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Wrapping holiday gifts? Here are a few tips (from someone who needed them)

Apologies to the person who receives a specific pair of Jortra Boutique sandals this Christmas, the pair I gift wrapped at the Artegon Marketplace on Tuesday.

Apologies to the person who receives a specific pair of Jortra Boutique sandals this Christmas, the pair I gift-wrapped at the Artegon Marketplace last week.

Despite my better judgment, I opted not to put them in a box, a definitive way to make the task of wrapping them a bit easier. In fact, I threw caution to the wind by choosing to wrap them freestyle with some brown craft paper.

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The footwear was part of a line of holiday presents at the International Drive shopping destination that awaited my attempts to help last week, along with three glass snowmen; boomerangs; and bath and beauty products.

Ashley DiMarino, an Artegon Ambassador who helps with gift-wrapping services, has been wrapping her grandmother's Christmas gifts for years.

The 21-year-old senior at the University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management offered me some pointers after the fact, such as stacking items that are better wrapped together and doing a test run with the paper before taping anything into place.

What about a gift that's an odd shape? Don't even think about it.

"Anything round I stick in a bag," she said.

Artegon is not your traditional shopping destination. The renovated old Festival Bay Mall near the I-Drive outlets houses individual artisans who sell a variety of goods ranging from wild honey to handmade art to blown-glass decorations.

That means I had no real way of predicting what I would be wrapping that night.

Keeping with Artegon's homemade spirit, I was supplied brown craft paper, a container of colorful holiday bows and spools of orange ribbon, one of Artegon's signature colors.

Before I launch into all the ways I failed miserably at this task, let's highlight some of the positives.

Orlando Sentinel reporter Caitlin Dineen helped wrap Christmas gifts at Artegon Marketplace on December 8, 2015. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel) ORG XMIT: wrapping-first-person
Orlando Sentinel reporter Caitlin Dineen helped wrap Christmas gifts at Artegon Marketplace on December 8, 2015. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel) ORG XMIT: wrapping-first-person (Jacob Langston / Orlando Sentinel)

I'm pretty good at wrapping boxes and actually decent at wrapping anything with a hard corner to fold the paper around.

It also turns out my bow-tying abilities are also respectable. Dare I say, my forte, even. I used it as a way to make up for my subpar wrapping skills, hastily grabbing ribbon and turning it into the centerpiece of the gifts I wrapped.

I think I would have been able to better hide my questionable wrapping skills if I were using traditional holiday wrapping paper. Everything looks a little cuter when there are reindeer or glittery snowmen dancing around, right?

As that wasn't the case, let's dissect some of my, um, weaker spots. We should probably start with those sandals, which took more than 10 minutes to wrap. When I finished wrapping them individually, they had the shape of those sandwiches you can pick up at any gas station.

You know what I'm saying: the plastic triangle shape with two half-sandwiches in them.

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I knew I made the wrong choice, but DiMarino confirmed it.

"I would have used a box," she said after I secured the last piece of tape.

As some of you may recall, last year I spent one Sunday as a mall elf at Orlando Fashion Square.

I made a costume and spent nearly eight hours keeping Santa's basket of candy canes full, trying to soothe crying children and entertaining dogs long enough to pose for a quick photo.

Honestly, I expected this year's first-person experience to be easier — and in part it was.

I didn't have the same pressure to be the ever-cheerful Caitlin the Elf all while being part of one of the biggest secrets in a child's life.

That said, my brief shift wrapping holiday gifts cannot be described as an easy, breezy walk in the park either. Let's just say it was a good thing that gift-wrapping services at Artegon are free.

I wouldn't have paid me a dime.

cdineen@tribpub.com

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