Recap: 124 Street Red Shoe Crawl

It’s hard to believe Red Shoe Crawls have been taking place in Edmonton for five years now! The brainchild of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northern Alberta, Red Shoe Crawls serve to raise awareness and funds to support a facility that houses families travelling to Edmonton to seek treatment for their sick children. Participating businesses donate their time and samples to contribute towards a fun, pedestrian-oriented afternoon.

Red Shoe Crawl

Red shoes!

It’s been a few years since I’ve attended a 124 Street Red Shoe Crawl, so when offered the chance to attend as a guest on September 13, 2015, Mack and I accepted. We brought along first-time crawlers Thom and Alicia.

Red Shoe Crawl

Thom and Alicia at Cococo

There were 25 stops on the list, which included an eclectic mix of retailers, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Though I understand the reasons behind some independent businesses not becoming involved (Sunday closure, staffing requirements, small spaces), it was disappointing to see that several of the newest additions to the street were not participating – the Red Shoe Crawl is a great way to expose a different crowd to your shop.

Red Shoe Crawl

Ascendant Books, one of the new-to-us discoveries

At any rate, we still had many places to explore, many of them new to us. We also elected to participate in the scavenger hunt, which invited us to post photos of different items found in the stores along the way. Although it was much more time consuming, it added another element to the crawl, and I have to say, we did have fun with it.

Red Shoe Crawl

Mack shows us how he eats his pizza at Boston Pizza

Similar to our previous 124 Street crawl experience, our main criticism was the lack of savoury items along the way. While we were treated to many sweet bites (including a scoop of gelato at Cococo), the savoury samples were few and far between. As a result, it wasn’t a surprise that our favourite stop was at reLISH. They served up a generous portion of made-to-order poutine.

Red Shoe Crawl

Poutine from reLISH

Some businesses also took better advantage of their crawl participation than others, offering discounts or special offers for the day or the week of the event. It definitely added an incentive to shop that day, as Alicia and Thom found out at Bling.

Red Shoe Crawl

Decorator’s paradise at Bling

To traverse the entire route at a leisurely pace actually took us the full four hours. But it was a great way to explore the neighbourhood! Thanks again to the Red Shoe Crawl for a fun afternoon, and to the organizers, volunteers and businesses who made it all happen.

Red Shoe Crawl

We made it!

On the (Alberta) Avenue: Shop Smart and Avenue Goes to the Dogs

Though the city’s fabric is enriched by long-standing events like K-Days, Folk Fest and the Fringe Festival, I’m really attracted to less established festivals like Deep Freeze and Illuminite. Someday, these events might come to be regarded in the same light as the “big boys”, but for now, I love their grassroots nature, charm and inclusive feel.

Alberta Avenue has really been a pioneer in this front, with the aforementioned Deep Freeze and Kaleido both setting the bar high for other communities hoping to employ festivals as a catalyst to revitalize the neighbourhood.

A few weeks ago, we heard about a launch of Alberta Avenue’s latest retail campaign called “Shop Smart”. Building on the coalition behind “We Believe In 118”, the drive reminds consumers to avoid questionable retailers and to shop locally. They have also launched a petition that advocates for the creation of a by-law that will regulate the sale of weapons.

The launch took place on July 11, 2013 with a small street party on the corner of 118 Avenue and 87 Street. With food trucks and a passport for prizes activity (involving visiting businesses displaying the “Shop Smart” decal to collect stamps), we thought it would be a fun way to spend the evening.

Shop Smart

Shop Smart event

The timing, from 4:30-6:30pm, was curious, because it wouldn’t have given those that don’t live in the community much time to reach the event and participate. It also didn’t seem to be as organized as it could have been – one of the most prominent businesses featured on the passport, location-wise, was Handy Bakery. It wasn’t even open for the last part of the event.

That said, it was a good opportunity for us to finally visit businesses we’ve walked past dozens of times, but never had the excuse or time to check out.

Shop Smart

Wall of guitars at Mhyre’s Music

Some businesses took the launch more seriously than others, as a chance to positively engage with new customers. Wee Book Inn, for example, handed out free tote bags and offered an in-store discount.

Shop Smart

Mack at Wee Book Inn

Others, like Saffron’s Carribean Delight, seemed less than happy to be a part of the event. Granted, the server probably just felt overwhelmed, but the lack of welcome or even a smile didn’t make me eager to return.

