A few months ago, our family talked about making some of our holiday gifts this year rather than buying all of them at stores. But with fall soccer games, birthday parties and routine household and work responsibilities, our list of gift ideas still hangs by a magnet on the fridge door, waiting for that leisurely Saturday that passed our family by.

Actually, gifts from the heart don't have to be made from scratch. We discovered that it's quite simple and fun to add personal touches to basic items you buy. Our favorite gift idea this year is to paint designs on glass plates, bowls and mugs for special people on our list. (Sets of ovenproof clear glass plates, bowls and mugs may be purchased for a song at many discount and variety stores.)Here's how:

Wash and dry an ovenproof dish. Paint simple designs such as squiggles, zigzags, dots and even the person's name on the underside of the plate or the outside lower portion of a mug using Liquitex Concentrated Artist Color Glossies or Deka Translucent Paints (at arts and crafts stores). Do not paint on the food side of the dish. If you are drawing detailed pictures such as a pine tree or a birthday cake, your school-age child may prefer to practice making the design with a pencil on a separate piece of paper first.

When the paint is dry, an adult should place the glassware in a 325 degree oven for 30-45 minutes in a well-ventilated area, or follow manufacturer's instructions on the paint bottle.

On a gift tag, instruct the recipient to hand-wash the dish in hot, soapy water.