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So Christmas starts in early November now, so what?by Carolyn Donovan
It used to be that the Christmas shopping season started at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving night (for some, it still starts at 6 p.m on Christmas Eve). Those in the know, however, start their Christmas shopping on the Friday afternoon of the Christmas Craft Festival. It's one long craft fest weekend, and it's fabulous!

Christmas Craft Festival - a smorgasbord of things to buy (and eat!)

The Christmas Craft Festival is the biggest show I've ever gone to (or been in). Over three hundred vendors of hand-made items, that reminds you how creative (and commerce-minded) human beings really are.

The Christmas Craft Festival is an annual event here in Boston, and it's home is the World Trade Center right on the water. It's at the WTC because it's the only place big enough to hold it! Over 350 vendors, and one aisle is devoted exclusively to food items (and alllllllllllll of the food vendors offer little tasting of their wares). The show is laid out nicely, all in straight aisles with cross aisles for darting back to the food aisle for another tast of that gingerbread or that salsa from Maine. There are lunch people on either side, selling hot dogs and the like (and $3 bottles of Diet Coke!) with places to sit and revel in your purchases. There are two ladies' rooms - one at the front wall, one at the back - so all your basic necessities of eating, sitting, and peeing are well taken care of (the promoters are women, afterall).

There is a wide range of products here, from the guy who makes little tee-pee tents out of colorful nylon to the woman who sells hand painted glassware to the couple selling personalized bookmarks on the spot (even sewing machines have computers now). Yes, there's lots of jewelry, but that just makes it fun to choose. Some potters were there, and a number of people selling handmade soaps and room spritzers. If you are looking for children's clothing, especially little girls' holiday dresses, you will love it here.

I've just come back from Christmas shopping, although come to think of it, all the purchases are for me!

Below are some of my wonderful finds, with pictures (taken by me) of things I actually bought today.

They Met in Art School

Some vendors at the craft show are a little, how you say, visually challenged with regard to designing their booths. But Swirly Designs, gosh, there's something about how they put together their space, you just want to see what they've got. And then of course, once you see what you've got, you've got to buy it!

Lianne & Paul started the cutest little ornament company, Swirly Designs. They do clay polymer ornaments that are so happy, so colorful, that you only wish you had more money to buy more of them.

As you might expect, the bulk of their ornament design is Christmas-oriented.

Even we if don't get a tree this year, we'll have a tree!

They have a new(ish) baby line, developed when they had a baby this past June.

A card and an ornament, how smart is that?

This is the cutest ornament, and you don't need to wait 'till the holidays to use it.


These are local folks (based in Stoneham) and they have some holiday designs of bags, paper, notecards and the like at HomeGoods!

Handmade ornaments - $17 - $23


Rosie, You are Riveting

I appreciate my luck in having a two-parent family and enough money growing up, in having a good school system, in not getting pregnant in high school, in never being drawn to drugs, in thinking enough of myself to not get into abusive relationships. Because I know alot of that was just the luck of the draw, I appreciate even more Rosie's Place, which is for women who's luck was not so, lucky. Rosie's Place is a non-profit shelter for women in Boston (they don't even accept government funds). It is a sanctuary for poor and homeless women, and everyone is treated with love and respect there.

Rosie's Place has created The Women’s Craft Cooperative, which creates wonderful jewelery and small pieces, and they have a booth at the Christmas Craft Festival (the promoters of the Festival, Jackie Ralston and Florence Flynn, donates the space). These pieces are unique - they're made from buttons - and you really have to see them in order to understand how cool they are. The photo below is the barrette I bought, on my very head.

Why yes, it IS a lovely barrette, thank you

The Rosie's Place booth is near the gingerbread exhibit. Go and buy unique and affordable items from them, and feel good that your purchase is helping another women help herself.

Barrettes, earrings, bracelets, magnets, bookmarks - $8 -$15 (approximately)


I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty!

The only time I went to "Summer School" was in the 6th grade, not to make up classes but to give me something to do (Mom and Dad had a sneaking suspicion that I watched reruns of "I Love Lucy" all day). The highlight of that Summer was our abbreviated version of the musical "My Fair Lady," mouthed - not sung - by us little wannabes. I already knew all the songs, because Dad had this thing about musicals and we had all the albums to his favorites. I got to wear a tiara in the Ascot race scene, sigh...

So, when I saw a "My Fair Lady" purse at a booth today, well, I walked by it three times just to make sure it really was what I was seeing. Emily Gartner of Album Cover Handbags makes - you guessed it - handbags out of album covers.

"Wouldn't it be Loverly" to have this handbag?

I'm sorry to say (not really) that this is the only MFL handbag Emily has at the show. She has many others (Dean Martin, anyone?), although she says she runs out of Barry Manilow bags every time she makes them.

Handbags of various sizes - $35 - $58 (approximately)


Yumi is Yummy

Swarovski Crystal seems to be in vogue this year amongst the jewelry designers this year, but Yumi Chen's items stand out from the rest. Much of her work includes both Swarovski Crystal and Venetian glass, so it's really elegant and sparkly, without breaking your bank.

