Unique Fathers’ Day Gift Ideas

Dads can be hard to shop for. Get your Dad something he definitely doesn’t already have for Father’s Day this year!

Here are a few ideas.

C’est parfois difficile de trouver le bon cadeau pour son père. Cette année, pour la Fête des pères, offrez à votre papa un cadeau si unique que vous serez assuré de l’effet de surprise!

Voici quelques suggestions :

For the wine lover. HAM’s comic wine-tasting rabbit. ($28.95) / Pour l’amateur de vin : l’amusant lapin dégustant du vin de Ham. (28,95 $)

ham-wine-tasting-rabbit-rev_product-imagesFor the Star Wars fan. Darthpopstar t-shirt, hand printed 100% cotton. ($42.95) / Pour le fan de Star Wars : un t-shirt Darthpopstar, imprimé à la main, 100 % coton. (42,95 $)

popglory-darthpopstar-shirt-52408de732525-1140For the admirer of all thing vintage. Box of three hand printed cotton hankies. ($16.50) / Pour l’amateur de rétro : une boîte de trois mouchoirs en coton imprimés à la main. (16,50 $)

hanky box pigeon lifestyleFor the coffee addict. Reusable glass travel cups available in loads of great colours. ($26.95) / Pour l’accro au café : des tasses de voyage en verre réutilisables, offertes en un grand nombre de superbes couleurs. (26,95)

keepcup2 (1)For the discerning eco warrior. The best insulated stainless steel water bottles that keep drinks cold for a full 24 hours. ($39.95) / Pour l’écologiste avisé : les meilleures bouteilles isolées en acier inoxydable qui gardent les boissons froides pendant 24 heures. (39,95 $)

waterfront_teak_thumbnailFor the time challenged. A stylish wooden watch that comes with a lifetime warranty. ($96.95) / Pour le retardataire chronique : une élégante montre en bois garantie à vie. (96,95 $)

SPGBK-WhiteParty - Copy - CopyFor the stylish animal lover. 100% organic cotton animal print duvet cover. (starting at $140.00) / Pour le raffiné ami des animaux : une housse de couette à motif animalier en coton 100 % biologique (à partir de 140,00 $).

double duvet cover wolf high res - Copy

Toronto Design Offsite Festival: Come Up To My Room 2015

Last year we were deeply embedded in Toronto’s Interior Design Week, as part of Studio North at The Interior Design Show.  This year, we’re visiting the parallel and definitely more alternative Toronto Design Offsite (TODO) Festival that runs from January 19 to 25. The annual event is a platform to showcase prototypes and installations that celebrate the diversity of Canada’s energetic design scene and as such it provides vital exposure to some of the country’s most promising designers while introducing the public to the practice of design.

Lee Anne

Toronto native Lee-Anne Bigwood, loves noticing, observing and participating in the arts scene in her city. So it’s not surprising that she offered to visit part of this year’s TODO Festival and report back on items and exhibits that might be of interest to us and to you! Her post covers a Festival favourite — Come Up To My Room (CUTMR) — which returns for its 12th consecutive year at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel.

Lee Anne 1

Let’s just talk about the venue itself for a minute because the Gladstone Hotel on Queen Street West is a thing of beauty. Designed by George Miller, the architectural style is characterized by the rough cut stone and brick and by the dramatic arches over the windows and porch entrances. Using the original 19th century Victorian architecture, exposed brick walls and high ceilings, local Canadian artists have come together to transform the Gladstone’s 37 hotel rooms into experimental, alternative works of art. Since each bookable hotel room in the historic, 125 year old building represents a different artist’s vision, and it is also an event and cultural space, hosting awards, literary projects, social change events, live comedy, and music; no two visits will be the same.

If you go, take the time to admire the charming architectural details.

