Gifting Guide | Gifts For The Creative Spark!

A Fierce Gifting Guide Creative Spark

QUICK LIST! (Read More Below)
1. Flow Magazine
2. The Found Object Creativity Kit by Molly Anthony
3. Starry Night Embroidered Christmas Ornament by Jennifer Bilton
4. Vintage Postage Stamps
5. Stationery and Letter Writing Tools, Screech Owl Design
6. Bored and Brilliant (The Book!) by Manoush Zomorodi
7. Duh, Sharpies!!!!!
8. Powder Keg Writing Workshop Hand Painted Prompt Cards by Suzi Banks Baum

Oh how I want to write glowing reasons why these are all perfect gifts for living A BIG, CREATIVE LIFE, and why (in the case you want to give a gift) these are all EXCELLENT options. (Especially if you want to give YOURSELF a gift.) But, since it's curfew and I'm zonked - dig around in the links about and it will take you all of five seconds to know why and how these are excellent gifts for sparking juicy, positive, creative goodness!

Gifting Guide | Quick, Easy & Useful Gifts Under $36

A Fierce Gifting Guide Quick Gifts

QUICK LIST! (Read More Below)
Wheel Thrown Mug, Toast Ceramics 1.
Flower Bulbs, American Meadows 2.
Charcoal & Mint Soap, Madison Soap Company 3.
Milk Frother, Target 4.
Social Preparedness Kit, Egg Press 5.

6. Pollinator Postage Stamps, USPS
7. Letterpress Cards, Squeezebox Press
8. Weapon of Choice Pencils, Holly Oddly
9.  All you need is sleep PJs, Alphabet Bags
10. Super Sassy Patch, Meriwether of Montana
11. Smartwool Socks @ Duluth Trading Company 

Are you ready for the good stuff? I am! I get it, you've been exceptionally patient with all of the words and assessments and're just ready for the gift ideas! So, over the next few days I'll share a Gift Guide with a different theme! Today, we're starting with the original. THIS is the list that got me thinking about putting together a gift guide in the first place. Personally, these are a few of my favorite gems from the last year (or so), and I want to shout from the mountaintops about how exciting and colorful and useful and beautiful these tiny little things are (and most fit within the bounds of the Manual for Meaningful Giving. Let's get started...

The goal of this gift is fun and useful gifts for people you love AND they all can serve in a pinch when you need to gift something spirited (an actual thing) to another person. Consider this your easy access guide to all things good. Bonus points, all of these gifts range from $4.50 to $36! One of the main things folks on the Fierce Practice Tiny Letter said is that shopping in real life (like getting in and out of a car and driving all over and parking and schlepping bags and small children) is a total pain. The short way of saying is that ALL of these items are available online - INCLUDING beautiful handmade items crafted by super talented artistic folks across the country. (So, my note to you on that is...THESE ARE REAL PEOPLE who also want to make time for a holiday - SO THE EARLIER YOU ORDER THE BETTER!)

Here's a little bit of a deeper dive:

