Sunday, December 6, 2009

Little Pie's three sweet wishes

Pictured above is our little elf, Nimble. He finds a spot in our home 'round the holidays and is the eyes and ears from the North. Nimble is quick, so quick human eyes cannot catch him. He appears when it's time to visit Santa and stays until Baby New Year arrives. Baby New Year is another story. All kinds of magical creatures visit us during the holidays including Mother Nature.

Last Friday evening we went to a little pocket of locally owned businesses on three blocks of South Pearl Street in the Platte Park neighborhood of Denver, a mile due south of us. Each year, these businesses sponsor Winterfest with horse-pulled wagon rides, roasting chestnuts, mulled cider and Santa makes a call. Even though mom and pop stores sponsor this, it’s not heavily commercialized and that’s really nice. It all happens outside and sometimes it can be very, very cold. But, the man lives in the ARCTIC, so 30 degrees is like Miami. That’s where Little Pie has caught up with the old man since she can remember.

Plus, it's fun to visit the stores on South Pearl. They are the mom and pop of Anthropologie. Actually they are a step above for their inspiration is not dictated by some corporate standard and the shop owners are the people we live next to and meet in coffee shops. If not thrift, these are the people who might be best to visit first when purchasing new items. Little Pie is pictured next to one of the Five Green Boxes stores. There is a home, clothing and now cards and decorating store in the Five Green Boxes genre. All are completely inspiring.

Petite Poe used to eagerly come too, but at 12 years old, she opted out for spending the night at friends. Why must we grow up?

As mentioned, our family has a long standing agreement that we offer up no more than three wishes to Santa. Anything more would make us look greedy and greedy children are not good children. This limit also makes the girls think of what they really want instead of just listing whatever comes to mind. This year Piper asked for:

1. A monocular, "like the sea captains of old used". Hmm, the sea captains of old. She is envisioning a brass instrument, something worn. Could Santa possibly save old treasures to give? Interesting concept. Speaking of sailors, our freshly chopped Douglas fir from the Rocky Mountain wilderness continues to drink like a sailor. As a family, we made three wreaths from the extra trimmings and the remaining trunk is in the fireplace as I write.

Last year, he did give her two bells from his ancient sleigh. Pictured above, you see they are old. These are real sleigh bells, not made by Hallmark with the words "Polar Express" inscribed upon on them. What does a card company have to do with making bells for Santa’s sleigh? Wouldn’t he have elves that tend to that? I love the book and the Polar Express movie but the bell is supposed to come from the sleigh, not the train!

2. An Egyptian costume.

3. A big plush tiger that is soft so she can cuddle. Piper is selective on the plush toys she keeps and she truly plays with them.

It’s wonderful to see that my daughter’s imagination travels the high seas, visits ancient Egypt and explores the jungles and mangrove swamps. All these places still need exploring, though we’d prefer to think otherwise, there is still so much to this wonderful planet that remains inconceivable to our current knowledge - of which we have only skimmed the surface.

In the past Piper’s asked for: magnetic rocks, a big bag of jellybeans, a little bag of jellybeans, a plush butterfly, skeleton keys, an hourglass and a thimble. Poet used to ask for similar things. She had one recurring wish, to fly by her own powers. Perhaps that’s why she is a champion swimmer and makes the breaststroke look like a waltz. But, I imagine if she keeps up her smarts and that resolve, she will fly someday.

No, we did not stand in line at Denver’s upscale Cherry Creek Mall for 45 minutes while getting blasted with the next Disney promotion. And no, there was no expensive photography scam attempting to make us feel guilty for not buying a poorly shot $18 photo of Little Pie on Santa's lap. At Winterfest, we take our own photo – no cost!

Parents, you must think like an elf to make things magical for your child. Here are some tips:

1. Elves make toys. They do not twisty tie down dolls or put toys in garish boxes intended to market the toy. Besides, it almost seems like a cruel punishment if you have the child's view that a toy can be a living being to tie it down. An elf-made toy comes ready for play in a simple brown reusable box. Children want to pull that toy out of the box and start playing right away! Any assembly, batteries, whatever needs to be done is done in advance. Your child has been waiting for –in some cases- months for this object. They want to play with it upon opening!

