Thank you so much again for joining our 1 year anniversary giveaway contest– I had the best time celebrating our 1st birthday together! So by now, most of you have received your package with the awesome goodies and a personalized note 😀 (or you will VERY soon), and I wanted to share a bit more about each hand-selected item in your box.
Side Note: I really wanted you to receive your package with all the goodies but also wanted you to receive them ASAP. We were holding out for Nicola Yoon’s signed copy of “Everything Everything”, but Nicola has had an insanely busy Summer and couldn’t get the books to us in time. Completely understandable ’cause life happens! I’ll be passing your mailing address over to Nicola’s publicist to mail the signed copy directly to you when they’re ready to be shipped out!
Aside from the awesome selection of books, I have a deep love for supporting independent artists and businesses. My Dad moved to NY from Taiwan with about $50 in his pocket and immediately worked just about any hard-labor job out there to start earning and saving. My Mom moved from Malaysia when she was around 18, working day and night and graveyard shifts, saving every penny to support herself through college, put her three younger sisters through high school and then support them through college. At the same time, she managed to find a home for her and her sisters with absolutely zero credit established.
My parents met in Queens, New York and fast-forward, skipping past all that lovey-dovey shtuff, they started their own company from absolutely n-o-t-h-i-n-g (my mom was 22 and pregnant with me during her last year at a business school when she started the company with my Dad– talk about #GIRLBOSS) and have grown it over the years to the point where they were able to raise me and my younger sisters in a very nice neighborhood in New York, complete with trips around the world every school vacation.
Honestly, I was super dense and used to take all their hard work for granted as I had no clue about the “the real world” till I had a taste of what it was like to direct and produce a short film, which then inspired me to reposition my focus from acting to more behind-the-scenes work, like podcasting. Especially now, experiencing and witnessing the day-to-day process of my girlfriend’s restaurant/café start-up, and balancing that with growing a firmer grasp on my own podcast start-up, most days I’m left wondering how in the hell my parents were able to achieve all their accomplishments.
Everyone has ideas, but to see them through and execute them to the point where it grows larger than you could ever expect is no easy feat. It’s quite a lot like writing: Sudden inspiration hits you with a story idea, you’re able to climb over that mental wall of “wait, but I ran out of words to say”, and find the discipline to sit your ass down and get to it. Needless to say, I have an incredible amount of respect and admiration for those who dare to try at their ideas, and try hard.
Here’s a look at the motivation and thought process beyond what you see in your curated box:
Jorieke is an art student from the Netherlands whose passion is to create art out of scraps. Her work often depicts tranquility, desolation, and the beauty of the past while balanced with the search for freedom, without any limitation.
I absolutely fell in love with Jor’s work and her connection to storytelling via art. She draws to recenter herself and recognizes “the power it has to put the soul at ease.” Connecting with Jor about collaborating for the podcast’s 1 year giveaway sparked a very transparent and refreshing conversation between two storytellers who use different mediums to share stories. She is incredibly modest and humble and kind, attributes I gravitate towards, making this partnership for the giveaway an even more exciting one for me. My message to you was written on Jor’s hand-drawn notecard, a completely different one was drawn for each of the 8 winners shipped to us all the way from the Netherlands. I asked Jor what compels her to create and her response moved me so much I had to share:
“As the idealistic artist I am, I feel an urge to share the silence that we all need to put ourselves at rest in this extremely loud world we live in. Writing can help with that and so the drawing+notebook recipe was born. It’s also an ode to all the writers out there: you are so valuable and life-changing! I remember reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Henry and June (Anaïs Nin) for the first time and it totally changed my perspective on how we live our lives. Reading both books and a bunch of blogs allows me to connect with people in other worlds and other times to explore so many experiences together.” –Jorieke JorRainbow
It’s quite clear I’m a huge fan of Jor and her work; if you connect with her story or her art, I encourage you to explore her other hand-drawn and handmade work. I’m impressed by her many different artistic talents ranging from beautiful notebooks, to bold yet simple coasters made from reclaimed wood, to jewelry, and concrete planters (that concrete piece took me by surprise– so awesome!)
Birch & Goldberry
Two sisters, Hillaree Hamblin and Stephanie Hamblin, and their friend Elizabeth Meeks came together to form Birch & Goldberry. All three earned their degrees in painting and, through their brand, have built a reputation of creating thoughtfully handcrafted nature-inspired products that seamlessly blend beauty and functionality; their branding and packaging nothing short of exceptional. Birch & Goldberry put themselves on the map by raising the standards of everyday goods to the level of fine art with their hand-poured all natural soy wax candles, vibrantly colored hand-blended soap made with 100% plant-based oils, and incredibly stunning wrapping paper.
