Holiday Gift Registry?

Gift registries are generally associated with weddings and baby showers, but now that the holiday season is gleaming on the not-so-distant horizon, I starting thinking …

How would you feel about revamping the annual wish-list notion by incorporating a registry?

Before you balk, let me introduce you to a brilliant new twist on the traditional registry idea:


Catchy handle aside, SoKind really does get right to the heart of generosity. This online service encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods, experiences, volunteer assistance, and other genuinely valuable offerings.

What’s not to love?

Parents, in particular, often search for ways to inspire family and friends to give their kids less stuff.

(You know how all of the plastic toys can pile up!)


Photo by Kannanshanmugam, Shanmugamstudio, Kollam via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, though, it can be tricky to request specific gifts—especially, ahem, from certain relatives—without seeming picky or ungrateful.

And, let’s face it—it can be stressful for loved ones to try and track down gifts with more meaning.

SoKind offers an eloquent means of requesting gifts and, in turn, expressive alternatives to the ho-hum default (read: gift cards).

“What gifts do you truly want?” asks SoKind. “Music lessons? Homemade dinners? A museum membership? Babysitting help? Donations to your favorite charity? Through SoKind, you can register for gifts of time, experience, and skill, as well as traditional material gifts and secondhand items. The registry is entirely customizable, so the possibilities are endless!”

This novel registry would also be a terrific tool for office celebrations, don’t you think?

Here’s the gist of how SoKind works:

  1. Fuel up on inspiration for gift ideas you and your family might enjoy at SoKind gift ideas and sample registries.
  2. Create your own registry, including as much information as possible for gift buyers. For instance, if you want only locally made products, you can add this to your description.
  3. Share your registry with family and friends by sending personalized announcements. SoKind keeps track of what gifts have been given and who signed up for each (or, you can keep it anonymous if you prefer to be surprised).
  4. When it’s all said and done, you can send thank you e-cards through SoKind, too.



Zombie Farm Invasion

Hooligan Houlihan got creative beyond her usual crafty self. Possessed!




Saralou_HalloweenHere’s how she did it:

Story of STUFF

Six years ago, Annie Leonard released The Story of Stuff, a compelling 20-minute video in which Leonard illustrated the vicious cycle of unbridled consumerism from factory to daily life to landfill.


Photo courtesy of

“We have a problem with Stuff,” Leonard declared. “We use too much, too much of it is toxic, and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better, not more; sharing, not selfishness; community, not division.”


Photo courtesy of


It was a brief animated statement that became a movement (500,000 worldwide members and counting).

Soon, there were more movies—stories of bottled water, cosmetics, electronics, and so on.

While each video addressed ideas for working toward happy endings, Leonard just released a fabulous finale to her “stuff” series that hits the cumulative nail on the head:

The Story of Solutions.

“In what I call the ‘Game of More,’ politicians cheer a steadily growing economy at the same time as our health indicators are worsening, income inequality is growing, and polar icecaps are melting,” writes Annie Leonard in this month’s issue of YES! Magazine. “But what if we changed the point of the game? What if the goal of our economy wasn’t more, but better—better health, better jobs, and a better chance to survive on the planet? Shouldn’t that be what winning means? That’s the question I ask in my new movie.”

Leonard points us to the plastic packaging problem as a case in point.

“Game of More” solutions include initiatives that reward people with gift cards to buy things if they recycle plastic bags and containers. Sounds like a nice idea, but think about it: This strategy really just encourages a “more is better” economy.

Leonard proposes new solutions such as campaigns that are trying to ban plastic packaging. “By volunteering their time, these citizens are declaring that there’s something more important to them than just earning and spending more,” she explains. “To win this campaign, these citizens are going to have to team up with forward-thinking businesses offering alternatives to throwaway plastic packaging.”

Changing the goal of the entire economy—from more to better—is a monumental undertaking. Annie Leonard doesn’t deny it.

“We can’t do it all at once. But I argue that by focusing on game-changing solutions, we can steadily build an economy that values things like safer, healthier, and more fair as much as we currently value faster, cheaper, and newer,” she says.

Take nine minutes to hear more of Leonard’s spot-on logic (seriously spot-on—I love this woman) in the Story of Solutions video, below:


Mother of Invention

It’s easy to name off a list of male inventors who made their indelible marks on history, but what about women inventors?

