Plaid Friday in Western MA

Move Over Black Friday! Make Way for Plaid Friday!

Plaid Friday is the fun and enjoyable alternative to the big store “Black Friday,” and is designed to promote both local and independently owned businesses during the holidays.

The day after Thanksgiving, in the mass consumer world, is typically known as Black Friday. Instead of shopping at the big box stores that day, support Plaid Friday in Western Massachusetts! Plaid Friday celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses.

Very much like the already well known Small Business Saturday, Plaid Friday ensures that the dollars you spend this holiday season go back into YOUR community. Smaller and independent retailers return a total of 51.1% of revenue to the local economy, while national chains, only return an average of 13.6% of revenue within the market that hosts the store.

Many locally owned, independent businesses are giving back to their community during the holiday season to, supporting causes like food security in the region…  Read the rest of this entry »

Warm Thank You & Sad Goodbye to Main Street Shop in Northampton

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

The Mountain Goat and Main Street

I am not the only person to be sad about Northampton’s Mountain Goat closing.

Like so many parents in the Valley, I can’t count the number of pairs of Merrell shoes I bought for my children there nor how many pairs of winter-grade mittens. The Mountain Goat sealed my love for Patagonia’s warm winter jackets and Smartwool socks. That’s to say I realized New England is no joke if you walk every day or ski or want your kids to enjoy recess. And when I realized that the Goat helped me to accommodate the actual weather in ways that made the outdoors more easily accessible.

Because this is a mash note, I’ll add that I appreciated the warm service and the innate smiles of everyone who worked there (in my experience, friendliness abounded) as much as the fact that when something essential—those mittens, oh those many, many mittens—I could dash in and find the necessary replacement.

It’s so much work for small businesses to stay in business. When you live in an area comprised of small towns, you realize that each business that sells necessities counts a little extra. Sometimes, you wish you didn’t have to pay a premium for that. Like the Joni Mitchell line, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” though, you realize that premium was worth it all along for your lost mitten replacement needs or your chance to try things on or the good advice you get along with the shoe purchase about a hike or bike ride or ski trail. Whenever the punch card filled up and you got that bonus infusion of product, you felt the mini thrill of good luck earned and justified all that little bit more you spent as counterbalanced (the more you spend the more you save).

❥ Rather than dwell in melancholy, though, I want to thank the Goat folks for dependability and good cheer and to remind myself (and you, reader) how much Main Street matters in a community comprised of small towns.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

Suggestions & Recommendations for Back-to-School


“Children are often requested to carry a backpack to daycare or school so that personal items, work and projects can be safely carried to and from home. What should parents look for when making a purchasing decision about their child’s backpack?” Check out Robin McClure’s post, Before You Buy Your Child’s Backpack.

Labor Day weekend marks the return of school for many families! We’ve combed through our archives of questions we’ve asked our readers over the years that relate to this time of year and wanted to share a few gems that generated helpful community recommendations and suggestions that families with children going back-to-school (or just starting school!) can use.

Be sure to check out our weekly post, Learn Local. Play Local. for weekly highlights of educational opportunities in the region students can participate in to supplement their studies in school and at home.  We highlight many different types of place-based educational events, raging from local history to culinary arts, geology to nature science.

The most recent question was last week when we asked how Western MA families make wise purchases for back-to-school clothes:

Wonder what to do with those hand-me-downs from last year, especially old clothing that is ripped, stained or otherwise unable to donate/wear?

Look for that back-to-school hair cut?

PB&J. Cheese stick. Yogurt. – (Snore!) – Here are a few fresh, creative idea for back-to-school, lunch toting kids:

Once in school, kids often bring home colds and flu. Here are community recommended home remedies for beating and treating your kids sniffles and fevers:

Looking for a new pediatrician to care for your child when they come home from school with strep throat or in need for their yearly physical or vaccinations?

What about lice? How can you prevent your kids from getting lice from their classmates? What do you do if they do get it?