The event was also an opportunity for us to try S*wich for the first time. S*wich is fairly new to the food truck scene, but sets itself apart in the sandwich category by baking its own bread. They also feature popsicles and ice cream sandwiches from THIS Place (affiliated with the truck). Mack and I are happy to say that the sandwiches do live up to its reputation, especially the bread!


Montreal smoked meat sandwich


Mack with a smoked turkey club

In the end, the prize we earned from collecting the minimum ten stamps was another tote bag with some information about the Avenue’s businesses and a few coupons. I’m not sure what we expected, but it was a fitting souvenir for the evening.

The following Sunday, we returned to the neighbourhood for Avenue Goes to the Dogs, an annual celebration of dogs. The festival, at Eastwood Park, began as a way for community members to meet one another, as many residents have dogs. Though we don’t have a dog ourselves (living in a pet-free building doesn’t help matters), we love dogs!

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

We ran into Pancakes, The Act’s loveable mascot

The festival lucked out with the weather – early morning showers gave way to overcast but dry skies. The crowds were also modest at the start of the festival (I was reminded of the rabid hordes at Toronto’s Woofstock earlier this year), but everyone had such genuine love for their pets that it more than made up for numbers.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Dog meet-up!

The real draw of the festival for me was the dachshund races. I missed the same kind of event at Woofstock, so this was a chance for me to watch this at home! There was a solid turnout of more than a dozen dachshunds and other long-bodied dogs, including Pancakes. Even Mack got in on the action, volunteering to hold Pancakes at the starting line.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Ready, set…

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013


It really was the cutest thing, even if some of the dogs were less than cooperative!

See Spot run

Pancakes really had a bit of an unfair advantage due to her size, but some of the little ones gave her a run for her money, including the absolutely adorable Ellie, an 18 month old dachshund.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013


Avenue Goes to the Dogs was much less commercial in nature than Woofstock, and felt very community and information-oriented, with displays that included City pet licensing requirements, the Edmonton Police K-9 Unit, and pet adoption societies.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Adopt me!

We had a great time, even sans dog. Kudos to the organizers for a great job, and for giving us another reason to visit the Avenue.

Portland: To Market, To Market

Whenever we’re travelling, we make it a point to visit the city’s markets – they are not only great places to shop for memorable souvenirs (edible or otherwise), but it is also a wonderful opportunity to learn about the range of produce that can be grown, and the unique artisans and artists that call that city home. Things were no different when we vacationed in Portland.

Farmers’ Market @ Portland State University

I had been looking forward to visiting the Portland Farmers’ Market located at Portland State University since we arrived. It was easily among the first things to go on our itinerary, and with over 200 food vendors, we knew we would need a bit of time to explore the grounds.

Portland Farmers' Market

Portland Farmers’ Market

Portland Farmers' Market


It was a beautiful location to start with, the paths lined with mature trees. Vehicle access was limited (as it is on our own campus), so it made the shopping experience even more pleasant.

Portland Farmers' Market

I loved the trees

Portland Farmers' Market

Mack enjoyed the didgeridoo

Portland Farmers' Market

Peppers being roasted on site

We started our visit off with breakfast at Pine State Biscuits, an institution in Portland (I remember Filistix’s first What the Truck?! menu featured a Pine State-inspired dish). They had quite the set-up for a food vendor, complete with a griddle and an oven (they had to keep those biscuits warm somehow!).

Portland Farmers' Market

Pine State Biscuits

Each oversized biscuit was a buttery indulgence, flaky and perfectly soft on the inside. The additional cheese and bacon was probably overkill at that point, but I can’t say we didn’t enjoy every calorie.

Portland Farmers' Market

Bacon and cheese biscuit sandwich

Satiated, we joined the throngs in exploring aisle after aisle of harvest goodness. Mack got a little sick of me fawning over all of the produce, but it seemed around every corner, there was another gorgeous display of heirloom tomatoes, greens, or fruit.

Portland Farmers' Market

Fresh collard greens!

Portland Farmers' Market

Gorgeous squash

Portland Farmers' Market


Portland Farmers' Market

Many varieties of apples I’ve never encountered before (including a sweet red-fleshed one)

Portland Farmers' Market


Portland Farmers' Market

I heart heirloom tomatoes

Given the vast majority of vendors seemed to offer fresh produce (instead of prepared food), aesthetics were even more important, as a means to lure customers in and away from the competition. As a result, vendors used quantities and colours to their advantage, and I have to say, it was even harder for me to look and not buy everything around me!

