ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: practicing gratitude

by Grace Bonney

Several years ago, one lazy Saturday afternoon, I headed to a nearby book store, grabbed a stack of cookbooks, my favorite interior design & cooking magazines, and a hot, frothy cappuccino and settled comfortably into a café chair for a lazy, idle sip and read. I’d been sitting there for some time, lost inside the pages of some beautifully photographed book, when I suddenly felt the presence of someone standing directly beside me. I looked up to see a man holding a plate with a brownie on it. He placed the plate in front of me, said “This is for having the best eyeglasses in the store,” and then walked away. [images above, clockwise from top right: happy cavalier, ethical style/sweet beets, illustration plus, twin muses]

To this day, I recall the generosity of that stranger with absolute clarity. His gesture was truly one of those random acts of kindness, one with no perceivable expectation of return. As Thanksgiving draws closer, the Small Measure I’d like to share with you this week is simply that of expressing and practicing gratitude. I was so dumbstruck by my brownie-bestower’s gesture that I neglected to thank him for the unexpected happiness he brought me that day, and all of the subsequent times I’ve thought of him and his actions.

Given the opportunity, and a mailing address, I would have sent brownie man a thank you note. I’m of the mindset, thanks to conscientious parents and grandmothers with a serious penchant for thank you notes, that no kind deed should ever go unacknowledged. To that end, I keep a large wooden box upstairs in my office, expressly devoted to stationary. From thank you notes to condolences, from postcards to note sets, the box holds a medley of paper goods, always at the ready for whatever occasion should present itself.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s “Express Yourself-Practicing Gratitude” post after the jump!

Whenever possible, I seek out paper goods made from recycled paper and vegetable-based inks. I’ve recently come across some truly beautiful offerings on Etsy . The following are descriptions of items available from several of my favorite shops: Turnaround Design : All products are printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper and the stationery is paired with 100% recycled envelopes. Packaging is either a 100% plant-based cello sleeve or recycled cardboard box. Printed on-demand when ordered, so as to reduce waste. Byvik Ink : All products are either recycled or made with reclaimed cotton, the envelopes use a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled fiber, and the company’s inks are rubber-based, which use and waste less ink. Sweet Beets : All cards are letterpress printed using rubber-based inks. The cards and envelopes are made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper. The clear sleeve that protects each card is either biodegradable or recyclable.

Paper Culture is a paper goods company operating at the intersection of “talk” and “walk”. Not only does the business utilize a host of environmentally thoughtful production practices (including use of FSC certified 100% post consumer recycled paper, envelopes, & packaging, as well as chlorine-free paper), Paper Culture manufactures their items via wind power, is a CarbonFree Partner of Carbonfund , and donates a portion of all proceeds generated to charitable organizations. I’m particularly fond of their thank you cards . I’m also rather enamored with the paper goods of Angie Lewin, a U.K.-based printmaker working in linocut and wood engraving. Her eco-friendly items can be found at both Illustrated Living and One Brown Cow .

Of course, going entirely paperless is quite possibly the most environmentally-friendly means of communicating available. I don’t know about you, though, but I’m rather tired of online e-vite sites that think aesthetics and good design are not part of the package. Well, it’s now possible to keep up your notable social etiquette while also saving resources by using Paperless Post . This site enables you to create custom designed notes that resemble fine stationery with engraved-looking type, calligraphy, card stock options, even envelopes that open with a flourish. You can send to and then track your recipients. Members must purchase a virtual stamp to use the invites. You receive 25 stamps free when you sign up. 40 additional stamps are just $5 (less than one third of the traditional postal equivalent).

Finally, gratitude isn’t always directed exclusively towards individuals. Sometimes, the intended recipient is an occurrence or an inanimate object, or at least it is to Leah, who blogs her gratitude over at thxthxthx . Recent thankfulness was directed at “words like unnecessary and disappointed,” “patience,” “airplanes,” “rice,” “hope, “hands,” and, my personal favorite, “songs I’m embarrassed to like.” A daily dose of Leah helps me to keep everything in perspective, remembering that sometimes it’s our largest challenges that provoke the most personal growth and opportunities for insight and inspiration.

