A Chicago dad’s guide to wrapping (and unwrapping) the perfect gifts

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter Viva, who will gladly leave the twist ties and decals to Dad.

Choosing the perfect gift is plenty hard, but some of the biggest challenges come on the workmanlike ends of the process — packaging those gifts to give away, and then unboxing and assembling the gifts your children are given. Santa has elves to get his shipments ready, but where is your dwarven workforce when it’s time to tuck the wrapping on the corner of an oddly shaped box or to remove the copious number of twist ties keeping a toy bound to its package? 

Here are my tips for both getting gifts ready to give and for getting them unboxed, up and running. And if you’re a Chicagoan reading this, I’ve got some specific places in the Edgewater/Andersonville/Rogers Park area that can help you out.

Start with a good gift

Unless you’ve been given a specific wish to fulfill, subverting expectations by staying out of the big box stores is usually a good choice. Avoid the plastic monstrosities available to everyone in the violence fetishizing boy aisle and the appearance-obsessed girl aisles of the Targets and Toys ‘R’ Us stores of the world. The added appeal is that many smaller scale stores will gift wrap for you!  

Toys Et Cetera in Andersonville has shelves full of goodies that tend more towards the Melissa & Doug/Kidcraft vein of well-made and tasteful toys — and they’ll wrap the on site! (And, trust me, they do a much better job than the ball of paper and tape or the hastily stuffed gift bag you’ll try to do yourself.)

Toys Et Cetera – 5311 N Clark St.

And if it’s a teen or adult you’re shopping for, sprinkle their yuletide with some hipster whimsy by getting them art, home goods, records and more at shop/gallery Transistor. You’ll look cooler for it, they’ll be cooler for it — and, hell, they’ll like these gifts so much you can skip the wrapping.

Transistor – 5224 N Clark St.

Add-ons maketh the gift

Oh, and you know what REALLY puts the finishing touch on a gift … another, smaller gift! Dressing up a gift with a button, stickers, soaps, bric-a-brac, magnets, art objects or books can really make it all a deluxe package and show you for the generous sophisticate you are. I’ve got a one stop/two opportunity shopping trip for you to Loyola where you’ll find ChiTown Magpie and Third Coast Comics right next door to one another. Magpie has all kinds of Chicago oriented gifts perfect for curious out-of-towners or proud locals (including everything you could want the cool Chicago flag made into). And for young readers or fans of genre fiction and geekery, Third Coast has comics and graphic novels and a proprietor who will gladly suggest things appropriate to the givee’s taste in fiction.

ChiTown Magpie – 6443 N Sheridan Rd.

Third Coast Comics – 6443 N Sheridan Rd.

It’s not what’s inside that counts

Okay, if you couldn’t get the gift wrapped in the store, at least put it in extra cool paper, an extra cool box or a frame, and put a handmade local card on it. You can find all that packaging accoutrement (and plenty of great gifts, to boot) at Foursided. Many of the cards here are so cool the gift will be an afterthought. So swing for the fences and win the gift giving game before the present is even opened.

Foursided – 5061 N Clark St.

Batteries not included

Okay, here comes the unwrapping. Christmas Day, you’ll have toys to wrestle out of their byzantine packaging and get up and running into booping, beeping fun. To prevent tears from both the kids and from you, I highly recommend you arm yourself ahead of time with:Batteries – and lots of them, particularly AA and AAA.Screwdrivers – mostly small phillips head.Wire Snips! – this will save you a LOT of time in twist tie purgatory. (Everything is twist tied now so the toys can be on display through the window of the package … box art doesn’t carry the weight it did in the ‘80s.)

So, BEFORE Christmas – head to your local hardware store, such as Kim’s Hardware in Edgewater, a Mom and Pop where a friendly associate will take you right where you need to be, saving you the humiliation and frustration of wandering unnoticed in a Home Depot ‘til the new year.

Kim’s Hardware – 6050 N Broadway 

And, to make the time go more pleasantly

You need the perfect wine pairing for your long night wrapping and your long day unwrapping! It’s amazing what the right adult beverage will do to make gift prep and toy assemblage into a relaxing pleasure. It’s Christmas! It’s toys! Why stress? Lean into the whole affair and accompany it with wine. 

You will find nothing but enjoyable wines at reasonable price points and all the guidance you need at Independent Spirits on Broadway. They carry craft spirits and craft beers as well as their ingeniously curated wine selection. Tell them what you enjoy and what you’d like to spend and you can’t go wrong here. It’s the kind of wine store you’ll want to just hang out in for a bit — a grotto of taste and charm.  

My pick for an easy wine to quaff whilst wrapping L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls, building Barbie Dreamhouses or cutting the twist ties off of Voltron is a 2011 Cantina della Volta Lambrusco. This spumante (foaming sparkling) Modenese wine will make your season bright, and do so at only $18 a bottle.

Independent Spirits – 5947 N Broadway

To review: get tasteful and/or whimsical gifts and get them wrapped for you if possible. Get handsome, preferably local cards and wrapping. Add a small gift to the gift to make the package complete. Load up on batteries and tools before Christmas Day, and make sure you’ve got a user-friendly wine on hand for the wrapping and unwrapping process. Follow my lead and you’ll not only get plenty of thanks from the folks on your list, you’ll have a much more relaxed and pleasurable Dec. 24 and 25 than you might have otherwise. 

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