12 days of NAIT holiday gift ideas

Treats, outdoor adventures, books, games and much more

One of our favourite holiday traditions is back: the NAIT guide to gift giving.

Each year, we compile a list of 12 items or services from grads that you can stash in a stocking, wrap up for under the tree, or just share with a smile. It’s a great way to not only get creative with your generosity but support the local economy, since each item comes from an Alberta-based business.

Don’t ho-ho-hold back! Check this page for a new gift idea everyday from Dec. 1 to 16. We’re certain you’ll find something unique for everyone on your list.

Happy holidays from the team at techlifetoday!

Day 12: Time + Nature = Happiness

winter nature walk

For about half of every year, most of Alberta qualifies as a winter wonderland. This holiday season, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of time spent taking it all in together.

Strap on those snowshoes, clip on some skis or just lace up your boots. Hit the same trails you loved in the summer – or give these three a try – and see them under a brighter light and, perhaps, from a new perspective.

This is not an easy time. Birdsong and fresh air won’t solve the problems we face, but maybe they can help us forget about them now and then. And it’s nice to know that there are some things – things we can share with each other – that just can’t be taken away. 

What better gift is there than that?

Day 11: Gift cards for takeout

How about two presents for the price of one? A gift card for a local restaurant is exactly that!

On the one hand, who doesn’t love having dinner bought for them? On the other, it’s a great way to show your love for the local restaurants and shops that need our support now more than ever.

To help, we revised our list of diners, bakeries, breweries and shops owned and/or operated by NAIT grads to reflect who’s doing takeout or curbside pickup. They need help, you need gifts. Problems solved – and in the tastiest way possible.

Day 10: Warm weather gear for being outdoors

woman runner stretching by trail

All right, then – who’s ready to spend the next four to five months stuck inside?

We can hear those crickets chirping (and rubbing their legs together to keep warm). To help people seize the Alberta winter, we asked two experts for tips on dressing to beat the cold to come. 

Personal Fitness Trainer instructor Dr. Ken Reiss has recommendations for outdoor exercising, and Ironworker instructor Nicole Mahoney (Ironworker ’06) suggests best layers for longer and perhaps less physically active periods in the cold. 

Whether your recipient is going to be bombing down frozen trails, putting in a day’s work, or just taking in the magic of a snow-covered landscape, they’ll be ready for it.

Day 9: The first made-in-Edmonton whisky (and other spirits)

norther eyes whisky from hansen distillery edmonton

When Kris Sustrik (Welder ’01) decided to leave the oil and gas industry for a career that would keep him closer to home to start raising a family, moonshine was the answer.

Or a legal version thereof.

Since 2014, Kris and his wife Shayna Hansen have owned and operated Hansen Distillery in west Edmonton (Kris assembled the stills using his own welding tools and skills). The recipes came down from Shayna’s side of the family, but between the two of them they’ve refined them into flavoured spirits such as cherry pie, red chili and cinnamon, and a series of cream-based liqueurs (perfect for holiday coffee). All use as many local ingredients as possible.

But what’s really made Hansen the toast of the local distilling community is Northern Eyes, Edmonton’s first locally made whisky. It was released early in 2020 after three years of aging. Kris plans to release the next batches after five, seven and 10 years.

Since it’s a family business steeped in tradition, it only makes sense to plan for one additional release. “I've put barrels away for 18 years,” says Kris. “I started doing that the day my son was born. So, when he turns 18 years old, he's going to start selling 18-year-old whisky.”

“If he wants to be a distiller.”

Day 8: Christmas dinner solutions from Ernest’s

christmas dinner

Christmas dinner events will be smaller this year, but that's no reason they shouldn't still feel like events.

Ernest’s can help. This year, NAIT’s on-campus restaurant is offering Christmas meals for pickup, complete with all the flavour and frills but none of the trouble of preparation or clean up.

Choose a contemporary spread, featuring braised beef short rib, or the classic, which offers stuffed turkey. Sides for both include cranberry-cherry sauce, chestnut stuffing, sweet potato mash, roasted cauliflower and more, and pecan pie for dessert. Consider sweetening the deal with add-ons of wine or fun cocktail kits!

Orders must be placed before Dec. 17 for curbside pickup on Dec. 23. Then just heat, eat and rejoice with the family.

Day 7: Young adult dystopian fiction

amy eversley evermarked novel series

Why lose yourself in just one book when you can make the journey longer, and all the more enjoyable, with seven?

The extremely prolific Amy Eversley (Personal Fitness Trainer ’10) – a.k.a. Edmonton-based author AJ Eversley – only turned seriously to writing in 2010, but since then she’s produced two series of novels.