Portland Farmers' Market

More greens than we could handle

Portland Farmers' Market


Portland Farmers' Market

So much colour

Portland Farmers' Market

More tomatoes

In addition to the vendors, the Farmers’ Market had organized cooking demos, spread throughout the day, and had a “veggie valet” as an option (something that has been employed by the City Market for the last few years).

Portland Farmers' Market

Chef in the market

If you’re visiting Portland, the PSU market is a must!

Portland Saturday Market

The farmers’ market at PSU did not feature any non-food vendors, so for our arts and crafts fix, we headed over to the Portland Saturday Market immediately after.

Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market

Located under the Burnside Bridge in Old Town, the market looked like tourist central, with attention-grabbing buskers and summer fair food stands vying for our attention in and amongst the great variety of jewellery, paintings and other handicrafts available for sale.

Portland Saturday Market

Busy place

It was certainly a festive atmosphere, and a great place to browse. I ended up with a beautiful acid-etched necklace from Heartstrings Studio.

Portland Farmers’ Market @ Pioneer Courthouse Square

Unlike Edmonton’s farmers’ markets, which are all individually-run, the Portland Farmers’ Market runs six different markets that take place in the urban core (not all of the area’s markets, but a significant number). We had the chance to visit a smaller collection of vendors run by the Portland Farmers’ Market at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Mondays from June to September.

Portland September 2012

Monday farmers’ market

The hours of 10am-2pm seemed a bit unusual to us, as only those who worked in the immediate area would be able to partake, but perhaps that was their target demographic after all.

Portland September 2012


It was a modest market to be sure, but with several produce and meat vendors on hand, staples were well covered. We were also happy to see Olympic Provisions on hand again – we would never turn down an opportunity to sample their salumi!

Portland September 2012

“Meat Here”

There were also quite a few hot food vendors, so later that day, we were certain the business crowd would be descending to take advantage of the al fresco lunch possibility.

The markets all provided a peek into Portland’s agricultural and creative wealth. Make sure to check them out if you have a chance!

Shop Local 2012: Favourite Gifts to Give or Get

If you are like Mack, you probably won’t think about holiday shopping until approximately December 22, but if you are like me, you are probably starting to feel that creeping feeling of stress that seems to go hand in hand with this time of the year.

Although I recognize that the holidays are about more than material goods, the reality for most of us is that we want to show our loved ones how much we appreciate them with a thoughtfully-chosen gift.

So in honour of Shop Local First Month, I’ve again compiled some gift recommendations from local personalities. I hope you find their answers to the question below as helpful as I have!

What is your favourite locally-purveyed item to give or get?

Mary Bailey, Publisher of The Tomato

CococoWe are fortunate to have several top-notch chocolateries in Edmonto: Cococo, Sweet Lollapalooza, Chocolate Exquisite, Chocophilia bars, Peter Johner and Jacek. But, if I had to pick only one sweet gift it would be the chocolate-covered cherries by Cococo. The combination of high-quality dark chocolate with spirity syrup surrounding the slightly chewy cherry on the stem is a seasonal favourite. Fresh BC Bing cherries are shipped from the Okanagan in season, then immersed in brandy for about two months. The spiked cherries are dipped in fondant, followed by a coating of Cococo couverture chocolate. During the curing, the brandy dissolves the fondant, leaving the cherry surrounded by sweet and mellow brandy. Delish!

Edmonton-based research and development chef Brad Smoliak has introduced an addictive condiment called Bacon by Brad — a sweet/savoury blend of bacon made from Alberta-raised pork, onions, maple syrup and spices, similar in texture to a jam or marmalade. Slather on a burger, layer puff pastry for a quick and easy hors d’oeuvre, or eat it on your toast. Find it on the deli counter at Save-On Foods, and at

Amy Shostak, Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre

One Christmas, my baba asked for a corn broom to sweep the snow. I searched high and low, and finally found some from the Holden Colony at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market. Their brooms are seriously sturdy, with some old-school charm (not to mention the vendor asked me if I was a witch and needed it to fly away). They also have beautiful deerhide mittens for sale, and I picked some up for my Dad.

