Tag Archives: downtown

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.


French Markets and Painted Pumpkins

Autumn Collage
From top left to bottom right: my haul from the market, “The Scream” replicated on a pumpkin, an attempt at painting a sunrise, a delicious hazelnut truffle.

Even the weather seemed to know about the change of season. Temperatures dipped the last few days, and today was no exception. North-central Illinois topped out in the low 60s, perfect jeans and sweater weather for an afternoon outing.

I found out about this “French market” last night as a Facebook event. Local stores and vendors in Princeton’s North End Art District planned to set up on the city’s wide downtown sidewalks and bring event goers a taste of the European country. It was smaller than I expected, but it was lovely. Quality over quantity. That’s what this soirée was.

On one side, one vendor sold dessert crepes while another beside him gave away tidbits of savory pork in hopes of enticing passersby to sit for a meal. I bought a dessert crepe: #5, which was topped with chocolate, caramel, and pecans.

Most of the shops on the other side had tents up, and many were strung with lights. I was told that an image of the Eiffel Tower would be projected onto a storefront at dusk to add to the ambiance. My friend and I slowly perused the wares, antiques and jewelry lining each table. In one tent, a box of sea glass pendants caught my eye. They were varying shapes and sizes wrapped in wire and accented by different colors of Swarovski beads. At $25 a piece, buying one was my splurge for the day.

Our time downtown would have been brief if store owners hadn’t also extended their hours for the day. I have to admit, I’m not a frequent visitor downtown, so we poked our heads in one store and ended up walking through every square foot of that retail space. I’ve bookmarked some items in my head that would make good Christmas presents. The North End Art District may see me again in a few short months.

Before we departed for the next leg of our adventure, we skirted the tents back to one that sold coffee and truffles. I sampled a cocoa-covered hazelnut one with a nutty center. What a treat!

The Facebook event page said this is the first of an annual event, and I hope this is true. I thoroughly enjoyed the quaint, cultural atmosphere. My only complaint: I didn’t see the caricature artist, but we may not have walked the entire premises of the market. If I’m in the area again next year, I will definitely stop by.

Next stop was a park on the edge of town. The mission: paint little pumpkins we had previously purchased at Walmart for 78 cents per pound. My friend is in art education and therefore maintains a rather extensive stash of acrylic paints and brushes.

We claimed a picnic table in one of the shelters and set up our work station. For me it was like a trip back to grade school, lining up outside the janitor’s closet to rinse dirty paintbrushes in the industrial-sized sink after an art project.

I didn’t have a particular image in my head of what I wanted to paint, so I drew a face on in charcoal with a curly mustache before abandoning that idea and choosing to try to replicate the sunrise I saw that morning. My friend had her idea down pat. She looked up an image of “The Scream,” by Edvard Munch, on my phone and set to work. Check out the picture. Hers turned out amazing, and you can barely make out an abstract version of a sunrise on mine.

My pumpkin will be going on the front stoop soon so everyone can see it.

Between a French market and painting a pumpkin, what better way is there to commemorate the beginning of fall?