Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

12 gift ideas made by Alberta-based NAIT grads

Supporting Alberta businesses during the holidays has never been easier

Each year, techlifetoday.ca turns the traditional 12 days of Christmas into something, well, much more practical. Rather than suggesting partridges in pear trees or lords a-leaping, we scour our stories for ideas and items that will surprise and delight everyone on your list.

The added benefit: doing so means supporting local entrepreneurs. Whether it's food, drink, books, an experience or something else that's fun and unique, every item on this year's list is the product of NAIT grads in Alberta.

Watch this page between Dec. 6 and 21 for a new way each day to show your appreciation and affection, and to impress recipients with your – and our grads' – creativity and thoughtfulness.

Happy holidays!

Day 1: Some of Canada's best baking

kai wong, choccorant, edmonton, nait, culinary arts

Sure, that's a lofty (and, yes, perhaps unverifiable) claim, but treat the office or family to a box of goodies from bakeries popping up across Edmonton and see if they disagree.

Consider filled croissants from Chocorrant, elegant tarts from La Boule Patisserie and Bakery, a fabulous cake from Sugared and Spiced, or anything else on offer from these shops, all of them run by NAIT grads featured in the fall 2017 issue of techlife.

Enjoy the snacks  and your bolstered popularity.

Day 2: Hockey sticks specially designed for kids

raven junior hockey sticks, calgary, alberta

Once, setting a kid up with a hockey stick was a 3-step process: buy stick at sports shop; measure and cut; watch kid struggle with stick, game after game.

When Dan Pilling (Marketing '95) and 2 fellow hockey dads realized why that process was ruining the fun, they decided to create a line of properly sized and carefully engineered junior sticks. Raven Hockey was born, and minor hockey was changed.

Change your kid's game, too, and save any trimming for the Christmas tree.

Day 3: A serious sweat

zaq thompson, sweat crawl, edmonton

For those curious but nervous about group exercise classes, Sweat Crawl may be the plunge you're looking to take.

Modelled on the pub crawl (extremely loosely, given the absence of alcohol and lack of sitting around), the event is run by Personal Fitness Trainer student Zaq Thompson, who accompanies and supports participants through diverse classes at 3 locations. It's a trial by fitness that helps participants overcome that fear of exercise classes or gives seasoned attendees a fun new challenge.

Go big on your 2018 fitness resolutions watch for crawls Thompson is now planning for January.

Day 4: Time together over a great meal

nait food and drink guide, restaurants, edmontonSometimes, the best thing you can give is your time.

Why not combine that with a meal at one of the best restaurants in the country?

Edmonton's independent restaurant community is fast becoming one of the darlings of Canada's food scene. At many of these establishments, NAIT grads set the menus that dazzle diners.

Give a gift card or extend an invitation, using our guide to help you choose a spot. Given the variety, that may not be easy, but it's certainly part of the fun.

Day 5: A great escape (room)

escape city, edmonton, pamela woolger

Put a new spin on "getting out more" with a past-time that has recently captured Edmonton's attention. Escape rooms are live-action puzzles with a time limit. Succeed in finding a way to unlock the door and freedom and bragging rights are yours.

“It’s a smaller time commitment than going to a movie, and … it gives you the chance to interact with friends in a way you normally wouldn’t,” says Pamela Woolger (Finance ’05), a co-owner at Escape City with her husband Dave (Architectural Technology ’05).

Why not test your collective problem-solving skills with friends or family this Christmas with a gift card? Be sure to book ahead.

Day 6: High-quality caffeine

dominic ries, culinary arts, catfish coffee, edmontonThere's an art to the perfect cup of coffee, and it starts well before you open that bag and breathe in its eye-opening aroma.

Dominic Ries (Cooking '89) and his wife Tracy know that, which is part of the reason they started Catfish Coffee Roasters.

The pair brings in select beans roughly every 6 weeks and slowly roasts them to perfection at their Edmonton-based operation.

Order Catfish coffee online or grab a bag or a cup at shops and cafes listed in this article, where you can also brush up on your coffee knowledge, thanks to Ries.

Day 7: Music from a maverick

arlo maverick, marlon wilson, edmonton, hip hop, rapper, nait, marketingGive the Christmas carols a rest and spin a disc from one of the biggest names in Edmonton hip hop: Arlo Maverick.

A.k.a. Marlon Wilson, Maverick (Marketing '02) recently earned an Edmonton Music Award and toured internationally on the strength of his latest release, Maybe Tomorrow.

Maverick has the depth and hooks to rival rappers across Canada – and to open listeners' ears to a local music scene that's well worth their attention. A perfect pick for any music lover and supporter of homegrown talent.

Day 8: Jewelry from BulletProof

earrings from bulletproof jewelryWith Bulletproof Jewelry, Carter Buchanan's goal was to make something beautiful out of something that people might consider inherently ugly: bullets.

He may have hit his target. Today, his company is his main source of income as he continues his studies at the JR Shaw School of Business. It also gives a portion of its proceeds to charity.

Get people talking this Christmas with some locally made, high-calibre bling. Choose from handmade earrings, pendants, tie clips and cufflinks, all made from spent bullet casings and, in some items, Swarovski crystals.

Day 9: Beer from Bent Stick

bent stick beer, edmonton, alberta, kurtis jensen, naitBent Stick's approach to brewing is simple, explains co-owner Kurtis Jensen (Electronics Engineering Technology ’05): "We’re trying to brew beer for us and then sell the other 700 litres to somebody else."

That means the Edmonton-based microbrewery – made up of 4 former homebrewers, Jensen included – produces a variety of accessible but innovative small-batch beers. Gift a beer lover with locally made ale and help support the Edmonton chapter of Alberta's craft beer boom.

Find it in stores across the province.

Day 10: Kindness and positive actions

kindness as a gift, nait, edmonton

NAIT grads don't have a monopoly on kind gestures and good deeds but they do have a sense of the positive impact those can have on others.

Honorary degree recipient CJ Woods outlined 7 of these in his address to graduates at NAIT's 2014 convocation, including:

  • be positive
  • listen to people
  • show gratitude
  • and 4 more!


They're good to give year-round, of course, but as far as Christmas gifts go, they're some of the easiest to share and always deeply appreciated.

Day 11: Talking Music 2

holger petersen talking music 2, nait gift guide 2017Holger Petersen (Radio and Television '70) returns with Talking Music 2, a second collection of his own interviews with the biggest names in roots and blues music.

Over the years, the long-time CBC and CKUA radio host has chatted with scores of legendary musicians, including B.B. King, Steve Miller and Ronnie Hawkins.

The conversations are candid and fascinating, and deftly guided by one of Canada's leading experts in the roots and blues genre. A perfect gift for any serious music fan.

Day 12: Float therapy

float therapy, modern gravity, edmonton, nait christmas gift guide

Once the baking is finished, dinners are cooked, presents are opened and the glitter of the season finally settles, how are you going to unwind?

Float therapy might be one way.

Modern Gravity has redefined total relaxation in its spa-like, central Edmonton facility. Slip into a warm, salt-water bath and be completely cut off from the distractions of the world, while benefiting from the physiological and psychological benefits of floating. 

Give a gift card as a present or buy one for yourself. After all that work, you deserve it.

Merry Christmas!


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