Gladstone, 2nd floor door hinge

One of the first things you notice after you move past the beautiful welcome desk in the front lobby, where they guide you to start your way up the grand stairway towards the entrance to the festival, is that you’re circling around an ornate, meticulously restored Victorian elevator. It’s one of the last hand-operated elevators in Toronto. If you get a chance to ride it, it feels like you’re taking a trip back in time. The incredibly friendly operator tells me that it still requires electricity, but that it is mostly manually operated.
Also in that magnificent stairway up to the exhibit is the gloriously lush living wall and industrial style lighting fixtures, enhanced and elevated during the Festival by a towering collage that extends up to the top floor.
wpid-img_20150120_134424.jpg
Titled ‘Ascent‘ by artist Phil Irish, the collage is comprised of many large, richly decorated pieces of thick kraft paper, depicting rugged painted images of mountains and pipelines, which are chopped and reconfigured. The sublime peaks are inspired by The Banff Centre, a globally respected arts, cultural and educational institution, and the references to peak oil were inspired by Alberta’s oil sands, which the artist explains evokes the struggle of both societal and personal transformation.
wpid-img_20150120_140435.jpg
CUTMR2015 turns the Gladstone Hotel into an incredible art-filled space covering all of its four floors. Although the hotel is already a destination for lovers of art and culture, during the Festival it becomes even more infused with art and welcomes even more people into its already very inclusive space. So much so, that several signs throughout the hotel remind visitors that some of the rooms, though they are certainly artfully decorated, are not part of the CUTMR program.

not art vs. art

Throughout the exhibit various signs are installed, as well as some text art for the keen observer. This expansive installation called ‘Innerventions’ by Denise St. Marie and Timothy Walker, reminds us that signs don’t always have to be authoritative; sometimes they can invite viewers to take a lighter look at their regular activities. These signs are concentrated in the hotel, but as a resident or visitor in Toronto, you may be lucky enough to see some of their work peppered throughout the city.
On the second floor, one of the first large exhibits you’ll come across is ‘Common Thread’, a project created by Sander Freedman, Riyad Bacchus and Andrey Chernykh, celebrating culture, nature and design. It’s inspired by a carpet designers’ story of historical carpet design and craftsmanship in Nepal, India and Iran, and its desire to make a historically polluting and petro-chemical-heavy process more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
For me, what was so striking about the exhibit was the reminder of how many spools of rich string might make up a single carpet. Seeing the unravelled material up close, it was exciting to imagine what a factory for such a process might look like. The installation expands over a whole hallway, with some strands of the string starting on the ground, and travelling up over doorways and into the arches. I enjoyed how they incorporated this installation right into the already existing sitting area on this floor; it was a reminder of how the hotel really celebrates the interaction between artistic impression and regular day-to-day business.
This is a huge part of why I love this Fesival so much. Imagine waking up, and leaving your hotel room to see these:
The sort of common items you would normally find in your hotel hallway, such as water pipes, safety equipment and electricity cabinets, which you would normally gloss over and ignore on route to brunch, are instead framed and highlighted. These are part of a group exhibition on the 4th floor, curated by Carla Poirier and called ‘in a space.’ It’s an exploration of physical composition through the lens of Graphic Design. The artists evaluate the fundamentals of design, and invite the viewer inside an abstract realm of ephemera and merge the line between art and design.
It seems as though their contrasting use of black and white decoration and imagery play on their placement within the hotel and the sorts of shadows and lines that normally exist. There’s a frisky nod to how such common objects as brooms and drying racks can, in this context, be interpreted as ‘art’… or not.  I tried to capture the real cleaning supplies being used alongside their elevated parallels.
An exhibit, located on the main floor in the Melody Bar, reminds me of the Galerie CO designer we showcased in this post, where we explored the idea that we are creating entirely too much permanent waste from plastic. Called ‘Oh Thank Heaven’ the installation was created by Miles Ingrassia and Iris Karuna. While normally the colourful plastic pop bottles are stacked with their black crates, in this exhibit, they’re separated and installed in such a way that they resemble a church altar and stained glass windows. The artists explain that the installation explores urban detachment and the compulsion to discover or designate unconventional spaces as sacred.

Come Up To My Room also hosts many audio and video installations, along with many multi-layer tapestry pieces, which can’t be fully appreciated without seeing their movement amongst art lovers breezing by, but I had to include this next one because the imagery is so striking. The string from the faces travels up to drape and curtain the ceilings, while the wall with the multiple faces has a constantly changing projection, along with experimental and abstract audio recordings. By Annie Tung, it is called, simply, ‘X.’

X is an installation that cultivates the idea of hidden messages and unknown desires. We sometimes cannot control our words or action and become frustrated. There are no words to explain this frustration but only a desire to break out from the shell.”

