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12 reasons to buy local during the holidays

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1. To protect the environment
Goods that are grown or produced nearby generate less pollution than merchandise that needs to be transported over a long distance. These products also tend to have less packaging. Plus, you don’t have to travel far to visit local shops, which further reduces your carbon footprint.

2. To find one-of-a-kind gifts
If you really want to surprise a loved one on Christmas morning, check out the shops in your area. Small business owners work hard to offer their customers unique products that set them apart from major retailers. Alternatively, you can select handcrafted pieces made by local artisans.

3. To enjoy delicious food
Local farmers and producers provide fresh ingredients that can help you create your holiday meal. Whether you want to serve ready-made dishes or cook everything from scratch, you can count on the bakeries, butcher shops, and gourmet grocers in your region to have a variety of options to offer.

4. To boost the local economy
When you buy from local businesses, you help stimulate the region’s economy and create more jobs for the people in your area. And since a thriving market is sure to attract other companies, the result is a dynamic and prosperous community.

5. To support a vibrant community
Plenty of local groups and establishments organize activities throughout the year, with many holiday-themed events hosted in December. Whether you attend a story hour with your kids or karaoke night with your friends, your support ensures these organizations can continue to make your community a fun place to live.

6. To enjoy top-quality service
Customer satisfaction is a priority for small business owners. You can count on the knowledgeable staff at local specialty shops to offer great suggestions and answer all of your questions. Plus, exchanges and returns are easier since you can take care of them in person.

7. To discover hidden gems
Take time to explore the various shops, restaurants, venues, and attractions in your region. Even if you’ve lived there for years, you’ll likely be surprised by what you find. Discover a new craft beer, a temporary outdoor exhibition, or a charming coffee shop. Your town has more to offer than you think.

8. To alleviate holiday stress
There’s no need to venture into crowded shopping malls when everything you need to buy for a merry holiday season is available right around the corner. What’s more, if you purchase all of your gifts from local boutiques, you won’t have to worry about whether they’ll arrive in time for Christmas.

9. To demonstrate solidarity
The COVID-19 pandemic took a major toll on the economy, and small businesses need your patronage now more than ever. Shopping locally is a simple way to support hard-working members of your community through this difficult time. And since you receive high-quality goods and services in return, it’s a win-win situation.

10. To save yourself time and money
The holiday season should be about spending time with friends and family, not fighting traffic or navigating winter driving conditions. When you stick to shops, restaurants, and venues in the area, you avoid a lot of hassle and save plenty of money on gas.

11. To enjoy high-quality goods
Locally made products might be more expensive than mass-produced items, but they tend to be made better and more durable. This means you’ll spend less in the long run. What’s more, when you opt for goods made in your region, you can be confident that the employees worked inhumane conditions for a fair wage.

12. To strengthen your sense of community
If you’re a regular at your local shops and restaurants, you’ll be able to routinely chat with the owners, employees, and other customers you meet. This connection can foster a sense of belonging in your community. Plus, it’s nice to see familiar faces during the holidays.

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Interesting Things to Know

On the 12th day of Christmas: Much less fun.

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One of the most fun stories of the Christmas season is that of the Three Kings visiting the baby Jesus, bringing him gifts.

That gift-giving day is on the calendar as the 12th day after Christmas, Jan. 6, just about the time when most of us are packing away the gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the year.

Some people undecorate on January 1. If decorations have been up since before Thanksgiving, removing them right after New Year’s Day is recommended. The neighbors are probably tired of your lighted Santa, reindeer, and trees. The real Christmas tree and wreaths are getting pretty dry by that time.

Still, many people are sad to see their outdoor and indoor decorations go and wait until the unofficial undecorating day of January 6.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that undecorating day is prime time for falls. The CDC urges using steady step stools and ladders when taking down outdoor and indoor decorations. Take your time. Use the same amount of care as when putting them up.

Here are a few tips from professional decorators:

* Take photos of inside decorations and groupings you especially like so you will have a guide for next year. Box the groupings together.

* Discard broken pieces and donate redundant pieces to a charity. If you have ample storage space, save the giveaways until next October before donating.

