Winter Solstice

WINTER-solstice black-capped-chickadee little-chickadee snowy-solsticeToday is Winter Solstice, which is the day that we have the least amount of daylight, and the longest night of the year. After that, the days gradually start getting longer and the light returns. For thousands of years, people have celebrated the solstice, beginning with those in prehistoric times whose lives were tied closely to the earth. Stonehenge was built so that the sunrise during the solstice perfectly aligns with the gaps in its massive stones. Personally, although I love the four seasons, the frigidity of the winter temperatures in January and February is a bit much for me to handle. So pausing on solstice to notice the small things about the splendor of nature in winter, such as the glistening snow or the chickadee at the birdfeeder, is a much-needed reminder that beauty is found during all of the seasons.

If you’re having a solstice celebration this year, here is a citrus and ginger Winter Punch recipe from 101 Cookbooks to liven up the party!

Wooden Ornaments by Swallowfield and Maine-Made Gifts (Grounded Gifts No. 8)

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Jennifer Judd-McGee of Swallowfield is one of the illustrators I most admire. Her aesthetic is unmistakeable, and she finds her inspiration in the Maine landscape. I had the pleasure of meeting her at an event in Portland earlier this year, and started gushing to her about how fantastic her work is. Her Etsy shop is filled with colorful prints, greeting cards, stunning papercut original artwork, plus her latest creations– wood items laser-engraved with her graphics. Her wooden ornaments make for thoughtful gifts that won’t break the bank.

Here are some other gift ideas by Maine makers:

Bee Organic Perfume — Portland General Store

Bait Bag Clutch — Alaina Marie

Chickadee Pillow — Lilleput Studio

Christmas Ornaments by Maine Bird Carvings and gift ideas for birders (Grounded Gifts No. 7)

waxwing-bird-ornamentAny nature-lover or bird enthusiast would enjoy having an ornament from Maine Bird Carvings on their tree. Put it in their stocking, or hang it on the tree for them to discover Christmas morning! For 35 years, Gary Poisson of Eddington, Maine has carved and painted many different species of bird by hand, including woodpeckers, mallards, blue jays, loons, chickadees, and lots more. I stumbled across his booth at the Common Ground Fair this year and eagerly asked them if they had a carving of my favorite bird, the cedar waxwing.

If you want to take the bird theme and run with it, here are are some pricier gift ideas for the birders in your life:

The Sibley Guide to Birds — In my opinion, this is the best birding field guide out there. Sibley also has an app now that includes images, bird calls, and loads of information, so you could give a gift card to the app store instead if your recipient is the techie type.

Bushnell Binoculars – The ultimate gift. Every birder needs a quality pair of binoculars.

A Field Log — For recording which birds they see and where they see them. This particular notebook is water resistant in case mother nature decides to rain during their excursion.

 

Beeswax Crayons and gift ideas for the little ones (Grounded Gifts No. 6)

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As a kid, my favorite activity was artmaking, so I like the idea of sharing that joy with the little ones in my life. This year I selected this Beeswax Crayon Set as a gift for my nephew. There are 24 non-toxic colors in this set with fun names inspired by things found in nature. Paired with coloring books or a sketch pad, these crayons would make a great holiday gift. Or just stash them away for a snowy day when the kids have cabin fever and need a creative activity to pass the time.

Here are some other fun ideas for the kids:

Children’s books by Dahlov Ipcar - Ipcar creates wonderful children’s books. Kids especially love her animal illustrations. If you buy them from this site linked here, you are also supporting the Maine Farmland Trust, though if you want a one-stop shop you can most definitely find them on Amazon.

Reindeer Toy – In my limited experience with kids, it’s usually the cuddly cute stuffed toy that become the most-cherished items in their toy box.

Baby Hat – Whitney Deal makes some mighty cute baby stuff, like this little chicken hat.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh – Young kids love the entertaining, sweet, and funny Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. A classic.

Wildwood – For slightly older children, the book Wildwood by Colin Meloy is a safe bet. The illustrations by Carson Ellis make it something extra special.

 

 

Gold-dipped ceramic ornaments by Redraven (Grounded Gifts No. 5)

Red-raven-ornaments

These dainty little porcelain feather & acorn ornaments from Redraven shimmer on your tree amidst the twinkling lights. They’d made a wonderful gift for a person who appreciates nature and also likes a little bit of sparkle in their life around the holidays. Simple and elegant, they’d also make a classy gift for a Secret Santa exchange. I found mine at a gem of a stationery and gift store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Gus & Ruby, and bought them for myself because I collect nature-themed ornaments.

