27 Shopping Ideas

Christmas gifts

What’s your gift giving philosophy? Do you have a budget? Do you draw names for a present exchange with the fam? Did I tell you about the time my brother Ben got punched in the face by the trunk of a wooden elephant statue during our family’s Dirty Santa gift exchange?

For kids, I like the idea of three gifts for Christmas (since that’s what JC got). Or four gifts: “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”

If you’re one of those people who has all her holiday shopping finished before Thanksgiving, I salute you. If you grow cotton in the backyard and weave sweaters for all your extended family members and mailman, I salute you. And if you stick to a budget, I heartily salute you.

These days, if I buy gifts from an Etsy shop or another handmade seller, I feel like I’m not spending anything. And if it’s from someone I know (or let’s be honest, kind of know), I feel like I’m making money. Amiright?!

So in the spirit of shopping small and local, I’ve compiled a list of small and not-so-small shops whose proprietors I know, or have met once, or are a friend of a friend. I like the idea of supporting a real person. [Although, corporations are people. True or false? Sound off in the comments.]

Check these folks out if you’re stuck for gift ideas!

For babes and kiddos:
Sweet P Embroidery: Custom monograms and appliqué (AKA preciousness overload).
NOLA Onesie: Festive baby clothes.
Rain for Roots: My girls love these Nashville songwriters’ album “Big Stories for Little Ones” (plus it’s not obnoxious for parents!).
storieChild: Create an easy baby book or a story book featuring your kid.

Tasty treats (or, How to be the Office Hero):
Sweet LaLa’s Bakery
 partners with a juvenile intervention program in Memphis to bake de-lish cookies for pickup or delivery.
Whimsy Cookie Company: We get these for pretty much every birthday and special occasion. Impressive designs, and so tasty.
A Signature Welcome: Gourmet food boxes (+ other great gifts like turkish towels!)
District Doughnut (DC): Because they support Little Lights!

For the art lover:
Maltby Rote: Commission something wonderful, like this.
Hillary Butler Fine Art, as seen on Nashville, and here.
Steve Keene: Fun!
Saw & Mitre Frame Co.: Print your pics, frame your story.
St. Frank: “Home luxury for the modern bohemian.” Love that. (I posted about Saw & Mitre and St. Frank here.)
Joanna Hope Art: Beauty. Watch her amazing process videos.

For a lovely lady:
Stella & Dot: Katherine is selling jewelry (and tons of other great gifts) to underwrite her pro bono counseling.
Lydali and Umba both support handmade artists and small batch producers. Beautiful stuff.
Tara Montgomery Jewelry and Erin McDermott Jewelry: ::swooning::
LaLa Land NYC, because stationery = life.
BeautyCounter: safe skincare and makeup.
FashionABLE: Gorgeous products made by “women who have overcome.”

For a dashing dude:
(Some of these could be girl things, but I’m trying to round out my categories.)
Tucker Blair: Needlepoint belts, flasks, and preppiness galore. “When in doubt, prep out.” -Israel Ortega
Nashville Fit Factory: My cousin Zach coaches here, where they’re known for a community/family feel. The first class is free.
Bring It Food Hub (Memphis): Share some CSA love! They’ve also got coffee and other local goodies.
Pork Barrel BBQ: Lots of good pork-centric options, including cologne—“an intoxicating bouquet of spices, smoke, meat, and sweet summer sweat.”
Bonobos: So his rear will look good.

For Fido:
Haha, just kidding. I don’t have any animal suggestions.

Please comment if you have any friends’ shops we might want to patronize!

Update with new additions:
Lebelle Soaps: Artisan tallow shaving soap and aftershave = perfect guy stocking stuffer.
Maggie Russell: another great Memphis artist. Don’t miss her funny, quirky greeting cards.

None of the above are sponsored links. But if you’re into supporting one another, here’s your [pre-Black Friday/Cyber Monday] reminder that I’m an Amazon affiliate. So if you click over there from one of my links then order something—anything, not only whatever I linked—I’ll receive a teensy commission, no change in price for you. Thanks in advance for helping a sister out!

