On Black Friday, the outlet mall near my house hosts “Midnight Madness.” The stores open at midnight, featuring great “bargains,” and people stand for hours in the cold waiting on long lines for overpriced stuff that, quite frankly, no one really needs. Last year, seven months pregnant, I happened to be up at midnight, and watching the orange glow coming from the outlet mall, thought, yes, madness is a good word for it.
That kind of holiday shopping stresses me out. Despite the fact that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Jersey Girl, I dread the mall (let’s just say I’m not exactly Snooki); I prefer to give special and meaningful gifts, not just something I picked up from a big box store.
So I’ve been happy to see the trend towards buying from small business, from local producers, from people who make the stuff they sell. There are two things I love about shopping at small independent merchants: first, I can buy things that are one of a kind. Second, I am directly supporting a cottage industry run by someone I could potentially get to know; our transaction is the beginning of a relationship beyond the simple acquisition of goods or services, especially if that person blogs, and I become a regular reader and commenter. It’s sort of like going to my local farmer’s market or my CSA to pick up a bunch of kale from the farmer whose fields I pass on the way to my son’s school. Why wouldn’t I shop that way?
Though you may have been up at midnight on Black Friday, it’s not too late to support fellow bloggers during your search for the perfect gift. I scoured the Internet for some interesting finds—and people—to get you started:
Looking for something for little ones? Jessica Perkins makes beautiful Montessori-style toys for infants and preschoolers like matching games, story starters, and grabbable gadgets. She believes that children are like little scientists hard at work, making sense of their worlds by sensing their worlds, and her blog chronicles her journey as a mother and as a teacher. Then there’s Jennet Jones-Rau, an arts educator and fabric designer who sells her original artwork stuffies, playmates and more. What child wouldn’t love a stuffed hedgehog or a felt pancake playset?
Need a “green” stocking stuffer? How about a coffee cozy (which could also be used to hold a pint of ice cream—just sayin’) from Ashley Ray? Not only are her items made from repurposed materials, but 10% of the profits from each sale is donated to the Emergency Fund, which provides financial assistance to help low income Chicago area individuals and families through a crisis or transition. She also has a blog called Handmade With Purpose, which is currently closed, but has great info on local artisans who are giving back, and how you can do the same if you have talent like she does. Karen Mitzel also donates a percentage of every sale to charity; she blogs about living an imperfect life (sharing recipes and craft tips) and sells adorable cashmere hats and brooches from reclaimed wool.
Etsy is full of bling, but I love quirky handstamped items. Melissa McAllister is an attorney-turned-SAHM who makes personalized jewelry, some of which mixes handstamped silver with typeface. Jodi LeBrun is a creativity-coach-in-training with a blog full of inspiration for your creative mojo, and she also does handstamped work celebrating the creative spirit. These could be great gifts for the crafters, bakers, artists, or writers on your list.
Stumped by gifts for the men in your life? Keep him warm with a sushi scarf (which even my geeky engineer husband thought was cool) or a charcoal grey cowl by Melody Joy, who captures her family and thoughts in instagrams. Then there’s Jodi Burton, who takes doodling to a whole new level. How about one of her magnet sets for your favorite science or photography geek?
Lots of people send food in the mail during the holidays, but skip the (ahem) Larry and Hagrid. Pam, who blogs about her quest for a child, can ship cookies and brownies to your loved ones in and near Canada! Check out her shop, and get additional information on holiday cookie shipping here. If shipping from Canada is prohibitive, visit Jenna; she and her husband blog about their business and family life, and projects both in and out of the kitchen at and offer up unique droolworthy confections like Massaman Peanut Butter Cookies and Chocolate Gingersnaps. I really hope someone sends me some of those.
Artsy? Jess and Pete are an amazing couple who has been navigating the precarious waters of infertility and RPL; proceeds from their breathtaking photography prints go towards their adoption fund. Stumbles and Stitches is a blog conversation between two crafty friends and mamas who work with repurposed and upcycled materials. Jenny Bartoy’s shop right now is filled with bags and wall hangings in burlap and cotton; Angel Funk’s shop has more wool (she loves all things Waldorf).
There’s a world of neat stuff out there. Now it’s up to you. This season, put your cash in the hands of the person who made the thing you’re buying, find a new blog to follow, start a new relationship. YOU have the power to be a job creator, a creative inspiration, and a supportive friend, right where you are, all year long.
Justine Levine from A Half Baked Life.
Photo Credit: Coloured Beads on Shutterstock.
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