Monthly Archives: November 2014

Charitable Giving – What is the Best Way to Do It?

Every year right around the commencement of the holiday season we take a look at charitable giving. Inspired by our founder Barry T. Chouinard, a very generous role model indeed, we are keen to give. Being a small business, we are particular about how and where we do our charitable giving.

We love to give locally. Giving is often most fulfilling when done in person (this might sound selfish, but it feels great to be able to see the immediate result of one’s good deeds); this is not always possible. Time is a huge factor, especially around the holidays, so many of us give in other ways.

charitable_givingSome of these other ways are not always as easy to track, so we thought we’d take a look at a few of the more popular online hubs for charitable giving: Charity Watch, GiveWell, and Charity Navigator. All have very rigorous criteria in place for identifying and evaluating charities. Each of these organizations has provided considerable support of the needy.

Charity Navigator lets you browse among highly rated charitable organizations by category. Animals, humanities, education, environment, health, human services, international, public benefit, and religion. It lists charitable organizations that are trending right now – from Wounded Warrior Project and Heifer Project International to World Wildlife Fund and Save the Children. There is something for everyone here.

Charity Watch does not have the greatest website, but “Of the approximately six hundred charities currently rated by CharityWatch, only a select number qualify for our listing of Top-Rated charities based on our rigorous analysis.” You can see their Charity Rating Criteria here.

GiveWell also had a grading system and lists only its favorite organizations that received the highest marks.

Unfortunately, each of these charity hubs has also done a considerable amount of mud-slinging at other charitable organizations – which does not seem very charitable at all. But like anything good and like everything published online, more research is warranted. provides detailed information about every single IRS-registered nonprofit organization here, which might be a good place to start.

But please do not be discouraged from giving, and giving as generously as you can. If you are hesitant about giving online, volunteer! gives us this on the benefits regular volunteering:

You’ll find the consistent presence of a regular service time to be a calming, stabilizing force in your life, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to seeing those individuals that you work with. Volunteering your time can heighten your levels of satisfaction, and you can be proud of the effort you put into giving back to your community. Service opportunities may also be a great way to connect with friends and family members, as you can all go volunteer at an organization together — which maximizes your satisfaction and, more importantly, your impact. (

This holiday season, when it comes to charitable giving we encourage you to follow your passions, do a little bit of research, make a commitment, and share the love! That is what the holiday spirit is all about.


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Christmas Creep: The Evolution of the Holiday Shopping Season

Is it just us or did Santa (and friends) make an extremely early entrance into our national consciousness this year? Facebook has been plastered with comic book images of Batman slapping Robin across the face just as he starts to say, “Merry Chr…” Shops are already playing canned Christmas music the week before Thanksgiving!

Christmas Creep is what it’s called. When we first heard the term (not that long ago, really) we thought it might refer to some kind of unsavory character, like a flasher in a Santa suit, or someone who steals from the Salvation Army bell-ringers in front of the mall, or maybe the Grinch himself. But it refers to the headlong advance of the holiday shopping season.

Christmas_CreepUp until The Eighties, the Christmas retail season started after Thanksgiving (although Christmas catalogs for JCPenney, Sears, etc. have been mailed as early as August since at least The Seventies). The Friday after Thanksgiving became the default day to start the Christmas shopping season, and stores responded with big sales on that day. The earliest known reference to this day as “Black Friday” dates to 1961 in Philadelphia, because of the huge traffic jams and crowds of shoppers. The phrase took on a darker meaning in The Nineties, following several incidents where shoppers or store staff were injured in what were effectively stampedes of people rushing the store doors.

Since the Turn of the Millennium, it is universally accepted in America that Christmas Creep starts the day after Halloween (which was happening before in certain areas, but was semi-isolated). In the past few years, certain areas are beginning to haul in small amounts of Christmas merchandise as early as mid-October. And it’s spread beyond the retail world: many radio stations that switch to an “all Christmas Songs, all the time” format now do so as early as November 1, and it’s not unusual for homeowners to get a similarly early jump on putting up their own lights and decorations (though this may be more due to not wanting to spend hours outside in the cold late-autumn weather).(

Consumerist writes that the holiday shopping season started even earlier:

The American public has apparently accepted retailers’ efforts to force the holiday shopping season to begin even earlier. According to PayPal, Americans kicked off the unbridled commerce season sometime in the evening on September 30.

How do they know? They’re PayPal, which means that they know everything about us and what we buy. Well, not everything: the company claims that 1/6 of all online purchases go through PayPal, which gives the company a “unique perspective” on our shopping habits in general.

