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.
A very special holiday edition of the thoughts, artwork, news stories, tools, food, conversations, and whatever else I just can't get out of my head this month.
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.
A quality jigsaw is one of my favorite tools, and a seriously good DIY best buy. Armed with the right blade, you can cut all sorts of materials into nearly any two-dimensional shape you please. And most-importantly, do it safely.
But it's flexibility as a creative tool is also its liability. Like a pencil, it can go in any direction, but in the hands of a human being, those directions will never be without the marks of our innate imperfection. Straight lines can be accomplished with a fence, but a perfect circle. You can't draw one by hand, so don't expect yourself to be able to jigsaw one either.
At least, not without a little help.
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.
Earlier this week, I was asked to be interviewed about getting started in making things, and the conversation turned towards the best tools for the money. The guy asked me what I think the best thing to invest in, and we naturally discussed how, once you have all the tools you need, you tend to think the things that support your workflow are more important that the cool-looking trappings of the woodworker. Like, how my favorite power tool is actually my two horsepower dust collector on its own circuit, because that's the machine I use on every single process. Or how I'd rather have an inexpensive Japanese dozuki saw and a really nice mechanical pencil and Starrett combination square vs. low grade measuring and marking tools and a fancy dovetail saw. (Though, to be fair, I do have both.)
But, it got me thinking about the truly best value in woodworking, the craft process, etc. Like what's something that's entirely inexpensive yet you use on every single project?
I've been trying to up my host game lately, especially in the drinks department. Solid glassware, proper bar tools, and better presentation go a long way towards concocting a quality experience. That's why I was excited to come up with a great gift project for those that want to ditch the cheap plastic in their classy mixed drinks. These simple straws are hefty enough to really stand out as a stocking stuffer, or on their own as a solid holiday gift.
Plywood is awesome. It's affordable, easy to work, and, when used properly, looks great.
Plywood also brings its share of headaches, specifically, tearout: the rough, jagged edges that result from cutting through the thin veneers. It's frustrating, and it looks absolutely terrible. Any woodworker who's ever used it can speak its woes, which can ruin an otherwise high-quality project.
But my friends, it doesn't have to be that way. Whether your building a simple shop project or a full fleet of custom kitchen cabinets, you, too, can virtually eliminate tearout.
Let's make some crosscuts.
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.
Your bachelor pad. Your family home. That apartment with all the architectural detail and the amazing view. Wherever you live, houses get messy. And they stay that way, until you clean them. When your plans to let someone inside ends up happening before your hopes of getting your home back to normal, then it's time to clean it. Quickly.
You don't have the time to deep clean and scrub, so make the little bit you have count. If you're smart and focused, you can pull it off in the running time of your favorite record.
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.
Halloween has its horror and December its infinite loop of sparkle-strung classics. Good or bad, they're the established traditions of their seasons.
But, if you will, allow me to make the case as November as perhaps the prime month for festive film watching. We can't all relate to being chased by ax murderers nor having the carolers sing as we find our soulmate under the mistletoe just as the snow starts to fall outside. But everyone knows the experience of returning home to break bread and spill gravy with family, or, perhaps, what it's like to strike out on your own for the first holiday not spent at your grandparents. The Thanksgiving table (and four days of being stuck in the same place) is the perfect setting for drama, comedy, and everything in between. Plus, all those sweaters. Here are our faves that get it right.