💞 Gift-Giving with Heart: for Travelers, Intellectuals, Artists, and Wonderers

For Valentine’s Day, I have some bad and good news for you, some sad and yay! Papyrus and Paper Source have gone bankrupt 😔. I have really loved these stores and have gotten many wonderful things over the years. Especially during Covid-19, it has been hard to be a retailer specializing in supplies for the lost arts of journaling and letter writing. There still is a store near my home and I intend to support them as best as I can for now and hope they will stay open for business. During Covid-19, it has been a great source of comfort for many people around the world to turn to journaling and to send and receive letters in the mail. I hope that more people will continue to practice handwriting as gifts to themselves and others. I have been a journal and letter writer for over a decade and everyone who receives a handwritten note always loves it. This V-Day and beyond, let’s bring back the art of handwriting 💌!

Without further ado, in this blog post, the good news! I am sharing thoughtful and nontraditional gift ideas to inspire creative gift giving that will expand the recipient’s sense of adventure, wonder, and enjoyment of life. Along with some suggestions that can be found on Amazon and delivered to your doorstep via Prime, I am also suggesting some products from local and small businesses. Gift giving is an art and a skill that requires being perceptive and thoughtful. I hope you love gift giving as much as I do! The best gifts are heartfelt and generous.

This isn’t your typical Valentine’s day card but what I love about it is that the graphic art in the lettering for the “YOU” reminds me of what you can see through the airplane window. It is an uplifting and cheerful card that tells the recipient what a difference they make with the words inside: “Thank you for brightening so many of my days.” If you have been fortunate to have someone who has brightened your days during the Covid-19 lockdown, this is a thoughtful way of expressing your appreciation. This is the card for someone who brings on the sunshine.

If you haven’t heard of Robert Sabuda, you are in for a treat. He is a seasoned, talented artist who creates magnificent pop-up books that are intricate works of art that inspire you to keep the wonder and whimsy alive and well in your life no matter how far the years may take you. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a timeless classic that is made even more delightful with Robert Sabuda’s magic touch. Be a big romantic and write this quote in the card you give: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Do you have someone in your life who has taken to making their own homemade mayonnaise and mastering the art of sole meunière during the lockdowns? Julia Child is the woman who can give them plenty to do and keep them busy for a long time to come. If you would like to put the amateur turned pro home chef to work, pick up her memoir, My Life in France, which is also an epic endearing and enduring love story, and her Mastering the Art of French Cooking two-volume set. If you have a special friend who sticks with you through thick and thin that you can say anything to and share anything with, try gifting the letters between Julia Child and her pen pal Avis DeVoto.

Julia Child’s My Life in France

Mastering the Art of French Cooking Set

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

This is a high quality wood pop-up card for lovers with a trip to Europe in the cards. Add a note: “Meet me in Paris.”

The Five-Minute Journal is an excellent journal from independent publishing company Intelligent Change to build the habit of positive morning and evening rituals that ripple out into your life with lasting results of upliftment. Sean and I both have one, it is total #CoupleGoals and a gift that you should give away like Oprah Winfrey for any occasion, Valentine’s Day or otherwise. Tim Ferriss has been using Five-Minute Journal for many years.

There is a Five-Minute Journal for kids too!

If you would like to gift yourself or someone who is aiming to amass the biggest indoor jungle possible, this six-pack of baby plants is a great gift. If you select two or more, they will give you more variety. They will get bigger. I checked the company and product reviews, they do send good quality plants. I cannot predict demand, so I cannot say whether they will continue keeping this offering in stock. I recommend potting with Fox Farms soil.

If you would like to say it with flowers and send it to many people, the New York Botanical Gardens postcard set has 100 gorgeous high quality, heavy card stock illustration prints to send a pop of natural splendor and color to everyone you know. You may want to buy a set to keep for yourself and one to send. It is also fun to get photo frames and frame them as art. I really love them.

If you have a tea lover to please and you would like to treat them to the best, I highly recommend The Art of Tea. I first tried Art of Tea at the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge and really loved it. This is the tea brand they serve for the Beverly Hills Hotel high tea. You can order online. They are currently donating 5% of all matcha sales to the Gift of Life marrow registry. BONUS: KCRW (Los Angeles public radio) members get a discount! 10% off premier, organic & specialty tea; use code KCRW. Fringe Benefits (for Greater Los Angeles) are AWESOME!

