How to Wrap a Present Like a Pro
You may have already finished your holiday gift buying, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. A gift isn’t ready to be presented until it is properly wrapped, and don’t think you can get away with a sloppy job. If you care enough about someone to buy them a gift, it had better be wrapped nicely.
Here’s the WIRED guide to wrapping most rectangular boxes. If your present isn’t a rectangular box, find one to put it in (it’ll make your life a lot easier). Or if your gift is small, find a decorative gift bag and some colored tissue paper (to hide the present from snoopers). If you do have a box for your present, here’s what you’ll need:
• Your present
• Gift wrap
• A ruler
• A pencil
• Double-sided tape
• Optional ribbon or gift tag
Make Some Measurements
Find a large flat surface and unravel your wrapping paper. Place your box on the wrapping paper with the side that has the largest area face-down. To check to see if you have enough paper, roll your box and make sure that the paper is longer than the total of each side of the box by two to three inches. You can use the ruler if the box is too heavy to roll, just total up four sides of the box and see if the paper is longer than that. The ruler may also come in handy as a straight edge for folding and cutting. Mark the gift wrap with your pencil so you know where to cut. Next, pull up the other edges of the paper to see if they can cover the box’s height. Once you are sure that the paper can cover all sides of the box and you have a few inches of wiggle room, cut the paper. Gift Stylist Corinna vanGerwen suggests pulling the wrapping paper while you cut for straighter lines. Nothing says “I wrapped this present in 5 seconds on Christmas Eve” like messy scissor work.
Using double-sided tape is an easy way to make your gift wrapping look professional. By hiding the tape from view, gifts look much cleaner. Center the box in the middle of the wrapping paper with the largest side face-down. Lift up one edge of the paper and make sure it can cover one of the vertical sides of the box. If your box is rectangular, and not a cube, this side should be one of the longer sides, and not the smaller end. Lift up the edge of the paper and wrap it around the side so that a few centimeters of extra paper makes it onto the top of the box. Then tape the paper down.
Next, bring the opposite side of the paper over and around the box until it meets the corner you just covered. Mark the paper where it meets the edge of the box, then fold the paper. The trick is to get the end with the folded paper to line up perfectly with the corner of the box you previously covered. By lining up the edge of the paper with the edge of the box, you hide your creases, and your wrapping job will look super professional.
Cover the Ends
At this point, your gift should be in a perfect rectangular tube; now its time to cover the ends. Pick an end of the box and tuck the wrapping paper towards the middle of the uncovered side. Put some pressure on the top of the box so it doesn’t slide, then make a crease. Repeat with the other side of wrapping paper. By now, you should have covered the corners of the box and have a flap of wrapping paper at the top and bottom of the present. Pick a flap and fold it down. If your flap is longer than the height of the box, you will want to trim off a bit of it before you tape it down. Next pull the other flap and fold it over the flap you just taped. If this flap is to long, fold the tip so that the crease lines up perfectly with the edge of the box (just like you did with the sides). If you use thick wrapping paper and the edges wont stay down, try using a little bit of glue. When the end of the box is wrapped up and looks like an envelop, repeat the folding process for the other end of the box.
No more sides of your present should be visible. Use your thumb and pointer finger to pinch the edges of the box to create sharp corners. Then add your ribbon or gift tag. Your gift should be presentable to your loved ones or look good under a Christmas tree. If you’d like a visual demonstration on how to wrap other shapes, watch Corinna vanGerwen’s gift wrapping video. For more general tips, check out her blog.
There’s nothing inexpensive about the holidays. You spend money on gifts, travel, parties, food, decorations—but the cost you likely feel most comes in the form of your energy bill. Between the light displays, heating, and the increase in time spent indoors, the expense is going to hurt a little more this month, and probably next. But there are a few things you can do in order to soften the blow.
Learn How Much You’re Spending
Waaaaaay back in 2012, we offered a thorough, scientific guide to finding out how much you spent on Christmas lights. If you don’t want to pick up a device that reads how much power your bulbs are using, though, there are a few websites that are happy to help you calculate the cost. You’ll need to know how many lights you have and their wattage (so hold on to those boxes), but then you just need to enter the corresponding numbers to get an estimate of how much you’re going to spend. Is that number looking a little high? Lose a string or two, or keep the tree or outdoor display turned off a few nights a week—or maybe it’s time to switch bulbs.
If you’re still using (let’s call them “retro”) incandescent Christmas lights, it’s definitely time for an upgrade. LED lights are more energy-efficient, so looks for those, as well as anything with the Energy Star logo slapped on it. Here’s the thing: If this is the year you’re switching to newer bulbs, buying whole setup will actually cost more than the savings you’d see on your electricity bill next month. LED bulbs are more costly than incandescents, too. But you’ll eventually reap the rewards—as long as you want to keep the holiday spirit going, you’ll be saving money. And next year, and the year after that. LEDs last longer, as well, so consider upgrading this year with the knowledge that you may very well not have to buy another set of lights for a decade.
