Last week we celebrated a birthday- yay! When it comes to gifts, I always like to think of things that are little luxuries + also love to gift experiences (especially now that my girls can buy themselves a lot of what they need + want). It takes a little creativity to gift experiences these days, but I tried my best. :) Both little luxuries + experiences are especially lovely right now...and the celebration of a birthday is a wonderful opportunity to support a few of the local businesses we love as well.
One of our favorite plant stores is taking appointments in order to keep the number of customers low enough to keep from spreading the virus + to allow for spring shopping/planting. One gift was a couple of cute pots I'd previously picked up to give my birthday girl...along with an appointment to shop for a couple of plants.
A gift certificate to a favorite, little, local bookstore made another gift. I double checked that the shop can order any book she desires. I thought it might be fun to just have a little cash that has to be spent + to decide how to spend it on some special books.
Birthday dinner involved picking up take-out from our favorite sushi spot along with a homemade cake (yum). It felt good for both giver + receiver to know that our celebration supported some of our favorite neighbors + the work they do to make this a good place to live.
I love Valentine's Day. I loved making + addressing valentines as a child, and I love spreading + celebrating love today. I feel that the simplest acts communicate warm feelings best. Taking the time to focus on love + appreciation is really all it takes. Handmade love notes, hugs + maybe a little something sweet to eat qualifies as a celebration to me.
A few more ways to celebrate:
Valentines Day can be a beautiful reminder to offer ourselves a little self-love. Choose an organic cotton first layer from the drawer + take the time to moisturize, stretch + smile.
Friendship is the best part of love. Share a phone call, a meal or a movie with a favorite friend...or three.
Make valentines...write love notes (check the recycling + scrap fabric bins for supplies).
Make heart-shaped pizza + popcorn with the little ones + open all those valentines together.
Make a playlist to share.
Head out to a locally owned, farm-to-table restaurant or make dinner together at home.
Give some locally roasted, bulk, fair-trade coffee or a bar of fair-trade chocolate.
If flowers or jewelry is involved, make it fair-trade or vintage.
Share an unhurried hand or foot massage with a little homemade, scented oil.
Hold hands. Give + receive long hugs.
By choosing handmade, low-waste, fair-trade, local, organic, or vintage tokens, we spread love to farmers, neighbors, the the planet as well.
Lovely photos via links, unlinked photo mine.
Lots of love to you, my friends,
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood.
They had set night watches over their sheep.
Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them.
They were terrified.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid.
I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide:
A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.
This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
One decade is about to take its final bow + another is on the horizon. Something I'd always like to be able to say is that the decade past was full of personal growth...and the one to come offers so much more to discover + embrace. Time has taught me that choosing to be a lifelong learner is life-affirming. One year...one day at a time...we keep moving forward, and it can be helpful to have some direction.
The new year is such a great time to renew a commitment, reach for a new level of skill, or open oneself up in a new way. I often wait until the last minute to try to come up with a sort of focus for the year to come. This year, I'm trying to be a little bit more proactive + thought I'd share a few habits that might be options to consider embracing + learning from:
-curb the production of microfibers moving through the air + seas :: make some thoughtful switches :: kindly share thoughts + actions with fellow consumers :: let brands know your thoughts :: (one brand taking action)
-take the fairdare :: get dressed with consideration for others + our shared planet :: make a commitment that pushes forward or stretches creativity
-make less waste :: live abundantly while sending as little as possible to the landfill to be preserved forever :: make one switch at a time or address one area at a time :: keep making progress
-get out of debt :: make + stick to a budget :: downsize spending :: celebrate victories
-tune in to "enough" :: live with joy + gratitude while not withholding resources from others :: buy less :: cultivate generosity :: try buying nothing or replacements only for periods of time
-practice self-compassion :: listen to + appreciate our bodies + feelings + intuition + souls while acting to optimize wellness
-enhance connection :: recognize + cultivate connection with fellow humans, nature + faith
-serve :: learn to recognize opportunities to partner with + assist while holding all with open hands + joyful, compassionate generosity :: elevate others :: be mindful of humility
-be curious :: offer a spirit that is teachable + open + ready to listen + learn :: study + experiment
-cultivate gratitude :: recognize both everyday + extraordinary beauty + the love that is its origin
In choosing a focus for the year to come, it might be helpful to think about what we value in life + how our current habits align with those values. We could also consider how our personal goals + actions affect others. We want to be healthy + whole humans...and we want to leave a viable planet full of love + peace for those who come after us. I hope that the habits I tend + sharpen with discipline + attention enhance my own existence...but also contribute to the greater good.
