Whether you’ll be ready or not, Christmas is coming. So get ahead of the crowds and get your shopping done early so you can relax with a glass of wine and sweet treat and actually enjoy the season this year.
My mom has been hounding me for a few weeks about what I want for Christmas– and the truth is that honestly, I really couldn’t care less. Our family has had such a tumultuous year that all I want is a quiet Christmas with my family. (Ok, and maybe for 2018 to end!) With my parents both having significant health events, it’s been far easier to prioritize what’s really important in life. And I’m just so incredibly thankful to have both my parents and the rest of my family with me this holiday season.
But gifts actually do play a very important role at Christmas. For many people, it’s a way that they express their gratitude, affection, and love. And when a considered approach is taken, they can serve various purposes. They can fulfill a need, satisfy a desire, create memories, even trigger memories when those gifts are used years from now, and support local businesses. The key is adopting a “less is more” mentality, being mindful about where the gift is purchased, and putting thought into the needs and thoughts of the recipient. Spend a little more where it matters, and know that you’ll be making an overall bigger impact.
I chose the gifts in this year’s Holiday Gift Guide for a few reasons. I wanted to include quality products. Many of these may cost more than those that can be found at your large department stores, but many are handmade and from high-quality materials, and made by highly skilled local craftspeople. Many of these items will last for years (quite possibly even the recipients lifetime!), or in the case of the consumables, are meant to be savoured.
Most importantly, I chose these products because they were all made and/or available from small businesses within or associated with the Lake of the Woods region– specifically Kenora, Northwestern Ontario, and Winnipeg. While not all products may be available in your specific area, many of the small businesses offer shipping throughout Canada (as well as internationally), or you may be able to find their products at stores that I have not listed. While I’ve tried to include a variety of shops, makers, and artists from the area, this list is only a sample of the incredible artisans and shopkeepers out there in my hometown, and I’m sure there’s many in yours. This holiday season has been particularly stressful for many because of the Canada Post strike– so this is the perfect opportunity to spend your money at home, where much of it will stay.
Shopping local and small is something that’s incredibly important and rewarding. In our tourism town of Kenora, many small business struggle in the winter– so by committing some or all of your holiday budget to shopping small and local, you’re helping make their Christmas just a little bit brighter. When you shop local, you’re helping to put a little girl in ballet lessons or pay the salary of perhaps the person down the street. I find that they’re also the businesses that will go above and beyond– staying late when you get there right at closing but need a pair of shoes for the office Christmas party, or are willing to make a custom design for you. Beyond investing in quality craftsmanship, you’re investing in community. And I think that’s something to buy into this Christmas.
1. Pecan Islands from Sweet | 2. Wolf & Pine clay mask from Hoolio & Goober | 3. Knitted hat & knitted basket from Knits ‘N Knots | 4. Original painting by Melissa Jean | 5. Canadian diamond earrings from Brennan’s Jewellers | 6. The Hygge Game from Pineridge Hollow | 7. Melanie Auld ring from Poplar + Birch | 8. Cabin slippers from Egli’s Sheep Farm | 9. Goddess Glow Moisturizing Beauty Balm from Sweet Spirit Apothecary | 10. Ceramic baking dish & thumbprint mug (example) from Lot.15 | 11. Tofino beach towel from Hoolio & Goober | 12. Sloane Earl Grey tea from Academy Florists | 13. All I Want Fir Xmas candle from Coal & Canary
Located in the charming chocolate shop on Main Street is where my favourite holiday treat is found. Their Pecan Islands are a luxe version of the popular turtle treat. They’re not cheap, so savour them– they’re worth it. Pop in as you start your shopping so you can get in the Christmas spirit (the store is decked out in gorgeous Christmas decor) and grab one of their speciality coffees to keep you going during your shopping spree.
This cheeky little skincare company hails from Lively, Ontario and has a thing for making organic, vegan products. This moisturizing clay mask is perfect for pulling the impurities out of your skin after all those holiday indulgences. Gift these to all your girlfriends, and definitely make sure it goes on your own wish list! Plus, a portion of the proceeds from their products go to wolf and wildlife sanctuaries and reforestation efforts. Sold. You get a mask! You get a mask! You get a mask! If you’re in Kenora, pop down to see Ashley and Montana at Hoolio & Goober on Second Street in Kenora and they’ll hook you up. Otherwise, you can find Wolf & Pine products online or at select retailers here.
