Just Say “No” to Black Friday – A Rant

Got your turkey yet? Because in case you missed it, next week is Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. If you’re vegetarian Thanksgiving might not be your favorite. I can’t imagine it’s easy to get excited about Tofurkey, and as a former vegetarian I know how sad it is to see that gorgeous spread of food, but you can only eat like three things. I’m pretty sure the only Thanksgiving foods that aren’t made of animals are the rolls, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, and even though mashed potatoes are meat free, what is the point without gravy?


As if the tables laden with coma inducing food weren’t enough of a reason to be in love with a holiday (and PS: it totally is), the other super cool reason it’s my favorite is because it’s all about being grateful for our blessings. It’s probably a tradition in your household to someway express your gratitude, whether you go around the table and take turns sharing what you’re thankful for, or you partake in a group craft to show your gratitude.

[Tweet “Being thankful is baked into this holiday. It’s right in the title, for crying out loud.”]

gratitude inscription

Thanksgiving is long been my fave because there was no consumerism involved. No pressure to buy gifts, or costumes, or decorations. The message of Christmas has long been overshadowed by consumerism. This is nothing new, I mean that’s the whole plot line of A Charlie Brown Christmas, first aired in 1965, and it’s only gotten worse. Holiday decorating is out of control, and the pressure to buy gifts is incredible. Why are we buying cars for each other now? That was not even a thing just a few years ago, but I’m already seeing commercials featuring a luxury autos adorned with ginormous bows.

Halloween isn’t for kids anymore. Way back in the day, your mom would have made your costume, or you went out as a princess, or a hobo, or cowboy or something. Then store-bought costumes got popular, and now there are giant pop-up warehouses full of costumes, mostly for adults, probably slutty. The decor has evolved from a jack-o’-lantern and some pretend spider webs to giant blow up witches with cauldrons spewing smoke, and full-size caskets. It’s also taken a disturbing turn from creepy and spooky to gory and downright maniacal.


Even Valentine’s Day has changed. You can’t get by on store-bought cards with silly puns anymore. Heaven help the poor kid who shows up to school with something less than Pinterest worthy. Exiled straight to loserville, buddy.

Thanksgiving manage to escape these expectations. No gifts, no costumes, and no elaborate decorations. Turkeys made of handprints and construction paper pilgrim hats are still A-OK. No pressure to do anything but give thanks and eat a crazy amount of food. Many years back I told Greg that Thanksgiving would be my favorite holiday til they figured out how to commercialize it. At that time, I didn’t see how they could. Then a thing called Black Friday came into our lives.


In the beginning, it wasn’t so bad. The newspaper was a lot fatter that day, and after celebrating all we were thankful for, we looked through the store ads to see what else we could add to our lives, because irony. Of course it couldn’t remain that simple; nothing ever does. “How can it be bigger?”  “How can they spend more?” “Let’s make Thanksgiving shopping day!” In 2014, some stores decided Black Friday just wasn’t enough, and they needed to be open on Thanksgiving too.

I’m not naïve. I know a few people who celebrate Thanksgiving by going to the movies. There have always been businesses open on Thanksgiving. Restaurants, gas stations, flower shops, convenient stores, many more. The point isn’t that all businesses should be closed on Thanksgiving, or that nobody should have to work that day. I’ve worked plenty of Thanksgivings. But I have to question why we are turning a holiday about gratitude into an opportunity to buy more more more, to line up for hours to get a great deal (actually, not always), and to literally trample our fellow humans to score a few dollars in savings?

REI is closed on Black Friday, and not only that, they’re paying their employees and encouraging them to spend their Black Friday outdoors. I’m joining REI & encouraging everyone to avoid the mall on Black Friday & to go outside instead. And if you have to shop, and you probably do, please consider supporting Small Business Saturday instead. 


Celebrate Thanksgiving the way it was intended, by giving thanks, spending time with those you love, and eating a week’s worth of calories in one sitting.

Blog Tutorial

“Leaves of Gratitude” Centerpiece – Craft Tutorial

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US, and it’s my favorite Holiday. It combines many of the things I love: eating comfort foods, being thankful, and taking naps on the couch. Also, I am in love with leftovers, and Thanksgiving pretty much rules at that. Remember Ross’ sandwich? You know you are winning at leftovers when the best show ever writes a whole episode about it. 


[Tweet “Thanksgiving is pretty much unscathed by commercialism, although that is a losing battle.”]

