In Progress #50 — Make 5 gifts for 5 people that aren’t edible or CDs (2/5)

Dec 20, 2010 by

Make no mistake — my mix CDs are the bomb.  One of them once inspired a Craigslist Missed Connection with my name on it.  But with some effort, I bet I can come up gift ideas even more awesomely personal.

Christmas is fast approaching, and I know exactly the kind of effect it’s going to have on my bank account and credit card statement.  Somehow, the part of my brain that manages my financial affairs doesn’t “get” Christmas–since I’m not going to keep the things I buy, my brain reasons, I won’t eventually have to pay for them.  Then the credit card bill or the low balance alert arrives, and I’m flabbergasted.  “Surely,” I think to myself, “if I had spent this much money, I would have a house full of awesome stuff, instead of these boxes of socks and ugly notepads I have nowhere to put.”  I go through this song and dance every year.

But Christmas Aught Ten is gonna be (slightly) different, because the two most awesome presents I’ll be giving are ones I made.  And they cost me, really, nothing but time and the price of two picture frames (which are always on sale at Michaels, fortunately).

I had the idea for my boyfriend Miles’s present several months ago.  He’s a sound designer, DJ, sound engineer, and avid record collector.  I’m the last one of those as well. We’ve spent some excellent afternoons flipping through the stacks at Chicago’s many rad vinyl shops, and in celebration of this mutual interest, I had the idea to draw him a map of Chicago, highlighting the record stores in each neighborhood.  I can’t draw at all, however, so I knew I’d have to enlist the help of a graphic designer friend.  I pondered this for a while, and eventually the idea morphed into something different (but equally cool) that was well within my abilities to craft on my own.

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I made this in Microsoft Word (for Mac).  I know!  It looks awesome, does it not?  Color-coded according to neighborhood and featuring each store’s location by its cross streets (which is how EVERYONE gives directions in Chicago, you know), the Periodic Table of Chicago Vinyl is a wonder to behold.  It took me hours to do the needed research–in addition to including our favorite vinyl shops, I tried to put the ones with the best reputations and most national recognition on the chart.  I formatted the project as an 11×17 word document, saved it as a pdf, and emailed it to a FedEx Kinko’s to print.  Then I bought an 11×17 wood frame at Michaels and popped it in.  It looks incredibly polished and professional, Miles loves it, and though everyone who’s seen it thinks I should try to mass-market it (yeah, okay), my boyfriend has the one and only one.  As an added touch, I printed labels with the logos of all the shops included in the chart, put one on each of 24 envelopes, and slipped a $1 into each.  I gave Miles the envelopes when he opened the Periodic Table, and told him he could buy a cheap at each shop, or save up the money to allocate among them as he saw fit.  We’re going to have a great time spreading those $1s around town.

I was inspired by making Miles’s gift to create a similar one for my younger sister, Angélique.  She’s has a full-time job as a youth outreach minister at a Catholic Church, and she’s the person most excited about Catholicism that you will ever meet.  Keeping this in mind, it struck me that she might like a Periodic Table of Catholic Saints for her office at the church.

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Turns out, she did (see first picture in this post).
The squares include the saints’ names, feast days, and those things or persons of which they are considered to be the patron saints.

Making this table was different from the first, since there are thousands of Catholic saints to sort through.  Obviously, all the heavy-hitters had to make the cut: Evangelists, Apostles, Archangels, and the Bvm and Jtb.  But from there, it was really anyone’s game. I wanted to make sure that the American contingent of saints was repped, but for ideas beyond that I asked my sister to email me her 10 favorite saints.  I also told her she wasn’t allowed to ask why.  She sent me about 14 names (because saints are so awesome that it’s really hard to pick a ball team), and I set about looking them up and trying to find counterparts for them.  For instance, She sent me Saint John Bosco, the patron saint of boys, so I went looking for the patron saint of girls, who turned out to be Saint Maria Goretti.  When I found out Saint Louis IX was the patron saint of grooms, I went looking for the patron saint of brides, who turned out to be… Santa Claus.  Who also turned out to be Turkish.  It was a fascinating project.  I tried to group together the gaggle of more contemporary saints by their countries of origin, which proved tricky when Angélique sent me Saint Maximillian Kolbe.  He’s Polish, and most of the other Polish saints are crap.  Take Saint Stanislaus Kostka, patron against heart palpitations, or Saint Otto of Bamberg, patron against rabid dogs.  I mean… give me something to work with, Poland.  I’ve got JPII, but I had to put him over in the floating “blesseds” category with Mother Theresa, because he’s not canonized yet.

(Incidentally, if you’re interested in info on Saints, the site I found most thorough and helpful was

Again, I created this table as an 11×17 word document, saved it as a pdf, printed it at FedEx Kinko’s and put it in a Michaels frame.  On Christmas morning, I myself could have been mistaken for Saint Chelsea, Patroness of Awesome and Thoughtful Homemade Gifts.

1 Comment

  1. Things to Do

    What a great idea! I love these!

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