Monday, November 26, 2012

Shop Small/Small World Saturday

We skipped all the Black Friday nonsense, except when we had to fight our way through traffic around the outlet malls in the middle of LA. Luckily, the day after was Small Business Saturday so we eagerly planned a day full of errands and activities to support some local small businesses. There was a store I'd been wanting to visit in Montrose, a nearby town up in the hills above us, and it turned out to be just down the street from one of our favorite restaurants. Things just took off from there!

We passed a Trader Joe's and popped in to pick up bread for dinner this week, but mostly to stock up on holiday treats to enjoy while we decorated our Christmas tree. We were totally jealous of the orderly parking lot, with one-way lanes of traffic. It was like heaven compared to the overcrowded death-trap we navigate when shopping at the TJ's in our town. The store itself was also huge and spacious and much less crowded than ours, so we let Alice drive a tiny shopping cart.

She loved it and did great until she bumped into a trash can and knocked over a few cans of green beans from a corner display behind it. Luckily, there was no damage and she was a bit more careful as we continued filling up the cart. When we got to the check-out, I was surprised to see a bunch of other little carts in line. Alice was particularly interested in the little girl in front of us, wearing her ballet class outfit. We're lucky if we see one or two other kids riding around in carts at our store, I don't even know if they have the little carts!

After we loaded our car full of treats, we headed off to our first stop, Bellies, Babies, and Bosoms so I could sign up for a free breastfeeding support class. Even though I've done this before, I can use all the support and info I can get, especially when it comes to producing enough and managing the return to work. The shop was really nice and full of adorable things for mamas, babies, and bigger kids. We spent our Shop Small dollars on a little Christmas present for Alice (I love that we can shop right in front of her!) and something sweet for baby sister.

As we were leaving the store to get lunch, we saw a holiday carriage pulled by two lovely white horses. When we pulled in to the parking lot, we ended up parking right next to the horse trailers. When we made it up to the main street, we were surprised to also see a pair of ponies! Their handler was saddling up another little guy and invited Alice along. At the low, low price of free, we couldn't refuse a ride, courtesy of the downtown merchants. Before Alice had a chance to think about it too much, we strapped her in for a quick little trot down the street on a spotted gray pony named Cisco. And you better believe we followed alongside taking about one million photos of Alice's first pony ride. She was a bit unsure for the first few minutes, but really enjoyed the whole deal (despite her characteristic lack of outward emotion in the photos). 
I had my eye out for the quilt shop that's in the vicinity but Alice's pony ride took us past another handicraft shop and I ducked in to see if they had what I needed. Needle in a Haystack carries supplies for needlepoint, cross-stitch, and knitting, but I just needed plain old polyester thread for my sewing machine. Alice dismounted her noble steed right in front of a vacuum and sewing machine repair shop and I spied a few displays of  thread. I also spied an enormous bulldog drooling in the front door. He'd been sitting so still, Jon thought he was a statue they placed in front of the door when the shop wasn't open. I could tell he was real because no statue would have such long and realistic strands of drool dripping from it's jaws.

Alice was pretty intimidated and had no interest in meeting the dog, so I picked her up and dodged the drool. We learned that Stanley was incredibly friendly and popular with the locals. Jon gave him so love while I held Alice safely above the action and tried to avoid making any contact with the impressive drool stalactites. They were so solid, they didn't even break or leave marks when they touched Jon's jeans (I only mentioned this to him later). We actually had to go back on our way out to get a photo of him and the owners got a kick out of us popping in again just to visit him. If When my beloved sewing machine needs servicing, I will gladly drive all the way out there to patronize their shop and pay Stanley a visit. Besides Stanley, the best part of that visit was that even though I forgot to bring a swatch of my fabric, I ended up with the perfect color thread anyway!
Stanley the bulldog, drooling on Jon's pants.
After our impromptu pony ride, thread in hand, we headed to one of our favorite restaurants to enjoy our favorite meals. The Black Cow Cafe has a delicious BBQ chicken sandwich we periodically recreate with a few close approximations from Trader Joe's but we always love a good reason to get out there for the real version. We were so proud and thankful that Alice is so well-behaved and lets us enjoy a nice lunch together, complete with a 20-30 minute wait for a table. She was cheerful, adorable, and hilarious, making us laugh by asking us every few minutes during our meal, "How are you doing?"

