Stocking Stuffers? Amazon Add-ons has what you need

hutzler-banana-slicerMelissa Guynes Kirkner posted a link to a “Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer” on her Facebook page with the cryptic comment:  “I know what everyone is getting for Christmas this year!”  I took the bait and clicked through to the Amazon link.  Melissa suggested we read the customer reviews–and she was right.  There’s enough satire there to browse for a while–and for an English teacher to use as a future lesson:  “Root cause for our obesity” and “Threat to Our Democracy.”  All humor aside, the Amazon Add-On program is a gem of an idea for you to find easy stocking stuffers at little cost.

The Add-On program is simple.  Amazon offers free super-saver shipping for orders over $25, but many of us manage to select items that bring us to within five dollars of that amount.  For just a few dollars more, you can meet the free shipping minimum and stock up on unusual stocking stuffers–like bacon flavored toothpicks.

Today, there are 263,165 Add-On items for you to browse and buy.  Look for the little blue “Add-on” flag.  Waste of a Sunday afternoon?  To each his own.  I spent a while browsing the Add-Ons and came up with some gems that are silly, practical and/or odd.  Somehow I shopping wandered all of the way to mustache chip clips.

Then, I began clicking through the seasonal decor, all on deep discount.  Heaven help me!

You still have a full 11 months of shopping before 2013. The next time you’re making an Amazon purchase, consider adding something on from Santa.

Christmas Light Exchange

Today I did a little searching to find out more about LED Christmas lights.  I discovered that for the last three years Home Depot has offered an exchange program for new LED lights.  The program is designed to replace your old lights with new energy-efficient lights.  In 2011 Home Depot offered a $5 off new lights coupon in exchange for your old lights.  You could get up to 5 coupons, a $25 value.  Here’s the catch: the 2012 trade-in event only lasted for ten days (11/3-11/13)!  Home Depot hasn’t announced any details for a 2012 exchange yet.  Keep your eyes open on those flyers for the dates and specifics for an exchange this year.  Lowe’s is expected to have a similar offer this fall.  I don’t currently own any LED lights.  I am considering a trade, but we’ll have to see what the offers are.  Maybe we should use LED lights for our Festival of Trees entries too, hmm…

Yes, Natalie, There is a Santa Claus!

Yesterday and today I visited the same yard sale.  I was eyeing the huge display of Christmas balls and ornaments, artificial trees and lights.  I had in mind to purchase some for our massive tree decorating project, but, frankly, even at yard sale prices, I would have spent too much.

At lunch, Jeremy said, “Why don’t you just ask?”

As Shakespeare would say, “Screw your courage to the sticking place!”  I did just that.  I returned to the sale and explained our Yule Log charity project to the homeowner and asked if she would consider a reduced price.  Not only did she reduce the prices, she threw in extra Christmas balls and ornaments for free!  Who would have expected such enthusiastic generosity?

Coincidentally, at lunch I had mentioned that the Newseum tweeted yesterday that September 21 was the anniversary of the most read and re-printed editorial of all time:  “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”  This letter was first published in 1897 in the New York Sun in response to an 8-year-old’s letter to the newspaper.  Virginia O’Hanlon wrote that her father told her, “If you see it in The Sun, it is so.”  While all of us have heard the memorable line, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” have you ever read the inspirational words of the letter? They’re worth a second look.  I have included the Newseum’s link to the letter here.

In part of the famous letter, newsman Francis Pharcellus Church wrote, “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”  

Here it is, a very warm day in late September, when just about no one is thinking about snow and Christmas.  All the same, I had my proof of Santa’s existence at a yard sale!


Do it yourself Christmas Potpourri


Pinterest is a guilty pleasure, and this week i noticed more and more Christmas crafts and ideas are being added to the regular feed of clothing, wedding ideas and cute pets. Today, I stumbled across holiday potpourri. I can’t wait to try it.

Right about now, Michaels craft stores fill their foyers with red mesh bags of cinnamon scented pine cones that make my eyes water. I’m excited to make real holiday potpourri. Two years I a row, I received a homemade gift of potpourri. It smelled terrific and lasted at least 30 days before I decided it had lived a fully scented life.

Here’s the link to the blog, Make It Do, where I found the recipe and three cute ways to wrap the potpourri for gift-giving.

Back-to-School = Christmas Savings!

