Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Fair Four: Valentine's Day Gifts

While I eschew the observance of Valentine’s Day as a holiday which encourages one to stress about how to best show love through overspending, I am a willing recipient of flowers, chocolate, jewelry, and other tokens of affection any old time of time of year, including February 14th.
So for those want to think outside the chocolate box, here are four ideas for interesting and thoughtful Valentine’s Day gifts, complete with a few malapropian titles for those who enjoy a little wordplay with their wooing:
 Coffee, Tea, and Sea (salt)
If the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, then the product developers at Equal Exchange are fluent in the gustatory language of love.  They offer a full range of delicious Fair Trade, and often organic, foods and beverages.  Coffee, tea, cocoa, dried fruits and nuts, chocolate bars, spreads, fresh produce such as bananas and avocados as well as baking products are available.
I always recommend Equal Exchange’s Love Buzz coffee to those who are looking for a little add-on gift or who are putting together a gift basket for their special someone.  It is my favorite organic coffee blend, with full city and French roasts that combine to create a dense, fudgy brew described as “dark and smoky [with] sweet velvety layers of chocolate brownie, caramel corn, malt and toffee.”  Organic Vanilla Rooibos Tea from Equal Exchange has a delicate vanilla flavor with aromas of cake batter and marzipan, and is refreshing with lemon, yet comforting with steamed milk and honey.  Rooibos, or red bush tea, is indigenous to South Africa and is loaded with antioxidants while being completely caffeine-free.  Equal Exchange has a delicious line of candy bars, and the favorite bar of everyone I know is, hands down, the Organic Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt bar.  The bar delivers what it claims to, “satisfy both your sweet and salty cravings. Crunchy caramel bits serve as the perfect complement to mouthwatering sea salt crystals and bring out the complex flavors of the smooth, fruity chocolate.”

Heart and Sole

Prince Charming had it rather easy, as he had only to find the woman to fit the shoe.  If he’d had to find the shoe to fit the woman, the fairy tale may would have been penned a tragedy.

Prince Charming:  “Fair maiden, I bestow this token of my love upon you.”
Cinderella: “Really?  Wow.  So what is it about me exactly that screams mustard yellow tapestry loafer?”   
Buying shoes for a woman, like slaying a dragon or wingsuitflying, is a quest few men ever attempt because of the extreme difficulty and possibility of death as an outcome.  The sad thing is that, like me, there are some women who would love for a man to buy her a great pair of shoes.
The highly intelligent and beautiful people at Sseko have created a special Valentine’s Day package that may well solve the problem.  The Crush Sandal package from Sseko costs under $80 and comes with a pair of sandal bases in your choice of brown or black leather, and a trio of straps in classic black and gold shimmer and chiffon ‘Crush’, which features red hearts on a field of black.  The components make endless styling options for a cool pair of sandals that fit wide, regular, and narrow width feet.  The package arrives wrapped in a custom shoe bag with a little love note.  Sseko Sandals are produced in Uganda and help enable young women to attend university.

How do I love thee?  Let me count the Sheas.


Everyone knows about the benefits of shea butter by this point, yes?  Winter is still going full force and shea butter does wonders for dry skin.  Available through Global Mamas and made by the women of Ele Agbe in Ghana, Lavender Slippery Slope Shea Butter, $12 and Lavender Trunk Scrub Shea Soap, $6 are a powerful moisturizing duo.
If my heart had wings
These diminutive winged wall sculptures are handmade from oil drums in Haiti.  Haitian metal work is a beautiful artistic tradition that began with metal crosses for gravesites and now has expanded to unlimited designs for wall art, small sculptures, and other decorative pieces. 
Beyond Border’s “It’s Cactus” is an organization that seeks to improve the standards of living of the artists families and their communities. Founded in 1992, Beyond Border’s has been a member of the Fair Trade Federation since 2007 and pledges to:
  • Pay a fair wage in the local context
  • Provide equal opportunities for all people, particularly the most disadvantaged
  • Engage in environmentally sustainable practices
  • Build long-term relationships
  • Provide healthy and safe working conditions
  • Provide financial and technical assistance to workers whenever possible
  • Fair Trade advocates agree that the producer should earn enough not only to cover materials and labor costs, but also to improve the standard of living.
At $9.50 apiece, their metal winged hearts are lovely as individual pieces, or as a collection.  They are all hand-made and come in a variety of designs, so each one is a surprise.

The fairest of them all…is free
Timothy Keller wrote, “to be fully known and truly loved… is what we need more than anything.”  The theory of “The 5 Love Languages” posits that there are 5 primary ways in which we express and perceive love, which are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.  Our default is to communicate love to others in a way which makes us feel loved.  A miscommunication can occur when we attempt to speak in one love language to someone who speaks a different love language.  My most memorable example of this is when I got my first apartment in college.  I was so excited about making it my own, and directly after moving in I left for work dreaming of how I would furnish and decorate it, where I would put everything, and what kind of roommate I would look for to help me share it.  When my mom surprised me at work in the afternoon, she was so pleased that not only had she unpacked and put everything away, but had purchased some furniture for me and even had my “new roommate” sitting in the car with her.  She was speaking in the language of “Acts of Service”, and was quite surprised by my response to her gift, which I did not perceive as loving at all.  We can laugh about the memory of that major miscommunication, because we now understand each other and the way we function in expressions of love.  You and your loved one can take a free quiz here to find out which are your primary love languages.
Why only four this week?  Well, unless taking a romantic Fair Trade vacation to South Africa with one week’s notice is a viable option for you, non-traditional Fair Trade Valentine’s Day gifts are quite hard to come by.  If I’m pressed for a solid “Friday Five”, I’d go against the tradition of a “non-traditional” list and encourage you to enjoy the week-long jewelry sale at participating Ten Thousand Villages stores throughout the USA, Feb 7-14, 2014.  Buy any piece of jewelry, and get another piece of equal or lesser value at ½ off. 
Lovely little keepsake pieces like this Mother-of-Pearl Heart's Desire necklace, also have matching heart-shaped stud earrings.


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