Holiday Break today – back on Thursday!

Hey everyone,

I post blog entries every Tuesday and Thursday, but with the holiday celebrations and Summit having some health problems (we had to take her to the vet on Christmas Day, but she seems to be on the mend) I am taking today off of blog posting.

We had a wonderful Christmas aside from the sick-dog hiccup (not her actual issue) and I hope anyone else who celebrates was as lucky as I was to be surrounded by friends and family.

Thursday I will post some great movie suggestions to get you in the mood for New Years parties/cozy night in. The list will include one of my favourite movies that I watch every year at this time – any guesses?

Have a great week, I will post Thursday!

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Bad Holiday Movies that You Actually Love: Netflix Canada 2016 Selection

Scroll down for a list of 16 ‘bad’ holiday films on Netflix

Remember those bad ‘made for TV’ movies that your mom used to watch when you were growing up? Somewhere along the line, somehow, my sister and I ended up loving them too and there are a lot more to choose from now compared to when I was a kid. Thanks Netflix Canada!


A Brief Reality Check:

Hallmark Channel (yes that Hallmark) seems to be mass producing low-quality Christmas rom-coms – they actually released 22 holiday TV movies just this year alone. Adrienne hallmark-storeGibbs, of Forbes, wrote it best when she said that the channel is “capitalizing on Christmas,” not a surprise when you think about the card company in context with every other holiday or celebration of the year.

So why do I watch these movies when I also acknowledge how awful they can be? People may think that it’s a ‘guilty pleasure’ of mine, but I don’t feel shame in my enjoyment. I, like everyone else, think that I have incredible taste in quality media productions; however, again like everyone else, I like to watch meaningless bad television and movies from time to time. Hallmark Channel movies are no better or worse than the average reality television show

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Screenshot from Once Upon a Holiday (in the list below).

detailing the latest fad occupation (i.e. Shows about being a baker, a stay-at-home pageant mom, an ice truck driver, etc.). Both genres have productions that are: often poorly scripted; predictable; funny without being intelligent; cringe worthy; good to be on the background while you’re doing something more important; and lastly, they frequently star nostalgic actors and actresses who we haven’t seen since the 90’s or early 2000’s.

I’m not telling you to not expect more out of Hallmark movies though – they should still be held accountable for their white-heteronormative plot lines that consistently push the need for a prince charming and feature an insanely low percentage of racial diversity in their cast. We as an audience need to voice our want for more depth and options as white heterosexual women are not the only viewers. There is likely a very diverse audience that wants to watch low quality holiday love stories. If Hallmark Channel is making as many as 22 films for just one season, why do they all have to feature single white women looking for Mr. White – er I mean Right – as their Christmas wish? They don’t. The demand is out there so supply it to us you capitalistic card company conglomerate!


Back to my ‘So Bad It’s Good’ Holiday Movie list:

holiday-favouritesPhew – got that out of my system, so now let’s list the selection of bad-holiday-rom-coms on Netflix Canada 2016. I’ve already watched a bunch, but you may need some background fluff to put on the TV while you finish the last of your gift wrapping or while you get ready for Christmas with the family.

Here they are (not ranked), feel free to click the links below and watch the trailers ahead of time! You can type the title into your search bar or browse for these in the “Holiday Favourites” category on Netflix.

PS. I’ve watched the first seven
PPS. As an atheist I often just choose to ignore whatever religious undertones come with Christmas movies as it’s the original basis for the holidaymovie-collage

  1. Dear Santa 
  2. Holiday Engagement
  3. A Dog Walker’s Christmas Tale
  4. Merry Kissmas 
  5. Christmas Crush
  6. Once Upon a Holiday
  7. My Santa 
  8. A Christmas Kiss II
  9. Christmas Belle (not an actual trailer)
  10. Naughty & Nice
  11. Back to Christmas 
  12. Christmas in the City 
  13. Small Town Santa 
  14. Santa’s Little Helper
  15. How Sarah Got Her Wings 
  16. Angel of Christmas 

Whether you watch these low-budget productions this holiday season or not, I hope that you enjoy yourself (celebrating or not celebrating Christmas)! Be safe, be smart, be merry.