Named “the Rolls Royce of giftwrap” by InStyle, Hillaree uses non-toxic paint to hand-paint each roll of the abstract metallic papers with mark-making techniques she learned while in art school. The same kind of non-toxic paint and hand-painted techniques are used on the cover of the notebooks. You have no idea how excited I am to include Birch & Goldberry’s new and exclusive pocket notebooks in your box– these gorgeous little beauties took my breath away, and to feel the texture of the dried paint in person made it all the more special.
As you may already know from my Instagram post about the giveaway, Jeni’s Tea is owned by my dear friend Jeni Dodd. Jeni and I met at an intensive tea-study tour in Taiwan last winter. As a quick aside, this was the first and only time I produced an experimental, NPR style episode for 88 Cups of Tea to re-cap the highlights of the tea intensive. It’s an episode that is still near and dear to my heart, have a listen!
At the intensive, Jeni stood out immediately with her warmth and infectious laugh. Throughout our days together, I was continuously blown away by her impressive knowledge about tea. She is a Certified Tea Specialist and an American Tea Master who promotes tea appreciation through high quality, hand-crafted tea.
In your box, Jeni generously contributed Nepalese Golden Tips and a handwritten note. This means so much to me as not only is she a wonderful friend, she is also someone I admire greatly. No matter how much Jeni already knows, she constantly pushes herself to learn more, and travels around the world to familiarize herself with different kinds of teas and cultures. She is one of the most courageous and open-hearted adventurers I know.
The Nepalese Golden Tips tea is sourced by Jeni herself whose traveled to Nepal many times and has fallen in love with the country and the community there. The orange bag is handmade by a woman in Nepal who owns her own company, which is nearly unheard of in Nepal. Jeni is working with this amazing woman to support her and the independence of women. To say that I’m excited for you to try Jeni’s Tea is an understatement. Seriously, let me know your thoughts when you get the chance to try it out!
Jacqueline Woodson. Need I say more?
I am so psyched you have a copy of her newest book– the first adult novel she’s published in twenty years! It was just announced that Another Brooklyn is longlisted for the National Book Award. Jacqueline’s work is the perfect example of the kind of writing I really enjoy and take to heart. On top of her endless amount of accolades and writing awards, she is a changemaker. She cares about our society, our youth, our rights, our humanity. If you haven’t yet, check out our discussion on the podcast.
When you have room to add a few more books to your reading list, please check out this fantastic New York Times article about Jacqueline and her favorite book recommendations. I can’t wait to dive into them myself! Hint: One Crazy Summer by the lovely Rita Williams-Garcia (check out Rita’s episode with us!), Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and so much more.
Matt de la Peña
I love picture books that include faces of people we grew up with like in Matt de la Peña’s Newbery Medal winning Last Stop on Market Street. We have a wonderfully honest discussion on the podcast about the inspiration behind his book, and what it was like for him to grow up half-white, half-Mexican and never feeling like he could fit in 100%. I could absolutely relate having grown up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood and being called out with crude racial slurs. If you grew up feeling ostracized, check out Matt’s work.
Sabaa Tahir is one of those authors who’s just as humble as she is talented. Sabaa expertly produces fast-paced, thought-provoking reads that’ll swallow you whole till you’re finished. It’s like you just got sucked in by the Bermuda Triangle, but in the best way possible. Our discussion about how her An Ember in the Ashes book series came to be while working at The Washington Post’s international news department is incredible, and needs to be shared again and again.
Nicola Yoon will be one of our podcast guests in a near future episode to be released over the next few months!
Here’s another sneak peek featuring Jennifer Niven in one of our future episodes!
88 Cups of Tea Mug or Beach Towel
You either received one of our limited edition mugs or Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s beach towel! I browsed through your social media profiles and included a mug if I saw that you were more of a writer (it always helps the writing process when you have a cup of tea by your side!), and a beach towel if I saw that you were more of a reader (for those fun beach reads) 😀
I hope your box brought you some inspiration, or at the very least, a smile to your face I would love to hear updates from you whenever you’re going through the gifts– whether you’re reading one of the books, or using the notebook, or drinking from the mug!
PS. I know that some of you have already left AMAZING ratings and reviews about 88 Cups of Tea on iTunes and I’m so grateful to you for taking the time to support our storyteller tribe, and for leaving such kind words! This podcast is truly a labor of love and means the world to me that we grow this community together. If you’re a new listener, or aren’t aware about the iTunes ratings & reviews– I would so very much appreciate if you could leave a rating & review with your honest thoughts about the show. This truly helps the podcast as the more reviews are garnered, the more iTunes will push it up in ranks to make available for more new listeners to find. If you’d like to leave a rating & review, please click here and sign into your iTunes account when prompted. Thank you so much for your time!