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An Afternoon with Santa’s Reindeer

Santas reindeer

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Calgary with one of my dearest girlfriends, in honour of my 50th birthday. One of the activities on our radar was to attend the Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market, and it did not disappoint. After all, shopping and sampling goodies amidst children singing holiday tunes is lovely, but how can you beat a sneak peek at Santa’s reindeer?

If you’re like me and you love the hustle and bustle of artisan markets, then Spruce Meadows is a delicious blend of funky, kitschy, homespun and intriguing. There are vendors big and small, with all manner of gift and decor items. Every food vendor offers samples, and the concessions have such delicacies as Hungarian goulash and gluwein, in addition to good old hot dogs and mini donuts. Outside the buildings are toasty warm fire pits where you can snuggle and enjoy your treats, and inside the pavilions are seating areas near performing stages. You’ll need a bit of sustenance to manage the whole fair!

There is something here for everyone, so I encourage you to stroll the aisles and check out what strikes your fancy. The vendors in the stables are particularly charming in their stalls, and that of course, is where you’ll find the reindeer, too. You can even get a posed picture for a fee.

I found some perfect Christmas goodies, and so I’d like to offer a few suggestions from my list of favourites, just to get you started:

In Reindeer Alley (right after the guests of honour)-

  • pet stuff – I loved the funny signs and toys at DOG GONE HEALTHY in Reindeer Alley, but in all fairness there are a number of vendors selling all manner of dog and cat paraphernalia

    Dog Christmas tree

    Dog Gone presents for, and from, the dog!

  • home decor and entertaining accessories – BURGUNDY OAK BARREL DECOR has stylish, well-made wine barrel platters and other accents.

In the Riding Hall-

  • KOOTANA GALLERY – featuring some lovely chimes, crystals and beautiful jewellery that is all about spirit animals, symbols and the energy in stones. You’ll feel good just checking it out!
  • AFRICAN BUTTERFLY hair accessories – these masterful works of art are the best for putting up long hair, whether it’s thick or thin. I bought one years ago and was happy to see Daniel again and get Christmas presents.
  • KATTINAT Swedish dishcloths – ingenious and fun! Look for the colourful designs on these organic cotton cloths that wipe up like nobody’s business! (there were 2 booths carrying these cloths; same price at either one)
  • western style gifts – COWBOY CHRISTMAS has some lovely accessories and fun gift ideas, and the art at RON CHURCH FINE ART & DESIGN is stunning.
  • COZY COTTAGE INTERIORS  brought much of their store inventory to showcase. Great country-style kitsch.

In the Gallery on the Green and outside

  • REAL TREAT cookies – I know, you’ve tasted lots of cookies, what’s the big deal? Try the smoked pecan ones, or the salted caramel shortbread and you’ll get it.

    A "Giggler" puppet!

    A “Giggler” puppet!

  • GIVE A LITTLE GIGGLE puppets – These wonderful people were only at the market for one weekend but check their website to see where else they are, or buy online. A great gift for little or big kids.
  • garden gizmos galore – CREATIVE IRONWORKS has beautiful garden sculptures and furniture; SPRUCE IT UP GARDEN has accents and greens, and RED BARN MERCANTILE has lots of fun Christmas accents and decorations
  • home decor – LITTLE MONKEY METAL WORKS has a striking display of silhouette metal art.

In the Equi-Plex (this is also where the main food concession is – think Hungarian Goulash – as well as many of the performances)

  • BIG BLUE MOMA jewellery and textiles – if you want something handmade and unique, the collection here will do the trick for sure. Jewellery, cushions and table linens all made in Canada with materials made by hard-working entrepreneurs in Ghana. They are one of the delightful booths featuring international wares – be sure to wander this aisle and check out all the unique items.

    Ghanaian fare by Big Blue Moma

    Ghanaian fare by Big Blue Moma

  • TORILL’S TABLE – delectable Norwegian waffles, made from a mix – try a sample!
  • KRUSE’S BAKERY – has stollen, and some delicious-looking cookies. Save some time and enjoy someone else’s baking!

There are 2 more weekends left to enjoy this market in Calgary’s south end. Easy access is available through public transit, and there is a parking shuttle too. You can save $2 per ticket if you buy online through their website. Plan on spending about half the day if you want a good look around; my list is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are there after dark, you’ll get the added benefit of all the lights!

If you’re not in the holiday spirit yet, this is sure to do the trick. Thanks to Spruce Meadows and all their volunteers for putting on such a professional and welcoming holiday event.

Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market

Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market by night

Spruce Meadows Christmas market

lots of room to browse and enjoy at the Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

May Your House and Hearth Be Blessed

At the start of a new year we all like to make a fresh start and ensure that we are on the best footing for our new adventures. There are traditions for housewarmings, offering blessings for those in new homes making a new life. It seems to me that doing the same thing for a new year is a good idea, so I thought I would list out some of those traditions for you, based on the sentiments. Many of these stem from the two sides of my heritage (the Scots and the Scandinavians), who gave gifts in the dead of winter to share good spirits and reinforce the community.

housewarming basket

GOOD HEALTH – Olive oil represents health and well being, and is a wonderful blessing for the kitchen. Spices also symbolize diversity and excitement in life. A potted plant (especially herbs) symbolize life and energy.

PROSPERITY, ABUNDANCE – Bread symbolizes sustenance and usually goes with the blessing “so your house will never know hunger”. Salt has meant luxury throughout time and can be given with the blessing “that your life will always be full of flavour”.

LOVE, STABILITY –  Coins symbolize good fortune; it is said to be important to include a coin in a wallet given as a gift and also with the gift of a knife, so as to ensure your friendship is not cut by the blade.

GOOD CHEER, SWEETNESS & LIGHT – Wine and spirits symbolize good cheer in many cultures which tends to go with joy and prosperity as well. Honey symbolizes the sweetness in life well and a connection with nature. A candle represents the light of life and warmth, especially in dark times.

There are also items that help us keep away the negative things, like bad luck or evil spirits. A broom is a good gift to sweep out any bad omens as well as keeping a house clean.

Homemade items are always a welcome gift, not even requiring wrapping. Sharing your own food (and culinary talents) is a beautiful symbol of friendship and community. Fostering those relationships always brings good things, to the recipient and the giver. If you’re stuck for a recipe, try my Banana Bran Muffins.

And now we look back…

It’s that time of the year when we all look back on our accomplishments, review our goals and think about the highlights of the past 52 weeks. (After all, we are still hung over from too much food, drink and conversation – we need a bit of time for reflection.There is only so much Boxing Day shopping one can stand.)  Here are some of my gems from 2011:

I am a newsletter junkie. Being also a trivia geek, I love all the tidbits I learn from my various specialty missives received regularly in my Inbox. The best find this year was from a site called Urban Daddy, who sends you the coolest of the cool, the most exclusive gizmos and gifties imaginable. Here is their review of highlights from 2011, if you are keen to know about say, a bikini that can charge your iPhone or a vitamin that can help you recover from the worst of hangovers. For foodies, my best recommendation is Chowhound, the collection of boards and articles from the Chow website. This is where you can learn that you can soften your butter at the same time as you take a shower (bring it in the bathroom with you!), or ask where to find “a cookie recipe that will knock (my) new hubbie’s socks off”. (there were 99 replies – she will be set for life!!) If you want something more work-oriented, how about the Hump Day Humour Gram? This is a guide on how to ensure work doesn’t get too serious by sharing ideas on being silly and successful.

I am proud of my garden, as that is my summertime passion. At Rabbit Hollow, we have a third of an acre, and I use as much as possible to grow things. We now have an edible fence made of  fruit trees and various berries (I made “Fence Berry Jam” this year). We also have a veggie garden full of heirloom varieties of beets, peas, beans, squash and of course tomatoes. Living in the Okanagan is considered paradise in Canada as we actually have a growing season long enough to ripen things ! This year I also added a sensory garden next to my husband’s outdoor kitchen, so that I can show visitors what some of the less common herbs and spices look and smell like, and I can introduce them to the concept of pairing flavours on the spot. I can’t wait till spring comes and I can watch the new sprouts come up. Ella, my Chocolate Lab, is my best helper, sniffing out new blossoms and sampling whenever possible. (She loves the golden raspberries and nasturtium flowers best.)

veggie garden Rabbit Hollow

height of summer splendour

"fence berries"

 

I am proud of sharing myself this year. I have had some great times with my Girl Guide pal, Claire, and the girls we lead- it’s been 6 years, phew! My hubbie and I also shared a great deal of bounty from the Rabbit Hollow harvest. There are jars still left of damson plum jam, and tomato sauce and pickled carrots and various chutneys, even after the many gift bags for friends and relatives.

I am also proud to share my blog. My goal for 2012 is to make time to read more of other people’s work, as I love all the ideas floating out there. I like the idea that we can share our opinions and comment on others’, and not focus on “voting someone off the island”. As I get older, I have found that I have less patience for ill-mannered pastimes like reality TV (that might be due to menopause, which reminds me – if the subject holds any interest for you, check out a blog by two lovely ladies I know called Hot-Flashes)

Well, time to pour another drink, I think, and reflect on what I can come up with for a New Year’s resolution. If you have any good suggestions, I am open to ideas 🙂

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