Collection of Christmas Covers: A Video Series from my Past

Scroll down to see collection of Christmas cover videos or you can find them on my YouTube channel.

Second disclaimer, the header features some jingle bells and my autoharp (people often ask what instrument it is). I’m a singer first and an instrumentalist only when I have to be.

I haven’t really discussed my love of singing on my blog yet, I mentioned that Chris and I met at an open mic, but that’s about it. After high school, I started singing in public and was in a series of duos and a short-lived band.collage-1 I sang quite often during the four years that I took off between high school and university, but my university studies then took most of my focus until I graduated. I still sing at events occasionally, but going on tour is now an old dream in the back of my head.

Three years ago I decided to do a small collection of Christmas covers (six to be exact) and I thought that I’d share them with you here as well. The videos also feature musical guests including: my husband Chris who prefers the drums, but played some guitar; one of my best friends and the other half of our duo Darling and the Fox, Darling Meadow; Ryan Alhage, co-creator and friend from our old band Foxy Droids; the talented fiddler Seann Battams of The Doozies and Hairy Holler; and my good friend Heather Luckhart, jazz/folk/blues extraordinaire. With the help of these talented musicians we put together some covers of Christmas favourites and had a lot of fun while doing it.


I started the series with a solo Canadian cover of the Bob and Doug McKenzie comedic version of Twelve Days of Christmas.


Second, I sang with Chris on guitar – Santa Baby.


Third, was my cover with Ryan Alhage, a homemade recording of Baby it’s Cold Outside set to a video of my old dog Daq (a free download of our version of Baby it’s Cold Outside can be found here)


The fourth installment featured Chris on guitar again, but this time he loved me so much that he even performed it with me at an open mic I used to host in town – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.


Fifth, was a very fun cover of Blue Christmas with Heather Luckhart and Seann Battams (we had too much fun with the creepy elf at the beginning).


Lastly, Darling Meadow and I sang Jingle Bell Rock with a cute, but disinterested Daq.


So there you have it, I hope you put on some Christmas songs tonight while you’re making dinner and have a bit of Christmas Kitchen Karaoke with your loved ones (wine encouraged) – try not to hate the songs just because every retail store around you is overplaying them.

A Dog Lover’s Gift Guide: Top Three Tips

Earlier this week I wrote an update about my recent rescue so I thought that I would keep the dog theme going this week by picking my top three favourite dog-owner Christmas gift ideas. One let’s everyone know who they’re dealing with, the second helps avoid backyard backaches, and the third keeps your furry-friend fit.

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For Owners Who Wear their Hearts and Interests on their Sleeves: Dog Themed Clothes
Like most dog-lovers, any product sporting a furry face catches my eye when I pass by. I am a huge sucker for dog-themed shirts and I’ve been searching for a good dog patterned dress for a while now. This is a perfect present for “loud and proud” dog lovers and the website Animal Hearted makes your search that much easier by curating a collection of pet oriented products. Not only will you make that pet-person on your list happy, but you will help some pups too – 25% of Animal Hearted proceeds go to no kill animal shelters!

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Mine’s green!

For Practical Pet People: Top Paw All-In-One Scoop Set
What is it?
It’s a pooper scooper! You use the little rake to scoop the poop into the long-handled poop-pan.
You’d think that a pooper scooper would be an odd gift, but it was given to me and I think that it’s the best thing in the world! My 60lb St. Berdoodle leaves me 120lb St. Bernard sized poops so this handy rake and pan tool is a life/backache saver.

For some reason, I had never owned a proper device for this chore, I have always stooped and scooped with bags or old oversized kitchen spoons to help, but we still had pooperscooperto bend down every couple of feet. It’s simple, but it’s helpful and as much as giving or receiving this item will make you all laugh, it would be one of the most useful gifts a pet owner could get.