Finally, “From now until the end, and now again“, by Fareena Chanda stimulated in me an appreciation of the natural world, as it was presented juxtaposed against a mimicry of that world. The artist explains that the installation

explores the human relationship to our mortality. A walk through a fantastical garden to a final resting place evokes contemplation on our preparedness to face the end. The immersive mixed media installation invites the viewer to commit their mind and body to the physical space around them and imagine themselves undergoing sublimation. The piece aims to height our perception of our temporality in this world by ultimately asking each individual ‘where are you headed?'”

wpid-img_20150120_140256.jpg

These photos and selections are just a small portion of an expansive and affecting exhibition, which runs until January 25th, with their closing party happening Saturday Night.

Tell us what you think of the installations in the comments below, or on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco.

You can follow Lee-Anne’s adventures through Toronto Design Week, via her Instagram account, @littlebitesbig.

Down the rabbit hole: Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary

Happy New Year!

The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings”

This new year, among other things, marks the 150th Anniversary of the classic story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland the mad hatters tea partyThe Mad Hatter’s tea party, from the colour illustrated Nursery Alice, 1890 (source: British Library)

English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – writing under the pseudonym, Lewis Carroll – wrote the story in 1865. It tells the tale of a girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures. Full of philosophy and truisms, the absurdity of the plot and the strong underlying narrative plays with logic and is one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.

I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

Alice in wonderland www bl uk

Lewis Carroll, ’Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ (source: British Library)

The anniversary will be marked in several ways by cultural institutions such as the British Library, which will loan the original handwritten illustrated manuscript for Alice in Wonderland to New York’s Morgan Library and Museum and the Rosenbach Museum of the Free Library of Philidelphia this year. The book, which bears its original title of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, was bought by an American dealer in 1928 and returned to Britain in 1948. Later on this year, the British Library will display the book as part of an exhibition marking the 150th anniversary since its 1865 publication.

In fact, there are nearly one hundred events in 10 countries, to mark the anniversary, including a few in Canada. Alice fans everywhere are being encouraged to create their own events, and list them on the official site.

louise-kirk-alice-in-wonderland-rabbit-placematThe White Rabbit by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)

The fantastic characters created by Lewis Carroll have left a lasting impression and become enormously influential in popular culture and literature.

To mark the anniversary, artist Louise Kirk has created a series of designs that pay homage to Carroll’s characters – notably the King and Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit.

Alice in wonderland image telegraph co ukLewis Carroll, ’Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’, 1865 (source: British Library)

Her designs have been translated in delightful homewares in the UK by Avenida Home, which has created an enticing collection of placemats, coaster and trays featuring characters and scenes from the book.

louise-kirk-alice-in-wonderland-queen-placematThe Queen of Hearts by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)

louise-kirk-alice-in-wonderland-hatter-placemat
The Mad Hatter by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)
We have received our shipment of placemats, coasters and trays!
louise-kirk-alice-in-the-court-of-hearts-wooden-trayAlice in the Court of Hearts by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)
Does this post conjure up any childhood memories for you?
Will you mark the 150th anniversary?
Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, or on our Twitter or Instagram @galerieco!

Holiday entertaining: a beautifully simple table setting with flowers

For those of you who have followed the Chez CO blog since the beginning, or who are regular clients at Galerie CO, you have already been introduced to Caroline Boyce, the creator of Floralia. She has been supplying CO with beautiful bouquets of fresh, local flowers grown in the summer on her plot of land in the Eastern townships, and in the winter sourced from a fair trade supplier.

resized.IMG_2955This week, we asked Caroline to share some of her ideas for creating a beautiful holiday themed table setting. Her approach shows that by adding a few carefully selected elements, even a little bit of effort can make a big difference.

