The challenge I set forth for myself was to shop 100% local for Christmas gifts, and I am very proud to say that I did it! Now, when I say “shop local”, I mean shopping at locally-owned places in our region that aren’t chain stores, stores that can be found in our own downtowns, and shopping with local artists and crafters. Initially, I was going to publish this Blog post before Christmas and have it printed in the January/February Issue of SCOUT. However, I backed away from that because I didn’t want anyone finding out what I got them for Christmas before they opened their gifts. What’s the fun in that?
I’ll be honest, when I first set off on this challenge, I was a little overwhelmed. I had no idea how much online shopping I did until I started to eliminate places that I could not shop due to those places not being local. Most of my online shopping consisted of clothes and toys for the kids that I would be buying for. That option was now off the table. I had to come up with a new strategy. If you know me at all, you know that I’m a big fan of “winging it” and being led by general thoughts and ideas (Shout-out to you KO!) when it comes to challenges like this. But after eliminating all of the places that I could not shop due to the challenge, I was forced to put a lot more thought into my shopping. This was an unexpected and delightful bonus to this challenge. Shopping locally allowed my gifts to be more thought-out, more meaningful, and more personal.
The thing I was most looking forward to with this Shop Local Challenge was meeting the store owners. The level of service that you receive when shopping locally is leaps and bounds above the service you will get anywhere else. The store owners gave me so much background about everything that I was buying, and if I was a little stuck on something, they led me back in the right direction to find very special gifts for my loved ones. Everyone was so knowledgeable, and they really cared about helping me find something that I would really be happy with. This made shopping fun!
Alright, let’s get down to the details. I’m going to give you the breakdown on what I got my immediate family in this Shop Local Challenge. I could go on and on, but this is a blog not a novel.
For My Parents: My Mom, as mothers often do, began subtly dropping hints that she wanted copies of some of the pictures I had been taking of the family over the past few months. I pushed her off a bit on this because I had already been planning to develop loads of photos for her Christmas gift. I developed over a hundred photos that I had taken myself in all sizes and mattes for her to do with whatever she chose. To finish the gift, I found a really cool leather box at a thrift store in downtown Freeport called “Twice As Nice” to put all of the photos in. Done!
Now, my Dad is not easy to shop for. If he wants something, he goes and buys it himself. Shopping for him is always a challenge. Luckily, we have a shared passion for sports. By some magic twist of fate, I was able to get my hands on Wisconsin vs Illinois Men’s Basketball Tickets for him for Christmas. These weren’t just any tickets; I got him tickets 10 rows back from the floor. Score! It was just an added bonus that Wisconsin happened to be ranked #3 in the Nation when the game took place. Thanks Badgers! Now, I bought these tickets directly from the University of Wisconsin, and since it’s just over an hour from where we live, you may think this is not “local.” However, I definitely consider it within our region.
For My Sister’s Family:
My sister has really gotten into gardening in the last few years. I made a stop at “Nature’s Treasures” in Woodbine to see if I could find her something to tickle her garden fancy. Have you ever been to “Nature’s Treasures”? If you haven’t, you HAVE to get there. What a beautiful store! And the owner is a hoot! I had so much fun shopping there. More importantly, I found a great book for my sister called “Gardening to Groceries” (or something like that), which is a book about how to turn your garden into your own personal grocery store, which will stock your fridge and your pantry. It had some amazing gardening tips, but it was also full of great recipes to try out, which I knew that my sister would enjoy. To finish my sister’s gift, I stopped at “The Blue Orchid Boutique” in downtown Freeport. You will remember that “The Blue Orchid” was featured in our December Issue, The Shop Local Issue. My sister loves handmade earrings, so I picked up a few pairs for her. Finally, and I know this might sound weird, but I got her some Goat’s Milk Lotion that is sold at the Blue Orchid. This stuff is the best!
For my brother-in-law, I got him tickets to the Dubuque Fighting Saints. They were just at the game this past weekend and my nephew got a puck that got whipped into the stands!
Speaking of my nephew, I found him a really cool “Build Your Own Stunt Kit’ at “Poopsies” in Galena. With this kit you build your own cars, etc. and then take them through the stunts! Pretty cool stuff for a 9 year old. I also grabbed my nephew a few trivia and advanced bananagram-type games for him to play.
My 7-year old niece is all about stuffed animals. When I drove by the Warren Drug Store and saw the giant, fat, round white stuffed owl hanging in the window, I knew that she had to have it! To complete her gift, I stopped at “Ink & Paper” in Stockton to pick up some really cool flower making kits, along with some other creative/artsy toys that I knew she would love. (Side note: I do NOT like cats, but the owner’s cat at Ink & Paper was pretty cool. I was down with this cat.)
For My Brother’s Family:
My brother and his family have been living in Iowa City, where my brother has been working for a few weeks and will continue to work for a few more months. I wanted to get my brother and his wife a gift that they could enjoy in Iowa City, so I started doing some research. I ended up getting them tickets to a Gaelic Storm (a rocking and amazing Celtic band) concert at a really cool local community theater in Iowa City. I bought the tickets directly from the local theater. Iowa City may be just out of our region, but its “local” to them right now, so I counted this as shopping local. To finish their gift, I got them a really cool letter “S” made from barn tin at “Chateau” in downtown Elizabeth. I also gave them copies of the photos that I made for my Mom that included their family.
While I was shopping at “Poopsies” in Galena for some other gifts, one of the very helpful staff members showed me a custom cd gift that they had. I was able to choose the music (I chose fun dance music) and then a computer program put my nephew’s name in all of the songs. You enter in the age level, in my case my 3-year old nephew, and the computer decides how many times to put their names in the songs to help them with the recognition and interaction. For a 3-year old, the cd says his name over 100 times in all of the songs. I knew that when he heard it, he would freak out! And the best part was that I was able to customize the cd cover. To finish my nephew’s gift, I picked up lots of fun, creative drawing and building sets from “Ink & Paper” in Stockton.
My brother and his wife also have an 8-month old daughter. I found some unique books that came with stuffed animals from “Poopsies” in Galena for my baby niece. And to top it off, I got her a pretty (and fluffy, just to annoy my brother) dress to finish her gift.
So, there you go! I met the Shop Local Challenge! And I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I encourage everyone to shop locally more often. I’ll definitely take this challenge again next year. Will you join me?