safer, but I don't want to carpet them. I was hoping to find a runner made of a sturdy material -- like a sea grass -- and have it cut to my specifications and finished with fabric on the sides. Can you recommend where to go to find this? The runners I have seen are either very decorative (Great Indoors) or industrial (Home Depot). Can you buy these ready-made or do you have to order them? Thanks for your suggestions!

Terri Sapienza: I hate to break it to you, but sea grass will make your stairs more slippery, not less. While I love sea grass as a floor covering, I would stay away from it for your stairs. You can have any kind of carpet cut and bound to your stair specifications, so start your search at a carpet store. Check out their remnants. if you can find one that you like, it can save you money.

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I'm an ultra re-user: But I haven't asked for the gift bag back. Within MY own family, we all know I'm a scavenger, so they just automatically give it to me (or keep it for their own use, that's OK by me as long as it's reused). I do cry out "save the bows!" when applicable. Now 'if' I see someone about to crush or trash it, I will say "oh, if you're not going to save that, I will" ONLY if I know the person well. Basically, my fam reuses, not so much my in-laws -- so I just take deep breaths and don't let it bother me. I'm breaking them in gradually, saving bows.

Jura Koncius: Keep up the good work!

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Fairfax, Va.: I like to use things that are containers themselves to wrap presents. E.g., clay pots covered with their lids, cookie jars, wooden or basket boxes with lids, vintage hat boxes -- I've used a lot of different things. Use a nice fat satin, grosgrain, or cut fabric ribbon, or cord or laces, etc., to fasten. Eco-friendly and you can come up with some charming combinations. They have always been well received.

Jura Koncius: Charming ideas.

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Wrapping: I am resolving here that THIS YEAR will be the year I wrap gifts as I buy them over the next month instead of doing them all on the 24th!

Jura Koncius: My goal is to wrap two gifts and write three cards a day. Otherwise I feel overwhelmed. Do you guys do things like that?

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Fairfax, Va.: You asked us to weigh in on gift cards. I HATE THEM. They aren't particularly thoughtful, you can buy them at any grocery store now. Some of them expire, or charge monthly fees after a year, and the stores aren't stupid, they know that if your purchase is slightly less than the value, you are likely to purchase another item for more. IF you want to give money, just give money. I used to say that unless the recipient was a drug addict who couldn't be trusted with cash don't give a gift card, but even that isn't true now by all means don't give a drug addict a gift card because if they barter it on the street they'll only get a fraction of the value!

What's really amazing is that some people will spend quite a bit on some kitschy little packaging for the card. Sheesh! Like that makes it somehow more of a present.

Terri Sapienza: An anti-gift card sentiment.

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Washington, D.C. : If it's really pretty, my aunt loves to save wrapping paper, but she does not ask for hers back. Ha. She just keeps what her gift was in.

If I want to give a gift and not a gift card, but know someone doesn't need more "fluff" -- I buy something at Target or a department store. That way if they really need a new toaster or undies, they can return it and everybody wins.

Jura Koncius: Everybody wins. So true.

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Thanksgiving table traditions: Do you have any suggestions for fun traditions that people have during Thanksgiving dinner? Of course going around the table and having everyone express one "thanks." But others? We've got a group of 24 adults and 8 kids and I LOVE traditions. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: This is a great question. Some people go out and walk between the main course and dessert and have a scavenger hunt. We go to a lovely annual Thanksgiving dinner each year given by a dear college friend on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We all come with a toast and some words of thanks for the year.

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Guilty!: I've been known to ask for bags back depending on how well I know the gift recipient. ;) (usually siblings)

Jura Koncius: Gulp.

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Party names: Rest stop. Hour Retreat. Lunch Get-away. Recharge.

Jura Koncius: Love Holiday Rest Stop.

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Anonymous: Sometimes I'll give gift cards with smaller, more personal gifts that I'll know they like.

If nothing else, I'll give them something consumable -- wine, craft beer, chocolate, etc.

I also worry about corporations going out of business and not redeeming gift cards! I know it's not that likely, but it can happen.

Jura Koncius: Yes. Chocolate is best.

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Regifted Gift Tag: My mom and aunt have been reusing the same, awful gift tag from the 70s every year. The just pass it back and forth (sometimes across the country). It has become a tradition. We also have a whimsical garden gnome that gets wrapped up and regifted around the family every year. It is always a surprise of who receives it and it is an honor to get to pick who gets stuck with it.

Jura Koncius: Love that!

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Alexandria, Va.: Re gift cards: seems to depend on the situation. Generally for me they are a "no," but when my nephews graduated from college and moved out, I gave them gift cards to help them furnish their new apartments. But from one adult to another, I don't like them. Seems crass and like "here's some money, I don't know you well enough to find something for you that you would enjoy." Just icky.

Terri Sapienza: Yes, I agree with everything you say. I give my nieces and nephews gift cards frequently b/c I know they need certain things and would rather pick them out themselves.

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Reuser: I have been to a bazillion baby and wedding showers for my relatives in the past few years. As the ladies open their presents, as one of the helpers at the shower, I put the ripped wrapping paper into one trash bag (which is tossed out), but I put all ribbons, bows and most importantly colored tissue paper in another. I have a garbage bag of perfectly fine tissue paper that I am still going through years later!

Jura Koncius: Stealth wrapping acquisition.

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Washington, D.C.: Gifts for teachers. Help!

Terri Sapienza: If you can be patient, our holiday gift guide will run on December third with lots of ideas for you.

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Richmond, Va.: I bet one could find cool old hat boxes at thrift shops... I like that idea: it's reusing, but not too costly if recipient throws it away.

