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Filtering by Category: Christmas

Bags! {Christmas Gift Guide}

Ben Ashby


I collect bags. I have my go to every day bag (the FOUNT bag), I have my utility bags for when I’m teaching classes (the Sturdy Brothers and the Artifact Tote), I have a travel tote (A JW Hulme), and I have ones for special occasions that I pull out when I’m going somewhere special. I also have a few that I believe in not only for their amazing quality but because I love the people making them. Today I wanted to share a list of my favorite bags for this Christmas season.

Each day is supposed to be nine goods, but for this one I had too many I loved…yet I know I still forgot a few. 18..and go….

1) FOUNT is my go to bag. Made in Cleveland with insanely good leather. They’re basically the Birkin of handmade.

2) I love Peg and Awl. They are one of the original makers to popularize waxed canvas. The PA based team is as genuine as they are creative.

3) J.W. Hulme is a classic American heritage brand. They’ve been creating luxury American made goods for decades. They still hold true with creating timeless pieces that last for decades.

4) Red House VT is a maker I’ve known for years. Watching them grow has been an honor. Their clean Vermont inspired designs are always a refreshing take using rugged materials.

5) Liz Riden is somewhat new to the scene. Specializing in women’s leather goods she is making top quality leather smalls the attic of her Lancaster, PA home.

6) I have had an Artifact tote for eight years. The thing looks as good today as it did nearly a decade ago. They bring midwest charm and midwest frontier level quality to each piece they make.

7) I have two Sturdy Bro. totes and they are indestructible. The waxed canvas is so sturdy I’m convinced it’d survive a hurricane. These are the totes you want if you know its going to get messy and needs to hold up.

8) J. Stark brings a timeless southern feel to their brand. Each piece reminds me of a throw back to earlier days of handmade. Their brand feels like it belong on Main Street in a cute southern town. The entire brand is so well tied together.

9) Forest Bound is one of the OG’s. Like Peg and Awl, Alice has been making top quality well built bags for nearly a decade outside Boston. Her Escape bag has become icon.

10) Farmhouse Frocks is entirely made by Amish makers in the heart of Ohio Amish country. Their designs are always inclusive of all body types and sizes. Their leather goods are festive reminders of their farming, rural, small town roots.

11) One of my favorite totes to carry in the city is a canvas tote by Lineage. Well lined, well structured, and well designed. They bring a bit of modernity to a classic style of bag making.

12) Bradley Mountain is one of the OG millennial makers. San Diego based but inspired by the rugged mountains each piece is a beautiful reminder of good design.

13) I’ve known General Knot for forever. Originally known for their ties and bow ties their well built zippered totes have certainly won my heart.

14) Millican backpacks are the kind you use when you know its going to be a journey. Perfect in airports or camping.

15) Tracey Tanner is a Brooklyn based bad ass who brings fun and bright colors and leathers to the game. Her simple yet very well built designs are perfect smalls to carry on their own or to throw inside a bigger bag.

16) Loyal Stricklin, like Bradley Mountain is one of the first millennial makers to hit it big on social media. Made by a husband and wife team in Nashville each piece is touched and created by them.

17) Artifact Goods is bringing slick modernity to the leather game. Made in central California these bags are they perfect city bags. Timeless yet modern.

18) Our vegan option by Sole Society is actually one of my favorites. I am stopped everywhere I go by folks telling me they love this bag. It pairs perfectly with the Fount bag if you don’t mind mixing vegan and leather.


There will likely be a second bag list as I’ve already remembered several friends I’ve forgotten. Stay tuned.

Candles! {Christmas Gift Guide}

Ben Ashby

I’m insanely lucky to be friends with so many amazing candle makers. Creating this list got incredibly hard when I realized I could only include nine, so I must start by saying there are so many other candle makers beyond these nine, these just happen to be the ones I picked for a variety of reasons. Others will be included in future lists.

1) I first met First Hand Supply Co at American Field in Boston. There is something about their scents and the price point that instantly set them apart from all the other candle makers there. They have clean scents that are equally inviting and warm as they are refreshing.

2) I’ve loved Sydney Hale candles since I first discovered them at Fable and Flame in Lexington. In those days it was a team of two hand pouring the luxury candles. Its been a joy to watch them grow over the years.

3) Harmony Farm candles are delightfully affordable and retain their scent for a very long time. These are the type of candles you fall in love with in small town shops and load up on for gifts all year long.

