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This post has been a long time in coming, oh yes! I had it on my to-do list several weeks ago, which is actually when I started taking notes and working on it. But since this year I decided to structure things differently, it took much longer to complete to my satisfaction.
All these treasures are ones I either own, use and love already, or that are on my own shopping list. Some are long-ago discoveries, some are recent, but they are all wonderful. I hope you will like them and that this selection will help you in finding the perfect gift (for the Holidays, or anytime of the year) for your loved ones and for yourself.
As you will see, I have organized them (or tried to) in categories to make things easier. Let’s begin.
I will begin with Mackenzie-Childs because they are a category of their own which I would list under: whimsy and magic. I fell in love with MacKenzie-Childs some years ago while still in Hawai’i, when I spotted some of their whimsical, wonderland furniture and accessories in a Honolulu art gallery, and later on the top floor at Neiman Marcus. When I moved to California, I walked into my friend Valerie’s home to spot this glorious armchair (you can view it here) and knew we shared yet another passion.
Then, about three weeks ago, this e-mail newsletter popped into my inbox featuring the very magical and whimsical figurines you see above. They are part of the quite extensive MacKenzie-Childs family, but are designed by artist Patience Brewster. It was love at first sight, and for someone who is not into collecting anything, other than photos that is, I could not help myself, and began a collection. I just had to include them in this list of treasures.
You can view & purchase these figurines and ornaments at this link. And of course, you can then browse all the other exquisite furniture & accessories MacKenzie-Childs has to offer. Everything by MacKenzie-Childs is created by hand, one by one, by artists and designers in the United States. Their home base is in Aurora, NY., which is where their flagship store is also located, and where I am looking forward to visiting hopefully soon.
Next up is my Wellbeing & Beauty section, which includes mists and essential oils that will support your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as actual skin care and make up that are free of toxins and poisons as well as being cruelty-free.
- Blossom Spirit Botanicals – These mists and essential oil blends are personally prepared by Michelle Fitgerald, a very talented holistic and spiritual healer and all around faerie who, among others, has a special talent for working closely with the energies of nature, and herbs in particular. I first met Michelle in Hawai’i several years ago when we both lived there. That is when I received the first of many amazing healing sessions from her, with my most recent being a remote one just a few days ago. I have been using her mists and oils for some time and I love how powerful and yet gentle they are.
- Color Sprays by Life Potentials – You may know about these sprays through the Color & Wellbeing series of articles contributed to LOOB by color expert Diantha Harris. These sprays are created by Diantha herself, and they are are each imbued with a color vibration, which is one of the most powerfully healing frequencies, higher even than sound.
- Skin Care & Make Up by Beautycounter – I was introduced to Beautycounter by someone who is extremely careful what she puts on her skin and ingests into her body, so I knew this line would be good. I have been using some of their products for several months and I really love them. On top of having such quality skin care products, this is one of the few such brands with also a full line of make-up.
- Skin & Body Care by Naturopathica – I discovered Naturopathica about twenty years ago and have been using their skin care products regularly for about ten years, and just love them. They do not carry a make-up line, but focus on skin & body care, and have more recently introduced a wonderful selection of teas and herbal remedies. They also have two holistic healing centers & spas, one in Manhattan and one in East Hampton.
We now enter the food lover realm (very much one of mine). These are a selection of items I have been meaning to recommend for some time, but was not quite sure how to do it. This list is the perfect place. Items 1-6 are featured in the shopping section of one of my favorite sites, Food 52. Anyway, here goes:
- Matte Black Multi-Purpose Baking Board – this one is very helpful when rolling out pastry that needs to be in a specific size.
- Baking Rolling Pin Set – this set of rolling pins helps with rolling that same pastry in the desired thickness.
- Bamboo Compost Bin – these pretty composting bins are of durable and biodegradable bamboo fibers and also feature an odor-blocking carbon filter. Perfect to keep on the kitchen counter.
- Rattan Market Cart – possibly the prettiest (yet functional) cart I’ve seen to take to the farmers’ market.
- Glass Oven & Freezer Safe Storage Containers – essentially mine are never in the cupboard but always in the freezer or refrigerator with something in them. May have to get more.