• Keep the table simple. You can use the same cutlery, plates and glasses that you use throughout the year.

resized.IMG_3485• A simple runner adds a lovely visual element without overwhelming the table setting, and is especially suited to a long rectangular table. Linen adds texture and works well with wood. A linen runner can be matched to linen napkins.

resized.IMG_3426• A colour theme helps tie the elements in the table setting together and to set a mood. Feel free to select colours outside the traditional red, green and gold. In this case the table is highlighted with orange, inspired by clementines, which are always available over the holidays and often appear in Christmas stockings. Orange works beautifully with silver, white wood and shades of grey and beige. It also complements, and is enhanced by, the warm glow of the candles.

resized.IMG_3352• Choose flowers that you love and can afford, mixing textures to create interest. In these bouquets, kangaroo paws and rosemary give the bouquets height. Volume comes from cabbages, tulips, spray roses and dates, which add an interesting visual element.

resized.IMG_3274• Select candles that are low and that don’t compete with, but that complement, the flower arrangements.

resized.IMG_3370• Add festive name tags as a final touch. Make your own by simply attaching small branches of evergreen (you can cut a few pieces from the Christmas tree) with a string and paper tag (available at any art or office supply store).

resized.IMG_3413There is still time to order your own centrepiece from Floralia, for delivery (within Montreal) in time for the holidays. Order Christmas bouquets here.

Or, learn how to create a holiday centrepiece at the next Floralia workshop: December 20, 7-9 pm. The theme flowers will include amarylis and seasonal evergreens,  combined with local freesia, lilies, paperwhites, citrus fruits, holly, mosses and berries. Under Caroline’s guidance you will create a beautiful centrepiece, which is yours to keep.  The workshop will be held at Galerie CO (5235 Blvd. St-Laurent, Montreal,  514 277-3131). You can sign up for the workshop here.

All the photographs in this post were taken by Melodie Hoareau, from Instant d’une vie, and made available to us courtesy of Caroline Boyce of Floralia.

 How do you decorate your table for festive occasions? Which flowers would you choose for a holiday centrepiece?

Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page, on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco.

Holiday traditions: stockings

It’s December. Time to think about decorating the house, inside and out, for the holidays. One way to add an instant feel of festivity is to line the mantlepiece with stockings. But Christmas stockings aren’t mere decorations. First and foremost, they’re receptacles for holding gifts! That is, for children who have been nice rather than naughty.

stocking by mantlepiece 3A contemporary decorated hearth (Source: propertypal)

It is tradition among some, to hang stockings by the chimney on Christmas Eve to be filled by Santa Claus as he does his rounds delivering presents. The evolution of some of our Christmas traditions are a little murky and there are few written records to help.

One of the oldest reference to St. Nicolas goes as far back as the third century. The ancient town of Myra, located in what is now modern-day Turkey, is home to a shrine dedicated to Bishop Nicolas. Over several centuries, tales spread detailing the benevolence and generosity of Bishop Nicholas, and some content that this is where the idea of St. Nick as  a gift-giver began.

Another story holds that the notion of St. Nicolas, a magical night visitor who gave gifts to children, originated with a group of nuns in the Middle Ages. Children were encouraged to leave their shoes out, for gifts. However, St. Nicolas would only leave treats and toys for children who had been good. For children who had been naughty throughout the year, he left sticks, horse manure, sawdust or lumps of coal. Shoes eventually gave way to socks, which gave way to Christmas stockings.

Yet another legend maintains that Saint Nicolas learned about a poor man who worried that he couldn’t afford to pay a dowry for his three daughters. Saint Nicolas decided to help the man, and he took three bags of gold with him down the chimney of the man’s home. Once inside, he found the girls’ stockings hanging on the mantelpiece after washing, and he added the gold bags to the stockings. As the story spread, children began hanging their own stockings in the hopes of receiving gold, or at least gifts on Christmas Eve.

Nevertheless, it is clear that by the 1800s the idea of St. Nick going down the chimney to fill stockings left out by children was an established part of the Christmas landscape. Stockings feature large in on of my favourite Christmas classics, the poem Twas the night before Christmas, written in 1823. In the poem, St. Nick is portrayed as driving his reindeer from house to house on Christmas Eve to deliver presents and stuff the stockings.

Night before Christmas ctg publishingSource: CTG Publishing

For those of you who wish to try your luck with St Nick, we have a beautiful selection of stockings this year at Galerie CO.

 corita rose stocking blog

Luxurious velvet stocking hand-printed by the UK’s Corita Rose (Galerie CO)

christmas stocking wolf blog by nord’s wonderful oversized cotton stockings come wolf, moose and fawn motifs (Galerie CO)

 

Donna Wilson stocking

Knitted lambswool stocking by Donna Wilson are available in red and green (Galerie CO)

Aline Gilmore stockingAline Gilmore’s stockings made from cozy woolen blankets (Galerie CO)

You could also try and make your own stockings.