Jura Koncius: Good idea.

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Washington, D.C.: Green wrap: We like to wrap in the Sunday comics, especially for birthdays.

Jura Koncius: Please, buy more copies of the Post.

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Jura and I just discovered that we both know people who ask for the wrapping paper/bag back after giving a gift. You know who you are. Does anyone else know someone like this? I can't imagine doing this... : No, but I ask for the GIFT back. Geez, what's wrong with people.

Jura Koncius: Well, there is a recession.

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Wrapping in fabric: My sister frequently wraps the gifts for my young daughters in colorful scarves. The scarves then end up in the dress-up box. Doesn't matter what the gift is...clothes, DVDs, or an odd-shaped toy. She can usually find a scarf that will cover it.

Jura Koncius: Clever.

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Re: Gift Cards: I think they are like any other kind of gift. I have gotten gift cards that made me happy (like Home Depot) and I've gotten some that felt like a burden (like one for a stay at a B and B -- quite generous, but I have very young kids and that's not really the sort of vacation we like to do, considering child care, etc.).

My husband, on the other hand, thinks retail gift cards (like Trader Joe's) are way too impersonal, and he prefers restaurant gift cards as gifts.

To each his or her own! You just aren't going to please everyone all the time.

Terri Sapienza: All true. Thanks for writing in.

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Store gift wrap: I bought one of those Rubbermaid storage tubes made for gift wrap, good price at Target and Walmart. It holds half a dozen rolls and I can put what I salvage and save, rolled up in there too.

Jura Koncius: I have one of those too and it's great.

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Writing paper/note cards: We needed thank-you cards after a funeral and an Eagle Scout ceremony. All we found were specific to weddings and babies (not what we needed). Even Trader Joe's were too frilly. Is there a store that carries a range of note cards for other occasions than weddings and babies?

Jana Svrzo: Paper Source carries a wide variety of note cards which are mostly non-occasion specific. Also we have a whole collection of different colored papers, cards and envelopes that you can use to make your own set of cards!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Does anyone see the irony that people are worried about wrapping paper being wasteful and not "green," yet the glut of gifts that people buy every year, most of which are not needed, is far more wasteful in all the packaging and pollution that is generated in manufacturing and shipping them than the wrapping paper itself?

Christmas as a whole is probably the most un-green holiday of them all when you throw in all the wasted electricity used in lights, and all the plastic that is manufactured for low quality, disposable decorations year after year after year.

Bah Humbug

Jura Koncius: The Bah Humbug opinion.

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Alexandria, Va.: yeah Clifton, and if you were so eco-conscious then you'd know by purchasing gift cards you're filling up landfills with billions of small pieces of plastic that get used once and will never break down. Many of those small pieces of plastic that don't end up in the landfill tend to find their way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Why is the world's biggest landfill in the Pacific Ocean?

Jura Koncius: Hmmmm

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Ellicott City, Md.: RE: where to keep/do your wrapping Costco had this awesome item this year that was a long plastic box (like a Rubbermaid underbed storage box), but it had built in legs that flipped out, and voila! You had your own wrapping/crafting table. It had sections inside for different length paper rolls, a pop-out supply kit that hooked on to the edge for ribbons and tape, and a lid on the top for storing delicate items like tissue paper. It is easily portable and just great! I also hide my "Santa" paper (kids get a special kind of paper from Santa and different kind from us) in a garment bag. It fits perfectly, hangs in my closet, and the kids never think to look in it!

Terri Sapienza: Wow. That's sounds perfect. I might have to make trip to Costco soon.

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Eventually: I'll make some velvet sacks from scraps that can be tied with ribbon and reused. I have a few (came with cologne? Liquor?) that I'm starting out with.

Jura Koncius: Good.

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Pumpkins: We already got rid of ours -- it was starting to look like a wizened old man without dentures. Not what I want to see at my front door.

I really wish the retail industry would not put up Christmas stuff so soon. I was in Kohl's a couple of weeks ago and they were already playing Christmas music. It just ruins it.

Jura Koncius: Silver Spring had their wreaths up early last week...

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Anonymous: I actually love love love using brown paper bags to wrap presents (bottom cut out, into a flat square). Not only are they reused, but then I use pretty ribbon, buttons, cute tags, metallic markers, etc., to jazz it up. The decorations stand out against the plain brown paper, and it looks kind of rough but refined.

Jura Koncius: Rough but refined.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband's relatives do a Secret Santa type gift exchange . . . but everyone puts their "order" in via an e-mail, for things they would like, and I mean the exact things (size, color, etc.) Personally, I find it tacky. You don't ever put your order in for a gift, right? But what to do?

Jura Koncius: Aren't relatives annoying?

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Re: I feel like I'm just receiving cash: Cash is so much more convenient. It doesn't force you to spend the money at one place and is much less likely to get lost. If you don't have the time to come up with something thoughtful, then cash is preferable.

Terri Sapienza: I disagree, especially for the holidays. The thought behind a gift is part of the gift itself.

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My mom and aunt have been reusing the same, awful gift tag from the 70s every year.: LOVE IT! I had a funny ugly 'corsage' of plastic mistletoe gift topper that was passed around my family for years! Some new in-law didn't realize and it's gone now.

Jura Koncius: In-laws!!!

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Terri Sapienza: Wow, that went by quickly. Thanks for joining us and for your comments and suggestions. And, thanks, Jana, for all of your guidance on paper and gift wrapping. Chat with you guys next week.

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You may also browse an archive of previous Home Front discussions.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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