This Seat's Taken: Gift Guide with Gretchen

My sister, Gretchen, and I are giving you a gift guide like no other. And by that I mean, it is not super organized, it doesn’t touch on every category, and the list is mostly things that Gretchen and I want to receive. Having said that, I think there are some awesome things on this list! Women-owned! Minority-owned! Locally-owned! Ethical businesses!

**Real quick.. a few other gift guides I love… Jen Hatmaker 2018, Jen Hatmaker 2017, Big Boo Cast

We are starting off with a bang… I have found THE BEST lipstick. The Lip Bar! My fave is the liquid matte style. But if you’re a traditional lipstick gal or a gloss gal, The Lip Bar has you covered. My fave safe color is Unimpressed. My fave take-a-risk color is Crown-Me. These are not animal tested and vegan. And The Lip Bar is a Black-owned business, woman-owned business based in Detroit. Love it!

Gretchen is forever devoted to drugstore cosmetics. (Andrea sighs) She loves Morphe lipstick. Check out the cute packaging. We both love cute packaging. I’ve been trying to get her to try BeautyCounter. I love this company and for a really cool gift, I love giving the eyeshadow palettes especially if you’re giving to a young person just starting to navigate makeup. If you’re wanting to really pamper someone on your list, give them the Cleansing Balm. Swoon.

I know there is an artisanal soap around every corner but I’m telling you, Maggie Ann Soap Co. is in a league of their own. This is a woman-owned business local to Grand Rapids. My favorite products are the Mermaid Lagoon soap, Chill Pill bath bombs, and Dog Shampoo bar. These are perfection for gift giving and stocking stuffers. You can also pick them up at the Bridge Street Market.

Gretchen loves Boll and Branch bedding. I know you have ratty ol’ sheets you’ve been meaning to switch out so if you’re gifting someone else or yourself, these sheets look divine.

My next recommendation is for all things Shannon Cohen. She is an incredible leader and motivator and has a whole line of cards, journals, and prints that will make any gift recipient feel seen and heard. I think they’re perfect for your co-workers, friends, 20-somethings. Really anyone. I love them so much!

Gretchen’s next recommendation is for a big splurge super special gift. It is a bag from B. May bags. These are gorgeous leather bags. Here’s Gretchen’s fave (boring) and my fave (exciting).

Up next is We Are Lit. I cannot get enough books and locally owned, woman-owned independent bookstore books are the very best. We Are Lit is a curated collection of multicultural books but Kendra, the owner, can order any book she doesn’t already have in her collection. Just message her! The books will come wrapped in brown paper and love. She also has an audio book service called So your traditional and audio book lovers are both covered.

We both love businesses that give back and Gretchen is recommending a restaurant in Traverse City that does just that. The Good Bowl. Lots of you travel to the Traverse City area or know someone there so check them out or send your up north loved one a gift card.

Two more local GR businesses that I love are Liv Styled and Polished Nail Bar and Spa. Liv is a closet magician and personal stylist. She does all things style related and is the nicest human. You could give absolutely anyone the gift of Liv’s services and you’ll be a gift-giving hit. Polished is the coolest nail place and would be the perfect place to get your fave gal a gift card. Branch out and support a local business!

The next recommendation is still mine because I’m the host and I can just keep going… Shanalee Hampton makes the coolest stitched art for your activist, empowered, bad ass friend. Her hand-stitched art says the things we want to say! This one is one of my favorites.

And I’m on a roll… My next recommendation is Chaotic & Collected. This woman-owned shop makes handmade garlands and party decor. She has all of the usual things (birthday, holiday, etc.) and so many more fun things that you never knew you needed. Check out her site and I know you’ll find something you need.

We’re headed back to a fashion pick… Everlane. Gretchen loves their cashmere crew sweater and their high wasted skinny jeans, and their black suede kitten heels. Everything at Everlane is made with ethical business practices and fair wages. You can see the actual factories that make the items right on their site. Gretchen mentions another fave cashmere sweater from Uniqlo.

I’m coming back with a book recommendation that you could gift to a kiddo or grown up alike. It is called Modern Herstory. It is jam packed with 70 world changing women, girls and non-binary people who have shaped history. I have LOVED sharing this book with my kids because I can introduce them to world-changers and educate myself on these amazing people. It is a gorgeous book with beautiful illustrations and would be at home on a bedside table or coffee table.

And the last gift is the Because of Them We Can Box. This box launches in the next few days so follow the link to get signed up for updates on when it is available. Every month, your kiddo can get a box in the mail (they love mail!) all about Black History and Excellence. Love this!

I also talk about donating to causes in honor of someone on your list. I would love this as a giftee! Two of my favorite organizations are Together Rising and Donors Choose.