There are several resources on line that offer tutorials for how to make stockings using lots of natural or repurposed materials.

stockings burlap 5Elegant elf stockings made from repurposed burlap coffee sacks (Source: habitationBoheme)

Stockings on bannisterColourful and quirky home-made stockings hanging on a bannister (Source: house to home)

Stockings elfWhimsical elf Christmas stocking patterns available (Source: decorating your small space)

If you’re a little nostalgic, like me, and you love the 1823 poem, here it is again just in case you need a little inspiration to get to work on some unique and beautiful stockings to decorate your own home for the holidays.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Clement Moore (first published 23 December 1823)

Night before Christmas(Source: http://www.thenightbeforechristmas.com)

What are your gift giving traditions?

How do you decorate for the holidays?

Tell us in the comments below, or on our Facebook page or on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco

Holiday traditions: the Advent calendar

As a child, the excitement associated with the lead up to Christmas was marked with familiar traditions that my family engaged in year after year and that heightened expectations for THE-BIG-DAY. The preparations started at the beginning of December with caroling parties, Christmas baking (and decorating), and putting up the tree. They continued right up to hanging stockings, leaving beer and cookies by the fireplace for Santa, and reading “T’was the Night Before Christmas” on December 24th.

Another tradition that I appreciated immensely and that marked the countdown to THE-BIG-DAY was the Advent calendar. Behind each of the little windows, numbered from 1 to 24, was a little treat – normally some cheap chocolate – but a treat nonetheless.

Despite all the marketing to children, as an adult I continue to love the tradition.

advent calendar ferm livingFerm Living’s ‘house’ Advent calendar (Source: Galerie CO)

So at CO we’ve started our own Advent celebration where we handout a little present from our over-sized by nord Advent calendar to the first person to spend $100, every day from December 1 to December 24. It’s a fun way to give back in the form of offering a token of appreciation to our clients and to revel in the smiles and good will that surround the holiday period.

wally 1-24 by nord’s “Wally” cotton Advent calendar (Source: Galerie CO)

The origin of the word “advent” is rooted in Christian traditions surrounding the Nativity. It comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means “coming.” To mark the significance of this event each year, early Christians believed it necessary to prepare for, and extend, the celebrations during the Advent, the period leading up to the 25th of December.

The idea behind the modern Advent calendar, of creating a calendar to mark the days in the lead up to Christmas, originated in Germany. It’s thought that the first Advent calendar was made in the late 19th Century and comprised 24 tiny sweets stuck onto a cardboard frame. The child recipient of this, Gerhard Lang, never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his calendar every year at the beginning of December.

As an adult, Lang ran a publishing house, Reichhold & Lang, and in 1908 he released the first printed Advent calendar based on his childhood experience. He also invented, in 1920, the perforated doors used on modern Advent calendars, to make little shuttered windows containing stories from the Nativity, for children to open every day before Christmas. Demand swiftly increased several companies began to produce the calendars. They didn’t take hold in North America until 1953, when Newsweek published a photo of President Eisenhower’s grandchildren grasping for an Advent calendar.

Ever since the 1950s Advent calendars have been mass-produced and many are no longer strictly religious but have become part of a more secular traditions around the holidays and typically involve colourful packaging and cheap chocolate.

We’ve been looking for some interesting and original interpretations that don’t involve plastic packaging and cheap chocolate and that do involve working together and fun times with friends and family over the holidays. Here are a few that we found:

Why not incorporate your holiday baking into your Advent with a cookie calendar made from delicious sugar cookies. You can find a great recipe here.

advent calendar cookies butterheartssugar blogspotCinnamon and brown sugar cookies (Source: Butterheartsugar)

Simple, rustic and brilliant. On the back of each luggage tag making up this Advent calendar is a Christmas activity or game to do with your family and friends, such as watch a Christmas film or make a Christmas cake.

advent-calendar-via-dandee-designs-via-advent-calendar-ideas-on-oaxacabornLuggage tags / activities Advent calendar (Source: Dandee Designs)

For those more into the idea of consuming words and knowledge than chocolate and treats, you might opt for wrapping up 24 books, and discovering one each day in the countdown to Christmas. A wonderful way to stay entertained over the holidays.

