Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

12 days of NAIT Christmas gift ideas 2018

Stumped about what to buy? Try something unique and made in Alberta

We love this time of year. Sure, the temperature has plummetted, getting anywhere takes twice as long as it should, and it's dark except for the hours you're at work. But there's also the feeling that people are in the mood to celebrate.

Perhaps more than at any other time of year, we're mindful of making the most of the time we spend with family and friends. We also work hard at showing our appreciation for those relationships. As part of that, we give gifts – ones that say, "I saw this and thought it was awesome, and that made me think of you."

Happily, NAIT grads make that kind of stuff.

Here, we celebrate their talents with our annual Christmas gift-giving guide. It's 12 days packed with unique, high-quality items that will fit the bill for whatever kind of awesome you're looking for. It makes giving easy while supporting Alberta businesses and entrepreneurs. So bundle up, take your time, and brighten up the season by presenting someone special with something special. Check back on each of the next 12 days for a new gift idea.

Enjoy the holidays, and merry Christmas from the team at techlifetoday.ca!

Day 1: Treats
Day 2: Gender-neutral fragrances
Day 3: Kitty gifts
Day 4: Junior hockey sticks
Day 5: Escape room
Day 6: Float therapy
Day 7: A huge variety of things made in Edmonton
Day 8: Books of all kinds
Day 9: Boxing session
Day 10: Oilersnation.com gear
Day 11: Craft beer
Day 12: Time

Day 1: Treatsnait christmas gift ideas food

Wherever you work, it might seem like co-workers are currently trying to fatten you up like a holiday turkey. Resistance is futile. Eat, drink and be merry.

And dish out as good as you get. Whether you're doing your part for the workplace snack pile or you're looking for a non-perishable item as a stocking stuffer, check out these tasty treats.

Chocolate from Violet Chocolate Co. 

We've lost count of all the awards Rebecca Grant (Culinary Arts ’08, Management ’13) has won for her handmade bars. The Edmonton chocolatier has a reputation for exotic and unexpected flavours, so get ready to shock the chocolate lover who thinks he or she has tasted it all.

A dozen from Destination Donuts 

Watch out, Big Doughnut. This father-daughter team of Arlyn (Baking ’72, Steamfitter/Pipefitter ’09) and Jill Sturwold (Lab and X-ray Technology Combined ’97) are among the newest entries to Edmonton's fancy doughnut scene. The likes of the Snickerdoodle, Triple Play and Ode to Sunshine are sure to impress even the most dedicated Tim's fan.

A bag of Catfish Coffee

What goes better with a great doughnut than great coffee? Local roasters Dominic Ries (Culinary Arts '89) and Tracy Caron know how to ensure an excellent cup every time. Sold by the pound or half-pound.

Cookies from Confetti Sweets

After starting out at farmers' markets, Kathy Leskow (Management ’96) has grown her business into several shops around Edmonton. She's even served Confetti Sweets cookies to Hollywood stars. They'd be more than good enough for the rest of us even if she hadn't. Choose from about a dozen varieties to make your own dozen.

A tub of Revolution Ice Cream

Who says you can't eat ice cream in winter? This small-batch product is the brainchild of John (Mechanical Engineering Technology ’03) and Jess Steblyk, who were keen to bring "craft" to ice cream. Not recommended as a stocking stuffer (and not just because it's free of preservatives).

Day 2: Gender-neutral fragrances

josh smith, libertine fragranceJosh Smith (Forest Technology '09) loves everything about being in the forest and mountains except that getting there means leaving the city, which he also loves. To help strike the balance, he struck up a business, Libertine Fragrance.

Since teaching himself the craft of scent-making and launching his first product (appropriately called Soft Woods) in 2014, Smith has continued to produce eau de parfum, perfume oils and home fragrances in his downtown apartment.

Comprising smells such as leather, fig, sandalwood and more, the scents don't skew to one sex or the other, making for a unique – and, perhaps from the buyer's perspective, freeing – approach to a gender-oriented industry.

Bring nature with you wherever you go; shop online or at a handful of independent shops across Canada.

Day 3: Kitty gifts

olivia canlas, meowbox

Looking for the purr-fect gift for your cat? If you're among the more than one-third of Canadians who own a feline or two, this idea is for you.

In 2013, Olivia Canlas (Dental Assisting Technology ’12) delved into entre-paw-neurship with Meowbox, a package of cat treats sent to pet owners' homes each month. Each delivery contains toys, treats and, of course, the box.


