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Free gift tags. November 29, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, with apologies in advance to anyone who came on our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, hoping that we were giving away free gift tags. Instead, I want to tell you about a great idea for making your own free, super-easy gift tags that I read about this weekend in Spencer Soper’s “On the Cheap” column in our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call. The title of Spencer’s article says it all: “Cut up Christmas cards and save.”

“On the Cheap” reader Steve Gerkovich told Spencer that he saves the front part of Christmas cards he receives, then cuts out decorative elements, like Santas and wreaths, and turns them into gift tags the following Christmas. (Steve would hate my cards, since I typically write on both inside surfaces and the back!)  You can read the article and watch a video of Steve making his gift tags at www.mcall.com/onthecheap. Spencer calculates that using this tip could save you $143.60 over 20 years.

There are other ways to recycle Christmas cards that are too pretty to throw out. When you wrap presents, instead of buying ribbons and bows, cut out decorative elements from your old cards, wrap the present in plain (one-color) paper, and glue the cutouts on top. Or cut off the front of a lovely card and glue the entire piece in the top center of your wrapped package. This will add a festive touch to each package, even if you wrap it in cut-up brown grocery bags! 

Many people thread Christmas cards on ribbon and hang the resulting “garland” on their staircase as a colorful decoration. You can also cut off the front, punch a hole on one corner, string a short piece of ribbon through the hole, tie it, and hang it from your Christmas tree. Or use your cut-out wreaths, snowmen, snowflakes, stars, Creche scenes, Santas, reindeer, birds, and etc. to add depth to your tree’s decorations or to be the star attractions as decorations on a wreath or small tree like a Norfolk Island pine.

Of course, I take things even further. I hate wasting pretty wrapping paper, and you know how there are always strips left over after you wrap a package. I’ll save those and cut them in appropriate widths to use as ribbons on packages with contrasting wrapping. I’ll also often cut a 2-inch-long-by-1-inch-wide piece off the odds and ends, fold it in half, tape it to the wrapped package, and address it. Another type of free gift tag!

One of my favorite ways to wrap presents is to press colorful autumn leaves and dry them, then tape them on plain brown, white, green, red, gold, or even black wrapping paper for a beautiful, dramatic touch. But if you’re shipping presents, this can get messy. Instead, you can position your leaves on the wrapped present, then spray-paint with gold, silver, or copper to leave (so to speak) their outlines on the wrapping paper for a Martha-esque touch. And of course, you can reuse the leaves for your other packages. When you’re done, the leaves will be covered with gold, silver, or copper paint, and can be hung on your tree as lovely ornaments in their own right.

It’s probably too late for this season—certainly it is here in scenic PA!—but for future reference, to press autumn leaves, choose dry leaves at their peak of color with no holes or brown spots. Take a book, such as a telephone book, and a paper towel. Set the book where it won’t be disturbed, put the paper towel on top, arrange the leaves flat on the towel so no leaves are touching, top them with a second paper towel, and put a second telephone book on top. They should be dry in two weeks.

Finally, yes, we do save really nice gift bags and reuse them, cutting off the tags if the original giver has addressed them to us. After all, the bags are attractive, they’re in like-new condition, and they save us from having to do our own wrapping (which in my case and in our friend Ben’s tends to resemble a six-year-old’s, try though we may).

Now it’s your turn. Please share your decorating and wrapping tips with us!

               ‘Til next time,



Crazy clever Christmas ornaments. December 11, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. The other day, I posted about some fun, creative Christmas ornaments you could make yourself with pretty much no talent and just a smidge of ingenuity. (See “Have yourself a crafty little Christmas” if you missed it.) But I forgot one. And the beauty of this one is, you don’t have to make a thing.

I was reminded last weekend when our friend Ben and I drove past the Barn Attic in Harleysville, Pennsylvania. The Barn Attic (which might actually be the Attic Barn) is the antiques emporium cum flea market cum indoor yard sale to end all.

“I’ll bet they have marbles,” we mused, screeching into their somewhat precipitous driveway. They did indeed have marbles, and pretty much everything else on earth. But what they really had was earrings. “We have 50,000 pairs of earrings,” the owner told me. That’s as in fifty thousand pairs, one hundred thousand earrings. Imelda Marcos clearly had nothing on the Barn Attic.

“What on earth would someone do with 50 pairs of flea-market earrings, much less 50,000 pairs, or even 5 pairs?” our friend Ben wondered. But we knew.

You see, we’re fortunate enough to have many highly creative friends, and they’re a constant inspiration to us. In this case, it was a brilliant idea on the part of our friend Susan that provided the answer. Susan loves unusual earrings, but she can often find only one of a given pair. Like socks, the matching earrings seem to have been sucked into an alternate (or perhaps parallel) universe. But because she chooses each pair of earrings with care and is genuinely fond of them, she just hates to throw the orphaned earrings out. Maybe their mates will stop their straying and return home someday. And even if not, she likes looking at the survivors.

I trust you can see where this is going. It occurred to Susan to use the orphaned earrings as Christmas-tree ornaments. They glitter and sparkle, they’re colorful, and they already have hangers. What more could you ask for?

We, of course, think this could be taken even further. A trip to the local thrift store or flea market often produces whole bags of earrings for a dollar. These are not, mind you, earrings that anyone would—or at least, should—wear. They’re big, they’re gaudy, they’re blinding in their glittering excess. Quite a few people we know (not to name names) would come right out and say they’re nasty and tacky. But that’s what makes them perfect on the tree: They show up. They can hold their own amid the branches, lights, and larger ornaments. In fact, they’ll look beautiful. 

So, if you have orphaned earrings, or have never been able to figure out exactly what to do with those horrid earrings Aunt Lily used to give you, or simply want to add some interest and excitement to your tree for pennies, consider the earring option. We know where you can get 50,000 pairs.

        ‘Til next time,