December 14th, 2022
Let’s say I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future, but way less creepy.
We’re at a holiday market, the outdoor kind, except everything is ‘brought to you by Nurture’. It’s that magical time of day during the colder months where the light paints everything gold until the violet darkness seeps in and the twinkle lights and lanterns are turned on and lit. There’s the crunch of snow underfoot, but it’s not too cold. You can see your breath in a way that’s fun, where you pretend to be the caterpillar with the hookah from Alice in Wonderland saying “Whooooo. Ahhhhhhhr. Youuuuuu.” to the delight or amused eye roll of your dear friends, who are your companions on this adventure.
At the Nurture market entrance, a jovial couple from the neighbouring farm greets you like an old friend and hands you a cup of brown butter eggnog punch (spiked, if you like) that warms you to your core. Something pops and sizzles at the nearby fire pits where people are contentedly warming themselves. You are delighted to discover it’s cast iron cauldrons full of hot melted cheese you can ladle out into a quaint tin mug and dunk torn hunks of homemade sourdough rye into. The barns and chicken coops form a natural kind of open market square, which is dotted with tables adorned with all kinds of festive festoons and laden with exactly the kinds of things you want to bring home as gifts or nudge your partner about to bring home for YOU. In the hay loft, a local bluegrass band plays swinging holiday tunes. You find yourself tapping along as you browse.
Featured at the market tables are all the incredible small businesses that have contributed to Nurture Self Care Kits past. While we look forward to hosting all past and future contributors as vendors, here’s a small selection of makers who contributed their wares to our recent Fall 2022 Nurture retreat, to give you a taste!
Until such a Nurture holiday market exists in real life, I invite you to travel via the links to these wonderful artisans and make your holiday gifts – and purchases – that much more meaningful because you’ve met the soul behind the product.
Take my hand and walk with me…
Our first stop is Ari Para, whose smile is like a lantern itself. Ari’s table is decked out in colourful clay earrings and swaths of beaded bracelets threaded with carefully selected stones and intentional purpose. Each purchase directly supports Ari’s MRP research project, where Queer and Trans Tamil and South Asian youth are interviewed about their relationship to culture, heritage and their mother tongue. Ari is the type of person you can talk to for hours – they tell you about their love of writing (Ari is also a poet!), facilitation, nature and social justice. You choose a pair of playfully bright earrings that catch your eye and a rose quartz bracelet, delighted that wearing them means you’re adorning yourself in both fashion and impact, from a creator you can now call a friend.
Sarah Tacoma is the herbal healer from your favourite fairy tale. As we stop at her table, it is set up in a similar fashion to her cozy at-home studio in Grey County, a perfect marriage of whimsical and practical. She’s got an assortment of dried herbs that she grew or foraged herself, hanging from twine like beacons of transparency. Every ingredient in her wares comes from a natural source, and you can FEEL that integrity in her products. You can also feel the magic – it’s impossible not to yield to the power of the plants she infuses into her gorgeous (and potent!) essences, oils and libations.
On our way to Cait Jeffery’s stall, we stop for a cone full of fresh apple fritter bites and I tell you, with some pride, that the apples came from the heritage orchard on the property and that our ‘secret’ is that we infuse our cinnamon sugar dust with vanilla bean. Cait greets us with her characteristic wise nod, and invites you to reflect on the beauty inherent in the cycles of life, quite literally on display at her table. Her gorgeous dried or pressed floral art pieces and ornaments tell the story of a moment through flowers so you can keep that feeling or person with you forever – your wedding, the memory of a loved one who passed, a christening, or simply your favourite flower. It is a delicate practice, given the organic and often brittle elements of dried florals, but Cait exudes an inner strength and depth, which is required to take things that could shatter or rip (your soul or a stem) and make them into art that heals as much as it decorates.
Brittney Mishio’s stall smells GOOD, but it’s not just the aroma that draws us in, it’s the energy. Everything about Brittney oozes a welcoming calm. Her custom candle line flickers in the growing darkness and we lean in conspiratorially over the flames to take a whiff of each, as well as the ethically sourced palo santo on the table that sends cleansing puffs of smoke into the crisp air. A successful interior designer by trade, Brittney’s real trade is in intuition. It guides her every design and life choice and is what compels people into her orbit, where life feels both expansive and grounded in the same breath. She designed the Maison Noir line of relaxed yet refined home goods to accompany the spaces she creates. Her candles, matches (the long, wooden old fashioned kind that my inner pioneer loves!) and curated housewares offer a feeling of home through the senses and act as olfactory touchstones that remind you of the intentional life and spaces you’re stepping into.
María López Bernal is a familiar face at her local markets near Cobourg, ON, and we’re pleased as punch to have her at ours. We sidle up to where other guests are huddled at her table, taking their mittens off to feel the soft fabrics of her napkins, cloth shopping bags, wash cloths and masks. We get into an impassioned conversation about sustainability and protecting nature, as these values are the heartbeat (heartbeet?) of her business. Frustrated by single use plastics and the lack of diversity in the cloth shopping bag industry, María tells us she decided to get out her sewing machine and fix it herself, starting with her own family. Very quickly, demand for her bags grew among her friends and now she sells at markets and online, spreading sustainable cheer from household to household. All of her materials are thrifted or recycled cotton or linen. We LOVED using her napkins at our recent retreat, keeping track of them via embroidered initials and treasuring them as a lasting memento of our weekend together during future work lunches and picnics. As you might imagine, we would NOT feel this way about a piece of disposable paper towel! We pick out a cloth bag to store the other goodies we’ve already bought and María sends us off with a smile and a reminder that making sustainable choices is a gift unto itself.
Although there are no walls around Melissa Condotta’s table, it feels like we’ve crossed a magical threshold when we step into her sphere. Her handcrafted body products are a symphony of natural ingredients, conducted by her masterful hands. Mel’s hands have grown or sustainably foraged every element of her body oils, sprays, salves and other incredible potions. Her products feel alive, like plant spells in beautiful bottles (fun fact – Mel and I collaborated on the spell poems written on the back of her packaging!). We walk through a spritz of her body spray, Desert Echo, and immediately travel to that landscape through scent, in spite of the snow. You purchase a bottle for your best friend to remind them of your bucket list trip to Joshua Tree that you want to take in 2023.
Come with me, back to the fire.
This one has dutch ovens buried in the coals and we watch the lid lift to reveal a hearty gingerbread cake, its smell also telling us of tastes to come. You set your bag full of goodies down, your holiday shopping complete. As you watch your friends’ faces in the fire glow and bite into a piece of warm, gingery cake, you generate the kind of excitement and magic that will collectively make this dream of Nurture Christmas Future a reality.
If you stop by to visit our virtual booths, feel free to tell them the Ghost of Christmas Future sent you. 😉
All photos from Nurture Fall 2022 by Amber Ellis, Creating Light Studio.