Remember those crafts you made as a kid, or your kids made for you each year around the holidays? The macaroni tree ornaments and paper chain garlands, the finger paintings and construction paper cards that you gaze at nostalgically each year. Though their edges are tearing and the colour from them fading, they are some of our most cherished possessions and stir memories of cozy festive times together.
Whether this rings true or not, we all know how special a handmade gift can make you feel. Knowing someone cares enough for you to spend their most precious resource, time, on creating something with you in mind is far better than any amount of money spent. That said, once you’ve surpassed the age of 15 it’s probably time to step your handmade gifting game up from painted macaroni to something more useful. And today, we’re here with ideas to slay your handmade holidays!
Red Apron’s Handmade Holiday Guide
Over the years, we’ve chosen to Opt-Out of the holiday gift giving for various reasons. From financial stress to starting new traditions less focused on spending, our years of DIY gifting have given us plenty of tips and inspiration for creating a happy, homemade holiday with something for everyone. Enjoy!
The Gift of Time Together
1. Bake together. My Mother hosts a cookie baking party with her grandchildren each year. She looks forward to this day and it gives the kids, ranging in age from 7 to 30, a chance to interact with each other without any of their parents around.
2. Volunteer. Giving back to your community through volunteering feels great, allows for time spent together, and ensures our most vulnerable community members get to feel the love this holiday season. There are lots of opportunities in Ottawa to get involved in.
3. Host a Holiday Pot Luck. We love inviting our close friends, family and neighbours over on Boxing Day to share a meal together. We cook together, play music and board games, and embrace the togetherness of the holiday season.
1. Vanilla Extract
You will need one tall, slim, 8 to 10 oz glass bottle or jar (repurposed is best) and 7 vanilla bean pods. Slice open the beans and put them in the jar. Pour over at least 1 cup of vodka, bourbon, rum or brandy. Close the jar and shake. You can give this gift immediately, add a fancy label, and get creative when selecting the country of origin of the vanilla beans. What’s important is that the recipient not use it for 1-2 months, but shakes it occasionally. Aside from cooking with it, you can add a few drops to a smoothie, yogurt, coffee, and so much more.
2. Christmas Morning Muesli
Mix 5 cups of rolled grains (could be oats, flax, spelt, barley, whatever you like or a combination of them all) with the zest of 2 oranges or clementines, 1 cup of chopped nuts (pecans, pistachios, almonds, any nut will do), 1 cup of dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, cherries), 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder. Mix well and package in repurposed mason jars.
3. Rosemary Lemon Finishing Salt
To make a large batch, take 2 cups of sea salt, 3/4 cup of dried lemon zest, and 3/4 cup of dried rosemary. Combine all the ingredients and divide into small decorative jars (a small amount of salt goes a long way).
4. Spiced or Candied Nuts: Make a big batch of spiced nuts, let them cool completely and place in a nice jar tied with some ribbon. We often gift these nuts or the ones we sell at The Red Apron with a jar of preserves or fancy cherries as it makes for a nice cheese-board or snack plate accompaniment.
5. Seeded Sweet Potato Scones. These are one of our best-selling baked goods at the shop and we recently shared the coveted recipe with you. I’ve never seen anyone upset with a basket full of fresh baked scones to serve with dinner or as a snack over the holidays. Even better if you gift them with a fresh whipped jar of homemade butter.
6. Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. Same as above, no one in history has ever been disappointed to receive homemade cookies. This recipe for gluten free chocolate chip cookies is from Red Apron co-owner Robin Lavigne and when gifted alongside a bottle of local eggnog, they make a delicious gift.
7. Jars of Homemade Soup. We love the idea of making a few large batches of various soups and gifting them in large mason jars with homemade crackers. There is nothing like opening the freezer and seeing dinner waiting. We love this Apple-Butternut Squash Soup, Chicken Bone Broth, or a creamy Vegan Tomato Soup. Alternatively, you could put together some Soup Mix Jars in a few flavours and gift those.
8. Preserves. Whether entertaining, sharing meals with your family, or nourishing yourself, having some homemade preserves on hand makes most meals better. Our favourites to make are Christmas Chutney, Vanilla Bourbon Cherries, Clementine Jam, Homemade Ketchup (for all those delicious Tourtieres!), and Spiced Cranberry Jam.
9. Bath Salts. Cheap, easy to make and always appreciated, homemade bath products are fun to make with friends and offer the gift of relaxation. You can make these soothing salts in various scents using essential oils and ingredients.
10. DIY Spice Blends. We love gifting our kitchen savvy friends with a beautiful box of fragrant spice blends. It encourages creativity in the kitchen, introduces them to dishes and flavours they may not have tasted before, and offers an opportunity to spend time together cooking (which we are ALL for!).
With a little thought and time, holiday gifting can be so much more meaningful both to you and the lucky recipient of all your DIY goodies. Happy gift-making, happy holidays!