The decade before us is such a crucial one for our planet. Our personal mindsets + action are so important...but collective action is also necessary. Let's keep talking with those who need a little bit more encouragement. Let's speak truth to power. Let's vote with ballots + with our dollars. Let's encourage each other + move forward together!
My plan (for a few years) has been to naturally dye some cotton bandanas to use as gift wrap. I'm not sure I will get around to dyeing them before Christmas this year...but that won't stop me from using them as is. I bought some 27 inch bandanas (larger than usual) in order to have the option of wrapping a larger variety of gifts. They are cotton, so that they will take dye.
We'll label our gifts by punching a hole in some scrap paper cut into various shapes + decorated as desired. I have a number of small safety pins that will attach tag to gift. The tags can be kept + reused or recycled. Pins + bandanas can be used again + again.
These bandanas can be used to wrap gifts in so many ways. They could also be useful throughout the year as generous napkins or to bring unwrapped bread home from the bakery. I like the patterns on bandanas, but floursack towels or scarves or pieces of vintage tablecloth or cloth napkins would work well for wrapping as well. A piece of fabric from the fabric store or the good parts of an old sheet could be ripped into large squares.
In any case, it gives me a thrill to gather up the detritus of a good celebration + not to have to take anything out to the trash or the recycling.
Gratitude is such a vital part of embracing simplicity...recognizing "enough"...and finding contentment. It is through gratitude that we can start to focus in on what we already have rather than being distracted by what we still want.
Gratitude is grounding + centering + allows us to be truly present. My faith paints that for which I am grateful as "gift". There is nothing I can do to earn a rainbow or a sunset or all that is encapsulated in a grapefruit. These are evidence of love.
It's not difficult to come up with an endless stream of gratitude once I get started. The light of the moon, the sound of laughter, a warm hug, seasons, excitement in the eyes of a daughter, a new leaf on a houseplant, friendship freely offered, drinking water, shadows, seeds, a warm shower...
I am here + there is good here.
Grateful for you too, friend,
It's been well over a decade now that I've been swimming in the sea of minimalism + simplicity + getting back to the land + creation care + thoughtful consumption. I love this sea that I've voluntarily jumped into. It meshes so well with my overarching faith...the values of love + compassion. This time of year, in this world of minimalism, often brings out all the reminders not to overindulge, to avoid Black Friday, to abstain from the consumerism + to stay the course.
Instead, one of the gifts I'm giving my simple self this year is the freedom to celebrate. I'm embracing all the joy + wonder...but none of the guilt...at least that's the goal. :) All year we've done the work of recognizing "enough" + feeling the abundance there. We've, to some extent, already broken the chains of consumerism...the lies of capitalism. This season is not about an even trade or money for goods. This season is all about "gift". Undeserved gift from God...giving without expectation of return (even in reaction)...presence over presents...service for the pure joy of it.
I've been inspired by the formulas others impose, but it's ok that I don't have one. I'm not going to overextend myself. There will be candles + clementines + fairy lights + cookies + hot chocolate with whipped cream + festive tunes. We know how to find joy + happy contentment in this simple magic.