Advertisements

Frame Your Story

home-featured-promo-a

33167fc1fa144911ffe3651d9d8abb0b

Not my house. Obviously.

If you’re not impressed by cheap inexpensive affordable art, I’ve got a couple of higher end recommendations, both on my wish list.

First: frames by Saw & Mitre. Earlier this year my friend’s husband resigned from his corporate job to start his own business, combining his two passions for photography and working with his hands. (“He was a carpenter, and I just figured if you’re going to follow in someone’s footsteps, who better than Christ?” Name that movie!)

Order from Saw & Mitre Frame Co., and Dave will create a beautiful, gallery quality frame to display your photo. And it will last forever, so you can switch out photos in the future—just like an art gallery!—if, say, your photog skills improve and/or your decor needs a change.

We got to chat with Dave at a friend’s wedding recently, and it was so interesting and inspiring to hear how the business is going. Already he’s connecting with some of his photography heroes, learning, and adding to the products and services Saw & Mitre offers. I asked him if my iPhone/instagram pictures would be good enough for these frames. I don’t think he answered directly (very diplomatic) . . . but he is offering wood and metal frames in smaller square sizes now!

I’m not much of a photographer, but I love following Dave’s story on his blog, and I really love the Saw & Mitre instagram account, which is inspiring on the regular. This one really got me, along with Dave’s question: “How will my grandchildren discover and see photos of me when I’m long gone? Will it be a Google Image search? Will they find an old hard drive that (hopefully) still works? I sure hope not. #printyourwork” How right he is.

Second: textiles from St. Frank. An acquaintance from college is the dynamo behind this lovely company that sells beautiful framed textiles (and now pillows!) made by artisans around the world. Of course, my favorite would be the Otomi from Mexico . . . too bad Christina didn’t have the advantage of Mama Ortega’s bargaining!

It’s really fun to look through their Tastemakers posts and Collectors pictures to see the art in place in stunning, fabulous rooms. Also, if you’re needing more Pinterest inspiration, check out their account. My favorite board is Global Chic. Or Salon Walls. OK, also, shout outs to St. Frank’s Passport to Mexico, and Saintly Blue and White. Just check it all out.

You are dismissed. Go find something beautiful in your day.

(Not sponsored; just love ‘em.)

P.S. The story of acquiring Otomi for the girls’ room here at the end of the post; and if I were forced to choose, maybe I’d use one of the photos from here or here in a Saw & Mitre frame.

P.P.S. Two of soccer’s most iconic photographs.

Awesomely Cheap (or Cheaply Awesome?) Art

 photo CFB4B97C-75E6-49AE-89A6-04E43CD18637_zpsejuliknp.jpg

I have such a fun art secret to share! Not a secret, I guess, but something new to me that I loved so much. My friend Allison has some cool paintings at her house that I noticed. When I asked about them, she said, “Oh, those are by Steve Keene . .  . do you want one?” How generous! Little did I know.

Allison told me that Steve Keene is a Brooklyn artist (she knows him from his work in Charlottesville) who creates massive installations made up of hundreds of smaller paintings on plywood. His process is really interesting, but so is his philosophy: he wants visual art to be available for everyone, like buying a song for a dollar from iTunes. So when those installations are dismantled, the individual paintings can come live at your house! You pay $30 (plus $12 shipping) and he’ll send 5 or so medium paintings. You don’t know what you’ll get, but you know it’s folk art and it’s likely colorful (possibly bizarre).

Of course, I jumped on that opportunity pretty much immediately, and then had to wait awhile before our mystery paintings arrived in the mail. By the time the package arrived I’d become so curious and eager that I was Christmas-morning giddy as I ripped through the brown paper. And I was not disappointed. I’d emailed with Steve during the wait, so maybe because of that, maybe because of Allison, or maybe randomly, we got nine or ten paintings instead of the advertised four or five!

Then I put on my insane art curator hat and ran around rearranging and trying things out on our walls. In the end, not a lot was rearranged. But the whole process, with the surprise element, not to mention the low cost, was such fun. I might be addicted. It was like Stitch Fix for art, except less expensive. Think about it— five paintings for under $9 a piece, and in my case, $4.20 a piece! The low cost of it makes it so low risk, which I love. Don’t get me wrong: the paintings are awesome and might fit in timelessly with your collection, but if they’re not your speed, no biggie fry.

