Making the Holidays Yourself

Home & Yard Blvd. Section

Maybe finances are tight this holiday season. Perhaps you want to put a personal touch on your presents. Maybe you don’t want to fight the crowds on Black Friday. Perhaps you just want to give gifts that say “this is me” for 2008.?

Homemade gifts can do all this for you. Unlike an annual trip to the mall on Christmas Eve, they will take some preparation and forethought. Then again, they also will show more care and heart than a 10-pack of scented candles shaped like Santa Claus that give off a vaguely pine smell as well.

You really only are limited by your imagination (let’s hope not dulled by years of reality TV and Britney obsession) and time (see, getting laid off may be beneficial after all).

?Family Photos: More Than an Album?

Family and friends collect artifacts over the years—no way around that. With the preponderance of cheap cameras and digital storage, it has gotten to be even more prevalent. ?Those photos can have a life beyond clogging up your hard drive. A little creativity and the use of cheap reproduction services can create unique gifts.

Copier centers like FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko’s) offer a bevy of options. Some you may have seen before—a calendar of familiar family snapshots, for example—but others are more exotic. While mouse pads probably aren’t the way to go, you could turn prized family pictures into puzzles for all to enjoy.

Beyond paper products, you can put images on just about anything these days. In fact, if you have loved ones with a sweet tooth—and you have a bit more money to spend—you even can have custom M&M’S crafted to include your choice of colors, photo, and message. Visit

You Can Be an Artist?

Put your talents to the test. Artists—typically cash-poor folks—have created their own holiday gifts for ages. Be it a writer-published chapbook, a limited-run print, or an original ceramic, unique items have found their way under numerous Christmas trees.

These days, much of the setup work for these kinds of projects can be done at home with a computer, making it more accessible for everyday folks. Note: The ability to create art doesn’t necessarily give you the artistic talent needed, but that’s for you to decide.

A straightforward family history or cookbook would be treasured, especially as the years go by, and the memory fades. Many copy centers and printers can handle such publications. The cost per copy will vary depending on how many copies you need, how long it is, and how it is presented. Color, for example, probably will set you back more.

With the explosion of interest in homemade crafts, plenty of you may have all the supplies you need sitting around the house, waiting for some inspiration. This is the perfect time to get some use of them for a holiday surprise.


The holidays are already about food, but you also can share cuisine beyond a traditional (or nontraditional, depending on preference) dinner. If you go back into holiday traditions, gifts of food were the norm.

Over the years, this custom has been tarnished, as tales spread of fruitcakes passed back and forth year after year, and people found it easier to pick up special holiday treats in the store as opposed to making them at home.

Foodies abound these days. Tons of resources exist, even for those frightened by the thought of heading into the kitchen. Holiday treats—cookies, candies, and the rest—aren’t as challenging as you may think, and the results easily will make you the hit of the season. Best of all, you will need to sample your goods along the way to make sure they pass muster, so you won’t miss out on any of the goodness.

Offer of Services?

First off, get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not talking about those kinds of services (unless you and your partner have an interest in exchanging that, of course). Instead, these are ways to trade on your specific skills as a kind of holiday barter.

It can be something as mundane as offering to help clean the house, watch the kids, or be the chauffer for a weekend, or as complex as crafting a multicourse dinner or helping do a fashion makeover. Be sure you have real skills in these areas before offering them as a gift, though.

Use Your Imagination

Really, what you can make for your loved ones and friends is only limited by imagination. Are you a musician? Creating special recordings can be done on your computer, as can the copying. Heck, mundane MS Office tools like PowerPoint can be transformed into living histories with a little thought and ingenuity. It may not be as slick as the latest kitchen toy or shiny DVD, but it certainly will linger in the memory—and maybe even be in use—longer than either of them.

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