Shop Til You Drop In Small Town America

Something About Nothing, By Julie Seedorf

This year I am going to pretend I am Oprah and name some of my favorite places and spaces for Christmas shopping and eating out. I like low stress when it comes to shopping, and visiting small independent local businesses not only take the angst out of shopping but I grab some fabulous finds.

For me, mellow started on Thanksgiving. I had a new book come out the week of Thanksgiving so I decided to be lazy and let Lacey’s Catering 22090035_1819744724983181_2499230896523968824_nin my hometown cook Thanksgiving dinner for me. We had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberries and two different flavors of pie. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, it was better than my cooking (you’ve heard about my cooking) and my family stuffed every morsel in their mouths.

23754766_1371564572965476_4145206500419971528_nThe next place I would highly recommend is Bruss-Heitner Funeral Home. Yes, you heard me right. I am shopping at the funeral home and not for the perfect urn or casket but Christmas gifts. The Bruss-Heitner Boutique is now open for business after they transformed former offices into a gift bonanza and filled it with unique items from local artists and crafters. The wooden star you will see on my living room wall I purchased there was made from wood taken from my parent’s house before it was torn down and made into a piece of beauty by a gifted crafter.

We are lucky my hometown also has the Humble Heart, 23472374_1701478276551519_3230222304644100673_nanother venue for gifts. A glass angel I gifted to a friend was designed out of old glass dishes. It was hard to choose an angel because each one was different.

Other small communities have peaceful shopping for the holidays. The Quilters Cottage 10710730_955780407769267_3365013144510390678_nin Kiester not only has some easy patterns and fabric for someone like me who wants to make some gifts but is not an experienced sewer. Make sure you take time to smell the candles, try the lotion or take the time to see what else the cute store offers.

Not too far from Wells, located on the old Highway 16, is Antiques of the Midwest, 20264901_1537186343004760_656795874063435660_nhaving recently relocated from Albert Lea. I couldn’t pass up the cute cat vase that I didn’t need and if I can talk myself into parting with it, it will make a great gift for a friend. And they have a giant blue Mr. Blue from the M&M candy collection that would be perfect for your friend that collects unusual things.

My Christmas shopping wouldn’t be complete without buying a few books for my family and to find book gifts I will drive to File Nov 27, 10 39 20 AM.jpegSweet Reads in Austin. I love meandering through the store and watching the electric train traveling around a track near the ceiling in one of the rooms. This year I will be picking up another inspiration bracelet and a pair of mittens, which are made by another local artist whose items are carried by Sweet Reads.

There is nothing like stopping by the Interchange 11070394_968250563199729_5383895795576492739_oin Albert Lea to have a hot coffee drink, pick up a bag of coffee and browse the gift section and artwork on the wall. Be careful if you buy the toffee for a gift because you will want to eat it and it might not make it into the gift box.

When I am traveling around to the smaller communities there are a few places I love to stop at to have lunch or dinner. Buckley’s Bar and Grill in the tiny town of Walters, Club 569 in Easton, the Willows in New Richland or if you are in Bricelyn and visiting the Brush Creek Boutique, make sure you stop at Bud’s cafe.12484784_811421885670285_3670615173410327605_o.jpg They were voted as having the best pancakes in Minnesota.

Wineries are also a place to shop — and not just for wine. And Three Oaks Vineyard and Winery in Albert Lea is the place to find a gift of wine for someone special. Area wineries also offer various venues for shirts and other clever gifts.

15940568_671581753023139_7016903072361831703_nDon’t discount area museums. My small town museum, the Wells Depot Museum, has gifts for the history lover. Visit your community museum and learn about the history of the area and then give someone you love the gift of memories from the past.

If you are ready to shop until you drop, do it in small-town America. Look for those unique out-of-the-way places. They are out there to be discovered. If you have a favorite place, list it in the comments after I post this article on my blog http://sprinklednotes.com. Give yourself the gift of peace and tranquility shopping at the small, independent unique places and spaces. The adventure you find in rural southern Minnesota while shopping for the ones you love will be one you will never forget and keep you coming back time and again. And you can’t beat the customer service of a mom and pop shop.

