Counter Corporate Travel: Miami

This is the first post in a new travel series where I’ll be sharing my recommendations for small, local businesses that I encounter in my domestic and international journeys. Since I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am in every sense of the word, a “foodie”, you can trust that the restaurants below will be nothing less than mind-blowing.

Miami, or, as I like to refer to it, the “Las Vegas of the East Coast” is a hot, vibrant city coursing with energy, loud music on every corner, and international flavors. It is also, as I happily found out, full of local gems and small businesses galore. There is absolutely NO reason to step foot in Señor Frog’s or Starbucks, or spend your money at big name hotels like the Hilton or Radisson.

I recently traveled last month (March) with my sister to Miami/Miami Beach for four days, and we had an absolutely amazing time despite the fact that we spent about one hour on the actual beach itself.  Below are some of our favorite spots that I would highly recommend visiting if you make it to Miami!

*We are both also gluten free (the Celiac gene runs in our family due to our Irish heritage), so for those of you in the same boat, this will be an added bonus.

Restaurants

Coyo Taco

Located in the Wynwood district of Miami, this taco joint is hip, with lines out the door during its peak hours. They feature myriad types of tacos, burritos, and bowls, along with scrumptious appetizers like the esquites featured above, along with specialty frozen drinks and juices. Will please carnivores to vegans, and everything in between.

The Smoothie Shop

I visited this Caribbean-themed shop twice in four days, because that’s how good their vegetable and fruit juices are. When the sun was it at its peak and I couldn’t dream of eating, their healthy juices made fresh in front of my eyes gave me the nutrition and hydration I needed. All their juices and smoothies are easily customized, and they also have a variety of breakfast and lunch options available; if you’re looking for more sustenance.

Under the Mango Tree

I had never had an acai bowl prior to this trip, however, my sister insisted that they were life-changing, which led me to search out and find this oasis of clean eating. In addition to acai bowls (there are many options available, including gluten free), they have sandwiches, hot drinks, juices, smoothies, and salads. I’m not sure that a restaurant could have a better vibe or more healthy food (that tastes as good as it looks) than this shop.

Fresh First 

On our way to the Fort Lauderdale airport we stumbled upon this 100% gluten free restaurant. For those of you who are shaking their head at this, stop right now, because the food was incredible, and I guarantee you wouldn’t even notice that it was anything other than delicious on all levels. I had Eggs Benedict with turkey bacon, and it blew my mind.

Coffee Shops

The Salty Donut

I think that this was one of my favorite dining experiences in Miami. My sister and I walked in and almost fainted with the aromas of coffee and the pans of freshly baked donuts in flavors such as tres leches, nutella, guava and cheese, and maple bacon. Unfortunately, because we’re living that gluten-free life, we were limited to their one daily option, but it was nonetheless a divine experience. Pictured above is the Samoas (that’s right, like the Girl Scout cookie) gluten-free donut and salted caramel iced latte. I promise you, it doesn’t get better than this.

Panther Coffee

panther

Also located in the Wynwood district of Miami (near Coyo Taco, The Salty Donut, and Nomad Tribe; as well as myriad beautiful murals), Panther Coffee is a hipster cafe boasting outdoor seating beneath a low-hanging, shady tree. I sipped their soy cappuccino, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Shopping

Nomad Tribe

While I didn’t buy anything (I already have too many clothes!), I would have loved to support this company that produces and sells eco and social-conscious fashion. The displays were eye-catching, the storefront bright, and the clothing soft and high-quality.

Attractions

Bass Museum

bass

This pint-sized museum packs a punch, and, for the price of the $10 admission fee, you can experience some pretty fantastic contemporary art. The museum has two floors, gorgeous grounds with ancient Baboab trees, a multi-towered colored rock sculpture, and a cute little cafe. I’d recommend approximately an hour for a visit and suggest putting it at the top of places to visit.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

You’ll have to drive to this attraction, but it’s certainly worth it. While admission is a bit steep ($18 for adults, $6 for kids; $10 with a student id), the house, gardens, and view of the ocean are absolutely breathtaking.  I’d recommend approximately 1-2 hours for a visit, and there is a cafe on site when you need a break from all of the walking. Fun fact: the owner was a member of the Deering family of Portland, Maine.

