The holidays are upon us and for most people that means family, friends, food and festivities. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa – gift giving is likely part of your December. It is certainly part of mine.
In my family we celebrate Christmas – it includes an Italian feast and a Secret Santa exchange between my three brothers and I. On my husband’s side of the family the meal is a little less elaborate but the gift-giving is super-charged where everyone gets something for everyone.
One of my pet peeves is opening a gift that was obviously bought without thought from a generic big-box store. If I had a nickel for every “joe-shmoe” trinket I received each Christmas I would be rich. Really – how many garlic presses and cartoon faced spatulas does one woman need?!
Instead, my philosophy has always been to give not only something of meaning but a gift that embodies my hard-to-describe-in-words value system. Hard to describe, that is, before I came across the “Get the H back in the Holidays” 5HGiving blog by Elena Galey-Pride at winestains.ca.
Elena has put together a recipe for, not just holiday gifting but, gifting for any occasion.
Here is her 5H Giving recipe for gift-giving success:
What better way to practice this 5H Code of Holiday Giving than at the Christmas Handmade Market? The same one that Elena reveals in her blog about 5HGiving as the one that inspired the code itself.
THE GOOD EARTH
Not wanting to miss out on any of the action I arrived bright and early at The Good Earth. Even though the market had only been open for about 15 minutes, the “parking lot” was almost full. Parking in the orchard among the trees was a little nostalgic – I love these little reminders that I live in a region with small towns. No concrete jungle for me. Anyways, knowing that reservations for lunch in the Bistro were going to fill up fast that was the first place I headed and reserved a table for two for 3pm. It was my mom and I who decided to go Christmas shopping together.
The HandMade Market tent was setup in the actual parking lot and extended into the cooking school. The vendors were quaintly crammed into the tent and there really wasn’t much manoeuvring room, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone (except for probably moms with strollers).
It didn’t take long before I found something I liked. Actually, Cyndi Carruthers from the Niagara Vineyard Candle Company was the first vendor on the left inside the tent … (told you it didn’t take me long). She makes hand-poured 100% pure soy candles right in Jordan Station. My smell-of-the-week is the Fireside Cafe – probably because it smells like chai and cinnamon. What I especially liked about Cyndi is that not only does she sell candles, she was great at filling me in on some burning instructions. Like, I had no idea that with soy candles you can greatly increase your burning time if you keep the wick no longer than a quarter of an inch (even if that means trimming while it is burning!). Thanks Cyndi! You can pick up these candles by contacting Cyndi through her website or I know that they are sold at The Spa Boutique in Grimsby as well (I saw them when I was there earlier this year).
I was happy to see Liesha and Karen of Big Village Beads at the HandMade Market again. I met them at the Fall HandMade Market in September. I already have a thing for their designs so it was no surprise that my mom fell in love with them too (maybe our taste in jewelery is genetic). Long story short, I have one of their beautiful necklaces gift-wrapped on my counter with a Christmas label addressed to “Dearest Mother” on it. Do not worry about this post spoiling the gift, my mom picked it out. Truth be told, once she picked it up she wouldn’t put it back down — it was only natural that it would become her Christmas gift.
A little farther down the line I discovered gillybglass. Pam, owner and designer “makes fused glass jewelery including pendants, earrings and rings as well as stained glass lamps, lanterns and suncatchers”. Gilly is her daughter’s name. It was her reindeer and snowman ornaments that originally caught my eye – they were catching the sun just right. My mom and I each ended up with a pair of earrings in our shopping bags. I also have a crush on Pam’s fused-glass flower rings.
It was my pleasure to meet Handmade Market first-timers Christine and Reid from Bibelot Designs. In business since the early-to-mid 90’s, they create mirrors, coasters, frames and other home decor items from glass, wood and other veneers. It was one of their colourful, patterned mirrors that sucked me in. I find their designs to be fresh and clean and intriguing to the eye. Come the new year, when I get the one particular gift I have on my Christmas list, I will hopefully be decorating a music room and will be giving Christine a call to help. Hopefully that mirror, or one like it, is still available.
My last vendor at Good Earth was a mother and daughter couple – Treesje and Emily Bjorgan from Clavaux Designs Millinery Studio. Unbeknown to me before the market, millinery is the art of making hats for women and that is exactly what Clavaux designs does. They also make Fascinators – gorgeous hair clips with feathers and other beads and clips of all different colours; they also have a beautiful white bridal line.