2. There are no discount chain retailers at the North Pole and they do not have access to cheap wrapping paper. Simple wooden boxes are great to hold gifts from the North. Okay, I know there are no trees on the polar ice cap but a wooden box looks more magical than misprinted Scotch-taped candy cane paper. Especially candy cane paper that is making other appearances around the tree – that is one of the most common belief killers! Children notice that and quickly conclude it is no coincidence. Besides, elves would get to the Boreal forest before they'd find a Walmart. Simple wooden boxes make appearances in thrift stores.

3. When elves need to add filler to a box to hold an object, reindeer moss is a good choice. This makes appearances in thrift stores too.

4. Elves use real ribbon – no plastic-icky imitations. Real ribbon can be found in thrift stores.

5. If it’s a big present, the elves will put a pretty bow on it. Presents don’t always need to be completely wrapped to bring magic.

6. A very quick note on nice paper, usually parchment or vellum can be left behind. The Man has class and is older than the mountains, so he’s not going to leave it on a standard sheet of paper or a card that has a company’s name printed on the back.

7. If a stocking is stuffed, it is not stuffed with name brand candy! Elves make candy! Duh! Well maybe the North Pole has a contract with Frango from Marshall Field & Company in Chicago. (If you’ve had Frango you know what I’m talking about.) Remove candy from it’s packing and tie it up with cellophane or put it in little satin bags.

8. The North Pole is its own enterprise. Despite what TV commercials tout, the North Pole neither partners nor endorses any one company. That needs to be very clear to little ones who doubt and are looking for the signs. You may think your child is a believer but, a simple faux pas could sway the pendulum in the beat of a heart.

Do whatever it takes to encourage the magic. The way I look at it, elves are sweet-natured. I figure that if I eat sweets (cupcakes mainly) I too become sweet. So make this the one time of year where you can mack on a few tasty C-cakes to get you in the mood. Gingerbread is a nice choice too. Grumpy elves, they’re no fun and their toys usually don’t measure up to North Pole magic QC.

I ask all other elves reading this to chime into the comments with their activities to educate the masses.

Oh, here’s a funny irony with gift giving. It’s often hard to tell whether my gift is thrift or new because I most always remove items from the original packaging. Let’s face it, it’s ugly! Well Tiffany’s isn’t, but just about everything else is. Packaging is not designed to present something pretty, it’s designed to market the items or make it impossible to be stolen. Besides, why would Santa Baby need an inventory control chip on a gift?

These earrings that I placed on vellum, did they cost 75 cents or $17.50? Do you like them? Does the cost matter? Or does it matter how they look on you?

If you are a new visitor to this blog, be certain to scroll back up and pull up the Thrift Catalog slide show featuring over 200 items from thrift stores to give you an idea of what could be waiting for you.


Jill said...

I had a similar tradition with my boys as they grew up - Santa only filled stockings. Therefore, anything wished for MUST fit in a stocking! That kept wishes in line with our budget, and the focus of the holidays was family and fun, like local parades and baking cookies to take to friends. Even now that they are older (17, 20, and 23) much of the emphasis is on the fun part, not just what they will get!

mustangsuzy said...

Amy, what a delightful insight on Christmas. Quite well written and inspiring

Elizabeth B said...

What a lovely post! I enjoy reading your blog so much.

And by the way, those boxes. Oh my word, where did you find them?!

Elizabeth B said...

Fnarrr. Why can't I click the "email follow-up comments" ticky box until after I sign in? Oh, the humanity.

sraikh said...

I found your blog through Apron thrift girls and am in love. I recently started thrifting(3 months ago). however I always went to the clothes/shoes/scarves/bags and never went to the household stuff(My fav thrift store is Savers ,which is a huge 2 storied store)
I however went yesterday, I was having a dinner party and was inspired by one of your posts below. Am composing a post on my finds with pictures and will link you.
Thank you so much and happy thrifting.

