It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

I finally started to get into the Christmas spirit a little bit this weekend, probably because on Friday afternoon my yard looked like this:

And by Sunday it looked like this:

Many of my friends and family bemoaned the precipitation and freezing temperatures, but I always like a bit of snow before Christmas. A green Christmas just isn’t very Christmas-y to me. That being said, it’s supposed to go up to 9°C (48.2°F) on Tuesday, so it’s not like this is going to last.

It really put me in the mood for Christmas shopping, though. Unlike in the States, where the holiday buying season appears to officially start as soon as the clocks strike midnight the day after American Thanksgiving, we don’t really have a traditional time to begin. Some people shop all year ’round. Some companies put out their Christmas merchandise at the same time as they’re building their Halloween displays (which is a little early to me, but oh well). For me, all of the Halloween debris has to be cleared away and there has to be some snow on the ground for me to feel like shopping for gifts — although I have been known to pick things up six months in advance if the opportunity arises at a great price.

I went with my mother, Thing 1, and Thing 2 to a number of craft fairs on Saturday, but one of my perennial favourites was the one held at Cairine Wilson High School. It’s a huge fair; it packs full the big gym, the little gym, the hallways, and the cafeteria. Given the number of booths, I’m bound to find something that I know someone will like.

But even if I don’t find the perfect gift for someone, it’s a lot of fun to check out the wares of local craftspeople. This is one of the few times of year that a lot of these people make their work available to the public; many craftspeople work all year by themselves to make enough stock for one or two holiday shows.

After hitting a few craft fairs, we rushed home so that the kids could get changed into their uniforms and we could drive out to Epiphany Anglican Church where the Girl Guides’ Holiday Tea is held every year. Since I’d gone to all of the effort of baking brownies for the tea, I pretty much had to attend. It’s always a lovely time, with such cheerful little servers and so many delicious treats on which to nosh.

I may have kind of taken a picture of some of the sweets for our table after I’d already nabbed the chocolate ones. Just maybe. I think that the next to go was that shortbread on the bottom right, since I’m a sucker for those too.

Pumpkinferno

I’ve been going to Upper Canada Village since I was a child. It’s a historical recreation of a rural English Canadian village from 1860’s along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Most of the buildings are authentic to the time period, although I don’t think there was ever an actual village on that site — the buildings were moved in from a number of different sources. Needless to say, it’s an educational gold mine. Not surprisingly, it was a popular spot for school field trips, and my parents also took my brother and I there on summer outings. However, back when I was a kid they didn’t have the two lights festivals that they do now (Pumpkinferno for Halloween, and Alight at Night for Christmas). I’m pretty sure they didn’t host the medieval fair in the summer there either. These are all great events, though, even if they’re not exactly time-period-accurate.

Pumpkinferno is an exhibition of 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins along a kilometer-long walking trail. The majority of the pumpkins are artificial, since the exhibition lasts for about a month and no real pumpkin would last that long. There are some real pumpkins painted (and in previous years, carved) by local children on exhibit as well. Back when they used carved ones they had to keep switching them up for new, fresh gourds, which is probably why they switched to painting. I’ve been going to Pumpkinferno since the very first year (five years ago or so), and as my kids got older I started bringing them along as well. This year was Thing 2’s first time attending.

There has been at least one Chinese-style dragon every year (this year there were two). My kids’ first thrilled exclamation was, “Long Ma!”

There was also a rainbow ribbon made of birds (doves?) in the mill pond. Only the top half of the ribbon was actually made of pumpkins; the bottom was a reflection.

Witches danced around a cauldron to a recording of the witches’ chant from Macbeth. These witches seemed more Pratchett-like than Shakespeare-like to me, though.

There was a whole section of famous paintings recreated in pumpkins. The most recognizable, of course, was the Mona Lisa. There was also Van Gogh’s self-portrait, Emily Carr’s Haida Totems, Girl with a Pearl Earring, American Gothic, White Pine by A.J. Casson (Group of Seven), and a Frida Kahlo self-portrait.

In honour of the village itself, there was an exhibit called the “Upper Canada Village People”, of which there were a schoolteacher, a cheese-maker, a baker, and a spinner.

The Jack-o’-lantern-covered archway to the children’s area is another exhibit that has remained constant (although I believe at least some of the individual pumpkins have changed).

My favourite part this year was the Day of the Dead area, which was actually so large that I couldn’t fit all of it (or even most of it) in one picture. It was colourful and detailed and a general pleasure to behold.