* Clean decorations before storing them. Dust shiny tree ornaments. Clean white cotton objects, like white lambs, with a toothbrush and then coat with cornstarch. Toss artificial poinsettias in a bag with a half cup of salt to move the dust.

* Store decorations thematically or in their original boxes. For tree ornaments, it can be convenient to store according to color. Next year it will be easier to choose colors for the tree.

* Put artificial trees in their original boxes to protect them for future use and for convenient storage.

* Store outdoor decorations together in the garage, basement, or attic.

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6 clever tips for storing Christmas decorations

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Are you tired of untangling Christmas lights and trying to salvage squashed ornaments when you decorate for the holidays? Here are six storage tips that can make things easier.

1. Insert strands of Christmas tree beads into separate plastic bottles

2. Wrap string lights around pieces of cardboard or empty wrapping paper rolls

3. Thread rolls of ribbon onto a paper towel holder

4. Place small Christmas tree ornaments in egg cartons

5. Bundle wrapping paper rolls in a garment bag

6. Hang wreaths on hangers in a closet

Once your decorations are organized, stow them in clear plastic bins so you can easily see what’s inside. Also, remember to label each container.

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Food

Red velvet bites

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This bite-sized version of red velvet cake will allow your guests to sample all the desserts at your next holiday spread. You can count on these to be a crowd-pleaser.

Start to finish: 3 hours (1 hour active)
Servings: 40 bites

Ingredients

• 3 cups sugar
• 3 cups flour
• 1/2 cup cornstarch
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
• 4 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
• 1-1/4 cups warm water
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon white vinegar
• 2 tablespoons red food dye
• 4.5 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
• 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
• 2 cups icing sugar
• 28 ounces white chocolate
• 1/4 cup red decorative sugar

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 7 by 11-inch baking dish. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, use a whisk or hand beater to mix the sugar, flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, buttermilk, warm water, vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, vinegar, and food dye. Blend until the mixture is uniform.
3. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl, blend the cream cheese, butter, and the rest of the vanilla. Slowly incorporate the icing sugar by blending at low speed until the mixture has a smooth, even texture. Set aside.
5. Once the cake has completely cooled, place it in a large bowl and use your hands to crumble it until it has the consistency of wet sand. Add about a 1/2 cup of the cream cheese icing to the cake at a time and mix well. The final texture should allow you to form balls that keep their shape.
6. With your hands, form 40 cake balls and squish them slightly to create a disc shape. Place the balls on a baking sheet, and put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
7. In the meantime, melt the white chocolate using a double boiler or water bath. Let the chocolate cool slightly while ensuring it remains a liquid. Using a fork, dip each cake ball into the chocolate, so they’re completely coated. Place the balls on a baking sheet and immediately sprinkle the decorative sugar. Put the balls in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

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Food

Gazpacho shooters

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Does a high-spirited holiday season leave you feeling exhausted? This vibrant and refreshing drink is packed with vitamins that will give you the energy boost you need to continue celebrating.

Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes
(30 minutes active)
Servings: 8 small portions

Ingredients
For the gazpacho
• 1 cup croutons
• 2 large ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and cubed
• 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
• 1 red pepper, seeded
• 1/2 red onion, cubed
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
• 2 cups tomato juice
• 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• Salt and pepper, to taste

For the garnish
• 1 small tomato, seeded and cubed
• 1 Lebanese cucumber, seeded and cubed
• 1/2 red pepper, seeded and cubed
• Sea salt, to taste
• 16 fresh basil leaves

Directions
1. In a small bowl, place the croutons and add 1/2 cup of room temperature water. Set aside.
2. In a blender, purée the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and garlic. Drain the croutons and add them along with the tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and spices. Continue to blend until the mixture has a smooth, uniform texture. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
3. To serve, pour the gazpacho into shooters or small verrine-style glasses. In a small bowl, mix the chopped tomato, cucumber, and pepper. Top each glass with about 1 tablespoon of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over each and garnish with 2 basil leaves.

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Food

Santa Claus brownies

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Are you looking for the perfect holiday dessert? Children and adults alike will enjoy this playful and seasonal twist on traditional brownies.

