Have yourself a passable little Christmas

Every year around this time, Mountain Xpress receives many bags of mail from readers who don’t know what to buy their loved ones for the holidays.* This is understandable, as each person has his or her own wants and desires, interests and peculiarities, and it is hard to satisfy all of these with just one gift.

Of course, when you don’t know what to buy that special someone, it can be easy to put off your holiday shopping until the last possible moment, when all the best stuff has been picked over by people with friends and family that aren’t impossible to shop for. And while Uncle Joe might not mind getting the box of Fiddle-Faddle or Great Smokies snow-globe you came across at a truck stop on the way to his house on Christmas morn, it’s still not as personal as the alternative: a last-minute gift you made all by yourself.

As we all know, nothing says “I care” like a handmade gift. And even if you’ve only got a few minutes in your garden shed to throw something together, you can still create a memorable craft. All you need is a little direction.

So to make your job easier and relieve some stress this holiday season, we humbly suggest these six homemade gift ideas. All have wide appeal, and require only a few materials to complete. What’s more, they’re sure to please and delight.

The Burmese finger-puzzle: Just try to escape!!

The Burmese finger-puzzle

Tired of those silly old Chinese finger-cuffs? Fly your loved ones to another corner of Asia this season with these little bondage tools. They promise at least a few moments of thrills and bafflement. Just be sure to use caution when operating a motor vehicle while wearing them.

Time to complete: 3 minutes
Tools required:Scissors
Materials: One sheet of paper, trimmed to 6×6 inches square; one piece of transparent tape
Directions: Roll paper into cylindrical shape large enough to accommodate the index fingers of your “captive.” Apply tape to edge to hold. Have your “captive” insert their fingers and watch as they struggle to get free!

The gay/straight spinner: End the speculation! The closet is no place to spend the holidays!

The gay/straight spinner

That “friend” your uncle brings over each Christmas? Right. That aunt of yours with the powerful handshake? Exactly. If they’re not being “straight” with you, then it’s time to help them out. This gadget has years of scientific study behind it** and will restore the honesty and compassion to parties and family gatherings. Make “the closet” a thing of the past with one quick spin.

Time to complete: 12 minutes
Tools required: Scissors, pencil, permanent marker
Materials: One piece of cardboard, trimmed to 4×4 inches square; one piece of poster board, cut into the shape of an arrow; one metal clasp
Directions: Trim cardboard and mark as shown. Trim poster board into arrow shape. Using the pencil, punch a hole in the center of the cardboard. Insert metal clasp through arrow and cardboard base; spread flanges to secure. Spin and find out the answer to the question on everyone’s mind.

The bittersweet fishin’ pole: Make a kid smile through the magic of the Celastrus orbiculatus. (Hook, line and sinker not included.)

The bittersweet fishin’ pole

Kids and fishing go hand-in-hand, and what better way to get them started with this rustic sport than with a hand-hewn rod? Bittersweet is everywhere, and what’s more, even the wariest of sunfish hardly see it coming!

Time to complete: 15 minutes (includes time spent bittersweet huntin’)
Tools required: One pair of stout loppers, or, for the more adventurous, a hatchet.
Materials: One section of bittersweet stem, 4-6 feet long; one 8-foot length of monofilament fishing line, 10-pound test; one plastic bobber; one fishing hook
Directions: Walk the nearby woods, taking care to avoid panthers and bears. Find a nice-sized bittersweet vine in the process of strangling a tree. Cut a 4-6 foot long section of vine or hack it free with a hatchet. (The straighter the piece, the better.) Tie the monofilament line to the section of vine, using a slip knot. Affix bobber and hook and start fishin’.

The holiday martini glass: Who couldn’t use a nice, festive drink?

The holiday martini glass

Martinis are the surest form of social lubricant, but they’re so oblivious to the season. A summer martini looks a lot like a winter martini, ignoring the sweat on the side of the glass. Well, this jobber will infuse America’s favorite cocktail with a bit of holiday spunk. Fashion a whole set of them in just minutes—they make a lovely present for the booze hounds in your life.

Time to complete: 5 minutes
Tools required: One hot-glue gun
Materials: One martini glass; one small pinecone
Directions: Remove a martini glass from the bar. Examine for lipstick traces, remove by rubbing with your sleeve. Fix a martini and pour into glass. Using a hot-glue gun, attach pine cone to side of glass. Allow to cool and set. Serve.

The holiday martini glass, improved: For the man/woman who has everything.

The holiday martini glass, improved

If the holiday martini glass is a little too subtle for your tastes, try this humdinger!  But please, remind that special someone to wear safety glasses when they drink.

Time to complete: 5 minutes
Tools required: One hot-glue gun
Materials: One martini glass; one very large pinecone
Directions: Remove a martini glass from the bar. Examine for lipstick traces, remove by rubbing with your sleeve. Fix a martini and pour into glass. Using a hot-glue gun, attach one very large pine cone to side of glass. Allow to cool and set. Serve.


The beer can lantern: Hide it under a bushel? No! Check out this bright idea from your recycling bin.

The beer can lantern

What dining table wouldn’t benefit from the soft glow of a punctured beer can? Forget the “season of lights”—make it the “season of Lites”!

Time to complete: 35 minutes
Tools required: One hacksaw; one thumb tack
Materials: One can of beer; one votive candle
Directions: Using hacksaw, trim the top from a can of beer. Pour the remaining beer out. With thumb tack, punch very small holes in the can, closely following the beer label. Insert votive candle.


*This is a lie.
** So is this.

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2 thoughts on “Have yourself a passable little Christmas

  1. Alli Marshall

    Shouldn’t you *drink* the beer instead of pouring it out? Even cheap beer isn’t all that cheap, right?

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