4) PF Candle is the classic and the original. The first candle to go viral on Etsy nearly a decade ago PF has become a standard in any millennial home. We love the team behind them just as much as we still love their classic packaging, their timeless scents, and the west coast minimal vibe they brought to the game.

5) Great Bear Wax Co is the lone man on the list. Based in Alabama these candles carry a bit of a masculine feel, a bit of a southern feel, and a bit of a rugged nature vibe.

6) Flores Lane are the candles I am most often burning. They last forever and have soft subtle scents. Made in West Hollywood by a small team and hand stamped and labeled.

7) I love Wax Buffalo for their packaging. Its bold, its timeless, its perfect. Her scents are amazing too, but that packaging, it just gets me.

8) Ethics Supply Co has a candle for everyone. The mission behind the brand is promoting nature and the outdoors. The candles carry themes dedicated to the national parks, the different regions of the US, and a spirit of nature. The quality is amazing. The packaging is amazing. The people behind the brand are amazing. (Hands down Starry Night is the candle you need for all summer long.)

9) While this one isn’t a candle it is my favorite Tatine product. Buy this one for yourself. There are plenty of other options for gifts. This one you deserve to treat yourself with.

Christmas Cheers + Flavors! {Christmas Gift Guide}

Ben Ashby

Day two of our Christmas Gift Guide series is here. Today we dive into a few of our favorite sweet nibbles and holiday cheer that’ll fit perfectly into any kitchen.

A perfect Christmas kitchen is a mix of delicious treats and beautiful serving pieces. Each of these is handmade by a maker somewhere in the US.

1/6/8) Three of our favorite pieces by Rogers Made from Tennessee. Handmade in their newly opened shop and studio space each Rogers Made good is perfect for gifting, using, keeping, or hoarding. We’re especially obsessed with the apple cider syrup.

2) The winter season certainly isn’t complete without Finding Home Farms maple syrup. Perfect for the mornings, perfect for the sweet desserts. Made in the Hudson Valley of New York.

3) We’ve been obsessed with Vermont Farm Table Co’s pieces for years. Their beautiful boards are a must have for every kitchen.

4) Made in Arizona these delicious caramels come from the milk produced right on the farm.

5) Farmhouse Pottery in Vermont is the most sturdy, beautiful, and timeless pottery we’ve come across. Luxury quality for any farmhouse kitchen.

7) We’ve loved Whimsy and Spice brownies for nearly a decade when we first saw them on Etsy. Made in Brooklyn for the most perfect on the go treat.

9) Another Brooklyn made good, these A Heirloom pie boards are perfect for any season of pie consumption.

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The Rugged Life {Christmas Favorites}

Ben Ashby

Christmas is quickly coming. We’re here this year to share a few of our favorite authentically made gift-able goods this holiday season. Each day will be a different focus. Today we focus on nine must have items for the rugged life. Think camping, hiking, camp fire cooking, and of course all those perfectly styled photo moments.

1) Tribe and True Blanket | 2) Lodge MFG Camp Dutch Oven | 3) Woolrich blanket | 4) The Campfire Cookbook | 5) Ball and Buck Anorak Pullover | 6) Loyal Stricklin Aviator Mug | 7) Mark Albert Boots | 8) B and H Photo Video Dry Tube | 9) Duluth Pack Back Pack. || Click on images for link.

Make Canning Jar Snow Globes {with Tractor Supply Co.}

Ben Ashby

This Christmas I have been in an uber crafty mood. This is the first Christmas I've actually enjoyed in years. For some reason I wanted to challenge myself to make lots of budget friendly projects, decor pieces, gifts, and Christmas themed goodies. The following series is a grouping of projects I teamed up with Tractor Supply to create using items from their stores.

The challenge was to create the projects and have them use at least one item found at your local Tractor Supply. This is a series we will continue into 2018. 





The first project was creating these simple canning jar snow globes. The jars were an easy find in the canning section of Tractor Supply. These are the same jars you would use to do at home canning of fresh vegetables from your garden or farmers market. 

I decided to select a variety of sizes so I could create groupings, however since these jars come in multipacks, feel free to stick with them all being the same size. I would recommend the pint and quart jars, as the half pints are too short for most trees to fit in. 





Canning Jars (size is your preference) 

Hot Glue Gun 

Fake Snow

Twine, String, or Ribbon

Shop Cloths

Paint pens or Oil Based Sharpies 

Small Embellishments (we used bells and greenery) 





1) Take your jar and make sure it is clean. 

2) If you would like to draw designs or illustrations on your jar, now is the time to do so.

3) Using hot glue anchor your trees or figurines to the bottom of the jar. Place the glue on the tree or figurine then insert it into the jar.

