Shop Local, shop independent, shop handmade.

So, maybe I live under a rock, or maybe i've just been living this little hippie-esque life of mine for so long that I managed to avoid certain pieces of info and or trends, but yesterday I learned for the first time what "Cyber Monday" is. I know, I know, Kristen, you are a relatively young person and you've been using the internet most of your life, you should know these things. But should I? Why should I care?

I know that may sound a bit snooty, but that's not how I mean it. Let me explain...

I think I made a choice years ago (albeit an unconscious one at first) to not get too caught up in the craziness that is the holiday shopping rush. Don't get me wrong, I like a good bargain just as much as the next gal, but I also can't stand the insanity that the holiday season brings out in others. When I hear on NPR News that many shopping malls and stores have to hire extra security during holiday sales-- not to deal with an increase in shoplifting, but increased animosity between customers-- it makes me a so sad that this holiday had been reduced to a time of year that makes people fight with others, over who is going to get the last Nintendo Wii or whatever the hot new toy is. It makes me sad to hear news stories about folks who've had tons of valuable items stolen from their cars in parking lots shortly after buying these items as holiday gifts. The pressure of gift giving during the holidays, makes people crazy, and it makes me sad. I want to enjoy the holidays with my family, minus all the craziness!

When I was a kid, I LOVED the holidays. It was magical to wake up on Christmas morning to see what "Santa" had brought. As I got older though, I've started to recognize how much pressure there is to give and give big during the holidays. Although I always appreciated those gifts, I see now that big gift giving isn't really necessary. Though to many, its an obligation.

I remember reading Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child (her books given to me as a Christmas present one year) and really absorbing the feeling of the Christmas holiday in the 1800's. It was simple, but warm and cozy. Small gifts were exchanged, but they were made with so much love and care. It was a rare treat to be given something store-bought, but in the end, it was those hand-made items that were treasured the most.

I know, I know! Times have changed and our society has become more sophisticated (although over-indulged is how it seems a lot of the time). I know I shouldn't expect that kind of simplicity anymore. Even though I too have become caught up in many aspects of modern society, I strive much of the time to balance that modernity with simplicity, which reflects in my gift giving as well.

I love to make things for people, it gives me so much joy to think that they will happily use the item I crafted. I love to make things that I think that person will truly love and appreciate. Nick and I received some beautiful hand-made items for our wedding in the form of crocheted blankets, quilts, pottery, and even a hand-crafted slatted cutting board. Each of these items was made with so much love, and when we opened each one, we could just feel that love radiating out onto us (I know this sounds corny but I think weddings make you a bit hyper-emotional and this is truly how I felt opening them). Every gift we received for our wedding was special, though handmade items are always so appreciated because we can understand the work that went into them.

In times where I don't really have the time to make gifts for people (this year in particular) I turn to local business and independent crafters to help me out. In Reno we have a few unique shops that I like to visit. Never Ender is one of my favorites, they are right next to the Hub (my favorite coffee shop), and always have a unique variety of items to choose from. I also love Junkee Clothing Exchange and Antique Shop--if you can't find something there you like, you're in trouble--that place has everything! Eco Reno has tons of eco-friendly gift finds and The Nest is a great place to find cute vintage and vintage inspired items. These are some of the local shops i'll be visiting this holiday season. I'm also making a few things, and participating in a craft fair that supports local Artists. I'll probably shop a little there too. For those of you in Reno, it's this Saturday--come check it out!

When i'm not shopping local, I frequent websites like Etsy, that features tons of artists selling an unending array of handmade and vintage goods. You can certainly find all kinds of gifts there too. Some of my favorite Etsy Shops include:

Starry Designs-they have really cool pendants and other jewelry:

I love the unique Vintage Mod inspired jewelry over at Marolsha:

Original Prints and Cards by The Wheatfield:

Beautiful Leather items from Moxie and Oliver:

Awesome bags from Sketchbook:

Cute Crochet and Knitted items from Tomoko Tahara:

Awesome Prints, Cards, and more by Rachel Austin:

Beautiful Knitted and Crochet Cashmere items by the Adventures of Jessica Rose:

See how many amazing items can be found that are handmade by artists? Etsy is an unending resource for gift purchases and when I shop there I can feel good about the fact that I am supporting an independent artist instead of a big box store. Sometimes shopping on Etsy can seem overwhelming as there are so many artists, which is why I read my friend Jena's blog Modish frequently. She spends a lot of time on Etsy (she blogs for a living) and is always highlighting new artists. Anytime I see one I love, I save them in my favorites so that when gift giving time comes around, I am ready!

Bottom line is, it's so nice not to have to go out and deal with the crowds during the holidays. I'd rather spend my money in local boutiques or shop from the comfort of my couch and support an independent artist or crafter than risk getting beat up over the last copy of Season 1 of Glee. I know now that "Cyber Monday" is the internet equivalent of Black Friday, and the deals are great, but to me it just seems like another way for all of the huge chain stores to rope us into buying even more. It's just not the way I want to spend the holidays. I hope that this year, amongst all of the craziness, more people will take the time to do the same.