Family Holiday Shopping Day

It has become something of a family tradition to pack everyone in my immediate family into two cars in December and head off for a day of family holiday shopping.

We usually start early in the morning when my parents are raring to go, and the rest of us are a little more like the walking dead.

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Fortunately, most of us are used to waking up early now, so we were a little more prepared this year, especially this girl.

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How to get salespeople to put up with a large, jovial and sometimes obnoxious family? Bring a cute baby dressed in a Santa costume. Works every time…

We usually head to Manitowoc or Appleton and end in Green Bay, but over the years, we have learned to appreciate small, local shops much more than the craziness of the mall this time of year. Large crowds…ugh. Thus, we picked kind of an unusual location this year: Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls.

But first…breakfast! We arrived at Mom and Dad’s where we were greeted with eggnog scones and Devonshire cream.

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And yogurt parfaits made with cracklin’ oat bran, vanilla Greek yogurt, fresh blackberries, and warm peaches.

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The warm peaches really made this parfait, and for sweet scones, the eggnog studded with chopped dates are now my new favorite. My mom always claims I make the best hummus, but I can’t hold a candle to her scones.

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Our first stop in Sheboygan falls was a small antique store where Dave and I scored a meat grinder, a decorative oil lamp, and two taper candle holders. My Mom wanted to buy everything in the store; I was enamored with a velvet-seated cutter (sleigh), and Dave was intrigued with a 1920’s butcher block. Unfortunately (or quite fortunately), we didn’t have the $400 to spend on each of those things and had to be satisfied with our much smaller purchases. Maybe the cats can pull me around on a sled instead.

At that point, we were already wet and cold from the incessant rain and stopped at the Atrium Tea Room to warm ourselves up.

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Dad kept Aurelia warm and dry on the walk over with a blanket and his tam.

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We all ordered a different kind of tea to sample. Since I had been chewing gum, I opted for the Chocolate Mint to match my palette.

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It was wonderful. I love the combination of chocolate and mint, and the scent (and warmth) alone was worth the order. Due to peer pressure, we also all ended up ordering crumpets.

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Of course, I was reminded of the Dumb and Dumber scene: “If I know Mary as well as I think I do, she’ll invite us right in for tea and strumpets!”

I’ve never had a crumpet before, and I found them to be quite tasty, especially with the addition of lemon curd. In appearance, they resembled some sort of sea creature, but they tasted similar to an English muffin.

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If you’re ever near Sheboygan Falls, I highly recommend the Atrium Tea Room. The atmosphere was small but grandiose, and their lunch menu looked quite delicious. After we had warmed ourselves, we pressed on…to Evans!

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For avid shoppers, I can see how Evans would be a real draw. Every inch was packed with something different; it was like a Walgreens on steroids. However, it wasn’t my cup of tea. Too many people in too-small aisles made me a little claustrophobic, and the only way you could really find anything was by circling the store a few times.

One of my main draws to Sheboygan Falls was a cafe featured in Food Network magazine for having a delicious poppy seed torte: Bread and Bean Eatery.

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We were going to get some pie to go, but we arrived at 1:45, fifteen minutes after they closed for lunch, and two hours and fifteen minutes before they opened again for dinner. Bummer. I figured if it was in the Food Network Magazine, it must be sublime, but I missed my chance. 😦

After that small disappointment, we piled back in the cars and drove to Sheboygan. There was a quaint little shopping strip along the harbor, and our first stop was Olivada, a store specializing in flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegar.

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We got to sample oil and balsamic galore and purchased plenty of food gifts for friends, family, and our own pantries. Dave and I settled on a traditional balsamic and a wild mushroom and sage olive oil…but when we got home, we realized they had given us the basil flavored olive oil instead. I’m sure it’s just as good, but I was looking forward to the mushroom one more.

We stopped at a natural food store for a few things, then to a lovely Victorian Chocolate Shoppe.

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The smell inside the shop was heavenly. They featured homemade truffles and had everything from champagne to highlander grogg to cranberry.

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Honey, if it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t worth it.

After the chocolate shop, Aurelia was hungry and wanted to head somewhere cozy. We settled on Paradigm, a hipster coffee shop filled with bicycles, overstuffed couches, and funky art pieces, two of which featured paintings of raw chicken. Errr…okay.

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Since the olive oil and vinegar tasting did little to fill me up, I ordered hummus and pita chips for a mid-day snack along with my Blueberry Rooibos tea. I forgot to take a photo, but it was quite a treat. The hummus was nothing special, but the pita chips were fresh, warm, and seasoned with olive oil and herbs.

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While we sipped our tea and coffee, we came up with our next plan. My list was growing very short, and the only place I needed was my friendly neighborhood Target, so we used the GPS to map one out in the area and headed out again. We were in and out in a few minutes, then went next door to Pier 1 Imports to browse and try on masks.

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We decided to go back to Manitowoc for food so we would be closer to home and decided on Friar Tucks, a sit-down sandwich place modeled after a monastery.

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First things first: beer.

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Their beer list is pretty small, so I ordered a Spotted Cow to keep things local.

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I wasn’t terribly hungry since I filled up on hummus and pita, so I settled on the soup and salad combo.

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French Onion in a crock was just the ticket.

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A garden salad with croutons and Italian dressing on the side. Plus a few french fries that I snagged from my family.

It was a lovely albeit exhausting day, and when we arrived home past 9:00pm, I popped on Home Alone 2, poured myself a glass of delicious egg nog that my mom bought for me, and fell asleep on the couch halfway through the movie.

Evan William’s Peppermint Chocolate Egg Nog. I’m a fan. A very merry Family Holiday Shopping Day was had by all.

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