“I like to pick really good quality, unique items,” says Canlas. “I like when I get feedback from customers and they say, ‘I never even thought about that’ or ‘I never knew that they made that for cats.’”

Currently, Canlas has subscribers across North America and the U.K. Care to join them? First boxes ship in about a week.

Day 4: Junior hockey sticks

raven hockey stickIf you're a fan of Dragons' Den, CBC's hit series in which entrepreneurs pitch to a panel of seasoned investors, you might be familiar with Raven Hockey sticks.

The idea is the product of team that includes Dan (Marketing ’95) and Lori Pilling (Legal and Realtime Reporting ’01), and is the solution to a problem that plagued minor-league hockey players. Stick makers were letting them down.

A modern adult composite stick is designed to flex, adding force to a shot. But once you cut that stick to junior size, flexing gets harder, weakening a shot. So, Pilling and two other hockey dads set out to create kid-size composite sticks that required no cutting, preserving the flex.

In 2016, that earned them a $500,000 investment from Dragon Michael Wekerle. Today, Raven Hockey is a thriving, Calgary-based stick manufacturer. Buy them online or at any of a few hundred stores throughout North America, and even Korea and Russia.

Day 5: Escape room

pamela woolger, escape city, escape roomMovies aren't the only source of escapism in the entertainment scene these days. Now, you can leave the world behind by being willingly locked in a room and using your wits to try to get out.

Escape City has offered just such an experience in a south Edmonton strip mall since 2015, when Pamela Woolger (Finance ’05), her husband Dave (Architectural Technology ’05) and three other business partners decided to open their own live-action puzzle game after trying one out themselves.

They fell in love with the concept: a group of people work their way through a themed room to find the clues and solve the mysteries that will lead to the key to escape. At Escape City, that has meant everything from getting trapped in a cabin during a fierce winter storm to having to free souls from otherworldly realms.

No matter what the scenario, it will likely mean a good time for you and your family and friends. Gift certificates are available for both the Edmonton and Saskatoon locations.

Day 6: Float therapy

float therapy, modern gravity, edmonton

It's amazing the difference 1,000 pounds of salt can make to your state of mind – perhaps especially during the busy holiday season.

It's not just a pile of salt, of course. It's salt dissolved in 34 C water in one of the float chambers at Modern Gravity, owned and operated by Matt Smith (Personal Fitness Trainer ’11) and Jamie Phillips (Millwright ’12). Each one is isolated in a sound-proof, light-proof room, allowing the occupant to float their cares away in absolute silence and solitude.

Treat yourself so you can make it through to the end of the year, mind and body intact, or give a float as a gift (right now, they're even on sale!).

Day 7: A huge variety of things made in Edmonton

edmonton made gifted

Thanks to Laura Masyk (Marketing ’09), Day 7 offers a gift guide within a gift guide, turning our dozen ideas into dozens more.

As program manager at Edmonton Economic Development, Masyk oversees Edmonton Made, which promotes the growth of capital region businesses. One of her favourite parts of that job is assembling a catalogue called Gifted.

Released annually in the weeks before Christmas, Gifted features clothes, art, food, beverages, jewellry and much more, all of it made by entrepreneurs who fit the Edmonton Made criteria. Buy local, give local – you'll find no shortage of options.

Day 8: Books of all kinds

books by nait gradsKnow a reader who's into non-fiction, mysteries, science, poetry, cooking, or all of the above? A NAIT grad or staff member has penned the book just for them. Here are a few titles to consider this Christmas:

Mystery: Day into Night, One Careless Moment and Whiskey Creek 

In fire investigator Porter Cassel, Dave Hugelschaffer (Forest Technology '89) has created a character who's highly capable of heating up the mystery novels inspired by the author's life and career in the forest.

Science: Dark Matters: Nature's Reaction to Light Pollution and Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You 

Award-winning writer Joan Marie Galat (Biological Sciences Technology – Ecology ’84) has a knack for making science accessible, interesting and, best of all, fun. These latest releases are sure to please the curious of mind, young and old alike.

Poetry: Insomnia Bird: Edmonton Poems

Inspired by the city in which he works and lives, Insomnia Bird is NAIT English instructor and poet Kelly Shepherd's unorthodox homage to Edmonton, a place unsung in Canadian literature. Expect the magpie – part muse, part menace – to make more than a cameo appearance.