Pizza is great for sleepovers, Friday night family dinner, or before/after high school sports. Here are some great places to get pizza after school (or anytime!):

Other helpful Q&A posts:

[Photo credit: (ccl) o5com]

11 Suggestions on How Western MA Families Can Make Wise Back-to-School Purchases

Americans spent $7.7 billion at family clothing stores in August 2011! When shopping for back-to-school clothes for this upcoming school year, how can Western MA families make wise purchases? Share your thoughts/ideas…

Lissie Fein asks, “Where are some recommended places to buy children gym shoes/sneakers?” Share your recommendations! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

  • Jean Engel writes, “Start with the summer clothes that are on sale at all the stores. It will stay rather hot well into October or sometimes November. Just make sure they have a new pair of shoes and a transitional jacket. Buy warmer clothing piece by piece as the next few weeks progress. It starves off the impulse buying you regret later.”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “When my kids were younger and style did not matter as much, I would buy their clothes after the season was over for deep discounts in anticipation of next years needs. Online shopping when free shipping is offered is also a wise purchase when living in the Hilltowns and travel is a consideration+cost! Kids who don’t like to shop at the mall, try on clothes, or wait in lines often like catalogs/websites to browse…  Stores like Land’s End (great quality guarantees for rough+tumble kids) and Old Navy (great for babies+mom to look stylish for cheap) make returns to your local store wicked easy. But our favorite wise clothing option is hand-me downs! Kids (surprises galore) and parents (free clothes/tax donation deduction) both win.”
  • Karen Hettlinger writes, “A clothes donation/ trading post.”
  • Heather Wrisley writes, “Consignment stores.”
  • Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “Organize a clothing swap with neighborhood families or your kids’ friends! And crafty older kids can modify old clothes to revamp them (and maybe make them fit!), or figure out how to navigate sewing patterns and make some stuff of their own! Beehive in Northampton offers hourly rates on sewing machines if you don’t have one at home.”
  • Catherine Snyder writes, “Rethreads in Shelburne Falls. Freecycle.”
  • Amanda Gadd writes, “There is a wonderful new children’s consignment shop on North St. in Pittsfield called Kidding Around Consignment. She’s got everything from maternity to tween and some fun handmade stuff.”
  • Jean Engel writes, “Another one in Adams for North County families… Experienced Attire on Park Street/next to the old Armory (across the street from the Library). Great consignments.”
  • Sue Lowery writes, “Salvation Army, Hospice Shop, Northampton Survival Center, Amherst Survival Center – and any consignment shops.”
  • Katryna Nields writes, “Also post on Facebook. people are also going to be getting rid of the clothes that don’t fit anymore.”
  • Erin Klett writes, “‎Hens & Chicks consignment in Greenfield!”
  • Lissie Fein writes, “Where are some recommended places to buy children gym shoes/sneakers?

Q&A: Where to Find Maternity Clothes in Western MA


Baby and Daisy

One of our readers, an expecting mother, is looking for places in Western MA to find maternity clothes. Any recommendations?