Miami Botanical Gardens

I fell in love with this tropical, tree-covered sanctuary in the middle of the city. It’s free, and very peaceful; perfect when you need to escape the heat and spend some time regathering your energy. I was amazed at the size and age of the trees and delighted with appearances of many types of butterflies. Bring a blanket and cold beverage for extra enjoyment.

Hotels

Princess Ann Hotel

We stayed at the Princess Ann Hotel located on Miami Beach for four nights and were quite pleased with the location (five minute walk from the beach) and amenities. While it’s by no means fancy (especially for the price of $100/night), they provide a free breakfast and quiet rooms.

When booking your hotel, avoid the big corporate names and, instead, find a small, independent establishment to give your business. Not only will you be supporting a locally-owned company, but I bet you’ll also enjoy a more personalized experience.

Transportation

  • Parking: overnight parking is very expensive ($30/night on average on Miami Beach), and the public transportation options are sub-par, so I would recommend taking Ubers/Lyfts/cabs when necessary to get around Miami and then using your feet to walk around Miami Beach.
  • For trips to the Everglades or to other places outside of the city, rent a car for the day or pay for a night of valet parking at your hotel to then drop it off at the airport on your way home (we did this and it worked out really well).
  • To/from the airport:
    • Miami airport: either arrange for your hotel to pick you up/drop you off with their shuttle (if they have one), or hop in an Uber/Lyft/cab.
    • Fort Lauderdale airport: either rent a car or pay for an Uber/Lyft/cab. It’s quite a bit further from the Miami airport to Miami/Miami beach; and, as I mentioned previously, the public transportation options are limited and time consuming. Because I had some extra time on my way there, I took the train from Fort Lauderdale to the Miami station, but then still ended up having to take an Uber/Lyft/cab to my hotel on Miami Beach, and it took close to two hours, instead of the 40 minutes that a car would have been.

Other Tips for Traveling in Miami

  • Attractions: If you’d like to enjoy the beach, but would also like to soak up some culture while you’re there and not just drink yourself silly; be assured, there are plenty of museums and historical sites to see. Most are within a 20-30 minute drive of Miami Beach and are easy to locate. There is also an up-and-coming arts scene in the city, so be sure to check out the Wynwood murals and other galleries scattered around the city. A native also told us that the Fashion district is really nice, but, unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit it on this trip.
  • The Beach: Head out to the beach early for a prime spot. Many of the hotels bring out beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, but there is no need to spend money if you have your own. Be sure to ask the front desk staff at your hotel for a beach towel.
  • Put sun screen on before you leave your hotel. Even if you’re not heading to the beach, my sister and I got some serious sun just walking around town. Also, bring a hat and some good sun glasses; and then wear them!
  • Drink lots of water and carry a water bottle around with you to fill up as you go. Miami is VERY hot and humid, and not for the faint of heart. It takes serious energy and money to party like the natives.
  • Best happy hour spots are those located on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach where you can get a 2-for-1 giant (and strong) cocktail during their early and late night happy hours. Point to note: restaurants along Ocean Drive automatically add gratuity to your bill regardless of the party size, so don’t tip extra unless your server went above and beyond. Avoid the hookah at these spots since it will run you $45 on average.

 

That’s it! Enjoy 🙂

*I’m happy to answer any other questions if you’re planning a trip!

-Abi

Fake News, the MSM, and Independent Journalism

 

Preface: While I 100% support the investigative journalists and writers/authors/vloggers/bloggers etc., who dig up and reveal noteworthy events and behind-the-scenes information essential to an informed public, I’ll explain below why I do not wholeheartedly support main stream media (MSM) sources (in this case, MSM refers to such mega-conglomerates such a ABC News, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times).

An interesting and unexpected side effect of Donald Trump’s “fake news” craze is the fact that more people are doubting the integrity and truthfulness of MSM, and the motives behind government officials, like never before.  At face value this may seem like a catastrophe of epic proportions, but, I beg to disagree.  It is, of course, dangerous when the first amendment rights protecting free speech and journalists come under fire; and, unfortunately, it seems that under Trump’s America, this is is becoming more normalized; however, I believe it is both positive and productive when citizens question the information that the corporate media produces and widely disseminates. I make this assertion because MSM is, at its core biased, although, not in the way that Donald Trump asserts. The bias, and accompanying hazard to society, lies, rather, in the nature  of its ownership and size of the companies. As the below graphic highlights, a majority of the local and smaller print and television companies have been acquired through mergers and buy-outs by larger mega-corporations such as Disney and Fox, as well as the Rockefeller and Rothschild families (for more on these oil tycoons, see these two posts).