  1. Wheel Thrown Mugs ($35) by Toast Ceramics. I am a firm believer that sprinkling little pieces of functional art throughout your day is the best way to stay close to beauty. In my opinion, Jackie Matelski of Toast makes the perfect items to add that dash of joy throughout the day. I am also a firm believer that any person who drinks a warm beverage in the morning will have a better day if sipping from something special. Be it a mug, a pour over set, or one of the fantastically clever bowls, these truly are "Considerate Objects to Punctuate Everyday Life". 
  2. Flower Bulbs and Seeds. These are Paperwhite bulbs for forcing from American Meadows ($6.50 for a bag of 4), but any bulbs (amaryllis, daffodil, hyacinth and more) will add fresh color and glorious scents in the middle of (depending where you live) a slightly gray winter season. Blubs and seeds bring with them the potential of growth, and hope for the warmer seasons ahead. 
  3. Wisconsin Charcoal & Mint Soap ($6.50) by Madison Soap Company . Sure, I called out this midwesternly magical moisturizing body soap from Madison Soap Company, but frankly - any of these responsibly hand crafted gems is the perfect gift. The best part about gifting soap and other small self-care products? These are the things we often forgo for ourselves, so consider it a way to give others a smidge of extra luxury and care. EVEN BETTER, you can shop for everyone on your list with one purchase when it comes to small items like soap and lip gloss - just find a different fragrance, shade or flavor for each giftee on your list.
  4. Don't laugh, but I can't not put a Milk Frother (Target, $8) on this list. Two years ago one of my oldest and dearest pals introduced me to this tiny and cheap little gadget, which truly does add a flurry of fancy to warm dairy products. This gift doesn't really fit all the criteria of the Meaningful Gift Manual (it's not handmade, it's surely stuff, it may not be useful to everyone) but it's fun potential is high up there, and it's easy to give away if someone isn't sold on the concept. (Also, frother is a really funny word. Frother. Frother. Frother.)
  5. Stationery is a go to gift for me. Whether you're gifting to a inveterate letter writer or someone who begrudges the thought of even having to write a thank you note - it's always handy to have some kind of stationery on hand. This Social Preparedness Kit from Egg Press ($32) is like a Swiss-Army knife of good correspondence (and you make it easy for that thank you note to go in the mail!)
  6. Don't forget the stamps! The most thoughtful addition to any correspondence gift is a handful of postage stamps. Did you know you can purchase stamps through the mail from USPS? It's the best way to get a prime selection, like this "Protect Pollinator" series Forever stamps.
  7. Did you know it's possible to send warm hugs, beautiful art, and a heartfelt card all at one time in one, flat envelope? It's true! Letterpress Cards, like this Dare to Dally hand designed and pressed piece from Squeezebox Press can serve all your gift giving needs. A) For those of us testing the limits of less, consider using one of these beautiful cards to write a personal letter as a gift to a dear pal. Yes to your thoughtful words, AND the card can be framed as a small piece of wall art too! B) If you're pals with inveterate letter writings who appreciate beautiful stationery, a handful of these blank cards is a gift that can be opened so many times.
  8. These Weapon of Choice Pencils ($7.50 for a 5 pack) by Holly Oddly are sure to bring joy to anyone with the need to pick up a writing implement (which is pretty much everyone, right?) Holly's shop is chock full of small gifts the we may or may not know we need, but can be integrated into any life. (P.S. I conjured one of her "Bad Decisions Brought Me Here" motel keychains earlier this year and it brings me so much joy.) Yes, the Gift Guide is all about giving less stuff, but clever crafts by witty artisans who are real people making things doesn't really fall into the stuff category.
  9. After the lengthy conversation on the TinyLetter about getting more sleep and the importance of real pajamas, it seemed like a good idea to include some sleepwear here. This is a fun All You Need Is Sleep Tee ($38.50) from Alphabet Bags. J.Crew and Lake come highly recommended in the PJs department too, but don't quite fit in the "under $36" category. 
  10. Sassy Patches like this from Meriwether of Montana ($6) may not be perfect for everyone, but it's a great example of a tiny, thoughtful gesture that bring quite a laugh (and not take up too much space). Bonus points, it's iron-on, so no one has to worry about sewing anything (but maybe you do have to worry about finding the iron). I found this little patch of joy at a local art and card shop in town. So, now it's possible to shop your local shops AND find adorable crafty goodies supporting artists across the country. 
  11. SOCKS! SOCKS! SOCKS! I can not tell a lie: hearty, well-made, long-lasting socks are my most favorite gift to receive. Both Smartwool and Duluth Trading Company make excellent, long lasting socks for everyone, but really hot the mark for us folks who live in colder climates. This is the exact kind of little luxury that I can rarely justify purchasing for myself ($10-$29) and always cross my fingers they show up in a Christmas stocking. The main challenge here is picking up the best options (there are SO MANY!), but Duluth Trading Company has a well-curated and manageable selection for easy shopping, (and, they are on sale right now)!

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Manual for Meaningful Giving

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Get out your heart compass and let's get to work. What exactly does it mean to give a meaningful gift? And meaningful to whom? Especially in this time of easily accessible stuff and already having everything we need - what does it mean to give a true gift, and how can we radically rethink the gifting time of year. First, take a peek at the Gift Giving Self-Assessment...and then come on back for this!

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Manual for Meaningful Giving

