Local & Small Faves

This is it! The Christmas I’ve been waiting for. This is the year when internet shopping has become so easy that it is now a thousand times easier to support small and local businesses and find uber cool gifts from the comfort of your desk (couch, bed, coffee shop).

As I’ve gone to fairs and events this past year I’ve noticed that even the smallest vendors now accept credit cards and almost all have a web site.   The big box stores and malls are worried and they should be. Millions of people are selling unique, local, personal items that I want to give my friends and family. I love supporting small and local businesses just as much as I love finding the best stuff.

So I want to share a few of my favorites with you and I hope you will join in and share some of yours. The one thing local and small businesses don’t have is advertising budgets. Let’s help each other out and give up the goods on where you’ve found some really great gift ideas.

Makeda’s Butter Cookies – I personally met Makeda at a street fair where she told me her cookies were butta-licious. Damn, she was right! They are the essence of butta-love. She’s a local girl from here in Memphis but you can order her cookies from her website (click here for the link). Not only are these great to send as a gift, but you can order some for your own holiday party. And if you’re like me you’ll need to order some for yourself, you know, that bag you hide from the kids.

Bow and DrapeBow & Drape – These are super-clever, chic, glitzy sweatshirts (and other gifts) that you can customize or order from their suggestions. They are made NYC and beat the goofy sayings on the mall shirts by a mile. (Link here)

 

Speaking of custom–Etsy. If you haven’t found this wonderland of cool gifts yet, set aside a few hours (or days) to get lost in all the perfect, often handmade, items. The really beautiful thing here is that it’s all searchable. If you specifically want a rainbow tutu you can search it and will find so many great options. It’s all small businesses looking big by banding together.

Amazon — I know they are the biggest of the big, but they are also the au laitmarket place for many small businesses (like authors…) The trick is finding the small guys on this mega site. If you find one, please share! Years ago my parents brought me some incredible lotion from Scotland that I thought I would never be able to find again. I can now order through Amazon. If you don’t like strong scented bath products I can’t recommend the Au Lait Scottish Fine Soap Company enough. Here’s a link.

Finally, don’t forget your local coffee shop for gift cards. These are great for people you know live in the same area; teachers, friends, etc. I broke myself of the drive-thru-Starbucks habit when I found my local shop, Pinks. The owner is super supportive of me as a local author, her food and coffee is delish and I always end up finding out all the news that would be in our local paper (if we still had one.)

So spill–tell the world about your favorite small and local business that have the coolest or yummiest stuff that can be ordered online. Clue us in to your best secrets in the comments below.

 

 

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TFS Wednesday: Make it from Scratch

There are certain foods that are just hell on a diet.  Not only are they high in calories (and points) they are foods that have been made too convenient because you can get them frozen or in a large quantity at a restaurant. 

In the past, it was much more difficult to have these foods, especially on a regular basis.  In the time before frozen convenience foods and cheap restaurant food, it was easier to lose or maintain your weight.  

So, here is a solution that lets you have your cake and eat it too (or have your cake and diet too).  Any food that falls into your high calorie/high point category that you LOVE; only allow yourself to have it if you make it from scratch.

Cake is a great example.  Making a cake from scratch (no box mix) takes time and specific ingredients, then there’s the icing.  That’s one of the reasons that cake was considered a special event item in the past.  If you are dying for cake, make one, buy all the ingredients, plan the time to make it, then share the love when it is done.  

Same goes for french fries.  Potatoes aren’t expensive, so restaurants are happy to dish up a heaping helping along side anything you order.  They (usually) taste great and are so easy to just keep picking at as you wait for others to finish or the check to be paid.  To make them correctly at home takes time, effort, grease.  If you LOVE fries, get the best potatoes you can, cut them, soak them, fry them, then share them.  This same idea applies to potato chips too.  

Ice cream is another good item to put on your “only from scratch” list.  If you made one luscious batch a month and shared with your family or friends, you could have full fat, full of goodies, ice cream (and not the pretend stuff).  

Pasta can be put in this category.  It takes time, effort, and supplies to make a batch of home-made pasta (not to mention the sauce).  Bread can go on this list too.  Homemade bread is super yummy and worth the effort, occasionally.  Imagine the calorie/point savings you would get from only having bread when you made it yourself. 

The other upsides to all this cooking is learning to make different foods and making them exactly the way you like them.  Get your family involved.  Let them see what goes into making their favorite foods and get creative with new recipes.