We couldn't resist the ice cream counter for dessert and I couldn't resist an opportunity to expose Alice to a new delicious treat. I follow this advice and use ice cream to help Alice try new things, since she'll surely enjoy any ice cream flavor she tries! I gave her a choice between "sweet nuts" (butter pecan) - because she loves glazed pecans - and "Christmas candy cane" ice cream. She loved her peppermint ice cream, but she did keep asking Jon for bites of his "cookies" ice cream. I think cookies and cream is already her favorite flavor, and she's only had ice cream like five times...
As we were heading back to our car after lunch, we passed a group that included one very familiar looking guy. I was trying to figure out how I knew him, and glanced back for another look just as his wife was glancing back at me to do the same. At the same moment, we recognized each other as former neighbors from the apartment building we lived in as newlyweds, before we moved into this house. We each lived in the two front upstairs units of the building, right across the hall from each other. We hadn't seen them since we moved out in 2008 and we all exclaimed about how much has changed (babies! another on the way!). We asked after each other's kids and found that both Alice and their son were 2 1/2. I asked when his birthday was and was totally incredulous to learn that he and Alice were born on the very same day. What a crazy small world coincidence. There must have been something in that apartment building! They lived there a bit longer than we did and finally moved a few blocks away before their son was born. We exchanged contact information and vowed to get together soon, though that may not happen until we settle into a routine with baby sister. But it was great to run into them and reconnect. 

 After a delightful afternoon in Montrose, we headed further up north to Nancy's Ranch, a Christmas tree farm where you can cut your own tree. I just learned about the place last week and couldn't wait to recreate my childhood Christmas tree traditions. After an Apple Maps snafu, we finally found the farm, nestled quaintly between ENORMOUS power lines. The ones you see in the below photos are actually the baby lines, the shadows are from the huge huge huge ones. Super picturesque.

Alice really enjoyed riding around in the tree wagon, but she was getting tired and running out of good, so we had to remind her way too many times to sit on her bottom and hold on with two hands. She finally escaped the wagon and was running around in the field (among an inexplicable bunch of smashed watermelons) between the two trees we were considering. When we asked her which one she wanted, she had an utter meltdown.
Here, she's saying "I don't want a Christmas tree!" Literally.
I guess, that one. If we must.
The trees in the field were beautiful with great, full shapes (and about half the price we usually pay), but they were very delicate with lots of needles and not very many branches. I was afraid that we'd run out of places to hang ornaments and that this variety wouldn't be able to handle our heavier ornaments. Jon insisted that he'd pay double at least what we normally pay to make sure that I wasn't unhappy with our tree choice, so after a lot of hemming and hawing (I'm really indecisive these days), in the end we went with a pre-cut Fraser fir.
Alice was in love with the tiny trees and I was totally tempted to bring one home for her, but we just don't have space (as much as I'd love a tree in every room!). Instead, I'm working on a felt Christmas tree that she can decorate to her little heart's content.

Nancy's Ranch also grows pumpkins and had a few lingering enormous specimens. Alice is still pretty into pumpkins, so we hung out with them while Jon settled our bill and made sure the tree was securely fastened to the car. I just love how grown up her face looks in this photo.

Anyway, it was a great day full of fun and randomness and we were thrilled to support local small businesses. Did you shop small on Saturday? Get a tree? Decorate it? Do anything else to get into the holiday spirit? 


  1. Those photos of the Great Christmas Tree Meltdown are hilarious.. Can't wait to see your tree in real life and snuggle on the couch! I'm toying with the idea of getting some white lights for my apartment, but that's about it. Luckily the city is full of lights and trees!

  2. I love the meltdown photos. I love that we have some from the pumpkin patch and now the Christmas tree farm. I wonder what other traditional holiday activities I can capture meltdowns at? Easter egg hunts? 4th of July?? It's like B-I-N-G-O!

    I can't wait til everyone is here and we can really fire up all the gezellig holiday elements! You should get some twinkle lights, and some cheap ornaments to hang from them, or something. It will really bring the holiday cheer inside!


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