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Preparing for the Holidays with Local Creative Inspiration

| 10/19/2016 | Blog, Fall, Seattle Northcountry

By Joni Kirk 

As the beautiful fall colors appear on trees, my internal holiday clock starts ticking. I know I have a limited amount of time to prepare gifts for loved ones, especially as I ship many gifts to relatives in other states right around Thanksgiving. I have three traditions that occur when it comes to holiday gifts, and all three occur along the Cascade Loop in Snohomish County. 

First, before the weather convinces the orange, red, and yellow leaves to drop from their precarious positions on trees, I love to take outdoor photos of my family for holiday cards and other gifts. The key to great photos is to allow people to move naturally, and a park provides a relaxed environment in which to snap pictures. One place I really love for photos is Blackman Lake in Snohomish. From Hill Park, there is a great view of the water, which is especially gorgeous at sunset. The fall-speckled trees add beautiful ambience to photos. Our loved ones often comment after receiving the photos that they need to visit, so perhaps the photos serve a double purpose! Snohomish County has a number of scenic places for such photos. 

The next thing to check off my holiday preparation list is to make homemade gifts. A family tradition since I was a child is to make at least one gift for each family member. One place I love to go is Bruning Pottery Studio, a cozy shop in the heart of Historic Downtown Snohomish. Offering afternoon and evening classes, the studio provides an opportunity to get hands on with the clay and create something unique. There is also something utterly satisfying and relaxing about working with clay, so in addition to creating the perfect gift for someone else, I get a little bit of soul therapy. If time is of the essence in gift shopping, Bruning has a selection of one-of-a-kind items available for purchase, ranging from vases, lamps, planters, kitchen and home accessories, and more. While in downtown Snohomish, I also take advantage of the opportunity to find other unique gifts at its numerous antique and boutique gift shops. Star Center Antique Mall alone features about 200 antique dealers! Realistically speaking, I purchase a number of my own Christmas gifts, so I'm always able to find something special to wrap and rediscover a few weeks later! 

Last year, after a morning of shopping, I met a friend for a relaxing lunch at the Grilla Bites Cafe, which features organic and locally sourced produce and products. I enjoyed the special bison and bleu cheese burger, while my friend selected a cup of the homemade soup and a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich with pesto that I also sampled. It was delicious, and the cafe's sustainable practices also made it a feel-good experience. 

The final way I prepare for the holidays is to visit local holiday markets. Snohomish County is home to many creative and inspired individuals, who create a wide assortment of gift items. My whole family likes to visit several of the holiday markets and shows, which feature art, woodworking, body care, gourmet food, pottery, and more from local artisans, as well as freshly baked goodies. While we visit several markets each year, one we return to annually is the Mukilteo Holiday Art Mart, which takes place on Nov. 5 this year. This is a juried event, meaning the artisan items are high caliber and very unique. These are often legacy items that I would be honored to receive as gifts or pass down in my family for generations, and for certain in-laws that are hard to please, I always find something that fits the bill. 

The leaves on the tree outside my window are stunning, so the time to prepare for the holidays is now! Only five more weeks until Thanksgiving!

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