Make shopping fun and festive


Support local businesses this holiday season

By Susan Baldani

A few years ago, when I decided to take the train to work every day, my husband and I became a one car family. This was a smart financial choice because it saves a lot of money that would otherwise go to car payments, gas, and insurance costs. But, it does take some adjusting to. I can’t just pick up and go whenever and wherever I want.

The first year without a vehicle, I decided to do most of my Christmas shopping online. It was convenient and easy and everything was delivered right to my door. But something was missing; I found that I didn’t get the same joy out of finding the perfect item on a website that I did in a physical store.

During the holidays, I always loved walking around small shops trying to find that perfect gift while listening to Christmas carols and smelling cinnamon, maple, and pine scented holiday candles wafting through the aisles. Some of the local stores even had complimentary hot cocoa or cider for their customers. Shopping in these types of establishments always got me into the holiday spirt.

I also missed the customer service and having someone to assist me with picking out gifts for my hard-to-buy-for relatives. I found many of the local owners and managers, the people who actually ordered the merchandise, to be very knowledgeable and helpful. Whether it was the yarn shop where I would choose colors for a cousin who knits, a gift store that sold imported teas for a good friend, or a clothing store that had the most luxurious cashmere sweaters for a dear aunt who was always cold, these local shops provided the most high-quality and unique items.

Luckily, I now work in a town full of small independently-owned businesses. With a shopping mall only 10 minutes away, these store owners have to provide the best of the best in order to inspire people to shop locally. Although I can hear the same music at the large commercial stores, they just don’t have the personal service and little extras that make me feel appreciated. I’m just another revenue number to them, and shopping online is even more impersonal.

Now, although I still shop online once in a while, I also make sure to support local stores. Giving my business to them feels right, and it also makes my shopping experiences, especially around the holidays, much more enjoyable and festive.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!



Hot Cranberry-Apple Cider


2 quarts apple cider

1.5 quarts sugar-free cranberry juice

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

4 sticks cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 orange, thinly sliced Save $


In 4-quart saucepan,  add all the ingredients except for the orange. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Strain, then pour into mugs and garnish with fresh orange slices.


Written for The Country Register – distributed across the U.S. and Canada.

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