Thing 21: The Final Thing—Art, yet again

You can afford to purchase amazing and unique art from living artists. Yes, you. If you are reading this I guarantee you that it is true. Art can be an investment at any budget but don’t let news stories about Picasso and Basquiat works selling for millions of dollars at auction make you feel like your only options are blank walls or Pottery Barn. 

When you buy a piece of art you are purchasing so much more than something for your walls or shelves; you are investing in the creative economy and the decades of experience that went into creating that piece. It’s a feeling, it’s a vibe…it’s everything. I wrote about local printmakers and clay artists from past years, but get on Google or Instagram and find an artist to support. Jason in New Jersey gets a piece from my collection that I think he’ll really like but he can choose another one if he doesn’t.

Thing 2: A little stitching

embroidery floss, aida cloth, and hoop

Two of my 2021 resolutions were 1) do activities I enjoy even if I am bad at them and 2) more non-screen things. My first foray into goal 1 led to avatar Abbey running around the virtual MIT campus attempting to help her team solve hundreds of impossible puzzles. But my first great goal 1 & 2 crossover was to stitch a tiny thing every week. If you’re reading this, you probably have seen my chubby little thread birbs. One each week—reporting in with 44 done; 8 to go!

Cross-stitch is not hard, nevertheless, I remain not very good at it. I am slow and sometimes bad at counting, yet find it really fun and relaxing…relax with needles, says I. For 2021, a year awful, and so much better, and entirely unpredictable, these manageable small birds really spoke to me. I got the pattern as a PDF from Etsy seller TinyCrossStitchCo. They have an awesome selection of projects great for beginners and pros alike, and fitting for almost anyone’s interests. 

Don’t see something you like? Search the internet more broadly! There are patterns for every possible thing you may want to stitch now, plus a whole world of embroidery past the world of Xs. I found Embroidery Central a great resource for my supplies past a generic kit.

Shayna, citizen of the globe and fellow Sagittarius, will be getting the embroidery supplies pictured here as well as some plant patterns to explore the fabulous world of stitching.

Favorite Things 2021: Day 1

copies of vanity fair magazine

Favorite Things is back, baby! One day, one thing. The theme this year is “I hate everything but maybe some of these things are ok.”

For my first Thing, I am talking about Vanity Fair—a magazine combining serious journalism with perfume samples. I honestly think I subscribed to VF when some child in my life was selling magazine subscriptions for a school fundraiser. Perusing the titles available, I suddenly had flashbacks to standing in front of the magazine racks of Marc’s circa 1997 Cleveland, Ohio. I wanted whatever life Vanity Fair had to offer then, and thought I may as well see if the idea still applied.

Having the physical magazine has been so great. Sometimes I tire of looking at both good screen AND bad screen and need the heavily saturated pages of a glossy. The covers, once a predictable Leibovitz-controlled aesthetic, have opened to a wider range of photographers e.g. Dario Calmese with Viola Davis, Adrienne Raquel with Issa Rae, and Quil Lemons with Billie Eilish. I also subscribe to print versions of The Atlantic, Washingtonian, and the Washington Post, but only VF is the perfect magazine for long flights, a lazy Saturday on the couch, AND when you need to make a collage.

I am a little torn here because I wish I was favoriting a magazine with a journalism union/guild. I’m inspired by some of the other Condé Nast unions (especially by The New Yorker and their excellent organizing graphics) and look forward to supporting the VF writers if they choose to take that route.

Elizabeth in Manchester is getting a physical and digital subscription to Vanity Fair UK.

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