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)
Servings: 24 brownies

Ingredients

For the brownies
• 1 cup butter, room temperature
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 4 eggs
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing
• 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 cups icing sugar
• 3 tablespoons milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 24 strawberries, hulled

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
2. Using a whisk or hand beater, blend the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix well. Incorporate the rest of the brownie ingredients and blend until the mixture is uniform.
3. Pour the brownie mixture into the baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
4. In the meantime, whisk the butter, cocoa powder, honey, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a large bowl. Slowly add the icing sugar and milk while blending the mixture at low speed until it reaches the desired texture. Set aside.
5. In another bowl, mix the heavy cream, sugar, and the rest of the vanilla. Blend at high speed until the whipped cream is firm.
6. Once the brownies are completely cool, spread a thin layer of the chocolate icing on top. Cut the brownies into 24 equal portions. Place 1 strawberry upside down on each piece of brownie. Using a piping bag, create a circle of whipped cream around the base of each strawberry and top the fruit with a dot of whipped cream.

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Seasonal

The fabulous tales of Mount Christmas: A reveal at the restaurant

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Once upon a time, in the town of Mount Christmas, the Ombazi family was celebrating Christmas Eve in a private dining room at the Joyous Delights restaurant. The nearly 50 guests had just finished a delicious feast, and they were all having a great time. Kids and grandparents danced along to a silly song about a family of sharks. Teams of relatives faced off in a lively card game. Cousins played charades, while aunts and uncles told hilarious stories.

However, one beloved member of the family was absent. Jaëlle, who was a famous pop singer, had spent the last few years performing all around the world. The downside of her fame was that she regularly missed important family events, such as the wedding of her cousin, Tatiana.

The Ombazis were very proud of Jaëlle, but they missed her terribly. The young woman always knew how to liven up a party. She could turn even the dullest basement karaoke party into a dynamic performance where every singer felt like a star.

As midnight approached, eager guests of all ages gathered around the Christmas tree to await the arrival of Santa Claus. It was tradition for the jolly old elf to hand out presents. As they waited, a few older relatives relived fond memories of holidays past.

That’s when Octave appeared. Every year, the town’s magical cardinal would visit every holiday party to wish the families of Mount Christmas health and happiness. Often, people would ask the bird to sing a song with his incredible voice. According to legend, he never sings out of tune.

“Please sing something for us, Octave,” the Ombazis requested.

“Gladly,” the bird replied, approaching the microphone. “I’d like to perform a lovely piece that I’m sure you’ve heard.”

As Octave sang the first few notes, the crowd immediately recognized the song. It was Jaëlle’s latest hit, Family is Sacred. Soon, everyone was snapping their fingers, clapping their hands and stomping their feet to the catchy tune. For the final chorus, the group sang along together. It was a heartwarming moment that brought tears to many people’s eyes.

Suddenly, the front door swung open. It was Santa Claus!

“Ho, ho, ho,” he exclaimed. “Good evening, Ombazi family. Are you ready for your gifts?”

“Yes,” they replied with applause.

“Excellent,” Santa said. “But since there are so many of you, I’ll need my assistant Star Fairy to help me. Oh, Star Fairy!”

Everyone turned to watch the arrival of Santa’s assistant. It was Jaëlle! What a wonderful surprise.

The pop star ran over to Tatiana and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“You know,” Jaëlle said, “when I sing Family is Sacred, I really mean it.”

All the guests were cheering and jumping with joy. Octave, who had planned the whole surprise, watched from above with a smile.

By Sarah Beauregard and Johannie Dufour / Translated by Katya Teague

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Jan
29
Fri
12:30 pm Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Jan 29 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ Online Event
Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]
Jan
30
Sat
2:00 pm Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Jan 30 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
We will paint these beautiful camellias on Saturday, January 30th at 2 pm at The Studio. This will be the first in a series of floral paintings we will do over the course of 2021.[...]
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
6:00 pm Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
Feb
9
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 9 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
11
Thu
6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
13
Sat
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Feb 13 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
Feb
15
Mon
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 15 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
Feb
16
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 16 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
17
Wed
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]