Friday, December 26, 2014


I thought it would be fun to talk about some of my favorite small businesses that you could shop with this year for fun, unique gifts, which help a real human being I know personally prosper.

I remember many years ago when Sandy - at that time the owner of Stamp Salado (Central Texas' last independent stamp store, sadly) - was passionately explaining to a group of people taking a class in her store the benefit of $1 spent locally versus $1 spent at a chain store. Then last year, I heard +Alton Brown speak in Austin about how you should pay for your groceries with $1 bills, and look at each dollar as a vote for the things you are buying. Are you voting for food from China or food from America? Are you voting for products which have a label detailing country of origin of each step of the process, or are you voting for food that says "distributed by" and that's it?

I do consider every dollar a vote, and especially when it comes to buying gifts at this or any other time of the year. I know what a dollar to a local artist means because - well, I AM a local artist and I know how awesome it is when people vote for me with their dollars. :)

On average, $1 spent locally returns about 4 times as much to the local economy as $1 spent in a national chain does.

So this holiday season and in 2015, consider shopping with some of my fave independents - I know all these people - not all are in Austin, but all offer online shopping. These are truly some of my favorite things.

  • Confituras - locally produced jams, flavored salts and preserves.
  • Love Bean Fudge - I don't even really like chocolate, but this stuff is like crack. It's what Nutella wishes it was. It's not really fudge in the traditional sense - it's more like a chocolate spread. My favorite is the coconut.
  • Keith Kreeger Porcelain - beautiful, beautiful stuff. I go see Keith every chance I get at local shows.
  • T. Marie's Toffee - I told her that she needs a new word for this stuff because it's not like any toffee I've ever had. It's light and crunchy and unbelievably perfect. I have sent this to my co-workers in California and to the demonstrator support team at Stampin' Up! and they can all back me up on its amazeballness.
  • Kreativlink - the most beautiful handmade journals I've ever seen in my life - I have four of them. Renate does incredible work and is such a sweet human being. 
  • Patti Backer art - Patti is one of a small circle of beloved humans that I "met" on Twitter and later got to meet in real life. Her whimsical art just makes me smile and I have several of her paintings hanging in my studio. She and her husband are such sweet people, and you could not patronize a nicer artist, I promise. 
  • Miles of Chocolate - Again - I'm not a chocolate fan, but this local food artist produces something that is like a cross between a brownie and an angel. Trust me. You need this in your life.
  • Sunny Carvalho - Another artist whose work hangs in my studio, Sunny has a fun, silly style that's edged with a little darkness. Something about her style reminds me of Edward Gorey and I just love her. When you see her work up close, the detail is astonishing. Add that to the fact that she sings and dances while she paints and you have a charming combo. I love her line of rubber stamps as well. Here's her Etsy shop, and you can see her paintings and buy them from her through her Facebook page.
  • Fairbanks Fancy Goods - the artist is Julie Vician - again a sweet person and a talented seamstress. Since I can't sew a lick, I like to leave the pillow making and whatnot to Julie.
  • The Stitch Lab - I cannot recommend this small business enough. The owner, Leslie Bonnell, is an incredibly talented, funny and gracious lady and a real Austin original. I first met Leslie on some sort of studio crawl years ago, when she was operating the Stitch Lab out of her home. At that time, she was teamed up with Jody Haller, who opened the The Furry Godmothers and became my pet sitter for our kitty Spot. The Furry Godmothers no longer work in my zip code, but maybe they work in yours!
  • Speaking of pet sitters, a friend and former co-worker of mine (I've known her for nearly all of her life - she's the daughter of a good friend of mine) operates Paws and More pet sitting here in Austin. If there's anyone you would trust with your furry critters, it would be Allison! She loves animals and has a kind heart.
  • Blue Bridal Boutique - owned by my sweet friend (and former employee) Ruthie - is Austin's favorite bridal store! Her goal was to provide an affordable option for Austin's brides after several years of wedding planning, and her boutique is beautiful, as is she, inside and out.
So there you go - spend a few of your "votes" on some local people and make them count!

Now today is Friday, so it's the Mix-Ability challenge on Splitcoast, and Dina's challenge is SO creative! Perfect for our ONE HUNDREDTH mixed media challenge! Her challenge is to choose one color from each ring of her color wheel - a shade, a hue and a tint. I thought a fun way to do that would be with sponging through a stencil, because I can both layer different colors and layer the same colors to achieve different intensities. My colors are yellow (tint), orange (hue) and red (shade).