Cheesy handmade decorations are still acceptable, encouraged even, and sometimes, very cool. That is the case with this easy and family friendly centerpiece craft, “Leaves of Gratitude”.


I wanted to make something that wasn’t complicated, because this time of the year is bananas for makers, but that would look really nice on the Thanksgiving table, and I wanted it to be interactive, but all the messy stuff could be done beforehand.


To make this craft, you need colorful paper, white glue, and bamboo skewers. First, I downloaded a free leaf template from the internet. It is, of course, possible to draw your own leaf, but I needed 26 identical leaves, and that’s just too hard to draw. At least, for me it is. I made a sheet of leaf outlines in Keynote. You could also use Powerpoint or Illustrator or something similar to do this step. If you don’t have a program like that, or don’t know how to do such a thing, you are going to have to trace your leaves by hand. Sorry!


printed leaves



Cut out your leaves. This is the hardest part, really. Unless you have to trace them by hand, then that is the hardest part. Still, it’s not rocket science. Because you are going to glue two leaves back to back, take a minute to match them up for the best fit.


matched leaves


Apply a little bit of glue at each point, and a lot of glue in the middle where you’re going to stick the skewer.


leaf and glue


Make a leaf sandwich.


leaf sandwich


When your family arrives on Thanksgiving day, ask them to take a leaf and write on it what they are grateful for, then display the leaves of gratitude on your table.



gratitude inscription


I used some glass pebbles to help the leaves stand up, but if you don’t happen to have them, they aren’t super necessary. I really wanted to use dried beans, because I thought that would look cool, but I didn’t have any.



leaf bouquet


I can’t wait to take this sentimental centerpiece to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner next week. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone writes on their leaves.

Have a wonderful week and a very happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



“Less Stuff, More Quality’ is My Passion. Here’s Why.

[Tweet “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”]

The trend towards hyper consumerism is almost inescapable. Things are just so darn cheap nowadays. Wal-Mart is everywhere, and dollar stores are so common that books and websites for crafting with stuff that you buy at the dollar store exist. Our town didn’t get its first Wal-Mart until the late 90s, and within a few years there were two more like 5 minutes away from my house. There are currently 22 Wal-Mart stores within a 30 mile radius in San Diego county. I’m picking on Wal-Mart, but they’re not the only guilty party. Cheap stuff is everywhere.

Have you heard of “retail therapy”? It’s kind of a joke to describe that feeling you get when you buy stuff, but in reality, it’s more sad than funny. When that first Wal-Mart opened in my neighborhood I fell under its spell of super cheap crap. Saturday mornings, I’d head over to see what was new and get a little alone time. I could literally spend two hours in there wandering the aisles and filling my cart with housewares, gadgets, trinkets. We were running out of room to put it all, and even though it was cheap, it wasn’t like it was free. I’m not sure what broke the spell. Maybe Greg questioning whether we really needed another red plastic mixing bowl, or maybe I’d just had enough. Like too much fast food, it wasn’t truly satisfying no matter how much I consumed, and eventually I got sick of it. Even though I love fast food, I don’t want to eat it every day. 

And I started to question the statement I was making, because how you spend your hard-earned money is one of the most powerful statements you can make. Not to bum you out too much, but super cheap stuff has a cost that someone, somewhere is somehow paying. Maybe it’s horrible working conditions, maybe it’s gross environmental practices. Sometimes it’s slavery.

Our family made a decision to choose better when handing over our money in exchange for goods and services, starting with buying less. There’s pretty much always going to be a tiny place in my life for discount stores because sometimes you do need that plastic bowl, but we really try hard to support local small businesses. This means, when we buy gifts, we try to choose local handmade whenever possible, or at least a local “mom and pop” retailer. When we eat out, we usually go to a locally owned restaurant vs a chain restaurant. And when we the only choice is a big corporate shop, we do our best to choose one that takes care of its workers and gives back to the community.

I totally get how capitalism works, but I also know that I feel better when the person who is making the stuff I buy can take care of their family. Not everyone can afford to make a statement every time they shop, but if we could all just try to see the bigger picture and spend our money a little more meaningfully, it would make an impact. And understand that you don’t have to cave to the pressure to “buy buy buy”.

And so dear friends, that is the story of my great big why. I hope I’ve made my case that more isn’t always better, but mindful is better; Meaningful is better. And I think that you will see that better stuff is better.

Also, check out this episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver where he talks about the real cost of “Fast Fashion”.  Warning: lots of swears.