With that in mind, here’s what’s happening with ours. A few I knew immediately would be gifts (and I mean sincere gifts, as opposed to funny gifts—you’ll see what I mean in a moment), a few are on our walls,

 photo 1c117a8a-047b-468f-a007-050aac614588_zps8492c447.jpg not a staged photo, obviously

 one in particular is in the bathroom (inexpensive=don’t worry about water damage),

 photo F4F2F0D5-89D7-4F36-864F-A82CE26A3F17_zpstplmd6ce.jpg

and the weirdest of the bunch made a perfect post-bar exam celebratory gift for my cousin Nate.

 photo 03BF872E-983A-4369-8990-893D3C6C6627_zpspduwko7x.jpg

(Trust me, he appreciated this.)

I’m not sure how it happened along the way, but we’ve amassed a pretty fun art collection. Not super expensive collector pieces, but meaningful pieces that have some reason behind them like the colorful Memphis in May Music Festival poster, framed photographs from travels during college, this fruit painting (I love. Our most formal frame, in the kitchen. :) That’s why art is fun. My aunt and uncle gave it to us our first married Christmas.).

Though I love what we have, I realized a few years ago that most stuff on our walls was framed behind glass—prints, photos, drawings—and that we should go for more texture to round things out—actual paint, fabric, more three-dimensional hangings. Then I visited one of my good friends who lived with her husband in Charlottesville at the time. They had a small rental house, and when I walked in I said, “Wow, this is really, like, a grown-up house.” I think she had inherited some formal side tables, and had generally nice coordinated furniture, but it was the art that did it for me. In the living room they’d hung a large abstract floral painting by an artist that her family really liked. She and her sisters had gotten a discount when all of them bought paintings at an arts festival.

It was confirmed: I needed* paintings.

But, two problems with original paintings: 1) They’re pricey (you have good taste, so anything you like is bound to be super expensive). Or, 2) You don’t have an artsy background, and maybe you like something and could buy it, but you’re worried: what if it goes out of style and you don’t like it later, or maybe it’s great by itself but just doesn’t work with everything else you’ve got going on, decor-wise.

Why would you spend so much on something purely decorative (and possibly of questionable taste)?

Art should be fun, expressive, not anxiety-inducing. This is why I love Steve Keene for giving me some honest to goodness paintings on my walls. If you like folk art, you should give this a try. Even if you don’t, there’s no risk involved. Give a painting to your pilates teacher, your farmer, or your favorite barista.

Will you order some paintings?? Please report back if you do!

 photo 6DEA3E5A-6B8B-4188-9F8F-ACA970FA603A_zpsnhx8ehia.jpg

 They’re not funny. They’re art. (Name that movie.)

Not sponsored. I love Steve Keene.

*Wanted. But visuals affect me, and you, too, so the need argument could be made.

Viernes Santo [Good Friday]

 photo 5A5EDF58-22F3-4CBC-A076-C79115AC8271-10594-000009C22B851FD1_zps0584f73b.jpg

Last year on Good Friday, we were enjoying our last day in Cholula, so I wanted to share some pictures from the amazing procession that town holds every year to commemorate the Stations of the Cross. I don’t have the most accurate information about this tradition; I’ll just tell you about what I saw and share the pictures, which will not do it justice. Sincerely, I tell you, this was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I found it incredibly moving.

We woke up early with Mary Tobin and went ahead into the centro (town square) to claim our spot at the hotel restaurant where we’d already brunched twice that week—once to meet up with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and another time so that my mom could eat their chilaquiles. It was the perfect position along the colonnades from which to view the procession we’d heard so much about.

On our walk to breakfast, we saw this on one of the side streets:

 photo 8DD83F87-C39E-440B-993E-4324F8111CA2-10594-000009C16422A066_zps935bf4e5.jpg

What in the world?

It was a chilly morning, and these people had clearly been there for awhile. After having swept the streets perfectly clean, they were working with huge stencils and buckets of what, upon closer inspection, we discovered were colorful wood chips.