I’d also like to take a moment and direct you to one of my latest favourite Instagram accounts: @ipoopinbushes – definitely give them a follow.


collage-3For the Trendy Tech Owner: WonderWoof BowTie
What is it?
WonderWoof is an activity tracker (yes, like your Fitbit) for your dog that connects to your smart device with real time stats on exercise, sleep, and, GPS. The device also calculates
the exercise that your dog needs based on its weight, age, and breed so that you can help your dog reach its healthy goals each day.

Wearable technology is constantly expanding and improving so it can be hard to keep up with the latest and greatest. One thing that I love about the WonderWoof is that it’s available to purchase now. Many wearables collage-2look exciting (like the Kyon Collar), but are not finished being funded which means that wait times are not only long, but sometimes delayed.

If you research the pet wearable market (obviously, a leisure task for us cool kids), you’ll find that there are a ton of activity trackers to choose from. This is similar to wearables in the human departments, except that these collar accessories don’t wrap around wrists. What makes WonderWoof stand out then? It’s in the style. The sleek bow tie comes in seven different colours and patterned bands for those doggos with bold personalities!

The last awesome thing about WonderWoof is that you can buy it online or in the store while you’re doing your other Christmas shopping – Best Buy had it on sale just last month, keep your eyes open!


I hope that my top three tips helped inspire you, let me know some of your favourite pet-presents!

A Festive Front Door Facelift: How to Redo a Wreath

I put our Christmas wreath together a couple of years ago and was happy with it back then, but I knew that I wanted to give it a facelift this year.

This project only cost me $10.00, here is the before and after:

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I used the existing wreath, gold ribbon, and green sprigs from the first design. I set aside the bronze ribbon to be used when wrapping presents or making ornaments this year. The berries had once been a deep burgundy, collage-onebut over time they faded to purple and chipped so they found their way to the garbage.

After bringing the wreath back to its naked state, I thought about what I might want to do next. I knew that I wanted a more simplistic design with classic colours, but what to actually do? This can be an intimidating question when staring at a blank wreath and lacking confidence in crafting. My biggest recommendation is to just try because practice and making mistakes is how you stumble upon your own creative greatness. To quote the great Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Here’s how my process went…

I covered my dining room table in a fitted sheet to protect the wood from potential wreath scratches and any ‘shedding.’ I then laid out my new materials, a classic plaid ribbon and some new red berries. An important step is to put on a holiday film in the background to
help you have fun with a more festive atmosphere. If you’re looking for a less cheesy-Christmas-special feel, I recommend the Australian comedy series A Moody Christmas – it has a follow up season called The Moodys that is less holiday oriented too (these can be found on Netflix Canada).

collage-2Like most women in their mid-twenties, I am an active Pinterest user (here is my DIY Holiday board) and had done some research on wreath styles and DIY bows. I decided on a more simplistic bow – the bow tutorial that I took inspiration from can be found on the Mommy Suite site. The only changes that I made to the tutorial were doubling the bow ribbons, my use of pipe cleaners (I recommend using a colour similar to your ribbon [I clearly did not]), I needed to double the length of the bow knot (from 4” to 8”), and a staple for extra support.

After I had completed my bow, I set it to the side while I weaved mini lights through the frame of the wreath. I had already owned these battery-powered mini lights from my DIY wedding earlier this year. I found them for a really great price on Varage Sale! If you’d like to include lights in your wreath facelift I suggest that you hunt on your local buy and sell websites to find deals near you too.

collage-3The pipe cleaners that I used for the bow actually came in handy to keep it secure, I was able to weave another pipe c. Since this is front door decor, I thought that it would be best to make sure gusty winds don’t blow any pieces away! I weaved a pipe cleaner through the back of the bow (under the pseudo knot) and tied it to the metal frame to keep it secure.

The fun part was next! Placing the sprigs and berries around the branches is similar to garnishing a plate of food that you’re going to be proud of! I bought more berries than I needed because I split them into smaller pieces – I ended up only using two bunches. With a ton of leftover material, I plan on having more crafty fun this season.

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Overall, I am very happy with my updated wreath. I’ve been feeling nostalgic about past Christmases and I love the classic Christmas colours that add to a cozy environment. The wreath will welcome our friends and family into our home during the holidays – now I’m proud of that first impression!