I have an awesome hand-dyed bag from Veekee Workshop (artist Victoria Wiercinski) that I found at The Royal Bison Art and Craft Fair. It is practical, yet flashy, and I think any of her hand-dyed objects are beautiful gifts to give and to get.

Ed Fong, owner of deVine Wines and Spirits

Being a person who loves and appreciates food, cooking and wine, I tend to surround myself with people who share the same passion. So, I would gladly give or happily accept gift certificates from the following locally owned businesses:

Tops on my list would be sending someone or dining at Corso 32. Just the thought of sinking my teeth into one of Chef Daniel Costa’s arancini filled with mushrooms, fontina cheese and red cabbage is enough to bring me closer to heaven. Second on my list is a trip to the Red Ox Inn for their decadent pork belly appetizer followed by the bacon wrapped pork loin. Double pork!

For the people on my list looking for cool kitchen supplies, I would give them a chance to check out my friends at Call the Kettle Black. I would send cookbook lovers over to the shelves of Audrey’s Books.

Food would not be the same without bottles of great wine. Hate to blow my own horn, but I’d send all my wine loving friends over to see me at deVine Wines & Spirits. We can help you find some great vino to pair with your special meal, cool beers and premium spirits.

Bruce Bevan, Economic Development Officer with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation

DeVine'sYou should never give what you wouldn’t be happy to get and you can never go wrong with good food or wine. The Italian Centre in Little Italy is part of my regular Saturday morning shopping routine and the Beemster’s Extra-Aged Gouda is to die for; a great gift to go with port during those cold winter evenings. deVine Wines and Spirits (which is located in my favourite part of Edmonton – 104 Street downtown) is where I purchase my holiday libations and my latest discovery is a Portuguese Sparkling Rosé called Fita Preta “Sexy”; goes great with turkey.

Jeanie Andronyk, Co-organizer of The Royal Bison and metalsmith

I always recommend The Royal Bison for unique gifts (natch) but there are a billion awesome places all around Edmonton. You can never go wrong with music. Listen Records has everything for even the pickiest of music lovers; most of which you can buy on vinyl. Sweets are also a win, so if someone you love has a sweet tooth, buy them some roasted coconut marshmallows from Duchess Bakery. For the minimalist who is not a fan of presents, I recommend going to Padmanadi‘s Vegetarian Restaurant for a delicious I-can’t-even-tell-it’s-not-actually-meat treat!

Graham Hicks, Weekly Dish Columnist for the Edmonton Sun

Christmas drives me a little nuts as I don’t like shopping but like to give useful, meaningful gifts to the special people in my life, but can never think of a useful, meaningful gift to give.

Solution: Buy a bunch of one or two cute little gifties, to which can be attached gift certificates for favourite, locally-owned, community-minded restaurants (I’d send anybody to Tzin, Dadeo’s, Parkallen or New Asian Village).

For cute little gifties in the $10 to $15 range, I head to farmer’s markets for inspiration, or gift shops at public institutions like The Art Gallery of Alberta, Muttart, Royal Alberta Museum or TELUS World of Science.

I’m thinking this year of small bottles of gourmet oils, specialty salts or unusual vinegars – from Evoolution, Italian Centre, high-end canola from Mighty Trio or truffle oil from Mo-Na, Sunterra or Planet Organic. That’s the kind of gift I like to get!

Janis Galloway, Fashion Blogger

One of the best gifts I ever received was a custom-made dress from local designer Bridget Smatlan of Fridget Apparel. It was a truly thoughtful present that allowed me to be included in the process of making something I absolutely cherish today. It wasn’t just an item, it was an experience too. This is great gift idea for the real fashionista in your life and a fabulous way to support local entrepreneurs.

I also love perusing the local craft/artisan markets that are plentiful this time of year. The Royal Bison is my fave and great for finding made-with-love gifts such as the beautiful crocheted scarves of The Pretty Knotty Sweatshoppe, uniquely flavoured treats from Heritage Baked Goods (perfect for the vegan in your life), and the charmingly crafted jewelry and vintage finds of Chaos and the Dark.

Happy Shopping!

Brittney Le Blanc, Capital Ideas Community Champion and all-around superwoman!

