The season of giving and sharing is fast approaching (for those that Celebrate Christmas) and I was thinking of some really wonderful brands that I’ve come to adore over the past years and decided to compile them in a handy list. Good things need to be shared :)
In the past years, as I became a more thoughtful, conscious consumer, I started focusing on consuming less and choosing to invest in better quality products. I’ve also become interested in giving gifts that are sustainable, that support local businesses and that invest and promote quality craftsmanship. Thus, I’ve chosen to buy, for myself and others (and as often as possible) less but better quality products and from brands that support fair practices, local economies and give back.
Of course, the absolute best gift that you can give someone, anyone, is the gift of being PRESENT. Yep, just being there. With a blank slate for your mind, listening attentively and dedicating your sole attention to the person with whom you are speaking. Whether it’s on the phone, face to face, whether we have 5 minutes or 30 minutes, any interaction becomes better if we are engaged and listen attentively.
I encourage you (this season, and every day for that matter) to practice active, mindful listening. Listen by recognizing firstly the thoughts and oftentimes prejudices that enter your mind before and during your interaction with a certain person, and then, emptying your mind of these assumptions, presuppositions and expectations.
Start by being aware of the thoughts that cross your mind as you near a family or professional gathering, a friends’ reunion; practice OBSERVING these thoughts and feelings that arise in you. Then gently, let them go. Refocus your attention on the interaction as often as possible. This is a small but very beneficial exercise in mindfulness. More on this topic here, here and here.
Then, the next best thing that you can give and share with someone is, without any doubt, food! Especially if it is made by your own hands, with your loving energy poured into it. Food heals just as much as the time spent together, eating and enjoying it, does. People have gathered around it, made it and shared it, gave it and took it since the beginning of humanity. And guess what? Kitchen is still the most important room in a house.
Now, since gift giving also entails offering things that are useful and bring joy, here is a list of brands and products that I absolutely love and hope that you will find inspiring. I even encourage you to invest in them when you think of your loved ones (or yourself) this Holiday Season.
(I am not affiliated with any of these brands nor do I receive a commission for talking about them; I just genuinely love them and am super excited to share them with the world!)
So, without further ado, here it is:
- For everyone: Jacquie Lawson’s Advent Calendar (and virtual e-cards)
Every year when Jacquie and her team bring out a new Virtual Advent Calendar I get so giddy with excitement! (I am worse than a kid. Truly). It has become a beloved end-of-the-day ritual that I highly enjoy in December and that really begins the Festive Season for me. The Animated Virtual Advent Calendar is by far my favorite from all the products that Jacquie Lawson has to offer.
Each day brings a different game, a puzzle, a story or a recipe, even the possibility to decorate the Christmas Tree or draw snowflakes. Best of all, there is no paper involved, the Virtual Advent Calendar can be gifted to many (all you would need is their email address) and reused the year after.
You can purchase this year’s Advent Calendar, set in Edinburgh, Scotland, here.
2. For Chocolate Lovers:
- Compartes Chocolates are premium, organic, chocolate bars handcrafted in Los Angeles, USA. Daily.
They have “gorgeous chocolate designs, beautiful patterns and packaging plus (…) stunning works of edible chocolate art within”. Their luxury sets and towers sell for a hefty price tag but their single chocolate bars come in all kinds of flavors and are (more) affordable and super delicious. Check them out here.
These chocolates are an indulgence, to be sure. But, if you are looking for luxury gourmet chocolates, look no further. Compartes has them.
- Caragh Chocolates are handmade on the small Island of Sark (between Guernsey and Jersey, part of the UK) using local cream and ingredients.
I’ve stumbled upon these chocolates quite by accident last time I had a layover in London. And since reading more about the island, it made it on my bucket list of places that I must visit in this lifetime! The Island allows no cars, only carriages and bicycles for transportation and boasts impressive vistas.
The Caragh Chocolates are privately owned and operated by the same family, ship worldwide and they will arrive to you “by hand, by carriage, by boat”. They are also incredibly delicious. Check them out here!
3. To keep one warm: Throws, wraps and scarves from AVOCA Ireland.
AVOCA was a splendid surprise when I visited Ireland two years ago. With their lovely cafes and shops, delicious teas and treats and colorful scarves, socks, throws and blankets (I came home with two!), they just make the most wonderful, colorful, coziest gifts to be enjoyed year after year.
Their products are high quality, investment pieces, super soft and cozy. Check out all their blankets and throws here. The company’s history of growth and expansion is impressive. The first mill back dates back to 1723! (and is still operating to this day). Read more here.