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I hope this post may have inspired you to do your own overhaul or even start from scratch. If you are thinking about taking a stab at it, here are some more DIY wreaths to fuel your yule!

I Won, I Shopped, I Conquered: One of a Kind Show 2016

Remember that I mentioned my love of contests in an earlier blog? About one month ago I entered an online contest to win two tickets to the One of a Kind Show as well as $200.00 to spend while there – I won the grand prize! I was insanely excited as this meant that I would finally be able to go to the large classy craft fair that I have always heard such amazing things about and that I could actually have some extra money to spend on items without worrying about putting the money toward groceries!

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The One of a Kind Show is held twice a year, once in the spring and again in the late fall. The show has been running since 1975 and encourages the tradition of gift giving to include supporting artisans by purchasing handmade products. With Christmas around the corner, the Enercare Centre at the Exhibition Place in Toronto was filled with beautiful twinkling lights, decorated trees, festive decorations, and a ton of potential presents to purchase from a long list of impressive vendors.

 

The show continues to grow in popularity and hosts over 800 Canadian vendors this year, with 137 of those being new participating shops. This is an almost intimidating number of shops to browse in one day, but you don’t have to. The One of a Kind Show provides a stamped form to fill out at the exit, this is to be used as a re-entry pass in combination with your ID for another shopping day. Pay once and go twice!

 

 

My friend Natalie and I decided to take the Go Train to the Ex to avoid any Toronto driving trauma. If you also forego driving, I recommend that you bring warm winter outerwear as it is approximately a ten-minute walk outdoors to get from the train stop to the Enercare Centre building (there is a coat check for $3.00). Neither of us had been to the One of a Kind Show before so we weren’t sure what to expect. We went yesterday afternoon (Monday November 28th, 2016) to beat the weekend crowds which worked out well as we never had to stand in a line.

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When we walked into the immense convention hall, we were greeted by a beautiful tree that towered above us and was surrounded by past show favourite products on display. I adored the collection of pillows and an ottoman adorned in Toronto city skyline silhouettes. Natalie liked the golden goose sporting fashionable earmuffs, this type of headwear is a Nat-approved style this winter.

The show never slowed down in customer foot traffic while we were there from approximately 1pm-4pm, but the lanes were rarely overcrowded. We walked the entire floorplan and backtracked to pick up items that we had waited on earlier. Our legs and feet were killing us by the end of it all which made the train ride home a nice break before driving.

photo-2016-11-29-11-52-55-amAll the walking and perusing was well worth it as there were so many amazing finds to hunt for. I had planned on mainly buying Christmas gifts for loved ones on our list, but without definite ideas of what I was looking for I found myself feeling a bit unsure of what to buy. This was quickly remedied by seeing a million things that I liked for Chris and myself. I bought one gift for a friend’s birthday and the rest of the $200.00 went to fun house décor and a pair of earrings!


My Handmade Haul:

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  • My first purchase of the day was a tea towel with adorable illustrations of animals from films! Claire Manning, the illustrator, hand prints her designs onto 17” x 27” tea towels as well as pillowcases. I enjoyed the design too much to pass it up; it combined my love of animals with my love of movies AND my love of original illustrations. A triple threat tea towel is serious business!
    Visit this vendor at Booth R31.

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  • Next I bought an illustrated beaver pillow with a red and black plaid underside from Sparrow Avenue. Barbara, a former children’s book illustrator, now enjoys screen printing her characters onto textiles and selling them to animal lovers like me. This playful little guy officially sits on our couch and adds a fun style to our eclectic modern décor taste.
    Visit this vendor at Booth S53.

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  • I am extremely pleased with the large print that I purchased from a very charming artist from Montreal. Baltic Club was founded by Melanie Ouellette and Brice Salmon, their pieces maintain a joyful quality whether it be found in the illustrated prints, cards, or pins that they sell. My husband and I really appreciate the country that we live in and I am so excited to show off our new watercolour print featuring province-relevant animals and produce – the artist admitted that he couldn’t think of a specific animal for Saskatchewan so he drew some corn! I am currently working on hanging it above our mid-century bar.
    Visit this vendor at Booth U24.

