~ Old-Fashioned Country Christmas Idea List ~
I hope the idea list will help you make Christmas painless this year. We need all the help we can get & early, before the prices get raised for the holidays, & the people in our life see to many Christmas commercials. You know the ones I mean... EXPENSIVE!
This list may not look "frugal" until you add up what you bought last year on impulse. The "little" tuck in gifts can cost as much as you planned on spending in the first place. (The stores know this. Think back to the basket found by the check out line with cute odds & ends arranged. Waiting in line you look & if tired enough, you buy.) On one of these trips, I HAD ENOUGH!!!
Common sense kicked in & I really started thinking... What happened to my joy at an Old Fashioned Christmas? In fact, where did the "Old Fashioned" Christmas go to...
This seems to be the time of year everyone looks forward to and dreds at the same time. If that isn't confusing enough, we have the plague of the 20th Century...high tech Christmas shopping.
Now, I don't know about you, but every year I say I'll have everything bought, wrapped, and ready to go weeks before Christmas. Then, so the fairy tale goes, I'll relax and be able to enjoy the holidays the way I used to.
I go to THE MALL, fired up and ready to go, until faced with one tiny problem: "What do I buy? Will they like it? Does anyone really use a can-opener that plays music, tells time, & records messages?" (Does the can-opener really work or is it a "dummy"???) Oh the wonders of marketing! I go for a coffee & cinnamon roll at T.J. Cinnamon, & face the real problem...Me!
I want an Old-Fashined Christmas. Simple, meaningful, with time for me to reflect on the past year & to sit and enjoy the Christmas Tree, with all the trimmings. This does NOT include shop 'til you drop!
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to leave the world of high tech behind & shop where it might be fun. Or at least where I could have coffee and a cinnamon roll away from neon lights, and where it wouldn't seem like running a marathon race. You know, the places that survived the malls.
Antique shops, small towns, and historical towns that go all out for showing Christmas Spirit. I took a few days to get in the right frame of mind first, and shopped second. This way, the shopping was getting done WHILE I was finding places I enjoyed. This is my Christmas gift to myself; it put the fun back in Christmas!!
I went to St. Charles, Missouri first, and had hot cider while walking through the 1800's town & did shopping along the way. The Main Street is closed to car traffic & they have a horse drawn tram do the walking for you. The brick buildings and cobble stone streets run for several blocks of prime & unusual gift & antique shops. Many of the shops offer samples of their products; tea, candy, jams and jellies, cheese, wine, and yes, even coffee!
The gas lights & carolers in costume makes you feel as if you have landed in the middle of the 1800's era. There are candlelight walks,& many one of a kind items for the person that has Everything. It doesn't matter where you live, there are places you can visit that makes shopping easier & gives you the right frame of mind to enjoy the holidays & give you time to make Christmas "special" again.
Your State Department of Tourism will have a calendar of events or can tell you about places that celebrate an Old Fashined Holiday. It's worth taking time to do, believe me. The list below may help get you started.
NOTE: You may have to adjust your thinking. New is NOT always better! I have found most of the gifts that has gone over the best were "used".
Example: A friend & I went to a hole in the wall antique shop & found a musical instrument called a concertina. It was in the original box, & had the original Christmas paper in the bottom of the box. (1920's) Dark cobalt blue paper with gold embossed stars that was neat. He said he knew for sure she'd like it & she really did!
The concertina was $25.00 & in excellent condition. I had a person on the list that loved antiques & played several instruments. This gift really made her happy. It was one of a kind, fit the person to a "T", & I used the SAME Christmas paper the concertina was wrapped in the first time it was a gift. My Frugal streak! The paper was appreciated as much as the gift & we had something to tease about during dinner.
For 2002 I made some great finds! I can honestly say, I back Elaine at Table Treasures & Gifts 100% of the way... if you have problems of any type they get them fixed right away and are wonderful people to deal with. I buy teas from them myself and they have my stamp of approval...
Elaine owner of Table Treasures and Gifts, has teas from Canada, very reasonable. I love the Wild Blackberry (Huckleberry is good also) and they come in wood boxes that you can put small eye hooks in and hang up on the kitchen wall in a collage. Neat idea!
Her teas are about $3.99 per box. Toll Free: 1-800-667-8891 or on Ebay
or on her website:
Elaine at Table Treasures
I buy unusual soaps, bath salts, etc. from a company I like online called,SmallFlower. They have a Caswell Massey soap used at the White House,Almond Cold Cream Soap; a handmade soap that makes lather even in hard water & makes sensitive skin feel great, by Nancy Leonard, Ameretto by Nancy is my very favorite one. Small Flower.com sells Nancys' soaps.
The customer service from Smallflower is Wonderful! They know the products and are small enough to still care about the customer... My third year of buying from them & I wish all stores online were this good!