4) Fill to the desired level with fake snow. You can also use epson salt for a more refined look.

5) Depending on how you'd like you're red shop cloth to look:

For a close cut, trace a circle around a jar lid on the shop cloth. The circle should be slightly larger than the lid of your jar. Cut and glue to the top of your lid. The ring will hide any rough edges.

For a more creative homespun look cut a liberal circle from the shop cloth. Place the lid and ring on the jar and tighten. Place the cloth over the top and tie down with ribbon or twine. 

To finish the jar simply embellish with festive adornments. We used hot glue to adhere them to the jar. 

Create trios and groupings for a festive filled moment. 




Jail House Knits || Give Authentic 2017

Ben Ashby

I thought I'd seen it all, but then Jail House Knits joined us this Christmas season with their hand knitted paintings. I hope you love them as much as I do...


Tell Us About Your Business

I'm Tracie the maker behind Jailhouse Knits. I use my passion for color, pattern, and texture to create stitched paintings, knit and crochet accessories, and rag dolls.

Where are you located?

Hickory, North Carolina

Why should people shop small?

Shopping small means you are helping a creative achieve their dreams.

Why support makers?

I support my local makers by sourcing my materials from local yarn and fabric shops located in Western North Carolina and my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. So, supporting other makers is vital to help their businesses thrive and survive.

What is your most popular product?

I'm just starting out with Jailhouse Knits, so I really do not have a 'popular product'. But I will say, I get the most positive feedback about my rag doll...Ms. Sheep.

What is the greatest reward in being a small business?

Oh my gosh! Being able to create all day long is a blessing. It is the entire process of the idea becoming a real product. I really enjoy taking photos and staging my products in mock ups too.

What is the greatest struggle in being a small business?

I wish I could clone myself ten times! More help would be wonderful. Being a one woman show is a struggle to juggle. :) Ha! I like to rhyme!

What is one piece of advice you'd share?

Do not compare yourself to others. If you knit a kick-ass beanie, then put it out there! If you can paint a beautiful flower, put it out there! The more you create, the better your creations will become.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Silent Night


The Painted Lily || Give Authentic 2017

Ben Ashby

I feel like The Painted Lily has created timeless products that are perfect for any generation. Say hello...


Tell Us About Your Business

My stone coasters, ornaments and barn wood pieces are made in small batches in our rural farm studio in Pennsylvania. I incorporating vintage images and artwork with beautiful tumbled marble tile. I create for people who love unique statement pieces for their homes.

Where are you located?


Why should people shop small?

Shopping small helps you to find products that are made with love and spirit and all things cozy and warm. I feel that every piece that I create passes through my hands and becomes imbued with love and good vibes. I hope that my customers feel that too when they receive their pieces from me.

Why support makers?

Makers aren't just making beautiful products. Makers are creating a new way of life... investing in their local communities, building connections and changing the way that business happens all around the world.

What is your most popular product?

My most popular product is my stone coasters. People love the rich colors, the smooth texture of the tiles, the tumbled stone that I use and they love how durable and beautiful the coasters are.

What is the greatest reward in being a small business?

The greatest reward is watching my business grow in surprising ways, in slow and steady ways. It's so rewarding to build something from the ground up and watch it take shape before your eyes.

What is the greatest struggle in being a small business?

Work/life balance, always. I think it's the main struggle of any small business owner who also has a family.

What is one piece of advice you'd share?

What is your favorite Christmas song

Without hesitation, it's O Holy Night. But only if the singer stays true to the song. No crazy riffs or vocal gymnastics. Just a pure tone and the beautiful melody and lyrics.


Roots + Crowns || Give Authentic 2017

Ben Ashby

Portland really must have the best makers. We were so excited to discover Roots + Crowns this Christmas season...


Tell Us About Your Business

Roots & Crowns is a one-woman apothecary out of Portland, OR. I specialize in Tincture-based Bitters, Herbal Remedies, Botanical Skincare, Aromatherapy, & Ritual. Roots & Crowns as a simply put mission, is "plant power to the people." I only use organic and/or wildcrafted ingredients and every product is inspired by the needs of people in my life. I strive to make sure my work is both helpful, while also enhancing the beauty and joy in as many lives as possible.

Where are you located?


Why should people shop small?

The more we support small and/or local economy, the better off we all are. Contrary to what huge corporations want their shareholders to believe, unlimited growth is both impossible and unsustainable. With growth comes the necessity to cut corners/aspects of quality. That's just the way it is. Smaller is actually better in terms of quality and craftsmanship.