I used the Fade Horizontal stencil from Green Pepper Press and +Jennifer McGuire's masked tree technique with low tack tape. The greeting is from Christmas Bliss. A little bling and poof! :)

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You know what Christmas bliss is? Not having to venture into a store! :) Since we did the handmade/re-gift Christmas we were all free of the shopping burden and there were some VERY cool gifts given. There were re-gifted books and DVDs - a delight! My sister made candied ginger for everyone, as well as a little packet with both herbs (rosemary and sage) from her garden, as well as a few little acid oranges off her tree. My nephew did this hilarious glitter painting for his mom that looked like a four year old did it (he's in graduate school). My nephew's girlfriend made us all homemade laundry detergent and homemade dish detergent (pictured below) that smells SO amazing. She also made these little Ball jar sewing kits with a pincushion built into the top. Too cute. My brother, who is a photographer, made all of us photo mugs with photos he'd taken of us at family gatherings over the years - my dad's is below. My mom re-gifted some awesome crafty stuff to us - a Xyron for me, an Anna Griffin Cuttlebug to my sis.

Here are a few pics of other fun items from the day.

I got the Book of Poisons - MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Just for writing purposes, of course. Heh.

My sister in law made chocolate covered candied bacon - it was amazing.
 My sister made homemade cat toys out of paper towel rolls that my cats went NUTS over. All cat owners received these.
 Here's the mug my brother made for my dad.
 This was Amber's natural laundry soap - I wish you could smell this. I'm a HUGE homemade soap fan, but I've only made the boring kind that smells like Dial. Hers smells incredible and it's so finely powdered.
I forgot to take pictures of the gifts I gave, but they included homemade Alton Brown fruitcakes for everyone, which have been sprayed daily with brandy for the last two weeks, Love Bean Fudge single serving packets from my pantry (linked in my list above), packets of True Lemon, True Lime, True Orange and True Grapefruit for everyone. I love this stuff and had bought a big variety pack of little packets of them this summer because I love them in tea. My sister-in-law does medical work in Haiti and said these would come in handy. I painted a little cactus watercolor for my niece's boyfriend who lives in West Texas, a sunflower painting for my niece, a pear painting for my parents, and also re-gifted some books and DVDs.

There were tools, pots and pans - other fun re-gifts that were fantastic too.

It was SO much fun and I highly recommend doing Christmas this way. Even people who don't *think* they are creative get pretty darn creative during these events and I love the uniqueness of each gift.

Thanks +Jenn Nahrstadt for suggesting that I list these out - it was fun!

Hope you had a great Christmas and have a little break between now and 2015.



  1. Your family sounds like a hoot and what a fab way to gift! I love true lemon! I carry it in my purse and add it to water on the rare occasions we eat out! Our stores don't carry True orange, that sounds yummy! I imagine it will be a huge treat for your SIL when she works in Haiti! Love the cat toy!
    Fun card and congrats on the Mix challenge turning 100! Wow time flies!

  2. Couldn't agree more with your thoughts, Lydia. Your links showcased uber talented artists.
    I am blessed to live in a very creative community that places value on the work of our hands.

  3. Hi Lydia. I love those homemade gifts. I have never had candied bacon. It is bacon so I'm sure it is yumm. Good thoughts to make me ponder how I spend my money Lydia. I have a local hamburger bus called "Out and About" that had the BEST onion rings. I love to support them. Happy new Year.

  4. Thank you so much for including me, darling Lydia!!

  5. I'm back!! LOL. With a ton of family around, I didn't have time to fully read the blog post yesterday. I found time this morning. What a wonderful way to have Christmas with only handmade items. I think that is a great way to do things! I think some members of my family would resist making things but they sure do seem to like it when I make things for them! Hahaaa! My daughters and I tend to do that every year but not the hubby or other relatives. I'm also excited to check out the other artists and links you mentioned and again, thank you for including me. I'm ready to go all out for 2015!!! Happy New Year!

  6. Our DIL did this for both grandparents. She was inspired by a Reggio art project It was so creative and meaningful. She even had Teddy decorate the wrapping paper. Our family highly encourages this type of Christmas giving. Loved your post, Lydia.


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