Or, shall I say, inventresses?

(Yes, “inventress” is really a word.)

So, can you come up with any inventresses off the top of your noggin?

While it may be common knowledge that Edison fired up the light bulb and the Wright brothers took flight, there are a number of gung-ho gals whose names deserve to be tagged to their creations.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can see why I had to start with this one …


Photo by Editor at Large via Wikimedia Commons

It’s no surprise that there was a resourceful woman behind one of our favorite treats, but who was she?

Her name was Ruth Wakefield, owner of an old toll house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Ruth and her husband converted the toll house into an inn and restaurant, continuing the house’s tradition of offering food to weary travelers. One day in 1930, Ruth was baking up a batch of chocolate cookies for her guests and found she’d run out of baker’s chocolate. Thinking fast, she crumbled a Nestle chocolate bar into her dough, expecting it to melt. When the pieces held their shape after baking, a new kind of cookie was born, which became a staple at the toll house and gained rapid fame among guests. Nestle found out about the cookie craze incited by Ruth Wakefield and soon began selling Nestle Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels in her honor. The Wakefield cookie recipe was printed on the back of the package, and Ruth Wakefield received free chocolate for life.


If you’ve always assumed that Monopoly was created by a mustached fellow with a top hat and cane, hear this:

In the early 1900s, Elizabeth Magie created The Landlord’s Game to preach the unfairness of land-grabbing and the disadvantages of renting. She patented her board game in 1904 and self-published it in 1906. Needless to say, it didn’t become a household name until, nearly 30 years later, a man named Charles Darrow upcycled Magie’s design, dubbed it Monopoly, and sold it to Parker Brothers for a mint. Magie’s original patent was purchased for a meager $500. The rest, as they say, is his story.


Photo courtesy of All About Fun and Games

Flat-bottomed Paper Bags

In 1870, a woman named Margaret Knight designed a wooden machine that would cut, fold, and glue flat bottoms to paper bags (which were shaped more like flat envelopes at the time).


Photo by Sturmovik at Wikimedia Commons

While Knight was perfecting an iron prototype of her machine for a patent application, the design was stolen by a man named Charles Annan, who tried to patent it. Knight filed a patent interference suit against Annan, offering her notes and sketches to prove her case and win her rightful patent.

Circular Saw

Now, here is one that might surprise you. In 1813, a Shaker woman named Tabitha Babbitt watched lumber workers struggling to use a two-man pit saw and suggested that a circular saw would save them a great deal of effort. She didn’t hesitate to make a prototype, which she attached to her spinning wheel to make it move.


Photo courtesy of Ben Franske via Wikimedia Commons

Ms. Babbitt also shared the invention of cut nails with Eli Whitney and is said to have invented a process for the manufacture of false teeth as well as an improved spinning-wheel head.

Liquid Paper

In the 1950s, secretary Bette Nesmith Graham secretly used white tempera paint to mask her typing errors. In pursuit of the perfect cover-up solution, she spent years tweaking her formula before patenting Liquid Paper in 1958. Two decades later, Gillette bought Graham’s company for a whopping $47.5 million.


Photo courtesy of Love Krittaya via Wikimedia Commons

To discover more women who have heeded the call of necessity, visit Women Inventors.


While we’re on the subject of board games

(if you’re scratching your head, visit my recent Farming Game entry to catch up),

Classic Monopoly fans may—or may not—enjoy this twist on tradition:


Photo courtesy of Big Hope via Co.Exist

That’s right: Commonopoly.

While countless Monopoly spin-offs have flooded the market in recent years, none is quite like this one.

Not only is it basically a DIY game (check out playing instructions on the Big Hope website), but it also scraps the whole notion of monopolization altogether.

But, wasn’t that the point?

Not anymore.

“Commonopoly demands that players brainstorm alternative economic systems through activities placed around the board,” explains Sydney Brownstone of Co.Exist. “The players move counter clockwise, as per the instructions, and subsequent creative acts are to be documented in booklets later distributed to the public. Much of the game focuses on coming up with ideas for public spaces, as well as sharing home remedies for common ailments.”

Bringing social consciousness into a game built on power play?

I’m game!





This from THAT?

“There’s an interesting thing that happens to me when my budget starts looking threadbare,” a friend told me the other day.

“I immediately start looking at household items differently, as if I wake up to the hidden possibilities inherent in everyday stuff—you know, how can I stretch this, or what can I make out of that?”

