This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on December 3, 2008.

When Oprah forgoes her usual free-for-all in her Holiday Favourite Things episode, instead opting for memory boxes and free music, you know times are tough. Just 4 years ago it was:”Everybody gets a car!” Now? well, it’s not.

20081203If the pinching of pennies is affecting the way you do things these holidays, here are a few ways to geek up your list while going all Martha and doing it yourself.

Last year Betty Broadway gave all her children and grandchildren one of the most precious gifts a grandmother can give – the family recipe book. She needed a little help from her grandson, who with about 30 minutes of typing into iPhoto on his Mac had created a book.

“Actually I did it for purely selfish reasons,” says Betty’s grandson, Jeff. “I wanted the recipe for her mincemeat tarts.”

Jeff took all the recipes and mixed them with photos from the family archives from Christmas feasts passed. Every last secret was revealed, even the sauce for the Christmas pudding.

At a cost of about $20 each, the book became truly priceless. It was a huge hit and easy to do if you have iPhoto and a Mac.

You can still give the gift of a family archive, even if you don’t have a Mac, as Arieanna Schweber did this month with her honeymoon photos.

With nearly 15 000 photos on Flickr, Arieanna felt it was time to take her digital photos and make physical memories and so she used free software from Blurb.com to design and print a 160 page coffee table book of her honeymoon photos for about $100.

Honeymoon Album using Blurb

“I’m not sure it was necessarily easier to use Blurb to create the photobook,” she writes at Blogaholics.ca, “but the end result was something I couldn’t have achieved with just printing photos. The quality was pretty good, with only slightly less vibrant colors than the real photos.”

If you want to go the Blurb route, you can use the code “freeshipping” to get just that, if you get your book done by the end of the week.

For those who like to save things to the very last minute you can still get it done at home with an HP PhotoBook.

The package includes paper, a hardcover and software with more than 70 layouts. Simply follow the prompts to design and print the book at home and then snap the pages into the PhotoBook. A 5×7 book is $15 and because the spine snaps open you can add or remove pages and extras with ease.

BLOGOSPHERE BUZZ

It’s getting easier to turn old toys into new surprises. Future Shop has a trade-in initiative where you can trade old video games for a store credit towards a new game. Old Rock Band could become new Rock Band quite easily.

Santa has taken to the web with vigor. The gang at CanadaPost.ca are helping him answer email, write a blog and produce a podcast. At Northpole.com you can see if you’re on the naughty or nice list and at IAmSaintNick.com you can have the jolly old elf call a little doubter to prove he exists.

Black Friday last week gave way to Cyber Monday this week. Traditionally it’s the day people return to work from American Thanksgiving and use the high speed office access to shop online. Some great deals are still kicking around.

What happens to old typewriters now that we’re all computered? The keys get turned into monogrammed cufflinks,earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Rachel Hannah and Kerry Loeb run WhatsYourType.com will even create cusom pieces of wearable art starting at $40.

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