Thanksgiving is a time that most Americans gather with loved ones and celebrate a bountiful harvest, but more than anything give thanks for all of our blessings. I find it odd that we gather to show gratitude on Thanksgiving, yet twelve hours later so many of us frantically elbow through crowds to purchase a bunch of plastic things made in China by ill-paid people for Black Friday (this video is from my hometown Wal-Mart). Mostly things we don’t “need,” and our efforts are usually so exhausting- standing in long lines and getting up in the middle of the night, that most likely we are not spreading holiday cheer.

This year was the first time I have ever heard of Cyber Monday. This goes without saying that I sort of live in a shell– I read, but I do not watch TV (unless the Bears are playing or an occasional NYC Housewives rerun), and I don’t know who most celebrities are anymore. I got a birthday card with a picture of Justin Beiber on it and had no idea who he was.

This holiday season, it is expected that consumers will spend over 465 billion dollars on holiday shopping (according to the NRF). That number is nothing short of astonishing to me. I don’t think because we are consumers that we are bad, or that the holidays should not be filled with gift giving. I am taking this opportunity to encourage others (and remind myself) of being mindful of quality over quantity. If we all made an effort to increase the purchases at our local stores and make online purchases from handmade sources, it would decrease the amount of fossil fuels used and increase the amount of money kept in the pocket of small business owners, and out of corporations. I would rather give/receive one handmade, high quality item that I bought from a local vendor than 3 or 4 cheaply made items that were bought from a huge retail chain. In light of the holiday season, I want to remind you that as consumers, how you spend your money matters. Gift giving is a wonderful part of the holiday season and a great way to show gratitude/love, so why not take the opportunity to shop local/buy high quality items? The only place I “shopped” was at a farm on Black Friday. Straight from the seventy year old farmer— organic avocados, olive oil, and homemade pomegranate jam.

I love to celebrate holidays, but it is also a time when it is easy to get lost in all of the fuss. We tend to get caught up in details that don’t matter, not take time for ourselves, and overcommit. In lieu of the holiday season, blast the Christmas music, enjoy and indulge without feeling guilty, but also remember to take deep breaths, walks, and not sweat the small stuff. You cannot do everything; so if the Christmas cards go out late and the gingerbread house doesn’t get done, everything will be alright. If you find yourself getting caught up, take a second to think about gratitude and all the things that bless our lives– love, friendship, delicious food, and special gifts we don’t really need. Below is a list of my holiday favorites this season:

I recently bought these page flags from Paper Source and I love them- they make reading FUN! They are artistic and fully functional. Great stocking stuffer for the reader in the family (bookmarks are so out of style).

Page markers available in different styles at your local Paper Source.

For the sporty woman in your life, Impact Fitness designs and makes all of their clothing in the United States. My top pick is this tank, rated number one for their athletic tops.

Photo courtesy of Impact Fitness

Nest on Fillmore Street in San Francisco has some of the most unique, high quality items for sale. On my last visit I picked up San Francisco resident Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Every Day, but their jewelery, cards, and small items all top my wish list. If you are in the neighborhood, best cupcake in town, the chocolate chip cookie cupcake from Citizen Cake.

Also in San Francisco, one of the country’s only bookstores devoted to food, Omnivore Books is staffed with knowledgable foodies who know their inventory. You could spend hours perusing titles or come in for one of their frequent events with authors, local chefs, and other people involved with food.

My favorite datebook is called We’Moon (symbolizing women)  it is a multicultural earth-spirited calendar, We’Moon features art and writing by and about women, more than a traditional datebook, it is a reference for a natural calendar of moon cycles, horoscopes, and astrological information. My favorite part about using it as my planner is the artwork and short stories/poetry, they also sell calendars and cards with the same theme. My sisters started using these years ago, and I of course, thought it was another one of their crazy hippie things, but then I realized I don’t have to know what the moon cycles mean to appreciate a datebook featuring women artists and authors. We’Moon is a Co-op America certified green business, and printed with soy based ink on recycled paper.

Photo courtesy of We’Moon

For the cook, these glass tupperwarecontainers are very handy. They are perfect for food storage, but their specialty is leftovers– these bad boys can go from freezer to oven. Because there is no plastic, you eliminate the chance of chemicals (like BPA) leeching into your food.

Photo courtesy of Crate and Barrell

These sandals by Sseko are really beautiful and you weave your own to make your own design. Even better? They have a purpose–they are made by women studying for university in Uganda.

These baskets are made by women in Africa from a fairtrade company, Baskets of Africa, and are so beautiful they become an accessory at a farmer’s market. So useful and beautiful…love how colorful they are too!

Photo Courtesy of the Nourishing Gourmet

Holiday Music: My friend singer and songwriter, Andrew Ripp has a new holiday CD out. My favorite song is his upbeat version of Joy to the World, both the songs and CD are available on iTunes. On my wish list is also the Not So Silent Night concert in Oakland on December 9th, featuring two of my favorite bands- Mumford and Sons and Florence and the Machines. Florence and the Machines have a new CD out, and my favorite tune is called Never Let Me Go. It is the type of music that makes me want to gather around a campfire and dance around; they reference the natural world a lot in their lyrics- the ocean, sky, stars, moon, etc.

Local craft fairs are a great way to purchase directly from vendors. In San Francisco, the Renegade Craft Fair is December 17th and 18th and for all of my Chicago peeps it is on December 3rd and 4th.

Another great option is to make a donation in someone’s name or purchase gifts from charities. Here is a helpful top 11 list of gifts from non-profit companies that make a difference around the world.