Avrila said...

Just a comment on gift wrap...although your wooden box suggestion is great, I know of an exception to it. For those with crafty friends and family, the ideal giftwrap substitute is fabric. One year, I sneakily borrowed my mom's crafts things to pick out a size of crochet hook she didn't have, found one, wrapped it in a piece of fabric that I thought she would like, and tied it off with real cloth ribbon. (Although craft stuff can be found thrifted, I often give in and buy it retail when I know *exactly* what I need.)

Daisy said...

Oh, the monocular! I hope you find one. Monoculars are still made today, but they're different from those of old. My son (visually impaired) uses one at times to travel, read house numbers, etc.

j said...

Found an old monocular on EBay. Funny how my daughter wants something old and treasured.

Anonymous said...

The vintage Spode heart shaped box with Lily of the Valley painted on the lid . For a younger sister who once, long ago ...............told you how she thought "Lilly of the Lalley" was the most beautiful name in the world ..........
Mouthblown glass bluebirds "of happiness" for a friends houswarming gift.
A 1910 Amatuers Guide to Electricity for a graduating Electrical Engineer.
Barnwood picture frames for photo's from our anniversary trip to the Texas hill country , last Spring.
All these items came from thrift or Goodwill's online auction site.

Anonymous said...

What great traditions to keep that magic alive. I wish my children were a little younger so that I may have been able to start with these wonderful ideas. I did however dispense with wrapping paper a long long time ago - i do so hate the sheer waste. Instead I made Santa sacks to fill. And today I crossed off some of my daughters christmas wish list - at the op shop of course!

Mrs Miser - frugal and proud said...

Your very lovely festive musings took me back to the days when my own children were still in the ‘believing in Father Christmas’ stage of their lives. They are now grown and have small ‘believers’ of their own. When you mentioned the sleigh bells it brought to mind the ‘Santa button’ that one year brought such a thrill and strengthened and maybe even revived belief in Old St. Nicholas in those who were getting to the stage where they were having doubts. Thus the story runs:

Being a person who enjoys a good rummage I was delighted to find, in a box of miscellany in a thrift store, a large heavy old golden brass button, nicely patina’d with an elaborate letter A embossed into it. “There must be a use for this,” I told myself and swiftly purchased it. Of course a thing of such beauty need not have a use, as such, it has done it’s time as a practical item, now it can retire and be admired.

Christmas was heading our way. It occurred to me that this glorious adornment with its stout Old English letter A might just be a button from Mr Claus’s red coat. Yes, I know, if I were really being trad I would have him in a cloak, but I was trying to weave the tale around the button.

On Christmas Eve, once the little ones were all tucked in their beds, we went about the task of eating a bite out of the mince pie they had left for Father Christmas, and swigging the glass of sherry too – always the hardest part, huh! But this year, in addition to filling their stockings, we left that mysterious golden button in the hearth.

Of course the children found it the next morning, but they could not figure it out.

“It’s off of Santa’s coat!”
“But it’s got an A on it, not an S!”

This little conundrum occupied them throughout breakfast until, without any prompting from an adult, they all decided that Santa probably had five large buttons down the front of his coat, and they would be lettered as follows: S, A, N, T, A. The ‘A’ button that is now a part of our Christmas tradition and hangs on the tree every year without fail, could have been either the second button or the last, fallen into our hearth during that squeeze down the chimney.

The best gift the children received that year was that of imagination, which is of course free and abundant. The cost of the button? I forget now exactly but it was mere pennies. Pennies well spent for something so priceless.

Shopping Golightly said...

Mrs. Miser!

What a wonderful story! What we adults fail to understand that there is much to be left to the child, and their imagination will work the rest. You had the insight to see there was something calling you to that button, just as there was something calling me to 99 cent Nimble the elf.

Excellent story!

Single PAP said...

oh i just love your blog and these ideas and the comments! i am about to bring home a 2 year old adopted from ethiopia in a couple of months and i am so excited to start our own holiday traditions! thank you so much for your creativity!