Have yourself a merry little D.I.Y Christmas
Considering everybody on your holiday gift list -- friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, your kids' teachers -- you might be needing a stimulus package before you even get to the big-ticket items this year.
So why not take a page from your grandmother's playbook and make the smaller gifts yourself?
Not only are homemade gifts less expensive, they also capture the spirit of holiday giving in a way that purchased gifts simply can't. And if you consider the ubiquitous traffic and holiday crowds, a leisurely morning spent baking breadsticks or whipping up a batch of homemade marshmallows seems positively Zen-like by comparison.
Gifts you make yourself can triangulate personal taste with both economy and invention. Make a stack of shortbread cookies spiced with your neighbor's favorite lavender, then tie them up in cellophane the color of her kitchen. Or wrap up a tin of brownies in the sports page for a friend who's a rabid Lakers fan (maybe the standings -- an idea you might need to finesse if your friend is a Clippers fan).
Use antique bottles found at flea markets (sterilize them first) to show off a rich caramel sauce spiked with Cognac or a batch of vinegar you've infused with thyme and peppercorns. Just tie the tops with velvet ribbon and thread on greeting cards and you have terrific gifts, at once pretty and practical.
Photo caption: Homemade marshmallows. Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times