The artisan behind Redraven is Amy Hamley of Pittsburgh. She describes her creations, which include home goods, wedding items, and jewlery as “handmade porcelain keepsakes.”

Farmhouse Pottery Match Striker (Grounded Gifts No. 4)

farmhouse-pottery-match-holderToday’s featured gift is a a cute little match striker from Farmhouse Pottery. Last month I wrote about visiting Farmhouse Pottery’s dreamy workshop in Woodstock, Vermont, and this is the souvenir that I brought home with me. Handmade from stoneware, hand-dipped in white glaze, and stamped with a laurel, it is both simple and unique. It looks like something that would have been unearthed from a frontier home during an Americana archaeological dig. It’s the kind of timeless object that could be useful to many people at different points in history, since we all need fire. And it looks a heck of a lot better on your mantle, counter top, or shelves than one of those plastic ignitors. As someone who has a small fear of striking matches, I have no trouble with this. It’s so hefty and rough textured that you can easily strike the matches on the unglazed part at the bottom. It would make a fabulous stocking stuffer or hostess gift. If you want to add something extra to the gift, pair it with the Sydney Hale candle in the distance.

Homemade Lavender Peppermint Bath Bombs (Grounded Gifts No. 3)

homemade-bath-bombsHandmade gifts are some of the most touching to receive, and they are double the fun for you as gift-giver if you enjoy do-it-yourself projects. These little bath fizzies are very simple to make, and contain all-natural ingredients. I used this Coconut Oil Bath Bomb recipe from Bakingdom. My friends and I followed the recipe exactly, except that we added dried lavender blossoms, skipped the food coloring, and used this Pukka floral tea as the liquid. For essential oils, we combined lavender and peppermint, which are great for relaxation and stress relief. Just a whiff of them and I feel calmer already! To give these as a gift, you could wrap them in a cellophane or waxed paper bag and seal it with a ribbon or a sticker. They would make perfect stocking stuffers for sisters, moms, aunts, and grandmas. Or if you’re looking for a hands-on project to do on a crafty night in with your girlfriends, stash this idea away for January.

Organic Screen-printed Linens by Madder Root (Grounded Gifts No. 2)

madder-root-mainemadder-root

Today’s Grounded Gifts installment features kitchen towels by Madder Root, a small company in Maine that specializes in screen-printed linens. Their hand-sewn towels come in a variety of nature-themed designs on pure white organic cotton fabric. In a season of lots of merriment, dinners, and parties, these towels could make excellent hostess gifts. I also think this particular pussy willow design would spruce up your bar cart during winter entertaining. If you want to hear about the making process and inspiration  from the artisans behind Madder Root, you can check out the interview they did for the Esty blog.

Partridge & Pears cards from Hello! Lucky and 2014 Holiday Card Picks

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Pretty paper products get me all hot and bothered. So I take my holiday cards seriously. Each October, I scour the internet and local stationery shops for the cream of the crop and then make my selection by November. Addressing the cards and writing cheerful greetings inside is something I look forward to each year.

Here are the cards I chose for 2014– they are the Partridge & Pears design from Hello! Lucky. The gold foil is incredibly festive, and they are printed on 100% recycled paper. Let me share with you the blurb on the back of Hello! Lucky’s packaging because it’s so lovely– “Letterpress is an artisan printing method that dates back to the 15th century. Each note is a labor of love, printed on a vintage Heidelberg press to create a gorgeous, tactile stationery.” This particular set of cards comes with a pale gray envelope, which is slightly different from the usual white. Classy.

If these aren’t quite your style, here 10 other recommendations, and there’s always last year’s picks

1. Warmest Winter Wishes from Smudge Ink

2. Season’s Greetings by Banquet

3. Happy Winter from Egg Press

4. Joy by Smock

5. Happy Christmas by Yellow Owl Workshop

6. Season’s Greetings by Native Bear (today through December 1st, you can receive 20% off your NB purchase of $60 or more with code “pumpkinpie”)

7. Holiday Dove by Bears Eat Berries

8. Let it Snow from House That Lars Built

9. Happy Hanukkah from Rifle Paper Co. (Rifle is offering 30% off their entire site today through Monday, Dec. 1st)

10. Animal Tracks in the Snow by Saturn Press