Holiday gifts

Hey, there.

I haven’t posted in forever because I’m crazy busy.

But I have something for you. A gift, perhaps.

Go to HealthyStuff.org and check out the toys you’re going to give the small people in your family. Or use it to check the stuff you’d really rather donate to charity, under the guise of making room for new toys by getting rid of the old.

Our government and our corporations do a really horrible job of making sure we can buy things that won’t hurt us. At least one major company has resolved not to use carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting chemicals in products for children. Good for them. But there is arsenic and lead and PBDEs and PVC in a lot of the stuff you or your loved ones can buy, gift, use, and enjoy this time of year.
Toxic phones, toxic car seats, toxic household products, toxic sunscreen, and toxic makeup and shampoo.

Some of the data is old, and a lot of new toys aren’t on the Healthystuff.org reports. But still. Do what you can. Nobody wants to give their niece a toxic piece of chemical waste for Winter Solstice. Right?

Find some healthier alternatives at Safe Mama. Her cheat sheets will help you find safer toys, lunch gear, backpacks, bug repellent, and more.

Be safe out there. It’s a gross mess of lead-tainted wrapping paper and tape and poison-PVC tinsel and lead-filled holiday lights out there.

It’s still an awful lot of fun though. Happy holidays, and enjoy all the fair trade gelt and organic candy canes, and whole-wheat winter solstice gingerbread you can eat!

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In case you need this

Many fine bloggers handle In Case You Missed It posts, wherein they point us to lovely writing, hilarious rants, and cultural memes. They keep us abreast of the words and images that we might enjoy.

In that spirit, for this season of catalogs full of stuff nobody needs, pleas to spend money few of us have, and pressure to cement relationships that none of us really want, I offer the following.

DJ Cat Scratching Pad at Uncommon Goods

The cat scratcher guaranteed to get your cat a job. Tired of your pet lounging about, leaving hair everywhere, and whining about it being “dinnertime” and “cuddle time”? Get your cat this scratching turntable. And get him out of the house for a new career in the club scene the kids are all talking about. In the ’80s.

Potager Coffee Table at VivaTerra


The toddler entertainment center. Wondering how to occupy your toddler while family gathers to drink heavily and scream at each other? Get this gorgeous coffee table complete with sharp corners, potted plants, and unattended wine glasses. Your wee one can learn valuable lessons about the physical world by scattering dirt all over the living room, sipping adult beverages, shattering glass, and uprooting cacti. The highly sought-after blood-snot-tears sprinkler effect resulting from her profusely bleeding head-wound, thorn-implanted fingers, and wrought-iron-pinched fingers might even stop the family bickering for a while. I hear the well-lit and bustling E.R. is a great place to spend the Winter Solstice.

Out of the Woods Tool Kit from Sundance Catalog

A gorgeous reinterpretations of an old classic. Why get simple, functional tools for someone who needs a screwdriver, ruler, level and flashlight, when you can get simple, functional, expensive tools? Levels are wonderful for fun and sport, especially when one of the three axes is replaced with a logo. Flashlights help in so, so many darknesses, and wax even brighter when set in sustainably grown beech wood. Multi-tipped screwdrivers are endlessly useful, but even more so when included in a canvas carrying case. Four tools *plus* a carrying case for $95? Oh, the value.

Okay. That’s all I care to share. The secret to shopping this holiday season is finding gifts that show people you care, that you think of them, and that you want to leave a glow of joy in their lives. To that end, my kids and I will spend hours deciding who on our list will get what from this catalog.

Oxfam Unwrapped Catalog

It might not be a job for our cat, a party in the ER, or a wildly useful reinvented bag of simplicity, but giving a family whose needs outstrip those without sustainable beech artisan tools something useful like a goat, a flock of geese, a piglet, or a hive of bees can feel pretty good. As a survivor of a couple of natural disasters, I might choose to send emergency supplies to those in need as a gift to my family and friends.

And for the cost of a cat scratcher, a potager table, and an imported tool set we can give families in need a pig, a cow, honeybees, a dozen chicks, a couple of goats, a donkey cart, and a bicycle. For a few people on our list, we’ll send a a pile of crap in their name.

Or a for the same cost we can buy a six backpacks full of food for six hungry American children. For a YEAR.

Or more than 200 pairs of socks dropped off at our local homeless shelter.

Or more than 75 bags to hand out to homeless people in our area, each with peanut butter, bread, plastic utensils, and a bottle of honey. Everyone deserves a peanut butter and honey sandwich in the cold, dark days of December.*

*Except the peanut-butter allergic among us. Dudes. I’m so sorry. Peanut butter is cheap and full of protein, but you deserve to be safe. You’re welcome to a bag with sunflower seed butter instead. Be careful out there in this season of peanut butter donations, friends. I’ll have a couple of bags without any nut products just for you. XOXO.