When I’m shopping for friends, I really try and embrace the November Shop Local trend! If you need some sassy cards and unique items, look no further than The Artworks, which I’m lucky to be located close to for work. Know someone who likes to display photos, send mail, journal, or more? Notables is the greatest when it comes to stationary. Know someone who likes kitchen supplies? You really can’t go wrong with Call The Kettle Black. Hop across the parking lot to the Tin Box on High Street for two floors of jewellery, funky hats, awesome toys for children and adult children in your life and some great Christmas decor as well! Looking for more knick knacks or home decor? You should cross the street and talk to the ladies at Henry’s Purveyor of Fine Things. Have a geeky friend? Stop by Wizards Comics on 109 Street and talk to Brandon. He can find a comic for anyone. You’ll also find a great selection of board games too! Although, if you have a really big board game fanatic I suggest heading to Mission Fun and Games in St. Albert – as an added bonus, their new location looks like a castle. And if you want to find unique items from local Edmontonians – head to The Carrot on Alberta Avenue. Grab a warm drink and look through the jewelry, crafts, and artistic works – and on November 24th they’re having an Arts Bazaar from 9:30 – 4:30pm. I realize I have listed a lot of places, but if you’re like me there aren’t very many one-stop-shops for your variety of gift-giving needs. Luckily, there’s a whole month left before the holiday arrives.

Gifts + Cappuccino = Bling

I love the current trend of cafes in retail spaces, marrying the happy pair of caffeine and shopping. As evidenced by the success of places like The Wired Cup and Zocalo (covered by the Journal in a recent story),  sipping a cup of coffee amongst charming giftware is a nice alternative to the bustling cafe.

Edmonton can add another such establishment to it’s growing list – the cheekily named Bling just opened up on the ground floor of City Square Tower, across the street from the west side of City Hall. It’s easy to miss, particularly given the awning above it still reads “Universal Hobbies”.

There is no trace of the donair joint that occupied the space prior to Bling. Kloy Parker, formerly of The Butler Did It,  has transformed the tiny room into an elegant cafe and shop. In addition to coffee and tea, Bling offers pastries from the Italian Bakery and Handy Bakery, and will soon add panini sandwiches to their menu.

The wares are also noteworthy – Kloy prides himself on sourcing chic, gift-worthy, and best of all, affordable items (everything in the store is priced with the GST already included). He showed me a lovely textured metallic bowl that cost just $8, and a grooved, square pasta bowl priced at $10. I also spied a Dean & Deluca cookbook on my way out.

Kloy inside Bling

Check it out while you’re in the neighbourhood – but don’t blame me if you end up with a few more items for your kitchen!

10316 100 Street
(780) 421-0000

Local Gift Basket of Possibilities

Mack and I made it to Yellowknife, despite arriving to the gate ten minutes after our scheduled flight time – the line-up to get through security was madness! It’s colder here than in Edmonton, but there is more daylight than I expected (around 5 hours). No photos to share yet, as we had a pretty low-key day relaxing at Mack’s parents’ house. It’s not a bad way to start a vacation though!

We exchanged presents this afternoon with Mack’s family – thanks again Kim, Shane, Thom, Martin and Patti for the gifts! I originally didn’t know what to buy Mack’s parents, but I remembered Jennifer Crosby’s idea of putting together a basket of locally-accrued food items. It seemed like a good way to share some uniquely Edmonton products, so a few weeks back, we started to assemble it. We ended up with this:

Basket of locally-purveyed goods

It contains:

Martin and Patti appreciated the gift, but I have to say, I really enjoyed looking for things that I thought they might enjoy. And though we restricted ourselves to items purchased at local businesses, it was fairly easy to find the variety that we did.

Hope everyone had a good Christmas!

Make It!: The Handmade Revolution

A few weeks ago, Jenna Herbut, the organizer of Make It!: The Handmade Revolution offered me the opportunity to give away ten pairs of tickets to their upcoming show in Edmonton. In addition, I was also provided with free tickets to attend the show myself, which was a nice bonus, and one I took advantage of on Friday.

Alongside many other Edmontonians, Mack and I braved the cold, and arrived at a very busy hall at the Alberta Aviation Museum. Although the Christmas season is fully upon us, I did think the weather would have played a larger factor in attendance numbers. But then again, maybe I don’t give people enough credit.

Make It!

Over 115 vendors were present, selling everything from accessories to clothing, home decor items to food, making it one of the largest craft shows of the season. Similar to the Stop and Shop (which was put on in part by one of the Make It organizers), Make It! has a DJ on site to liven up the atmosphere.