  • Ilyza Sarah Earle recommends:Hens & Chicks in Greenfield of course!”
  • Nancyjo Craig Rongner recommends: “Savers in West Springfield.”
  • Judy Bennett recommends: “Hens & Chicks in Greenfield carries consignment clothes for women and kids, including maternity.”
  • Jennifer Shiao Page recommends: “Salvation Army in Hadley. Second Chances in Amherst. Kids Kloset in Northampton. Many of my favorite maternity items were in fact *not* maternity clothes. I had two turtlenecks made of stretchy fabric, and with gathers along the side seams. Long blowy cardigan-style sweaters that you don’t have to close in front. TJ Maxx and Marshalls!”
  • Amber Shutt recommends:Kidstuff in Florence also has maternity clothes!!”
  • Mary Mayshark-Stavely recommends: “There is a consignment shop in Northfield that has a lot of things.”
  • Kaci Ruh recommends: “They carry some gently used maternity clothes at Kidstuff in Florence.”
  • Meg Lefkowitz recommends: “There is Motherhood in the Holyoke Mall. Burlington Coat Factory in that mall also has a selection.”
  • Deanne Forgea-Calvert recommends: “Gently used at Hens & Chicks in Greenfield.”
  • Marianne Bullock recommends: “Hens & Chicks.”
  • Marissa Tenenbaum Potter recommends: “And in Northampton Kids Kloset.”
  • Jaime Mailloux recommends: “Another place for gently used maternity clothes is the Kids Kloset in downtown Northampton. For new clothes, there is Motherhood Maternity (Holyoke Mall) and there are small sections in most stores (sometimes hard to find) such as JCPenny and Kohls.”
  • Karen Jaiclin recommends: “Old Navy had some affordable stuff (simple basics), but I think the Holyoke Mall one stopped carrying maternity- grr. Call to check, there may be maternity in Enfield? Or order online- I had good luck with that. Including swimsuits!”
  • Alyssa Pratt-Miranda recommends: “H&M has a small selection. There’s also The Gap and Target. If she’s open to used clothes, try Craigslist or Easthampton Mamas and post there. I had a lot of luck finding hand-me-downs!”
  • Melanie Courtemanche recommends: “The only Old Navy that carries maternity near here is South Windsor, CT.”
  • Sandra Dias recommends: “The Kid’s Kloset in the Maplewood Shops in Northampton has maternity clothes on consignment.”
  • Vicky George-Weimer recommends: “Motherhood at the Holyoke Mall, if it’s still there. Burlington Coat Factory has some decent stuff.”
  • Sandy Bailey recommends: “Hens & Chicks in Greenfield.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Amber McNamara]

Local & Independent ❥ Shopping in Western MA

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Note 7, Buying Local, Fairs, Markets, Stores

Artisans selling their locally made products at the Hilltown Spring Festival. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

❥ By the time this goes up, the fall’s Twist Fair will have taken place. Don’t worry, though, you can still buy local crafts. If it seems like this is a valley teeming with artisans (okay, and therapists and cafés), I do believe it’s been proven true in the census or something, that our general lofty crafty factor is not just a figment of your imagination.

Peruse this wonderful Hilltown Families resource to see that you can buy local all year round—and certainly in the coming weeks.

Both the Arts and Industries building in Florence and Easthampton’s One Cottage Street have long had open studios. Eastworks got into the act, too. In fact, there are so many I can’t list them, the open studios, the crafts fairs and such. I love RED, though. I have hosted a little home craft show that seemed to mushroom over time into an actual thing. And of course there are two pottery tours each year that feature amazing work, Asparagus Valley and Hilltown 6.

Then, in Northampton, things like the Cup and Mug Invitational at the Artisan Gallery always makes my ceramic-loving self start to swoon.

Plus, having become a Hilltown Charter school family, I learned last year how totally fun the winter craft show there is: it’s really a hands-on for kids (and their grown-ups) event. About sixty-hundred-and-ten other schools have wondrous fairs, too (see listings on Hilltown Families why don’t you?).

❥ I remember when a friend first moved here from Manhattan years ago. She said, “The good thing about living here is there’s no shopping. The bad thing is there’s no shopping.”

There is shopping, local shopping. There is less shopping perhaps than one might find a Gap and Abercrombie-lined street. I fall on the good thing side of this lack of abundant goods to purchase, sure. I love so many of the local businesses here and I feel so good buying local. From River Valley Market to farmers’ markets to Impish and Jackson and Connor (not so many mums can peruse the racks at both stores for their kids!), I prefer fewer options and knowing the owners to an anonymous stampede of consumerism. Even if I’m wearing both an Old Navy skirt and an Old Friends Farm t-shirt while I’m writing this.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

Dirty Dozen & Clean 15: A Family Guide to Reducing Exposure to Pesticides in Your Produce

Environmental Working Group 2011 Shopper’s Guide Helps Cut Consumer Pesticide Exposure

“Though buying organic is always the best choice, we know that sometimes people do not have access to that produce or cannot afford it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Environmental Working Group has released the seventh edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce with updated information on 53 fruits and vegetables and their total pesticide loads. EWG highlights the worst offenders with its “Dirty Dozen” list and the cleanest conventional produce with its “Clean 15” list.

