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No Substitute for Home Made Gifts!
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By Rick Vandekieft

When our Christmas tree goes up in a few weeks, it will have the red and white glass ornaments and trimming similar to those on your tree. But what you don't have are the ornaments made by my daughter (now 31) made from string, toilet paper roll, paper towel, construction paper, cotton batten and even spaghetti! These were her gifts to Mommy and Daddy more than 25 years ago and they have and always will be hung in the most visible spots on our tree. Yes, some have had a significant quantity of glue added over the years to keep them intact but they are still the best.

Beside me on my desk I have the pencil holder she made for me in school when she was six - A tin can with cut out photos glued to a soup can. So there are a few pictures missing from the family photo album, but I have a pencil holder for life. What other present did I receive in 1987, the year I received the pencil holder? I have no idea.

We call them "home-maders" and still, today, new home-maders are our most special gifts to give and to receive. These take time, not money, but the joy of giving a home-mader is just as special as receiving one.

Home-maders can be elaborate or simple depending on your talents and ambition. Time is ticking so if you are tackling something elaborate, time to get cracking!

There are many great sites that provide hundreds of ideas complete with step by step instructions that will result in something very special. If you have something in mind but just don't know how to make it, do like my daughter; "Ask the Google!"

I "asked the Google" by just typing; "Make a personalized coffee mug" in the Google search bar and at least 20 sites were listed, some with videos with step by step instructions. Actually, personalized coffee mugs are great home-maders and so easy... You just buy plain white mugs from a thrift store (which saves you more). Write on them with a permanent marker, bake at 350 for 30 minutes, and you're done (To ensure permanency, you also can buy special markers at a craft store for this purpose).

The following are just a few other ideas supplied by "The Google".

Magnets. You can make the tops out of bottle caps, flat-backed clear "marbles" from craft stores or baby food jar lids. Personalize with photos, letters or pictures from magazines, then affix plain black magnets to the backs.

Framed photo. Keep in mind you don't have to buy a frame new. Head to a thrift store. There is usually a box of frames ranging in price from .25 to the fancy ones for $1.00.

Homemade calendar. A great one for the kids to do! Print off a calendar from the web with space for pictures or drawings and let the kids at it. The results will be a keeper well after December 2014 has gone. Here is one source for free printable calendar templates: www.calendarlabs.com/2014-calendar-templates.php

Personalized canvas bag. Use an iron-on design, fabric paint or (if you're super-handy) sew initials or a design onto it. Your recipient can use it as a shopping bag or tote. Plain canvas bags can go for $2 or less at a craft store.

Cookies in a jar. Layer the dry ingredients in a Mason jar and attach some fabric to the lid for decoration. Include a recipe card with instructions for what to add. You also can do this with soup or drink mixes.

Family recipe book. Get an inexpensive photo album and write down (or print out) some of your favourite family recipes to put inside. Include a few blank cards for the recipient to write down his or her own favourites.

Just let your imagination do the work. Making gifts alone or together with other members of the family will add to the season.

Still drawing a blank? Go to: www.pinterest.com/cngsonnier/make-your-own-gifts for another 500+ ideas and let the fun begin.