So there you have it. I could make gift recommendations for days! Let gift giving be a source of connection this year. Don’t make it a drag or just get something because you think you have to. Do it up right with meaningful gifts and if actual gifts aren’t in the budget, just take the middle seat. Make someone feel seen and heard. I promise you’ll both feel the gift and the magic in the middle seat.


Taking the Middle Seat next to Strawesome and Nutcase Vegan Meats

On episode 14 of Taking the Middle Seat, I have a double feature for you! 

In the first half, I'm talking to Daedra Surowiec, founder and artist behind Strawesome, a glass drinking straw company.  She trained as an architect and also worked as a natural childbirth educator but her path wound around to glass straws!  You will hear her passion for creativity and sustainability.  Strawesome straws make the coolest gifts.  You get a straw and you get a straw and you get a straw! 

Daedra let us know that 500 million plastic draws are used in the United Stated everyday!!  Educate yourself regarding single use plastic.  Here's a graphic I found really helpful to wrap my mind around this issue.  I know I'm getting better at toting my reusable bags into the grocery store and using my glass straw.  Every little bit helps.  If you're working on this too, check out the book Daedra mentioned, Zero Waste Home.

Here's my favorite Strawesome straw for a cause.  Proceeds go to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  I also mention that I first heard about Strawesome from The Nourish to Flourish Society.  They'll be on a future episode so keep listening to hear their story too.

Daedra learned her glass blowing technique called torch work at the Glass Academy in Dearborn, MI.

Daedra said she loves the best parts of social media!  You can follow Strawesome on Facebook and Instagram

She also loves her RTIC tumbler and tower garden.  I love the idea of a wildlife-proof garden that flourishes in the basement!!!  So cool.

On the second half, I sit down with Monica Randles from Nutcase Vegan Meats.  She and her husband, Andrew Maternowski, are physicians who decided to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle in 2010.  You'll hear Monica talk about their path to creating the most yummy product that is fun to cook with and tastes amazing.  I am not vegetarian or vegan and I seriously LOVE their product.  

Monica mentions the movie Food Inc. and she talks about a book I am absolutely going to read called How Not to Die.  Both of those were influential in the genesis of Nutcase Vegan Meats.

Monica's favorite things include a book called Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch, transcendental meditation, and another book called Sky Above Great Wind about the life and poetry of Zen master Ryokan.

Follow Nutcase Vegan Meats on Facebook and Instagram.  Also, make sure to attend Nutty Burger Bash on August 12!

Thank you for listening and I hope you'll spend time this week, Taking the Middle Seat.

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This Seat's Taken: Gifts for Fathers or just about anyone

I love giving gifts!  So any chance to tell others about cool gifts, makes me happy.  We happen to be coming up on Father's Day so these gifts would be great for those people in your life who father.  They'd also be great for anyone!  Holidays that pinpoint a specific type of receiver are tricky for lots of reasons so I just think of them as a way to spread some joy to whoever needs it.  Shop these links and tell them that Taking the Middle Seat sent you! 

Bow Tie Cause - Search bow ties by the particular cause they support.

Bold Socks Statement Sockwear - Locally owned sock company.  Each pair of socks provides clean drinking water for 100 days for 1 person in Africa via sustainable methods.

Books and Mortar - Local independent bookshop.  Best place to shop books, cards and gifts right here on Cherry St. in Grand Rapids, MI

We are Lit - Online local bookseller that offers culturally curated books shipped nationwide. - Audio book shop that supports independent booksellers.  Click the link to get your first month free!

Sage Harvest Jerky - Yummy jerky that donates a portion of their profits to a different charity each month.

Boss Mouse Cheese smoked butter - We recently visited this farm and their cheese is amazing but they also make SmOkEd BuTtEr!!!!  So yummy!  You can order online any time.

Pink House Alchemy cocktail bitters - Anyone who loves a craft cocktail will love a super special cocktail ingredient to add to their bar.  

Pine Valley Outfitters - Hammocks and general outdoorsiness.  The company supports efforts to end homelessness.

Guillotine card game - A Lundskow family favorite!  Collect the noble's heads and you win.  

TableTopics question cards - Great conversation starters for road trips, family night or any time.

HQ - A runaway and homeless youth drop in center in Grand Rapids.  Donate to support their mission or purchase off of their Amazon wishlist.

The Laundry Truck LA - They provide laundry services to people experiencing homelessness in LA.  Donate to support their cause!

That's it for now so go spread the love!  Whether you have the best dad in the world, no dad at all, are grieving your dad, or know lots of people who father in different ways, we call spread love in the coming weeks.  I hope your people feel like you've taken the middle seat right next to them when you give them these gifts.  

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