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

Ladies and Gentlemen, let the leather goody fun begin! Portland Leather Goods has a mystery package of EIGHT HANDCRAFTED LEATHER GOODS available for $158, a retail value of $400 😲. You can get a tote, leather dopp bag for the gents, leather travel tags, and all kinds of high quality leather surprises. I absolutely love this company and can’t recommend them enough. Whatever you get is gonna be good. I almost can’t believe this is available. I bought myself a tote for Christmas already but if I would’ve known… maybe I can get myself another tote.

Lather is a company I discovered from a hotel stay at the Avila La Fonda in San Luis Obispo. They are based in Pasadena, CA, and make a FULL LINE of skin and haircare products that incorporate natural, high quality ingredients. Their yuzu bergamot shampoo and rinse are out of this world. I love everything. My favorite aloe vera and macadamia nut oil shampoo that I used for yeeeaars is no longer available because the company bankrupted 😭. I have a lot of sensitive skin issues and can’t even use Aveda, Aveeno, or Burt’s Bees. Often, there is greasy, heavy residue and I get painful rashes and sores on my scalp and hairline. I get scared to try new things. This company was the answer to my concerns about finding a new shampoo and rinse product. Sean and I have sampled many of their products for face, body, hair, and even for muscle aches, and we’ve loved them all. Plus, everything smells amazing. Here’s an introductory sample kit of Lather products for you to try for yourself or gift:

Have you heard of the $75 cashmere sweater? Put down the knitting needles and get $20 off on your first order of $200+, which covers matching ultra-soft, sustainably produced, 100% Mongolian cashmere sweaters or jumpers, if that’s your lingo. Plus, there’s pajamas, hoodies, sweaters / jumpers for the pooch, and more! Here’s to you adorable matchy-matchy couples and dog parents!

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

If you would like to spoil your sweaters silly, tuck them into a reusable mesh laundry bag (I get mine from Daiso, the Japanese dollar store) and wash them with The Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo on handwash cycle, then air dry.

Interested in a splurge for your feet that will give you years of pleasure to come? Oregon-based company Nootkas elevates the humble house slipper by crafting New Zealand wool fleece to hug your feet. Wool is naturally moisture-wicking and antimicrobial. You can throw them in the wash in a mesh laundry bag on hand wash cycle and hang to dry. This is one of my favorite partnerships! PNW + NZ = WIN!

Photo by Temo Berishvili on Pexels.com

How about a trip to Milan? Eataly’s A Trip to Milano is a box of indulgent bounty for the foodies. Don’t forget the foodies!

If London is calling and the traveler yearns to take off as soon as flight restrictions are lifted, give a copy of Eat Like a Local: London Edition. Sadly, they don’t have a guide to Manchester, but you can’t miss out nonetheless! If you do have plans to fly out to the UK as soon as possible, you must include Manchester in your plans. If anyone is still hanging on to the old nonsense about British food being bad, they aren’t in the know. The last time I was there, the great British food revival was on full steam. I enjoyed food trucks in the park and had a great time.

Here are some other gift ideas:

I hope I have sparked a lot of good ideas for thoughtful gifting. Thanks for reading!

Some links in this post are affiliate.

The Joy of the Find: Is Consignment Shopping Worth it?

Living in New York City got me in touch with the joy of the find. I found a beautiful hunter green duffel bag with leather trim that I carried around for so many years. New Yorkers love their fashion and they are not particularly snobby about where they get their fashion from. Labels are great at all and from time to time, there are trends, but real New Yorkers are very savvy about finding unique statements that are true to their personality. They elevate it to an art. I remember one of the first fashion impressions that New York City made on me was a woman in a bright 1950s lipstick red A-line skirt. It was a flash of exuberance in a crowd full of people wearing black.

I find things in thrift stores that have people coming up to me to talk to me about what I am wearing. Some people have a stately poodle or an adorable cocker spaniel. I have leopard print pants, a linen embroidered skirt that I found for less than $20 and saw at an upscale vintage store for $84, a silk floral patterned Brooks Brothers shirt that I got for $16 and things that I pull out of my closet that people can’t believe how much I paid for. There is a reason why New Yorkers will dive into bins and fight over an Alexander McQueen blouse.

Fortunately, with the advent of online shopping, you don’t have to do that. In this blog post, I will share recent online consignment finds from ThredUp and tips and tricks on how to zero in on what you want. If you would like to dive in, I have a promo code for both of us to have some fun! $10 for you, $10 for me.*

In the pictures above, I have finds from Eileen Fisher, Gap, Anne Taylor, H&M, and Free People. I like to be comfortable. Some of my criteria are: natural materials, lightweight, breathable, softness, interesting patterns, and packable for travel. The thing that is awesome about women’s wear is that it can often be much more lightweight and packable than menswear. I am a petite size, 5 ft nothing and wear a size zero, extra small, 24 waist, size 36 shoes. What is fantastic about that is I can pack more in a smaller luggage piece while my partner gets grumpy that I seem to be more prepared than him.

