A Very Hoosier HolidayWelcome back to A Very Hoosier Holiday, a guest blogging extravaganza right here on little Indiana!

Anyone is welcome to participate as long as they follow one important rule: the post must pertain to winter or the holiday season. Prepare to read an awesome variety of seasonal postings over the month of December.

You’ll be happy to welcome back today’s guest: it’s Robyn from You Think Too Much! This Featured Indiana Blogger lives in the adorable town of Madison.

She’s here to share with you her tips and tricks to shopping local this holiday season–and her great finds around town. Isn’t it time to make gift-giving mean something? Let Robyn help show you how!

A Very Hoosier Holiday: Christmas Shopping in Madison, Indiana

Madison, Indiana: Eco-Massage

Madison, Indiana: Eco-Massage

Welcome to Madison, for today’s Little Indiana holiday guest post.  Last year for the holidays, I swore to buy all my gifts locally or to make them myself. The only real stunning revelation here was, why hadn’t I done this before? I have enjoyed Christmas shopping in only very small, sporadic bursts, and I really, really hate malls. I’ve lived in a town for the past 10 which makes it relatively easy to shop only locally. Why did it take me so long?

Downtown shopping used to be the only kind of shopping anyone did.  Having grown up in Northern Kentucky, my parents and grandparents tell stories of doing all their holiday shopping in downtown Cincinnati or Covington. By the time I was small, you went downtown only to see the toy train display in the window of one of the department stores. Shopping in downtown Madison now, I can imagine that maybe this is what shopping would have been like back in the day, before people pepper sprayed each other to get the best deal on an iPad at the mall.

Madison, Indiana: Sweater

Madison, Indiana: Sweater

Shopping locally helps me remember that buying things used to be a largely human transaction–a social transaction. Buying and selling doesn’t have to destroy communities, but can actually make them better. It certainly makes me feel better about spending money when I know, like, and care about the people I’m buying things from. If most of the power we have as individuals in the world has been reduced to our power as consumers, the least we can do is consume carefully and in a way that might help to create the kind of world we’d like to live in.

So here’s my description of one holiday shopping adventure in lovely, downtown Madison.

If this list isn’t specific enough, I’ll share just four purchases I made last year strolling around Madison with the spousal unit, my stepdaughter and her friend. Some of these are actually gifts for me, but think how guilt-free buying for yourself can be around the holidays when you know you’re supporting the local economy?Luckily for me, Madison is something of a Christmas shopper’s paradise.  There are countless gifts that can be purchased on our streets.  Books. Jewelry. Candy. Yarn. Art. Nuts. Bird feeders. Stuffed animals. Clothes. Pottery. Cupcakes. Beer (who doesn’t want beer for Christmas?). Massages. Antique sewing machines. Soap. Perfume. Bath bombs. Musical instruments. Coffee and tea. Dinners at lovely restaurants.

Gift #1: We started at Eco-Massage, the lovely little yellow building on West St. at the end of my favorite alley. There was quite a spread of food and wine, and I purchased a gift certificate for a 30 minute massage for someone whom I cannot name for fear of spoiling their holiday surprise (don’t you wish it was you?). A massage from Jennifer Payne, who owns Eco-Massage, is really the best present I can possibly imagine getting. Luckily, I give myself this present as least once a month. If I moved slightly up in my income bracket, I would give myself this present once a week. Or, maybe Jennifer would just allow me to come in and lay down on her massage table, which has an instant Pavlovian effect for me. I feel relaxed as soon as I lay down on the massage table, because my whole body knows what’s coming. That’s priceless, but in Madison, also highly affordable.

Madison, Indiana: Perfume

Madison, Indiana: Perfume

At any rate, the line to see Santa was long, so we stopped in at Little Golden Fox, a relatively new store in Madison located at the corner of Broadway and Main. This was our first time in Little Golden Fox, and we were quite pleased. They sell a nice assortment of locally handmade items as well as upscale consignment. I bought a beautiful sweater from American Eagle there for $8.75. Crazy! The next day, my husband and stepdaughter went back to buy me a new Christmas stocking. They also have incredibly adorable handmade baby clothes and have expanded into furniture and other home decor.Gift #2: After Eco-Massage, we headed up to Main St. and down to Broadway to check out the Christmas tree set up in front of the fountain every year and lit at the end of the annual Christmas parade. I asked my ten-year-old daughter, jokingly, if she wanted to get her picture taken with Santa. “Well, I guess, we could,” she said, perhaps because she thought it was what I wanted to hear, or perhaps because some part of her really still wants to be able to get her picture taken with Santa. Growing up is hard.

Gift #3: We had passed one of my favorite Madison stores, All Good Things, on the way to the Christmas tree, but it was packed. On the way back, we stopped in to take advantage of their special on soap, because I’m running low on my favorite, Lemongrass Sage. Let me just say here what I have learned from All Good Things: you cannot underestimate the effect of good smells on your quality of life. I’m very into lavender, and bought a little tin of their solid perfume, Lavender/Patchouli. With this perfume dabbed on me, it’s like I’m walking through my days with olfactory Prozac; each whiff of lavender makes me happy. The scent is supposed to be soothing, calming and help with emotional balance. If you see me walking around constantly smelling myself, just know that I’m trying to maintain my emotional balance.

Madison, Indiana: Yarn

Madison, Indiana: Yarn

Does walking around a local downtown to do your Christmas shopping take more time than  going to the mall or clicking a button online?  Possibly.  But one of the things happiness experts will tell you is that money spent on experiences makes you happier than money spent on things.  Shopping in a place like downtown Madison happily gives you both—the wonderful experience of leisurely wandering down the streets and into the shops plus the adrenaline rush of buying things.Gift #4: We were going to eat dinner at Shooter’s, a lovely sports bar which always has some local beers on tap, including some from Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis. But they, too, were packed. The whole town was packed, all weekend long, which was wonderful for our local businesses, if just the smallest bit annoying in that moment when you were wanting a beer with your dinner. Instead, we ate at Hong Kong Kitchen, where we were treated to free sugary peanuts for dessert. My husband headed to Blush with the girls, another relatively new store that’s very popular with my stepdaughter and her friends. I headed to Harriette’s Knit Knook to buy some yarn. These three colors will soon become a hat to match my stepdaughter’s new red pea coat.

So commit to buying something local for the holidays this year.  Even just one thing makes a difference to the local economy, and maybe to your own ability to survive November and December with your holiday spirit fully intact!

Check out Madison Monday, a weekly feature on my blog, You Think too Much, where you can read more about life in a historic Indiana river town.

About Robyn Ryle
Robyn Ryle is a writer, sociologist, stepmother, reader, and grower of things who lives in a 170 year old house in Madison, Indiana with a husband, 11 year old stepdaughter, and two badly behaved cats.  She recently finished her first novel, The Carthage Speaker’s Bureau, a story about the saving power of stories set in southern Indiana.  Currently, she is working on a revised edition of her textbook, Questioning Gender:  A Sociological Exploration.  You can find her accounts of daily life in a small town and musings on many other topics at You Think Too Much.

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