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.