Food and drink: Wrap it up for real 

Tantalizing gifts that say “love” in a big authentic way

Ho, ho, ho! Yes, it's that jolly time of year again. What? You're not feeling that jolly, torn as you are between the news headlines piling up around you - sustainable this and unsustainable that - vs. all those lovely Christmas traditions tugging at your heart strings?

Fret not, for you, too, can celebrate the holiday season in a jolly good way that doesn't involve over-consumption of bad durable goods made by "cheap labour" that will end up in the Goodwill box in February.

The thing about Christmas, even through all its reinventions and reinterpretations over the years, is that it all boils down to love.

So if you hit the "pause" button for a minute in the pre-holiday glut and think for a bit, you'll no doubt hit upon gift-giving ideas that feel good and make sense.

Try starting by picking a theme. Like, how about multiplying the giving effect by supporting all your entrepreneurial friends who have their own businesses?

Get creative with gift certificates or token items you can "wrap up." I've made paper cutouts to symbolize the gift and "wrapped" them in a box I painted with acrylics - a storybook shirt for a real custom shirt. A freshly scrubbed potato represented 10 hours of free weeding time in spring.

Write a poem describing the intended gift, or a free-flowing paragraph. Heck, you can easily make your own gift certificates with coloured pens, collaged images or your computer.

Even if it might not initially seem that you can secure some gift-giving options, try negotiating. A dog-walking service might also double as a dog sitter if that's one of Sis's dilemmas when she's out of town. See if you can pay for your friend who's a computer geek to give Uncle Muddly 10 hours of IT support. You get the picture.

Over the years, I've themed my gift-giving in a variety of ways. I've bought all my gifts from crafters and artists, performing and otherwise. I've supported women who have their own businesses, in myriad forms. I've turned my giftees on to baskets or pots (made by a local potter, say a Meg Gallup or a Binty Massey?) of products I believe in - organic foods I love, or "green" cleaners (Nature Clean is my Canadian favourite).

Once you get going with your own ideas, it's actually fun to subvert the usual mall options and come up with your ideas.

If you're really into the homegrown and don't want to buy a "thing," whip up a batch of your pal's favourite brownies and print out the recipe for him. Offer to make your giftee a dinner for six and tuck your hand-made gift certificate into a "bouquet" of bright paper napkins. You're a great skier or boarder? Give personalized lessons - by you.

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