Mack looking to find a companion for Netty

Browsing the vendors, I really wish I wore more jewellery – there were a ton of unique pieces for sale. We also came across some items we hadn’t seen before, including “Metavores”, tiny creatures made from recycled computer components.

Jewellery tree


In the end, we picked up a few gifts including A Jam Story by Sarah Jackson and Gabe Wong’s Blockheads. Mack also bought a small blueberry and peach pie from Cutie Pies, which was advertised as an “Oilers pie”, a name courtesy of its blue and orange filling. We found out later that the vendor was actually from Calgary! Clever marketing indeed.

Another Make It! is scheduled to happen at the end of May – check the website in the spring for details. Thanks again Jenna for the tickets, and great show!

Shop Local Month: Favourite Gifts to Give or Get

In honour of Shop Local Month, Keep Edmonton Original’s campaign to remind citizens to buy local, I wanted to write a post about my favourite gifts to give, purchased from small businesses based in Edmonton.

For example, I love to give: bottles of en Sante, especially to those who are unaware that Alberta had a cottage fruit wine industry; Gabe Wong’s funky Blockheads, “humanoid paper toys for the people of today” that can be punched out and pieced together without glue; and boxes of Chocophilia samplers from Kerstin’s Chocolates, which must include Mocha Bean and Ecuador 72%.

But then I thought – the more the merrier, especially on a topic as subjective as gift giving. So I canvassed several local personalities for an answer to the following question: “What is your favourite locally-purveyed gift to give or get?” May their answers assist you in your holiday shopping in the coming weeks.

Jessie Radies, co-owner of The Blue Pear, and founder of Keep Edmonton Original

To receive: anything from Lux Beauty is awesome; spa gift certificates from Tonic; and Notables has a great line called Russell and Hazel that I love.

To Give:  Really depends on the person, but here are a few:

Standard hostess gift – bottle of en Sante wine, I keep a few on hand for last minute emergencies

For my foodie friends – boxes of local food and specialty items, usually a trip to the Italian Center and the farmers’ market gives me enough variety for a number of gifts.  Sometimes a run through Call the Kettle Black will score the perfect gadget to round out the gift. I also like to do a mix of coffees and teas with honey or a nice mug.  Transcend, Vitalatea or Cally’s Tea and Lola Canola are good starting points.

For the hard-to-buy-for man – A monthly Beer Subscription from Sherbrook Liquor Store

For people I know well, gift certificates for Yoga, Integration Pilates or Pause Massage.

Tickets to the Citadel are perfect for people that have all the stuff they need, and would enjoy a night out. Gift cards from Original Fare are great gifts too, as they can let you eat at a number of local restaurants.

Jennifer Crosby, Global Edmonton News Hour Final Anchor and Producer

I like to give people gifts they can use, as well as enjoy. I’m also a big fan of food grown, raised or produced locally, so I often make up packages of unique food items. I love to visit the H & R Farms booth at the Old Strathcona Market for the beautiful jams and relishes. Right now, between my fridge and my gift cupboard I have their Rhubarb Rose Petal jam (one of my favourite to give), Cinnamon-Pembina Plum jam, Cranberry Apple Pear relish, and Corn relish. I’ve mailed away a few different care packages that include the adorable little jars – to rave reviews. Add some local coffee, honey, and pastry, and you’re just bacon and eggs away from a made-in-Edmonton breakfast.

Cary Williams, financial advisor for Edward Jones and co-chair of Edmonton Next Gen

Not sure I can give one ‘favourite’ but we often get gifts from Red Ribbon in High Street. This year though I’m leaning towards gift certificates from Agency III. They’re a local lifestyle management/concierge company. I think I have people who would love having their own personal assistant to create more free time.

Jennifer Fong, staff writer for the Edmonton Journal and creator of the “52 reasons to love Edmonton”  series

My favourite item to give would have to be a box of macarons from Duchess Bake Shop. They’re light, not-too-sweet sweets that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating, they come in a million flavours, and they’re adorable. Plus, Duchess wraps them up in gorgeous gold boxes. Perfect.

My favourite item I’ve ever received was a pair of earrings by local jewelry-maker Nicole Salvalaggio. I got them at a Royal Bison fair and they’re beautiful silver drop earrings made with heart-shaped lockets that actually open. A friend of mine drew me a picture to put in one of the hearts. It’s amazing.