media

*A similar infographic regarding the CEOs/owners and their subsidiaries can be found here.*

As a result, the U.S. has lost a great deal of independent news organizations that have gotten swallowed up, and pushed out of the industry due to the prohibitively high costs involved with competing against these media giants and staying afloat in the digital era. As this occurs, the messages become more watered down, more homogeneous, and more  controlled by an ever-shrinking number of individuals. This trend,  not necessarily the accusations of”fake news” is, in my opinion, one of the greatest threats to a free society. Let us not be naive in thinking that the CNN and Fox News executives only started to flex their power in the past few years, this, unfortunately, been a trend that has been occurring for many decades as seen in the below infographic:

infographic

If this doesn’t give you shivers, it should. The pivotal role that the independent media in holding the government, elected officials, and companies accountable to the public and our health and safety cannot be overstated. Without them, it becomes nearly impossible to uncover the truth and be informed about the inner workings, and behind-the-scenes actions that affect our community, family, jobs, environment, and health. Sadly enough, we cannot trust the government or companies to keep us healthy and safe anymore, so we have to take it into our own hands, and independent journalists are a major part of helping us do this.

Actions you can take today:

  1. Can’t believe I would hear myself saying this, but do like DT says and avoid MSM.
  2. In its place, support your local newspaper. Yes, it’s going to cost you, but the few dollars each week that you’ll pay is tiny compared to the price of entirely losing independent and investigative journalism. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to learn about local issues happening in your community, and find ways to get more connected and involved.
  3. Research the owners of news sources that you consume. Be a responsible consumer of news just as much as you are a responsible consumer of other goods and services. These two websites will save you time and energy since they’ve already done the research for you.
  4. Be an active consumer of news. Don’t just let information passively flow in without thinking critically about it and discussing what you hear/read/watch with others.
  5. Write letters to the editor. Don’t be tricked into thinking that your thoughts and opinion don’t matter or don’t deserve to be heard. They do. And I guarantee that if you’re thinking it, then others are too. Who knows, may you’ll start a movement too. Here’s a useful guide to get you started.

I’ve provided some news sources that I find to be (relatively) more independent than MSM sources below.  But PLEASE remember that just like people, no news sources is going to be completely unbiased. With that being said, a quick and dirty way to determine the level of influence that is being flexed over their journalistic integrity is to a) look them up on one or both of the websites above in #3; and b) take note of whether they’re asking for donations and state that they’re reader/audience-supported. If they are, then you can feel relatively safe in knowing that they lean towards being more independent and outside the realm (and control) of the MSM.

If you have any sources that you find to me informative and (less) biased than MSM, PLEASE share them here and help your fellow Counter Corporation-ists!

Follow me on Instagram!

I recently created a special account for Counter Corporations where I’ll be featuring local, independent businesses and companies that I love and support, as well as a variety of products, news, books, and things to inspire us in our anti-corporate journey. Following me on IG will also mean that you’ll never miss another post!

So, follow me @countercorporations right now, and let’s do this thing!

Disclaimer: I know it sounds hypocritical to use a Facebook product (I.e. large and fairly evil corporation), but I plan on using it for “good” and awareness-building about the issues I care about, so I hope to be forgiven this time.

Valentine’s Day, the Non-Corporate Way

This year — skip the expensive dinner, and store bought cards, candy, giant stuffed teddy bear, and standard flower arrangements, for something much more special, unique, and good for your wallet and the environment.

This February 14, my plan is to buy some ingredients from the local market and cook a nice dinner at home with my boyfriend. For his presents, I purchased a shea butter bar from Lush and a book from Powell’s. We’re keeping it cozy and will be doing our good deed for the day by babysitting his brother’s adorable one year old daughter while her parents go out for a much-needed date night.

For you though, the possibilities are endless!

Instead of buying a cliche, mass-produced Hallmark card, you could: 

Make one yourself! Not only is it more eco-friendly, cheaper, and more fun than buying a $5 card, but there’s no better way to communicate exactly how you feel or what you want to say, than by making a card to your personal requirements and specifications. Don’t know where to start?

