My Quest to Stay Out of the Big Box Stores - Day 7: Local Artist Galleries
Bayarts is unique in that it has an art studio attached to the retail gallery. What the heck, while you're there shopping, you might just want to sign up for a class. Or even sign someone you know up for a class, thus another gift idea!
If you are looking for "far from cookie cutter" gifts, run, don't walk to Bayarts.
Where else would you be able to find a Christmas wreath made out of glass ornaments next to a sign stating you are now at the beach house . . .
next to real, honest-to-goodness, 100% real Ohio maple syrup.
This is a shop for everyone.
Cards, jewelry, paintings.
You'll find something for that really hard-to-buy-for person on your list.
Even if you can't make it to the North Coast to shop at Bayarts, look for some such artist gallery in your neck of the woods. You'll be supporting local artists, and art galleries, at the grass roots level.
I have to tell you two things about today's post.
Number 1: I love alpaca socks more than Hershey Chocolate Bars with Almonds. And that's a whole lot of love.
Number 2: These socks are about as local as it gets. They come from our farm and our girls.
They are 60% alpaca, 30% nylon and 10% wool. But what they really are is warm.
Warm and toasty. Like slipping your feet into happiness.
When the weather starts to turn colder, you'll find them on the hooves of all the humans here at the farm. We wear them doing chores, running errands, hiking in the woods, or just lounging in front of the fire on a Winter's evening.
They make a great gift for any outdoor person on your list. Or any freeze baby.
$21 a pair and they come in a variety of sizes. They are not at all bulky.
Machine wash, but line dry to retain their shape.
My Quest to Stay Out of the Big Box Stores - Day 5: Cookbooks
I'll admit to having a big problem. One I've had for a long, long time.
I am addicted to books. I love them in every shape and form and on almost any subject. I love the smell of a book store. I love the feel of books in my hand. Libraries make me swoon.
And cookbooks are high on my list of favorites.
If you have a foodie on your gift list, or just a plain old regular cook, try giving one of these gems:
In the Kitchen with Cleveland's Favorite Chefs is a new book by Clevelander Maria Isabella. The book has a unique premise: The author wondered what her favorite local chefs cook at home. Wondered what they prepared for their own family. What they cook when they entertain.
So she challenged each chef featured in her book to prepare a meal that would take about an hour to create. The results are spectacular.
Farm friend Carmella Fragassi is one of the chefs featured. Many of you will remember Carmella as the chef at the farm's first Farm to Table dinner, centered around the theme of local honey. You can purchase the book at her restaurant in Westlake or at your local bookstore.
My other go-to, local cookbook is this one:
From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate by Marilou Suszko features more than 40 Ohio family farms with 123 recipes.
Local food. Local farms. Local author. You can't get any better than that this holiday season.
Yes, you can get both of these books from Amazon. But if you have the chance to go into your local bookstore to buy a copy, that's even better. And if your local bookstore is an independent bookstore, that's even better yet!
Brick and mortar bookstores keep jobs in your local community. They keep your neighbors employed and they keep money in your neck of the woods. Sometimes the only option is an on-line site like Amazon, but if you have the chance, take a trip to the bookstore to pick up one of these great cookbooks. Who knows, maybe the recipient will be so grateful they will cook you a fabulous meal!
Those of you who are reading this that don't live in Ohio, never fear. These books still make great gifts for those outside the Buckeye state. They offer a sense of the Ohio food scene -- what's local, what's hot, and what the Midwest is all about.
My Quest to Stay Out of the Big Box Stores - Day 4: Homemade Laundry Soap
Yes, you heard me. Homemade Laundry Soap. It is a thing of beauty and almost anybody I know that does laundry would love to receive such a gift.
Look, don't you think it's darn cute:
If you had a pile of laundry waiting for you at home and a neighbor or your Aunt Hilda twice removed gave you this, don't tell you wouldn't be tickled pink.
We've been making our own laundry soap for about a year now and it works great. Better than any new and improved store-bought version. Plus, you don't have all the chemical scents associated with commercial laundry soap.
The "recipe" is simple. You need just a few "ingredients. I'm warning you. This makes a ton of laundry soap. So much that I've only needed to make it twice this year. And I wash a heck of a lot of clothes. I believe, if my math is correct, the cost of the soap comes out to about 22 cents a load.