You’d have to be living under a rock to not notice all the sales and displays set up for the annual Back-to-School season.  Every retail store from Staples to CVS and including the big box sites of Wal-Mart and Target are targeting the needs of students and families for the return to the school routine.  If you are a savvy Christmas shopper and being prepared for all your needs these sales can be a great help.  Here at the Yule Log we see any saving and shopping season as a way to prepare for Christmas and these sales are no exception.  Check out some hints on how to shop now to support your successful Christmas efforts.

1.  Buy extra school supplies to use as gifts or stocking stuffers.  Small notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and markers make great stocking stuffers.  Kids of all ages enjoy these supplies and the prices now can’t be beat.  Desk organizers, binders, and more can be made into great gifts for family and friends.

2.  Get some tape, glue, and scissors.  Buy these supplies cheap now to help with all your wrapping needs.  Safety scissors are a great get for the younger helpers and I have found there is no such thing as too much tape!

3.  Stock up for crafting.  All kinds of school items can help with your craft projects.  Consider brown lunch bags, sandwich bags, felt, glitter, stickers, poster paint, and more.  If you’ve been doing a good job planning your craft projects you should have a list ready to go.

4.  Bags and Packs.  Time to buy back packs, computer bags, and lunch boxes to use as gifts for the holidays.  Take advantage of sales to get these items now.  You might be able to find these even cheaper at clearance sales once school starts.

5.  Scoop up tax-free clothes.  Maryland and other states offer those tax-free clothing purchase days now.  Buy some gifts and hide them away until Christmas.  Maryland’s tax-free window begins tomorrow, August 12th and runs through the 18th.

Time is running out to get prepared for Christmas.  Avoid the rush and the high costs and take care of things early!

Podcast #22- 208 Days to Go!

Podcast #22- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Time for the Yard Sales!

Over the weekend Natalie and I hit up a whole mess of yard sales.  Listen as we discuss the various types of yard sales, our quest for Christmas finds, and how we did finding some treasures to give as gifts.  We have garages, historic homes, estates, churches, and career yard salers.  Four hours of fun and less than $50 spent.  Check out our plans for next week too- we need your help to make it happen.

Yard sale season opens today!

There must be some unspoken rule that the first weekend after Easter is the start of yard sale season.  In addition to the deafening roar of every busy lawn tractor, the weather today was perfect for garage sales.

When my children were younger and I wanted to stop at a yard sale, I used to tell the boys that the car was out of my control, veering on its own toward a lawn full of useless stuff.  Auctions are my favorite, but a yard sale, for me, is like the therapy of shoe shopping for other women.

I spent part of the day browsing over someone else’s Christmas leftovers.  The formula for most yard sales is one quarter old tools and household appliances that may or may not work, one quarter children’s clothing, one quarter old books and miscellaneous stuff, and one quarter old Christmas decorations.  It’s hard to believe how much we squirrel away—and how much I am willing to squirrel away other people’s gently used stuff.

I don’t think I’d ever buy Christmas lights–one woman had a tangled mess in a large cardboard box for 50 cents—because I haven’t figured out the secret of getting the string to light and stay lit with any consistency,  even when it’s fresh out of the box.

I avoid wreaths and other dried holiday arrangements.  They are prone to looking dry and brittle, and I have enough of my own dry and brittle arrangements in need of a fix.

I like vintage holiday tablecloths and unusual glass items that I can use for gift giving, especially if I perfect the shortbread cookies (see yesterday’s post). Today, I hovered over a family of carolers with electric candles but settled for a Hallmark trivet still in the packaging.  Total expense: $1.00.

No sign of those Christmas books by Susan Waggoner, but I’ve got the whole yard sale season.  I’m just getting started!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is the day that the world is Irish, or at least the day everyone celebrates the life of a Christian saint in their own special way.  Like Saint Nicholas, Saint Patrick is a Christian patron Saint.  Like Nicholas, Patrick has origins most don’t know.  Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, but he was not Irish!  Patrick was born to Roman parents living as occupiers in the British colonies.  He was actually born in Scotland (sure to be a helpful bit of trivia to Scots when arguing with the Irish in a pub).  Patrick was captured when he was about 14 years old and taken to Ireland to serve as a slave.  He tended to the sheep and helped herd the animals.  While there he learned much about the druids and the pagans that were common in the country.  Six years later he escaped and fled back to Britain.  He supposedly had dreams after that of the Irish people calling him back.  Patrick had a calling and became a priest, later rising to the role of Bishop.  In 433 he was assigned to spread the word in Ireland and returned to the emerald isle.  Patrick preached to all and converted nearly the entire population.  He had many disciples and many of them became saints as well.  One of the stories of the time of St. Patrick tells how he used the shamrock to explain the trinity to the people.  This may well be true since it was a familiar plant to the pagans who used it as a symbolic plant to represent the rebirth of life each spring.  It was also a symbol of the druid/pagan triple goddess.  There are many myths connect to the life of St. Patrick, probably with the lives of many saints.  Biggest myth is that he drove the snakes from Ireland.  Didn’t happen- no snakes in Ireland to drive out!

