Tag Archives: christmas

Using My Time More Efficiently; The Tree Is Up!

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.

-John Burroughs

Isn’t that so true? Every day we have 24 hours to parse as we please, and we all manage to spend our time in vastly different ways. Somehow, someway, the hours tick by, and before you know it, December is knocking at your door. You look at the clock, gape at the calendar and wonder, ‘How did this happen again?! Where did the year go?’ Time is gracious like that. It doesn’t stomp away in a huff and a puff. The disappearing act is more of a gradual letdown, before lowering the boom at the end of each year.

You’re not the only one looking at your calendar in disbelief. I’m right there with you.

Moments like this call for inspiration, which I’m going to draw from the quote above. December is still too short for all those activities, but I can sure try to use my time more efficiently.

… all the thoughts I want to think: That means more time spent writing and in discourse with myself. There’s a future to plan, and my brain’s also brimming with ideas and directions to take this blog. You will see much more activity on here now that I’m tightening the focus of what I’d like to cover.

… all the walks I want to take: The weather’s slightly chilly for that, but jump on the stationary bike and dream of snowfall and sledding so I can have winterized entries on here.

… all the books I want to read: I don’t know about you, but I need to make a reading list. Nothing fancy to the tune of “I’m going to read 50 books next year,” but I would like to get my feet wet in the classics section. I aspire to one day be a well-read person. Maybe you’ll hear about the good ones in the coming year.

… and all the friends I want to see: Spend some time with the ones you love this Christmas. That goes for me, too. This is the perfect season to strengthen relationships and reforge bonds.

Put down the phone, shut the laptop, turn off the TV and look into that someone’s eyes. Brother? Friend? Mom? Significant other? Converse about your lives over a cup of coffee. Drive past the lit displays in your neighborhood. Experience a concert. Go window shopping. The point is, have quality time.

I spent quality time tonight with family putting up our Christmas tree. We’re a little late on the bandwagon, but it’s up with a solid week to go until the morning frenzy of flying wrapping paper discs and practically waterproofed gift wrappings.

Reflection In A Christmas Ornament

Our tree has survived twenty Christmases strong at least with no signs of slowing down. We wrap it in lights, layer on the garland, hang ornaments and top it off with generous amounts of tinsel. Candy canes used to be a tree staple as well, but somewhere along the way their contract was revoked.

What about you? What are your tree decorating traditions and staples, if any? Do you have books to read, goals to achieve in the coming year? Let me know with a comment.


Night Lights

Christmastime is upon us.

One thing that means: lights. Lights, lights and more lights.

Christmas Lights In Downtown Princeton photo(48)

Princeton’s downtown is festively decorated this year, with rope lights outlining the humble skyline and adorning dormant trees. I drive through this scene almost nightly when going to and from work. I really wanted to get out and soak up the magic, and luckily for me, I have a friend for late night adventures like this.

Sarah and I explored the downtown area (legally) one night after I got off work, meeting there and walking along the shops with cameras in hand. Every time we meet up turns into a photo adventure in one way or another.

I have to hand it to the small business owners. They went all out in decorating mode with beautifully lit front window displays. The colored lights from trees reflected in our Christmas hungry eyes.

As a young child, my family used to go on “pajama runs” to see displays all over the county. As a young adult, this experience gazing at lit decorations in Princeton’s shopping district made the child in me very happy.

Christmas lights. There’s something about the twinkling, the colors, the big glass bulbs and small delicate strings, the lights that chase each other, the lights shining from living room windows facing the street.

It’s family, it’s magical, it’s Christmas encapsulated.

Shop Small

In the Sauk Valley area, it’s a movement known as Shop Small.

Across the nation, it might be better known as Small Business Saturday, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in a weekend of shopping extravaganzas.

Last week I was working on stories for Sauk Valley Media’s upcoming gift guide.

I was interviewing the owner of a small gift shop in Sterling about jewelry. Between questions, one employee looked intently at my wrist.

“Where’d you get that bracelet?” she asked. “We carry ones just like it. Blue, black.”Bracelet

“It was a few summers ago,” I said. I told her I didn’t really remember.

But I did.

Kohls. The popular department store, which came to Sterling a few years ago, has more than 1,100 U.S. locations. I don’t feel guilt about where I bought the bracelet from, but that lady’s simple question prodded my brain.

“They say a dollar spent in the community turns seven times,” the co-owner of a jewelry store in Dixon told me at another interview.

Small businesses have to stick together these days. The French Market I blogged about in September was a collaboration between several businesses in Princeton’s Art District, and it successfully generated business and buzz about stores many people drive past but seldom enter.

This post is not meant to scold people for not shopping locally, and it’s not meant to condemn shopping at nationwide chains. Rather, my intent is to raise awareness about local businesses. Shopping locally is going to be a part of my personal push to live where I am. Along with exploring local parks, which I’ve done a lot of this fall, I think it’s worth delving into local shops and eateries. I want to get all that I can from this area before I move on. And when I do, I want to carry a local mentality with me.

I’ve rethought my Christmas shopping strategy for this year. I’m going to make my list earlier than usual and see what Princeton, Dixon and Sterling have to offer before I go elsewhere.

I put this thought into action right after the gift shop interview. Bushel Basket Candle Co. adjoins the Sterling Mall and has an array of wonderful-smelling candles. I knew from the moment I walked in that I’d leave with something.

What inspiration will you find this season from shopping small?