How to Create a Meaningful Valentine's Day You'll Actually Want to Celebrate (No Cheesiness Allowed)
"See I'm all crooked feet, Saint Valentine" – Gregory Alan Isakov
Valentine's Day sometimes feels like a conspiracy. It's a holidays front loaded with expectations that are onerous, distracting and just waiting to be disappointed. And all the while — with you and your partner/spouse/significant other/whomever are running around trying to meet these expectations by spending money and time and creative thinking — it is supposed to be a chance to pause and really appreciate the most important person in your life. If that isn't a setup for a cruel joke, I don't know what is.
In a world of clichés, Valentine's Day is supposed to involve
If you, like me, were born between 1975 and 1990, your first exposure to the idea that "champagne" has technical regulations and restrictions likely came from Rob Lowe's odious Benjamin character in the original Wayne's World. ("Actually, all champagne is French. It's named after the region.") And you, like me, probably play into/totally own his snooty accusation that Americans don't recognize the convention, and call all their sparkling whites "champagne," and don't care. Because only a true b-hole shames somebody while handing them a drink.
More than seventy years ago, folk singer and activist Woody Guthrie opened up his notebook to write down a set of "New Years Rulin's" his own self...complete with illustrations.
I think I was eight. Maybe seven. It was my birthday, and a family friend who'd taken a mentor role with me stopped by to give me a small gift. I don't remember what was in inside, but I can so perfectly and vividly recall that it was wrapped in the full, CMYK color of Sunday comics section, and it blew my freaking mind.
Freaking out because you haven't finished everything you need to do on your list? No worries! We have some last minute tips for you.
It's not that hot chocolate is hard to make...especially if you go for the little packets of powder. But there's definitely something seriously straightforward about making a fresh cup with only two high-quality ingredients that makes it much more likely to enjoy a cup every night between now and the new year.
Okay... Christmas music. It has the simultaneous ability to both 1) make you feel all present and warm inside and 2) repel you as far away from any valuing of tradition and seasonal good will as possible. The good songs are good because they're classics, or because some clever band you'd already like in non-December contexts decided to take their turn at a holiday record.
But the bad songs are bad in so. many. ways. At one extreme, they're aggressive mall music that only ever appealed the most simplest of you-can-buy-happiness consumerists. At the other, they're treacly, brusk and brash melodies whose only chance of working at all is being sung by large groups of squirmy children, and you've contributed DNA to at least one of them.
But, just for the fun of it, let's see if we reclaim some of those unbearable, seasonal drudges. Are there tolerable, even enjoyable, recordings of even the most noxious of holiday tunes? Challenge accepted.
When you're on the road, the trail, or up in the air, it's not always easy to procure a high-quality cocktail. At least not without paying the room service kid $17 plus tip for some watered-down mess.
It is, however, fairly easy to locate, or pack, some reasonably drinkable spirits and a glass. And once you have that, you can make simply make yourself a proper drink with this DIY travel, carry-on friendly cocktail kit.
This holiday season, I wanted to give my friends and family a customized gift with some personality. So, using nothing but our own photos and a few crafty tools, I came up with this coaster project which is super fun, super inexpensive, plenty easy, and you can dial it in perfectly for each person on your list - just raid their Instagram or social media accounts!
Let's get to it!
At this point in the season, the big gifts have already been decided. And if you're on your game, they're boxed, wrapped, and under the tree. But this week is all about the little bits: the practical things, the accessories, and the stocking stuffers. If you or someone on your list is a maker, DIYer, woodworker, tinkerer, or just a general creative type who likes to build and fix things, here's our list of quality stocking stuffers that are just as good as whatever's in that huge box with the bow on it.
As far as holiday gifts go, it's hard to beat something to sip. And this year, you can do a little better than swinging by the grocery store and grabbing a bottle of wine.
This wood-infused project only take a tiny bit more work than buying something from the liquor store, but boosts all kinds of flavor benefits and handmade points, turning the spirits into a proper gift.
Make some in bulk for everyone you know, and your holiday shopping is done.