OK, so we know I love a good buy, I found THE place for making those pennies s-t-r-e-t-c-h, for gifts or for household items. One example: a pair of lace curtains in a long length $3.99 a pair, with NO shipping cost... from 70% off Closeout section on CatalogCity.Com
This website makes shopping fun again. Several 100 catalog companies use them for selling overstocks: Sears; Blair; Domestications; Lerner Clothes; Coldwater Creek, Orvis, Bombay Company, just to name a few. You can also order catalogs here from these companies.
They have everything from clothes, gardening, household items, sporting goods, tools, and tons of odds and ends for those hard to buy for. At 70% off for quality items... I love it!
I hope your holidays are filled with peace, love, & time to enjoy the season. Oh yes, and fun holiday shopping without going broke...
Money-Saving Gifts ~ These Are Great!
Clearance Sale Links
McFind Search Includes Outlet Shopping Online
Overstock Clearance Links
Epier Auction Online
Many of the Gift ideas listed here can be found online CHEAP! It's a way to buy unique gifts & have them paid in full long before Christmas or Birthdays or (?) Ebay.com is another to find unique items for the holidays.
(1) Photo album with photos/family history in it.
(2) Recipe box with some of your favorite family recipes jotted down. I buy dicontinued recipe cards for 2 pkg. $1.50 - $2.00 during Summer sales.
(3) Tea pot or fancy tea cup with a pkg. of English Breakfast Tea & Shortbread packet in it.
(4) Music box that plays their favorite song.
(5) A GOOD set of auto jumper cables in super heavy gauge.
(6) Imported beer or micro-brewery sample pack for those that enjoy beer.
(7) Book: Auto Repair For Dummies. Best book on basic auto Fix-it. Now, it's on video also.
(8) A car caddy filled with car wax, tire gauge, ice scraper, brake fluid, or (?)
(9) Visit the people you buy for and notice what collections they have, interests, favorite colors, etc. A collector is easy to buy for.
(10) Work bench items:
(A) An "oiler" with an expandable tube. Can be found at sewing machine repair shops or stores.
(B) Small "C" clamps for wood-workers.
(C) A divided box filled with various size screws, nuts, and bolts. They come as a filled box; but be careful! Some are off-size threads or metric, and of no help to to most people. Stick with standard Wood Collection or Metal Collection, depending on what they "fix" most often.
(D)Target sells a ratchet screwdriver set with sockets & various bits, for $6.00 at Christmas. If you are buying for a serious woodworker or "Fix-It" person, stick with Craftsman from Sears. They sell some for around $15.00, & are guaranteed for life.
(11) Hunters & people who are outside alot in cold weather appreciate Quilt-lined flannel shirts. You can buy the old red "Union Suit" (One piece long-johns) through J.C. Penney & Sears Catalog Stores for around $30.00 a pair.
(Note: The color never fades IF you soak them 1 hour in cold water with a handful of salt thrown in, before you wash them!)
(12) Lap or Stadium robes are handy. (Good to carry in the car also!)
(13) Children are easy but if you buy for some that have everything try the unexpected:
(A) A Xylophone... Lillian Vernon sells one that sounds great & could almost be used in a band, the quality is so good.
(B) Discount malls do have some neat CHEAP toys! I found a mini doll house with carrying handle that had a telephone that "rang", lights that worked, came with furniture & cost me $5.00. Oh, I forgot to add, this was the girls favorite toy over a "Barbie" $200.00 doll house & it lasted longer.
Usually, anything that uses imagination over 9-volt batteries. If you do get a toy that uses batteries PLEASE have batteries in it & ready to play with!
(14) A road atlas & atlas cover. Truck stops have them that covers side roads not usually listed in an atlas.
(15) Set of speakers for personal type radios/cassette players. Sony has a set for $30.00 that have high quality sound.
(16) Subscription to a specialty type magazine or newsletter: Coupon Savers Magazine, Wood Workers & Carvers of America, Hemming Motor News, The Genealogical Helper, You name it! They aren't magazines you can buy easily at stores.
Most libraries have a book listing all USA magazines by subject; address & cost of subscription is listed called the National Directory of Magazines, it lists all USA magazines both big and small ones.
Amazon Magazine List has some fantastic buys for 2002, 75% off usual subscription rate. They don't carry the smaller magazines I like such as: Ozark Mountaineer, but still have some excellent prices, so it's worth a look.
(17) Target sells a wood stenciled greeting card box with greeting cards & dividers for $15.00; in the greeting card & gift wrap section. American Greeting Card Company put in nice cards, not the usual cheap "freebie" cards.
(18) For people with a Rec Room or Basement game area. A 18" English bristle dart board; I found them alot at Wal-Mart on close out for $20.00. (It pays to check "Clearance" areas) Darts run $6.00-
$8.00 for three. Need 6 darts: three of each color.