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  • I was excited to find Double L Décor before we finished our rounds because I saw their geometric planter designs online before heading to the show! The engaged Hamilton couple, Laura Jaschke and Lucas McLellan, work together to design various modern shaped concrete planters that come with potted succulents and air plants. I purchased this geometric one for our dining table and an unseen surprise planter for a friend!
    Visit this vendor at Booth A08.

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  • My last purchase of the day was all for me which is really nice to do sometimes! Another Montreal based brand, Femme Mecanique Designs sells elegant jewelry with a strong modern design element. I purchased a pair of minimalist earrings, but I really fell in love with the dozens of choices in their ‘helicopter seed’ pieces – you know the seeds that flutter to the ground from maple trees (apparently, they have a real name that I do not care to learn)? You must visit their website to see these pieces of jewelry that are definite conversation pieces.
    Visit this vendor at Booth R46.

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I had a wonderful time at the One of a Kind Show this year and will definitely return for future fun.

I suggest picking up a vendor map to circle booths that you’d like to return to, this would have been a huge help for us near the end of our adventure.

Don’t forget that if you can’t make it in person (this show runs until December 4th) and you can purchase many products online through the One of a Kind Show online store!


 

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Left: Judi Patson of Even Design. Right: Stephanie Cheng.

Other favourite vendors that I’d like to give a shout out to are:

 

 

 

Did you go this year? Who was your favourite vendor?

Snow Time like the Past, Present, and Future: Merry Memories in the Making

People often talk about how they would like to travel south for the winter and escape to a hot paradise, but don’t forget to appreciate your surroundings – especially if snow is involved.

I live in Ontario, Canada and we get a bit of each season around here. I think that getting to experience each weather change is really special, don’t you?

1 hyperdrive edit.jpgThe first snowfall of the season happened on Sunday and it made me so happy. The white flakes fell in a hyperdrive-like fashion as I was driving to visit my mom with Summit, listening to Christmas songs on a few alternating radio stations, and it finally felt like the holidays were close by.

Sometime in the last few years I started thinking about how certain places around the world are always hot or others only ever see snow, but we get both. We get spring, summer, fall, and winter which is really amazing.

I absolutely admit that a complaint or two comes out of my mouth like anyone else when I start to get sick of the heat and humidity or the extreme cold temperatures, but by that time I start to get excited about the next season. I have definitely been without a vehicle in the past, walking in the spring showers, sweaty summers, and windy winter flurries (fall is my favourite and I like to imagine it as close to perfect). The point is that I am lucky enough to be able to appreciate the beauty of the changing weather conditions while having a warm house to come home to and I’m truly grateful for that.

Let’s talk about how amazing snow is.

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Summit exploring the melting snow in our backyard.

Think about people who see it for the first time or how fun it is to watch a puppy playing in a snowy backyard. There is an innocent joy to experiencing the phenomena of snow and I think that we get a little piece of that each year when the first snowfall comes around.

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The late Daq and I a couple of years ago.

The snow also reminds me of my youth, playing hockey, going skating, and laughing while decorating the Christmas tree with my family. I smile as I recall a shaggy looking black labradoodle covered in white flakes, smiling back at me and further enhancing my love for her. It also reminds me of my husband who loves the snow.

If you take a few minutes to think about your own personal positive memories that are surrounded by snow you might not dread it as much this year (until you see your driveway that needs shoveling).

The snow has started melting already, but I look forward to it coming back! I am excited about making new memories this year as a newly married couple with our new fur-baby Summit. The falling snow, like the green buds on the trees in the spring, help measure the time that we spend together. Years from now the snow will continue to trigger happy memories that feature sheets of white and some cute doggy footprints.

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Handmade hat by Black Cabin Salvage Co. and handmade ornaments by Tammy Gay (take the workshop on how to make your own here).

 

Let me know some of your favourite snowy memories!

This coming Thursday I will be writing a pop culture post that is connected to appreciating a good snowfall and I’ll leave you with this quote as a hint as to what it will be about:

“Wait, close your eyes and breathe. I smell snow.”