After you have chilled out and experienced the tranquility of small-town unique, give your list another tweak. Stop and drop off a donation for a local charity to help those whose stress is not a rarity, the hungry and poor and those who will have no gifts at their door. You will have found another reason for the season.

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Now I want to put a disclaimer in this post. If you see my books in some of the pictures, yes, some places carry my books but that is not the reason these are my favorite spaces. These are my favorite spaces because of the merchandise, the ease of shopping, the ambiance of the businesses and the friendly proprietors. Shop til you drop. And if you have some favorite businesses be sure to comment and if you want to share a picture or something you bought with your comment. There might be a free kindle book in it for you. Merry Christmas.

A Magical Circle – The Spirit of Giving

First published in the Albert Lea Tribune, Monday, October 19, 2016

Christmas is a time of love and giving. Look around you. The bell ringers for the Salvation Army are out in full force. Grocery stores have pre-packaged bags of food ready to buy for donation to food shelves. You will find Toys for Tots and other organizations sponsoring trees in businesses so people can pick up a tag and donate a gift to someone who otherwise might not have Christmas gifts.

Individuals are busy buying gifts for their family and other friends, and others are giving gifts to those who they might not otherwise share with the entire year. We Americans are generous at Christmas.

I find when I am out and about I feel guilty I can’t leave money in each and every Salvation Army kettle. I know my donation in whatever kettle I drop it into goes to the same place, but I feel bad when I glance into the faces of the volunteers who are bell-ringers and don’t tuck a donation into their kettle. They work hard in cold weather, and they always have hopeful faces and friendly hellos.

We emphasize giving at the holidays, but in our communities our giving spirit is alive all year long. Because we don’t always have a reminder, we may forget hunger and need isn’t a holiday issue — it is an ongoing year round issue.

In my community the past few months we have supported Bebo, Alex and Cindy with benefits. These three individuals all have different cancers they are fighting. Communities Fighting Student Hunger pack bags every week for students to take home on the weekend so they will have something to eat. Our food shelf serves the area and is open every Tuesday evening for those in need to pick up food, and there is also emergency pickup. The prayer groups in every church are busy praying for those who need prayers. My community is one community; the same scenario plays out in communities across America.

The internet has widened our scope for those who need our help. I have followed a young single mother by the name of Emily who became ill when having her child. The illness destroyed her liver. Her courage impressed me, and over the years I have gained an admiration for her courage and her faith. She has inspired me. It was a blessing this past year when she received a liver transplant. I had learned to care about a complete stranger and feel she was part of my family.

Websites such as gofundme.com and caringbridge.com keep us connected to those we know and those who are strangers but need our assistance, and allow us to help, even if we can only pray and not donate monetarily.

Words of kindness count too. I can’t tell you what it has meant to me when events in my life have taken me down, and those near, far away and online friends have supported me with their soft words. There are occasions when it is easier to share with a person you haven’t met, but trust, rather than someone close by. They may have experienced what you are experiencing too. It might be just a word or two, but it gets you through to the next day.

I wish all of you a very merry Christmas. I wish those who celebrate and believe differently than I do, a happy holiday. You, my readers, keep me going. I thank you for supporting me through the year. I thank you for your kind words. I hear them and they inspire me.

Christmas is a time for love and giving. I wish for you to feel the joy of giving, because in giving you will feel the love wrapping around you to keep you going through the good and dark times in your life. That giving spirit will come back to you in ways you can’t imagine. I wish for you to keep the spirit of Christmas in your hearts all year long, and when you begin to feel the grinch and sadness and hard times in your life take hold, which will happen, let others give to you. It’s a magic circle.

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Links to Giving:

Team Getchellteam-getchell1

Alex Thostenson

Connor’s Fight5131575_1435729098-2689

Salvation Army Bed and Bread

Communities +Fighting Student Hunger

Food Shelves

These are some of my favorites right now. I will add more. I don’t have a lot to give but I can at least give by promoting them too. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Thanksgiving Is Over, It’s On To Shopping!

