You know how I know Christmas time is coming? Paper towel rolls are starting to collect around my house. I make my own Christmas crackers (or poppers, as they are sometimes called) - the small brightly wrapped tubes traditionally part of the holiday dinner table that you pull apart with a partner to reveal little treats and goodies inside. I find the store-bought ones overpriced and full of things that pretty much get tossed away with the dinner napkins, which is why I decided many years ago to make my own instead. By taking control of what goes into the crackers I can include personalized notes, trinkets that were picked out specifically with the recipient in mind, lottery tickets, candy (with sugar-free options for diabetics) and holiday trivia or quotes. When you do-it-yourself though, you have to really plan ahead - the strips of paper that allow the cracker to make its "bang" sound can be bought separately, but the craft stores sell out of them very early in the season, and you do need access to tubes - lots and lots of tubes. So while signs of the holiday season for most may include the first snowfall, finding eggnog at the supermarket and hearing "holiday favourite" muzak in the elevator at the mall, for me its the annual task of finding a place to store empty paper towel rolls without me either forgetting where I put them or finding them crushed to bits in December.