2016 Friends Holiday Sale

Save big at Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks' annual gifts-and-goodies extravaganza, Dec. 2-4 at Mission Adobe.

by Traci Hukill

Nov. 26, 2016—You know what the world needs now? A beginner’s birding guide. A book on nature drawing and journaling. Insect identification playing cards. Some Owl Puke (we’ll explain). In other words, what the world needs now is permission to dive deep into nature—healing, distracting, stress-reducing, perspective-adjusting nature.

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is holding its annual Holiday Sale Dec. 2-4 at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, right downtown, and it’s the perfect place to get unique, quality gifts—many of them locally made—inspired by the natural world. The ParkStore will stock books, toys, novelty items, posters, mugs, sweatshirts, shawls, tea towels, jewelry, handmade soaps and even spices, mole, chocolate and olive oil.

The ParkStore has a terrific selection of books right now on subjects like tide pools, oak woodlands (one of the richest ecosystems we have), mountain lion-human interactions, Ohlone lifeways and the early history of California, including a rare, limited edition book about the Castro Adobe. Attractive displays on birds, insects and mushrooms include identification guides, popular enameled tin cups, stickers, games and knickknacks. The iPhone-sized Stokes Beginners Guide to Birds, with its brilliant photographs and concise explanations, makes an ideal stocking stuffer.

The perennially popular Michael Schwab park designs adorn thick hoodies, mugs, posters, bags and more. Fish Princess goat milk soap with clean, natural scents makes lovely gifts, as well, and the festive Casa Noel chile lights promise to perk up a party or an underappreciated corner of the patio.

There’s even food for holiday entertaining. Refrigerated bags of My Mom’s Mole stand ready to make for an elegant but hassle-free dinner for guests during the busy holiday season: just add stock and chicken (or pork). Olive oil from True Olive Connection, Tazo chocolate and aromatic spice rubs from Spiceologist in Smoky Honey Habanero, Raspberry Chipotle and Chile Margarita satisfy the gift needs of gourmets. And gorgeous painted lead-free ceramic bowls and salsa dishes from Michoacan make a fitting way to serve it.

While all shoppers will save 20% on purchases over the weekend, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks members will save 30%, all the while knowing they’re providing crucial support for Wilder Ranch, Nisene Marks, Natural Bridges and so many other parks and beaches. If you’re not a member yet, join for $50 and get the 30% discount—and the chance for first dibs on the goodies at the members-only preview event on Friday, Dec. 2 (4-7pm).

On Saturday, Dec. 3, the day gets a festive start when Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks marches in the Santa Cruz Holiday Parade with State Parks rangers, interpreters and lifeguards (10am-noon). Afterward the Friends entourage heads up to the park for inexpensive, delicious tacos on the terrace with Taquitos Gabriel’s (noon-2pm).

Oh, and about that Owl Puke. Some enterprising individuals figured out a way to gather up owl pellets (the regurgitated indigestible remains of owl food) from a meadow and barn, sanitize them, package and market them. Each one comes with a bone chart so you can figure out exactly what Woodsy had for breakfast. Hey, it's science!

The ParkStore Holiday Sale is Friday 4-7pm (members only); Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday noon-4pm at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, 144 School St, Santa Cruz.