Michael Janz, Marketing Director for the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues

My favourite locally purveyed item to give is… the gift of talent and knowledge from the really awesome courses at the City Arts Centre. From guitar to art to wellness, there is something there for everyone and the flexibility is awesome.

My favourite locally purveyed item to get is… one of those fancy coffee machines that they have at Leva Cafe on 111th. I’ve never been given one but would love one. So if someone out there really loves me this December… *hint*

Jeff Samsonow, Editor-in-Chef and News Director for The Edmontonian

Something local that I love is Geekware. Nicola Harper has taken our e-waste and turned it into fun, funky accessories. I have a fantastic circuit board business card holder from the collection. It’s locally sourced and locally produced. She’s got the website and is at a lot of craft fairs. (We met her when she had a table beside Sally [also of the Edmontonian] at one such fair.)

If you’re looking for stores alone, we’re big fans of The Tin Box for interesting, helpful and even wacky stuff.

Sarah Bourque, the creative behind the adorable monsters of Belua Designs

My favourite gift to receive (or to treat myself) would have to be a hat from Sugar Soul Studios. I already own 3 but they are so fabulous I need more! They are universally flattering and are made from amazing fabrics. I think I need one for every outfit 🙂

Jeff Haslam, actor and Artistic Director of Teatro la Quindicina

I love love love to give or receive gift certificates from wither of my two fave Strathcona restaurants… Both family run and completely local: Gino’s Italian Kitchen (great Italian fare just south of the Varscona on Calgary Trail… Grandma is still cooking in the kitchen), and Culina (the Mill Creek branch, amazing food – a great brunch – and wonderful service too).

Dave Cournoyer, popular political blogger

My favourite local gift to give and receive is the jam made by the Strathcona Country Kitchen. I first discovered their jams at the 104th Street Farmers Market downtown this summer and I now fill up with their Raspberry Red or Strawberry Rhubarb jam whenever possible. Their jams are excellent with multigrain toast and organic peanut butter. It really is great jam.

Alex Abboud, Executive Assistant to Councillor Kim Krushell

To get – as someone who is gluten-intolerant, I like pretty much anything from local gluten-free food maker Kinnikinnick. While some of their products (and those of other companies such as Glutino) are readily available in grocery stores, the selection at their Edmonton factory store far exceeds that of anywhere else.

To give – I’ve started giving prints of photos I’ve taken. The frames are almost certainly not locally-purveyed, but the photos usually are. Otherwise, I also like to give concert or theatre tickets (or if the recipient is someone with a busy schedule, gift certificates for the Winspear or Citadel).

Nate Box, chef and operator of the forthcoming Elm Cafe

To receive:
– PORK:  Only once in my life has a friend been so confident in how well they know me, that they purchased not one, but two pork tenderloins for me as a gift.  I took it out of the bag and was (I kid you not) overjoyed!  But it doesn’t have to be tenderloin, just about any pork gets me excited.  Irvings Farm Fresh  product is definitely on the top of my wish list.
– MUSIC:  Blackbyrd Myoozik gift certificates are also at the top of my gift list.

To give:
– CLOTHES:  The girls at Nokomis are always more than helpful when it comes to finding a something unique for my wife.  They usually present three of four things, I narrow it to one, and then sneak it under the tree.
– COFFEE:  Most holiday meals, especially Christmas morning, my mom or sisters (whoever is hosting breakfast) usually receives a pound of coffee from Transcend.
– MOVIES: Tickets to the Garneau or Princess are also up their on the giveaways.  I’m always amazed at the number of friends and family that have “been before, but it’s been years”.

Sarah Chan, chic city cycling advocate and blogger

My favourite locally-purveyed item to give or get is Transcend coffee. Their shop smells delicious, the people are divine, and the only setback was their location. I’ll just say that biking on 99 street isn’t all that inspiring. However, this will be remedied with their new location! I’ll be able to enjoy their beans with just a short bike or bus ride. Two of my favourite things, together at last.

A shopping opportunity…

To help you get started (or finish) your Christmas shopping, Jenna Herbut, the organizer of the upcoming Make It Fair (December 11-13 at the Alberta Aviation Museum), has generously provided me with 10 pairs of tickets to the craft show to give away. It looks like it will be a great show, with over 100 designers in attendance offering unique gift ideas.

If you are interested in attending, please leave a comment with a valid e-mail address below (in the e-mail address field, not the comment itself) by noon on December 5. I will randomly select five names and contact the winners by e-mail on December 6.