Wintering in Winterpeg requires some seriously sturdy knitwear. Janine is the maker and designer behind Knits ‘N Knots, and creates a variety of hand-knit items and patterns, so you’ll stay warm right through until April. (She’s currently knitting 13 items a day!) While you’re checking out her shop, grab that cute little Mini Basket with Handles– currently half-off! Perfect to up the hygge-factor at home while also serving as a plant cozy or catch-all. If you’re in the Winnipeg area, enter the code “LocalPickUp” to by-pass the shipping. Her items can also be purchased at Coal & Canary’s flagship store at The Forks, at Out of the Blue in Osborne Village, and the Manitoba Museum.
Art is always such a memorable gift because it’s so everlasting. It will likely outlive the recipient, and has the added satisfaction of being enjoyed by many. A nationally recognized Canadian artist, Melissa Jean’s love of the local landscape is clearly reflected in her work. Scenes of our beautiful area are now hung in private and public collections worldwide in the form of her paintings. Her work is beautiful and one of her paintings hangs in my parents’ home– no doubt the start of a collection. Her work can be found in galleries across the country. A listing of all available art, their location, and pricing, can be found here. For a more affordable gift, she also sells a select number of prints on cards (pack of ten for $45) and also on wood (starting at $195).
Would a Holiday Gift Guide be complete without a little sparkle? Another heirloom gift, these diamond studs will most definitely outlive the recipient (so long as they aren’t lost!) and can be handed down to the next generation. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a girl who wouldn’t be impressed with these! While vintage stones are usually my preference, if you’re buying a diamond, definitely try to buy Canadian. In general, they’re more ethical than foreign diamonds. Brennan’s Jewellers specializes in Canadian diamonds– so guys, relax. Head on down to their shop on Main Street and they’ll take care of everything.
Pronounced “hoo-ga”, hygge is the untranslatable Danish word that took off back in 2017, and is still going strong. Used to describe the concept of being cozy and relaxed, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t need a little more hygge in their life. The Hygge Game contains cards with more than 300 thought provoking questions– perfect for a cozy night in front of the fire, rainy days at the cottage, or the tail-end of a dinner party. Light some more candles and crack another bottle; it’s a long winter, we might as well hygge it up. The Hygge Game can be purchased from Amazon for those not from around these parts, but if you’re in the area, definitely make the trip out to the place that Christmas dreams are made of: Pineridge Hollow. An experience as much as a place to do your holiday shopping, Pineridge Hollow features a full service restaurant that serves top-quality, local ingredients, a curated shop with everything from furniture to women’s clothing, and a variety of festive treats such as a bon fire & smores on the property, pictures with the animals, hot cider, and more. A full list and schedule of their Holiday Festivities can be found here. Pineridge Hollow is located just outside the sleepy little town of Oakbank, a short drive from Winnipeg.
While beautiful, delicate, and feminine, this ring has a a bunch of powerful women behind it. Gift it to the woman who’s equally fierce but feminine. Designed in Vancouver, Melanie Auld Jewellery began in 2013 and has grown to employ a studio full of women. This Moonstone ring is copper with 14k gold plating, a cubic zirconia band, and features a teardrop moonstone. Just as brilliant and hardworking is the woman behind Poplar + Birch, a beautifully curated boutique for women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing, as well as beauty and gift items. Ashley thoughtfully chooses each item in her shop, focusing on ethical and local goods and also generously gives back to our community throughout the year. Head down to Poplar + Birch on Matheson Street to knock a few things off your list!
