If cash is a concern and creativity overflows instead, consider your culinary or crafting skills your biggest asset at this time of year. It's time to burn the midnight oil doing what you love: making stuff. In this case, were talking creativity in the service of your pet friends and their people.
Over the years, I have used this blog to offer you everything from simple recipes and DIY pet toys to intricate (but still easy) photography projects — because I'm just crafty like that. This year, I'm putting them together so you can get some ideas for the kind of holiday gifting I love best: one that requires no exposure to a mega-mall parking lot. iPhone or iPad photography app-apalooza: Pics are among the most accessible of DIY gifts. And with the proliferation of devices and their so-easy apps, it's a cinch to start playing with some of those pet pics still hanging around on your phone. I know what a pain it is to transfer them over to your computer for tinkering on with one of those behemoth photo editing programs before posting them on Facebook, so why not do it all at once right on your hand-held device? Here are some of my favorite apps: PhotoGene is the best all-purpose app I've ever used for photo cropping and style changes. Easily add conversations between pets or captions. As in this backyard vignette of a Harpie hen with Tulip's udder in the background: CatPaint is the only app I know that'll put a cat anywhere you want one. In a picture, that is. Because you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many cats in pictures. Here's a cat next to my significant other in front of the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica: ColorSplash is the one I go to when I want that black and white effect with just a splash of color — as in this pic of Slummy's Halloween bandage: Sunprints for your old-school X-rays. Want more of a challenge? Actually, this is an easy one if you use one of those now-ubiquitous "Sunprint" kits (sold at most any big-box craft store or online on Amazon) and happen to still have access to some of your pet's old X-rays. (These don't work with digital rads, sorry.) All you do is lay your X-rays over the kit's light-sensitive photo paper, expose to sunlight, and voilá! You've got a gorgeously artistic rendering of your pet's innards. I made a triptych for my boyfriend a few years back. He was most proud of his orthopedic implant cases, so I immortalized them for his home office. Then there was the one I made for my cousin the same year. Her Frenchie, Hugo, had eaten something he shouldn't have. Hence, the great print of his barium study mid-way through. It all turned out well, hence the hilarity of the gift. Doggie biscuits or crunchy kitty treats: Here's my favorite, inexpensive, fun-to-make recipe: 1 cup chunky peanut butter 2 Tbs. brewer's yeast (optional) 1 egg and enough whole-wheat flour to make a slightly sticky but kneadable dough Mix. Knead. Roll out to half-inch thickness and cut into bone shapes. Bake at 350 degrees until crisp (about 20 minutes). Cool completely before bagging in an airtight container or plastic zipper bag. For an easier approach, just score into squares with a pizza cutter before baking. For kitty treats, score into tiny squares and bake at 200 degrees until hard (more than an hour, maybe 2). Finally, here's the section for those of you who prefer the kind of gift that requires needlework skills. But I'm going to defer to others for this since I've not knitted a dog sweater in over two years, and the example I've got of Sophie Sue's is tattered ... and anyway, it doesn't look the same since she's no longer here to wear it. Anyhoo, here goes: Make & Build Dog Stuff: It doesn't get more self-explanatory than that. There's lots of stuff here, but the "Whipwhir" (pronounced "wipper," we're told) is my favorite. A recycled sock and a ball. Brilliant! It requires supervision, of course. Instructables: This great site is chock-full of dog stuff you can make using recycled yarn (from old sweaters), blue jeans and other random old clothing. Why pay oodles for those Booda chews when you've got the goods right in your closet (you know you don't wear 80 percent of that stuff anyhow). Squidoo: There is a huge community of DIY-ers who use Squidoo to share their ideas, including great dog toys. Embrace Pet Insurance: This is also a great source for ideas (go, Laura!). I saved this one for last because it's sooooo good as a round-up of pet toys (especially for our oft-neglected cats) that I couldn't resist including some of these pics. I especially love the DIY cardboard chaise from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. And the recycled suitcase beds from Threadbanger. (They also have a great DIY video.) OK, all, now get to work! And feel free to point out more DIY projects I may have missed, or share what you have created. Dr. Patty Khuly Pic of the day: "The sweater returns" by abbey*christine