Many are schmaltzy, a few actually festive, and plenty completely unwatchable, but like it or not, the annual viewing of many a holiday film classic just comes along with the season. And if someone in your house is going to watch one anyway, you might as well make it something worth revisiting year after year.
I have gone on record, in this publication and elsewhere, about why the hot toddy is the perfect cocktail to be sipping in December. It's warm. It's spiced. And at least according to folk wisdom, it's good for your health, and can help to heal a nasty wintertime sore throat. But, to be honest, until last Tuesday evening, I didn't actually like a hot toddy.
They were fine, but not delicious, and not really an improvement over a simple glass of neat whiskey. (You could make a hot toddy with rum, brandy, or tequila, but why would you?)
Hot toddys (toddies?) always disappointed: never quite hot enough to truly enjoy, and somewhat ... harsh. There was something I never liked about adding acidic lemon juice to a healthy glug of bourbon, then heating the whole thing up. It seemed to bring out all the rough, grain-y flavors, and hide the tastier warm and spicy barrel-aged notes that make whiskey, well, whiskey.
This week is, understandably, about a few key flavors: hot, roasting turkey and its drippings, made into a savory gravy. Or the buttery, sauteed smell of sage and onion and celery, which perfumes your entire home and reminds you of the holidays of childhood, even though you're pretty sure your grandmother never actually made anything from scratch.
Let's not demean those foods, and the bountiful leftovers. It's what the season is all about. But, sometimes...you need a break. Because this is the week of houseguests and slow mornings and relying on food to fill unoccupied time. And when you're not feeling a fourth helping of stuffing (or, perhaps, right before the dried bread and fixings are even mixed), it's time to employ: the DIY cast iron cinnamon rolls.
Thanksgiving has two of my favorite English words in it, so it's not surprising it's among my favorite holidays of the year. It's infinitely adaptable, both in terms of what you eat, and what you do during the holiday. Plus, it's a long weekend off during a period of the year when most of us sorely need it (a break from the cold, grey skies of early winter). This is the holiday for people who wish they could hibernate. For people who want to sit in their house all day, surrounded by good friends, family, and food. Who are thankful for what they have, and want to share it with others who might not be so lucky.
So I'm excited to share a heaping helping of my favorite tips for making the Thanksgiving holiday smooth and stress-free.
Every holiday season, sites like ManMade spend all kinds of effort doing our best to help you find meaningful, quality gifts that you'll be proud to give someone. Or, at least, that you can add to your wishlist and let those in your life know you'd love to unwrap yourself.
But once the gift guides are published, we never seem to revisit those things until the following year. So, today, during this week after Christmas, I thought I'd ask — Did you get anything cool for Christmas? Or give something that particularly excites you that we should all know about?
This is the week. This is when we get to take a break, surround ourselves with friends and family, and eat plenty of great food. There really isn't much about this season I don't look forward to, and that's partly because I've learned to take a few steps to make sure it's a time we'll file away as a great memory for years to come.
Giving gifts? It's the best, right? Not cheap plastic things, and certainly not gift cards. But thoughtful custom - and most of the time handmade gifts - that I know someone will enjoy for years to come. Take a look at our list of 50 gifts for men here, and gifts for women here.
Of course, the gift has to be wrapped in something special as well. So, why would I want to use lame paper gift tags from the discount store after all that work? Here is a simple project to make some name tags that are as thoughtful as the gift.
There are lots of ways to give gifts for the holidays. You can give in a way that simply checks a person off the list; acknowledges that it's expected and therefore here's your Amazon giftcard... (Not recommended.) You can can give gifts that are elaborate, expensive, and make everything that also helped create that pile or wrapping paper look negligible. (Also not recommended.) Or you can source something that person didn't know existed, and legitimately surprise them. (Solid.) You could give them something you know they want, but wouldn't spend the money on for themselves. (Nice one.) Or, for many a practical-minded recipient, you can
Ahh... egg nog, you creamy holiday treat. Sure the ugly sweaters and mistletoe are hallmark traditions during this festive season, but no holiday get-together is truly complete without a glass of something spiced in hand. This year, ditch the store-bought syrupy stuff, and make your own with just a few ingredients you already have in your kitchen.