  1. Just in case you need it, this Manual is actually your permission slip to let go of all your previous associations, expectations, assumptions, habits, traditions, and everything else you hold about how you give gifts. Obligation breeds resentment - so let go of all of that and start with a fresh slate. 
  2. Should is for suckers*. Just keep that in mind. And then notice anytime a should pops into your gift giving thought process.  Treat should like an indicator - a warning light reminding you to pay attention and dig a little deeper.
  3. Gifts (much like puppies) have needs. Not all the time, but often. So, consider what impacts your gift will have on the person receiving it. Does it fit in her life: energetically, emotionally, spatially, financially, and otherwise?
  4. For whom are you actually purchasing this gift? Is it truly because it's something the giftee will love and use and cherish or enjoy, or is it because you love it and think everyone else will too? (4a. The parallel here is Are you gifting based on what you want/need/crave?)
  5. Is your gift wanted or needed? (This is just my personal opinion...but as a person who is truly trying to collect less stuff - this is a really important question.) Consider if, and how, a gift fits in someone's life - literally or metaphorically.
  6. A. If you do have to gift something (as in a tangible, wrappable item): consider something handmade or locally made that supports a real person, artist or livelihood. B. Even better, entertain the idea of something that doesn't stick around forever because it has a useful, and useable lifespan: adult beverages, holiday baked goods, festive wreaths, soaps, quality candles and the like. The joy is in actually consuming these little gems, and they never steal permanent closet space. 
  7. Do you find yourself giving just to give? (Just press pause, see what happens.)
  8. There's no rule that everyone has to get a gift, or that everyone has to get a different, unique gift. Would the world end if you just skipped it, or if you gifted the same letterpress stationery set (in different colors) to all your pals?
  9. Once you give a gift, it's gone. It's out of your hands. You have no more power over it. You can't complain or bicker if the gift doesn't get used, or gets used differently than you planned or sits in a drawer or whatever. Real gifts don't have strings attached. This rule always helps me decide on a gift option...thinking through my own attachment and expectations. So, remember - once it's out of your hands, it's truly out of your hands. (Okay, fine - you can totally judge if you don't get a thank you card, but other than that you don't have any say about how a gift is used.)

Well, how about that? Anything that you really want to add to the Manual For Meaningful Giving? Plunk your ideas in the comments, or drop me a line! Happy Holly-Jolly Gifting Season! Stay tuned for easy gift guides for small gifts, kiddo gifts, gifts for creatives and so much more over the next couple days!

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Self Assessment

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(Well's here!) 

Welcome to The Fierce Gifting Guide! Since this Gift Guide is all about challenging the status quo and breaking down walls and creating new habits and noticing (that's what we do around here) - Let's get down to business with some quick introspection.

When was the last time you actually stopped to think about the gift part of the holiday season? Do you ever pause to ponder all this gift giving, and why it happens? And, more importantly, why and how you choose to participate in it?

Yes, I want to focus on the "choose" part of gifting because all of gifts we give are actually a choice, even if it doesn't really feel like it. And, by choice,  I mean more than just the decision between Barbie or Ken or both. Even though the entirety of the world is now told to go out and buy! buy! buy! immediately after washing the Thanksgiving dishes, there's no rule set in stone that you actually have to do it. (PS: Just notice the lack of emphasis on give! give! give!) Sure, there may be a lot of tradition and expectation and peer pressure and noise from the world around you - but you actually have the agency to choose if, how, when, where and what to gift throughout the holiday season. (It may not feel that way, but I promise it's true.) 

So, although you may already be knee-deep in shopping lists or purchases or already wrapped presents (who the heck are you? you overachiever!) ... here's a 15 point check-in list to orient you to some of your deepest and truest feelings about gift giving. (Psst, there's no judgement here, okay. None from me to you. And I hope certainly none from you to you.) This little list of questions is intended to be a chance to really pause, undo all the layers, and poke around at your MOST TRUE AND HONEST FEELINGS (gulp) about the gift-y time of year. I fully recognize that we all come to the gifting process with very different likes and loves and dislikes and loathes and histories and things that make us excited (or groan). Maybe your responses (and your most gust-level-feelings) can provide some guidance for your attitudes and actions around 'gifts' season.

Instructions. Grab a writing implement if you feel like it. This can be done in your head, but it's less fun. Read each question below and sit with it. Take a moment to notice how it makes you feel. (In your gut, on your skin, wherever and however you feel things.) Then jot down a few notes. Just go for it. There's no answer key. There's no other page to flip to that tells you what your gift giving profile is based on your answers. (Geez, this isn't Cosmo). And believe me, there is no right or wrong answer. Just consider this a chance to start from scratch and ponder how you may actually feel about giving (or not giving) gifts.

A Fierce Gifting Guide | Gift Giving Self-Assessment*

  1. Draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper. On one side write "I LOVE GIFT SEASON" on the other side write "I HATE GIFT SEASON" draw an X on the line indicating where you fall on this spectrum of loving and hating gift giving season. (Don't think LOVE/HATE suits you? Use whatever modifier you want).

