One of my goals not working this December was to decorate my house like I have never done before and host gatherings with my friends. So last week we found every box in the attic of ornaments and elves, santas, sleds, deer, etc. Some boxes I had not opened in 10 years. I spent a day without music in a Zen state playing and arranging. I bought various varieties of greens and red berries, cut holly from our bushes, now the house smells delicious. GoodWill received 3 shopping bags of ornaments that someone will love; Snoopy, BettyBoop, Popeye, ugly angels, scary santas on various vehicles…
I purged. My designer friend Janet rearranged furniture and gave the house a layer of goodness.

one of 2 trees this year

Shopping with local merchants is critical for me. When asked, “Is brick and mortar retail dead with all the empty storefronts and challenging investment in small business” I say NO! Absolutely not! However, every merchant has a responsibility to have a unique value proposition and make it neighborly to shop in your HOOD.
Three businesses come to mind.
Allandale Farm is exactly 3 miles away with the most luscious greens, wreaths, swags, and ornaments that are ‘spot on’ gorgeous and perfectly priced. Run by a generational family, the buyers have taste and know their customers. Located near Arnold Arboretum it has been a working farm for 250 years and the last farm in Boston. Organic is its specialty and supplies produce for Whole Foods in Boston and Cambridge.
Connelly Hardware on Washington St 4 blocks away was just highlighted in The Boston Globe ‘Small But Thriving’article. Founded in 1951 withstands the competition of Home Depot and Lowes. They focus on one on one customer needs. The owner provides personal service to painters, tradesmen, and customers who have accounts so trust is critical. Every time I need something I can always find it as the selection is narrow but everything you need in an urban setting. The store is raw, that’s part of the charm, paint their specialty with advice. An example of a family business that thrives and adjusts to the need of the changing rental community. I needed to replace a screw for a stockpot lid, and the owner knew that it was a metric screw just by looking at it and found a replacement in a second. Amazing…
Brookline Ice and Coal is a mile away, and has been in business since 1924, open 7 days a week and we buy ice for parties and propane for grills and heaters. Why are they unique…they provide ice sculptures. The website is huge. Ice as deer, logos, serving bowls with fruit and flowers, ice as balls and interesting shapes, for weddings and parties. They have a gallery of 53 different luges. We ordered a candy cane luge 40in long for schnapps. Should be really fun!

The Ahah Moment: We want our local merchants to survive, to provide income for their families and jobs for the community and we must support them first. They are creative and know their customers wants and needs, and adjust to be current…they are our friends.

Shopping Beyond Your Hood– unique gifts by big and small initiatives
While on the treadmill watching Morning Joe MSNBC(I flip between that and Squawk Box CNBC) , Lauren Bush Lauren was interviewed for her founding of Feed, her organization that supports artisans in African countries for the sale of their crafts. The money raised is distributed to provide food for children in underdeveloped countries. Feed began in 2006 when Lauren Bush( famous family and now married to son of Ralph) designed a bag to benefit the United Nations World Food School Feeding Program. Feed #1 bag $80 provides 1 child with school meals for 1 year. She is articulate, smart, and has a fabulous team of young and smart executives with her. She showed up in Elle this month too. Check out the website. Impressive!

Women are in desperate need for opportunity in the developing world. That is what motivated my friend Tanja to partner with a group of girlfriends and start a business with artisans in Nepal. Felt is the oldest textile known and today they partner with the Associated Craft Producers of Nepal to produce and sell the beautiful bags. The art of producing felt is highlighted on their website and buying the products support women in the developing world for a better life. I noticed Tanja’s computer bag and loved the story of starting with an idea and making it happen on a small initial investment.
MULXIPLY GiveGive mission is to eliminate poverty, to provide opportunity, and make fashion both sustainable and equitable acres the entire supply chain.

And then there is Heifer International that I have purchased to give a cow, goat, sheep. This year I think I am going to give chickens and bees…

Yesterday, the second Monday in December was supposed to be Black Monday…the biggest shopping day in December on the internet. Who predicts these things???

Let’s see what my buddies on Squawk say this week!