There are tons of projects for the Atmel 2313 (and related) chips in particular. You could make a toy for your child's holiday gift such as a homemade robot. That adds meaning to the gift given to give of yourself. Another thing I like about the micro-controller is you do not need some fancy setup to program it. You can virtually use an old parallel cable and a computer with a parallel port that can run the free development package). The parallel cables are discarded by zillions. We made a special adapter that could be used for many things, but the principal is the same.
Once people hear about your projects, you may be asked to do one for someone else. Sideline business? If nothing else it will allow you to be more valuable to a potential emplyer. As they say "The more you know!"
Surprise your kids! (http://florin.myip.org/blog/how-make-halloween-creepy-blinking-eyes-atmel-avr-microcontroller)
Note: Some parallel port interfaces (especially newer ones) may require a few resistors to help protect the parallel port.