Next Thursday, and in the days in between, I invite you to explore all of the obvious, as well as the not-so-obvious, occasions available for expressing gratitude. Perhaps it’s a handwritten note to your neighbor for mowing your strip of grass along with their own. Or your Dad or Mom for always lending a listening ear. Maybe it’s a random “I am so eternally grateful for your friendship” e-mail sent to a far-from-home friend. It could also simply be a mental “thank you” to your own brownie-festooning stranger, reminding you that life is always conspiring to delight you.

Suggested For You


  • I recently received some wonderful advice from a woman I consider a mentor and a friend. I brought her some lovely flowers to thank her and she cried. She said “No one has ever done anything like this before.” That made me sad, because I know she gives of herself, her time and her energy above and beyond for people she doesn’t know well.

    Take a minute. Do something to thank people who make a difference. It’s amazing how wonderful it makes YOU feel.

  • ‘Thankyou’ for this post. May it serve as a gentle reminder to readers who think the bread and butter letter and it’s ilk are anachronisms!

  • In this digital day and age, a real paper thank you card is a wonderful surprise and well worth writing. Thank you for reminding people of this!

  • Love that story – and the spirit that moved Mr. Brownie giver! I LOVE stationery … love it ! I have drawers of notes and paper ready for every occasion. My children have written thank you notes from the time they could copy letters. PLEASE let’s not this custom pass!

  • One time while having a really rough day in a town I had just made a solo relocation to and knew NOT A SOUL, a man approached me at the sidewalk cafe where I was having a coffee and said – “I’m sorry- you just look so sad, can I give you a hug?”, Besides being taken aback, and a little wary- I decided to seize the moment and accept. As weird as it sounds, It was truly lovely! Showing gratitude or compassion to people (friends OR strangers) is always one of the most beautiful ways to reach outto another human.

  • I love sending thank you notes. Especially when they’re not expecting one. I agree with Chantielle, a real paper thank you note is best, especially compared to one via text, facebook, or email. They actually take time and effort, which is a more authentic way of showing your love and gratitude, I think.

  • What a lovely post! Isn’t it amazing how those little moments — your eyeglasses story — leave an imprint on us? Really makes you realize the importance of offering up a seemingly small sentiment of kindness!

  • I was reading Elsa Maxwell’s book “The Art of Lively Entertaining” and she couldn’t speak enough about the importance of a handcrafted note when it comes to showing others’ your gratitude and respect!

  • I am especially grateful for the friends and family who have been there for my sister who is battling ovarian cancer. It has certainly put things into perspective and helped align priorities. I am inspired by your wooden box and ensuring my two young daughters recognize the importance of sending thank you notes. Thank YOU Grace!

  • Writing thank you’s is becoming a dying art…and it is an art! We trained our daughter to be specific in her thank you’s…telling the giver what specifically she liked…how she would use it…etc…can’t say she alwasy loved having to do them (she once said Halloween was her favorite holiday because she didn’t have to write thank you’s) but she grew to love doing them and has has many, many comments on them…enough to keep her going even now that she’s married and on her own. Something tells me her kids will be writing them too and I can’t wait to get them!

  • Thank you for bringing my attention back to being thankful once again…it’s so easy to get caught up in whingeing about the weather and ignoring the little but important wonderful things in life.

  • I love to send notes in the mail, even to my neighbors. Sending thank you notes seems so obvious at this time of year but in the rush to prepare menus and tidy the house this simple, lovely act, got lost. Thank you for reminding us.

  • I love this story. We all have so much to give. We all can make the world a better place with a little bit of love. Your story will be my inspiration and reminder this holiday season. “Give thanks” – I will do that by giving.
    Thank you so much.

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