The holidays are the perfect time to give the gift of experience. With a new year around the corner and resolutions on the brain that special someone may be ready to start that home improvement project or take up a musical instrument. The holidays are the perfect time to encourage someone to take the dance class they always wanted to try or learn how to do watercolor.
A great place to start is with the closest community college. The non-credit courses focus on personal enhancement from foreign language to performance art and creative writing to learning how to create a Web page. Here are some more ideas to jump start any passion:
Let them eat cake
Do you know someone who is addicted to the show "Ace of Cakes" on Food Network and would love to be able to create edible art?
Purchase a gift certificate to enroll them in The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confections. From beginners to those with advanced skills, the school, located at the Wilton Store, 7511 Lemont Road, Darien, offers many courses and workshops. For example a three-day Adult Decorating Class costs $525. Want to make sure they are serious first? Check the schedules at Hobby Lobby, Michael's and Jo Ann Superstores for a variety of beginner cake making classes for a minimal fee. For more information visit www.wilton.com.
Not so handy man
Are there projects to be done all over the house but no inspiration to get them done? Enroll someone you know in Home Depot's Home Improver Club. It's free to belong and sends alerts about various events, workshops and new products. Check the schedule at a local store and sign up together for a workshop in areas such as Interior Painting, Tiling Floors and Walls and Energy Efficient Doors and Windows. The best part - the workshops are free - so consider a gift card to help gather materials to get them started on their next fix-it project. For more information on workshops at a store near you visit www.homedepot.com.
Wrap up a set of paints and brushes for that aspiring artist and a membership to a local art league and get them started discovering their artistic talents. Most art leagues offer courses in everything from basic drawing to advanced oil painting. DuPage Art League School & Gallery in Wheaton and La Grange Art League Gallery & Studio are a few with classes ranging from $40 to $136 including both adult and child options. There are many tiers of memberships from $35 to $500. For more information visit www.dupageartleague.org or lagrangeartleague.org or search for a local chapter near you.
Check under the hood
If a teenager in your home is just getting started with driver's education it might also be a good time to help them learn more about the vehicle they are driving. Of course, there are many adults who could benefit from auto know how too. Select Firestone locations offer Firestone Car Care Academies where they teach workshops on car maintenance and safety. Most of the programs are offered free with registration so consider signing someone up. For more information visit www.firestonecompleteautocare.com.
Gift of gab
If you know someone planning a trip or saving for one to a foreign country get them started with language courses. Non-credit courses are available at most community colleges and include German, Spanish, Italian and some even have Chinese and Arabic. Sign your gift recipient up for one course or a whole series.
Fitness and fun
With a New Year on the horizon fitness resolutions are not too far behind. Give someone you know a head start by getting him or her involved in a fitness course or program that will hold his or her interest. Get them some new workout clothes to get them motivated. Purchase a gift certificate from the park district in their town and let them browse the seasonal brochure for something that catches their interest. There are usually lots of offerings from swimming to fitness boot camp, a yoga class, or even team sports such as volleyball or basketball. This is perfect for any age.
To get any age involved in a love of animals or inspiration to live a greener lifestyle, purchase a membership to the Shedd Aquarium. The membership will get them started on enjoying the exhibits, but it also can unlock a whole world of possible fun and educational experiences. There's something for any age group from children to adults. Children can participate in camps, Explorer programs and even sleepovers. Teens can get involved as Shedd Stewards doing service projects and adults can choose from college courses or the Right Bite Dinner series that includes seafood, socializing and education. For more information visit www.sheddaquarium.org.
Cultivate a green thumb
If this past spring and summer produced stunted or wilted flowers and plants, winter may be the perfect time to get someone started on classes to improve their gardening skills. The University of Illinois Extension has locations in most counties throughout Illinois and each chapter offers a variety of how-to courses. For just $10 you can sign them up for courses such as basic tree maintenance or how to grow and care for bonsai trees. Couple the classes with some gardening gloves or tools and you have a great gift that will have your recipient looking forward to warmer days. For more information visit web.extension.uiuc.edu and click "find an office