I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

Real Deal Road Trip No. 3: Nesting on Main

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Nesting on Maine.  Concord, Massachusetts

Four years ago, as my boys were getting older and Christmas morning was losing some sparkle, I had a brainstorm.  I decided to start two traditions.  They both had the goal of extending the season and de-emphasizing the actual day.  First, we became Secret Santa to an elderly neighbor.  The “we” is mostly “me” but the boys enjoy sneaking the gifts into her mailbox.  Second, I surprised the boys by hanging 24 little numbered packages on our kitchen light fixture, to give us a micro minute of festivity every day.

I didn’t want to spend much on the Advent calendar gifts, and I wanted them to be more interesting than the typical Christmas gift.  I luckily landed on the idea of giving the boys little pieces of antique ephemera, for some of the calendar days.  My source is Nesting on Main, in Concord, Mass.  One of the partners in the shop has a brilliant eye for typographic-heavy memorabilia.  I like my boys to develop a sensibility for the way things used to be done, produced, and saved.  And I am crazy for vintage paper goods and typography.

So here’s the tour of Nesting on Main, and this year’s upcoming treasures.  My boys don’t read my blog or I would have to wait to publish this Road Trip.

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Nesting is in a charming old building, up a flight of wooden exterior stairs. Side note: I took the Road Trip photos with my new Droid and have been very frustrated by their blurry quality. Turns out that the phone is shipped with an oily residue over the lens! I expect my next post to have better photo quality, now that I whipped out my E-cloth to clean it.

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Wendi, one of the co-owners.

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These are 19th century wholesale account grocery registers. I will wrap one up for each boy,  with something small to eat.

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If you go, and you love total randomness, allow at least an hour. There are four rooms to explore.

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Kids like things with their initial. This convex metal disk must have labelled a drawer or cabinet. Alas, I could only find a “C”–no D or G for my other sons.

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I had better luck with these old wooden bingo balls. The boys’ birthdates are the 17th, 18th, and 27th. OK I had to compromise a bit.

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I’m not sure how Coca Cola distributed these cards. But I picked one to reflect an interest of each boy.

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This is not antique, but I bought it for my goddaughter. It has sand and shells, and a little scroll I can remove and use to write her a message. Steal this idea for someone you love.

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I kind of remember these so they can’t be all THAT old. I have to take a Road Trip to an old fashioned paper goods and office supply store. I miss the crazy, jumbled one I used to frequent in Dublin. They had stuff on the shelves they didn’t even know they carried.

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These are old luggage tickets from a railway that used to travel near our Maine place, thus the reason I brought them home. I love that Wendi gave me a whole bunch of old envelopes to use for gifting these various items. She took time to pick out really good ones with great handwriting and cancelled stamps.

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Antique pathology slides from the University of Pennsylvania.  I love this photo so much I may blow it up and hang it on my wall.

When people see these admittedly odd things I give my boys, they ask, “What do your sons think of this?”  I answer, “One of them totally gets it, one of them eventually will, and the third one just rolls his eyes.”  But I am quite sure that these off-beat gifts will make great material for one of the boys in a session with a future therapist, or a blind date, perhaps.

Therapist: “What were holidays like when you were growing up?  Like, special traditions?  What kind of presents did your parents give you for Christmas?”

Pieri son: “I think my mother did not understand Christmas.  She used to wrap up things like old glass slides from some pathology lab.  Or discarded pharmacy pill boxes with dusty remnants of tablets.”

This Advent Calendar tradition is guaranteed to elicit a fair share of sympathy.  That’s OK.  I am a mother.  It is all my fault anyway.  I might as well have some fun with it.

Thanks to Wendi at Nesting on Main.  She encourages my habit.  She actually started doing something similar for her nephew!

November 29 Post Script

Below is this year’s Advent gift assembly.  I put it up two days early so we could enjoy it a little longer.  It looks pretty much the same every year as I re-use the packages, ribbon, and tags.  That used to feel a bit stingy.  In 2009 it feels a bit smarter.  I get the packages from Paper Source.  Ribbon anywhere.  And I printed out the tags from a template my friend Anne made for me.   I did it onto card stock and glued them back to back.  That’s literally the hardest part of the presentation…email me and I will send you the template if you like.

There’s an equally beautiful, but faster, way to do this.  Simply tie up your little gifts in white tissue paper with colorful ribbon.  That looks fantastic.

And….if you can’t imagine doing this all ahead of time, just put one gift a day on the breakfast table.  (My friend Anne did this, one year, with a theme of silly foods.)  That way, you can pull it together as you go.

If you look closely you can see the envelopes pictured in the post hanging below the number 15. I put them in a clear sleeve (from Michael's--it's a little flat party favor bag) and tied them up with a fat green ribbon. That is my favorite part of this year's presentation. Last year I really liked the test tubes hanging naked, similarly.

Here's a close-up. To the right of the envelopes are Tom Gattis's hand-turned ornaments with sea anemone shells. I visited his studio in Savannah and saw how he makes them.

9 Responses to “Real Deal Road Trip No. 3: Nesting on Main”

  1. Jill McM

    Jules,
    It’s great to see that as the boys get older the gifts get older.
    You should let on though that you decorate this very versatile light fixture for all kinds of occasions. It is such a wonderful focal point for everyone’s favorite collecting place, the kitchen. Is there a story behind where you found it?
    Jill

    Reply
    • julespieri

      Jill–I found the light fixture in a magazine in 1997 or so. It was described as the perfect fixture for a man’s library. I have always loved it. At first I worried about the Spanish parchment light shades discoloring…they aren’t really replaceable. But they are still great 12 years later.

      Reply
  2. Jill McM

    Jules,
    My favorite, of the unwrapped variety, are these turned ornaments with the shells, such a collision of textures.
    Jill

    Reply
    • julespieri

      I visited Tom Gattis’s wood turning studio in Savannah. I took a bunch of video but have not found the time to post it to the Daily Grommet blog. I want to! He is a master craftsman. He created the shell ornaments on a family trip to Florida…he got the idea in a shell shop.

      Reply
  3. Jill McM

    Jules,
    Your kids response to some of the timeless treasures you find for them reminds me of the mouse embryo skeleton I gave to a friends son for his Bar mitzvah. It was stained for cartilage and bone using red and blue dyes and I thought it was beautiful. He was interested in Science so this seemed perfect.
    He kindly wrote me a note thanking me for the dead mouse.
    Jill

    Reply
  4. sue pelletier

    This is one of my all time favorite shops! My snowmen pieces were at Nesting this Holiday season…iit is a magical place! cheers, sue

    Reply
    • julespieri

      Sue…I took a look at your site. Your snowmen must have been a perfect touch at Nesting. That is quite a coup on your part since they don’t carry very much that is “new”. I will look for them again next year.

      Reply
  5. Teaching kids to do “weird” « Jules Pieri

    […] But its appearance can be deceiving.  The 24 little gifts I package up and hang from our kitchen light fixture are not exactly iTunes cards, electronics, or valuable baubles.  They shade a little more towards Morticia Adams.  Things like little skulls and antique pathology slides.  I’ve described my sons’ (decidedly mixed) reactions to these things before, in this older post. […]

    Reply

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