farmers market · Handmade · holiday

Countdown to Christmas

~Can you believe that Christmas is only a couple of days away?! Good thing I finished all my Christmas shopping lol. But if you didn’t, I have a place where you’ll find the perfect gift: Christkindlmarket in downtown Naperville (or Chicago, but Naperville is closer for me). I’ve been wanting to go to Christkindlmarket for years (the one in Chicago), and when I found out that Naperville is its suburban home, my desire to go intensified.

Friends of mine that had gone before advised that I go in the middle of the week because the weekends are chaotic. As advised I went this past Thursday around 12:30, and even then it was crowded. I found a parking garage a few blocks from the Naper Settlement (where they held the market) and my best shot of getting a semi-decent parking spot was on the 5th floor roof.

When I got to the market, I was overwhelmed by the astounding number of ornaments that were sold in nearly every stand. They were beautiful and delicately painted, ones that would look great on any tree. The first stand I went to was, of course, an ornament stand. Hailing from Germany and Poland, these beauties came in all shapes and sizes, boasting a different winter or holiday theme painted onto them. I didn’t go for the traditional hanging ones, but rather a flock of adorable clip on birds. I have birds (parakeets) of my own so naturally I would gravitate toward those. I can’t remember the individual price of the birds but the box containing 4 were $30. Now my little flock is nestled on the branches of our Christmas tree at home 🙂

After purchasing the bird ornaments I made a lap around the market scoping out the different stalls and deciding what I would want to eat. Nearly every market-goer was holding a red decorative mug filled with some of the richest hot chocolate I’ve ever had. To go with my hot cocoa I picked up some caramel coated cashews to munch on as I continued through the market.

I stumbled upon a stand that was a purveyor of wares made from alpaca wool. I was looking for something to match the alpaca wool hat I purchased at the Frankfort market over the summer, and I found a pair of gloves, the ones with the fingertips cut off that could also be worn as mittens, with a similar brown and white striped pattern for $25, which is very reasonable for something wool woven. The man running the stand hails from Alberta, Canada works with families in Peru and Ecuador that raise the alpacas for the wool. Support local businesses/family run operations!

After I picked up a few smaller ornaments and a gift for a friend of mine, I finished the day eating pierogi and potato pancakes. In my Happy Hanukkah! post I briefly spoke of eating them traditionally with sour cream and apple sauce, but at the Austrian Lodge the serve their pancakes 3 ways: plain, with sour cream and apple sauce, or with sour cream and smoked salmon. I opted for plain, which were deliciously crispy, but I’m biased and prefer my mom’s recipe. The pierogi at Tata’s Pierogi were plump and tender, filled with your traditional meat or potato & cheese, and a little more on the exotic side with spinach and feta. Spinach and feta isn’t exactly exotic, but I don’t see a lot of those in Polish cooking.

Overall, I absolutely fell in love with Christkindlmarket. I would for sure go again, either to Naperville or I may be brave enough and fight traffic to visit the one in Chicago.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! ❤

Handmade

Treacle Tart

~Woohoo! First post of 2017! I hope everyone had a great time ringing in the New Year. For those that know me I love (more like obsess over) Harry Potter. And so does my best friend. Our New Year’s plans were having a continuous HP movie marathon while enjoying frosty mugs of butterbeer.

Days prior, I combed through my Harry Potter cookbook looking for a tasty treat I could prepare to accompany the butterbeer. After flipping though the pages a few times, I landed on treacle tart. Treacle tart is Harry’s favorite dessert, so it was only natural to make it. It seemed easy enough, the only issue I foresaw was getting my hands on golden syrup or light molasses.

After my Saturday morning yoga class, I went to the Mariano’s conveniently located across the street from the studio. I already had all the ingredients to make the tart dough, so all I needed were the ingredients to make the filling, which consisted of the molasses, bread crumbs, heavy cream and a lemon. 3 of the 4 things were easy to find, the molasses not so much. I scanned the baking aisle for quite some time before I even found where the molasses was kept. And when I finally found it, they didn’t have light molasses. The recipe said I could also use corn syrup, so I had to settle with that :/

If anyone has ever made pie dough from scratch, I salute you. It wasn’t so much difficult as it was a complete mess. After marrying the dry and wet ingredients, a wet, sticky dough monster manifested the bowl and nearly devoured my fingers. I was able to slay said monster, and I sent it to the refrigerated dungeon to sit in time-out for 2 hours. When the dough was able to tell me what it had done, it was rolled flat across the bottom of the cake pan (I don’t have a tart pan).

