Next week I have a few fun DIY ideas for handmade holiday gifts — but in the meantime I thought I would share a few of my favorite DIY gifts from last year to get you in the crafting-mood! My favorite of these is the festive bottle stoppers, I gave them out as gifts last year and they were a hit — plus I still have a few hanging around that I plan on using for holiday entertaining! Do you have any plans for homemade gifts this year?

Festive Bottle Stoppers | Cookie Mix Jars | Glitter Hangers | Polka Dot Candle Holder | Monogrammed Coffee Mugs

DIY Holiday Gifts - Ornament Bottler Stopper

Ready for the last installment of Handmade Holidays? There is no sweeter gift than homemade treats! 

Remember when I said this was the easiest DIY holiday present? I lied — it gets easier! Grab a package of Tollhouse chocolate chips from the grocery store and using the recipe on the back measure out all of the dry ingredients, layering them one by one in a mason jar. Next, write the recipe out on a pretty piece of paper and stick it on top of the jar, and finally, adorn the front with a personalized message and some ribbon (I printed my message out on Martha Stewart Avery Labels). How easy was that? Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Handmade Holidays Gift ideas here, here, here, and here!

Next up in the Handmade Holidays series is a set of glitter coated hangers, the perfect gift for a stylish friend!

In my opinion, you can’t go wrong when you coat something in glitter — am I right? I started this project with inexpensive wooden hangers, and painted them with a layer of mod podge. Quickly, before the glue dries, sprinkle glitter until you coat the wood.  After this layer dries, go back over with another layer of mod podge to coat the hangers and seal in the glitter — you might need more than one coat depending on the thickness of your application. And there you have it, some sparkly gifts for your favorite clothes horse! (I love these so much that I might save one to hang my wedding dress on this Spring!)


Next up in the Handmade Holidays series has a little bit of glitz — a decorative candle holder with gold polka dots!

I love the idea of using this handmade holiday gift for a little hostess treat when you’re visiting friends for the holidays. To start I used a craft punch to cut out circles on a piece of thick cardstock, then taped the cardstock around the candle holder to create a stencil. From there, it’s as simple as filling in your polka dots with a metallic sharpie — you can add-on an extra layer of metallic marker after the first layer dries if you’d like the color to be a bit more opaque. Then pair it was a pretty scented candle and some fun matches (I love these ones!).


Next up in the Handmade Holidays series is one of the easiest DIYs ever — monogrammed mugs!

I found some plain white oversized latte mugs for this project; you also need sharpie markers, and some fun treats to fill the mugs with. Draw your design on the mug with your Sharpie marker, I practiced free-hand on a piece of paper a couple of times before I started to draw on the mug or you could use a stencil. After you’re happy with your design or lettering, pop the mug in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to make set the ink. Then fill up the mug with some seasonal sweets — I chose peppermint ribbon candy– and tie it up with a ribbon, voila!

I’m kicking of a new series: Handmade Holidays to share some crafty ideas for making DIY presents this year.

First up, some festive bottle stoppers! I bought plain, unfinished bottle corks in the kitchen section at Target and colored in the stopper with a silver metallic Sharpie, followed by a light brush of glue and matching silver glitter. Once they dried all you need is a drop of super glue to hold an ornament in place on top of the stopper! These took under an hour to make, and cost less than $10 to make the whole set — I think they’d look great tied to a bottle of wine for a hostess gift during the holidays!

I’m rounding out our 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series today with an interview with Abby of Farm and Fable — one of my favorite shops (and shop owners!) in the South End. Be sure to check out the rest of the series here.

SouthEndShop_01Tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop, and how you got started.
Abby: I grew up in a 300 year old farmhouse with a family that loved to garden and cook so a lot of what I do is a product of my childhood and is really second nature to me. I started cooking when I was old enough to stand on a stool and stir a pot. I worked in and out of the restaurant industry over the years but took a big old detour and went to law school. I became a product liability litigator at a big law firm. It will surprise no one that for a girl happiest barefoot in a garden, gathering herbs for dinner with her big goofy dogs by her side, law firm life wasn’t a great fit. I was determined to get back in to food so I went to work for Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery. It was during that time that I worked on a concept that would allow me to combine my love of cooking, vintage and all things entertaining related. I really wanted to create a kind of clubhouse for people who are as geeky as I am about food and that is really at the heart of Farm & Fable. 