  1. Grab a few magazines (and/or old cards, newspaper, photos, stickers, etc.), a pair of scissors, tape and/or glue, and some paper or cardboard from the recycling bin, and get to work!
  2. I generally begin without a set idea or direction in mind, and then cut out anything that feels “right” or makes me think of the person (or an inside joke, shared memory) for whom I’m making the card.
  3. After I’ve compiled a decent set of pictures, photos, words, and/or stickers, I start playing around with them on the paper. Keep an open mind, and you’ll see that a theme starts to emerge, and at this point you should start to get pretty excited thinking about the person’s reaction when they read it.
  4. From there, finish it up by using a pen/glitter pen/paint/marker/crayon to complete the sentiment, and put it away somewhere safe to dry.

I can almost guarantee-or-your-money-back, that the individual receiving your homemade art, will treasure and remember it for years to come.

Instead of ordering a dozen roses or expensive bouquet of flowers, you could:

Put together your own succulent or potted plant arrangement. I personally love succulents because they’re incredibly easy to keep alive — infrequently (minimum every two weeks) pour a tiny bit of water into the soil and keep it near a light source — but they’re also more eco-friendly than buying flowers that are going to shrivel and die within a few days. Unlike stemmed roses, a cactus lasts, my friends.  As an added bonus, cacti are, for some unknown reason (maybe because they’re Millennial-friendly and low maintenance) very trendy at the moment, and oh-so-Instagram-worthy.

  1. Start by first looking around your house for a container. Mason jars are super cute, but even other old jars or containers can be used as-is or, if you’re feeling extra-crafty, you can paint or decoupage the outside for some added oomph and personalization. I’ve even seen plants potted in old shoes, so, really, the sky is the limit with the container you could use. Let your imagination run wild, and make it special for the recipient.
  2. Next, head to a plant nursery to pick up your new green friend. Avoid the plant departments of Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and instead opt for a locally owned store. A quick duckduckgo.com search should turn up some viable options.
  3. Before you leave for the store, make sure you have your container AKA the plant baby’s new home, with you. This really helps with picking out the right size plant since you need to ensure there’s sufficient room for the plant’s roots to grow and expand. If you need help, the folks at the nursery will be more than eager to assist you in selecting the best plant for your container and the recipient’s lifestyle.
  4. At this point, all that’s left is to remove your plant from the plastic container it arrived in and repot it in the container you prepared.
  5. As a finishing touch, you could create your own instruction care card and tie it around the container with a ribbon, piece of twine, string, etc. that you have lying around the house.
  6. Then, just be sure to keep it alive until you give it away to its new owner!

 

Instead of buying a box of Dove/Lindt/Godiva chocolates, you could:

Make your own chocolate-dipped strawberries or truffles! There are a million and two recipes out there for both, and trust me, they’re much easier to make than we’re lead to believe. You can also customize them based on the recipient’s taste preferences, and get really creative with the box in which you give them.

  1. Find a recipe. A quick duckduckgo.com search will yield myriad results.
  2. Head to your local shop to pick up the ingredients. The standard required items will most likely be baking chocolate, flavoring (e.g., vanilla extract), and, if you’re planning on making dipped items, the fruit, pretzel, bacon, etc.
  3. For those who have yet to venture into the kitchen, rest assured that there are plenty of cooking shows out there that will guide you every step of the way.
  4. Make your items.
  5. Let them cool for a sufficient time as directed in the recipe. I would even recommend letting them sit overnight to ensure completeness.
  6. Find your box. It could be an old jewelry box, cardboard box that you decorate, vintage container/cigarette box, etc. Again, let your imagination run wild.

 

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear about what you did to celebrate the non-corporate way!

A Guide to Buying Books the Anti-Corporate Way

Here’s where NOT to buy books: Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, or other mega, chain retailer. You know what I’m talking about. They not only have a gigantic eco-foot print, but they also exclude certain types of books and authors, and are often more pricey than many of the other options highlighted below.