Of course, these aren’t all of the exhibits at Pumpkinferno — they’re just the ones of which I got the best pictures. If you have time before Hallowe’en, I highly recommend a visit. It only runs Thursday through Sunday for the next two weekends, so keep that in mind when you’re planning. Also, the lines for entry can be quite long. I highly recommend buying your tickets online in advance, which means you get to take the quicker and shorter line, and spend more time inside the event.

Cumberland Farmers’ Market — Harvest Market

Not this past Sunday but the Sunday before (October 1st), I headed out to the Cumberland Village Heritage Museum for the Harvest Market. This farmers’ market is usually held on Saturdays from mid-June to mid-September in front of the R.J. Kennedy Community Centre. This was a special, end-of-season event, though, so it was held at a larger, more interesting venue. As a bonus, admission to the museum was free! My kids were thrilled, especially Thing 1, who had visited the museum with her class and was excited to show it all to her little sister. My husband headed with the children toward the heritage and reproduction buildings from the 1920’s and 30’s (with special attention paid by the girls to the farm animals). I, on the other hand, got a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather and peruse the market for a short time on my own, which was lovely.

The aisles were teeming with shoppers:

The stalls, as always, featured interesting locally-made seasonal items, arts, crafts, and food:

In the top right background of the photo above, there was a vendor with really fantastic bibbed kitchen aprons made from vintage patterns. Honestly, they looked more like dresses than most of my actual dresses! I really wish I’d picked one up, or at least taken their card so I could find out where they’re going to be for the Christmas season. I’ve actually started using aprons lately to save my clothes, and it would be nice to have a pretty one.

Of course, then there was the produce:


I like the use of an old wicker papasan chair frame as a giant display basket.

I came home with one of the pumpkins from the above display, as well as an ambidextrous bow bread knife for easier slicing of my homemade bread. The pumpkin was turned into pumpkin pie, pumpkin tarts, and pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving this past weekend. I can’t think of a better end for local produce.

The Cumberland Farmers’ Market season is now over, but still to come is the annual Christmas Market on Saturday, December 2nd from 9:00am to 4:00pm. This market will be held at four locations in Cumberland (I’m guessing so that all of the vendors can set up indoors): 1115 Dunning Road, 2620 Market Street, 2557 Old Montreal Road, and 2655 Old Montreal Road. If I’m lucky, maybe the vendor with the lovely vintage-style aprons will be there!

MosaïCanada 150

This past week I took the kids to MosaïCanada 150, which is a massive garden installation in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. The exhibition is being held in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, Québec (right across the river from Ottawa) from June 30th to October 15th, from 10:00am to 7:00pm. And it’s free! Well, the garden is, but parking isn’t.

The girls and I took a picnic lunch and stayed for a couple of hours, much to their delight. As a family we really do enjoy playing tourist, even in our own city. We ended up with perfect weather! I took what seems like a million pictures, but I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite pieces and the ones that resonate the most with my heritage.


Canada 150: A Powerful Symbol


Engine CPR 374

I’ve always loved trains.


Anne of Green Gables (waiting at for the train at the station)

I loved the Anne of Green Gables books as a child, and I faithfully watched the televised version with Megan Follows with my parents. I haven’t had a chance to check out the new version; although I’ve heard good things, I don’t know if it can compare in my mind with the nostalgia that the old version induces.


The Lobster Fisherman

I don’t know that any of my ancestors were lobster fishermen, but they’re iconic to the East Coast, where my family is definitely from.


The Canadian Horse

My girls loved this sculpture the most. They pointed out to me that it greatly resembles the scene at the end of The Last Unicorn where the unicorns emerge en masse from the sea. I particularly liked the use of grasses for the mane, which flowed in the breeze.


The Prospector (panning for gold)

We spent a lot of time in elementary school learning about the Klondike Gold Rush. I especially liked how the fountain in this piece added motion as the prospector “washed” his pan.


The Voyageur

Similarly, I remember many lessons on the French-Canadian Voyageurs.


Mother Earth: The Legend of Aataentsic

I have to admit, I’m not familiar with The Legend of Aataentsic, but Mother Earth and Mother Nature are stories told all over the world in different forms. I was especially impressed by this sculpture, which was the crowning glory of the exhibition. No other display was done on such a grand scale, or with such flow and attention to detail.


Mother Earth: The Legend of Aataentsic


Mother Earth: The Legend of Aataentsic

If you’re in the Ottawa/Gatineau region before October 15th, I highly recommend visiting the MosaïCanada 150 garden. I hope to be able to go back again in the fall once the leaves have started to change colour; I expect it will be gorgeous.