When I think back on the gifts I've given throughout the years, I have an eclectic collection of memories to sort through. I've spent hours orchestrating the perfect rise and fall of a mixed CD, wrapping gifts in brown paper bags decorated with hand-colored pictures, and drawing cards. As much as I want them to be, not every gift is perfect, and many have been sent out a month late (especially to my niece and nephew who live far away), I spend more time thinking of how to make it perfect than actually executing the process.
All gifts have one thing in common, we give them because we want the receiver to know that we care about them. Bonus if the gift actually connects with the receiver.
When I was little I liked learning about elephants. They are so big, majestic, and mysterious. My Gram Ree used to get me a lot of elephant stuff for Christmas. Recently, she sent me a little painted elephant with a saddle that flips up into a secret storage area in the elephants body. Not only is it beautiful, but it also lets me know that she's thinking of me, and what I might be thinking about, or about me as a little girl.
Here is a list of some of my favorite small businesses to shop from:
In some ways of life I've won the jack-pot. My in-laws are one of those ways. My sister-in-law Johanna Parkhurst is a young adult author. More than that though, she cares about kids and gets the complexity of the crossover from childhood to adulthood. Her books are layered and sure to resonate with anyone, young or old.
When I moved down here from Vermont I left behind a lot of clothing boutiques with hand selected items that the owners would choose from wherever they last traveled to. Mad Dog fills this niche for me (and beyond because they are dog lovers and sell dog things too). They have super unique clothes and some really quirky gift items as well.
The two women behind Coyoteloon are from the Northeast and all of their creations are made with love. My sister gifted me a shirt from them and the good vibes feel contagious when I wear it.
This couple from Vermont built Ackermann Maple Farm and are making beautifully packaged maple syrup. In this area of the world of Southwestern VA, maple syrup often means flavored corn syrup from a plastic bottle. These guys offer shipping, which means you can now get your hands on some of this treasure. Good for anyone with taste buds.
If your receiver, or you as a giver, are really into practical gifts, I would offer a service from Randy's Lawn Service. Especially if they are a new homeowner or just had a major financial shift like a job change or new baby.
There's a gift for pretty much everyone at the Green Heron. I could get lost looking at the kaleidoscope of art, jewelry, soaps, scarves, cards, etc. they've got lining the walls and tables. To shop there is an experience in itself, and don't forget to walk back into the room with more art and lovingly up-cycled clothes.
If you have dog lovers in your life (or if your receiver is a dog!) it's like a double bonus to recognize their pups like part of the family. House Woof Dog Biscuits come from Vermont and use natural, minimalist recipes that are giving your dog good nutrients as well as flavor. They also donate to rescues and shelters of their customers' choosing.
A really great gift for anyone who's recently adopted a dog would be training classes with Positive Outcomes Dog Training. Both my pups are feeling benefits of these classes even though neither one is still a puppy.
I just started testing the Crossfit waters here in Radford and have to say I really enjoy it! Fitness is really being recognized as part of health maintenance and a one month pass could catapult an entire lifestyle change for someone just in time for the New Year's resolve.
Another piece of culture I left behind in Vermont were the endless and wonderful cafes. Idego has the best coffee around and a really unique talking point as well. A typewriter sits on one of the tables where you can read snippets of what others have left, or type your own history.
A gift certificate from Downey Dog Yoga is a great gift for just about anyone in Radford. It's within walking distance from campus and would be perfect for a stressed out student looking to get off campus for some sweet sweet self-care.
Gamer's can be a tricky bunch to shop for if you're not in the gaming loop. The owner of Game Quest knows his stuff and can help you find the right gift. I've got my eye on a Calvin & Hobbes book for my niece this year.
Last summer my partner and I had a painting party with some friends and painted our kitchen the perfect avocado green. The room has completely transformed into an inviting retro kitchen...with some "oops" spots of green along the white trim. The man behind Allen ProPaint is both creative and precise. A fresh coat is a really thoughtful and unique gift for a new homeowner.
I've gotten more than a few gifts from Imaginations in Blacksburg. When I walk in I get sucked the finely crafted toys and books. I find more than enough for my receiver (usually my niece and nephew) and more than enough for myself as well. Last time I had to pry myself away from a lunchbox set as I day dreamed about how adorable a peanut butter and jelly would look inside.
Sometime's it's more fun to do a collection of smaller gifts. Lamours has incense, crystals, stickers and much more to fill a grab bag for a friend. They also usually have a really sweet pup lounging around that keeps you good company while you look around.
Instruments are really good gifts that inspire beauty and effort. Barry's Music has instruments, accessories, and strings for the musician in your life.
And of course, a handmade gift certificate from Tapestry for a massage or private yoga session is great for anyone. I strive to make each experience at Tapestry meaningful and the environment inspired.
I'm not a fan of buying wrapping paper, so I like to add little decorations from broken pieces of jewelry and 3D puff paint. Use colored pencils to draw portraits of your receiver or splatter paint on brown paper bags that you use to wrap the gift with. Gift giving can easily turn into a harrowing chore. Keep it thoughtful, quirky, and fun so that your true intentions shine through the gift.