Thursday, December 17, 2009

THRIFTY: Christmas Decorating on the Cheap (and one expensive one)

My two favorite holidays are Christmas and Halloween, and I love decorating for both equally. Especially over the past five years since we've had the girls in our lives, it's become increasingly fun and important to create a festive home for the holidays. As a young family, we are still adding to our arsenal of tchotkes, especially since someone has a lot of fun doing it and is a compulsive thrift shopper. (Ahhem.) Anyhow, I try to be selective about what we collect for the holidays, and I tend to focus on vintage and handmade items. And let me tell you, right now the thrift shops are ripe with goodies.

I just scored this handmade plush JOY sign from a new little local treasure of a thrift shop I just discovered. It was 50cents and is a a perfect, whimsical addition to my girls' room.

I got this pink and red tinsel tree at a yard sale for a couple of bucks in Minneapolis years ago. The vintage tree topper was a recent score for, again, 50 cents. The color combos match perfectly, and pink is one of my favorite colors ever. It sits atop our guest bathroom counter.

Since Lucy is in kindergarten this year, her craft and art making skills have not only improved but have become something she really enjoys. We find it important to showcase her work around the house. One cold, gray afternoon she and I made paper snowflakes adorned with lots of glitter, of course, which we both love. We strung them on yarn and hung them in the dining room window. She loves seeing them when we drive up from outside and the glitter shimmers in the sun when it's shining.

Instead of purchasing a door swag or wreath this year I made my own from tree trimmings, a recycled wire bow and some pine cones I found. It turned out cute and is way cheaper than spending $15-$25 on one at the grocery store.

Some of our holiday decorations have come in the form of gifts. My stepmom got me a set of these light up twigs after I was admiring hers. I found the large glass base at a thrift store and pulled the other twigs and rocks from my yard. The glitter leaves are from the dollar store and the cute beaded initial ornaments were this year's gift from my fabulously crafty sister-in-law Crystal. It's hard to tell from this photo, but it is a really cute and fun little display on our bookshelf in the living room.

But this has got to be the piece de resistance of my Christmas decorations: behold Elvis Presley's Graceland. All decked out for the holidays just like Elvis did it back in the day. I am a huge fan of The King, so much so that we spent our honeymoon in Memphis. And it just so happened that the year we got married and visited Graceland for the first time, in 2000, was also the year that Department 56 released this limited edition beauty. My new mother-in-law, a Department 56 junkie, found out and bought it for us as a wedding gift. And as you can see, it wasn't cheap. The house lights up, and with the pink Cadillac in the drive, you can almost feel that Elvis is in there shootin' up a TV while his Mama is in the kitchen fryin' up a peanut and banana sandwich for her boy. And sweet Priscilla is probably swiggin' on her secret bottle of brandy while applying her black cat eye makeup in the bathroom. The tree lights blink and the "Merry Christmas to All, Elvis" sign strung between two trees is an authentic little replica of the original.
So, I love me some Christmas decor and the cheaper and kitschier, the better. And if I ever become one of those people who install the flag post on the outside of their house, you can bet this will be added to my arsenal that year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

KIDDOS: Boise Fire Department Tour

Our playgroup had a killer schedule of fun, educational and inexpensive dates each week this fall. One of our favorites was a tour of Boise City Fire Station No. 8 on Overland Road on the Boise Bench, which happens to be the second busiest station in the city. Most local fire stations offer free tours to kids and groups as a public service and let me tell you, they did a super job.

Of course, the kids all got a turn sitting in the drivers seat of the firetruck, which was a huge thrill and a great photo op for the moms.

And they learned about all the gear the truck holds, including how the hoses work.
A surprise highlight was a tour inside an Ada County Paramedics ambulance. We learned that there is an ambulance at each Boise fire station and that they go out on all calls with the fire truck. The paramedic showed the kids how the equipment and the gurney works and explained it all in kid-friendly, non-scary language. What a unique experience to be inside an ambulance in a non-emergency situation first.

The firefighters also dressed up in their full fighting gear to show the kids what they may look like should they ever see one in the case of a fire. This was such a great thing for the kids, I thought, because the guys in gear can be scary and intimidating, especially if you encounter one through smoke and fire.

Of course, we all loved watching them slide from the upper level where they sleep down the fire pole to the garage.

Besides their bedrooms and bathrooms, the upper level also contains a full workout room, so they can stay all firm and fit for their duties (and for the 2010 Idaho Firefighters Calendar which you can purchase now at all Boise and Meridian fire stations - OF COURSE WE ASKED.)
In addition, we saw their kitchen and learned about their unusual shifts, the types of trucks they use for each fire and interesting little tidbits like the fact that firetrucks do not require keys to start. The guys were full of helpful information and gave the kids bookmarks, stickers and bracelets at the end of the tour promoting fire safety at home. We were there a little over an hour and I have to say, I enjoyed it as much as the kids, and not only because the firefighters were cute. It was an educational and important experience for us all.