  2. What do you love or like most about gifting season and the gifting process? List as many things as you like. (Think broadly. Here's some suggestions: coming up with gift ideas, shopping, finding the perfect gift, supporting local artisans, pretty wrapping paper, presents under the tree, spending money, making people happy by giving, making dreams come true. It's your list, just get to it.)

  3. What do you loathe or like least about gifting season and the gifting process? (Suggestions: Shopping, crowds, spending cashola, unappreciative receivers, shipping stuff to far away places, a sense of obligation, socks, the feeling that everyone already has everything so what's the point of gifts.) [Okay, I see that those suggestions may be a bit biased, so just think about what it may be for you. Even if you LOVE gifting season I bet there is at least one thing you dislike.)

  4. Think of FIVE WORDS that describe WHY you give gifts during the holly season. Any five words that feel true to you. (Even if they are negative words. This is your chance to be honest. Once you've scribbled all five words, re-write them as a list with the most important word at the top of the list, and the least important word on the bottom.***

  5. Think back to Gift Season 2016 (and all the gift seasons before). Is there one (or two or five) things that you remember feeling strongly during or after gift season? Any mental notes or Next year I want to remember to's... that you should actually remember while you have the chance? (Maybe it's about what you gifted, or how you gifted it, or when. Maybe it's a feeling you had. A memory? Jot it down. If it's still with you, it's probably important.

  6. What is the ONE most favorite gift you have received in your whole entire life? Who gifted it to you? What made it so special to you?

  7. Draw a large square. Draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left column write "GIFTS I LOVE TO RECEIVE". At the top of the right column write "GIFTS I AM LESS EXCITED TO RECEIVE". (Sure, replace "less excited" with any word you want.) This list can be more than just the gifts themselves: consider types of gifts, what a gift requires of you, how the gift is used, etc. Then, translate this to your gift giving mentality.

  8. Do you buy a gift because you like it OR because you know that the recipient will like it (or needs it / has space for it / has asked for it / can afford to use it, etc.) [Yup, I know that's a leading question]

  9. Do you give gifts because you usually give gifts and it would feel weird / bad / odd / not generous to just stop giving gifts or give radically different types of gifts? (This is in line with the whole challenge of "not doing", and noticing just how hard it can be to stop habits and actions that we've engaged for a long time. And the only way to practice is to actually not do - and that can be a very scary way to test if not doing is going to serve you or not.)

  10. Is there a whole group of people that you give gifts to but don't feel you have the time / money / capacity / interest / desire to actually give gifts to? (EG: office mates, teachers, super-extended family, neighbors etc). [Flip side: is there anyone (or a group) of people you really want to gift, but can't find the time / money / etc?]

  11. Do you ever give gifts just because you feel you should? Out of a sense of obligation?

  12. Is your heart in it?

  13. Money Money Money Money...Money! (Sing it!) What's the relationship between your wallet and your gift giving? Do you set a budget? Do you end up spending more than you want or planned? Do you pay the price (or interest) throughout the year? Do you feel like you should be giving more? How does this all make you feel (like in your bones or belly)?

  14. Do you gift out of habit?

  15. Do you like opening gifts in front of other people?

Okay, that's it. You're all grown ups, so now that you have all this information from yourself, YOU can choose how to act on it. Maybe the Meaningful Giving Manual will help sort things out more. Or maybe some of the gift ideas over the next few days will spark new gifting routes for you (if that's what you think you might want to do).

*Dear goodness, help us all. This is a terrible name. If you have suggestions for what to call this, please drop a line when you read this.
**For sure my answer to this is Dad's tradition of identifying something he wants, buying it, wrapping it and putting it under the tree. The first year he did this it was a bag of white tube socks. He tore open the gift with utter surprise, then wrapped his arms around himself in a hug while saying "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you" I laugh every single time I think about this. My present-giving memories are almost always about sitting down together and opening presents. I think it's the presence that I like most.
***I feel like "OBLIGATION" may end up on a few lists.

Gifting Guide

A Fierce Practice Gift Guide

For the past few months, I've really wanted to put together a Gift Guide for this holiday season. Something simple. A list of a few of my favorite things that also make great, quick, easy gifts for the season of (obligatory and laborious) gifting. As soon as the topic came up through the A Fierce Practice #TinyLetter, it took all of three seconds to realize the whole topic of gifting is WAY MORE COMPLEX than just a one page infographic with my favorite soaps and mugs and a short treatise on buying nice things from real people. 

