With the sun now setting at about 5 p.m., our hens have hung their “Closed for the Season” sign on the egg-factory door. We might get an occasional egg or two per month, but we won’t see more than that until late March at the earliest. Chickens require at least 14 hours of light to stimulate egg production, so our girls get the winter off to recuperate. I’ve packed away the spare egg trays and cartons, but the egg-collection basket stays put. Even though its chief role is on hiatus, a collection basket is perfect for a profusion of other purposes during the cold-weather months. Try one of these four seasonal suggestions to brighten your home. Note: make sure to thoroughly sanitize your basket prior to use.
1. Greeting-Card Organizer
Hanukkah. Christmas. Kwanzaa. New Year’s. Whatever you celebrate, an influx of greeting cards will soon populate your side tables, fireplace mantel and other household surfaces. Keep your cards tidy by tucking them into your collection basket. I grew tired of moving our Halloween cards when I needed to clean and also of standing them back up every time one of my sons ran by and blew them down. Fed up, I gathered the cards up, tucked them into my collection basket and loved the result. Keeping the greeting cards contained lets me display them anywhere I wish—and it makes dusting much easier.
2. Table Centerpiece
A collection basket makes a fantastic focal point for any holiday table. Line it with crepe paper, thread it with ribbons or use it as is, then fill it according to the occasion. Miniature pumpkins and gourds are great for Thanksgiving, while glass-ball ornaments and pine cones create a cheery Christmas mood. Champagne corks, meanwhile, help ring in the New Year. Blend blue, white and natural-wood dreidels with gleaming gelt for Hanukkah; for Kwanzaa, combine lemons, kumquats and filberts to reflect the harvest. Harness your holiday spirit and be creative when creating your centerpiece. No one will ever guess your basket is anything but a decorative item.
3. Service Gift Caddy
‘Tis the season to remember those hard-working individuals who make your everyday life a little better. I buy a variety of little gifts—handcrafted soaps, movie passes, car-wash certificates, locally made sweets gift cards—and wrap each of these in festive foil. These mini presents go into my collection basket, which I keep on the hall table near the front door. Whenever a service worker comes to our house, I offer them their pick of the basket. Give it a try: Your mail carrier, FedEx courier, UPS driver, pizza-delivery guy, utilities worker—each one will appreciate and remember your kind holiday gesture.
4. Snowball Tote
This one is definitely not an indoor use! About eight inches of snow had fallen overnight, and I had chased the kids out of the house, haranguing them about how I used to build igloos, make snow sculptures and go sledding in weather like this. I had started making hot cocoa for their return when I noticed that the collection basket was no longer on top of the fridge. Sure enough, one of the boys had taken it outside and was using it to cart snowballs around so he could pelt his brothers. He got extra marshmallows on his cocoa as a reward for his creativity.