Here's what you need to get started:
1 4-pound, 12 ounce box of 20 Mule Team Borax
1 4-pound box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1 3-pound box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 Bars Fels-Naptha Soap
1 3-pound box of Oxi-Clean
Get a big clean bucket and mix the boxed ingredients. Grab your cheese grater (a box grater works the best. It has the largest holes.) and start grating the Fels-Naptha soap. Now mix it all together and commence the washing of clothes. It's that easy. There is a bit of "dust" created when you start mixing everything together. If you have breathing issues, wear a scarf around your nose and mouth.
To make an instant Christmas gift, package it up and tie on a cute label.
The template for the label is here. Download it, print it onto cardstock, use a hole punch and ribbon to attach it to the mason jar and you will be an instant hero.
I like to give credit for the design of things, but with this label, I can't seem to find the original designer. There is some speculation that it is The Graphics Fairy, but I'm not sure. If anybody knows for sure, please let me know.
A little of this soap goes a long way. You can attach a small (1/4 cup) scoop to the jar if you want to get extra fancy. Or you can write how much soap to use on the back of the label.
Just when you thought seeds were an odd Christmas gift, we suggest laundry soap. But give it a try. You won't be sorry.
My Quest to Stay Out of the Big Box Stores - Day 3: Heirloom Seeds
Now don't go laughing at me because I'm suggesting the gift of seeds for Christmas. Ask any gardener on your holiday list if they would like quality, heirloom seeds for Christmas and I'm sure they would instantly shout out YES!
But I'm not talking about run-of-the-mill seeds. I'm talking about non-genetically modified, heirloom seeds. Seeds our grandparents or great-grandparents would recognize.
One of my go-to sources for seeds is Seed Savers Exchange.
Their mission is to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. They are an alternative model to big agriculture.
If you were to give me several packages of their seeds and the 2013 calendar, I'd follow you around like a puppy. If you have a tomato lover on your list, try the Black Krim. You'll hear angels singing when you take your first bite of this dark, juicy tomato.
My other go-to source for seeds is High Mowing Organic Seeds.
They have taken the "Safe Seed Plege" which states, in part, that they wish to "support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities."
Other seed companies to try are Seeds of Change and Territorial Seed Company. And if you're looking for potatoes, try Wood Prairie Farm. Their Organic Potato Patch Kit ($39.95) includes everything the potato lover in your family needs to grow a great crop of spuds. If you're lucky, they might even invite you over for dinner when they harvest!
These are all small seed companies that are doing it right when it comes to seeds. Give 'em a look.
And really, while seeds may seem like an odd gift, a gardener would LOVE something from any of these companies for Christmas. And you'll be doing your part to ensure our food system remains diverse.
My Quest to Stay Out of the Big Box Stores - Day 2: Community Theater Tickets
Several years back, we started making a point of going to a holiday play at our local community theater. I'll be honest, the first year, I was dragged there. I really didn't think I could watch "It's a Wonderful Life" one more time.
To my delight, it was wonderful. The small stage, the joy with which these non-professional actors played their roles -- it was so much better than I had expected. I was hooked. Now each year, we make a point of going to a Christmas play at a small playhouse.
Some years have been better than others, but they have all been fun.
This year, Winter Wonderettes is playing at our town's playhouse.
And near-by, you can opt to see either White Christmas, A Christmas Story, or the Nutcracker.
So instead of buying yet another same old, same old sweater, why not give community theater tickets. What the heck, why not give regular theater tickets. Better yet, why not take someone to see a show for their Christmas present. That way, you're giving two gifts: the actual tickets and the gift of your time.
And don't think you have to limit yourself to a holiday production. Community theaters offer many different shows. You can give tickets for a later date.
So do a little research. Find a theater in your area. Who knows, you may be hooked, like I am.
It's seems counterintuitive that on my first day of telling you about all the wonderful local places to shop that I pick an on-line sight.
But when it comes right down to it, Etsy can be incredibly local. If you aren't familiar with Etsy, you're in for a real treat. According to Etsy, they are the world's hand-made marketplace. Their mission is to empower people to change how the economy works. They allow very small businesses, like That'll Do Farm, to sell their goods to a wider audience.
A stay-at-home-mom can now earn extra income from her knitting, cooking, photography, or whatever, without ever leaving the comfort of her living room.
A farm, like this one, can sell its yarn to a knitter in southern Ohio or across the country.
And small, hand-crafted businesses are thriving on-line. It's a new way of doing business that is bringing the old ways of mom-and-pop stores back. Only mom and pop are now on-line.
Perhaps the most brilliant part of Etsy is that you can narrow down your search to local artisans -- and I do mean local. You can narrow it down to state, county and finally, to city.
