by Jennie Morton
I don't know about you, but my craft skills are somewhat limited. I can create some simple items, but nothing too complicated or extravagant. Here are some easy Do-it-Yourself gift ideas for the holidays -- and the rest of the year.
Apple basket with caramel dip
A lot of people give sweet gifts during the holidays, but not all food related gifts need to be unhealthy. One idea is a basket filled with apples and a jar of homemade caramel dip. Sure, the caramel dip is sweet, but the recipient can choose to leave it aside. You can find a cute rectangular basket at a craft store, IKEA, or Cost Plus World Market. You can find several recipes online by searching for "caramel dip."
Picnic basket full of food and wine
Another food idea is a picnic basket for two. If you live near a good specialty gourmet store, buy a basket, a bottle of wine, and lots of little food items, such as small bottles of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, scones, crackers, little jars of jam, summer sausage, and whatever else looks good. You might want to supplement the gift with a fresh baguette the day you give it.
Apple iPhoto or Kodak Gallery photo album
If you've celebrated a big milestone during the year, such as a wedding or birth, consider making a gift album using photos from the event. Using digital versions of your pictures, use Apple's iPhoto photo album functionality ( http://www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto/books/) or Kodak Gallery's photo books ( http://www.kodakgallery.com/PhotoBookOverview.jsp).
Arranging photos is easy using their built-in templates. Alternately, if you have some talent making collages of photos in a photo editor, such as Adobe Photoshop, you can make some interesting photo layouts and use them as a full-bleed page in your photo album. Kodak Gallery offers hard-bound books with different cover materials. Apple offers both hard-bound and soft-bound books. Their smallest books are perfect for handing out photos of a new baby. Hard-bound books make great photo albums for parents the year after a wedding.
Paint your own pottery
Another great way to make a personal gift is to go to a "paint your own pottery" studio and paint a gift for someone. You can paint something as simple as a light switch plate, or something as large as a platter. Coffee mugs are usually a safe gift, but bowls give you a little more space to work with. My favorite is a nice wide pasta bowl. Designs don't have to be complicated to be good. Do something simple--with stripes, concentric circles, or a "stained glass" effect. There are many independent studios, in addition to the chains Petroglyph ( http://www.petroglyph.com) and Color Me Mine (http://www.colormemine.com/). To find the independent studios, search online for "paint your own pottery" and your city name.
When all else fails, you really can't go wrong with sweets, especially if you need to give gifts to coworkers. Cookies, pumpkin bread (I add mini chocolate chips!), and zucchini bread are all good, but if you really can't cook, buy some blueberry muffin mix and make blueberry bread loaves.