I’ve never done Black Friday shopping

And I don’t intend to start now.

I’m just not that into “stuff”, and with options like Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday, I know where my alliances lie.

I shopped as much as I could at small businesses last year, and it was such a great experience. No disgruntled employees, screaming children, or major traffic jams getting around.

Rather, I experienced wonderful customer service, got to know the local merchants I purchased from, and then shopped with them the rest of the year (Christmas isn’t the one and only time we need to shop people- birthdays, anniversaries, house warmings, etc!). Forging a relationship with local shops in your area is a great way to guarantee that you will get great service and products for your hard earned money.

The best part about shopping locally is that you’re more apt to return throughout the year for other various occasions. When my dear friend moved into her new house, I went to Sunflower Farm and bought her two new summer wreaths for her entry ways. When I needed a bridal shower gift, or even something for myself, I went to Whipser’s in downtown Milford. There is such a beautiful sense of community that you get by shopping locally that you just cannot replicate sincerely by shopping at bigger stores.

Here is a list of some of my favorite spots to shop locally and some experiences I’ve had doing so:

1) Sunflower Farm, Orange CT.

I stumbled upon this magical farm one day when I was driving back and forth from 34 to my job in Milford. Derby-Milford Road was just an easier (and lovelier) route to take. I passed this farm for a good few months before I decided to stop and venture inside.

What I found was a treasure trove of wonderment. Outside, depending on the season, are handmade wreaths, potted mums, pumpkins, or Christmas trees. Visually, its colorful, welcoming and warm even on the grayest of days.

Inside, you can find handmade, home made soaps, lotions and candles of varying scents, each one more delicious than the last. Jars of preserves that tasted as good as they sounded, and local honey to help with the dreaded allergy season. In the center of the store is a table with fresh pies they get daily from a local bakery, and in the refrigerator, apple ciders in the fall, eggs, breads, and more pies. Check out their website here!

The owners Ernie and Sabrina are the friendliest and most welcoming shop owners I’ve ever encountered. Last year, I bought soaps, candles, and some of the hand made socks they also had from someone who makes them locally.  I went back all this year, stopping in for candles, or other seasonal wreaths, flowers, and of course, the pleasure of doing business with Ernie and Sabrina.

2) Whispers

I love this store. The owner Lori is all about good business and making sure her clients get what they are looking for and that they feel comfortable and fabulous. She and her staff are all approachable, friendly, and great to work with. Their store front and windows are always filled with gorgeous pajama sets, or beautiful unders to make you feel like the ultimate lady. The quality of everything I’ve ever bought from Whispers is also fantastic, from peignoir’s to beautiful sweaters and shirts you can dress up or down, everything has always been wonderful and lasted a long time. I also remember buying my mom a Mother’s Day gift of a necklace this year from there, which she was delighted to receive.  Definitely a great choice to shop for the ladies in your life! Check the link in the title or click here: Whispers

3) Duck, Duck, Goose-

This is a lovely children’s store also located on the Downtown Milford Circuit. Last year when my darling friend Sara was preggo with her second coming, and had her hands full with her newly turned two toddler, I popped into this store to purchase Christmas Gifts for my sweet toddly niece and soon to be nephew. Like the other store fronts of Downtown, Duck, Duck, Goose has an inviting and adorable window design,  usually displaying current fashions for our tiny lovies. I was so happy to know that everything they carried was eco-friendly and made in the USA!  All of their products are free of toxins that could be harmful to tiny bodies, which makes purchases from this store all the more worth it. You know you’re not only getting a quality product, but also one that won’t harm your child!

I’ve shopped here not only at Christmas, but for baby showers, birthdays, and sometimes just for fun!

The owner, Yvonne Stobie was there when I purchased my Christmas gifts last year. She was warm, professional and informative as well as friendly. She clearly opened the store out of love for her own grandchildren, and delighted in her work. Please read more about this business at their website here: http://duckduckgoosect.com/about-us.html

4) Kandu Beads

Recently I read a book called ‘Paddle Your Own Canoe’ by Nick Offerman. In it, he details the pride, pleasure and love that comes from making someone a gift. I completely agree with him.

My first experience at Kandu Beads was when I was looking for something very special for someone who was moving away. I wanted to give them something that represented our amazing friendship and something that they would love to wear and would compliment them. I called upon my dear friend Alisha who just happened to be teaching a class that day at this marvelous bead shop. My creation was exactly what I was looking for, mostly because I made the image in my mind materialize in front of me.

If you’re the type to get creative with your gifts, check out Kandu Beads. They have a massive selection of jewelery already made, as well as the materials and helpful staff to help you make your own ideas come to fruition.  Kandu Beads

5) Cafe Atlantique

I love giving the gift a night out. Whether its newly-wed friends, new parents, or just people who deserve a break, I love giving people restaurant gift certificates. My all time favorite is Cafe Atlantique. Its the perfect place for a date any night of the week, and in all the years I’ve been going there, I have NEVER had a bad meal or negative experience. Certain nights (I think its Thursday and Friday, but don’t quote me) they have BOGO glasses of wine (buy one, get one for $0.38, or something amazing to that effect). The atmosphere is always cozy, and in December in particular, the Cafe looks inviting with its Holiday decor and busy espresso bar, pumping out delicious holiday concoctions to warm you from your finger tips to toes.

