Thing 17: Puzzles 🧩

Puzzles may be the real winner of 2020. Our ability to constantly go from Good Screen to Bad Screen; small screen to big screen was tested. When you take away the in person gatherings, commute, the time spent in restaurants, museums, and other things we love; and move work, school, meetings, and gatherings of all kinds to a digital format at the same time, suddenly all we were doing was staring at screens. More than normal! Enter the humble, analog jigsaw puzzle. 

Millions of individuals and small households used puzzles to entertain and distract themselves with puzzles this year. The engraver and cartographer John Spilsbury, of London, is believed to have produced the first jigsaw puzzle around 1760. Little did he know that 260 years later, a global pandemic would lead to me sitting on my floor at 3:00 am with gummy-induced synesthesia multiple nights in a row, solving puzzle after puzzle. 

Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in DC was invaluable. I bought six puzzles from them online, via the easy and safe pick-up option. But they ship too! And Meredith in Pittsburgh was gifted a 1000 piece puzzle just this way. It’s going to be a long winter; get yourself some puzzles from a small business like Labyrinth.

✔️ DC Based

Thing 16: Books, from a indie shop

It’s about to be the fourth year of my online book club (the original idea I stole from Oprah), and all are welcome. Many join, but few participate…and this is OK! Sometimes people need book ideas, others need aspirational reading goals; there are no obligations or bad reasons to join. We read one book a month and discuss it on a chat platform (text chat only) for an hour at the end of the month. I choose all the books (muahaha), and we only read things published in the past 18 months. 

I am using Thing 16 to celebrate the end of Book Club 2020, and invite you all to participate in Book Club 2021! The world debut of next year’s titles is right here, right now! The actual physical Thing #16  is our final book for 2020, Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Since I chose the book last December, before it was released, it has received much acclaim, including being shortlisted for The Booker Prize! (This is a brag about how I pick good books.)

Books are also a great thing to buy locally. Support independent bookstores in your area. You can use sites like Bookshop to browse availability (if they don’t have their own ecommerce), but you should always try and email or call in your order if possible. Meg is getting her copy of Real Life from Loyalty Books, which is a great Black and Queer-owned bookshop in DC and Silver Spring. They have a fantastic ecommerce platform and have many things available for pre-order too (which can be hard to find in independent bookshop sites).

Pre-orders can be so important for authors. If there are authors you want to see thrive, pre-order their next book from a local, independent book store (if you don’t have one, borrow mine). There are a few unreleased titles you can pre-order on the 2021 Book Club list: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith, Kink edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwald, and Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia.

And don’t forget about libraries when you pre-order―request your local library also purchase (this link is for DCPL and requires you to be logged in) a copy too. This is also a great way to show support if books aren’t in your budget: requesting is free!


✔️ DC Based 

🏳️‍🌈 Queer Owned

🖤 Black owned 

🚺 Woman owned  

Thing 14: The USPS

five stamps

So, the Postal Service is having A Very 2020 Time: leadership sabotage, an increase in tens of millions of mail ballots, and extreme mail and package surges (amid staff shortages) that enable us all to get the things we need during this pandemic. And don’t forget- the employees who make the mail happen are real people impacted by Covid-19!

Ok so we all love the post office, but I thought the focus was on small businesses? Bear with me. So, so many small businesses rely on USPS. Without affordable and reliable rates, many small business owners would be unable to ship their products. Plus, they provide free boxes and mailers for Priority and Express Mail services. If you’re an Abbey’s Favorite Things participant this year, your package probably came by USPS. And if you’re waiting on an item, it may be delayed. That’s ok! An unprecedented amount of mail!!! Side note: I am only worried about one item…because it is alive 😬

The USPS also provides opportunities for small businesses in other ways. Let’s take a look at the stamps that Georgia, temporarily in Yonkers, will receive. The Innovation stamps were released in August of 2020. Some stamp info:

Five new stamps in a pane of 20 celebrate the American spirit of innovation, specifically in fields in which U.S. scientists and engineers have made significant contributions that have touched lives around the world: computing, biomedicine, genome sequencing, robotics, and solar technology.

Each stamp design features a photograph of a subject representing one of these five fields: Computing (detail of a circuit board), Biomedicine (immune-system cells), Genome Sequencing (detail of a DNA chromatogram), Robotics (a bionic ankle-foot prosthesis), and Solar Technology (detail of a square solar cell). The word INNOVATION is laid over each of the images. Each of the pane’s four rows includes all five stamps, arranged differently in each row to add visual interest. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps, choosing a detail of an existing photograph for each. 

Antonio Alcalá is part of an Alexandria VA based design firm, Studio A. Artists and designers are commissioned to design stamps, providing work to small businesses! So buy some stamps, send some mail, and enjoy the journey. Maybe wait until next year though—they’re pretty busy right now. But do consider a holiday tip or gift for your mail carrier!



Thing 12: Ash + Chess

Like so many city-dwelling white women, I am sucker for a good museum gift shop. And the National Museum of Women in the Arts has a great one; most importantly they purchase from a good selection of small artists and makers. Through this gift shop, I discovered Thing #12: Ash + Chess. A duo of illustrators working in Richmond, Ash + Chess is queer & trans owned stationary company. They make incredible cards, prints, and created The Gay Agenda

Though I had purchased two of their pieces from the NMWA shop, I had never thought to look at their work more directly (shame on me, I know!). Then this summer, I purchased a sticker pack from Anthology 320, and decided to follow all of the artists who collaborated, including following Ash + Chess. Days later, I received one of their bright and quirky cards from a friend. Sometimes you’re just fated to find a new fave. 

Whitney in Alexandria received a Rainbow Palms Plant. And I encourage you to stock up on cards for friends, buy a print for yourself, and mark your calendars to order the Queer Tarot Deck, coming spring 2022. 


🎁 Tiny creative business 

🏳️‍🌈 Queer Owned

🚺 Woman owned (co-owner)

Thing 11: Sio Ceramics

pair of earrings and box

As already stated in posts this year- I love ceramics and I love jewelry. Today, we combine them! In February, I went to the Art Rave market at Dupont Underground. In terms of alternative arts venues, this one is particularly funky. Opened in 1949 as a trolley station, all of the platforms and tunnels were closed off in 1962 when the city’s streetcar system shut down. It was a designated fallout shelter in the 60s, and other than a short run as a food court, was mostly abandoned until 2016 when Dupont Underground opened. 

I’ve enjoyed concerts, interactive installations, formal art shows, and more in the past few years. It’s a fun space with a unique feel, but remains without some basic utilities, including bathrooms and heat. So, I went through the early February art market at a very brisk clip. Soon, I spotted a table of ceramic jewelry that very much interested me, but several people were already browsing and there was no room to look. So I did what I recommend you all do: took a pic and followed the artist on Instagram as a reminder to check back later. If you see art you like, follow the artist! It’s much easier than keeping track of a business card. 

By happenstance just three weeks later, I was looking at her work in person at the opening reception of Duality by Hen House (a show like so, so many others whose full potential was squandered by the coronavirus pandemic). Waiting to purchase a piece by Aphra Adkins, I was browsing the selection of earrings from Sio Ceramics, when Makeda Siobahn, the artist and owner, came over and said “I think you should buy those.” And reader, I did. And really haven’t stopped! I have two pairs of earrings and a necklace for myself, and I’ve gifted two pairs of earrings. Now Julie in Cleveland will have a pair too. Following Makeda made me appreciate her work and process even more. As I talked about with Meg, there is something magical about purchasing jewelry made by a person and not a machine. 


🎁 Tiny creative business 

✔️ DC Based 

🖤 Black owned 

🚺 Woman owned