One of the joys of winter where I live is watching the birds that gather in our old cedar and pine trees around the yard. I like to decorate the ‘outside trees’ too, with things our feathered friends can enjoy.
  • Take ears of corn, cut them into 3" chunks and use nails or screws in one end to tie a piece of fishing line onto so I can tie the other end to the branch of a tree.
  • Strings of unbuttered, unsalted popcorn draped around the tree make it look festive and the birds love it.  It’s a good job for some kids on a rainy/snowy day when they can’t go outside and Mom/Dad says ‘shut off the computer, cell phone, television and ‘do something useful’.
  • Pinecones can be fixed the same as the corn cobs with the hangers.  We slather them with the cheapest peanut butter I can find and then roll them in birdseed.  (When I didn’t have peanut butter, we used pan drippings or melted beef fat and it works too.
If you don’t have a Christmas tree skirt, and I must confess, I don’t have one – in fact, I don’t think I ever did have one – but you can use:
  • An old quilt (my first choice)
  • A big sheet (looks like snow)
  • Chunks of left-over quilt batting (snow again)
  • A fuzzy blanket or throw, whatever color you need
  • Or, open up those brown paper grocery bags and let the kids draw pictures on them. They can then be scrunched around the tree stand and it looks wonderful – also gives the kids a chance to add to the Christmas fun.

Several years ago, we gave some antique blue glass canning jars (bought at a yard sale for 25 cents each) filled with a bean soup mixture as Christmas gifts.  We used pinto, navy, split pea, lentils, baby limas etc. for the bean mixture (you use what you have on hand) and made a label that said: “BLIZZARD SOUP – Take a bag of beans, an old ham hock, some onions and a faithful crock.  Add water, cover, turn on low, go back to bed and Thank God for snow!”

The jars were an instant hit…and I still see them displayed in the homes filled with all sorts of little treasures so that gift is ‘still giving’.

When shopping for seasonal items near Christmas, when the stores know we are going to be making all kinds of extra goodies, it pays to have a ‘price index’ list of certain items – such as nuts, chocolate chips, corn syrup, candy coating bars, cranberries, etc.  

I’ve found that I can get some real bargains if I know ahead of time how much the ‘normal’ price of these items.  Some stores will use them as LOSS LEADERS to get you in the store, and sometimes they are at wholesale or below – but again, this is to get you IN the store.  They figure that you will do enough ‘impulse shopping’ on things you don’t really need to make up the difference.

This can be a time to ‘stock up’ if you know the best deal for your money!

This is another area where people can spend more on the paper than on the gift itself!  As someone who has always had to ‘watch the pennies’, it pains me no end to see expensive wrapping paper torn into bits and tossed into the waste bin, so – the secret to success here is to come up with some options instead of paper this year.  A few ideas include:

  • A piece of fabric can wrap a gift for a stitcher.
  • Old maps can be used as wrapping paper and is a neat way to teach a little geography.
  • Potato chip bags can be turned wrong side out, washed, dried and used in place of expensive gift bags.
  • Plain brown paper bags can be decorated with cut outs from last year’s Christmas cards or let the kids color or paint scenes on the bags.
  • A paper tablecloth can be used to wrap a bulky gift and can generally be found for very little money.
  • Colored pillowcases can be used as wrapping paper and continue to be used on a bed or a couch as a pillowcase following the season.

  • A dishtowel can be used as wrapping and have another life as well in the kitchen.
  • The Sunday comic pages from the newspaper.
  • Advertising pages from the newspaper or flyers – they are colored.
  • My personal preference is for tissue paper – colored or plain. It’s cheap, goes with any season or reason for a gift: Christmas, birthdays, weddings, you name it, and I can buy 25 sheets for under $2. A bargain for sure!

The best time to buy wrapping paper is AFTER Christmas, and before New Year’s. The stores want to unload it because they don’t want to store it, and an $8 roll of wrapping paper and a $10 bag of bows can be bought for under $5 for both (sometimes less).


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As always, if you have tips or ideas to share, send them to me at Pennywise, Box 518, Kadoka, SD 57543 or better yet, email me at [email protected]
Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond!


Last Minute Gift Ideas for Kids

  • Doll clothes and bedding. Using some scrap fabric and a little thread, you can make these up quickly.
  • Blocks. These can be made from wood scraps cut into various sizes, sand smooth and bag them up. If the kids want colored blocks they can paint them with markers.
  • A scrap book. These are fun for the older kids.  I just got some notebooks (10 cents each) at the ‘back to school sales’ and glued on some fabric for covers, added some pages of colored paper, markers, stickers, etc.  Sometimes the kids will add pictures. Glue sticks would be a good add-on, and write in their scrapbooks as well.
  • My ‘very own’ box. I found some wooden grape boxes at the grocery store that had the wooden covers. I took them home, painted them (filled in the slats on top) and put hinges on one side and a padlock on the other side. These were given to kids who had lots of siblings and no place to keep ‘private stuff’. These are really nice for the older kids who want to keep the three-year-old out of the makeup, etc.
  • Floor ‘flops’. It’s a ‘sort of’ quilt’ made from old blue jeans or old coats.  Just cut big squares, stitch them together and back with corduroy, flannel or an old sheet, tie in various spots with yarn or embroidery floss and stitch around the outside edges. Kids love them to ‘flop on the floor’ to watch television, read a book, or just to cover up with