In so many cases we have so much, and need for so little. And we recognize that everyone else has SO MUCH STUFF too. And that STUFF is a problem...just as much as the obligation to give stuff during this time of year. So, stay tuned over the next couple of days for a Gift Giving Self-Assessment (if you have a sexier name for this, please let me know), a Guide to Meaningful Giving, permission to give (and do) less - along with fun gift ideas for kiddos, creatives, experiences and consumables, low cost quick gifts, and a few more things that I haven't quite put my finger on yet. 

More to come!!! Hope to see you back here, or over on the Tiny Letter.

Something, Nothing

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A thank you to Thank you Suite 101 Experiences for pointing out just how valuable this question is.

I agree with her...we are a doing culture, to the Nth degree! I grew up believing that it was always better to do *something* than to do nothing at all. And what started as a not-so-healthy draw toward a constant ‘something’ has grown into a bit of monster over all these years ... a compulsion to show up, add up, bring it, give it, perfect it.

I am just learning now how often doing NOTHING serves me better than doing SOMETHING.

What Is

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Is your ‘what is’ defined by what’s pushing up against it? Or the strength of its own bold borders?

As I try to make more room for sleep and rest, contain work to its designated hours, and manage everything else that I already signed up for...I am noticing just how much the boundaries of my ‘what is’ are prescribed by the contents pushing right up against it, and not always purposefully structured by me.

Here’s to staking our claim for our own ‘what is’.


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What if I don't ...

...turn on the TV? ...get stressed by this or that? ...(over-)prepare like a maniac? ...respond right away?

It's scarier to test the not doing version of something, especially when the doing version is your go-to-default that's served you seemingly well your whole life. The not doing can feel just as scary as that scoot that launches your bathing suit clad body down the giant slide at the waterpark. Presses 'send' on the email or application. Steps into the bosses office for a tough conversation. Leans in for that first kiss.

The doing can be scary. But you end up doing it. The default always seems to be do. But not doing, it's harder to test that boundary. It's restraint and faith, all mixed up in one.

Tonight I chose to not turn on the TV. And to not do one more thing. But I did choose to carve a few extra minutes out for this note, because the idea of sitting to write has felt like a salve all day. 

And, it's been a day. The thing that house-building has been teaching me most right now is how I tend to respond to every thing that pops up as an emergency. In some cases (although we are not talking life or death here) there are decisions that need to be corrected or made ASAP, and things that come up that should be done right away. Maybe not for the moment, but because I am keeping my eyes on the prize of a December 15th move in data. It feels like doing everything I can at every possible moment is the insurance policy that gets us in the door on time. But, what is it like to test the other side of that coin? What does it mean to take things as they come? To not rush? To not be sent into a tail-spin when I find out our antique doors are delayed because of hinges and sizing and other things that maybe some other people were actually supposed to be taking care of a few weeks ago. (That last part was more of a rant than anything helpful, but maybe I needed to get it off my chest.) So, what I am saying is - house building is giving me this experiment. To see if everything turns out okay and we get an occupancy permit and move in when we plan to. Or to see if we don't. I could keep on hitting my head against the wall of EVERYTHING IS AN EMERGENCY, or I could choose to stop. I could choose to stop the triage. I could choose to give everything time to sort itself out. I can choose to trust that everything will be okay if I don't attend to it right now, even though it feels like it's calling my name like a small child trapped in a well.

That's it. Over and out. Less doing. Bye.

A bit more to read HERE, plus a very timely archive quote.

Rough Opening

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If you are in the trades, you will know what rough opening means. It's the roughly estimated and doesn't-have-to-be-absolutely-perfect framing for an exterior window or door in a house. It's the hole in the skeleton that the door or window is soon nestled into. The measurements of the rough opening are always bigger than the thing that will sit inside it. And it doesn't have to be completely accurate. It's rough. It's an opening. It's a noun. (It's also a measurement, as in the rough opening is...)

If you happen to be a creative person who likes words and metaphors and knows nothing about the trades - rough openings has a lot of good potential. A rough opening is what it looks like (and feels like) every time a piece of huge equipment comes in to dig a huge hole or trench into the soil to bury something. It feels rough, violent, aggressive, and not precise. (Is there anything precise about having a huge backhoe dig a trench 40" wide to bury a water line that's barely 2" wide?)

Rough opening also sounds and feels like heart work. Good work. Verb work. The way we ply ourselves open to be vulnerable. To notice. To breathe. To become expansive again. It is a going against the grain of everything that wants to be hunched and concave. Especially now as we start to bundle up, bundle tight, drawing our own selves inward as days darken and warmth feels scarcer.

Whatever it is, it feels like something we could all use in slightly higher doses.

What is your rough opening?

More HERE.