It's time to liberate those photos from the shackles of your digital cameras and phones. Maybe Heather Palmer McFarland of Clarksville, Arkansas, can help. Her mother-in-law always wants photos of family events, so Heather and her husband bought a starter camera for her (prices range from $50 to $100) and included a certificate for lessons on shooting, uploading, and printing at the photo kiosk.
Gena Leal of Acworth, Georgia, likes to put vacation photos on a DVD with background music. Web-based services can turn those same shots into a keepsake coffee-table book, complete with captions.
Our suggestion for advanced users: Buy Aunt Felicia a digital photo frame (around $200), connect it to the Internet, and then send her new photos from your house.
Give the Joy of Eating
Even with all the holiday dinners, food remains popular to give and to receive. Joy Bricking of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, adds a jar of overnight coffee cake mix to gift baskets. Recipients can prepare the ingredients on Christmas Eve, store it in the refrigerator, and then bake it on Christmas morning.
Ellen Harrison of Winnsboro, South Carolina, puts homemade salsa in canning jars for her "Feliz Navidad Salsa." Olé!
Need gifts for your colleagues or your children's teachers? Jeanne Coleman of Canton, Georgia, makes mini pound cakes and peppermint bark to put in pretty bags.
We suggest printing personal labels to add a homey touch to your tasty food gifts.
All the Trimmings
Everyone needs ornaments for the Christmas tree. Judy L. Hall of Fort Worth, Texas, suggested an ornament exchange: Every family member makes one to trade and one to keep.
Melissa Dingerson of Cape Coral, Florida, buys one for each of her children, sticking with those imprinted with the year.
Make It Up
After taking classes, Jean O'Shields of Fort Valley, Georgia, turns her new skills into homemade gifts, from embroidering monograms onto hand towels to making holly soap.
Here's an idea for those without craft-making skills: Give the gift of time. Plan a weekend getaway for you and your loved ones, doing something everyone will enjoy.
It's not too early to get a jump on the best holiday gifts for loved ones. But you don't need to buy the same old off-the-shelf gifts. Southern Living readers and editors have plenty of suggestions for the perfect present.
• Joy Bricking, Fort Thomas, Kentucky: Every year, we make baskets of goodies to give our family and friends.
• Jennifer Mckenzie Frazier, Associate Travel Editor: We're going to a paint-your-own-pottery place and getting my daughter's handprints in a tile. We'll then write "Christmas 2007" on the tile for a great keepsake present. My mom printed out all of our family recipes and had it bound at a copy shop to make a family cookbook for everyone. It was a great gift; I use it all the time.
• Jean O'Shields, Fort Valley, Georgia: I like to wrap my gifts in cellophane bags with coordinating ribbons. I think the presentation is as important as the gift.
• Melissa Dingerson, Cape Coral, Florida: I am really into pictures of my family, so I make photo calendars for family members using the photos from this year's events, like using Halloween pictures for October.
• Morgan Murphy, Executive Editor, Southern Progress Corporation Custom Publishing: We bake rum cakes for all our friends and family.
• Gena Leal, Acworth, Georgia: I create a printed poem in a pretty font, matted and framed, that reminds me of someone.
• Happy Jackson, Chapin, South Carolina: My mother-in-law, Judy, gives costumes to the grandkids. She got them on sale after Halloween, so they were a steal. The children immediately stripped down to dress up like Batman and Robin. It's an addition to the playroom for any time of year.
• Jayanna Holcomb-Davis, Alto, Texas: I put fast-food coupons in my 18-year-old son's stocking to take back to college when he returns in a few weeks.
• Sara Askew Jones, Healthy Living Editor: Everyone in our book club brings books they've read, wrapped and ready to swap. These are good reads from a trusted source, a fellow club member.
• Francine Bagwell, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: I make several different types of biscotti for our friends and my sons' teachers. For the teachers, I find a nice ceramic/glass Christmas plate such as a canapé plate, fill it with the cookies, wrap it with cellophane, and tie it with curly ribbon. I order Christmas labels that say "Homemade by Francine Bagwell." If I want to add a little something extra, I tie on a gift card to the ribbon.
Share your ideas and questions in our Parties, Holidays, and Entertaining Forum.
"Gifts With Your Own Personal Twist" is from the Home for the Holidays 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.