💞 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.

Pro travel tip: What you should always check before checking in

The number one thing you should not skip checking before you check into a hotel room is THE BEDS. When you look up hotels and comb through the review, see if you can search reviews to filter for a specific result. You can do this with Google Reviews, for example.

If a bed is uncomfortable to the point of not being able to sleep, it won’t matter how great the views or the amenities are. You won’t want to stay there. The bed can make or break your stay. When a hotel hits the sweet spot of comfortable beds, great interior and exterior, location, service, everything that you are looking for, you will definitely love to stay a while. Don’t check into a hotel room without checking for bed comfortableness. Just do a quick search for “bed,” you won’t want to find out when you get there.

Keeping It Simple

Hello! Aloha! Kia ora! Allô! Ciao! So many wonderful ways to say hello, the newest of which I have learned is ‘Kia ora,’ a beautiful Māori greeting acknowledging the mana, the life energy of all who are greeted. If you haven’t met me yet, my name is Emma. You may have noticed some changes. We’re in the process not reworking just about… everything. I have scaled a lot back and reduced everything down to keep it all much more manageable.

The beauty of keeping it simple is not only manageability, but scalability and sustainability, two things which are often noted as important in matters of business but have proven to be very important for life itself. When I began working towards the creative independence Albert Camus wrote of in his book, Create Dangerously, I had tremendous expectations. Most everyone is aware of the socioeconomic, geopolitical, cultural, and technological challenges of today’s world. Along with these, I’ve also faced the challenges of a traumatic brain injury, the traumatic effects of domestic violence, and chronic neuromuscular conditions which have damaged my nerves, cervical spine, and right shoulder considerably.

Through pain and tiredness, how does one attempt to not only be an artist, but a free agent who works for no one but their selves?

I’ve been working steadily and consistently towards this aim from September, 2017, and have found that my own mana, my life’s energy, vitality, and essence, has grown alongside the increases in my creative potential and personal power. It has become a mutual, almost symbiotic aim, the will to heal and the will to succeed, one inspiring and supporting the other. As success increases in holistic ways, both personally and professionally rewarding, I am able to invest more into lifestyle choices which bring more and more beauty, healthy foods, fabulous experiences, breakthrough insights, and therapeutic treatments into my life.

I found that I could not and would not fail. It meant everything. My life, my health, my personhood. Winning was not simply a matter of conceit but sine qua non, an absolutely essential and necessary condition.

More work does not necessarily yield greater results. Working smarter, not harder, can create great leverage and advantages. It is challenging to learn but it has been done and can be done, especially if one holds the steadfast commitment to mastery.

Today, I have won. Every day, I win. With every choice I make, my personal power grows. Yet, I do not base my self-worth nor the measure of my value, on what I am capable of doing or a quantity of hours worked, dollars earned, social media engagements, or any such metric. I have worked for so many corporations lost to metrics that they have lost vision, originality, and creativity, I have learned from their mistakes. Additionally, people lose insight and inspiration when they feel as if they are observed—social media has become a boon and a suppressor of human potential.

I am unable to work at a computer for very long and do much of everything the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper, and I call people on the telephone rather than text or email them if I really wish to speak to them. Face to face interaction is very valuable. It is okay to have limitations if you learn how to work with them to the best of your ability.

Oprah Winfrey’s famous quote, “You can have it all, just not at once,” does not mean that you cannot have all the elements of a happily well-lived life all at once, which I strongly feel I do in every given moment. I have a loving relationship with an emotionally available and intelligent partner who sees me and accepts me for who I am, we have a beautiful home, I have a beautiful life, and I feel highly inspired and creatively fulfilled. Yet, when it comes to having so many big ideas that I can’t possibly handle all at once, I cannot afford to overwhelm and inundate myself to the point of burnout—I’ve been there done that! Recently, in fact. I had no idea until we had a holiday in New Zealand for two weeks that I was so burned out that the littlest thing took the greatest effort.

Always take one thing at a time. I have worked with project managing incredibly large digital multimedia operations and know how it all works, well enough to know that I alone cannot take on the work of hundreds of brilliant people. For this reason, I am scaling back on everything I was formerly trying to take on all at once, including writing and publishing, branding, marketing, email newsletters, social media, networking, etc. It was too much and very foolhardy to attempt to take on. I am going to trust the universe and will gradually scale and collaborate as needed.

Below, I have included a photograph I took at Flaxmere Gardens in New Zealand. I was looking through stock photos and found that none could match the beauty of this garden. We had a wonderful time visiting New Zealand recently and I would love to go back as soon as possible. Maybe even live there! It is such a great place to feel inspired.

If you love my writing and enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation pitch into my pool to support my thriving and creative independence. Thank you!

Sean on the bridge, Flaxmere Gardens 128 Westenras Road, Masons Flat 7385, New Zealand