This year for Christmas with Steve’s family, we drew names of individuals (children, even unborn children, included) for Christmas gifts. For some reason someone then had the bright idea of adding the further restriction that gifts had to be homemade/handmade.
Steve and I were in charge of three gifts: Steve drew his aunt, I drew Steve’s nephew, and “the baby” drew his future uncle. We ended up doing quite a bit of teamwork on all the presents.
Steve’s nephew is seven years old. I forget whether Steve or I had the idea first, but we came up with building a wooden treasure chest. I looked online and found some cool kits, but shipping was prohibitive, so we decided to build our own!
I sketched out a rough plan with dimensions and we went shopping for wood and materials. Our good friends who live a few doors down have all kinds of tools including a table saw, jigsaw, etc., so we went over and spent two weekends cutting the wood, putting it together with wood screws (main frame) and nails (top slats), staining it, and adding hinges, a chain on the inside to keep the lid from opening too far, and a latch and small padlock. We read some stuff on making real wood joins but it seemed too complicated for the short timeframe we were working with (plus the fact that neither of us had any experience making wood joins!), and let’s face it, we didn’t think a seven-year-old would care! Steve and I pretty much worked equally on the chest together even though it was technically “my” project.
Given that this was my first real experience using power tools and building a “real” item out of wood and that we made up our own plans, I thought the chest turned out really great! Here are a few photos, you can see the rest on Flickr:
Next, we attempted to make wooden pens for Steve’s aunt and brother-in-law. My sister’s husband has a lathe and other tools necessary for making wooden pens in addition to a lot of the wooden blocks (called “blanks”), so I went online and bought two pen kits — the metal pieces that make up the rest of the pen. We then spent three weekends driving out to their house to use his tools. Unfortunately, I had apparently picked a style of pen kit that was complicated to work with, and my brother in law didn’t have any experience with that type and couldn’t help us. After using up about 5 different blanks and being generally unsuccessful, we got frustrated with the whole thing and decided to think of alternative homemade presents to give!
Steve was stuck for a while on what to do for his aunt until his mom suggested that we make her a shadowbox. We couldn’t have done this without his mom, who spent some time pulling out old photos for us to use. Steve ended up focusing on photos of his mom and aunt. I pulled out various materials and arranged them in the box for him to pick from and he made executive decisions on what to include. I handled most of the assembly, although Steve trimmed the photos and bored the holes in the side of the cardboard frame for the clothesline. He also picked out the small picture frame and we used a more current photo. (I’m really into the frame-within-a-frame idea.)
Here’s the final result. It’s interesting how cameras differ from the human eye — the ribbon shows up much more “orangey” in this picture; in person, it looks like the same shade as the red dresses in the main photo.
Two down, one more to go. I was having some problems coming up with presents for the baby to give our brother-in-law. Thinking about our former success with wood, I thought about making a mancala game with a wooden board that could fold in half and latch to be “travel-friendly” and even bought some materials, but returned them all as I didn’t think it was that great of an idea and might just end up collecting dust in the long run!
As the day drew near, I finally decided to do a two-part present. I ordered a photo calendar through Costco, uploading family pictures and adding family birthdays and anniversaries. Then, I spent the weekend before Christmas making homemade chocolate-covered gummy bears, his favorite sweet snack. It was a little time-consuming but pretty easy to do — we slowly melted chocolate chips in the microwave, stabbed gummy bears with toothpicks, and swirled them around in the chocolate. I put them in a large Coke glass, found at a thrift store — our brother-in-law has some Coke paraphernalia that he’s collected over the years — and wrapped it all up with holiday-colored plastic wrap.
While it was at times stressful and frustrating, we found that making presents for a few individuals was overall a very rewarding experience for both the giver and the receiver!