DIY gift ideas you’ll enjoy making and giving

As an amateur watercolor painter and broke graduate school student, my family and friends are becoming used to my hand-painted cards and wall-worthy (my opinion) paintings as gifts. Plus at least for my nephews and niece, why try to compete against flashy-brightly-colored-Toy-Story-themed-remote-controlled-car with other flashy-brightly-colored-Dora-the-Explorer-themed-remote-controlled-car that is outside of my budget anyway?  A pack of colored pencils and glitter, accompanied by some of their Aunt Jill’s works of art will be enjoyed in both the short and long term.  This holiday season though, I’m taking my DIY gifts to the next level… and yep, I am completely willing to share some of my finds. (Lucky you!)

First, what’s the most accessible DIY gift?

Food!  I am no wood craftsman, BUT I can mix some great ingredients to make a granola that would start your day off right.  And I think most could do that.  Homemade granola, infused olive oils, fudge, freezer jams…. the list goes on and on.  Here’s what I’m cooking and baking this year:

 ”Kitchen Sink” Chocolate Bark

After 2 years of giving truffles to friends and family for the holidays, I am thinking I will aim for a healthier option with crunchy and delicious chocolate bark.  This recipe calls for mixed nuts, dried fruit, and pretzels: you are only limited by your imagination for combinations here.  I think I’ll try almonds and dried apricots….

I also am demolishing a canister of coffee beans this week (only three more exams left…) and I’m thinking that with a quick peel of the label, wash, and addition of ribbon, it will make a great container to hold the bark!

Homemade Granola 


I found this recipe on a blog titled “Kiss My Spatula” – so I can only hope this recipe lives up to its sassy blog title.  This recipe includes the standards for granola: rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, and some type of oil (veggie or olive), but I am excited that it includes some unique ingredients: apple cider, flax seeds, and shredded coconut.

Maybe I am just a granola purist, but this will be a step outside of my comfort zone for granola.

For entire how-to and ingredient list, please feel free to click here.  Then proceed to mix, bake, and share!

Once again in the vein of reused containers, I have an old hexagonal jam jar that would suit this fancy granola quite well…


Interested in trying more adventurous food projects?  I’m also pondering drying my own homemade pasta for my noodle-loving friends and assembling a Soup-in-a-Jar gift for my beau who loves lentils.

Hand-made Wine Rack


Feeling like more material upcycling for your DIY projects?  I recently realized that the ReUse Center in Ann Arbor  has over 20,000 square feet of space, filled with old household items just waiting to be repurposed and building materials!  Depending on what I find for materials, I am going to attempt this wine-rack.  This example to the left is from Bob Vila’s DIY website.  This version uses old mail tubes!  Cool.

As reminder the ReUse Center is open for purchasing

            • Monday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
            • Sunday 10 am – 2 pm


Repurposed CD Case


If I find something even remotely simliar in size and shape to this ho-hum CD case at at the left at the ReUse center, I will definitely try this planter project!

It’s one of an immense number of projects at the website Roadkill Rescue.

Feel inspired with the before and after images!


Your craft itch has not been scratched enough?  How about an etched serving tray made with an old mirror?  Or maybe use old maps to make an awesome cork board?  These embroidered note cards also look so amazing they’d be hard to part with.

Certainly for upcycled inspiration, don’t forget to check out the resources available in A2:  the government has a great comprehensive list of donation and resale centers.

Happy making and giving Ann Arbor 350!

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