(I love the picture above because of the little boy helping.)

 photo 07630897-D26A-4AE4-85EA-B4C74883A9F9-10594-000009C1693B7AD1_zpsc81c1147.jpg

 photo A7B23FEB-1683-4119-8516-6FEE7CA79D90-10594-000009C13F8055E3_zps7f83c62d.jpg

Further down the road, it appeared, another group of people were working on another section of the street. I was so curious!

We went on to our spot at the restaurant along the colonnade, and had to sneak around this to get there (apparently this section had been done at night or super early that morning):

 photo 490395DD-784D-488A-BCCC-95A111C4AF6C-10594-000009C17472DEA3_zpsb45d3f0d.jpg

 photo 1D8FDCC9-7B77-4F07-B84B-58A3EB59EE0A-10594-000009C178048317_zpse24ee024.jpg

By the way, everyone respected the streets once the design had been laid, and didn’t step a foot on them until the procession came through.

We ate breakfast and made it a leisurely one so we could keep our spot and just hang out at our table until lunch time. (Thanks to a determined Abuela and a cute Mary Tobin the waiters were happy to oblige.) After a few bites I dashed out because I wanted to figure out what the deal was with this procession and all the street art. By that time we’d caught a few glimpses of the procession as it wound around the streets a few blocks further out from the centro. So I went around the corner on the opposite end of the colonnade, where we hadn’t passed by earlier, and I saw this:

 photo B6224CA5-899B-4818-95C6-8E4BFAC6E77F-10594-000009C18D8A0EC9_zps9e7729eb.jpg

Another street full of people working! And on this one, it wasn’t one design repeated with the same stencil and colors, but they were busy with individual squares of separate works of wood chip sacred art—some very intricate and impressive.

(By the way, this was a little funny because the parade had clearly already started and they were racing against the clock. I asked one older lady when the procession was coming, and she answered half an hour. This also marked the peak of my Spanish speaking skills! Like, the best in my entire life! And, considering the day, it may have just been the Holy Spirit.)

Here are some of the designs:

 photo 54ABB99D-80B1-4E40-8696-E0FC8CEEBE15-10594-000009C2055E4673_zps4881d44f.jpg

 photo 10A8186E-87C7-4AA1-A0DE-BD3846174ADC-10594-000009C1DBE16098_zps18fb72ed.jpg

 photo CAE6B611-861F-4661-9105-DED3E2E3672C-10594-000009C1F6300EB7_zps51bd45e3.jpg

 photo 27671191-4A98-4AAE-98A8-6D15C753FE5C-10594-000009C2145C13BE_zpsaf779ce7.jpg

This was my favorite:

 photo AC903307-4F14-4574-B213-77A16D0E351F-10594-000009C20C65078C_zpsc1c413c4.jpg

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Witnessing all of it made me nearly burst with questions: how long have they been doing this? Who decides who decorates which street? Are different parishes responsible for different parts? Is it the same every year? Do the artists jockey for prime real estate? (You could write a great little story or screen play about the old ladies competing with each other . . .) And where do all the wood shavings come from? But, as I wrote about here, there were a lot of Holy Week happenings whose meaning we had no clue about, so by this time I’d decided not to worry about the not knowing, and just enjoy.

I don’t know if you can tell in the pictures how beautiful all this was. I was moved on so many levels (and FYI, I was not pregnant at this time)—all the young and old, men, women, and children, working diligently and carefully, making the streets pristine, creating individual works of art that were powerful alone but breathtaking collectively. They were creating something huge and beautiful, pictures that would exist for half an hour, only to be trampled by the feet of the faithful and carried away in the wind.

 photo B9E9E7C9-F55E-410D-9979-EA0040B56512-10594-000009C22685390F_zps6a677839.jpg

 photo 00B4867D-848D-41D6-AEF5-E13FAAE32539-10594-000009C1C776CA3A_zps184edc39.jpg

 photo 6A9CFD14-3769-4E6A-B354-6B4349020E8D-10594-000009C1D40BA729_zps19740b8f.jpg

I found the procession itself a little on the kitschy side for an American sensibility, though it was still inspiring to see all the people out for this event. The procession stopped at different spots for each of the 14 stations and read the corresponding scripture passages. (Presumably! Again, I’m sure I didn’t know half of what was going on.)

