The $20 or Less Etsy Gift Guide

Instead of tossing elbows with the masses on Black Friday, why not opt for something simpler? Etsy is a fabulous place to get unique, cutomized and affordable gifts, but I’m sure you already know that. With millions of options, though, it can be just as overwhelming and treacherous as a doorbuster deal gone bad. Solution? Check out my Etsy Christmas survival guide below, featuring nine gifts as original as your friends – for just $20 or less.

For the artistic one:

Fox Watercolor Print - $20

Fox Watercolor Print – $20

What does the fox say? Buy me. Amber Alexander has over 374 quirky but outstanding watercolor paintings and prints. Going postal? Be sure to check out her Christmas cards, too.

For the Disney-lover:

Framed Peter Pan Glitter Silhouette

Framed Peter Pan Glitter Silhouette – $10

Never grow up? Sounds like a plan to me. Poppies and posies features mostly framed and matted Disney-themed silhouettes. Each picture is 100% customizable, so the possibilities are as endless as Tink’s supply of pixie dust.

For the wandering soul:

Travel Journal Notebook - $16

Travel Journal Notebook – $16

Lost with wanderlust? Set them free with one of several travel-themed journals from Istria Design. Be sure to write your address on the inside cover so they can thank you with postcards from their globetrotting journey.

For the phone junkie:

Color Palette iPhone 4 Case

Color Palette iPhone 4 Case – $10.99

From Disney to Dr. Who, Captain America to Hepburn, iPhone Case 001 has a little bit of everything. Personal yet functional. With 309 cases to choose from, there really is something for everyone.

For the Harry Potter freak:


Harry Potter Book Rose – $2.50

Book-lovers are bound to go crazy for these precious HP roses by Wednesday Thursby. Get it? Bound? Oh, okay. You got it the first time.

For the dude:

Bacon Soap

Bacon Soap – $6

Fact: Guys use soap. Fact: Guys love bacon. Conclusion: Get him bacon soap. If he isn’t a stereotypical bacon fanatic, then check out some of the other 539 food-themed choices from AJ Sweet Soap and pick his favorite dish for the soap dish.

For the writer:

Pheasant Feather Quill Pen - $8.33

Pheasant Feather Quill Pen – $8.33

The sacred feather of this quill from Whillock hails from the mighty eagle of Middle Earth’s Misty Mountains. Okay, that’s not true at all, but your writer buddy is definitely gonna’ love the Tolkien tribute.

For the gamer:

SNES Ring - $16

SNES Ring – $16

Oh My Geekness! How rad is this ring? OMG deals primarily in nerdtastic jewelry and cuff links. Each item is totally customizable, so you can even order their favorite game for extra bonus points.

For the crazy cat lady:

Cat Ears Ring - $15.06

Cat Ears Ring – $15.06

We all know a future cat lady in the making. Now, thanks to OST Accessories, that abundance of cat hair won’t be the only kitty-themed token they take out of the house.


Why does the Virgin Mary always wear blue?

Growing up Baptist, I’ve learned to take a few church conventions for granted. One question, though, has plagued me every Sunday since I was a wee Awana’s cubby. A five-year-old Sunday school student may not be able to explain the meaning of communion or articulate the difference between a Lutheran and a Methodist, but there’s one thing all preschool church-goers know beyond a shadow of a doubt: the Virgin Mary always wears blue.

But why?

As the Catholic Family blog points out, realistically Mary’s clothing would have been kind of drab, plainly colored, simple in structure and modestly dyed in a dull shade at best. So why the fabrication? Pun intended. The reasoning behind Mary’s wardrobe is more complicated than I would have guessed, as many explanations are out there to be considered. Surprisingly enough, though, Mary hasn’t always been so keen to the sky blue hue she most often dons today.

“The older, classic and more representative color is dark blue,” wrote Rev. Johann Roten, director of the Marian Library-International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. On a student FAQ page, he wrote that “Mary’s dark blue mantle (cloak), from about 500 A.D., is of Byzantine origin and is the color of an empress.”

“The Virgin Mary” by El Greco, 1595

Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic news site, offered somewhat of an expansion/alternative theory. The OSV writes that the dark blue color of Mary’s mantle represents a kind of waiting that occurred in the darkest part of the night, which corresponds to the Catholic celebration of Advent. The OSV also suggests that the color parallels the many associations between Mary, the moon and the stars, which is seen in Revelation 12:1 and depicted in the stained glass artwork below.

The Virgin and Child by unknown, 1505-1510

According to the OSV, the mantle had symbolized protection since well before the Middle Ages, as women would conceal babies and other vulnerable people inside for safety. Handy, right? After the Middle Ages, however, artists began using a sky blue for the cloak, which illustrated her status in the Catholic world as protector and mother of the Earth. The Catholic Family blog supports this interpretation, adding only that the color blue also symbolizes tranquility and peace. Because the majority of Christian denominations share a common heritage, this lighter shade of blue is most commonly used today even in non-Catholic sects of Christianity.

Stained glass window at St. Mathew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, 1912

So although there may never be one definitive answer to the question that haunts Sunday school veterans everywhere, one thing is certain: Mary’s attire is deeply rooted in Catholic symbolism. This likely explains why many of the leading sources on this topic stem from Catholic organizations, too. So this year at your church’s annual Christmas pageant, when you spot the Virgin Mary sporting her signature blue, you can lean to the person next to you and wow them with your Sunday school trivia.

You’re welcome.