Illustration by Hawnuh Lee.
A former roommate of mine always requested homemade gifts. When the holidays rolled around, whenever there was a gift exchange or a partner asked her what she wanted, her only criteria was that whatever gift she received must be created by the gift giver. And as a result, she always got the most amazing presents. Last year, her sweetie learned enough woodworking to create the most beautiful wooden spoon and a co-worker gave her the most precious magnets. You might not be bold enough to specifically request homemade presents but if you’re interested in handmade delight, we have a few ideas that will make your loved ones swoon.
Bake A Homemade Cookie Tin
Granted I have probably the biggest sweet-tooth in the world but it’s hard for me to imagine a better gift than a box of cookies. Baking is at its peak fun during the holidays and it’s prime time to show off the sourdough skills you honed during the QT. A cookie tin is a great way to share your favorite cookies with your friends and family. I recommend going full British Bake Off and baking an assortment of cookies with a theme and a chaotic amount of decoration or sprinkles. But don’t send a tin without Maia’s inclusive vegan and gluten-free spiced almond butter molasses cookies because they are heaven.
Make A Tea Mix
Embrace your inner plant witch and DIY your own tea mixes. If you have extra jam jars laying around, fill them up with tea leaves and make cute labels to showcase your ingredients and holiday vibes. It’s technically a tisane because there’s no actual tea leaves, just herbal-goodness, but I love to make sleepy time/weighted blanket-in-a-mug tea. I’m not precious about it, or anything in the kitchen really, because if it’s made with tasty ingredients and infused with love it’s going to be lovely. I always add lavender or rose buds–they’re pretty, smell incredible, and make me feel good. Other calming herbs and ingredients include chamomile flowers, jasmine flowers, skullcap, lemon balm, mint, passionflower, rooibos and valerian root.
Gift A Hot Cocoa Kit
Embrace that big dork energy, go all in and make a hot cocoa kit. I lived in Portland for like five years so I’m obviously going to recommend a mason jar. I save all of my roommate’s salsa jars and once they are thoroughly washed and soaked in vinegar they work perfectly. Start with a base of cocoa powder (or cacao or carob), and add in a sweetener (maple sugar, coconut sugar, cane sugar, whatever your drug of choice is) in a ratio between half and equal parts to your cocoa base and add then in any fancy flavorings. Maybe a sprinkle of sea salt and vanilla bean powder, or cinnamon and instant coffee, maybe chocolate chips and marshmallows or powdered coconut milk.
Create A Recipe Book
There are several different ways to approach this, you can either share recipes of meals you’ve made for your friends that they love or you can take the family recipes you have on various scraps of paper and put them into a cute lil’ book. Depending on what’s fun to you, because there’s really no way to do this “wrong,” you can get real scrapbooky with it or you can design something on Canva and get it printed. And just like in a “real” cookbook, you can share your stories of why you included each recipe and what each meal means to you and make a heartfelt gift.
Host A Virtual Dessert Party
Let’s set the scene, you’re on the couch in your cozies, you just logged on to Zoom for a PJ party with your best friend, the doorbell rings so you get it and what do you see, your absolute favorite dessert sitting on your porch just waiting to be shoveled into your mouth. You spontaneously combust. You’ve just peaked. Y’all you can do this for someone. You can give them the absolute best day of their life. You can gift someone a delivery of their favorite dessert and then sit and eat your favorite dessert at the same time while you wear matching pajamas. You deserve this. You deserve everything.
Give the Gift of A Class or a Subscription
Do you have a friend who is really excited about something but has been struggling for a while, perhaps years, to take that first step? Now might be the time to encourage them to explore. There are a multitude of virtual classes available that you can gift someone. If they’re interested in baking, they could learn make babka, if they want to feel more confident in their body they learn to dance, or maybe they’ve been scared to take the leap to start their own business and you could gift them a Skillshare subscription, or maybe they’ve been wanting to eat healthier but don’t know where to start, and you can gift them a Thrive Market subscription.
Create A Playlist
A digital mix-tape is a really cute way to walk someone down memory lane. And you can take this in a number of directions. You can choose songs that remind you of them, that were playing during significant moments in your friendship or introduce them to new jams. If you want, you can also include a cute note or story about why you chose each song. But you don’t have to because this is a sweet gift on its own. But whatever you do, you must include Dicked Down in Dallas because it’s the greatest song ever written and this is a hill I will absolutely die on.
Make a Card
Handwritten letters or postcards are so incredibly special. Fun to receive but I would argue even more fun to write and decorate. I love to buy a bunch of plain white cardstock (at my local craft store, shoutout to Ben Franklin in Hilo) and get real abstract with watercolors. Then I take a gold or black paint pen and do fake calligraphy. It’s so easy and almost painfully fun but looks fancy and I cannot recommend this method enough. I also love to decorate the envelopes so the recipient knows that there’s something good inside but I have an insatiable love for crafts and cannot be stopped. That’s of course totally unnecessary, some of the best letters I’ve received have been on ripped out binder paper stuffed in an envelope. If you want to make an event out of this, get a group of friends together (virtually) and secret santa it. Hop on Elfster, start a gift exchange and exchange letters instead.
Give an Endless Well Of Compliments
My favorite thing to do on the back of cards is to create coupons. I basically fill the page with boxes and write in things I want to do for that person (host a picnic, bake them mochi, cook them dinner, shower them with compliments) but since we’ve been social distancing my gift-of-time coupons are a little tougher to navigate logistically. So here’s my workaround, instead of activities, you can give affirmations. You can stuff a jar, a box, a vase, a vessel of some sort, full of notes about how much you love them. You can share stories that make you smile, you can write down all the things you love about this person, you can write down all the dreams you have for them or your life together, whatever it is that makes your heart sing.
And of course, if the idea of making something is feeling really overwhelming right now, that’s totally valid and understandable. We have a sweet gift guide here you can check out for ideas.
We love you. Take care of yourself this holiday season.