- To-Go Casserole Carrier (set of 2) – perfect for when we need to take (hot) rectangular baking dishes with food to friends and family.
- Weck Jars – my absolute favorite jars, ever! I love the many shapes and sizes they come in. They are pretty and functional at the same time. Have had some for years and keep getting new ones, not because they break, but because I use them as gifts (with food in them, of course).
- Kelley’s Kookies – I first found these cookies at an Aloha festival right here in Napa. You walk past and they offer you a sample. You pop it into your mouth without stopping, then do a double take because they are sooooo good! I was told the founder is originally from O’ahu, but she started her small business in L.A. Kelley’s Kookies can be found in a few specialty food stores here and there around California, but it is a lot easier to just order them from their website. They are melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies in many varieties, my favorites being the guava and the macadamia nut dipped in chocolate. Oh, and the lemon, too!
We now delve into the realm of pretty papers, some useful and practical, some fun.
- Personal Planner – This is a super customizable planner that comes in a variety of sizes and styles. Printed on demand in Sweden and shipped (quickly) all over the world, you can design this planner to suit your taste and needs right on their website. You can even choose the front and back covers from a selection of beautiful images they offer, or upload your own, then personalize it with your name if you like. You can even create a file with all your personal dates like birthdays and anniversaries to remember, and then select it to be printed within your daily/weekly/monthly pages. You can make your planner start from whatever date you like. Seriously, this planner is my favorite so far and the most fun. Mine is a big A4 (8.3 x 11.7″) and my cover features an image from one of my favorite Instagramers, Jonna Jinton. I had mine start on September 1st. I also ordered a notebook, and for that I uploaded one of my favorite images. At the top right of their home page, you will see a little flag. By clicking on that you can select the country of delivery, then go from there.
- Elmo Paper Stories – Their subtitle is “Fine Art Wedding Stationery”, and indeed that is what they create, with exquisite craftsmanship and materials. For those of you who are either about to be brides, or who have someone close to you who is about to be, these bridal notebooks & guestbooks are truly one-of-a-kind. And luckily, for those of us who do not have a wedding coming up, they also feature an exquisite notebook. What can I say: beauty and quality has to be shared.
- Coloring Books by Joanna Basford + Coloring Pencils – which are my favorites. The ones I have are about forest faeries and gardens, but I thought this Holiday one was the perfect one to feature here. I follow her on Instagram as well, and she is constantly creating and coming up with new designs. No coloring book would be complete without coloring pencils. I have several sets, but you don’t need quite as many as I have to get you started. This box has a good assortment to begin with without going overboard.
- Bubble Street Puzzle featuring art by Daniel Merriam – Daniel Merriam is a talented local (Sausalito, Ca) artist whose gallery I have drooled over many times. I love the whimsical and colorful paintings he creates, and whenever I will have my own home, I will feature at least one in it. I stumbled upon this puzzle featuring one of his paintings and thought it would be a really fun addition to this list, one that, along with the coloring book above, even children would enjoy. You will find Daniel Merriam’s art featured also in the book section that follows.
And here it is, the section that could not not be here: the Book Lover Gift Guide!
- The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben – Drawing on groundbreaking scientific discoveries, author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that trees are social beings and forests are social networks. Not that I needed to be convinced of that. I am currently reading and loving this book.
- The Green Witch, by Arin Murphy Hiscock – As the caption on the cover explains, this is a gem of a book that helps enhance our connection with nature by guiding us through the way of the green witch. The green witch (female or male) is a naturalist, a herbalist, a wise woman, and a healer who embraces the power of nature and draws energy from the earth and the universe. She calls on nature for guidance and respects every living being, no matter how small.
I happened upon this book a few weeks ago and I am… bewitched by it.
- The House Witch, by Arin Murphy Hiscock – The newest by the same author and to be released today, November 20, 2018. As the cover says, this book will teach you how to create a magical space with rituals, herbalism and spells for the home. I am looking forward to it.
- Your Guide to Forest Bathing, by M. Amos Clifford – Written by the founder of ANFT (Association of Nature & Forest Therapy), aka my first and best Shinrin-Yoku guide and later trainer, this is possibly the best source for those who want to learn about that magical nature practice of Shinrin-Yoku, widely known as forest bathing.