Isn’t it wonderful to own something that is handmade and has so much heritage and tradition woven (literally) between its threads? I absolutely love and treasure my Avoca blankets! I purchased the very colorful and joyful Circus Lambswool Throw and The Spice Donegal Throw and I take care of them by taking them to dry cleaning once or twice/year. Their socks are super cute as well. Take a look here.
They sometimes offer free shipping to the US to their subscribers (especially around major holidays). They also have a men’s collection.
Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this brand and their lovely products. I hope you will consider AVOCA next time you’re thinking about investing in a high quality, long lasting beautiful blanket or throw.
4. For the Book Lovers: A coffee table book that sparks conversations: The Atlas of Beauty. Women of the World in 500 Portraits.
Mihaela Noroc is a fellow Romanian that has traveled the world in the past 6 years photographing women in their natural environment, showcasing their diverse beauty and personal stories. Sometimes of survival, of angst and solitude, of overcoming odds and challenges and other times of joy and successes.
I enjoy the simple and poignant way in which Mihaela (now a newly first time mother to a baby daughter herself) writes the stories that accompany the photos in her book. I also think it’s refreshing and equally humbling to witness the diverse beauty of women all over the world, of all ages and all walks of life.
5. For the New Year: A beautifully illustrated calendar by Oana Befort.
Oana Befort creates whimsical and folklore inspired paper goods. She uses hand painted mixed media illustrations that are unique and absolutely lovely! I have already purchased some of her art prints and even gifted others to friends and family. She is incredibly creative and even shares some of her insights and behind-the-scenes with her followers on social media.
Her shop on Etsy sells stationery, art prints, posters and pins. Take a look!
6. Clothing and Accessories:
(A) Made in Rosia Montana is more than a business project. And it’s definitely more than just hand knitted sweaters, scarves, hats and mittens.
It is, above all else, a social-community building project that through its handmade items aims to bring stability, financial independence and fair trade labor to the families of 35 women that personally hand knit each item that you can purchase from their shop.
Rosia Montana (“Rosia of the Mountains) is a commune of Alba County in the Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania, Romania that comprises 16 villages spread atop four mountains.
It could have been completely eradicated by a gold mining project that would have created, in time, Europe’s largest open-pit (!) by using gold cyanidation mining technique. The campaign against mining at Roșia Montană was one of the biggest campaigns over a non-political cause in the last 20 years in Romania. A plethora of organizations spoke out against the project, from Greenpeace to the Romanian Academy, whilst the nationwide protests stalled the mining progress in the area. If you are interested to read more about this topic you can do so here.
Tică Darie moved to Rosia Montana in 2013 wanting to get personally involved in the local community. And he did.
He founded “Made in Rosia Montana”, an online shop that sells hand knitted 100% merino wool clothing pieces and accessories. Just like my grandma did when I was growing up. Or your grandma, or great-grandma. You know, the pieces that keep you whole and warm. From inside out. Because they are made by hands. Hands that can only make one piece at a time, that bend over hour after hour, making sure that the end result is the best that it can be. Each piece UNIQUE, made just for YOU.
So, peruse their shop and make a conscious purchase this holiday season. Or next time you need a sweater. Or a scarf and hat.
I think this one is super cute:
They ship worldwide through DHL and when you subscribe, you automatically get 10% off your first order.
(B) A Shop About Love is run by a couple very dear to my heart: Danny and Mara from A Blog About Love. I have been following them for years and always enjoyed their thoughtful and inspiring posts. Now Brooklyn based, they hold seminars, retreats and classes on all things healing, relationships, infertility, divorce and of course, love.
After spending a year in Ecuador learning much about its culture, history and traditions, they too saw a need for creating pieces that speak of self-love and caring that also promote and support the artistry of local artisans.
The shop covers clothing pieces, home decor and accessories. You must see for yourself!
7. For the Art Lovers: Jenny’s Printshop.
Have an empty spot or an empty wall? now it is so easy to choose something lovely to adorn it.
Jenny curates the most beautiful photography and art in her shop making it super easy to download at home! and use again and again. She makes it quick, easy, affordable, providing you with detailed explanations, points of printing (in the US) and covers quite a variety of topics from fauna, flora, scenery to abstract art. A little something for everyone.
Ok, that’s it my friends! I hope you enjoyed the list I put together for this year. I would love to hear down below in the comments section if any of these brands/products seem interesting to you AND if you know of others that I need to know about ;)
Wherever you are this holiday season, I hope that you are safe, warm and feel loved!
*p.s: the photo at the beginning of the post is a Christmas wreath I once saw and photographed in Wrocław, Poland. Isn’t it lovely?
*p.p.s: the other photos do not belong to me but were taken from the respective websites. Let me know if they are yours and if you’d like them taken down ;)