SouthEndShop_04Are there any go-to items that you offer that you always recommend for holiday gift giving? 
Abby: I love the holidays because it is the one time of year that we really embrace tradition and sentimentality. I think that a good holiday gift should be selected with an eye to either traditions you already have or new traditions you want to start. In my family, traditions always center around food. That’s why for grown-ups I suggest our handmade recipe card boxes from Belle & Union or our keepsake recipe journals from Celina Mancurti which include a page with each recipe for “Notes for Future Generations.” I just love that. For tiny chefs we have the sweetest apron sets from Oddette Williams. I love to decorate gingerbread houses with my nieces and nephews and having their own special apron makes that time seem even sweeter. 

SouthEndShop_07This is the time of year that we always need hostess gifts? What are you recommendations for the best thing to bring when attending a holiday party or visiting someone for the weekend?
Abby: A good hostess gift is like a good houseguest: helpful, pleasant to be around, thoughtful, and doesn’t take up too much space. I love the two gifts sets we have from Farmhouse Pottery. One has a great hand-thrown, hand-glazed salt pig along with Maine farmed sea salt. The other has a small hand-thrown, hand-glazed syrup pitcher along with Vermont maple syrup. They both come packaged in a reusable wooden box complete with gift card. We tie them up with a red grosgrain ribbon and they are ready for gifting. 

SouthEndShop_03You are a bit of an experts on cookbooks given the selection in your shop — what are your favorite new books this year? Any cookbooks that you always go back to for great holiday recipes? 
Abby: This fall was a fabulous season for new cookbooks. I am loving A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus from Renee Erickson. It is arranged seasonally and by menu which I really love for home cooks. I’m also really enjoying Jeremy Sewall’s New England Kitchen which I think makes a great gift for any local food lovers (or people like me who can’t stop eating at Row 34 or Lineage). 

SouthEndShop_05One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston? 
Abby: I am so lucky to live and have my shop in the South End. I managed to get all of my holiday shopping done in one afternoon without leaving the neighborhood. For my sister-in-law I got a cozy sweater at Flock (and one for myself). For my sister I got a sparkly fun necklace from M. Flynn. For my nieces and nephews I stopped by Tadpole for books and toys. For my mother I picked up the cutest embroidered potting apron from Niche. For my father I went to Urban Grape for a special bottle of scotch. For my brother, brother-in-law and boyfriend I went straight to Sault because Philip’s taste is impeccable. For my friends I stocked up on lip balms and lotions from Follain. I’ll swung by Olives & Grace for stocking stuffers. Of course my own list includes a few of fabulous vintage pieces from Pioneer Goods (hint, hint). 


What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year? Any words of wisdom about why you think it’s important? 
Abby: When you shop local you aren’t just supporting the store you walk in to. Lots of local shop work with other local makers to fill our shelves. Our cutting boards are from South Boston. Our oyster knives come from Cambridge. Our copper pots and pans are from Rhode Island. Shopping with little shops like mine keeps a whole host of business afloat.

All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.

All this week I’m sharing my 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series on the blog. Hear from the best of local shop owners about what they’re loving this season and where they love to shop!  Today we’re talking with Justin, the absolutely darling shop owner of  Pioneer Goods Co in the South End. Check out the rest of the series here.