PayPal says that payments tend to increase dramatically on the day that people as a whole begin their holiday shopping. On September 30, the company noticed that payments suddenly went up by 62.81%.(

A Google search for Christmas Creep will tell you that it is ruining the holiday. September 30th sure does seem a bit early for sleigh bells. But Hanukkah is December 16th this year. This date changes every year because it is based on the lunar cycle, rather than the Gregorian calendar system. And Christmas Day seems to be December 25th almost every year.

Even though we love holiday shopping and firmly believe that everyone and his uncle should give fabulous new t-shirts for the holidays, we just as firmly believe that the holiday spirit is what really counts. And that spirit of peace and good will can never start too soon. Let’s start right now!



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Comfort, Manners and Thanksgiving

thanksgiving_dinnerEvery year right around this time we start thinking of good food, family, and Thanksgiving dinner. For many Thanksgiving is the pinnacle dinner of the year. And whether you are a football fan or a gourmand, there are certain rules of engagement we need to follow in order to get it right (or at least keep cool under any pressures that may inadvertently arise at table).

We’ve looked at dressing comfortably and appropriately for Thanksgiving (some of us will wear t-shirts, some of us will wear suits), and we’ve looked at general good ideas (like skipping over conversation topics such as sex, politics, religion or money), but we’ve never really closely examined manners.

Brie Dyas at Huffington Post consider the biggest “sin’ at the dinner table to be talking with you mouth full of food (if someone asks you a question just after you’ve taken a mouthful of turkey breast, politely put one finger up, indicating they should wait until after you have finished chewing for your response). Second on her list is blowing your nose at the table followed closely by putting your dirty silverware back on the table, rather than in the proper position on the edge of your plate. Next comes putting your dirty napkin on the table after you have finished eating but others have not.

Of course, no phones at the table. That goes without saying. You should put your focus on your dinner companions. Don’t even sneak a peek at your phone. In fact leave it somewhere else – in another room, or maybe even in the car.

Bon Appétit has some great, some fairly obvious, and some quirky suggestions for hosting and guesting Thanksgiving:

  • Invite a non-family member so that everyone will at least try to behave
  • No scented candles
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Guests should be prompt – except the best conversationalists (who should come early)
  • Ask your guests to follow a “smart” dress code (this sounds like it could be fun)
  • Do not arrive empty-handed, but don’t bring wine either (your host has likely chosen something already) and don’t bring anything that will require time in the oven – the oven is already in use!
  • “Thanksgiving is the ideal time to gently haze new additions to a family—like placing an eager young boyfriend next to a curmudgeonly uncle.”
  • “Conversation should flow while avoiding the twin sins of offense and banality.”

Does that make it all clear? We thought so, too. Bon Appétit also includes a handy seating guide for where to place your drunk uncle and your “nice but dim” cousin. And regarding football: “No face paint or mascot costumes at the table. Bon Appétit also recommends playing background music during dinner. The Kinks, James Brown, Charles Ives and Bob Dylan are on their playlist. We are not sure we quite understand this one…

This little instructional video should make it all clear…”Good table manners make eating together a happy time”:

If all else fails, Food and Wine offers this terrific recipe for a Maple Bourbon Smash. It includes bourbon, orange juice, maple syrup and bitters, and it looks amazing.



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Lincoln Misquotes and the Apparel Decoration Business

As the mid-term election results roll in, we grumble or celebrate. And then we look back fondly on leaders we have loved.

It is pretty safe to say that Lincoln falls into the category of loved ones. Even if your beliefs don’t support this, the Internet does. Lincoln is one of the most quoted (and misquoted) presidents of all time.

LincolnAnd why not? Who doesn’t love to quote Abraham Lincoln? He was colorful, witty, a legend, a genius, and an American hero. He is infinitely quotable. Quoting him feels as good as it makes us look to our peers, customers, and Facebook friends.

He is also infinitely misquotable. Presidential candidates misquote him, gubernatorial candidates misquote him, Justices of the Peace misquote him. He is misquoted pretty much evenly across party lines and affiliations. This is something to watch out for if you are running for office – or if you are in the apparel decoration business.

Great quotes sell ideas as well as they sell t-shirts. Misquotes can do the same, but they present a precarious balance between appearing brilliant and idiotic. A little good old fashioned fact-checking can keep you on the brilliant side of the scales. (Hint: identifying the original source will improve your chances.)

The Abraham Lincoln Research site has amassed several quotes falsely attributed to President Lincoln. Some of these would look great on a T-shirt:

  • “If I knew that I had eight hours to chop a tree down, I would spend the first six sharpening my axe.”
  • “The philosophy taught in the classroom in this generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next generation.”
  • “I am a slow walker but I never walk back.”
  • “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”
  • “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them friends?”
  • “I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”
  • “In the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”
  • “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
  • “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

Our all time favorite Lincoln misquote of course is this one (unattributed, and without a reputable source):

  • “The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity” – A. Lincoln



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