Home made holidays


I wrote an opinion piece for CNN about making gifts for the holidays.

For Christmas this year, I'm giving out homemade jars of sauerkraut (it costs me 50 cents a gallon and takes all of 15 minutes to shred the cabbage, mix in the salt and let it develop in a crock for a week), hand-whittled wooden spoons (these take a few hours each to make, but the therapeutic value of whittling on the porch is inestimable) and a couple of cigar box guitars I made. The other staffers at Make (and at our sister publication, Craftzine.com) have been busy elves this season as well. Here's a short list of the things they're making:

• Baby pictures mounted in old picture frames purchased at thrift stores for less than a dollar and painted a gold or silver metallic.

Snow globes made from recycled glass jars and filled with little trinkets like Army men, plastic trees and foxes.

• A miniature remote-controlled submarine, made out of plastic plumbing pipes, with an underwater video camera attached to it to study ocean life in the San Francisco Bay.

• A cat toy that has an electronic circuit that senses when it is being played with and sends a Twitter message to its owner.

• An assortment of slippers, scarves and plush toy squid.

Making merry with homemade gifts (Shown here: Shawn and Arlo Connally's snow globes)


  1. The snow globe project makes me wish I had a picture of the ornament I made for my mom in kindergarten. It was a tuna fish can with both sides cut out, macaroni glued to the outside of it, then spray painted gold, then sprayed with shellac. The inside was white styrofoam, white cotton balls, a little plastic deer and a little pine tree. Sounds like the corniest thing in the world but she still has it and hangs it every year. Looks almost as good 37 years later as the year I made it.

  2. I’m making fudge on Christmas Eve for use as presents. It isn’t a fancy recipe; one of those condensed milk concoctions. But if stir in the right stuff and package it right, it becomes quite a fancy item.

    * * *

    I want to try making ‘kraut next year. I need to find the proper crock, though.

  3. Hooray for handmade gifts, they are delightful to make, give and receive (provided you respect the tastes of the giftee- one person’s cool idea could be another’s regretsy.com fodder).

    This year, in addition to some store-bought gifts, I’m sewing a bunch of fleece beanies, and the SO is getting a set of 11×14 framed art photos; the frames were inexpensive and I only had to buy one ink cartridge. :)

  4. Reminds me of a sign that I saw on someone’s front door: “I love giving home made presents. Which one of the kids do you want?”

  5. As the great Dave Barry wrote:

    “…you may have decided that, this year, you’re going to celebrate it the old-fashioned way, with your family sitting around stringing cranberries and exchanging humble, handmade gifts, like on The Waltons. Well, you can forget it. If everybody pulled that kind of subversive stunt, the economy would collapse overnight. The government would have to intervene: It would form a cabinet-level Department of Holiday Gift-Giving, which would spend billions and billions of tax dollars to buy Barbie dolls and electronic games, which it would drop on the populace from Air Force jets, killing and maiming thousands. So, for the good of the nation, you should go along with the Holiday Program. This means you should get a large sum of money and go to a mall.”

  6. I’m making gingerbread biscuits tonight. I have cutters shaped as a dinosaur, rhinoceros, pig, star, butterfly, among others. I make royal icing and stick on m$ms!

  7. As a toy store owner, I cannot be in favor of such initiatives. Dave Berry is actually alittle bit right about that :) However, I wish I was on the list for some of that sauerkraut! Yum!

  8. Eight and half pounds of chocolates and twenty pounds of granola from us this year. The bad news for our apartment was having to eat the tragic failures of chocolate molds gone awry and excess granola. Yay holidays!

  9. this year, i’m cooking a 5L batch of orange jam. everyone gets a quart size jar with a custom made sticker on it. fun all arround and no one is offended or sad ’cause they didn’t get what they wanted.

  10. This year I’ve made:

    – some sun jars sort of like these but different;

    – a clock by inserting clock guts through an original of the world’s greatest album cover (the album itself was too horribly damaged to play anymore);

    – a terrarium in a lightbulb, which combines this and a modification of this; and

    – finally, for my GF, a wall clock that’s inspired by and very loosely based upon this one.

    I’ll finish the last of them tonight. I will be very glad to be done.

  11. I made homemade dog biscuits for a girlfriend at work and am making glitter covered initials for my 13 year old nieces.

  12. My mother makes chocolates in around 12 different flavours. She makes water and cream fondants and dips them in cooking chocolate (much easier to use than real chocolate – and cheaper.) She made 20kgs this year, that’s around 40lbs for you Americans.

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