Yes, you can make all your holiday arrangements while sitting down in front of your computer. Online shops, electronic greeting cards, restaurant reservations … it’s all pretty clean and easy these days. But there are a few—and we’re among them—who believe you haven’t really observed the holidays until you’ve made a mess with glitter and glue, pounded a few nails, baked your own cookies and volunteered to do some dirty work for those who need it. That is what today’s Friday Five is all about. So go on, imagine you’re an elf in Santa’s workshop, and make something already!
1. Be a kitchen star. Whether you want try something brand new or you’re a sparkly-colored sugar cookie traditionalist, there’s no judging at holiday-time—and no shortage of online inspiration. So, pull out the confectioner’s sugar, check the expire date on that sweetened-condensed milk (Magic Cookie Bars!), and don’t forget the butter. Adventurous? Epicurious has a stash of fun recipes from Momofuku Milk Bar (Pretzel Ice Cream Pie!), along with a slew of Christmas and Hanukkah recipes. For a visual feast, Martha Stewart has a 60+ holiday cookie slideshow (Lemon Knots!). Young at heart? Pop in Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas while you bake a batch of Mickey and Minnie peppermint swirls. We’ll be turning to Sarabeth Levine’s cookbook for help with our cookie tray—Serious Eats has her amazing Rugulach recipe here. Oh, yum.
2. Arts and Crafts: This way to Santa’s workshop … Crafting can be a bit stressful for A-types, so try not to set the bar too, too high. (And, whatever you do, keep away from Etsy until you’ve had a few successes of your own and are ready for the inspiration of others’.) For some perspective, read comedian Amy Sedaris’ book, Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People, and listen to her Splendid Table interview. Then start slow, perhaps with some pipe cleaners, before graduating to the big stuff, like these gorgeous DIY wreaths. But perhaps the most fun with crafts is to be had by involving your children (grandchildren, neighbor children, nieces and nephews) in making some messes together with you. There is much to be learned from their unrestrained creativity. And even a simple project, when made by a child’s hands, can be an unforgettable gift.
3. Express yourself with homemade cards. Yes, e-cards can be creative, and we appreciate a singing snowman as much as the next person, but there’s just something about paper. The kind you find at stores with the word “paperie” in their name, where you choose vellums and double-sided crescent mattes from carefully sourced swatchbooks. For some, creating handmade cards is an artistic expression (see Steven Heller’s favorites from this year’s designers and this Smithsonian slideshow of artists’ christmas cards.) But you don’t have to be an artist or have access to a paperie to create a heartfelt greeting. Take a look at the card samples, patterns and templates on the Paper Craft blog and at Squidoo. Visit the craft store for kits and matching papers and envelopes. Experiment with recycled wrapping paper and blank postcards. A silver snowflake stamp, peppermint candies, a bit of ribbon and who knows? Too late for cards you say? Have some fun with gift -wrapping! Sweet!
4. Build a house. (Or something.) When you’ve had enough indoor play, it may be time to up your serotonin with some fresh air and heavy lifting. The kind involving hammers, saws and nails. You may be surprised by what you can create when you really put your mind (and your back) into it. If you’re a stranger to construction but think now is the time to begin, why not learn from some experts: Andrew Morrison teaches week-long workshops in straw bale construction techniques all over the world. It’s sustainable and you will not believe the beauty of some of these structures! Or join in where experience is less important than compassion. Contact Habitat for Humanity and volunteer some time to help pound nails or swing a paintbrush along with other novices to build a house for someone less fortunate than yourself. The karma can’t be beat!
5. Share your legal skills. You should know, but we can never be reminded enough, that the gift of your legal abilities and a little of your time can be satisfying beyond belief. So if all of the above is a little too artsy-fartsy for your taste, then pick up the phone and call your local bar association to ask about volunteer activities. There are many. Or check with the ABA and International Bar Association for pro bono projects farther afield. Haiti, anyone? Republic of Congo? Always longed to chuck it all, join Lawyers Without Borders and see the world? Maybe now is the time to give yourself—and the world—a gift and join with others who are working to bring social advocacy and the rule of law to third-world countries. Truth is, you don’t necessarily have to chuck anything to do it. But we’ll leave that for you to investigate!