Home (Shopping) for the Holidays: Ordering Gifts Online

Christmas is less than 40 days away – how are you prepping for it?

Thinking and purchasing gifts for your loved ones can be intimidating, but with technology these days you can be comfortable and even drinking a glass of wine during the process! It’s still November so shopping in stores is pretty doable, but December is closing in fast and so are those grumpy shoppers. I suggest that you avoid the lineups and checkout online instead.


History and Numbers

Online shopping has actually been around since 1979 when computer and electronics innovator Michael Aldrich invented the original concept in the United Kingdom:

“In 1979 he connected a modified domestic television via a telephone line to a real- time multi-user transaction processing computer. He marketed the system from 1980 onward and sold mainly Business-to-Business systems.”

Fast forward to 2016, and online methods have obviously advanced quite a bit and, if you haven’t already, so can you!

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Big Commerce Infographic.

According to Big Commerce, “96% of Americans have made an online purchase at some point in their lives, and four in five (80%) have done so in the last month alone.” The statistics sound high, but when you think about it, a lot of people that you know probably shop online – my husband and I definitely do. Although this shopping trend may be associated with younger generations, people of all ages are discovering the benefits for themselves.

Big Commerce’s infographic on age demographics shows that the percentage of shoppers decreases with age, but that it is not just millennials who are sidestepping department store lineups:

Laura Stevens, of the Wall Street Journal, discussed the results of UPS’s annual online shopping survey earlier this June. She explained that for the last three years the percentage of what online shoppers are buying has increased – this year they made approximately 51% of their purchases online.

I hope that these numbers help to ease reader’s minds who may have been nervous about online shopping. If you are on a secure retailer’s website that has positive reviews (always read reviews), then you, like millions of other people, will likely have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.


Connecting to Christmas

So why am I writing about this today? It’s a great time to shop online for Christmas.

 

As a rule, I like to give myself at least 14 days in advance to allow for unforeseen circumstances with postage. That’s the one thing about purchasing gifts online – waiting for them to arrive can be nerve racking if you have never ordered before. think-geek-free-shipping-over-75Most retailers provide multiple shipping options, but these can add up quickly for the sake of convenience. You’ll find that many sites promote special deals where you don’t have to pay for standard shipping if your virtual-cart total hits their target price – if you do all your shopping in one spot, this will be perfect for you! Mid November means that you have plenty of time to wait for ordered gifts to arrive.

If you’re reading this before November 28th then you’re in luck! Now you can really think about what items you want to purchase and plan ahead. Some of the best deals are approaching with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales between November 28th-December 1st. Canadian stores have also started participating in cutting prices for these traditional days over the years which has been nice for Christmas shopping. When you’re purchasing presents online during these sale days, you won’t find yourself in physical brawls which is an added bonus (unless you fight over the laptop with a family member)!

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Even Amazon.ca is advertising Black Friday sales!

Another great site to shop on and save money with is a family favourite in our household – Amazon. You can find items at a lower cost year-round and their search-engine-esque system makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.


Shop Local-Globally

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I’m a big fan of the “Think. Shop. Buy. Local” movement in which people support artisans within their communities instead of shopping in department stores. Look for advertisements about craft sales, Christmas fairs, and other local events with hardworking vendors to shop at this year.

Check out The LivingRoom Community Art Studio’s Handmade with Heart Arts and Crafts Marketplace this Saturday the 19th if you live in Durham Region, ON, Canada!

With technology, artisans are now selling beautiful handmade items online! I really love sites like Etsy because the reviews on sellers allow you to feel confident when purchasing unique and personalized items for your loved ones. In the past, I have ordered: a hand carved Lord of the Rings sign from Mississippi, US; an engraved pocket compass from Turkey; an engraved tie clip from Wisconsin, US; and a lot more.

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You can find items from almost any niche fandom and your recipient will be lucky enough to own a one of a kind product (or limited edition).


So what do you think, do you like to shop online? Maybe give it a chance this year so that you don’t have to stress about finding a parking spot or waiting in line behind customers yelling at innocent cashiers at the insanely busy mall.

Two more interesting infographics from Big Commerce:
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