We’ve been discussing all week how the Irish celebrate Christmas so I thought we might look briefly at how they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  In America the day is spent with loud, raucous parades and festivals, mostly centered on drinking beer, green or otherwise.  Get your green clothes, green hair dye, green bagels, and green rivers ready (St. Pat’s color was originally blue FYI).  The food for our American celebration of the Irish saint?  Corned beef and cabbage of course!  In Ireland the day is a religious holiday and a holy day of obligation to the devout.  Most Irish go to church and spend time with family and friends.  Some large cities have parades today, mainly in response to the American celebrations held over the last century.  The Irish meal will center on bacon and roasted chicken.  No green light-up blinky hats, no sparkly green beads or glasses, no green mugs hung on a string around your neck.

Time to make a connection to Christmas right?  Well here’s my hint for tying our American celebration of the Irish to Christmas. Now is the time to buy!  Buy all those great green items you can to save for Christmas use.  While I was out today I saw lots of things I will go back to get tomorrow on sale.  There were great green plates, napkins, and plastic utensils.  There were some nice green table linens and serving trays/bowls.  I even had my eye on some green decorative sugar and cupcake wrappers.  There were some cute little green clothes for the kids too.  These could be bought as gifts for the holidays- just need to add the months to the age to know what size to buy.  The trick is to remember you have all these March bargains when it gets to be December.

Get it now, Love it later

Been thinking of some good ways to keep it simple for Christmas 2012 to share with our readers.  Lots of ideas popped into my head on the drive home tonight.  Today was a particularly warm day, even for March 1st.  With warm weather comes more weekend outings, little road-trips and eventually vacations with family or friends.  These are the perfect opportunities to get started on some simple Christmas plans.  If you and your family, significant other, best friend, or whoever do lots of fun adventures together create a history.  You might keep an adventure journal for the year and then give it as a gift at Christmas with an envelope detailing your first adventure for 2013.  If you’re not a writer, maybe collect photos from the adventures.  Place these all together in a photo memory book and on the last page include photos from the adventure not yet taken (the gift being you planning that adventure).  Another great way to keep it simple is to collect simple mementos from special trips or adventures.  Maybe buy simple Christmas ornaments from your travels.  A Christmas present them on a little tree fashioned from some trimmings from the big tree.  Imagine the happiness from your special gift recipient when they realize just what the collection of ornaments is.  I know just how great it is from receiving a similar treasure.  A few years ago our family spent a great week together at the beach.  It was the first vacation we all took together in many, many years.  That Christmas I unwrapped a simple gift and inside was a lovely ornament from the beach with a hand-written note from my mother expressing her happiness from our time together.  That gift continues to give every year when I unbox it and re-read that special note.  Try it!  Think about Christmas and giving when you are on the interstate at Easter, the boardwalk in July, or even family reunion in August.

Christmas Store??

After recovering from my Candelmas, Groundhog Day, and St. Brigid Day celebrations yesterday I was thinking about what to do for a low-key Saturday afternoon.  I thought about taking some type of Christmas exploration day trip.  Natalie has been across the state seeking Christmas goodness, and I need to catch up!  I’ve been discussing a trip over to the Hagerstown outlets for weeks with a good friend.  Hagerstown has one of the Christmas Tree Shops.  One of two in Maryland.  I’ve been in the place only once before, right at the holidays.  It had TONS of Christmas stuff, and plenty of other things too.  I’m always after a bargain and figured that this would be a good store to score some out of season goodies.  I googled the store and found my way to their website- Christmas Tree Shops.  Awesome I thought -they have a weekly flyer posted and I can easily plan which bargains I’ll pick-up.  WRONG!!!  Not a single Christmas item in the whole thing. I asked another friend about this and she matter-of-fact replied that they never have Christmas stuff this time of year.  What??  Why would a store named for Christmas not be CHristmas year round?   Looking through the flyer a second time more closely, I identified many practical bargains.  I think a forward thinker could gather up some items to use as gift, craft, or decorating ideas for the holiday season.  Nothing directly Christmas, but with a little creativity and modification it could happen.  I won’t be heading to the store this weekend but might try it another time.  Let me know- what are the best year-round Christmas Stores in Maryland?