Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gifts from Ottawa: shopping local & handmade for Christmas

Well, Christmas is the weekend upcoming, and you’re either all ready with your gifts, or you’re struggling. At the peril of having our families see their gifts, we are posting our presents online to help you out. So, FAMILY MEMBERS: Stop here. Do not read on. We don’t want to ruin the surprise for you. I mean it. Go away.

Okay, now that they’re gone.

You may have heard that we had a plan this Christmas to shop as local as humanly possible. We figured 90% was the best we could hope for, and I think it was a very fair goal. Here we are, all wrapped up, and we’ve managed to stay local, ethical, and relatively cheap! To help you see what we got and how, we’ve made a colour chart:

Note: prices with a star* beside them are approximate, either because they’re homemade, or because we lost the receipt and are working from memory.

RED: purchased at a local, independent shop or booth
For Brian's Mom.
BLUE: handmade and local
GREEN: handmade by us        
BLACK: not from a local shop, not handmade.

FOR BRIAN’S MOM: Pampering and Prettiness
-Purple Urchin lemon & lavender bath salts, $12
-Purple Urchin chocolate face mask, $8*
-Candles, free in our Handmade Harvest earlybird swag bag, $0 (value $4*)
-Handmade angel decorations (tutorial coming!), $2 (approx. for materials)
-Card by Urbanfete, $4*

A Man Package, heehee.
FOR BRIAN’S DAD: The Man Package—a ‘boy’s night in’ package
-Major Craig’s jerk chutney, $8
-Smoked steak spices by SMOKE, $7
-A big bottle of Beau’s Lugtread beer (not seen here—Brian drank it and has to replace it), $4*
Art by yours truly.
-Various items like slippers, popcorn, beer mugs, chips, etc from Dollarama, $10*
…all in an old milk crate, because who doesn’t love a milk crate?!

FOR BRIAN’S BROTHER: Art for a young man’s first home
-Illustration of the XMen’s Rogue, by Jordan, with reclaimed frame, $0 (value of $150)

FOR BRIAN’S SISTER: ‘Girl’s night in’ package
-Purple Urchin vanilla soap, $5
-Thann hand soap, sea foam scent, regifted $0 (value $18)
-earrings, hair clips, and candles from our Handmade Harvest early bird swag bag, $0 (value of $15)
-Lush soap samples, saved from an event, $0
-Hair smoothing serum, regifted, $0 (value of $20*)

 FOR JORDAN’S MOM: All her favourites.
-Thann ‘oriental essence’ massage and bath oil, $31*
-Thann sample sized aromatic wood products, grudgingly regifted, $0
-Purple Urchin ‘absinthe’ bath bombs, $4 each
-Cookbook, Eat, Shrink & Be Merry (as requested) $30

FOR JORDAN’S DAD: Zombie fun, candy, and a mill he’ll love.
-Walking Dead graphic novel, from the Comic Book Shoppe on Bank Street, $10*
-Zombie-smiting machete (also useful for bushwhacking), from SAIL, $10
-Zombie squirrel mug, handpainted by Jordan with existing materials, $0 (value of $15)
-Giant box of Toffifee from Canadian Tire, $7
-Peppermill from Great Canadian Superstore, $8*

Mug, painted by moi, for Dad.

FOR JORDAN’S BROTHER: The Julia Child fanatic 
-Brie melter, regifted, $0 (value $15)
           -Butter bell, Stokes, $4 on sale

Knitting bowl for MJ
FOR JORDAN’S BFF: the knittin’ kitten
-Handmade ceramic knitting bowl, Wabi Sabi, $30 (yarn feeds through and doesn’t tangle!)
-Angels handmade by us, $2 (materials approx.)

-Angels handmade by us, many many sets of them! (30 angels’ materials approx. $15)

Neither of us trusts the other. You’ll have to wait and see, just like us.

Holly Yashi, only at Magpie
Dad is getting Mom something from Magpie Jewellery this year, and I have to say, we LOVE this shop. I've loved it since its opening at the Rideau Centre, and now that there's one so close to our house, it's a dangerous place for me to go. If you go, I heartily recommend talking to Sarah McEown, the staff person who helped us with Brian's wedding band for our wedding. Another rockstar staff is Laura. As a whole team, though, I find the customer service wonderful, and they are really helping Dad out this year, getting a special something ordered in, through rain and sleet and dark of night. They have a wide range of prices from $8-$800+, so there's something for all, even men.That's my little holla to Magpie. :) 

-We spent about $207.00 total for about 18 people’s gifts. That works out to about $11.50 per person.
-Because we saved lots of money on certain gifts, we were able to spoil people in other areas.
-We managed to keep our gift giving to minimum 80% local and/or handmade.

It was harder than a regular Christmas shopping program, that’s for sure. There were several times I wanted to just go buy something at the mall, and in fact, I plan to walk around a mall this week because we haven’t stepped foot in one all season and I’m feeling a bit…left out. But the gifts we have are so much more unique than we would ever have found in large-scale commercial stores, so it was totally worth it. I was worried when we started that we may end up buying a lot of gifts that were more focused on the ‘where did you get it’ than ‘who is this for’ aspect of gift-giving, but luckily we didn’t have to compromise on personalization to keep our goal of supporting local stores and handmade wares.

I have blogged two recent guest posts on the UsedEverywhere blog that will help you out a lot:

The first was titled, The art of meaningful gift-giving; it will give you some great tips on how to give wonderful, personalized gifts that go above and beyond without needing to be pricey.

The second one to check out is titled, Smart gift giving, and is all about ideas on how to gift locally, ethically, and frugally.


I would do it again. I will do it again, but I will accept next year, early on in the season, that there are certain people that want things which can only be found in larger stores; that’s okay, we all have things we like that don’t come from Mom & Pop shops. (If you think you’re above this, ask yourself if you sigh with envy whenever your colleague whips out her fancy tablet.)

It was fun, and with the exception of having a horrendous experience with the ceramic markers for making Dad’s cup, it was very relaxed. We didn’t have to fight through one single crowded parking lot, and we got to visit shops and crafters that we personally love. By keeping our spending local, it felt like Christmas was happening for everyone around us: for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for the local businesses who were so happy to have our business. I think we’re feeling pretty Whoville about the whole experience, like Christmas really can be about community.

Now let’s all hold hands and sing before the roast beast.


  1. Have I told you how much we love our little angels? Sooo cute!

    Thank you so much for all the love and support, for me, 20YS and of course, Fadi and THANN.

    much love!


    Twenty York Street

    1. Thanks so much ML we are so happy you loved them our family really love the gifts we got them from THANN.

      Tons of Love right back at you

      Brian and Jordan

      For anyone who wants to see how to make the Angels check out this post; http://projectpricelessnest.blogspot.com/2011/12/macaroni-angels-diy-tutorial-that-will.html