Why support makers?

Moving off my reasons for people shopping small, I believe that by having more makers receive support from the population, we are encouraging more people to live on purpose. This means a happier, more vital society at large.

What is your most popular product?

Rose Face Serum

What is the greatest reward in being a small business?

When I get emails from customers telling me that my work has helped them heal. But really- all the feedback I get from folks who notice what a difference my work makes in their lives. When I get a message like that, it's like an energy boost for the rest of the day.

What is the greatest struggle in being a small business?

The uncertainty. Constantly hoping that I will be able to make ends meet, and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

What is one piece of advice you'd share?

If you have a deep yearning to do something, try it! Fear is part of every risk, but I choose to see certain risks as a leaps of faith. Usually those deep yearnings are intuitive gut instincts that help guide us to what we really, really want to do with our lives. I'm not going to say it's always easy, but I believe when you follow your heart and work hard, everything is possible.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

I wish I had a more obscure thing to say, but I have to say Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You"


ADME Apothecary || Give Authentic 2017

Ben Ashby

ADME is making simple, easy to use, and beautiful apothecary products. I am so excited to introduce them to you this Christmas season...


Tell Us About Your Business

ADME Apothecary was created by a public health nerd, passionate about making routine beauty products healthier. The name was inspired by how anything we put in our bodies, or on our skin, travels through our bodies. ADME Apothecary is dedicated to creating products that replenish and repair daily damage to your skin without leaving anything harmful behind. ADME uses high quality, organic ingredients, and develops blends for all skin types. Each product is made by hand, in small batches to ensure you receive the best possible product. ADME Apothecary is also dedicated to making a difference in the world. I truly believe that business is one of the most powerful instruments for meaningful change. I am proud to give back to causes that inspire my products: women's issues, environmental sustainability, and human health. Currently 5% of all profits from my products are donated to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, a world leader in cancer research and patient care, and whose sole mission is to defeat cancer. I also created a product that gives 50% of the total cost to supporting efforts to rebuild in the Caribbean Islands through Unidos por Puerto Rico, and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. Both of these charity efforts are very near and dear to me, and being able to give through my work is the most rewarding part of ADME Apothecary.

Where are you located?

Fresno, California

Why should people shop small?

There so many reasons to shop small, but I think the biggest one for me is that shopping small helps to support and build your own community. You're not only investing in a product, but also the people around you, and that can have a really incredible impact.

Why support makers?

As a maker I put my heart into every jar of scrub, or bottle of oil. I really want you to enjoy the product as much as I love making it for you. As a maker you share your passion with others, and it creates a better product.

What is your most popular product?

My most popular product is the Rosemary & Peppermint Body Scrub.

What is the greatest reward in being a small business?

You can connect with your customers in a really incredible way. I've also had several customers request custom body scrub, which has evolved in new product ideas.

What is the greatest struggle in being a small business?

Balancing work and life. Often they blur together, and it can take real effort to disconnect.

What is one piece of advice you'd share?

Invest in yourself. If you have an idea or passion, invest what makes sense into cultivating it, and see where it goes. The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn't work out as you imagined, but at least you tried.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

I'll Be There With Bells On, by Loose Ties


The White Crowe || Give Authentic 2017

Ben Ashby

I am obsessed with these beautiful works of art The White Crowe creates. Say hello and learn a bit more about them below....


Tell Us About Your Business?

The White Crowe is a small home studio by Lauren Crowe, a freelance graphic designer and printmaker.

Where are you located?

Boone, North Carolina

Why should people shop small?

When individuals shop small they know their economy goes directly to that one person's family, putting food on their table, paying bills, supporting a dream and a passion.

Why support makers?

It's important to support the makers because when you do so you support a dream and help grow an inspiring world.

What is your most popular product?

My piece "Moonshine"

What is the greatest reward in being a small business?

My greatest reward by being an artist is being able to share my work with others and see a piece of myself travel to a new home with a new story.

What is one piece of advice you'd share?

If you have a passion and you're good at something, share it with others.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

O Come Let Us Adore Him by Shane and Shane


Selena Ashley Designs || Give Authentic 2017

Ben Ashby

Say hello to maker Selena Ashley Designs! 


Tell Us About Your Business: I’m a designer and hand-letterer.

Why should people shop small? When individuals shop small they know their economy goes directly to that one person's family, putting food on their table, paying bills, supporting a dream and a passion.

Why support makers? It's important to support the makers because when you do so you support a dream and help grow an inspiring world.

