NAIT's 2021 holiday gift guide

12 local experiences, treats and more for everyone on your list

Giving should be fun. A harried trip to the mall where parking is painful, and there are so many stores with too many choices, and the line at Tim's is always dozens deep, is not fun.

But there’s hope, thanks to NAIT grads. One of our favourite traditions has returned for 2021: the techlifetoday Holiday Gift Guide.

Win a gift card!

Watch NAIT’s Facebook and LinkedIn for your chance to win a $100 gift card for the businesses on this list during the Happy Holi-NAIT Giveaway. A card will be awarded from a different company each day for 12 days, starting December 2. Good luck!

Each year, we feature 12 alumni entrepreneurs who apply their unique skills and talents to making creative gifts to suit everyone on your list. It’s a small selection that represents the quality of a business community that spans Alberta (many of which are on the NAIT grad business directory).

Those skills and talents are where the fun comes in. You get to bring joy and happiness with thoughtful, locally made gifts and experiences – and there’s no need to circle a parking lot for openings so rare they’re almost Christmas miracles.

Happy shopping! Happy giving! And happy holidays from the team at techlifetoday.

1. Handmade wooden housewares

two guys with wood products

Two Guys with Wood
Co-owner Kris Bennion (Chemical Technology ’09, Power Engineering Technology ’16)

In 2019, this Edmonton-based husband-and-husband team began putting their spare time to use by turning maple and walnut into art and artsy household items. Choose from cutting and charcuterie boards that showcase the beauty of the hardwood, or feature bright epoxy highlights. Crib boards are another hot item ready for purchase, online or at the Prairie Creations kiosk at Edmonton’s Bountiful Farmers’ Market. Alternatively, give a gift card for custom-made house signs, unique pet portraits and more.

2. Baked treats and ingredients

duchess bake shop treats

Duchess Bake Shop

Co-owner and baker Jacob Pelletier (Culinary Arts ’07)

If you have a highly refined sweet tooth on your list, the world-renowned Duchess Bake Shop is decadence defined. Choose from rich cakes, flaky croissants, a rainbow of macarons, galettes, and good old chocolate chip cookies. Everything is made with authentic French ingredients – many of which you can also purchase from the shop for giving to your favourite highly refined baker.

3. Handcrafted beauty products and botanicals

herbal beauty and wellness products from wholesome honeypot

The Wholesome Honey Pot

Owner Desirae Pfeffer (Biological Sciences Technology – Conservation Biology '20)

This Edmonton-based maker of handcrafted beauty and wellness products strives for purity and quality, promising products that are “100% pure and natural, non-toxic, cruelty free, hypoallergenic, preservative free, and free of all synthetic chemicals, artificial fragrances, fillers, gluten and GMOs.” In addition to high standards, the Wholesome Honey Pot brims with choices. Help your friends and family pamper themselves with the herbal bath soaks, soothing salves, unique felted soaps, teas and much more. Shop online or in person at Food in the Nūd, an Edmonton whole foods bakery that stocks select local vendors.

4. Board games

board game dice and pieces

Board N Brew Café
Graeme Ly (Engineering Design and Drafting Technology ’07)

Board games have come a long way since Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. Board N Brew Café has recommendations for everything from quick and easy to family friendly to seriously strategic games. Roll the dice or choose a card, the outcome is always the same: good times! Games are available for purchase and pickup from the café or sit down with family and friends for a snack, a drink and any of the well over 1,000 games on site.

5. Float therapy

float therapy session

Modern Gravity
Co-owners Jamie Phillips (Millwright ’12), Matt Smith (Personal Fitness Trainer ’11) 

Sometimes we all just need a little time alone. Sensory deprivation is about as alone as it gets. Modern Gravity offers sessions for solitude in beautifully appointed private rooms featuring baths of water saltier than the Dead Sea, making for effortless floating. Close the sound-proof door, dim the lights and drift away – or at least from side to side in one of the massive tubs – for a relaxation experience like no other.