Here’s where TO buy books:

  1. Start with your local library! Not only will you be supporting your community, but you’ll also refrain from spending a dime or bringing clutter into your house. Other added benefits: You may also meet some new friends, stumble upon a book club or discover some great local events that you would have otherwise never heard about.
  2. Next: check out your local bookstore. Since I live in Washington, D.C., I have the fortune of being close to some fabulous local spots. My favorite so far being Kramerbooks & Afterwords — helps that they have a cozy bar and an amazing gluten-free chocolate torte! Local book stores also frequently host book signings and author talks, so check them out!
  3. Trade your books on PaperBackSwap.com. Here’s how it works: after you create an account, pull out the gently used books that you want to trade, and list them by their ISBN number. After someone requests one of your books, you ship it to them (and pay for postage; books are sent by media mail, so it’s usually less than $4 a book). After they receive it, you receive one credit in return (books on tape are worth two credits), that you can use to request a book from another user on the site (plus a trading fee of $.50), who then pays to ship the book that you requested to you. I’ve had resounding success on this website, and have sent/received over 140 books.
  4. If you’d like to go the used (and more affordable/green) route, thrift stores are generally chock full of paperbacks and kids books. My sister has found some incredible texts at her go-to store in Portland, Maine, and if you’re on the look out for James Patterson or Sue Grafton novels, thrift stores will feel like winning the jackpot. A word of advice: make sure that your expectations aren’t too high, and definitely go in with an open mind, because there is very little guarantee that you’ll find the exact title you’re looking for. So, be ready to be surprised and to take a chance on a novel that has seen better days.
  5. And then there’s this: Little Free Library! (photo above) Not sure how I got so lucky as to have one of these a block from my house in D.C., but it is just about the cutest, coolest thing ever (nerd alert)! The concept is simple: a Steward (anyone!) picks a legal and high-traffic location for the library, gathers starter books, and then registers it with the website. That’s it! So far, there are over  60,000 of these little guys all over the world! I really love the concept of making books accessible in neighborhoods where they may be far away from a library, or lack the resources to purchase books of their own.

If you don’t have any good, local options near you; or you are looking for a specific book, check out these online options for buying used and new books:

Powell’s Books Independent bookstore based in Portland, Oregon

YourOnlineBookstore.com  Free domestic ground shipping on all books

Thrift Books Free shipping over $10

Discover Books Free shipping in the U.S.

Llewellyn The world’s oldest and largest independent publisher of books for body, mind, and spirit

Did I miss anything? Let me know! What’s been your best thrift store book find?

4 Rules for Anti-Corporate Living

1) Whenever possible, buy local and buy small.
2) If you see the product everywhere (e.g. McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Exxon), you can make a safe bet that it’s a mega corporation, and should avoid it.
3) Download the Buycott and/or Better World Shopper applications. These will make your life significantly easier because they’ve already done the research on the companies for you!
4) Research! Take time to learn about the products and companies from where you buy your products and services. Find out if the company is reputable, treats its workers well, practices environmental stewardship, and is not a cog in the mega-corporate machine.  Yes, it will take more time than clicking a few buttons on your Amazon app, and yes, you’ll go down some rabbit holes, and most likely get frustrated. But, I promise you, it is WORTH it. You’ll feel better knowing that your morals and values align with your spending and you’ll buy fewer, more high quality, not to mention unique, things (it’s about quality, not quantity, people!).
And, of course, check out this page for an ever expanding list of acceptable/unacceptable companies to buy from. I hope that you will contribute to the list as well!

Shower Curtains & Starbucks

Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and along with it a massive tax break for American corporations, and continued political chaos. Despite the highs and lows though, I’ve stuck mostly to my anti-corporate living. Here’s a brief synopsis of the past months’ successes and failures.

(As always, I am not getting paid by any of the companies mentioned below)