Welcome Justin! Tell me a little bit about yourself, your shop, and how you got started.
Justin: When I was a kid, I was really into lots of forms of art. I got a calligraphy set for my eighth birthday and I even took lessons on how to airbrush. I was also always rearranging my bedroom and styling it different ways to make it feel homey. My mom, as an interior designer, was always scouring yard sales and auctions and dragging me and my brothers along. I always fought it back then because I was into sports and more bro-centric stuff, so I purposely stifled my creativity for a long time. It wasn’t until much later that my mother discovered Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint and I started helping her on a big project for a client that I found this marriage of practical creativity where you were creating something that people could admire but actually use that it began to seem like something I could pursue. Annie Sloan talked my mom into opening her first retail outlet and not long after, we both decided that I would come aboard and do something similar in Boston. Her shop is called Maison Decor and is very French and feminine in decor. My first shop on Harrison Ave was the second Maison Decor and began with the same French leaning aesthetic. The longer I was at the helm of that shop, the more I started pushing it my direction of rustic Americana and making it my own. We decided not to renew the lease on that space with the understanding that I would continue to search for a bigger space in the South End, and when I found the space at 764 Tremont, Pioneer Goods Co. was born.
SouthEndShop_24You work to restore a lot of the beautiful pieces you sell in your shop, I’m sure it can be hard to say goodbye to some of them! Any advice for giving handmade gifts at the holidays?
Justin: I used to get very attached to pieces I sourced and/or refinished, but I’ve gotten much better at letting them go. It gives me the freedom to go out and find that next great piece. As for handmade gifts for the holidays, the options are plenty. As much as I’m partial to handmade or refinished home goods, I also love baked goods or homemade food items. Two years ago I made a variety of different pickled vegetables and last year I made apple butter and bacon jam. What I really encourage people to do is to not overlook the card portion of the gift you give. It’s so rare that we get to say what we really mean to those we love, and a beautiful handwritten card can be extremely memorable. My mom always said to us as kids, no matter how much money you have, you can always scrape together three bucks for a card. Years ago when I was managing restaurants, I chucked the idea of the $20 secret Santa and asked all of the servers to write something thoughtful or funny or both in either a handmade or store-bought card. We went out to a bar and sat around a big table and everyone read their cards aloud to each other.There were laughs and tears and lots of hugs–it was so awesome.
SouthEndShop_25I always find it so much harder to buy gifts for the guys in my life, as a guy and a local shop owner — what would you recommend as great gifts for the men on our shopping list?
Justin: Guys can definitely be tough to buy for–I know I am. I don’t think you can go wrong buying a guy something he’ll actually use. Trust me, he’ll appreciate it. Does he like to cook? Why not get him a kick ass cast iron pan or some really nice chef’s knives. If he’s a cyclist, buy him some tools for working on his bike. I know it sounds cliché, but most guys I know love stuff that can be put to good use. If he’s a stylish guy and into clothes, chances are he’s already bought himself the shoes he wanted or a jacket he was eyeing. Maybe that’s a guy who would appreciate cedar shoe trees or really nice wooden hangers for his closet. You can’t go wrong with practical.
SouthEndShop_27Are there any go-to pieces in the shop that you always recommend for holiday gift giving?
Justin: In my shop I always lean toward a one-of-a-kind antique as a gift. I had a bust of Indian chief that was so cool that I guarantee you couldn’t find anywhere else. Something like that adds instant character and intrigue and often has a really cool story behind that you just cant get from a mass-produced good.
SouthEndShop_30One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston?
Justin: I love the retail scene in the South End. I always shop at Olives & Grace, Sault New England, and Niche Urban Garden supply. Those shops are so awesome. My wife Madison recently introduced me to Follain, and I swear by their activated charcoal soap. That said, I probably pour most of my money into Render Coffee. I buy their pour over coffee nearly every day and pick up a bag of Counter Culture coffee beans once a week.
SouthEndShop_31What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year? Any words of wisdom about why you think it’s important?
Justin: I implore everyone to shop local, but of course I’ve got a vested interest. The best thing you can do is talk to the shop owner about what they are digging in their shop. Nobody will have as much passion about what they carry and they will always steer you in the right direction. It’s an experience you will never achieve going to the mall.
All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.

I hate to play favorites, but I think I saved the best handmade holiday gift idea for last this week — painted cork coasters. Using plain cork coasters, I painted stripes and color blocks in pink, teal, and gold, and then finished off the top of them with a matte sealer to keep them waterproof. You could play around with color combinations that match your gift recipients’ home and style to make a customized gift, and pair them with their favorite wine or spirit. Are you trying any homemade gifts this year?

Cork Coaster 1 Cork Coaster 2 Cork Coaster 3

Looking for more DIY present ideas? Check them out here.

This is a DIY gift that I can nearly guarantee anyone would love to receive, homemade simple syrups. Sometimes I wonder, do they call it simple syrup because it’s so simple to make? I think they might!  I used this recipe, and added  apples for my own twist. Then I packaged it up in mini-mason jars and labeled the tops with brown craft paper, bakers twine, and recipe tags. Experiment with flavors and come up with your own mixture (I’ve used this recipe before too) — it’ll make your gift even more unique when you give it your own spin!

Cran-Apple Simple Syrup 1 Cran-Apple Simple Syrup2 Cran-Apple Simple Syrup3 Cran-Apple Simple Syrup4 Cran-Apple Simple Syrup5

Looking for more DIY present ideas? Check them out here.

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