I’ve had a pair of these slippers for 9 years and they’re still going strong. Absolutely my favourite slippers! Perfect for winter in the North, they’ll keep your toes toasty right through until spring. Available in 4 colours as well as various styles (and children’s sizes), they make the perfect present. Made from genuine sheepskin, they have a suede outside with soft, dense shearling inside for comfort and warmth. The slippers are made right at Egli’s. Owner’s Robert and Margarit Egli emigrated from Switzerland in the 50’s with the intent of starting a farm, and years later, while still maintaining the family farm, Egli’s employs local full-time sewing specialists who manufacture the sheepskin products. The retail shop has expanded to become one of Canada’s largest wool and sheepskin specialty shops. Take a trip up to Egli’s if you can to check out the farm and to guarantee you’ll get them in time for Christmas, otherwise all their products can be ordered online.
A free spirit, Demetra creates potent nature-inspired and nature-infused beauty and skincare products. In her little cabin in the woods, she creates infusions using pieces of the forest around her, and incorporates them into many of her products. Valuing purity, potency, and high quality, a little goes a long way. Many of her products are seasonal as they have no preservatives and are made with delicate ingredients, and are made by hand in small batches. While most skincare products have fillers and harsh ingredients, the Goddess Glow Beauty Balm doesn’t have a single drop of water– instead, it’s filled with plant and nut oils and butters to moisturize your skin. It’s also filled with some of the top botanical skincare oils: rosehip, frankincense, rose, sea buckthorn, and mango butter. She has a variety of her own creations available for sale, including skincare, body care, therapeutic products, meditation oils, natural perfumes, jewellery, and teas. Check out her online shop to order (you can try sending her a message to see if you can do a local pick-up to avoid a shipping charge), or catch her at the various markets she frequents. She often posts her market schedule on her Instagram (as well as gives lots of behind the scenes shots and info!).
Functional as well as beautiful, pottery is always a good idea– particularly when it comes from a local artisan. The artist behind Lot.15, Lynne works both in her home studio as well as a shared studio space in the historic Exchange District in downtown Winnipeg. Pop in and pick up a couple items, and then wander throughout the Exchange. It’s home to a variety of unique shops and studios, as well as some really great restaurants. If you’re there around brunch, try Clementine Cafe or Deer + Almond if you want to finish off your day with a nice dinner. You may just spot some Lot.15 items– Lynne’s work is popping up around the city and you can find a list of her stockists and where her work is featured here or order from her Etsy shop.
You never knew you needed a round towel until you saw one of these. Cute, dependable, and generous, this towel is just like the girls who run H&G. Designed in gorgeous Tofino, BC, this towel is heavy-weight and made to last. Tofino Towel Co. generously donates 1% of profits to local non-profits in order to help preserve the beaches– so you can feel extra good about this purchase. They actually run on a very cool 1% model of giving back: donating 1% of profits, 1% of products, and 1% of their employees time. (Both products the H&G girls suggested were products that gave back!) If you’re feeling a bit apprehensive about gifting a towel in the dead of winter (lolz), these ones are so beautiful and unique that they actually do double duty as both a towel and a throw/blanket. Definitely toss this one to any aspiring minimalists in your life. Tofino Towels and other beautiful items can be found at Hoolio & Goober on Second St.
While I mostly drink herbal teas (tisanes) these days, Sloane Tea Company tea is hands down my favourite. The quality is just exceptional. And they’re beautiful. Sloane teas and tisanes are individually sourced from around the world. Their scented and blended teas are custom created by their own team of Certified Tea Sommeliers and culinary experts, and they consult with the Maître Nez (Head Nose) of one of France’s foremost perfumeries. This is some serious business. And yes! Their teas are blended and packaged in Canada. While the Earl Grey is classic (and probably my personal favourite) they have a strong line of products. If you’re in Winnipeg, pick them up from Academy Florists on Corydon. (Keep them in mind for Valentine’s, too!) They also have a variety of local giftwares including soaps and jewellery, so you may find a few more things. Sloane tea can also be found throughout Canada, including Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, and the Toronto area, as well as in the US. Their teas can also be purchased online. The perfect gift for the tea snob, food connoisseur, or elegant little lady in your life.
Luxury small batch, hand-poured candles from right here in the Peg, these Coal & Canary candles are key for upping the cozy factor this holiday season. Made from a soy and vegetable wax blend, these candles feature alluring seasonal scents and a soft crackling wick. They even made their way into the Grammy and Academy Award swag bags. Now available throughout Canada and the US (it’s easy to see why, that’s a nice candle!), you won’t have trouble tracking them down. Shop online or find a retailer here. If you’re in Winnipeg, go check out their flagship store in The Forks, along with a variety of other shops selling local products, along with some really great food!