6. Locally made craft beer

Brandon Boutin, co-owner of Town Square Brewing

Town Square Brewing
Co-owners Brandon Boutin (Steamfitter/Pipefitter ’05), Tyler McNaughton (Architectural Technology ’05), Sterling Nordin (Heavy Equipment Technician ’02) 

Beer isn’t just beer flavoured anymore! The craft beer boom of recent years has shown how beer can be bitter, sweet, (or bittersweet,) smokey, chocolatey, sour, smokey, have notes of coffee, tropical fruit, or be dark, hazy or, of course, crystal clear. Edmonton’s Town Square Brewing covers the works, and has received national and regional awards for doing so. Pick up their crafty creations at the brewery or at liquor stores around Alberta.

7. Fresh delicatessen fare

deli foods including charcuterie, cheese and preserves

Meuwly’s Artisan Food Market
Co-owners Peter Keith (Cook ’12), Will Kotowicz (Culinary Arts '05) 

Because there are people who’d choose brie over bon bons and prosciutto over pralines, don’t shy away from the gift of fancy meat and cheese. Meuwly’s offers both, plus condiments and preserves, made on site, and combines them with select items from quality local producers. Choose from customizable gift boxes, a DIY charcuterie board kit or subscriptions to its famous "Secret Meat Club," a monthly sampling of sausage, charcuterie and more. Maybe the holidays are sweet enough already. Enrich them by adding a little savoury to the season.

8. Microgreen growing system

jonathan mui, nait grad and founder of agriolabs, with fresh microgreens

Owner Jonathan Mui (Digital Media and IT '21)

Imagine harvesting fresh greens in Alberta year-round – harvested from a dark corner of your kitchen counter. Agriolabs has made the dream real by introducing the Micro, a completely self-contained, compact microgreen growing system. Just add water, a special seed pad, plug in the (made-in-Edmonton) machine, and in about a week you’ll be enjoying nutrient-dense mini versions of arugula, broccoli and more. Watch your garden grow by stacking units and adding a little more light to that dark corner.

9. Aluminum barware and gifts

alumination canada aluminum wine glass and beer sleeve

Alumination Canada
Co-owner Derryk Lenz (Accounting ’13, Bachelor of Business Administration ’15)

The “Chillit” was born of an economic downturn. What was a machine shop to do with its CNC machines without any orders for metalworking? Start turning out indestructible barware! Alumination Canada turns raw aluminum into glittering wine glasses, beer sleeves, highball glasses and shot glasses. It also offers unique interlocking candleholders. Whatever you choose, that lucky someone on your list will be able to raise a toast to your thoughtfulness long for years to come, regardless of the bumps, drops and tips that reduce mere glass to sad shards.

10. Gourmet take-home seafood

raw salmon filet

Sgambaro’s Signature Seafoods
Owner Roberto Sgambaro (Cooking '86)

Is there a salmon lover on your shopping list? Alberta may be landlocked but, thanks to a NAIT grad who combined his love of cooking with food manufacturing, we have local products so nice you’ll wonder if the fish has somehow made its way across the great divide. With lox, gravlax, sausage, jerky and several other items made from fresh – never frozen – salmon, Sgambaro’s will have you hooked. Order online or look for it in select shops across the province.

11. Some of the world’s best chocolate

chocolate bars from Violet Chocolate Co.

Violet Chocolate Co.
Owner Rebecca Grant (Culinary Arts ’08, Management ’13)

Surprise that chocolate fan with a gift from an Edmonton chocolatier who never stops amazing her customers with flavours and combinations that simply will not be found in the common candy aisle. Violet Chocolate Co. offers handmade bars, truffles and more made with ingredients including smoked sea salt, rosemary, chai, rhubarb and even ketchup chips. Her ever-growing haul of international awards is the proof in the pudding that her unorthodox approach to confections is not to be underestimated.

12. Backcountry hiking and courses

hiking and outdoors adventures from Uplift Adventures

Uplift Adventures
Owner Heather Davis (Biological Sciences Technology – Renewable Resources ’09, Marketing ’04)

Uplift Adventures gets its name from two sources. One is the geological process that forms mountains. The other is nature’s power to elevate people’s spirits. Give the gift of fresh air and amazing scenery with activities including guided hikes, such as moonlight snowshoe treks, or backcountry courses on wilderness survival and navigation. Uplift runs events year round in the southern Alberta Rockies or Crowsnest Pass region, where the company is based. Get yourself a gift card while you’re at it, and turn this into one of the best gifts of all: time together with family and friends.

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