  • Whenever I’m go out to eat with friends or family members, I cajole, push, and, when forced, whine, until I persuade them to eat at a local, small restaurant or coffee shop. And in most places that I’ve been to since my last post, it’s been relatively easy to do this (Washington, DC and Portland, ME) considering the vast array of affordable, yummy, and available options. However, the one place where I found this to be challenging was in the St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN region. Indeed, the Mid-West section of America is a land of strip malls and chains. The weekend I was there I experienced my biggest slip-ups since I started avoiding corporations a few months ago. With my head bowed down, hoping that none of my faithful followers would see me, I found myself becoming a customer once more of Target, CVS, and Starbucks.
    • I will say though, that stepping back once more into these chain, cookie-cutter, big-box stores reminded me exactly why I have been staunchly avoiding them. To me, they were, and are, nauseatingly boring, wasteful, and stuffed to the brim with products lacking in both quality or uniqueness. But, but, but! They are readily accessible, and, in some parts of the country, literally the only option for the things I and my family needed at the time: poster board paper (Target), gluten-free breakfast options (Starbucks), and contact lens solution (CVS). And, I will say, that it was comforting knowing that I could easily and affordably buy the above items when I needed them. Thinking about how the convenience and cost factor often play such a mammoth role in one’s shopping decisions reminded me about why it’s so difficult for us to cut corporations out of our lives completely. T=However, this lifestyle is like a diet: you HAVE to get back on healthy eating train right after you cheat, or all is lost. Therefore, despite my failures, I learned from it, and was even more inspired to avoid them in the future.
  • One of recent successes was finding an eco-friendly shower curtain. Random, I know; but I needed it since my current one is discolored, old, and very unappealing to the eye. I started my internet search by searching for (on duckduckgo.com, of course) “eco-friendly shower curtains”, since I knew from the start that I didn’t want one made out of plastic or anything that would eventually have to end up in a landfill. This immediately generated quite a few results, with Amazon (no surprise there) heavily advertising its products in the topmost position. I scrolled past seven corporate results until I found one that highlighted “5 Options for Eco-Friendly Shower Curtains” that provided information about hemp, bamboo, linen, cotton, and DIY curtains, I decided to go with hemp for its durability, lack of synthetic compounds, and the fact that it is naturally resistant to bacteria and fungi. While there weren’t a ton of non-corporate websites selling hemp shower curtains, I finally stumbled upon arenaturals.com and purchased these curtains in sea foam (while the sea foam color itself ended up being more green, than blue, I’m very happy with the quality of the curtains, and love how my bathroom looks now!)
    • I tell this story because I find it’s a fairly standard example of what I go through now when purchasing products. Whereas, before I would open up my Amazon Prime application on my cell phone and quickly scroll through a few choices before clicking “buy now”‘, I find myself spending a greater amount of time researching and browsing until I find an item that fits my requirements. I will be the first to admit that my new process takes more time and money, but on the flip side, I find it more rewarding and fun to support small, socially conscious, and distinct businesses……Don’t get sucked into the trap of thinking that Amazon is the only option!

I would love to hear from you!

Have you been somewhere recently where you felt suffocated by corporate options and couldn’t find the little guy to support? What did you end up doing?

Or, have you had any success finding an anti-corporate option to a product you needed to buy? Do you have any research techniques or resources to share?

Thanks for reading!

-Abigail

Must Watch!

If you have some extra hours of free time during this in-between holiday week, be sure to check out my earlier post about “How Big Oil Conquered the World”.

Then, once you’re fired up about it and eager to learn more, watch part two: “Why Big Oil Conquered the World”.

In my opinion, these two videos sum up many of the reasons that I’m choosing to live an anti-corporate lifestyle; that is, I do not want to support or condone their (you’ll find out of whom I speak in the videos) quest for absolute power and control over the world’s natural resources or my personal choices, privacy, or income level. We, as the consumers have the sheer numbers and dollars that can either prop them up even further or bring them crashing down.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

A Counter-Corporate Christmas

If you’re like me, you haven’t quite finished your Christmas shopping yet, even though it’s only ten days away! As I’ve started to put more mental energy towards this initiative, I speculated that others might just be in the same predicament, and could use a cheat sheet, so here it is! And what could be a better opportunity to challenge yourself to buy (or make) everything from a counter-culture establishment. As an added bonus, your gifts will surely be more creative, thoughtful, and rewarding.

As you’ll notice in the list below, the gift ideas that I’ve generated will tend to be more special, and budget and eco-friendly than the normal gift-cards and standard, mass-produced items, and I guarantee you will have a more fun gift-buying experience as a result. Instead of seeing shopping as a chore, take some time to reflect on what you value, as well as what the recipient values, and start from there. Open up your mind and start brainstorming, and I know you’ll think of the perfect thing! Furthermore, shift your perspective on this time of the year from annoyance and stress to one of  mindful treasure-hunting! You’ll not only save time by avoiding big-box stores with long lines, but you’ll be able to save money, contribute to local, small businesses, and strengthen your community all at once. Convinced yet?