Next year, you can buy them a dartboard cabinet or Slate for keeping score with chalk.
(19) Blank VCR Cassettes or a favorite movie taped. I had one into "I Dream of Jennie" & they didn't have cable. I taped 6 episodes for them & they loved it. Also, a cassette re-winder for video buffs. This is one buffs enjoy. The tape is wound better than using a VCR re-wind function.
(20) IOU'S & favorite family photos copied. This one is fun at family get togethers. I wrap the copies in a shirt box with families' IOU'S. I give an IOU for babysitting, a cake baked on demand, house or pet sitting while they are on vacation. You get the idea.
One aunt just wanted her house cleaned & she wasn't feeling good. For her birthday, I went there for the day, sent her off with her friends & cleaned. It would work just as good for Christmas!
(21) One person a year, I write a Christmas letter to. I give it to them in a card the day of Christmas. I tell them how I feel about them, how I appreciate them in my life or something they have done.
If its' a family member, I write a "memory" letter to them; things we've shared as a family, funny goofs some of us made, trips we made together & what we remember about them.
You take time to treat strangers kindly at Christmas...why not the people most important to you??? You never know when that letter will be pulled out & read when the person needs "something" & no one is around! (Been there; done that!!) It helps.
(22) For those into musical instruments or are musically inclined: music books for keyboard, vocal, organ, guitar etc. Music stores carry a variety of cassettes for a vocalist or guitar player to practice with. They have the Vocal or Guitar part blacked out, so they can fill it in when they play or sing. Neat!
The "Fake Book Of Music" is worth checking out for anyone into music. It has books for all instruments & a variety of music types. The book isn't like regular music books. It gives the person "short cuts" while playing, so they can play a song quicker. Music stores have them & you can buy used ones on Internet, on some book/music shops.
(23) Christmas Village Houses shaped like old English cottage type houses. Target sells them around Christmas for around $10.00 & the detailing on them are better than the expensive ones.
They have a 7 watt light inside & on/off switch. They had these last Season: Office, Toy Shop, Tavern, General Store. (Enclose a glitter sheet to set it on & small "tree" or pine cones, & you have a focal point for any room. I have mine on top of the fireplace and made a village; I use a white sheet across the top & have bowls turned upside down to form "hills". I add the small pine trees you can by at Christmas or at hobby shops anytime.
Have a Christmas ornament of figures here & there & a small mirror edged with cotton balls for "ice" & an skater ornament. It does make a nice gift & you can't go wrong. These are 9" tall.
(24) Check out small gift shops, antique shops, museum shops, etc. You can find more "sales" out of the malls this time of year. It is less hectic & a lot more fun!
Also, pays to order: Lillian Vernon, The Vermont Country Store, Miles Kimball, Walter Drake, Brookstone Hard-To-Find Tools (603-880-9500) & other free catalogs, to get ideas. These happen to be the ones that make me think of other gifts along the same line, but at times, cheaper in cost.
I've also used all these companies listed & can tell you the products are top quality, & if you have to make returns: they have a staff that helps you! I have 3 places I will list that have products that are the best quality & one may surprise you!
(1) We have all heard the "Fruitcake" jokes; & as a rule, they are dry & full of yucky citron fruit, like hockey pucks. W-E-L-L... guess what?? Mary Of Puddin' Hill makes a Walnut "fruitcake" that is made without the yucky stuff & tastes fantastic! If you write for a catalog & sample of the fruitcake, you may find another gift idea!
Mary of Puddin' Hill
P.O. Box 241
Greenville, Texas 75403
(2) The Honey Baked Ham Company has the best smoked, honey cured ham going. If you go to their store in your area, there is a case (usually by the door) that has hams in it that didn't "spiral cut" properly. I bought a $60.00 ham for $30.00, & it was HUGE!
The hams are pre-cooked & better cold than hot. This gift is one that can be shipped anywhere by the company and one that few people can resist.
(3) E.D. Foods has products you have to try, both for yourself & as a gift! Don't believe me... they offer free samples by mail.
If you have someone on your list that camps or hunts & enjoys great food: toss in a few soups, fire starter bricks, and odds and ends for them to take camping. (My favorite ED Food Soup?, Chicken Noodle Soup like my Danish Grandma used to make.)
Out-Of-Print Books are always good. Cook Books, or any subject someone loves. I've listed where to buy books on my Country Links page.
CHRISTMAS IDEA LIST PART 2...
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THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING GRAPHICS ARTISTS!
James Stephens ~ For Creating Santa With Cocoa!
La Ports' Graphics ~ Xmas Mantle
Mama Bears Pic Library on Tripod ~ Garland Line
K&W (Musen) Graphic Boutique ~ GWTW Lamp
© 1998 Crystal Jensen
Ye Olde Homestead