It started off as an empty cardboard box.
It once housed a new water heater that Ruth Greenwood installed in her Craig home, but it turned into a creative, unique toy for her 2-year-old great-grandson.
The “clubhouse” was painted to look like a dark brown wood, and was complete with a door and a roof.
Watching her great-grandson pop in and out of the clubhouse with joy and drag it everywhere he went inspired Greenwood.
She made several more clubhouses from extra boxes she found at appliance and furniture stores around town and sold them for $15 each at Saturday’s Winter Arts and Crafts show at Centennial Mall.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be creative,” Greenwood said. “In hard times, people need to understand how to look at things and just use them.”
She said Christmas always has been an extravagant holiday in her family, but she knows that times are difficult for many facing the economic recession head on.
The boxes make good gifts in their own right, too, Greenwood added.
Whenever she bought lots of toys, her children and grandchildren would play with them for a week or two and then move onto the boxes.
“I mean, where else can you get something they’ll play with all day?” she said. “Just go to an appliance store and get some empty boxes and paint them, or have the kid help you paint. I’m big on homemade things. They make nice gifts.”
One year, she said she sent her 10-year-old nieces some cookie batter, homemade aprons and a few, cheap cookie cutters.
“They had a ball,” she said. “I always try to find something unique and fun.”
Alice Long, Best Western Deer Park Inn and Suites sales director, was at the craft fair Saturday as well, sifting through the holiday goods and wares to complete her Christmas shopping.
She said her family’s Christmas will be just like other years, with presents under the trees and plenty of holiday cheer.
“You still have to live,” Long said. “Christmas still has to be fun and festive. You still want it to be bright and not gloomy.”
Still, she said she was shopping a little more conservatively, not knowing how the economic future will play out.
“You want to get your money’s worth,” she said. “I’m trying to buy more meaningful things and do things a little more personal.”
Brad Poe, another weekend Christmas shopper at the mall, said he is trying to spend less money this year, but nothing will keep him from spoiling his two sons.
“They’re getting bikes, remote control cars,” Poe said. “And Grandma is getting them a (Nintendo) Wii and a hunting game. They’re spoiled.”
He didn’t want things to be different for his children, but he is approaching the holiday season with a different mindset.
“I do a lot to try and save,” he said. “I try to buy things that are just small and nice.”
Shopping wasn’t the first thing on everyone’s mind, though.
For Greenwood, having about 20 family members all in one place makes all the spending and preparations worth it in the end.
“We like to have a really homegrown Christmas where everybody pitches in to help,” she said. “Those are the things you remember. It’s learning, it’s life. And everyone gets to be a part of it.”