I wish I could share the simple gifts that we are giving, but I don't want to spoil any surprises. Thankfully, we have some ideas. I started some pinterest boards months ago + have pinned thoughts along the way (for myself as well...which makes it easy to pick a few to share with those who ask). I will say that I love the thought of a useful luxury...something that I know will be used + used up...but is a little upgrade from the usual. I like the idea of stocking a stash of something someone loves (so that they don't have to spend their own money on it + it feels decadent to have more than enough of a special treat). I also like the idea of an experience to look forward to sharing.
This year, I'm throwing open my heart + mind. I'm shedding the need to perform Christmas. I'm welcoming joy + the sort of abundance that I know feeds our souls. If Black Friday offers me a deal on something that is on my list, I'm gratefully accepting. If we feel like joining in a little holiday bustle, I'll throw on my festive scarf + smile all the way through.
Tons of love,
Often the first hint I have that a new season is upon us is the new stuff in the shops. The autumn things we could buy arrived when we were still enjoying air conditioning + iced drinks. This is actually great marketing, because at that point I would have had to buy autumn.
Where we live the leaves are now turning + falling. The wind was blowing acorns flying off of our oak yesterday and...ping, ping, ping...into the house. Autumn is here + we didn't have to buy a thing in order to experience it. A few simple, zero-waste ways we're embracing this season of gold, rust + red are...
-a pumpkin on the table
-a few sprigs of wheat scattered among my tiny ceramics collection
-walks in the woods + in the neighborhood
-watching Gilmore Girls again...there's just something about New England in autumn
-noticing familiar trees along our usual routes at each stage of color change
-counting monarchs flitting + persisting
-greeting the return of the early stars + planets
-appreciating the last of the happy sunflowers
-getting out all of the candles + lighting them in the darkening evenings
-apples simply cut, smelled + crunched
-breathing that musty leaf smell deep (+ keeping a tissue handy)
-hot, spicy tea
-chocolate chip, pecan, pumpkin bread
-all the soups
-lots of roasted, root vegetables
-leaves rustling + crunching
-blustery winds howling
-revisiting familiar, smooth sounds...we love Ben Howard + Trevor Hall
-pulling out all the blankets
-and cozy sweaters
What simple autumn pleasures are you enjoying lately? I'd love to hear! :)
The idea of simple gift giving always brings the Ingalls family Christmases in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books to mind. A peppermint stick (a rare treat), a new tin cup (so the girls wouldn't have to share one anymore), or a lovingly sewn rag doll (for a girl who had never had one before) brought such wonder + joy.
Many Westerners today have everything that they need...enough cups for everyone at the table to have their own...no shortage of toys...and candy more than once per year. Many of us just go to Target (or Amazon) when we want or need anything. There aren't too many needs left to fulfill with gifts. But we still enjoy giving holiday gifts.
A few gifting "categories" that speak to my zero-waste, simple, minimalist, environmentally considerate, plastic-free intentions ::
-something fair + lovely (want)
-something to do
-useful, lovely indulgence
I like reading about holiday gift giving formulas families use like ::
-need, want, wear, read
-gold (want), frankincense (something spiritual), myrrh (something for the body)
-want, need, experience to share
-a year of monthly experiences
I think drawing names or doing white elephant gift exchanges (maybe say that no one can purchase anything) are good/fun options for extended families. Maybe doing a big swap for the holidays would be fun...even little ones could gather a few toys + clothes to offer. This could be a great way to go home with only things one actually wants + to clear out some space (donate the leftovers) as the new year approaches. I also love the idea of everyone sharing names of favorite books, movies, music albums, restaurants, quotes, recipes, new discoveries, parks, etc. This is the stuff of the joy of life anyway, isn't it? A list could be compiled individually or collectively.
Let's try not to make gift giving about obligation. We have no obligation to enrich the economy...no obligation to amass debt...no mandate to compete with the most generous gift giver in our extended family...no reason to create someone else's idea of a picture perfect holiday. (There is still opportunity to return stuff + reimagine this holiday.) :)
Considering what gifts to give should be a joyful experience. It's an opportunity to share love + appreciation. We get to decide how that looks.
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time