Church on Sunday is something that is foreign to me. My brother and I were raised by an Irish-Catholic Mother who made certain we received First Communion and taught us the importance of becoming confirmed in the church, yet attending a Sunday morning mass was out of the question. We went to All Saints Catholic Church located here in this County Seat of Holdrege, Nebraska…



Saturday nights in our family were reserved for Mass. Mom, Jeff, and I would slip in through the South side door and participate in the service. As a result, I always felt like we were crashing a very conservative party.

As I drove through DoHo (Downtown Holdrege) this past Sunday I was surprised at what I saw. There was a steady stream of Methodists and Lutherans filing into their respective churches but what I found odd was the casual attire of the patrons. Men in cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirts. Young girls in mid drift t-shirts. Boys with uncombed hair were wearing clothes that looked like they were fresh out of a gym bag. My brother and I were raised to believe that proper attire was expected in certain situations.

When did America become so casual? When did men stop wearing pants to church?
When did we stop writing thank you notes? Where has eye contact gone? When did customer service start to die? When was our “Sunday Best” replaced by a wardrobe by “Tommy Bahama”? We are fortunate not to live in a third world country so why does comfort outweigh our show of respect?

Perhaps we all need to re-boot and remind ourselves of what is important. Rarely…it’s not about ourselves.

I recently went to my friend’s new home and wanted to take her something appropriate for this milestone in her life. Respecting tradition and etiquette, I looked to the Master. 

A gift for your host or hostess is a lovely way to thank them for their hospitality and is always appreciated. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; simply consider the nature of the occasion and local custom when making your choice. In some parts of the country, a hostess gift is considered obligatory, while in other places a gift is brought only on special occasions. If it’s the first time you’re visiting someone’s home, then it’s a very nice gesture to bring a small gift. If you have a few extra minutes to wrap it, even if you only use tissue or a decorative bag, it adds to the gesture”.

–Emily Post

I wanted to give her a little housewarming gift and immediately thought of a FANTASTIC bottle of wine. My friends make the BEST wine I have ever had and for that reason I couldn’t think of a better hostess gift. Their company is Black Sheep Finds and this particular bottle was a 2K6 Cabernet Sauvignon called, “Genuine Risk” from the Santa Ynez Valley.

Risk in Nest2

Sometimes I buy wine like I buy my books; it all depends on which label or cover catches my eye. A vintage icon of a gentleman riding a red bicycle backwards…classic.

I always find that the options available for wine bottle wrapping are tired and usually not geared toward gift givers under the age of sixty. I don’t want to take a beautiful bottle of wine and put it in a boring store bought bag. I always try to come up with creative ways to present a bottle of wine so the gift is both personal and memorable. For my friend, the inspiration for wrapping his bottle of wine came from the simple paper bag that the wine was put in upon purchase.

I cut the bag open down one side so it would lay flat and I could start with a blank canvas. I knew I wanted to make a label that would temporarily cover the actual wine label and also allow me to write a personal message for her. I cut out a few butterfly shapes from the same paper to give the look an interesting 3-D effect.

butterflies2 (2)


butterflies (2)

After measuring to make sure the label would go around the entire bottle, I finished one end with a simple detail to jazz it up a bit.

wine label birdseye

I glued the ends of the label together, making sure it’s tight enough so it won’t easily slip off and not to glue it to the bottle itself. This way, it’s simple for the receiver of the wine to remove the label without damaging the actual wine label. I wrote a personal note on the label…

wine label message

…and attached some paper butterflies to add some drama. 

wine bottle overview

wine bottle overview3

I love that the custom label is a way to remember a special occasion and to also give your host, friend or family member something that could be a conversation piece when they pull out that particular bottle of wine. It’s fun, unique and requires nothing more than ten minutes and the plain paper bag the wine came in. 

I think whenever you take a moment to do something personal for someone, it’s a little extra way of saying how much they mean to you. It could be a hand written letter out of the blue, a surprise bouquet of flowers or in this case, a personal wine label.

Life can still be casual without loosing the importance of etiquette.


Scott Rager

Robert Scott Rager is a Nebraska native who returned home to start a boutique business called "County Seat Living". His personal goal for "County Seat" is to translate the lifestyle design he was creating in Los Angeles for the past twelve years and apply it to the sensibility of the Great Plains. Whether he's writing about decorating, homemade ice cream, floral creations, event planning or product design, he wants the personality and style of Nebraska to shine bright.