Once stuffed with the sticky, tangy filling, I used the rest of the tart dough to make a lattice topping reminiscent of the ghosts of pastries past. The tart first baked at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then finished baking at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Once cooled enough to eat, I cut out a slice and took a bite. It was surprisingly much more lemony than I thought. The filling called for the zest and juice of one lemon, but that was all I was tasting. It was chewy yet crunchy, and the crust was the perfect combination of flakiness and richness.

Overall, treacle tart wasn’t how I had anticipated eating it. Mostly because of the lack of molasses, now that I think of it. But I’m proud of myself to pulling it off in the first place, and that I made scratch made dough!

I’m very excited to see what this year will bring for my blog, and I’m very excited to share it with you 🙂
I hope you all have a happy and healthy New Year!

farmers market · Handmade

Morris Market Madness

~ A fortnight ago, I was in farmer’s market heaven. For months I’ve been wanting to go to the 3 French Hens Market in Morris, Illinois, but hadn’t been able to because I’ve had to work every time they’ve had the market. It’s held on the second Saturday of the month from May to October. Just when I was about to give up hope, I did a double take of my work schedule and saw that I had Saturday the 13th off. Hooray at last!!! I invited my sister and boyfriend accompany me to the market of my dreams.

Over 100 vendors stretched out the banks of the Illinois river selling everything to antique kettles to fresh popped kettle corn. The vast majority of the vendors were selling crafts and antiques, so it was more like a giant flea market. But the produce vendors that were there had the same cast of characters: tomatoes, peppers, and various melons. As we prowled though the tents my sister and I found a tent that was selling cast iron animals and antique jewelry. My sister was instantly drawn to a bracelet made from vintage spoons. It was pretty cool, and very kitchy and eclectic, very much my sister’s style.

At the same tent, I bought a cast iron duck for my cousin, who loves ducks, and a small horseshoe for myself. Several stalls down there was an older gentleman displaying furniture, small pottery pieces and other trinkets. I peered at the small wooden soldiers and the large oak cabinets when I landed on a small, brown rounded bowl. It was painted turquoise on the inside while the outside was painted brown with a light golden swirling inlay and decorated with cherry blossoms. The gentleman at the booth delved into a story about how pieces that don’t say “Made in China” meant that they were actually made in China and that it was a piece from the early 1800’s.

I didn’t totally believe his story, but I really liked the bowl. And I’m also fascinated with Asian culture. He originally priced it for $17, but after listening to his story he knocked it down to $15, which was good enough for me. It really is a beautiful bowl, which I have perched atop my jewelry box and it has become the keeper of my rings.

After months of anticipation, I’m glad I was able to visit the 3 French Hens Market. Though it wasn’t what I had originally expected, there was more that met my eyes. I would recommend this market to antique archivers, veterans of vintage, and anyone looking to redecorate their home. If I’m able to go to September’s market, I’ll try to take my mom, who would love this type of market.

farmers market · Handmade

Eclectic Accessories

~I always try to find something unique at a farmer’s market, and this time it was an essential oil diffuser necklace from the Etc. Stores, Inc. Boutique in Tinley Park. They are a small consignment shop based in Frankfort that selling clothing, jewelry, home products and more. I have to give credit to where credit is due, and that is to my sister. She was the one that was interested in the necklace and persuaded me to get one for her and to blog about them. Thanks sis!

