A year ... with Coco and Esmeralada

Voila! The many moods of Oak Street’s floral shop mannequins

Coco and Esmeralda take turns modeling each month in a downtown window.

What started as Christmas home décor idea has evolved into a downtown tradition at Lucy's Informal Flowers, 311 Oak St.

The mannequins with the whimsical names stand in the window next to the front door, wearing new and different clothing and accessories each month.

"I just love doing it. I think it's great," said owner Lucy Gorman, who bought the store in April 2005 and started the rotating mannequin adornments the next month. Lucy's shares space with Bella Bliss, owned by Mari Beth Guenther.

Coco is a one-piece "fit mannequin" from Gorman's college days in Ottawa, Canada, where she earned a degree in design - in mannequin draping, that is, a la the famed couturiere Coco Chanel. Hence the name.

Someone had given her a homemaker's mannequin, the style with moveable shoulders and torso pieces, and for several years she covered it in evergreen boughs and holiday lights, and set it outside her house.

The year she bought the store from Suzanne Workman - "She had such a great reputation I decided to keep the name (Informal Flowers) and just added 'Lucy,'" Gorman said - she saw another homemaker's mannequin at Pine Grove Fire Department auction. It was rusted but a steal at $1.

This one her mother, Anne Clayton, called Esmeralda.

"It just fit," said Clayton, who was born in London. "It just had that Victorian quality that went well with it." (The original Esmeralda and the auction find share the name; one of them stands more or less permanently atop one of the flower coolers inside the store, and the other rotates with Coco.)

Coco and Esmeralda feel like real people to Gorman, though she doesn't mind sticking a few pins or even staples into them.

It's all part of the fun of Coco and Esmeralda's monthly change of attire.

This year it was a "Miss January" sash, April and tulips, polka dots in June and sequined leaves in October. Floral-inspired themes of the season are about all that drives Gorman's mannequin design choices.

The changing mannequin styles are "whatever inspires me," said Gorman. There are few constants other than blue in November and white in January (look for birds next month).

The mannequins don't model anything for sale, other than the occasional bundle of roses or tulips.

"They stand guard there in the corner," Gorman said.

"People sometimes think it's a dress shop. They say, 'I like that dress!' Or, 'I like that belt.' I say, 'Don't like it too much. It's just a piece of batting or some sticks.'"

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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