Just like last year, we started reading Christmas books and decorating for Christmas weeks before Thanksgiving. Theo went into the attic a couple of weeks ago and pulled out his little Christmas tree, and his room is already decorated with felted reindeer and garland. Perhaps this year, we need an extended season of joy more than ever.
Without being able to travel to see family or gather in our homes with friends, this holiday season will be different. In our family, we've been thinking about how to make this Christmas feel special, and how to bring joy to those who might need it most. This year has been especially hard for so many families, so the need is great. Although giving money is helpful for many organizations, it also feels good to do something. And this year, Theo is old enough to begin to understand his privilege and to be involved in giving.
If you live in Bellingham, here are the ways we are giving to our community this year. If you live elsewhere, a quick search for holiday giving in your community should give you a good list. Contacting places of worship, shelters and food banks are also good places to start. The need this year is greater than ever before.
We were going to adopt a family from Lydia Place, but by the time I looked, all the families were spoken for! Which is wonderful. Lydia Place still offers many other ways to give to their families. We went shopping with Theo to help fill their wish lists.
We always make a donation to The Lighthouse Mission every year at the holidays, and in the past we have also helped decorate for Christmas or donated items for personal care packages. This year, I will be making desserts for their guests, and we will also be contributing items for the Christmas gift bags, which need to be dropped off on Saturday, December 5 at any Woods Coffee.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services has a Safe Housing Program. We will be donating gift cards, pajamas, slippers and other items to this program.
We have been supporters of the Bellingham Public Schools Family Resource Center for the past few years and continue to be champions of their amazing work. This year, we're contributing to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation.
We also support the work of Skookum Kids, a local organization that helps gently transition children to foster care. Elie and I were both hoping to volunteer at their transition home over this past year, before 2020 took over. They do heart-giving work.
If you listen to this podcast from The Daily, your heart will break at the work that food banks are doing this year. Consider donating to your local food bank. We will be dropping off non-perishable items at the Bellingham Food Bank with Theo.
Last year, we created an Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar, where we made a list of small things we could do each day to celebrate giving. Theo loved running out to give the garbage collectors gift cards or handing a hot coffee to a person in need. All of the gift cards we handed out were to local coffee shops, restaurants and businesses, which supports our local business owners as well. This year, we're also purchasing bunches of these Sustainable Connections Think Local First gift cards, which can be used at participating downtown businesses. Supporting local businesses is a double gift.
Over this Thanksgiving weekend, we're going to make our giving list together, and then I'm going to write each act of kindness on a card and place it in this advent calendar with a small piece of chocolate gelt (in honor of our celebration of Hanukkah). I'll be sharing our advent calendar in another post next week.
When it comes to shopping for gifts, I try as much as possible to shop either from local stores or to shop online from independently-owned businesses, especially women-owned business, and those who curate sustainable, handcrafted goods. This year, I also sought out BIPOC-owned businesses for gift-giving. If I am going to buy from a corporate store, I try to chose those with ethical, sustainable value statements. It's not always possible to make all purchases using this framework, especially when it comes to Theo's toys, but I try. With that in mind, here's my gift guide for 2020, which heavily leans towards curating a playful, cozy and comfortable home, since that's where we're all spending our time these days.
If you're in Bellingham, my favorite local stores for kids are Fairhaven Toy Garden, Ideal and Yeager's Sporting Goods. A lot of the following items might be available at your local toy store.
Theo loves driving. He can sit in Elie's lap and drive around the block himself, without Elie ever touching the wheel. You may have seen photos of him driving this John Deer loader, which he got for giving up his motzetz (pacifier) earlier this year. He LOVES his loader, and it was worth every penny, especially during those early days of staying-at-home. Hours and hours of fun and entertainment are priceless. This Christmas, we're getting him this go-kart as his big gift from Santa, which gets great reviews. We have a friend who has started go-kart racing, and Theo talks about it all the time. I think he's going to love it. Obviously, this is on the expensive and not-at-all-handmade side of the list.
We love toys for imagination play, like this adorable treehouse or this dollhouse or this one.
And this wooden block set is on our list for Theo this year. He loves building, and Theo and Elie also have had a lot of fun putting together this train and this marble run.
This crazy fort set or this tent builder both look fun, and like it might save my sofa and pillows from turning into tents every day.
A friend recently introduced Theo to chess, and he was surprisingly interested. We're getting him this chess set.
We've also been taking Theo to cranial sacral therapy over the past few months, to help with his mouth breathing (read this), and his therapist has a wall of salt lamps, which Theo has been fascinated by. I found this one at our local Community Co-op.
I have a friend who follows the 'something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read' philosophy of Christmas presents for her kiddos. For something to read, this book bundle from Brave + Kind Bookshop is on my list for Theo. We're also getting Theo a subscription to Ditto Kids Magazine, an anti-bias education magazine for kids and parents to read together.
For the kiddo that misses travel, this hugg-a-planet pillow is great for learning geography in a fun way. With Theo, we will randomly point to a country and then learn about that region.
I love giving experience gifts, and this cookie class from Morgan G Co. is perfect for the kiddo who loves to cook.
For stocking stuffers, this classic wooden toy.
For the loved one who misses setting a beautiful table, I am coveting these gorgeous vintage crystal flutes from Workshop, which curates thoughtful vintage and handmade items from the Pacific Northwest. And these gorgeous handmade napkins from Hedgerow, although really, I could purchase every single thing in Christy's shop.
Also for the vintage-lover or interior design enthusiast, you can check out Chairish and 1st Dibs and fall down the rabbit hole of finding the perfect something. I have my eye on this vintage charcuterie board and this French mortar and pestle. Our friends at The Cooks Atelier also have a collection of French farmer's market finds, like this beautiful cake pan.
We've all been at home thinking about how to make our homes more beautiful, and this book from Amber Interiors will give you all the inspiration you need.
Art-lovers in your life will cherish one of Sharon Kingston's thoughtful, evocative paintings. We have three of Sharon's works in her home, and I continually see something new in the poetry of her painting.
The aspiring floral designer in your life will love the creative process of putting together a holiday wreath following Steve Moore's detailed tutorial. Steve is an incredibly talented designer and a gifted teacher.
The cook in your life will keep this Smithey carbon steel farmhouse skillet for a lifetime. Elie brought me one from his last trip to Charleston, and I love it. It's both beautiful and functional. And since we have all been home cooking a lot over this past year, this handwoven apron from Minna might keep our interest in the kitchen just a little longer.
For the person who binge-watches Marie Kondo or Get Organized, these storage jars with walnut lids make for a gorgeous pantry. I have them and I love them. Also related to storage, I love collecting baskets for gift-giving, like this one from Goodee or this one from Minna. When you're putting together a gift basket or meal kit, packaging in a reusable basket feels more special than a gift bag, and then the basket can be kept and used as part of the gift.
We all miss travel. For the loved one who is dreaming of her next trip, this gorgeous book of photographs and essays from Rajasthan by Christine Chitnis will inspire you. We hope to take Theo to India in a few years, and this book makes me eager to book the trip.
Since we're all still staying cozy at home, I got these slippers for Elie (who is incredibly hard to buy for).
To continue to inspire meaningful conversations in our lives, I ordered these curiosity cards as a stocking stuffer this year. These will be great for date night, and for when we can eventually have dinner parties again.
And lastly, to record all our hopes and dreams for a better 2021, a journal. I got Elie this layflat one from Denik, an amazing company that supports artists and helps build schools in the developing world.
I also still love everything on the gifts guides from last year and the year before, so you can also check those for sustainable, ethical giving.
Wishing you a joyful holiday season, however you celebrate this year.
With love, Lisa