- Château Gudanes, A True Love Story Never Ends – This exquisite book, rich in before & after photos, chronicles the story of the restoration (still continuing today) of a beautiful and big château in the Pyrenees area of the south of France by a family from Australia. The book is available only through their own website, and when you get there, you also want to watch the presentation video created for the book, which is like a mini fairy tale in itself.
- Faeries of the Fault Lines, by Iris Compiet – This is a beautifully illustrated book about the faeries that live in the fault lines of the Earth as envisioned by Dutch author and illustrator Iris Compiet. This book is not one that you can find in a book store or on Amazon, but has to be ordered through the creator’s website. The ordering process may be a little complex, but I am still sharing this book because it is worth it!
- Growing Beautiful Food, by Matthew Benson – Matthew Benson is a talented food & nature photographer living in upper New York state. Besides his photography work, he also runs beautiful Stonygate Farm. I featured this book already on the blog when it first came out in 2015, and it is still worth listing because it is just so beautiful, filled with gorgeous images and relevant information.
- A Table In Venice, by Skye McAlpine – Published a few months ago and authored by one of my favorite Instagramers and food photographers. Skye was born in the United Kingdom, but has lived most of her life in Venice, Italy. Her beautiful book is rich in photographs of food but also of Venice, and rounded out with some traditional recipes from her adoptive land. The link I am leading you to is the one of Amazon in the United Kingdom. The reason for that is that the British edition of the book has the exquisite cover you see above. The cover for the American edition, which you can see and purchase here if you like, is absolutely blah. When I found that out, I made a point of ordering my copy from Amazon UK, which arrived without problems a few days later. Up to you which edition you prefer.
- Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat – This book hardly needs commenting, given that it is a NY Times bestseller. But I love Samin, her love of food, and the genuine, unpretentious way in which she cooks. Despite having tons of cookbooks already, after watching her new series on Netflix by the same title, I ordered a copy of this book and am looking forward to playing with it.
- Naturally Vegetarian, by Valentina Solfrini – A beautiful book rich in food photography and simple vegetarian recipes by another talented food photographer I follow on Instagram. Valentina lives and creates her work in her home town of Gradara, a tiny medieval village on the border between the Marche and Romagna regions in Italy.
- Healing When It Seems Impossible, by Shiroko Sokitch, MD – Just published about a week ago, I received my copy a few days ago and am looking forward to reading this book by talented Dr. Sokitch who combines allopathic and holistic medicine in her office in Santa Rosa, California.
- Simply Color for Everyday Living, by Diantha Harris – I presented this book by talented color expert Diantha Harris in this post when it was first published in 2015, and it connects to the series on Color & Wellbeing also by Diantha right here on LOOB, as well as those wonderful color sprays presented above. It is one of the best and most comprehensive books on how to use color to support and enhance our wellbeing. Available only through the author’s website.
- Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown – Another NY Times bestseller that needs no introduction, but one that I cannot not mention, as I devoured it! And while you are at it, you might want to look at Brené’s other books as well, especially her latest, which I am looking forward to reading.
- Taking Reality by Surprise – by Daniel Merriam – Lavishly illustrated with 250 images, this hardcover coffee table book is the third catalogue raisonné by Bay Area artist Daniel Merriam. It is available through his gallery’s website, where you will also be able to see more of his whimsical art.
- Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert – Oh yes, this is a novel, and I have to say it is one of the best novels you will ever read – if you haven’t already. Award winning author Alan Brennert has a particular talent at creating characters that stay with you long after turning the last page. This is not a new book, but I am adding it here because of the next one the list.
- Daughter of Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert – The long awaited sequel to Moloka’i, which will be released on February 19, 2019, and is now available for pre-order.
For as much as I love everything listed above, the last category is possibly my favorite: Experiences. That is, instead of (or as well as) purchasing a gift in the form of an object, you can gift an experience. There are many, of course, the easiest ones to think of are tickets to a concert (big or small) or a gift card for a spa and so on. Those are all wonderful, no doubt about it, and some are ones you can share with the receiver. My current favorites are the ones pictured above.