Even though the necklaces aren’t my style, it’s still a cool concept. The pendant is made of clay and has a design etched into it, some of the popular ones being trees and mandalas. You then put a couple of drops of a selected essential oil on the necklace and it holds it scent for a long time. Some of the scents that Etc. featured were peppermint, lavender, and sandalwood. My sister selected the peppermint oil and a necklace with a swirling tree design. She loves it! And the peppermint oil has a refreshing smell, along with headache curing properties.

farmers market · Handmade · organic · vegan

Sharing the Goodness

~Waterfall Glen Soap Company is a unique shop that makes handcrafted soaps, body lotions & butters, and offers unique items from the Dead Sea. There are several things I like about this company, and I shall break it down for you. #1: Their slogan ‘Share the Goodness’ is true in every sense of the word. I feel so fresh and clean after using their products and I know they use quality ingredients. Speaking of ingredients, that leads me into #2: they use all vegan ingredients to make their soaps and body lotions & butters. And their other products, like the ones using ingredients gathered from the Dead Sea, are organic. #3: Their products are not tested on animals. Which is amazing for the vet tech side of me, and it’s just awesome in general!

I was first introduced to WFG at the Lemont farmer’s market a few weeks ago. The market was very small, only about 10 vendors, but it was still worth looking around. I made a loop around the market and came to the Waterfall Glen stand. The man behind the stand, Douglas Coggeshall, invited me to try a sample of body butter at the front of the table. The one I selected was called Citrus Grove and it smelled almost exactly like a Dreamsicle, it was amazing! Now let’s get to the good stuff.

After sampling the body butter, I purchased a bottle of the Citrus Grove body lotion and went on my way. In the summer and winter time, my skin gets itchy and dry. I already have a basket full of assorted Bath and Body Works lotions at home, but what would one more lotion hurt? The Citrus Grove lotion not only smells fantastic, but it’s light and non-greasy. I’m tempted to toss all my lotions and only use WFG lotions, but I have my select favorites from Bath and Body Works that I’ll keep.

My second purchase (and possibly my favorite) from Waterfall Glen is their Yam Hamelah Dead Sea mud mask. Yam Hamelah translates to ‘Sea of Salt’ and consists of only 3 ingredients (which are all organic): mud from the Dead Sea, activated charcoal and distilled water. When I picked it up at the Frankfort market, Doug had said to mix it first before using it, that there would be a layer of water at the top that needs to be incorporated. Facial products hailing from the Dead Sea have become a popular beauty trend and I felt that now I was one of those people exclusive enough to try it.

dead sea mud mask
Photo courtesy of the Waterfall Glen Soap Company website

After mixing the gooey and slightly gritty concoction, it was application time. The activated charcoal in the mask draws out impurities and felt like someone took a scrubbing brush to my face, while the mud was thick and cooling. Once I applied an even later, I retreated to my room for about 10-15 minutes while the mask was working its magic. I would have taken a picture of me with the mask on, but it was a little frightening! Lol. Even my own mother laughed at me when she saw it! After 10-15 minutes, I rinsed off the mask. I ended up trashing one of the wash cloths in the bathroom while trying to scrub off the mask. Once I was cleaned up and rinsed, my face felt so soft and smooth and it even started to clear up some acne! My goal is to use the mask once a week along with my daily face wash.

Last, and certainly not least, the main event: the soap! A few days earlier I e-mailed Doug about how much I loved his products and that I wanted to feature him on my blog. He was thrilled and said to come to the Frankfort market on Sunday (Father’s Day) to introduce myself and we could discuss business. When I arrived at the Waterfall Glen stand, I looked around the table at the various soaps and sampled a different scented body butter, this time it was Summer Prairie. I finally introduced myself and gave him one of my business cards. He was delighted to have met me in person and told me to pick a soap and write about it, free of charge! That was very sweet of him 🙂

There were so many scents and varieties to choose from it was overwhelming. After sniffing and sampling, I chose this scent called Narmineh, which means ‘beautiful’ in Persian. Narmineh’s main scents are ylang ylang (which is a flower that grows in areas of Indonesia and other parts of Asia) and grapefruit, and is mixed with ingredients such as mango butter to provide lather and richness, and turmeric root powder, which gives the soap a golden brown orange color, which mimics the color of sand.

narmineh
Photo courtesy of the Waterfall Glen Soap Company website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used it this morning in the shower instead of my regular Pink Chiffon shower gel from Bath and Body Works. Normally I don’t like bar soap because I feel like it doesn’t get you as clean as a gel soap would, and it feels funny on my skin when I tried to use it. But of course I didn’t want to let Doug down, nor did I want to let you, my loyal readers (wherever you are) down! I had to lather it up a bit so I could round down the pointy corners of the soap and hopefully eliminate the weird soapy feeling I described earlier. Once I got it to the right consistency, I lathered up and rinsed off.