Good luck!

Shopping on High Street

Working on an article on Saturday, I kept looking up from my laptop, distracted by the scene outside of freshly fallen snow glistening in the warm afternoon sunlight. At some point I decided I needed some fresh air, and to kill two birds with one stone, wandered over to High Street to get some Christmas shopping done.

Paul Kane Park, en route to High Street (or as Jim Diers would call it, a “pocket park”)

Though the sidewalks were slippery, it was a pretty nice day to spend outside, wandering in and out of some of my favourite stores in the city. Many other people thought so too, as some of the stores were jam packed with shoppers.

High Street

I picked up a few things at The Tin Box, one of the best shops in my opinion for unique gifts. They had a rack of animal hats and gloves that were ubiquitous in Banff’s gift stores.

Hats and gloves at The Tin Box

Carol’s Quality Sweets is a nice store to satisfy the kid in all of us –I love the brightness of the store, and the colourful candy jars that line the shelves. For just a few dollars, your retro candy craving can be taken care of.

Candy behind the counter at Carol’s Quality Sweets

Notables is another great store, and in recent years it seems they’ve expanded their selection of offbeat giftware. Staff are super-friendly, and you won’t find a better assortment of greeting cards anywhere else in the city.

Christmas display at Notables

My last stop was Call the Kettle Black, a kitchen retail store. I almost always end up buying something if I enter the store, so a visit is a dangerous one for me. Luckily, I balanced a purchase for myself (a lightweight Epicurean cutting board) with the purchase of a gift for someone else. What wasn’t in my shopping basket were these onion goggles – although they might be effective, I think they’d take up too much room for just a single purpose.

Onion Goggles

Other than the stores I’ve listed, Acquired Tastes Tea Company, Floc Boutique and Ginger are a few other shops I like to patronize.

Boulevard trees on High Street

In addition to finding unique gifts, it’s a nice change from wandering within the confines of a mall. Especially during Shop Local Month, I would encourage you to consider doing some of your holiday shopping at High Street.

Kingsway’s Radiant Reveal

While it took us a few months to finally visit the revamped Southgate Centre, because of the convenient scheduling of Kingsway’s  grand reveal, we were able to hop on a bus right after the Holiday Light Up to join the festivities at the mall.

Kingsway all decked out for the holidays

In particular, I was curious about the premiere of their Twilight Spectacular, billed as “Western Canada’s first light show” – over 100,000 LED lights synchronized to seasonal music. At 7pm, a crowd gathered at the main west entrance (next to the food court) and waited for the event to begin. Just above us, on the second level balcony, someone was delivering a speech to VIPs who were given access to a prime viewing location upstairs – it was strange that the mall authorities didn’t think the public who came out for the opening also deserved to be a part of the welcome and introduction.

After a chorus of singers opened the show, the lights dimmed. As rock versions of popular carols blared, a suspended coil-shaped Christmas tree, strings of vertical lights and star-shaped orbs flashed to the music. It’s a novel entertainment installation, but it wasn’t what I expected – perhaps if the show had been spread out over a larger area, or if animated scenes were played out somehow in lights, it would have been cooler.

Twilight Spectacular

The show will begin after dark and run every hour, on the hour, throughout the holiday season, so you can see it for yourself, but I’d say unless you were planning on shopping anyway, it’s not worth special trip.

At 8pm, a fashion show was hosted on a small runway that had been set-up in front of Aritzia. We didn’t have a clear view of the runway, but stayed to watch anyway, primarily to catch a glimpse of Canada’s Next Top Model runner-up Linsay Willier (I saw her back in September at Edmonton Fashion Week).

Besides highlighting fashion available at the mall itself, the show closed with a dozen dresses Kingsway commissioned from local designers on the theme of “luminance” (including one of my favourites – Kelsey McIntyre). The dresses will be available for purchase through a silent auction until November 22, with all proceeds going to WIN House.

Linsay Willier (it was hard to look directly at the runway with the glaringly bright lights positioned the way they were)

The models pose with the designers of their garment

While I think the name of the designer who created the outfit should have proceeded each walk off, all in all, it’s a win-win for both local designers and a local charity – bravo to Kingsway for an innovative promotional tie-in.

Edmontonians – we now have two sparkly new malls to spend our money in. Choose wisely.