Wrapped books advent calendar (Source: Six Sisters Stuff)

For little presents, this Advent calendar made using Chinese take-away boxes does the trick nicely. Hang the boxes on a string using everyday clothes pegs. They can be placed on the tree, along the mantlepiece or across a display board as seen below.

Advent calenar pinsandribbons co uk Chinese take-away boxes Advent calendar (Source: Pins and Ribbons)

Any knitters out there? This rustic and very homemade Advent calendar involves a certain amount of skill and work to put together, but evokes memories of family trips to the toboggan hill or ice rink.

knitted advent calendar www.etsy.com-ca-shop-CampKitschyKnits

(Source: CampKitschyKnits)

Finally, each “day” in the calendar below was created using the pigments from a different food source. On the back of each of each colour swatch is a recipe for a yummy holiday dish that corresponds to the pigment on the front of the swatch. Brilliant and creative.
advent calendar - food inspired - recipes on back - www.griottes.fr

(Source and link to recipes: Griottes.fr )

Which is your favourite? What are your holiday traditions? How do you count down the days in the Advent?

Let us know in the comments below. Or leave us a message on Facebook or on Twitter @GalerieCO

October: nature’s reminder to love and devour pumpkin

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The fall colours have been spectacular this year. I am told that the brightest autumn colours occur when dry sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. We have, indeed, enjoyed wonderful weather this fall. Right up until this week it has been sunny and dry; perfect weather for long walks on Mount Royal and for wandering around Montreal’s markets admiring the bounty of this year’s harvest which included, amazingly enough, beef steak field tomatoes right up until Thanksgiving. Unheard of.

Now, approaching the end of October, the later fall offerings reflect the cooler nights. The hardy carrots, onions and cabbages are still around, joined by sweet potatoes, all manner of  squash and, of course, pumpkins.

blog pumpkins danielle levy nutrition comPumpkins at Montreal’s Marché Jean Talon (source: daniellelevynutition.com)

Pumpkins are everywhere; this is their month. For many of us, it’s the only time that pumpkins cross our paths. The only pumpkin we eat is in a pie at Thanksgiving and the only pumpkin we buy is to carve, once a year, on Halloween.

That level of neglect does not give pumpkin its due.

The pumpkin is more than simply a decorative gourd; it’s a nutritional superstar. It’s packed with nutrients including potassium, magnesium and vitamins C and E along with the disease-fighting cartenoids alpha- and beta-carotene. And it’s high in fibre to boot.

You’ll find similar properties in carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and orange bell peppers.

You’ll also find a nutritional punch in pumpkin seeds, which are rich in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc and a great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.

So while you admire the beauty of the fall markets, think about how to incorporate pumpkin into your diet all year round. One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin throughout the year is in risotto. Here’s a recipe to get you started. Don’t worry, it’s not an exact science and you can play with the flavours, but I do love the addition of sage, which is something I always do — along with the pine nuts. Yum.

blog pumpkin-risotto

A creamy pumpkin risotto (source: food nine msn)

You can make this dish with lovely fresh pumpkin — now — or with good quality canned pumpkin, which is available throughout the year. And, of course, you can always garnish it with pumpkin seeds. Seasoned and roasted they’re  crunchy, buttery and delicious.

Try this delicious recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds. Or, using recommended cooking times, season them with anything you like. For example, do something classic with olive oil and salt and pepper, or something a little spicier using pepper, chilli, smoked paprika or garam masalsa. Or go for barbeque flavour with brown sugar, chipotle and ground cumin, or something sweet, tossing the toasted seeds with cinnamon and sugar.

blog pumpkin roasted-pumpkin-seedsDelicious roasted pumpkin seeds (source: The girl who ate everything)

So this year, when you go out to purchase the perfect pumpkin for your Halloween jack-o-lantern, let it inspire you to think about all the ways that you can honour this powerhouse of a fruit  (yes, it’s a fruit, related to the melon — not a vegetable).

blog pumpkin danielle levy nutrition com 2Beautiful ripe pumpkins (Source: daniellelevynutrition.com)

And that brings me to the ubiquitous Halloween pumpkin that decorates the stoop for trick-or-treaters.

While we love the classic jack-o-lantern with the triangle eyes and the big toothy grin, we’ve pulled together a few different techniques to help inspire you when you execute your own creation, if you’re looking for something a little different.

When you remove the guts and prepare your pumpkin for carving, don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting.