Cafe Atlantique

6) Local book stores everywhere.

If you’re shopping for someone like me who is a constant reader, sure you could always present us with the holy grail of a Barnes and Noble gift card (Barnes and Noble will not be open on Thanksgiving, which is why they will in fact get some of my business this holiday season). But if you listen to your beloved bookworm carefully, you will probably hear mention of a few books that they have a desire to read that you can find at a local book store. Not sure what to get them? Surprise them with a trip to their favorite book store and purchase them a book of their choosing. This kind of gift is perfect because not only do we get to spend time with someone we love, we get a new book too!

Some great local book stores around CT:

The Book Trader- New Haven

Atticus Bookstore- New Haven

Books and Company – Hamden,

The Book Trader- Niantic

Books-A-Million- Trumbull

The John Bale Book Company- Waterbury

Morning Star- Danbury

Branford Book and Card Shoppe- Branford

R J Julia Booksellers- Madison

Happy smart shopping!

11 Things To Know Before You Date A Bookworm

11 Things To Know Before You Date A Bookworm

This. This is definitely me.

Thought Catalog

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1. Sometimes we just need to be alone for a little while. Nothing’s wrong. We’re not upset with you. We still love spending time with you. But we are accustomed to a certain amount of quiet time in our daily lives, and sometimes we just need to sit down with a good book for a few hours in order to feel refreshed and energized.

2. When you’re upset, sometimes our first instinct will be to suggest a certain a book. We’re not trying to be cold or unhelpful or pushy. We’re just trying to share a special piece of literature that has gotten us through some of our most difficult moments. Bookworms often have deep, emotional connections to many different books, so if we suggest a book to you, it means we really want to help you as much as we can. 

3.Discussing e-Readers is not a…

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Giggles

Last night, I worked out with a friend who is much younger than I am, and also much more fit. It was a challenge that was so rewarding that today I can barely walk without looking like Bambi.

In honor of my pain, I’ve re-titled some of my favorite classic  Disney songs to reflect the experience.(Also, it was a legs work out- enough said).

A whole New World…of pain!
Can you feel the burn tonight?
Poor Unfortunate Soul (no change needed)
It’s a struggle after all
You can squat! you can lunge! you can squat! you can lunge!
A Dream is a Wish your body makes (after leg day)
Someday my muscle definition will come
Bippity Boppity BOOM
Just around the next set of ten
I’ve got no strength to hold me up.

Over the rainbow

Last night, my mom hosted a gathering of her, my aunts and two of their cousins we hadn’t had a decent visit with in 7 years. In our unwavering tradition of being Italian-American, there was enough food for a small wedding and mom played bar tender. I was honored to be seated at the table, to hear some family stories from a different perspective, and hear some new stories I never knew about. It was glorious to laugh and be in on their jokes, their wisdom and joy.

At one point, cousin Donna regaled us with the story of how she use to babysit me when I was about 3. And how she was worried at first about entertaining a 3 year old, but my mom waved her hand and said, “Just put on the Wizard of Oz.”

Oz was my childhood obsession, and probably why I love movies so much today (and watch them constantly on repeat- old habits die hard). I have heard from all of my older cousins that I use to torture them, making them sit for viewing after viewing with me while I sat entranced by Dorothy’s journey and challenges. It’s their favorite story to tell new suitors that I bring to the family functions for the first time. Most comically, my cousin Danny will usually ask (to my humiliation) if I’d made Mr. New Guy sit through The Wizard of Oz yet, and then wile away the next 10 minutes with embarrassing stories about how I was obsessed and crazy I was about this movie.

(For the record, I’ve never made a boyfriend watch the Wizard of Oz- One night stands on the other hand…)

On this night (with no boyfriends in attendance), Donna added her own interpretation of what this experience was like. She said candidly,

“You would sit there, with tears running down your cheeks and say, ‘Oh, Dorothy!’ And when it was over, you would rewind it and watch it again.”

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So basically, even as a 3 year old, I was an emotional masochist.

I would watch, and lament, and then watch again, feeling the tear at my tiny heart strings for Dorothy to figure her shit out and find her way back to Auntie Em.

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Its funny to identify this behavior, and to see how in some ways, it still exists in me today. Not in the way that I watch the Wizard of Oz on repeat everyday, (I am a *mostly* functioning adult with a full time job) but I do tend to get caught up in my feelings, and sometimes I play things over and over again in my mind, lamenting and trying to figure out what I could’ve done differently.

Maybe the lesson here is not to worry so much about changing the past, but remember how experiences made you feel, and deciding what to do going forward when faced with those feelings again. After all, ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’

Maybe its time to watch a new movie.

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