Maybe that weird not-all-the-way-clean feeling I get from bar soap is in my head, but when I used this bar soap, I didn’t get as much of that feeling. But what I did get was a delightful crisp scent and a feeling of happiness. The soap wrapping with the caravan of camels on it reminded me of my favorite movie, The Mummy (the Brendan Fraser version), where they travel into the desert on camels to the city of the dead, Hamunaptra. The name Narmineh itself transports me to a far away land immersed in Egyptian culture, which has always fascinated me even before seeing The Mummy.

I would definitely recommend the Waterfall Glen Soap Company to anyone and everyone looking for something rich, pure, and a little out of the ordinary. Thank you Douglas for gracing the world with your amazing vegan bath and body products, and for sharing your goodness with me 🙂

*Please visit their website and browse their soaps and other selections! They will be making many appearances to local farmer’s market and festivals, and you can find out where! http://www.waterfallglensoap.com/*

farmers market · Handmade

Alpaca your things

~When I’m not blogging about farmer’s markets, my daytime occupation is a veterinary technician. For those that don’t know, a veterinary technician (aka vet tech) is an animal nurse. I’ve gotten to work with a wide variety of animals while in school, and my first animals I worked with were alpacas. These fluffy South American cousins of the llama are sweet, quirky, and full of personality. When I was learning to draw blood on them, the alpaca behind me gave me a swift kick in the knee, which hurt like hell. But at least it didn’t try spitting at me! You’re probably wondering what my vet tech experience has to do with farmer’s markets? At the Frankfort market this past Sunday, I noticed a few new vendors there, one of which was a man selling handmade wares made from alpaca wool. He had socks, hats, gloves, stuffed animals and more. cria (baby alpaca)

It was so silky and luxuriously soft that I couldn’t stop touching everything on the table. I had my eye on a brown and white knit hat with a zigzag stripped pattern. The man at the table said that he used the wool from 3 different alpacas to create the hat. FullSizeRender

The names of the fluffy trio whose wool crafted my hat were Molly, Blanco and Bert. After hearing this I immediately flashed back to my time at school working with the alpacas. (The 2 alpaca pictures are some that I had taken while in school) Reliving all those happy memories are what sold me on the hat, along with the artful craftsmanship. I’m so excited for it to be a little chillier outside so I can wear it!

*Shop for all your alpaca wool needs! Visit Albo Acres at https://squareup.com/store/alboacres, and stop by the Albo Acres stand at the Frankfort Country Market this May-October *

farmers market · Handmade

Soy Joy

~My latest farmer’s market adventure has led me to Plainfield, Illinois. It is also where my cousin lives, and she was more than delighted to accompany me to the season premiere of the market. She had told me that the location had moved last year to the Plainfield Plaza, on the corner of Route 59 and Fort Beggs Drive. When we pulled up, we were kind of surprised by how few vendors there were. Grant it was raining and overcast today, so that could explain the decline. But she had asked one of the vendors, and they had said that there are a lot more in the summer months, when all the veggies and fruits reach their peaks. We browsed around the market when I happened upon a stand that was selling soy based beauty products.  On display were lip balms, bars of soap, and candles. I was intrigued immediately by the candles and the many scents they came in. The first one I sniffed was apple, a tried and true favorite of mine. It smelled so good and so much like an apple that I felt like I could literally eat it! But of course I didn’t. I smelled a couple other scents, such as peach and moonlit musk, but I settled with the apple and black raspberry vanilla scents. When I purchased the candles, the woman behind the counter explained that soy based candles burn at a lower pace than traditional wax. She also said that they burn more evenly. Well, I’m afraid to say that the last statement is untrue. Currently I have the black raspberry vanilla lit on my desk as I blog, and there is a crater developing in the center of the candle as it burns. While the burning consistency is up for debate, at least it smells good 🙂