Music: Talking Music (Volumes 1 and 2)

During his decades on air as Canada's reigning expert on roots and blues, Holger Petersen (Radio and Television Arts '70) has had many conversations with many great musicians. His two volumes of Talking Music capture his revealing and insightful chats with the likes of Ron Wood, B.B. King and plenty more legends of the genres.

Food: Preserving on Paper: Seventeenth-Century Englishwomen's Receipt Books

NAIT English instructor Kristine Kowalchuk has curated a cookbook with origins that date back to Shakespeare. Discovered while she researched another project, the old English recipes are a window onto a time that now requires a glossary to define things like a firkin (a small cask a quarter the size of a barrel) and glair (the white of an egg). A great culinary conversation starter.

Photography: Vineyard Dogs of the Okanagan

In this coffeetable book, Aliki Salmas (Photographic Technology '88) combines her love of wine and dogs. The four-year project includes shoots at 26 different wineries throughout the Okanagan, and includes photos of dogs in the tasting room, barrel room, on tractors and in the field.

Food: All the Sweet Things: Baked Goods and Stories from the Kitchen of Sweetsugarbean

As a blogger, Renée Kohlman (Culinary Arts ’99) caught the attention of the National Post, which named her a top Canadian food blogger. That, in turn, caught the attention of a national publisher, which asked her if she wanted to do a book. Here it is: an award-winning volume loaded with well-loved, manageable recipes that cover the sweeter side of Kohlman's vast culinary repertoire.

Day 9: Boxing session

brooklyn tryhuba, champs boxing studio, nait personal fitness trainer gradUpon graduating, Brooklyn Tryhuba (Personal Fitness Trainer ’17) never thought she'd put on a pair of boxing gloves. But when she did, it changed her – and not into a fighter, per se.

The intensity, the elevation of her heart rate, the sweat, the mental toughness – all of it had her feeling more confident at the end of a workout.

Now the Champs Boxing Studio coach hopes to bring that feeling to everyone who steps into the downtown Edmonton gym. Maybe that's someone you love! Give the gift of empowerment – and a darn good workout – this Christmas (handwraps included).


Day 10: Oilersnation.com gear

jay downton, oilersnation.com, oodle noodleCompared to many cities in North America, hockey accounts for a considerable amount of the cultural conversation in Edmonton. Naturally, the Edmonton Oilers dominate as the topic of discussion.

That's great for Jay Downton (Finance '02), co-founder of oilersnation.com, a website devoted to news, analysis and more about the storied NHL team. Since its inception in 2007, the site has grown steadily in traffic and developed a brand – a raised fist with an oil drop at its centre – that has become a common sight on stylish T-shirts, ball caps and the back windows of pickup trucks around town.

How do you get such gear for your favourite fan of all things Oilers? There's an online shop. They even have Christmas ornaments.

Day 11: Craft beer

town square and dog island breweriesNobody buys boring old mass-produced beer as a gift (do they?). But craft beer, with its myriad colours, flavours and aromas, well, that's a different story.

What's more, it's the epitome of local. More often than not, it uses barley grown within a couple hundred kilometres of where it's brewed. It features some of the world's best, cleanest water. And it's crafted by local entrepreneurs interested in building an industry that boosts Alberta restaurants, tourism and, of course, agriculture.

If you're looking for something special for that beer lover, NAIT grads have you covered. Look for cans of craft from Dog Island Brewing (Ben Fiddler, Instrument Technician ’01, Electrician ’02, and Chad Paulson, Instrument Technician ’09) and Town Square Brewing Co. (Brandon Boutin, Steamfitter/Pipefitter ’05, Tyler McNaughton, Architectural Technology ’05, and Sterling Nordin, Heavy Equipment Technician ’02).

Day 12: The gift of time (and a great meal)

nait food and drink guideIn the end, you can give all the treats, fragrances, cat toys, hockey sticks, escape room visits, float sessions, stuff from another gift guide, books, boxing sessions, oilersnation.com geer and beer you want (they're all super choices; see above), but probably what most of us want from each other is something that cannot be put in a box or stuffed into an envelop: time, companionship, attention, love.

Happily, those four things pair well with food. Book an evening, dress up smart and pick a place from the NAIT Guide to Food and Drink, which, it so happens, also has something for everyone. (A lot of those places have gift cards, too. Just sayin'.)

Enjoy! Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all.


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