The snow is falling, the candy-cane coffee has returned and an already dogeared pile of gift guides (sadly, the Lee Valley catalogue never arrived) sits on my table, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for the third-annual Queermonton Holiday Gift Guide for People Who are Broke and Not Crafty. For those of you new to this tradition, I offer suggestions for inexpensive, homemade gifts for people with little-to-no artistic talent. Consider this your analog anti-Pinterest.
Drag kit for kids
Introduce the fun of gender-blending to the proto-genderqueer kids (or offspring of your conservative sibling) in your life. Head to your local dollar store and grab some boas, tiaras, fairy wands, monocles and top hats. Swing by a thrift store to pick up ties, hats and clothes for the finishing touch. Separate out by “boy” and “girl” or mix them all up for binary-bashing good times.
Who doesn’t love butter? Mix softened, unsalted butter with jam or roasted garlic and fresh thyme. Stick it in jar or wrap it in wax paper.
Step up your booze-giving game this year. Mix some 80-proof vodka (don’t get the fancy stuff) with a few cups of fresh fruit (strawberries, oranges, pears or raspberries are good options) and let sit for a few days in a glass jar. Strain.
If you’re feeling a little splashy this year, nothing says “I love you” like facilitating illicit drinking. Fill with your homemade vodka for extra goodwill.
It’s time to head to Bulk Barn! Grab some popcorn kernels, sugar and salt. Your ratio is one part sugar, one part oil and two parts popcorn kernels. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot. When hot, add popcorn and sugar. Cover the pot and when the popcorn starts popping, shake pan until popping stops. Transfer to a bowl, toss with salt. Will last a few days.
Drain and rinse a can or three of chickpeas and dry off with paper towels. Toss with salt, pepper, olive oil and some spices (garam masala or cumin are yummy). Cook at 300 F, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are brown and crispy, about 50 minutes. Stick them in your trusty mason jars.
Not just for Christmas trees! Grab some clear glass ornaments from a craft store along with some cheap crayons. Break the crayons into small pieces (throw away the labels) and toss five or six into each ornament—you can do a few colours or lots. Get out your blowdryer and blast the ornament with heat. Move the ornament around while you do this to ensure maximum colour swirling (or don’t. Your call!) Warning: glass will get very hot.
Gird your loins and go to IKEA. Pick up some of their really cheap cork coasters (seriously, they’re $2 a pack!). Use masking tape to create stripes of empty space on the coasters and paint over them with some craft paint. Add a second layer and you’re good to go. (For an extra-fancy touch, use some vinyl letters you can find at a dollar store instead of tape for a customized gift.)
Junk drawer surprise
This comes from a friend who was the recipient of one of these gifts and swears it was pretty amazing. Essentially, empty the contents of your junk drawer into a shoe box. Wrap and proceed as usual. I’m skeptical, but maybe my junk drawer is boring.
As always, don’t forget that a cheap vase stuffed with assorted candy from Bulk Barn is a solid stand-by. Happy holidays!