Let me know how it goes and if you have any other counter-corporate gift ideas to add!

  1. Adopt a baby elephant in the recipient’s name for only $50/year. They’ll receive monthly updates and photos of their orphan straight to their e-mail, and will feel good knowing that they’re helping elephants in Kenya survive without their mothers (most of whom have been killed by poachers)! Link here.
  2. Visit a locally owned coffee roaster, tea house, micro-brew or winery and pick out some small-batch items for the coffee/tea/beer/wine lover on your list. A quick duckduckgo search (an alternative to Google) will yield plenty of results.
  3. Whatever you can think of, there’s someone on Etsy who can make it! From custom-made everything to vintage items, handmade jewelry, clothes, home decor; the possibilities are truly endless. (For example, my friend loves sloths, and I was able to purchase some of the cutest sloth earrings and bookmark at an affordable price).
  4. Get creative and make your own:
    1. Jewelry– go to your local bead store to pick up some supplies, or do what I love to do and take apart broken or mismatched pieces that I already own and then put them back together in interesting ways, to create a brand new piece.
    2. Candles– buy wax, coloring, and flavored scents, then look up directions online and fill your house with delicious odors.
    3. Lotion –I use a base of shea butter and add either marula or vitamin e oil, as well as essential oils like Tea Tree or Lavendar for scent. Again, the possibilities are endless and you can customize it based on the recipient’s preferences. (There are lots of recipes online that can be found by searching DIY lotion).
  5. Potted plants are always a hit! I recommend the eco-friendly option of decorating empty jars or containers you have lying around the house, or stop buy your local thrift store (avoid Goodwill), and pick up some cool pots. Then, fill with potting soil and an easy-to-care-for plant like succulents or Aloe Vera.
  6. If you want to buy clothes or cosmetics, check out Poshmark  and buy from an individual rather than a corporation. (I recently purchased a brand new pair of Toms from Poshmark for my boyfriend for Christmas).
  7. Visit a local Christmas/community/holiday/church fair to purchase a locally-made items.
  8. Bake! Everyone loves homemade fudge, cookies, candy, etc. If you don’t own a cookbook, the internet has myriad recipes available, most of them being quite easy to follow.
  9. Get artsy! I personally love making collages using old magazines. I find that you can make a really unique piece of art for someone using something as simple as scissors, glue, magazines and/or photos, and a canvas or piece of cardboard. I’ll be making one for my Mom this year using a line from her favorite poet as inspiration.

Last, but not least, wrap those presents in newspapers or other paper or cloth you might have lying around! (I also compulsively save old ribbons for this very purpose).

Good luck and happy gifting!

**The image is a photo of the Swedish Tomte Christmas gnomes that my cousin and I made last week! Here’s the link if you’d like to give it a shot 🙂

Super Oils & Honey

Over the past few months I’ve slowly transitioned to using more pure and natural beauty cosmetic as alternatives to mass-produced creams filled with chemicals and preservatives, and my body couldn’t be happier! Below, I’ll share some of my favorite DIY beauty tricks that are both good for your skin and good for your wallet.

For the below anti-corporate products, make sure you buy products that do not have any additives or additional chemicals, and buy from local and small producers! Your community health food store or direct from a producer online (as opposed to Amazon) is a good place to start.

  1. Vitamin E Oil: this amazing multi-purpose oil can be used:
    • To heal scars anywhere on your body
    • As a moisturizer on your face (it absorbs remarkably fast and is incredibly nourishing; I use it just about every day)
    • As body lotion
    • As a personal lubricant
  2. Marula Oil: this oil can be used:
    • In your hair to make it stronger and shiny (similar to Argan oil)
    • On your face as a moisturizer and body
    • To clear up psoriasis (my sister swears by it
  3. Honey (buy raw and local): can be used:
    • As a face mask– cover face in a layer and leave on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing. Will leave face feeling luxurious and glowing. Can be repeated daily or minimum once a week.
    • As a face wash: mix equal parts honey, Bragg’s apple cider vinegar and olive oil in a bottle (I re-used the one from my old face wash); shake before use, and apply to damp/wet face. Close those eyes, as the vinegar can sting.
    • As an antiseptic on cuts and burns
    • As a sleep-aid
    • For weight management
    • For sore throats and coughs

Have you used any of these products? What are your favorite brands?