Chopping Spree

Cut and roll your own Xmas tree

Paper shortage? Spotted owl displacement? C'mon! Christmas only comes around once a year. Do you really think depriving yourself of the thrill of grabbing the family hatchet and hacking down and bagging your own Christmas tree is gonna make a difference?

Certainly not, insists Rick Dungey, flack for the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), a St. Louis-based group. He says anything less than a sap-bleeding piece of timber ripped out of God's green earth is just plain un-American. "You can either buy a natural, organic, recyclable product grown on a United States farm, or you can use a non-biodegradable, artificial product made in a Chinese factory," he argues. "Take your pick."

Real trees are priced by the foot (usually $3 to $5) and by quality. There are a number of Christmas tree purveyors in the St. Louis area (many are located on outlying farms), so sharpen your saw, hop on your favorite search engine, pick a location that sounds scenic and get to cuttin'!

For more information on tree care and why the White House turns to St. Louis for its Christmas bush -- er, tree -- check out www.realchristmastrees.org. -- Tom R. Arterburn

Fort Davenport
It's positively divan

Looking for an appropriate, non-shopping outlet for that pre-Christmas energy your kids have been generating since Thanksgiving? What to do? Simple: Build a couch fort. Get out the extra sheets, pull the cushions off the sofa and explore your inner Frank Lloyd Wright with the rugrats. Grab a DVD of classic Warner Bros. cartoons, make a bowl of popcorn and veg out within the sanctuary of your living-room Cam-elot. They'll remember it as long as they live, and besides, it's probably been a while since you've seen any real cartoons. If you don't have any kids, omit them from these instructions and return to step one. -- John Goddard

Hail, Santa!
Benevolent despot

EUREKA, Missouri (RFT) -- It isn't Orlando, and it isn't the North Pole, but it is "Santa's Magical Kingdom." After an uncontested, nonviolent coup, Kris Kringle has seized power at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park (just off I-44, next to Six Flags) and officially renamed the campground.

As far as kingdoms go, the empire of Claus is devoid of money-hungry tax collectors and knights in shining armor; it is, however, bursting with more than 2 million shining lights. And like other magical kingdoms, the result of this happy mutiny is cheesy and kid-friendly -- but much less expensive ($15 per vehicle; $4 off Monday through Thursday with the donation of a new, unwrapped toy for the Homeless Resource Center, or $3 off with a printable coupon at www.santasmagicalkingdom.com). Not only can you drive through this thrifty holiday realm, but you also can make reservations for a horse-drawn carriage or a wagon by calling 636-938-5925. But hurry, you must visit by January 4; rogue elves have reported unrest in their camp and another administrative shake-up is likely to happen then. -- Alison Sieloff

Slime Ain't No Crime

SAT 12/20

Viscous, gummy, green, clingy, snot-like slime -- if you're a kid, it brings a smile to your face. Make your own primordial ooze when Mad Science of St. Louis presents Slime!! at 2 p.m. at the St. Louis County Library, Lewis & Clark Branch (9909 Lewis-Clark Boulevard, 314-868-0331, free). Children will also learn about chemical reactions, polymers and the wherefores of Silly Putty. -- Byron Kerman

 
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