Last, but certainly not least, we headed towards the Cookie Hut which, on any normal day, is The Good Earth Cooking School. The normally clear wooden kitchen island was piled high with baskets of homemade cookies. There was also fresh apple cider and hot apple twists with caramel on the bill.
My mom and I split an apple twist – it was absolutely fantastically delicious. We also left with a bunch of bags of cookies (that we later split in half). We bought gingerbread, pecan clusters, hot chocolate cookies and caramel shortbread – all ended up being delicious with the caramel shortbread and gingerbread topping my list. With the Good Earth conquered we headed to Fielding Estate which is about 4 minutes up (well, down because it’s south) the road.
FIELDING ESTATE WINERY
The market at Fielding was also setup in a tent just a little bit down the hill from the winery itself. It was great to see a few old friends at Fielding like JC Fresh with her soaps and Monique Mulder-Wallace with her pottery. It was also nice to make some new ones.
Although I have seen her work at some other locations – this was one of the first times that I really stopped to admire Emily Giles‘ creations. Her designs mix old-world charm with modern-day flare and I love the fusion. Not only that, her displays are so thought out and stylish. I like being in her space, let alone admiring her work. After lingering a while I indulged in a Christmas present for myself – a white rose ring and matching earrings. I am sure that I will end up adding to my Emily Giles collection in the future. By the way – Emily is also a hairstylist and runs her own Hair & Design business in Fenwick. If her haircuts are like her jewelery you can’t go wrong.
Also an eye-catcher are the designs of Sil Frebrian – Batavia by Sil. She uses reclaimed materials like vintage sweaters, skirts and sport coats to make funky purses, scarves and mittens. Her work is unique and identifiable and Sil is a pleasure to chat with. At this market I was especially taken by her brooches – handmade flowers with the most incredible stitching (characteristic of her work) along the edges. I also really enjoy her purses although I’ve yet to take one home (purses are a little bit of an obsession for me!).
Our final purchase of the day was from the collection of Aleksandra Jewelery. Although she designs many beautiful pieces, her token design is a necklace that you can wear at least 18 different ways. The necklace, at first glance, looks like one piece – and it can be worn in one long chain. But, further investigation reveals that it is actually a necklace and bracelet clipped together. There are many stones and gems on the necklace which does well to camouflage the pair of earrings that are also clipped into the ensemble. You can take it apart and wear all three as a set or use the clips to come up with a whole collection of ways to wear the piece(s). Talk about innovative!
Needless to say there were many more vendors than this at the market, but these are the ones that caught my eye this time around. After all that shopping we headed up to the winery to check out the food trucks and to indulge in some wine.
FOOD TRUCK ALLEY
The food trucks were a new addition to the handmade market. I was going to indulge in a vanilla salted caramel cupcake from the Cupcake Diner but they had just run out. I’m sure that the other flavours are just as commendable but a craving is a craving and sometimes nothing else will do.
Dobro Jesti was serving up their famous schnitzel and sandwiches – not to mention their Risotto Rice Balls – delicious grub for a cold day like this was.
The Tide and Vine were also there – commendable considering they were at Balzacs in NOTL the night before for the Counter Culture event that happens there every Friday. They were serving up their oysters and lobster roles and other seafo0d delicacies.
Last, and certainly not least, the most popular food truck by far was El Gastronomo Vagabundo and their famous fish tacos (among other things). I would have liked to get a picture of the menu but couldn’t get close enough through the crowd. I guess I could have tried but God forbid one of their die-hard fans thought I was budding in line and I would have lost my head. Had I not had a reservation back at The Good Earth this would have been my food truck of choice with Tide and Vine coming in at number two (line-ups don’t lie).
PICK AN “H”
At the end of the day I felt good about getting out to an artisan market to support local vendors. You may not know this but for ever $100 you spend in Niagara, approx $75 of them go right back into our community.
Before you close out of this post and carry on your merry way to holiday bliss, take another look at the 5H’s and commit them to memory. In the words of Elena Galey-Pride,”wherever you live, your community has well-known attractions and hidden gems that you can easily support”. When you are out and about this holiday season be sure to bring them to mind when choosing that perfect something for that special someone.