 

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 27

shopping-2016Thanksgiving is over.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving. I managed to not burn the vegetables.

Actually, this year I had a hard time getting the corn done. It was a microwave error. My microwave is on its way out and it apparently didn’t like corn, because it wouldn’t even thaw it out.

Our turkey was cooked to perfection, and the new stuffing recipe I used with a few tweaks of my own wasn’t bad.

It has been a few years since I hosted my family for a holiday meal. We always travel to one of our kids’ homes, and who can argue with that, because I don’t have to clean and don’t have to cook. I think the kids got tired of burned vegetables, so they decided it was safer to host and not ask me to bring the vegetables.

In case you haven’t heard the story — I burn vegetables. I don’t like vegetables and watching them cook gets kind of boring in my creative mind, so I always find something else to do while they are cooking and kind of forget about them … until I smell the result. It is a tale my kids have passed down to my grandchildren. I forgot how much work goes into cooking for many people on Thanksgiving. It gave me an appreciation for those moms and dads that cook for their family every day.

Black Friday arrived and I didn’t have any newspapers to check out the ads, so I browsed the coupons I received in the mail. They were very tempting. Many stores gave free money up to $10 that you could use without buying anything else. I know myself — I would have spent more than the $10 certificate.

I am cutting back this year because of a cut back in my finances, so I purged the urge to shop and picked up a good book to read, taking a nap in between some paragraphs.

I don’t get too excited anymore about Black Friday sales or Cyber Monday sales. There is always a sale and unless there is something specific I am looking for, I don’t run out and join the lines since I have reached old age.

I remember before Black Friday was Black Friday. It was always just the Friday after Thanksgiving and I loved to join the shopping crowd. There was something energizing about all the people in the malls and stores. That was before shopper frenzy and shoppers hurting other shoppers trying to grab the golden sale that they wanted. It was a friendly tug of war.

One of the things we did one year with our son and his wife was get up at 4 a.m. to stand outside of Shopko in the lines to get the 6 a.m. specials. The kids had the list and told us what to grab. They then donated all the items to Toys for Tots or other organizations. I didn’t mind getting up early to do that.

A friend of mine always was in line at Dayton’s Department Store to get the Santa bear of the year. She and her daughters made it a tradition each year. After they got their Santa bear they spent the rest of the day together shopping and enjoying the season.

Now Santa bears are no more, and stores open on Thanksgiving, so there is no need to stand in line early in the morning in the cold anticipating the specials.

Of course we also have Cyber Monday, but it seems that is starting early, too, as the emails and ads online are bombarding consumers with the message to buy, buy, buy. It is hard to resist the call of those sparkly items when they come across your computer screen.

I am not in a family of shoppers, so even if I were interested in a shopping family outing I would be hard pressed to find a family member to go with me. My one granddaughter loves to shop, but she also loves to enjoy family time and I suspect she would pick that over shopping any day.

Maybe it is my age or maybe my finances that has brought me to my senses when it comes to shopping. Don’t get me wrong — we need to support our businesses, especially small businesses.

I find I buy more meaningful gifts if I take time and don’t get caught up in the frenzy of the sale. I find shopping is more about who I am with than the actual grabbing of the gold. I know it isn’t the glitzy gift that will be remembered but the time spent sharing and making memories.

The things I remember about Christmas aren’t the gifts I was given but the little things that had meaning during the holidays, such as baking Christmas cookies with my mom or going to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I remember my mom and dad coming home with a box of gifts from the shoe store where they hid them and the anticipation of those gifts, not the actual gifts but the tradition of Dad coming home with them. I remember sitting down to supper on Christmas Eve and sharing a Polish tradition of wafers with my Polish grandmother and uncle.

Those are the golden gifts that are remembered, and all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales will never make those kind of memories.

“Christmas is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.” — Freya Stark

Julie Seedorf’s column appears in the Tribune every Monday.