Analysts at EWG synthesized data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 to 2009. Produce is ranked based on a composite score, equally weighing six factors that reflect how many pesticides was found in testing of on each type of the produce and at what levels. Most samples are washed and peeled prior to being tested, so the rankings reflect the amounts of the chemicals likely present on the food when is it eaten.

Notable changes in the new guide included apples’ rank as the most contaminated produce, jumping three spots from last year to replace celery at the top of the “Dirty Dozen” list. According to USDA, pesticides showed up on 98 percent of the more than 700 apple samples tested.

“Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce, and lets them know which fruits and vegetables they may want to buy organic,” says Cook. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Making an appearance in the guide for the first time is the herb cilantro, which had never been tested by USDA until now. The data showed 33 unapproved pesticides on 44 percent of the cilantro samples tested, which is the highest percentage of unapproved pesticides recorded on any item included in the guide since EWG started tracking the data in 1995.

Also appearing in the guide for the first time are green onions, cranberries and mushrooms. Mushrooms made the “Clean 15” list, while honeydew was the only item to drop off that list this year. Cherries dropped off the “Dirty Dozen” list, but lettuce, which has made the list in previous years, were back on.

“Though buying organic is always the best choice, we know that sometimes people do not have access to that produce or cannot afford it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Our guide helps consumers concerned about pesticides to make better choices among conventional produce, and lets them know which fruits and vegetables they may want to buy organic.”

Pesticides can be extremely toxic to human health and the environment. U.S. and international government agencies alike have linked pesticides to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ deficits among childrenRead the rest of this entry »

Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day Confronts the Economic Meltdown

find out more about Buy Nothing DayNow in its 17th year, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in over 65 countries around the world. Over the years, Buy Nothing Day (followed by Buy Nothing Christmas) has exploded into a global movement, inspiring the world’s citizens to live more simply and buy a whole lot less.

Designed to coincide with Black Friday (which this year falls on Friday, November 28) in the United States, and the unofficial start of the international holiday shopping season (Saturday, November 29), the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests, credit-card cut-ups and pranks and shenanigans of all kinds. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending. Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Jesus Buy?


There’s a new documentary film out that I’d like to catch, What Would Jesus Buy, produced by Morgan Spurlock (the same guy who produced Super Size Me). An interview with performance artist Bill Talen was recently aired on Valley Free Radio (home of the Hilltown Family Variety Show) that caught my attention. The film is a docu-“comedy” where Talen plays the role of Reverend Billy who has his very own church, The Church of Stop Shopping.

The film focuses on the issues of the commercialization of Christmas, materialism, the over-consumption in American culture, globalization, and the business practices of large corporations, as well as their economic and cultural effects on American society, as seen through the prism of activist/performance artist Bill Talen, who goes by the alias of “Reverend Billy,” and his troupe of activists, whose street theater performances take the form of a church choir called “The Church of Stop Shopping,” that sings anti-shopping and anti-corporate songs. The film follows Billy and his choir as they take a cross-country trip in the month prior to Christmas 2005, and spread their message against what they perceive as the evils of patronizing the retail outlets of several different large corporate chains. (Wikipedia)

Here’s the trailer for the film:


The theater closest to the Hilltowns & the Pioneer Valley playing this film is Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT, opening on December 7th, 2207. (BTW, what’s the update with Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton, MA?)


Is your family taking a different approach to the holidays? One that’s not full of commercialization and materialism? The Natural Resources Defense Council is inviting folks to post a home video of their ideas to their Use Your Brain: Do the Holidaze Different at

Other places to post your “Green Holiday Tips”

  • Eco-Friendly Family Bulletin Board on Hilltown Families
  • Sustainable Living Bulletin Board at the Old Creamery in Cummington, MA
  • Going Green for the Holidays Bulletin Board at the Forbes Library in Northampton, MA

%d bloggers like this: