Homemade gifts can be quick and easy

If you’re the type who made a Christmas list and checked it twice all before Thanksgiving rolled around, read no further.

If, like the other 99 percent of the population, you have made a mad, last-minute shopping dash, you might want to keep reading.

Background checks on school employees expanded

Next year, parents of Columbia students may feel a bit more at ease about their children’s safety while at school.

Starting Jan. 1, state law will require all newly hired school employees who have contact with children to undergo a criminal background check and fingerprinting.

Solutions exist for students on a tight budget

The end of the fall semester means the end of class, finals and a lot of stress.

For some, the stress comes from what to give friends and family for the holidays. Although a lucky few students have worked hard at jobs and thus have extra cash to spend, most college students must be more creative when it comes to buying gifts for the ones they love.

Blunt to grudgingly publish union fee rule

JEFFERSON CITY — After three years and a court order, Secretary of State Matt Blunt will publish a rule today requiring new state employees to pay union fees.

The rule will take effect Jan. 30, by which time Blunt will have been inaugurated governor. That means Blunt will have authority to rescind the order, which he said he will do on his first day in the state’s top job.

Perfect thank-you notes

The holiday season is busy with gift-giving and entertaining, but those notes of thanks shouldn’t be forgotten.

Everyone has received gifts since his or her birth and sending a thank-you note is a great way to show appreciation for those presents and parties attended. People enjoy getting mail that isn’t a bill

Teen killed on I-70 implicated in burglary

Police said the teen who died Saturday night while attempting to cross Interstate 70 was leaving the scene of a burglary.

Abraham M. Schulz, 18, died when he was struck by a vehicle on I-70 near the Providence Road exit. The driver told police he swerved to miss Jason T. Funk, 20, but did not see Schulz. Schulz was pronounced dead at the scene.

Convenience stores a solution for last-minute shoppers

The corks are popped, the cookies are in the oven and a collection of wrapping paper sprawls across the floor.

The Christmas spirit fills the air along with the fear that accompanies the realization that you forgot to buy that special someone a gift. No worries; run to the closest convenience store.

Entertain without spending the entire day in the kitchen

Friends just arrived on your doorstep, and you don’t have any food prepared to serve them.

Before you start making those apologies, check out what is in your kitchen. Most people keep things in their cabinets that could be thrown together to make an appetizer or some small snack.

You can take your living room on the road

A trip this holiday season might seem like an adventure that takes the amenities of your living room to your vehicle with the variety of gadgets available.

Keeping children, guests and everyone in the vehicle entertained for a short ride to the grocery store or across states can be a challenge. A portable DVD player might be the ideal gift.

Small electronic items big seller

Big advances in electronics come in gadgets tiny enough to pop into your pocket this holiday season.

Everything from portable DVD players to high-tech global positioning systems is on the market and small enough to stuff into a stocking.

Pets love the holiday season, too

The gentle rustling of paper at Brian Rehg’s house is a signal to Dakota that something exciting is about to be revealed.

A glimpse at her new toy, a Frisbee, and she heads for the door; it’s time to play.

Look no further: It's Holiday Hot Dozen

It’s that time of year again. Get out your list, head to stores and join the thousands of other holiday shoppers trying to find the perfect gift.

Shopping for multiple friends and relatives can be a nightmare if you don’t know what they’re interested in. Your preschool-age daughter won’t want the same thing as your college-age nephew.

Homemade gifts add personal touch

Marcella Frederick of Columbia buys her fleece fabric at Hobby Lobby. She said fleece blankets she has sewn have been popular gifts for her grandchildren, who are 3 and 5.

Receiving a homemade gift rather than a retail item is usually more personal and thoughtful than an item bought from a store.

Gadgets provide glimpse of future

The future is not so clear in the gadget world.

As a result, there is not such thing as a futuristic gift.

When you hear someone say, “Hey, that looks futuristic,” you expect to see something like George Jetson would use or that his son, Elroy, would make.

Several items are getting make-overs, but they are the same. Other gifts are unique in size, shape or function but are not from the future.

Not every gift needs to be bought

You have spent days shopping and hours wrapping, all in the name of giving.

The gift of service, though, is one of the best and most-needed gifts. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities around the Columbia area throughout the year, but those few extra days of vacation make the holidays an ideal time to get together with friends and family and help make a difference in others’ lives.

Electronic games suit almost anyone

The concept of electronic games has a different meaning to everyone.

Some think board games with electronic, battery-operated pieces. Others think game systems such as Nintendo or handheld pocket games such as poker.

Tax to aid mental health in the works

Ten years after Boone County voters overwhelmingly rejected a property tax tagged to fund area mental health services, boosters of a similar effort now in its infancy see significant obstacles in convincing a cost-conscious public.

Last month, voters in St. Louis approved a property tax of 19 cents for each $100 of assessed value to finance a community children’s services fund. Also, Jefferson and St. Charles counties added a sales tax of one-eighth of a cent to create a similar pot of money for juvenile mental health.

Victims would get say in parole

A proposed bill would give crime victims in Missouri the right to submit statements when first-time, nonviolent offenders request early releases from prison.

Under a law passed in 2003, an offender convicted of a Class C or Class D felony can petition for early release after serving 120 days.

Columbia colleges to graduate almost 2,500

After Holly Brengarth graduates from MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing on Friday, she will trade in her jobs at a restaurant and a doctor’s office for one as a cancer nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“I’m looking forward to having a paycheck more than $260 a month,” said Brengarth, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in the first of several commencement ceremonies this weekend. She has been elected undergraduate class speaker and plans to talk about “differences that made our class so great.”

Agency hears Wal-Mart concerns

Representatives from two sides of a familiar public debate rehashed their opinions Monday about plans to put a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the already-polluted Hinkson Creek watershed.

At the request of the Sierra Club, officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources recorded testimony at a meeting Monday night about storm-water plans for the proposed 53-acre commercial development.