Suddenly, she said, luxury items like yarn for a knitting project are off the table.

This train of thought led me back to a project I featured last year: Knit T-Shirts into Rugs.


Remember that one?

The concept is delightfully simple, and it can be extended to other projects as well. It begins with t-shirts (almost everyone has a few extra), and it ends with soft, colorful “yarn” that is perfect for chunky knitting, crochet, or weaving ideas that are endless.

So, how do you make “rag yarn”?

It’s easy:

Lay a t-shirt flat on a table or counter.

Lightly draw a straight line across the chest, just under the armpits, and cut along the line to remove the top portion of the shirt.

Cut off the hem and lay the large “tube” of remaining material flat again.

Mark 1/2 to 1-inch (thick or thin, your choice) strips from top to bottom as guidelines for cutting.

Starting at one side seam, cut strips, stopping about one inch from the opposite seam (your strips will still be attached).

Open the fabric so that you’re looking at the seam where the strips are still connected.

Starting at the bottom of the seam, angle your scissors and diagonally cut ONE END of your first strip free.

Cut the rest of the strips on a slight angle across the seam, from one notch to the next, so that they remain connected in one long strand (not individual loops).

Starting at one end of your “yarn” strand, begin stretching the material so that it lengthens and curls inward.

You can then roll it into a tidy ball and tuck it into your craft basket for whatever project your creative heart can dream up—no pocketbook required. For ideas, check out what the women on my chatroom have come up with for their “tarn” projects,


Stranger than Fiction?

If you enjoyed my post on the Little People Project, you’ll love this.

First, feast your gaze on these gorgeous landscape photos:


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of


Photos courtesy of

Rivers in flood, erupting volcanoes, coral reefs, Northern Lights … the moon??

This photographer must really get around!
Continue reading


How fun is this?


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots ( via Co.Exist (

It’s a fish tank,

it’s a garden,

it’s …


This newfangled countertop-gardening gizmo has the “neat-o” market cornered.


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots (

In a nutshell, it’s a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food.


None. All you do is feed the fish.


Nope. It’s soil-free (the plants grow in clean pebbles).

Um … smell?

Not a whiff except for the sweet scents of flourishing herbs and greens. (Almost sounds too good to be true.)

So, how does it work?

“This closed-loop eco-system uses the fish waste to naturally fertilize the plants above,” explain Aquafarm’s inventors. “In turn, the plants clean the water for your pet fish.”

The ready-to-grow kit, which is made in California and sells for about $60, includes everything you need to get started, from organic seeds to fish food, and you also get a discount coupon for your first fish from Petco.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots


Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots

Kids and Christmas!


Rent to Own


a … chicken?

Surely you jest.

Jenn and Phil Tompkins of Freeport, Pennsylvania, aren’t laughing.

Well, maybe they are, but their mission is as real as a rowdy rooster.

(That’s the only figure of speech that sprung to mind.)

“A lot of people are scared to get into chickens because they don’t know what to expect or where to start, so we try to provide an easy avenue for the customer,” Phil Tompkins explained to ABC News.

The Tompkins recently launched Rent the Chicken, a service that provides local Pennsylvania customers with two temporary hens, a portable coop, food and watering containers, and enough feed to last through the rental period.


Photo courtesy of Rent the Chicken

“Chickens produce the most eggs from May until November, so during the last week of November, we stop by and pick up the rented chickens, coop, and supplies,” says the Tompkins’ website. “Starting in November, we shelter them and protect them from Old Man Winter. As soon as May comes back around, we schedule a time to bring your chickens back to you and provide you with another season of rental.”

It’s all designed to create an easy learning experience without endless responsibility.

“Raising a chicken from an egg is very difficult,” Phil says. “Where we live in Pennsylvania, they sell peeps in the grocery store, and people buy them because they’re cute but don’t know what to do with them. But keeping a grown one is pretty much manageable for anyone.”

If a renter “chickens out,” the Tompkins team is ready to come to the rescue—no questions asked and no penalties.

Of course, customers who fall in love have the option of buying their hens instead of giving them back.

Pricing starts at $250 with discounts for friend referrals, and roosters are available upon special request.

I think that’s just cock-a-doodle dandy, don’t you?

I wonder if anyone would be interested in renting one of my backyard milk cows???