I know a perfect place for these!

Her designs are really attractive, and I like how she displays her products along color lines. She also is offering special Christmas Craft Show prices, which make them even a better value!

earrings and necklaces - $20 - $45 (approximately)


Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Can Kick These Over Any Time!

I like aromatic candles, but I have a tendancy to forget I've lit them and walk out of the room. If you've ever seen that fire training film, the one which shows a mock living room becoming fully engulfed in less than 20 seconds you know that a random breeze can flick a candle flame onto something else (a curtain, a book, a stuffed cuddly bear) and the next thing you know you're in your own version of that training film.

Fragrance Wands from Grace Essentials puts an end to the fire worries. hollow reeds are placed in cute glass vases along with your oil of choice, and the reed wicks up the oil and slowly releases the fragrance without flame of any kind.

Can't you just smell it already?

Their fragrances are wonderful, and they've worked very hard to come up with good, long lasting aromas. Some fragrances don't "climb" (surface tension, don't you know), so even though they smell great, they don't work on the wands. But oh, the ones that do! I picked "Wild Flowers," and they had "Balsam Fir" wafting from their space. A great gift.

vase with wire and charm, 16 reed wands, 1 oz. of oil - $19.99

(P.S. Mrs. O'Leary's cow supposedly kicked over her lamp when she was milking her and started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871)


I love a parade! I mean a barrette

With longish hair, sometimes I get tired of the fetching mussed-hair-about-the-face look that I often sport, and like to pull it back (brings me back to my junior librarian days of 4th grade). When I pull my hair back, I like to make a statement about it. Why use dull unnoticeable hair bands when you can use a hair ornament with panache? How about a glass hair ornament? Wouldn't that be just a kick?

Tamara Golden of JourneyWork makes really lovely barrettes, earrings, plates and other items out of fused glass. I've seen alot of this type of work lately, but Tamara's combinations and shapes are really attractive.

Oo, shiny!

She makes sushi plates, even!

earrings, necklaces, barrettes, sushi plates, holiday ornaments - $12 - $40 (approx.)


Victory to Victoria

Victoria Taylor owns a spice company. An unsual type of company to own in Woburn, which is known for being "the fourth largest job market along the 128 belt" and having a problem with geese that won't fly south for the winter, but Victoria has stayed true to her idea of creating spice blends that are approachable yet authentic, and is doing okay, thank you very much. As one of her employees told me today "she started with only 14 blends..." which seems like alot more than "only" when you own your own aromatherapy bath salts company and can only handle five blends.

Anyway, I had already bought Victoria Taylor's Seasonings Tuscan blend at HomeGoods, and was surprised to find them at the show. Truth be told, the spice business is a little tough, because people are a little hesitant to try out things they don't know (because they don't know if they'd like it), and I can honestly say that had I not already owned the Tuscan blend I probably wouldn't have stopped by the booth.

That would have been a mistake. All 14 blends are out, each available for smelling. I bought Herbs de Provence and Moroccan Seasonings in 1.5 oz tins.

Wasn't Morocco a colony of France's?

They also offer gourmet salts, and their packaging is terriffic.

seasonings and salts - $4 - $35 (approximately)


Have Some Tea With Me

I was once in a very posh restaurant in London with a very wealthy gentleman for lunch. After we ate, I ordered some tea. I had to send it back twice (they did not use boiling water), because apparently this restaurant was so posh they only served coffee. London lost a bit of its lustre for me that day...

I was delighted to find The Tea Garden in the Food Aisle today, because I still clamor for a good cup of tea, and have a tendancy to think that smaller companies create better tea. And they're in Randolph! I have cousins that grew up in Randloph!

I bought Vanilla Cream, Rooibos Orange, and Earl Grey. The Earl Grey has the requisite Bergamot (but not too much), and an overtone of something else that is also a little citrusy. The Vanilla Cream is truly lovely; if you've ever had a commercial vanilla tea made with artificial flavorings, you will definitely appreciate this blend. Nicely aromatic, a good mouth feel (I always find Vanilla to make tea a little "thicker" which is nice). The Rooibos comes from a tree in (South) Africa, and is a wonderful herbal tea for a quick pick-me-up or for soothing a disgruntled stomach.

The Tea Garden booth even serves little free cups of their tea. About halfway down the Food Aisle.

2 oz - $4


I Had to Leave, I Ran Out of Money

If you have time this weekend, go go GO to the Christmas Craft Festival. Their website even has a coupon for reduced admission!


World Trade Center, Boston November 4-6

Adults - $10 ($8 with coupon - believe me, it's worth it)

Friday - noon-7

Saturday - 10-7

Sunday - 10-5

Accessible by public transportation - World Trade Center station (Silver Line)

Parking lots all around the area, from $7 to $20 per day


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Photography by Wan Chi Lau and Carolyn Donovan