Tag Archives: gifts

Homemade Christmas Gifts 2013

Our homemade gifts for friends and family this Christmas.
DIY Garden Fork Labels
Forked Herb Garden Labels – really easy to make and they look cool. The hardest part was finding enough corks and writing the labels (I hope they don’t smudge in the rain).

Making Body Butter Whipping the Body Butter DIY Organic Body Butter
Organic Body Butter – There’s a store in Vancouver, The Soap Dispensary, that sells bulk oils and butters. I roughly followed the recipe here, using some different ingredients but keeping a 3-1 solid to liquid ratio.

DIY Duct Tape Wallet DIY Duct Tape Bows
Duct Tape Wallet and Bows – Emily made these for my cousin and his family.

Snow Globe Diorama DIY Soap Snow Globe DIY Painting
Soap Snow Globe – Another Emily creation. She turned a jar into a snow globe with soap, glitter, and plastic figurines. She also made a geometric painting.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

My homemade gift exchange presents turned out well this year.

Finished Advent Calendar
I made a wooden advent calendar that doubles as a picture frame for my friend Christina. I found an image online for inspiration, and then figured out how to make it myself. I borrowed a mitre saw from the Vancouver Tool Library and it made quick work of the cutting, but I still hand to nail all the little pieces together by hand. There was probably an easier way. I also made all the boxes (with Emily’s help) by cutting and folding pieces of paper. More tedious work, but it looked sharp when done.

Battering Ram Bike Dining Room Work Bench Power Tools Assembling the Advent Calendar Advent Calendar Frame Advent Calendar with Boxes

For my cousin, I made a camping stool following the instructions on Design Sponge. It was relatively easy and quick to make. The first time I sat on it the wood and bolts creaked so loudly that I was sure it would snap, but it did hold my weight. Emily made a combination apron/tool belt for my Home Maker father with a matching bandana for Hanna – a creative and handy gift.
DIY Camping Stool Homemaker Apron/Tool Belt

Home-made Christmas Gifts

Home-made gifts are becoming a common Christmas tradition for me – my family, my friends, and Emily’s family have all independently decided to replace ‘gift giving’ with ‘gift making’. I think it’s a positive change. I really don’t like giving and receiving more ‘stuff’, but unfortunately home-made gifts expose my limited craftiness and imagination.

This year I managed to find a few projects that even I could handle. I’m happy with how all of them turned out, but in every case there were lessons I learned and things I would change if I had to make them again.

Giant Jenga
You Take a Board from the Middle Giant Jenga
I’ve seen people playing Giant Jenga at Kits Beach, and thought it would be a fun game to make. I couldn’t find any instructions online, so I had to make it up myself. After I created a design, it was a pretty easy project to do. I just cut a lot of wood (I borrowed a circular saw) and then sanded down all the edges – time consuming, but easy.

The design I chose was using 2×3’s cut long enough so that 4-wide they formed a square (I cut each piece 265mm long). It looks good, but it’s too stable. With 4 pieces per level, you only ever remove one or two, so there are always at least 2 blocks keeping it steady – it would have been better with 3 per level. I would also cut down on the the total number of pieces. My Giant Jenga had 72 pieces over 18 levels, which means the starting tower was 3 feet tall. It looks impressive, but becomes almost dangerous as it grows (and with a stable 4-piece base it really grows). It is also really heavy and hard to transport.

If I had to do it again, I would use 2×4’s and put 3 blocks per level (with each piece 275mm long), and made it shorter. With six 8-foot 2×4’s you could cut 48 blocks, enough for a tower 16 rows high.

Bottle Lights
Bottle Lights Bottle Drilling
I stole this idea from Christina, and used the directions on this site. Following Christina’s advice, I made sure I bought LED lights that wouldn’t get hot. I chose a green Perrier bottle that had a nice shape to it, and then used a glass bit to drill a hole in the corner, then stuffed my lights in. The end result was an impressive looking Christmas ornament, with minimal craftiness required.

If I had to do it again, I would use multi-coloured lights. I chose white LEDs because I thought the dark green glass would obscure any colours, but the LEDs really shone through. I would also make the hole a little bit bigger. You need space to jam a light bulb, plus 6 wires (3 heading in each direction). I had a tough time jamming all the lights in.

Chocolate Covered Fruit
Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit Gift of Chocolate Covered Fruit
I stole this idea from Taryn. I dipped different dried fruits into chocolate, and then cooled them in the freezer. They were surprisingly tasty. Dried mango, apple, pineapple, apricots, bananas, and candied ginger really worked well.

The only mistake I made was to use unsweetened, 100% cacao baking chocolate. It was too bitter and I needed to add sugar. Next time I would use a bitter-sweet chocolate.

West-Coast Hippie Granola
West Coast Hippie Granola
When you’re scrambling for ideas, nothing is more effective then food. I’ve made this granola recipe (from Momentum magazine) before, and really liked it.

Infused Oils
Infused Oils
Emily had the idea of infusing oils for some of our friends. We found some nice jars and infused canola oil with chipotle peppers, ancho chillies, and rosemary. The pepper ones turned out well, but the rosemary started to mold after a few weeks. Luckily we hadn’t given it away as a gift yet.