What is your most popular product? Hand-lettered Globes

What is the greatest reward in being a small business? My greatest reward by being an artist is being able to share my work with others and see a piece of myself travel to a new home with a new story.

What is the greatest struggle in being a small business? Making people understand the difference between handmade artisan prints and mass-produced art and helping them to see the value in the authentic decor. It's easy to go online and just buy any old print, but that's the equivalent of going to a mall and blindly buying a t-shirt. We want people to understand that a significant art purchase requires more than just a quick online glance.

What is one piece of advice you'd share? If you have a passion and you're good at something, share it with others.



Five Alternative Uses for Fruitcake

Ben Ashby


Truman Capote’s 1956 short story “A Christmas Memory” opens on a chilly, late November morning to a young boy’s surrogate mother looking out the kitchen window. Her breath fogs the pane and “Oh my,” she exclaims to him, “it’s fruitcake weather!"




I’ve been thinking about this boy and this woman a lot recently, as my own breath fogs the frosty mornings and the local food co-op in our New England town puts out its annual order forms for fruitcake, displayed carefully between menorah candles and commemorative winter solstice prayer cards.

My mother doesn’t bake. But lo-and-behold, every holiday season a fruitcake adorned the giant red sideboard next to our kitchen table. My mother and I would drive to the local Sam’s Club, grab Diet Cokes from the hot dog stand, peruse the aisles of colossal cheese and salami trays, gallon jugs of Jack Daniels, permafrost boxes of Hot Pockets and Pizza Rolls capable of feeding a small legion of junior high boys for the better part of a month. We’d end at the bakery, plop a shrink-wrapped, over-sized fruitcake into our cart, and make for home. Freshness isn’t an issue with fruitcake, the food that, along with Twinkies, may very well feed us in a post-nuclear apocalypse. 

Our fruitcake held court upon the vintage milk glass cake stand for a month or so, a month when we’d peck at it until New Year’s, when my mother would throw what remained in the backyard, where stray cats and birds would finish what we couldn’t.

Yes, it’s popular to hate on fruitcake. And though I don’t particularly like it — even the artisanal ones this site will inevitably link to, made by hipster bakers with pretty blogs and thick framed glasses smudged with organic, locally-sourced, hand-ground flour — I want to offer you five uses for fruitcake that don’t require eating them.




Rise to social media stardom. Jesus is not the reason for the season, and Santa is drunk on a beach in Cancun. This leaves room for a new holiday star: you. Bake a fruitcake (or buy one, it doesn’t matter). Snap a picture of it next to your bare ass. Tag with #FruitCAKE. Drop to Insta, Tumblr, Facebook, Reddit (even trolling, closeted Republicans need holiday eye candy). Watch your likes grow and your star rise, bringing many a wise man to lay in your manger.


Win the passive-aggressive winter Olympics. That racist cousin whose name you always draw for the family gift exchange? That co-worker who sends you “Long Live Lady Gaga” playlists on Spotify? That guy who gave you chlamydia junior year but is now married to a rich patron with a Lower East Side loft and cabin in Asheville? Yeah, fuck ‘em with kindness. Bake the driest fruitcake you can, wrap it in butcher paper, tie it with twine, add a sprig of spruce, and send it alongside the happiest holiday card you can muster. Up goes your karma count, no one can say you didn’t try, and hey, maybe your untouched fruitcake will draw rats to their well-appointed kitchen.


Plan a date. Tell your crush to bring dried fruit and the door will be open. Splay yourself upon the counter, covered with flour, eggs, butter…whatever else goes in a fruitcake. See what happens.


Throw a costume party. Invite every gay man and every woman you know to a Fruitcake Party. Dress: ho ho ho. Décor: low lighting. Drink: liquid fruitcake (orange zest, a cinnamon stick, but mostly gin). Distraction: Love Actually on loop. Don’t forget: carb and gluten free fruitcake bites and plenty of mistletoe.


Reconnect with your mother. You don’t call enough. You haven’t given her grandchildren. You live so far away in that city now. And yet, you are naturally her favorite. Spend an afternoon baking with your mother, margaritas in your cups and Dolly Parton on the stereo. Tell her about the boy who broke your heart last month. Let her tell you he wasn’t good enough anyway.


D. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015) and Crush with Will Stockton (Punctum Books, 2014). He is an Assistant Professor of English at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and his work has appeared in Threepenny Review, PANK, The Indiana Review, The Rumpus, and as a notable essay in Best American Essays. Find D. at or on Instagram @dgilson.