I (and I'm sure many others around here) feel that early November's just a tad too early to get into the Christmas spirit. But right about now - this last weekend of November, the first few days of December - that's where it feels about right. That's where it feels okay to find more Christmas lights appearing on rooftops, Christmas trees decorated in large bay windows, and the obligatory Christmas carols anytime you go shopping. It's also in late November where it suddenly feels appropriate to attend local Christmas events.
On Saturday, November 29, two such events were happening on fair ol' Lulu Island: the annual Steveston Christmas Craft Fair and the Christmas-themed gift shop at London Heritage Farm.
Two craft fairs in one day is a bit crazy for a girl who maybe goes to them once every two years, but what better way to kick start my internal Christmas spirit than on such a grey and drizzly day? What a great opportunity to commence Christmas shopping and support local artists... and in the company of my loving parents no less! :)
The Steveston Christmas Craft Fair is considered the largest in Richmond, and it was certainly the largest and busiest of any Christmas craft fairs I've been to. Located in the indoor tennis courts at the Steveston Community Centre (4111 Moncton Street), I could tell this was a serious event by all the people pouring in and out of the venue. Once inside, a waft of hot dogs hit me. Volunteers were taking donations for admission. Raffle tickets were being hawked and a delightful array of Christmas baking was set up on the table beside me.
Once past the crowds by the entrance, I could see that there were at least 20 aisles of tables set up with a good variety of items made by both amateurs and professionals, and surprisingly, there was very in the variety of knit toilet paper cozies. There were people selling clothing, jewelery, handbags, handmade soaps, candles, lotions, books, photography, paintings, fancy kitchen utensils, beautiful cutting boards, wooden bowls, ceramics, fresh baking, jams and preserves, handmade cards, floral bouquets, Christmas tree ornaments, knit scarves & mitts, and yes, even a few tables of sincere tackiness. But there were certainly a lot of quality items at this particular craft fair that we spent 2 hours there!
Two of my favourites of the day:
I saw this girl's products set up at the Roundhouse Community Centre's Christmas Craft Fair last year and I was excited to see her stuff again! She's based out of Richmond and she makes beautiful cold-press soaps and solid perfumes in a variety of subtle and exotic fragrances. The soaps looked and smelled fantastic! I particularly liked Masala Chai, Wasabia Japonica, and Cranberry Fig.
She also makes soap shaped into little pieces of sushi which she sells in little bento boxes. It's super cute!
But what I'm really drawn to are her solid perfumes.
Josh gave me her Red Clover solid perfume as a gift last year. They're in these little slide-top tins, so not only do they smell great, but they're very practical. This year she added many new frangrances to her collection. I really liked Japanese Tea Ceremony, Absolute, Hana, and Rice Flower. For $5.25 a tin, they're excellent value!
I passed by this table full of nothing but bright yellow boxes boldly titled, RUMBA CAKE. Behind the table a Jamaican woman was cutting up little pieces of cake and placing it into tiny paper cups. I walked a few feet beyond the table before the concept registered in my mind. I stopped in my tracks. Rumba cake?! Is this what I think it is?! I darted back to the table.
The woman noticed me looking curiously at the samples of cake.
"Would you like to try some Jamaican rum cake?"
I picked up a tasty morsel or rum-soaked cake and popped it into my mouth. MmmmMMmmmmm! It was clear this was a homemade Jamaican recipe of rich spices, fruit, and rum. My mom, who had walked a few tables over, joined me at the Rumba Cake table and I discussed with her my idea of buying such a cake to surprise Josh on his next day's arrival from Hong Kong.
Fay Salmon-Lord is the specialty baker who makes these cakes and she's based out of Delta, BC. She sells these cakes by the piece ($6) or as a whole cake ($16). For $2 more you can buy the cake in a box, which is what I did. While not cheap, I will pay for quality, especially when I'm supporting a local business. On the back of the box is a recipe for Fay's Rumba Sauce. When I purchased the cake, a group of people started to crowd around her table, showing interest in this beautifully scrumptious homemade Jamaican rum cake!
After two hours of browsing (and one hot dog later), we left the community center for a stroll through Steveston village. It wasn't particularly cold outside, but the rain fell as a light mist making everything, including our clothing, damp. While my Dad went to pick up some dinner at Super Grocer, my Mom and I popped into one of our favourite stores, Prickly Pear Garden Centre. They have such a beautiful gift shop, and at this time of the year it's decorated for Christmas and feels very magical. Located in an old wooden building, the shop gives off this rustic country atmosphere which I find very appealing.
Across the street we noticed a new store celebrating its grand opening, a very hip and modern furniture store called the Spotted Frog Furniture Co. Once my Dad found us, we went across the street to have a peek. The store felt like a Yaletown business - a sign that Steveston has indeed walked away from its working class fishing village roots and into yuppified "urban lifestyle" territory. With all the new condos next door, is it any surprise? Regardless, it's a beautiful store with many unique home decor items and certainly fits in with the new Steveston demographic. When we walked in, a staff member offered us freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! Browsing around, I noticed these table name place card holders, shaped as birds sitting on a branch ($4.50 each). A bit expensive for my budget at the moment, and considering I don't even own a kitchen table, a bit redundant. However, they're currently having a 15% off everything sale up until about December 13... so who knows! :)
After Steveston, we walked the 15 minutes back to my parent's house for a warm lunch. Earlier on my Mom had mentioned that London Heritage Farm has opened its Christmas gift shop, and although it will be open all throughout December, we could go later on if we felt like it. I looked online to check their hours; they'd be open open until 5pm, so we drove the 10 minutes up along the Fraser River to check it out.
London Heritage Farm is a piece of Lulu Island history. The house belonged to the London family - British Loyalists from the USA and one of the first pioneer families to settle in Richmond along the tidal flats of the river and make a go at clearing and draining the muddy, marsh-like soils of Lulu Island so they could convert the land into a farm. They arrived in 1881.
As a child, we'd occasionally visit this farm house-turned museum, especially since we'd frequently go for picnics along Gilbert Beach which was across the street. But this was the first time that I can remember where I visited London Heritage Farm around Christmas. According to my Mom, last year they had every room of the house converted into a gift shop. This year, however, there was only one room.
As we walked in the main entrance, we were immediately hit with - no, not the smell of hot dogs - but the wonderful aroma of freshly baked scones! London Heritage Farm hosts an afternoon tea in the main floor of the house and they bake all the food in their kitchen. A few couples were inside this cozy heritage farm house enjoying cups of tea and I was envious!
Borrowing my father's camera (as Josh brought our camera along on his Hong Kong business trip), I decided to take a few photos.
We spent about half an hour at London Heritage Farm exploring the museum displays and the gift shop. We recognized some of the items in the shop, such as the handmade soaps and the jars of jams, were from vendors at the Christmas Craft Fair from earlier in the day, although there were a fair amount of unique items too. For example, due to their afternoon tea service, they sell London Lady tea, London Heritage Farm scone mix, and a variety of fine china tea sets. Because of the farm's ties to Richmond heritage, I noticed a lot of Richmond nature scenes on gift cards. As the smell of the freshly baked scones continued to permeate the house, it truly did feel like a special occasion was just around the corner.