Burst the Inflated Bubble
The worst thing you could do this holiday season, energy bill-wise, is decorate your yard with inflatable, air-blown, or injection-molded plastic critters—those Santas, penguins, reindeer, and snowmen. First, because they are terrible (sorry, it’s true). Second, because they are an electricity sinkhole. Leaving those things on constantly will deflate your bank account, as well as the hearts and minds of passersby.
Lower Your Heating Costs (Thermo)Stat
If you are in a position to do so, installing a Nest Thermostat or other connected heating and air-conditioning controller is a great way to monitor energy usage, find ways to save, and of course, control the thermostat from anywhere. The house is holding steady at 70 degrees while you’re sitting in your office? Not a problem, just tap an app and bring it back down to 62 until you get home.
If you already have such a device, or if a Nest won’t work in your home, there are some other tricks you can do. Secure cracks under your doors and windows, for starters: A draft guard can keep cold air out and hot air in. Whoever is the “dad” of your home will no longer scream about heating up the whole damn neighborhood, dagnabbit! You can also rely less on your home’s central heating and use a portable heater. The Sweethome has an excellent roundup of the safest and most energy-efficient options. If you have a fireplace, you should be using that super cozy utility to heat up a room—and if you aren’t, stop letting cold air in (and warm air out) by using a balloon draft plug. Just remember to remove it when you light a fire.
Whether you need to get water out of a fish tank or gas out of a car, it’s useful to know how to siphon liquids.
Siphoning is simple physics. Contrary to what many assume, a siphon does not rely on atmospheric pressure (good news should you ever need to siphon gas from your spaceship) but rather gravity (a potential problem for the spaceship scenario). Due to the cohesive forces at work in a column of liquid, once you start a siphon, it’ll keep going on its own. Just make sure to cut it off when the desired volume has been transferred.
What You’ll Need
To start, you’ll need the source of liquid, a place for the liquid to go, and a tube or hose. A clear tube adds the fun element of being able to see the liquid as it is being transferred, but this isn’t mandatory.
In order for the siphon to work, the source liquid must be elevated above the container you’re trying to transfer it to. Remember, gravity is doing the work here.
Feed the hose into the source tank and put your secondary container on the ground. Next, you’ll need to get rid of the air in the tube by sucking out the fluid from the source tank. You can do this with your mouth, but this is a bad idea if you’re siphoning gas. A siphon pump will do a better job than your mouth, and it’ll eliminate the chance of ingesting something toxic. This simple device usually costs less than $10. To avoid air bubbles when sucking out the liquid, hold up your siphon tube vertically—this will give the bubbles a place to escape.
If you want to skip sucking altogether, submerge the entire hose in the source tank, then place your thumb firmly over the delivery end. While holding the delivery end of the hose closed, move it to the receiving vessel. Make sure the other end is still submerged, then remove your thumb. If you’ve done it right, the siphon will flow.
Letting it Flow
Once the air is out and the liquid has reached the end of the tube, you must prevent any air from getting back in. To do this, maintain suction and carefully crimp the hose or use your thumb as a stopper. Now drop the end of the hose into the other container and release. Liquid should start traveling from the source container to the new one.
Be sure to keep an eye on your source liquid and make sure the hose stays fully submerged, otherwise you’ll end up with bubbles.
Stopping the Siphon
When you need to stop, lift the new container and hose higher than your source container. Then, remove the hose and let the excess fluid in the hose drain back into the source. Or, if you’re draining something large like a fish tank or Jacuzzi, lift the hose out of the source.
Here’s the coolest social media trend since food photos: People have been using their smartphones to create 3D holograms, and the results are pretty eye-catching. See for yourself.
Part of the reason these holograms have caught on has to do with how easy they are to recreate. You’ll need a CD case, an x-acto knife, graph paper, tape, and a pen—then just follow these steps:
1) First, use the graph paper and pen to measure out a trapezoid that is one centimeter at the top, six centimeters on the bottom, and 3.5 centimeters at the sides.
2) Then using that trapezoid and the x-acto knife, cut out four identical trepezoids from the clear part of the CD case.
3) Create a pyramid by taping the 3.5cm sides together.
And then you’re done. If you got lost along the way, here’s a video tutorial. Once you’ve found the holographic video of your choosing off YouTube (like this jellyfish one), place your pyramid projector on your phone, turn off the lights, and enjoy the show.