Mix it all with a good portion of holiday spirit and creativity and you have all you need to make those Black Friday deals sing under the Christmas tree.
National gift wrapping champion Rosie Sato drew "oos" and "ahs" from her students Saturday at the Los Angeles County Library in Carson as she led a pre-holiday workshop on how to wow your friends and family with packages so dazzling that they won't even care what's inside.
Hard to do?
Not at all, said the pint-sized retired banker from Gardena who was crowned the 2011 "Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper" in a national gift-wrapping contest sponsored by 3M.
All you need is some quality wrapping paper, good ribbon -- and some fun, colorful embellishments picked up at the local craft store.
Really, she said. It only looks intimidating.
An eye for detail, however, probably also helps.
"I'm kind of a perfectionist," said Sato, 60, who discovered her flare for color and all things gift-wrap in the 1970s when she was planning a baby shower for a friend. She could have hardly guessed that years later she'd be in New York's Rockefeller Center competing with top professional and amateur gift wrappers from around the country.
The final exam? Wrapping a backyard plastic play set -- with two slides -- in 18 minutes.
This year, Sato's sharing her expertise at free library workshops.
"This is so easy," she told about 25 participants in the Carson workshop as she demonstrated a small shoestring bow that she calls a "loopy-loop."
Among her best tips: Hit the after-Christmas sales at Michael's or other craft stores to gather up supplies for next year; use your imagination and make use of baby's breath, floral touches, pearls, feathers, lace trim and other embellishments to dress up almost any package; and keep the basics simple.
Start with a tightly wrapped package using a good pliable ("forgiving") ribbon.
"Make sure you have the package wrapped nice and tight. Otherwise, the rest is going to look sloppy," Sato said.
So fold those edges carefully, make the corners military precise and be sure the seams are evenly centered.
"A lot of times it's those little touches that make a big difference," she said.
She typically picks a color theme each year -- this year Sato is using used a heavy stock ivory wrapping paper with swaths of wide green fabric ribbon.
From there, her packages throughout the year can be decked out using different colored add-ons for birthdays, Christmas, Easter or Valentine's Day.
Internet sites like Pinterest can help with color ideas, she told her students.
Two-sided tape and a cutting tool rather than scissors are great to have on hand, she said. But her favorite tool?
"Hot glue is my best friend when I'm gift wrapping," she said.
So how painful is it to watch people rip open her packages on Christmas morning?
Let's just say she definitely stays busy gathering up the left-overs for future use.
One of her friends saved all of Sato's bows to use on her Christmas trees trees -- until a new family dog ate her growing collection. Sato's now putting a few extra hand-crafted bows on her friend's packages so she can start saving some up again.
If you missed the Carson workshop, Sato will be sharing her secrets again from 3-5 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Gardena Mayme Dear Library, 1731 W. Gardena Blvd., Gardena.
That session will include an opportunity to purchase some wrapping materials and a hands-on session at the end of the demonstration in which participants can bring gifts to wrap onsite.
And from the looks of it, no challenge -- even a backyard play set -- seems too big for Sato.