A while back, I sent a message to the Thred Up team asking them to make the searches filterable by material. So now, if you look up all clothing and look to the left hand side of the web page, you can check the boxes and look for just cashmere, linen, or cotton. In addition to this, select your sizes, the colors that you are interested in, the brands, price range, and the condition of the clothing. I usually select all colors except for black and gray because I believe in expressing yourself more confidently than that.

Always select “new with tags” or “nearly new.” You don’t want to get something that you throw in the wash and it falls apart. Don’t be afraid of dry clean only, just get a mesh laundry bag that you can zip up and throw the piece of clothing into the washer on hand wash and line dry afterward. If you really want to extend the life of your clothing, get yourself a fabric shaver, sweater comb, unscented and sensitive laundry soap or garment shampoo, and a steamer. If you have the money to drop, get yourself a dry cleaning locker. I think you can get them from LG (Styler) or Samsung (AirDresser). Asians are really crazy about taking care of their clothes and they are light years ahead of us Westerners. I actually found out what a dry cleaning locker was from an Asian supermarket near my partner’s mom’s house. It is really fun when you find a cashmere sweater for $20 or $30 or you find a smashing dress that turns everyone’s heads. There are also some European fashions that land into this online consignment store, so sometimes it helps not to search by certain brands that you know of. There are clothes from Italy, Germany, England, and France that you could miss out on.

All of my finds except for the crazy snakeskin viscose pajama set thing from H&M were brand new with tags still attached. I took the tags off of the Eileen Fisher cotton pants (Sean calls them my karate pants but I really don’t care) and the Gap modal shirt. Sometimes, there are materials that you can’t filter by. For this, I have saved searches for materials that I’ve researched and like to look for every now and then. These are: cupro, ramie, tencel, modal, and lyocell. All of these are derived from natural products and are more breathable.

This piece was a splurge that I really wanted to try. Tag still attached, with an extra button. Retail value $148, found for $76.50. This was the most I have ever paid for a consignment piece.

There can be a risk of getting something that doesn’t fit you well. Most of the clothes that I buy more often are from old familiars like Gap, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Anne Taylor, Eileen Fisher, Anthropologie, and Free People. There is a restocking fee and you do have to pay for shipping. A way to offset the restocking fee is to buy a bunch of clothes that you’re sure you would like to try and get points for them, then return the ones you aren’t sold on all at once. It will always be the case that something looks good online but when you try it you’re not feeling it. You can cash in the points to waive the restocking fee (see photo below). The shipping cost is feasible when you really are getting the best bang for your buck.

The first time that I used Thred Up, I had a first time user coupon code and really needed clothes for a new job that I had just landed. I loaded up on just about $1,000 worth of clothes that I got for less than $200. If you are building a professional wardrobe, I recommend trying Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J-Crew, Theory, Eileen Fisher, Tahari, Joie, and French Connection. Look to Claire Underwood’s classic high-class wardrobe, on House of Cards, Olivia Pope’s wardrobe on Scandal, or Joan Watson’s smashing ensembles worn on the set for Elementaryare great sources for inspiration. Bravo to the costume crews. You can also find a killer fashion mood board here (courtesy of moi).

Overall, I feel that it is good to mix it up and have some consignment finds along with other new clothes that you love at first sight. The joy of consignment shopping is finding something unique that you won’t be able to find elsewhere or to stock up on good quality classic basics that sharpen your look.

Voila! you don’t have to fight with a New Yorker for something you like. That easy! Never be disheartened that you don’t find something that sparks joy, as Marie kondo puts it, or that you didn’t score a find. There is always going to be something in the fashion world for you to be jazzed about. You have an entire lifetime a fashion finds out there and the world will never run out of options. They are currently having a January sale with 35% off that ends at midnight but don’t worry if you miss it. There will be more sales. You will not be left alone with a sowing machine and old linens to patch your own clothes together. The fashion world will keep producing more clothes.

If you are curious to follow the global journey of cotton being picked in Texas and turned into a t-shirt, being bought at a store and donated for consignment, and finding its way to a used-clothing bazaar in Africa, read Pietra Rivoli’s book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy*. It is a fascinating read that will forever change what you think of what you wear.

*I use affiliate programs and links mindfully. I share what I actually find valuable and relevant. Like, for instance, you won’t find me suddenly sharing fast food promotions or anything from a company or product I have not done my own research on. I do encourage supporting independent businesses like book retailers but am also not above shopping Target and Amazon from time to time.