How to Make an Impression During the Holidays

How to Make an Impression During the Holidays

Bethesda Fine Stationary owner says holiday cards, wrapping and paper invitations will never go out of style

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Photo by Lisa Helfert

Gretchen Gordon, owner of Bethesda Fine Stationery, thinks that holiday cards, wrapping and invitations made of paper—not pixels—will never go out of style. “There’s something about sticking a good-looking party card on a bulletin board,” says Gordon. “It makes you really anticipate the event.” We talked with Gordon about how to make an impression during the holidays, whether it’s with a snail-mailed missive or a stylishly wrapped gift.

What’s changed when it comes to holiday cards?

People tend to send them really late. We do a lot of New Year’s cards. But the upside is when people send them late, I think they feel guilty and you’ll get a letter or long note.

What about photos on cards—are they a do or a don’t?

A big do—people in your life like to know how you’re doing, what your kids look like.

Any advice for getting a good photo for a card?

I like a shot taken during a trip, or maybe when your family is at the beach. You want people together and happy. If you can’t get the whole family in one frame, you can do a collage of photos. And it doesn’t have to be of only people—you could use an image of your new house, or heck, your new boat.

What mistakes do people make when taking their holiday photo?

Don’t shoot the kids when they’re hot and tired, and don’t come in with a blurry photo. Be careful about group shots—sometimes you get so many people that it’s hard to tell who the card is from.

Any other tips on holiday cards?

Sign your cards—no one wants to feel like they’re part of a mass mailing.

How can you make party invites stand out?

I like to use interesting language—at the holidays, things like “merriment” can be fun. And then tie what your invite looks like into the décor and theme of the party.

Your store also sells a lot of gift wrap. Any tips on making presents look special?

There is so much beautiful paper out there now; you don’t have to use something with Santa on it. You can use foils or metallic all year round, and they look really rich. You can also just say holiday via the bow or the card; woodland things like deer and printed ribbons are great this time of year.

Merry and Bright

Forget Santa and snowmen—these wrapping accessories and invitations, all available locally, are both tasteful and memorable



Glittery press-on bows add a touch of bling to packages. ($7 for four; The Container Store, Rockville,

Lack wrapping skills? Pop a present into a fancy box. (boxes, $3.95-$13.95, bow, $4; Paper Source, Bethesda, 301-215-9141,

Chevy Chase’s Mariko Iwata uses an old-fashioned letterpress to produce greeting cards for her Miks Letterpress + line. ($15 for a box of 6;

Sugar Paper’s red-and-white wrapping paper is reversible. ($19.50 per roll; Bethesda Fine Stationery, Bethesda, 301-913-5473,

A custom-printed cookie swap invite from Chevy Chase, D.C.’s ByHand Studio boasts cheeky, retro style. ($2.50 each; 202-491-4729,


Photo by Heather Fuentes

A Health Club for Your Skin

If you wanted toned biceps or six-pack abs, you’d probably sign up for a gym membership. You can give your skin a similar workout at downtown Bethesda’s Blush Med Skincare, which owner Arleen Lamba opened three years ago.

Lamba and her staff offer laser treatments, facials and other procedures via memberships ($59-$150 a month). Customers come in once a month for beauty tune-ups at prices that are significantly cheaper than those at a traditional dermatologist’s office or med spa. Members get one treatment a month and discounts on additional services.

Lamba, an anesthesiologist, became interested in skin care when she suffered from stress-related breakouts during medical school. She treats customers by addressing not only their skin, but their lifestyles and personal goals. “When new clients come in, we evaluate what’s going on with their complexions and their lives, and what they’d like to achieve,” says Lamba. She is the only doctor on staff, which also includes aestheticians and massage therapists.

During their first session at Blush, newbies get a prescription of sorts, which includes suggested treatments and recommendations for products. That might mean microdermabrasion one month or light therapy the next.

Blush makes its own custom serums and creams using herbal ingredients—for example, breakout-battling turmeric and tea tree oil or moisture-boosting algae. “I found it strange that you can customize frozen yogurt, but not skin care,” says Lamba. Blush also carries sunscreens, sheet masks and other potions by small-label beauty brands.

Treatments take place in serene rooms with silvery floors, sleek white cabinets and sea-glass blue walls. “Blue is so calming, and I think it helps people relax, which is part of what they’re here to do,” says Lamba.

Clearly, lots of people are dropping by to tune up and unplug: The original Blush is so busy that Lamba opened a second location in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood in September.

4915 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 877-632-5874,


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