1. Drilling

It has become quite popular in the last few years to forgo a knife and use power tools — notably a drill — to decorate pumpkins. If you’ve never used a drill to decorate your pumpkin before, here’s a great tutorial to get you started. It’ll help you create designs from something simple and graphic yet really effective like these three pumpkins that spell “BOO” to something a little more involved, complicated and artistic such as filigree patterns.

pumpkin 5 imgarcade

The tutorial covers steps from cleaning and prepping the pumpkin to marking out the design and selecting the right size drill bits to achieve the desired effect. It includes some important tips, like be sure to make the holes large enough that the light radiates out and sufficient air circulates to keep the flame alive inside the pumpkin.

pumpkin 8 flash-screen

2.  Templates

Another departure from a traditional carved pumpkin is to use a stencil to help create an elaborate design.  There are lots of stencils available for free on line, from the very tasteful, courtesy of Martha Stewart, to sites like Zombie Pumpkins, which has a huge selection of intricate zombie-related  and other classic Halloween-themed stencils.

blog pumpkin edgar allan poePumpkins made using templates that evoke the horror of Edgar Allan Poe (source: Martha Stewart)

Once you find a stencil that you like, tape it to the side of the pumpkin. Using a nail, or another transfer tool, start punching holes along the lines designed on the stencil. Punch deep enough through the pumpkin so when it’s time to saw, the lines will make it easier to cut through.  Once the whole design is punched out, cut out the pieces of the design using a small carving saw.

blog pumpkin

Pennywise (source: Zombie Pumpkins)

3.  Free-hand art pieces

Some people are so talented that they can create true artistic masterpieces without the help of templates.  Maniac Pumpkin Carvers in Brooklyn is home to some of these talented folk. They’re real pros, carving more than 400 unique and elaborate pumpkins every Halloween.  In an interview with mental_floss, they shared some useful tips for beginners and experts alike, interested in creating unique and artistic pumpkins. For example, they propose cutting your hole in the back of the pumpkin to keep the stem in tact, rather than the top or the bottom, and they suggest using a wide range of tools from paring knives to lemon zesters, rasps, exacto knives and lino cutting tools.

pumpkin 3 mymodernmetVincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” by Brooklyn’s Maniac Pumpkin Carvers

4.   No-carve decorating

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can achieve some stunning effects without carving. There are several resources on line that will help inspire you to find original and beautiful decorating ideas that don’t involve cleaning and carving pumpkins.

They won’t work to light your porch for trick-or-treaters, but even the simplest designs can be visually stunning like these “heavy metal” pumpkins. They’re sophisticated and elegant, yet couldn’t be easier to produce. All you need is some metallic spray paint, a damp rag (to clean the pumpkin) and some newspaper to sit the pumpkins on. Make sure you work in a well ventilated space. Spray the pumpkins. Two coats work best. Then let them dry for at least 24 hours.

blog pumpkin metalHeavy metal pumpkins (Source: Real Simple)

You could also choose to something a little more design-oriented like these pumpkins designed with a washi tape plaid pattern.  I love washi tape. It’s available in so many patterns and colours, that decorating with it really offers endless possibilities.

blog pumpkin no carve Washi tape plaid pumpkins (source: Real Simple)

To create a plaid effect, use a dry erase marker to map out your design. Then mark it out with tape to the pumpkin’s surface. Try using longer strips because piecing together too many short strips will look sloppy. Begin at the stem and run your tape down the side of the pumpkin, erasing the markings as you adhere the strips to the surface. After the vertical stripes have been made, apply tape around the circumference of the pumpkin to complete your pattern.

However you decide to decorate your pumpkin, it will all be over on November 1. It seems like such a shame that the morning after Halloween when all your hard work gets tossed out with the garbage.

It appears as though lots of people feel that way, so in some cities, communities get together to showcase pumpkins from the neighbourhood in a Pumpkin Parade on November 1st. Have a look and see if there’s anything going on where you live.

In Montreal you can find Pumpkin Parades in Montreal West at Strathern Park and in Outremont at Pratt Park.

A Pumpkin Parade in Sorauren Park, Toronto

What’s your favourite way to get pumpkin into your diet throughout the year? How will you decorate your pumpkin this Halloween?

Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page or on Twitter @GalerieCO