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12 low-cost days of Christmas

December 06, 2005|by SARAH JOHNSTON

No ideas, no cash no problem!

For those readers who feel distraught every time they hear "Jingle Bells" playing, relax! Between the pressure of schoolwork, college open houses, and SATs, the upcoming holidays should be a welcomed hiatus, not the source of more stress.

Keep in mind there is no better gift than a gift from the heart. So being short on the green stuff doesn't have to be a problem.

Below is a gift-giving guide of do-it-yourself projects that won't break the bank. They're rated in order of "most wanted," as the result of a recent, informal student poll at North Hagerstown High School. Also, after each idea, are suggested recipients. Of course, only you would know who would be most appreciative of your unique gift.

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Grab a glass of eggnog, put on a Christmas CD, and start savoring the tastes, sounds, and sights of the holidays. Perhaps you'll even find yourself humming a holiday tune ... happily!

1. Mix CD - To remember special times you've shared. For best friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

Materials: Computer, CD burner, necessary software, blank CDs.

Directions: If you're not computer-savvy, ask someone who is, to walk you through the process.

2. iPod and cell phone case - To keep them fashionably connected. For best friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and older siblings.

Materials: Felt in two colors (one inch wider and four inches longer than friend's iPod or cell phone), embroidery thread, yard of 1-inch-wide ribbon, needle, scissors, two-piece snap, pins.

Directions: Step 1: Lay one piece of felt on top of the other. Pin together 1 inch from the edges.

Step 2: Sew across the bottom width of the two layers, one quarter inch from the edge, using either a running stitch (in, out, in, out) or a moccasin-style stitch (over the edges).

Step 3: Starting from the sewn bottom, fold up one third of the felt to form a pouch.

Step 4: Sew the pinned edges about one quarter inch from the edge.

Step 5: Sew the ribbon on each corner of the pouch for the strap.

Step 6: Sew on a snap to keep the flap closed.

3. Belt - To just keep them fashionable. For best friends, girlfriends, and sisters.

Materials: Skeins of yarn, two 5-inch-wide cardboard circles.

Directions: Step 1: Knot together three 10-yard strings of yarn six inches from the end. Braid the yarn together, until you're left with 6 inches at the opposite end, and make another knot.

Step 2: Go to www.knitting-and.com/knitting/tips/pompom.htm for directions on making pom-poms.

Step 3: Tie one pom-pom to each end of the belt using the excess 6 inches of yarn you wrapped around the center of each pom-pom.

4. Picture frames, photo albums and scrapbooks - To capture memorable moments. For best friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and family.

Materials: Anything and everything!

Directions: Your imagination is the key tool for this project. The possibilities are endless! Cheap photo albums and acrylic frames can get a makeover with your own artwork. You can decorate with glitter and stickers, or use a hot glue gun to attach seashells, buttons, bottle caps, pom-pom balls, marbles, beads, pipe cleaners, etc.

You can also make a homemade frame out of cardboard, or a scrapbook out of hole-punched construction paper tied together with ribbon. Include your favorite picture(s).

If you're making a scrapbook you might want to write a little blurb for each photo. If the picture is special to you, make sure you have a copy of the photo or make a reprint before you use it in this gift!

5. Snowman Kit - To keep them busy on snow days. For younger siblings.

Materials: Old scarf and hat or earmuffs, enough pebbles or XL buttons for two eyes and a mouth, large pine cone for a nose, large shoe box, holiday wrapping paper, label.

Directions: Cover the shoebox with wrapping paper, and fill it with the materials. Make sure to write "Snowman Kit" on the label, so that younger siblings don't think they were put on the "Naughty List" this year.

6. Scarf - To keep them warm. For best guy friends, boyfriends, and brothers.

Materials: Yarn and knitting or crocheting needles, if you know how to knit or crochet, or know someone who can teach you quickly. Otherwise, fleece or felt fabric 60 inches long and 10 inches wide, using the directions below. Scissors are needed for both methods.

Directions: Step 1: Cut half-inch fringes at both ends of the material. You're done! This is the simplest scarf you'll ever make.

7. Cookie mix or hot chocolate mix in a jar

Materials: To make the cookie mix in a jar, gather all the dry ingredients needed to make your favorite cookie (flour, sugar, chocolate chips, etc. - find a good recipe in a cookbook or online).

To make the hot chocolate mix in a jar, you'll need hot chocolate mix, marshmallows and a candy cane. Both projects also require ribbon, scissors and a glass jar with a lid.

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