This time of year you're focused on scouting out gifts for everyone in your life, from your mom to your office Secret Santa. Between all that shopping and wrapping, though, don't forget to take some time for yourself. Here are our ideas for new skills to learn, hobbies to geek out over and ways to treat yourself during the most wonderful, and most chaotic, time of year.

The Crucible

Forged in fire

via Facebook

If you've ever struggled to assemble a nightstand from a certain Swedish manufacturer, perhaps you'd benefit from picking up some practical put-it-together skills. At The Crucible in Oakland you can get in touch with your industrial side, learning metalworking, ceramics, glassblowing and woodworking. Hell, you can even make a neon sign for your living room. It'll be a hit at your New Year's Eve party.

1260 7th St., Oakland. 510-444-0919;



Bits and pieces

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TechShop's warehouse is a paradise for the engineering mind thanks to cool equipment like 3-D printers, CNC machines and prototypers. Here, tinkerers run amok — and even start their own businesses. Oru (foldable kayaks) and DODOcase (sleek tablet cases) started at TechShop. The classes run the gamut from Autodesk Inventor Basics to Laser Cutting. You can even take a Santa's Workshop class and make holiday ornaments. Ditch the FiDi happy hour and go make something instead.

926 Howard St., SoMa, San Francisco. 650-521-9027;


Center for the Book

In a bind

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At Center for the Book you can try your hand at calligraphy, letterpress, stamping and bookbinding. Make fancy gift tags, craft your own business cards, marble paper and make ecofriendly gift wrap that doesn't look like a circa-9th-grade textbook cover.

375 Rhode Island St., Potrero, San Francisco. 415-565-0545;



Crafty like a fox

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At WorkshopSF the environment is so welcoming that you won't hesitate to get creative and simply let go. The classes attract an eclectic, dynamic bunch of people, and you always get a fun little takeaway piece. What you leave with depends on the kind of class you take, and WorkshopSF offers everything from sewing to mixology to candle making. The teachers are all local designers and makers whose ethos and approach reflect the slogan here: DIY with attitude.

1798 McAllister St., Western Addition, San Francisco. 415-874-9186;

By Mike Weiss

San Francisco-based marketer Mike Weiss has an undying love for sports, film photography and anything with gin. He's a firm believer that the West Coast is the best coast. Find him on Twitter @mikeini.