The holiday season is a time for making wish lists, and shopping lists. In an effort to help you with both, we're asking a handful of people what's on their local holiday wish list this year.
Today's list comes from author, podcaster and self-described Troy supremacist Duncan Crary.
I'm pretty enthusiastic about things upstate New York (understatement). So naturally most of the gifts I give, and hope to receive, have a little regional flavor. My mother started me young on this kick by keeping up the old Hudson Valley customs.
As a kid, I always felt a bit spoiled this time of year, because my family was the only I knew of who were visited by both Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus -- two entirely different December gift-slingers.
Everybody knows about Santa. (He first appeared right here in my neighborhood in Troy!)
Saint Nicholas, on the other hand, is a little harder to explain. Unlike the jolly old elf, St. Nick is a tall, skinny (and Turkish) man with a pointy hat and long robe. He always arrives a few weeks before Christmas, either on December 6 or December 19, and for some reason he likes giving gifts to people in Holland and in the Hudson Valley of New York.
Throughout our childhood, on the night of December 5, my sister and I would leave shoes outside our bedroom doors. And in the morning we would discover them filled by Saint Nicholas with gold chocolate coins and Dutch-themed tchotchkes, like wooden Jacob's ladders, etc.
Lately, though, I've been getting dissed by the old guy. Which may have to do with the ratty old Rockport boat shoes I've been leaving outside my door for him. They've been unfilled for three years in a row (including last week).
In the meantime, I've given fancy new wooden shoes from Holland to my friends and family. And they're still getting swag in them from St. Nick. So I think it's time for a footwear gift receptacle upgrade of my own for next year. So I'll top my holiday wish list with this:
Troy-themed wooden shoes
One pair, Dutch wooden shoes, size 10 please. Any decorative style will do. But a super special gift giver would enlist the help of some local artisans to create me a pair with a Troy theme -- either painted with colorful scenes of the Collar City, or all black with an Enjoy Troy sticker on the top of the right shoe. (A product line I'll be suggesting to the Enjoy Troy team for next year.)
And in case you're wondering, it's pretty easy to order finished and unfinished Dutch wooden shoes online. They also pop up occasionally at various "antique" stores and garage sales around the region.
P.S. Please, no one take this request as inspiration to boost one of the large painted shoes from the streets of Albany.
For any Secret St. Nicks out there who might want to fulfill my wishes early, some people do celebrate Saint Nicholas day on Dec. 19.
CVS carries standard gold chocolate coins, or you can find fancy organic ones at Honest Weight Food Co-op.
As for other shoe stuffers, some of my favorite doohickeys and works of local art can be found at Art Centric Gallery, the official retailer of Enjoy Troy products.
Peppermint Pig snout lollipops
These are made by Saratoga Sweets in Halfmoon, the makers of the famous Peppermint Pig. (Personally, I prefer my porcine-shaped confections in marzipan flavor. But I like to give out the snout pops as ambiguous presents to people who've been naughty to me during the year. So this would be a devilish re-gift.)
Spot it! is a simple, addictive little game, for ages 7 and up, where you match the symbols on the cards. And maybe it's the coaster-shaped cards (or the amusing effects of alcohol on the players), but I found that this game is a blast to play with adults in bars.
I like to give these away to the pubs I frequent, and I'm plumb out. I ordered my copies from Foam Brain Games in Troy.
Volcano juice and vodka
For most of the year my liquid intake consists strictly of water, black coffee, beer, and the occasional whiskey. (Add Red Zinfandel to that now that the The Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar has ensnared me with its awesomeness.)
But during the winter months I need to add a little Vitamin C to the mix. And the best way to do that is with Italian Volcano Blood Orange Juice from Honest Weight Food Co-op.
Hint: A little locally distilled vodka from Harvest Spirits helps the medicine go down.
I'm sentimental. And that extends to clothing and even appliances. So each year I ask to have one of my old items repaired by the shops and tailors in Troy.
This year, I need some new leather soles from Troy Quick Shoe Repairing Co. put on my favorite dress shoes.
Local books & prints
A new fishing rod for striper season on the river; a box of black & white cookies from Bella Napoli - Troy; prepaid vouchers for drop off laundry services at Hans Laundromat (I don't know if these exist, but I could use a few for those occasions when I find myself broke, busy and wearing inside-out socks).
Duncan Crary lives, works and plays in downtown Troy. Stay tuned for his new all-Troy based podcast "A Small American City," launching later this month.
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