Watcher features three books that focus on an alternative reality in which a young woman strives to save her city under siege. In the four volumes of Evermarked, the preservation of a deadly secret is the key to maintaining a fragile peace.

Dystopian, which suggests nothing too pleasant, is a good way to describe Eversley’s fictional worlds. We assure you, though, that being immersed in them while curled up on the couch will be quite the opposite.

Day 6: An awesome kitchen knife

kitchen knifeAt its most basic, the knife is the “universal kitchen gadget,” says Kris Armitage (Culinary Arts ’02), manager of Knifewear Edmonton, a shop that specializes in high-performance kitchen knives. A great knife, however, is much more than that.

“It’s an extension of your hand when you’re working,” Armitage adds.

But let’s get to the point, shall we? To perfectly extend the hand of your favourite cook, consider these tips from the knife expert on what to look for, as well as this list of recommended models from NAIT’s own Culinary Arts and professional food studies department head.

It’s the edge every cooking enthusiast will be looking for this Christmas! 

Day 5: One hour completely alone

modern gravity float therapy edmonton

But we're all feeling so alone already, you say! This is different - a good kind of alone.

At Modern Gravity, owned and operated by Matt Smith (Personal Fitness Trainer ’11) and Jamie Phillips (Millwright ’12), guests can float their cares away in a tub of water saltier than the Dead Sea, and in the absence of light and sound. It's called restrictive environmental stimulation therapy, that is: R.E.S.T.

Help a family member or friend take a load off with a gift certificate for a relaxing float. Perhaps now more than ever, escaping for a little time on your own can work wonders.

Day 4: Handmade crafts, food, home decor and more


The thing Vanessa Antoniuk (Marketing ’00) has come to like most about holding Wholly Handmade markets is the interaction between buyers and sellers. “I love seeing how the community comes together to support local,” says the coordinator and owner of the event, which started in 2015.

Pre-COVID, that community numbered in the thousands, with shoppers descending upon Strathcona Community Centre and County Hall several times throughout the year. They’d visit nearly 150 vendors of arts and crafts, home decor, gourmet food, jewelry, clothing, pet items and much more – all of it made by the vendors themselves.

Now that Antoniuk has responded to the pandemic by taking Wholly Handmade online – and by stretching what was a weekend event over 12 days (Dec. 5 to 16) – she hopes to preserve its personal nature by highlighting the makers and their items on social media. Each day, Antoniuk will arrange for a new batch of no more than 10 to meet potential buyers online.

Next year, she hopes to return to in-person markets and all the community interaction they bring. In the meantime, however, she sees Wholly Handmade’s virtual format as a way to shop conscientiously and creatively. “As opposed to getting something that’s mass produced in a factory overseas, you’re getting something that really speaks to someone,” says Antoniuk.

Day 3: Board games for everyone!

boy winning at a board game

’Tis a strange season this year, but it’s also one that we may remember as being special for refocusing our attention on one another. Board games are a fun way to sharpen that focus.

Monopoly may be a classic, but games have come a long way since. Graeme Ly (Engineering Design and Drafting Technology ’07), co-owner of Board N Brew Café, has recommendations for everything from quick and easy to family friendly to seriously strategic games. Roll the dice or pick a card, the outcome is always the same: good times!

Games are available for purchase and pickup from the café.

Day 2: Guided mountain adventures and courses


Heather Davis, owner of Uplift Adventures, has often relied on nature’s power to elevate spirits.

“Hiking's really good for when you just want to get out and go exploring, or you want to sort through a problem,” says Davis (Biological Sciences Technology - Renewable Resources ’09, Marketing ’04). There’s no Wi-Fi in the backcountry, she points out, and so no distractions or unpleasant news. Instead, there are “all the little cool things about nature.”

To share those, Davis offers tours throughout the Rocky Mountains and in her own beautiful backyard of the Crowsnest Pass. For an intro, try a moonlit snowshoe or a brunch and hike (also by snowshoe in winter). Also, Davis teaches courses including winter survival, summer backpacking, navigation and more, so you can learn how to be uplifted by nature on your own.

Day 1: Cake from Sugared and Spiced Baked Goods

sugared and spiced cakes

Guaranteed cake. What a beautiful concept. Make it a reality with a Cake Club membership from Sugared and Spiced, co-owned by Amy Nachtigall (Baking '13). The entry-level subscription gets you three cakes a year on days of your choice, each one handmade and decorated, along with 15% off anything in the store.

You can save those treats for birthdays, but perhaps a lesson to be learned from 2020 is that every day we’re healthy is a day worth celebrating. Cake can help.

Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.

Sign up today »