When I searched for Ohio area artisans, this is a teeny, tiny sample of what I found that could just possibly end up under the tree of somebody I know:
Holiday Decor Warm Gingerbread Handmade Candles with Whipped Wax Topping One 12 Ounce Soy Candle - $13.99
Ring of ice (sm)- sterling silver dangle, hammered ring earrings with a brushed finish - $30
Springer Spaniel Jazz records album style graphic artwork on canvas 12 x 12 inches by stephen fowler - $80.
I think you get the idea. You can find just about any type of hand-made creation on Etsy.
So sit yourself down with your computer and start shopping local. Etsy will hook you like there's no tomorrow. This just might be your go-to site for wedding gifts, anniversary presents, birthday gifts and any other gift-giving occasion you run into. Starting with this Christmas.
Well folks, the turkey has been reduced to a few leftovers. The pies are history and the mashed potatoes will be gone by dinner tonight. Thanksgiving 2012 is in the history books.
That can only mean one thing: bring on the Christmas season.
I have never been one for crowds and the whole Black Friday shopping experience nightmare. Two thirty a.m. is for sleeping, not for standing in line to buy a widget. Yes, I know I sound like an old fuddy dudy and perhaps I am one (O.K., let's just admit right here and now that by using the the words "fuddy duddy" I am, indeed, one!).
With Christmas still more than a month away, I urge you to make this the year you slow down, avoid the same-old, same-old of big box shopping and decide to spend at least some of your holiday budget at your local mom and pop stores. The mom and pop stores that make up your "around the corner" neighborhood or your "cyber" neighborhood.
Small Business Saturday (November 24th) is a day dedicated to shopping small, shopping local and we here at That'll Do Farm will be open from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. if you you're looking for yarn, rug hooking wool, alpaca socks made from our own fiber, art batts, or raw honey from our happy bees.
But we like to think of ourselves as more than purveyors of farm goods. We are also enablers who can help you find unique, artisan Christmas presents. So check back here each day between now and Christmas as we highlight some of our favorite things for gift giving or crafting this holiday season.
I guarantee you that nothing will be outrageously expensive. I also guarantee you that you will discover some fabulous local artists and entrepreneurs that are doing their part to make gift giving more meaningful and less homogeneous.
The Walmarts, Targets, Kohls and Macys of this world all have their place in your shopping arsenal. And so do we small guys!
So make a pledge to yourself to shop small, shop local this year. You won't miss the crowds at the mall, the frustration of searching for the hottest, sold-out item, or the realization that the gift you just bought will be forgotten by this time next year.
I am now climbing down off my soapbox.
Quit beating yourself up people. There is still time to sign up for the Needle Felting Christmas Ornament Class this Saturday, November 10th, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There -- aren't you relieved you didn't miss it!
We'll use holiday cookie cutters to make great ornaments, like these Santas.
You can also make candy canes, gingerbread men, snowmen, stars, or just about anything you can think of. If we have the cookie cutter, you can make it!
Even if you've never needle felted before, you can do this craft! Think of needle felting with cookie cutters as your gateway drug to other fiber crafts.
This class is one of the most fun classes we teach all year. Not a whole lot of concentration is needed; no counting or reading patterns like in knitting, so we have room to talk, joke and, in general, have a jolly old time.
If you'd like to join us, call 440-829-3644 to register.
Yesterday morning, to celebrate our new extra hour of morning light, we went for a hike at a local park where it was rumored that a Bald Eagle was hanging out.
Let me tell you, Bald Eagle sighting rumors are just as false as celebrity sighting rumors. No eagle to be found.
But we did see Sandhill Cranes -- a bit unusual for this part of the country. It made up for the non-eagle sighting.
And then we encountered a mystery.
At about six or seven spots along the trail, we saw these tracks leading from the woods to the lake:
Any guesses? At first we were stumped. Snakes? Nope, they don't travel in straight lines. Kids with sticks? Nah, too much work.
Soon, it became quite evident what was happening.
Clue Number 1:
I'm sure you're able to get it with just one clue, but in case not, here is Clue Number 2:
Clues Number 1 and 2 were on the right side of the trail. Then came the marks.
Then came Clue Number 3 -- a wide, smashed down entrance to the water.
While we weren't actually able to see any beavers working, dragging trees or building dams, I'm looking forward to watching their progress over the Winter.
Then guilt set in. They were spending their day working while I was out gallivanting in search of Bald Eagles.
You know it's bad when large rodents can give you a case of the guilts. Lesson learned. Expect bucket-loads of work out of me today. No cute animal with large teeth is going to out work me!
Unless, of course, I get wind of another eagle sighting . . . .