As I think back on it, the language barrier and the not knowing was actually freeing. In our young family, we have traditions and rituals just starting, and it’s not important (or possible) for Mary Tobin to understand and articulate why we do certain things. And yet she senses that something is special—lighting candles (she LOVES), wearing a new dress for Easter this Sunday. In the first world, intellectual understanding usually trumps the physical, sensory side of worship and faith. But it’s that side of it that teaches us that some beautiful and mysterious celebration is taking place, even when we don’t quite understand.

 photo EB8E1558-FAB3-4516-BC88-B5C49FD8C1EA-10594-000009C1A7321309_zps63d7fe3b.jpg

I mean, WOW. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We will all be in Memphis this year for Easter, and Mary Tobin will be wearing a new dress, sewn with love by Mama Rote (and in true second child fashion, Inez will wear one of MT’s old ones, once we locate it!). Wherever you are this weekend—geographically or spiritually!— I hope you’ll be be able to slow your racing mind and simply feel the beauty of the celebration.

Venid a mí todos los que estáis trabajados y cargados, y yo os haré descansar. (Mateo 11:28)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

New Art!

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. -Thomas Merton

 photo photo5_zps865b168e.jpg

I intended to share some new paintings from Uncle Steve this past Saturday, on his birthday. But, not unusually, things got away from me. I was telling Israel that my life this weekend reminded me too much of this immortal SNL skit and Chris Farley’s brilliant use of air quotes.

In my pregnant mom version: so maybe my house is not what you would call “clean.” I haven’t “taken a shower.” My family has no “fresh underwear.” And, sadly, as I just re-watched that video, two of Chris Farley’s also apply to me right now: I don’t “wear clothes that fit me.” I can’t “reach all the parts of my body.”

Too much information?

So . . . Uncle Steve, happy belated birthday! We love your art! Thank you!

If you know Uncle Steve, you know he’s a jack of all trades. Aside from his day job, he landscapes a “meadow-like back yard . . . full of simple pleasures” that gets featured in local magazines. Plus he’s funny and charming, friendly and approachable, making you so comfortable that you may just ask if you can use his back yard for your wedding. Or ask him to be your partner on The Amazing Race. He’s so thoughtful; he regularly calls me, or my husband, just to check in and say hello or that they’re thinking about us. Plus, he’s as handsome as Jamie Foxx.

If that weren’t enough, he’s a fantastic artist. After I saw two of his gorgeous tobacco leaf paintings last year, I had to ask him for something for our place!

 photo photo4_zps192aa559.jpg

This one, called “Appalachian Memories,” I love. I don’t think his tobacco plants grew this year, so I’m not sure what type of leaves these are that create the rolling mountain landscape. Mary Tobin and I have been picking up leaves on our walks; they are just amazing to stare at. I love that in this painting, the part becomes the whole. I automatically relax when I look at it. I feel connected to the place my mom and uncle grew up, to my aunt and uncle’s house, to the land that produced these leaves, to my uncle who picked them up and created something with them, to my family.

Next, Mary Tobin received new art for her room walk-in closet nursery! I can tell you nothing about the technique used, but it adds the perfect touch of magic/fantasy/whimsy/delight to the space. Usually when hanging things in her room I offer two acceptable spots and let Mary Tobin choose where something will go. But for this one, forget about “good parenting.” (Chris Farley’s living in my mind.)

 photo photo3_zpsec5c8705.jpg

It’s in a place of honor right above the Señorita Mexicana, whose colors complement the new painting beautifully.

 photo photo22_zps14e5bae7.jpgPlease excuse my poor photography, which does no justice to any of these!

The Mexican lady, by the way, is a Carlos Merida print that was tracked down on e-bay by Uncle Steve’s better half, Aunt Kace, after I had pinned the image on my Pinterest nursery inspiration board. I cried when they unveiled it at Mary Tobin’s baby shower. (To be fair I cry about a lot of things when pregnant; it’s official.)

Aunt Kace and Uncle Steve, what a pair you make! Thank you for decorating our house!