Life’s not always about stuff. And sometimes the best gifts are those that aren’t things at all, but are an experience. If you want to stop tripping over “stuff” all the time, and create some memories for your mom, daughter, or best friend, consider purchasing a gift certificate to one of these local businesses.
Kenora has some incredibly talented young photographers who offer portrait sessions. A great gift idea for your mom, (talk your dad and siblings into the idea later) family portraits will last indefinitely. Purchase a beautiful frame (check out Abundance on Second St. or some of the jewellery stores) and wrap up the gift certificate with the frame to give to her at Christmas. They’re also a good gift for young professionals who may want some headshots, or any girl who just wants a handful of really great photos to feel a little extra special one day. Local girl Lynsey of Lynsey Jordanna Photography offers sessions in Kenora and Winnipeg. She offers everything from individual to couple to family portraits, to boudoir, to fitness, to newborn, and even weddings. (Ladies, keep her in mind for Valentine’s Day if you want to book a cheeky little boudoir shoot and surprise your guy with some steamy photos!) Check out her Instagram to view her beautiful portfolio and contact her for a price list and availability. Annie from The Letter Elle Photography has only been in Kenora for a few years, but you’d never know it. Her location choices are always brilliant and her work is outstanding. She definitely has the eye of a local! She offers mini portrait sessions in-studio on select days for $75, or full portrait sessions for $150. Couple and engagement sessions are priced at $200, and perfect for surprising with that mom of 3 on your list who just wants some time to reconnect with her man. Find Annie’s portfolio on her Instagram (it’s gorgeous!) and either DM or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Annie shoots in Kenora as well as Winnipeg.
There’s not much to do during the winter in Kenora in the evenings, so encourage your friends and family to head out to some of the local restaurants with a gift card. (Plus, when in doubt, it’s always a safe bet.) Top picks include the new 1885 Wine & Whisky Room— they’ve got some good whisky, some yummy cocktails, and a really nice vibe. Keep an eye out for their special events! (Also a great venue for your holiday party!) The Plaza and Dino’s both offer really great dinners, and if they’re not into Greek food, go with The Cornerstone.
For the yogi in your life, consider a gift certificate to MVMNT yoga studio, or give your athletic friend a kick in the butt and show her what she’s been missing with a 5-class yoga pass, $65. The MVMNT studio is so much more than just yoga classes, it’s about community. They offer all types of yoga, plus fitness, pilates, and barre classes. Owned by Karla Treadway and instructed by her and a variety of really awesome people it’s the perfect place to head right after New Year’s– you may just want to pick yourself up a pass while you’re at it. Keep an eye out for their special events in collaboration for other local, small businesses!
Have some guys in your life? Check out the FxH’s Holiday Gift Guide for Guys. Then share the guides with whoever needs a little guidance this holiday! Happy shopping!
This post contains product affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these items I’d have recommended anyway.
"When a mysterious illness sidelined my original plans in life, I packed up and moved home to Kenora, Ontario, Canada. With little money, the inability to work, and a whole lot to figure out, I moved into my family’s cabin on Lake of the Woods. So these are the moments, the recipes, the occasional heartache, and the adventures of a life starting over on the little island between Fox and Hare." Between Fox and Hare is the on-going saga of a 20-something Canadian whose heart is anchored in Lake of the Woods. With her love of all things wild, Alyssa chronicles her journey learning and developing her skills in hunting, fishing, foraging, and outdoor cooking. Providing culinary tips and recipes, a peek into the Northern lifestyle, and the insight of a life lived with a chronic illness, Alyssa tells her story of putting back the pieces against the backdrop of the beautiful Boreal forest. Alyssa can be found during the open-water season on the unnamed island between Fox and Hare with her two dogs, Storm and Lily. She spends the frozen months in the little city of Kenora, mostly in the kitchen, and enjoys winter hiking and ice-fishing excursions when the temperature hasn’t dropped below -30°C.