Holiday Zen – Shop Local

My December musings are generally about finding a little Zen in your life at the holidays, so this year I’m sharing how you can put a little Zen in your holiday shopping. 

As many of you know, last September I embarked on a cross-country trip with my sister driving the entirety of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. It was trip down memory lane for us as our father was from the Montana, so traveling west on the highway was a nearly annual event.

Today’s landscape clearly showed the impact of the interstate highway on small towns.  The system siphoned most of the traffic off of Route 66 in the 1960’s and 70’s, with devastating consequences to the small towns that had thrived on Route 66. Most of them never fully recovered. The ones that did, are now largely living museums with iconic treasures from a bygone era. 

In many ways the ongoing shift of shopping traffic from bricks and mortar to the Internet highway is similarly eclipsing many currently vibrant small towns. The online delivery model offers a level of convenience that has made it the preferred, or at least easiest, shopping solution for many of us.  As a result, we see more and more local small businesses struggling to survive. 

So this holiday season I’m encouraging all of you to consider buying local and share the “Zen-like” approach I’ve taken for the past few years for my holiday shopping. It not only appeals to my desire to help maintain my beautiful village, but also helps me manage my own time constraints as a working mom.   

– photo credits to The City of Lake Forest

Having your own Personal Shopper

Each year my family hosts a pre-Christmas dinner before everyone scatters to celebrate with their own families. Part of our tradition includes little table favors by each person’s plate.  With a full schedule last year, I reached out to one of my favorite local retailers, Megan Stockton at Gifted. Tight on time, I called one afternoon and asked if someone could curate a variety of gift offerings. I gave ages/preferences and was delighted to find 16 unique items when I arrived the following day. I selected my preference – and the best part – they gift wrapped each one so they were safely stored and ready 3 weeks before the day!

Last Minute Surprises

The Lake Forest Book Store is a little gem and I have enjoyed seeing it grow. I love walking into a store and seeing the same faces over the years. I’ll never forget one harried December evening when one of my children called to say they had forgotten to purchase a required reading book that was due in class the next day. With 5 minutes before closing I called my little neighborhood store and explained my dilemma – 1) I needed a book and 2) I couldn’t make it by closing. My friend and the store manager, Maxwell said, “No problem; we have plenty in stock and I’ll leave one hanging on your front door.” So much for the superiority of Amazon same day delivery!

Christmas Tree

Each family, who celebrates Christmas, has their own special way of incorporating a Christmas tree.  Since we’ve moved around the U.S., our traditions have varied over the years.  After moving to Lake Forest, we have had one constant: a trip to Amidei Mercatino. It’s a beautiful shop in an alleyway in our village. In the summer they feature fresh produce and flowers, but in the winter, it is filled with wreaths, bouquets, festive treats and beautiful Christmas trees. For us, it’s a favorite holiday splurge because not only is our tree delivered, but Amidei cuts it for the stand and puts it up in our house. It is always perfectly straight. OK – how simple is that?

Something special

Not only do I make it a point to support local businesses, but also my favorite local artisans. One of my favorites is Charlotte Robbins. Last Christmas, I had three special gifts to buy and wanted each one to be unique. So I called Charlotte and together we went through her beautiful selection of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and gems. She put everything out on her dining room table and then hand wrapped the final selections. I loved sharing these beautiful, handcrafted gems!

Hard to find popular items

Now an adult, my eldest son rarely asks for specific items. But two years ago, he put in a last minute request for a specific winter jacket. The elusive jacket was so coveted it was nowhere to be found. My solution was our local men’s shop, Smith’s Mens Store! I called over and the store owner, John Tadell, happily thumbed through the catalogue and put in a special order. Could that have been easier?

Family Dinner

I love to entertain and often host a dinner with our “family of choice.”  What could be more fun than having all of our favorite people surround us? I want the evening to be simple but elegant. My solution – Foodstuffs. They have an amazing selection of sides, main dishes and appetizers that can satisfy every meal occasion.  Our favorite – Brooks’ Sweet Onion Tart!

Supporting Fair-Trade

A favorite store of mine, is The Mustard Seed. They are committed to partnering with cooperatives and artisans in developing countries to provide a market for selling their creations. Their suppliers pay a fair wage and/or allow the artisans to set the price for their products, so that they can make a sustainable living and emerge from poverty. Led by Judy Kohl, The Mustard Seed has seen the real impact of their small store.  All of the sales staff at The Mustard Seed are volunteers. This wonderful store provides a market for beautiful gifts, shares the Fair Trade story, and donates their profits, to help change the lives of women and children.

I realize that this is a bit of a love letter to my hometown of Lake Forest, IL. but Buying local strengthens the economic base of your communities. As I know all of you have your own hometowns I encourage you to spend a few moments discovering the joys of shopping local. I know that in every town there is a gem of a local shop, an interesting artisan, or a favorite holiday treat. You can avoid the crowds and know that you are helping to keep your community vibrant.

Zen Holiday Note

Many of you have asked about Jane and how she is navigating her life back in the U.K.  So this holiday she’ll be sharing recipes and discoveries from her new home, Bristol.  So you can look forward to enjoying notes from an English holiday!

Zen Moment

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy local and that’s kind of the same.”


2 thoughts on “Holiday Zen – Shop Local

  1. Changing times—Your blog includes some important truths and observations and you’ve tied it all together beautifully. Thanks, Meg, for the food for thought.

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