- Afternoon Tea – I am happy to say that this is an experience that has seen a steep rise in popularity in recent years. If you live in London, or just about anywhere in the UK, fantastic afternoon teas are easy to come by. Even in cities like Sydney, New York and possibly Los Angeles, afternoon teas have risen in popularity and wonderful ones are available in several places, hotels especially. San Francisco has a few, but out of the city they are hard to come by. However, this one here in Napa, which I have attended already a couple of times and plan to some more, is a particularly special experience as it takes place in an exquisitely renovated Victorian home. Here you can view my photo rich post about this Victorian Holiday Afternoon Tea, and take a look at upcoming dates at this event page of the Ackerman Heritage Home Facebook profile. The Holiday afternoon tea is quite special, but they have dates every month throughout the year, and if you are planning a visit to the California Wine Country, this experience is not to be missed.
One more special afternoon tea event I have not yet attended, but is on my bucket list, takes place at The St. James Tearoom in Albuquerque, NM. I have been following them on Instagram for some time and love what they do. Every few months they create a whole new afternoon tea experience centered around a famous story, with menu and decorations to fit. They had the Harry Potter afternoon tea, and now they are doing the Chronicles of Narnia afternoon tea, and we will see what they will feature next. Take a look and see for yourself, and let me know if you have been and how you enjoyed it.
In Honolulu I recommend the afternoon tea at the Veranda within the Kahala Hotel and Resort, which I have enjoyed many times, and you can see a full post about it here.
All of the above said, you may have some truly wonderful afternoon tea experiences available where you live, so have a look around. And if you find them, please, please, please, let me know in the comment space below, no matter where you live!
- Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing – This is a gentle yet powerful way of being in nature that brings incredible benefits on all levels. Of course, it is perfectly wonderful to go for a walk in nature by yourself, but going with a trained Forest Therapy guide takes the experience to a whole new level. In the past few years, Shinrin-Yoku has become more and more popular all over the world, with many guides becoming certified by ANFT and other organizations, so it is very likely that there will be one in your area. You can read more about forest bathing at this page on my website. Then, at this page on the ANFT website you will find an interactive world-wide map listing all the Forest Therapy guides they have trained.
- Airbnb Experiences – Most people know about Airbnb as a way of renting homes, studios or rooms anywhere in the world one wishes to travel. But most people I talk to have no idea that Airbnb also offers Experiences. These can range from a guided walk in a botanical garden, to a cycling tour of a particular region, to a cooking class, to an encounter with wolves. These experiences are created and offered by people like you and me (under Airbnb parameters and rules, of course) who feel they have something of interest to offer. Just like the rentals, they are available world wide, and you can begin by searching in your area of interest, whether the place where you live, or the one you plan to travel to. Of course, this can also work the other way around, and if you feel you have an interesting experience that others might enjoy, you can offer it on Airbnb. By the way, the Wolf Encounter takes place in Washington State (U.S.A.), about 1 & 1/2 hours-drive north of Seattle, and is one of the most popular. I myself plan to book it next time I am up there.
This concludes my list of treasures. I hope I was able to inspire you with something wonderful that you and/or your loved ones will enjoy. Two things to remember:
1. Thanksgiving weekend is coming up, with wild sales forecasted everywhere for the infamous “black Friday”, which means that many of the sites and businesses listed above will likely have special offers going on on that day, and likely now already. Might as well take advantage of that.
2. Though a few of these links will take you to Amazon, all these items are created and/or manufactured by the artists directly, or by the small businesses they developed over the years. Possibly the largest business listed is MacKenzie-Childs, which started small, but became so popular that it inevitably expanded, yet still works with local artists and artisans that produce incredible quality items.
I also would like to share with you that, by and by, I will add a Shop area to my site. This will be a place where my own prints and other products I am creating will be offered for sale, but the intent is also to put together a curated selection of products I love and recommend, divided by category of course.
Like with many of you, this is a one woman show, so it usually takes some time before I get it all done, especially because I like to do it right.
Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday period coming up, whatever it is that you celebrate. And if you are in the United States, I hope you have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving with family, friends that are like family, and delicious food.
May you be happy,
May you be blessed,
May you prosper in all things.
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