Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Enter the Marquee of Eden
Terra Rossa Jordan Hamper
Now in its seventeenth year, Eden Crafts and Gift Fair holds Christmas markets across the country, but its flagship town is Kingston-Upon-Thames. There are dozens of exhibitors selling everything from toys, clothing, jewellery, sculptures, and food, none of which is forbidden.
Through the back entrance
The main entrance to the fair is via the High Street, opposite John Lewis, but after looking at the greetings cards in All Saints Church, I ended up going round the back way. Not quite as festive as the front, but you avoid the rest of the crowd.
As I wandered round the stalls, I came across faces new and old, as well as a prize draw with the chance to win a magnum of champagne, cheese hamper, or bottle of port.
Just like last year, the first stall I found myself at was Lymn Bank, the cheese farm company. At £2.50, they sell a selection of interesting flavoured cheddars, including horseradish, tomato & basil, garlic, and smoked apple. All of these are available to sample, and you might find yourself getting full by the time you reach the end of the line. If know any cheese enthusiasts, then a gift hamper would make a good present. They come in different sizes, and also include oatcakes and chutneys.
Zait & Zataar
Next door, I met a very friendly woman selling olive oil, hummus, salsa, and other dips. Guess where she's from. If you answered Italy or Greece, then think again. Terra Rossa Jordan is from the Levant region, offering the taste of Arabian cuisine. Their Fair Trade organic Zait & Zaatar (olive oil & thyme) is produced from one of the world's oldest olive tree orchards, dating back to Biblical times. Flavoured with herbs and spices such as garlic, lemon basil, and chilli, they have all won 'Great Taste Gold' awards. Recently they have expanded into sauces, and for those with a sweet tooth, you might like to try their sugar coated nuts and nougat.
Opposite was an equally delectable (although somewhat less healthy) table brimming with glittery cupcake-a-licious cupcakes. Laura makes 'mini works of art that look too good to eat. But we do, because they're delicious.' Made to order, a single cupcake is £2 each, but with discounts the more you buy. Her flavours include, but are not limited to midnight orange, lemon meringue divine, strawberry delight, and peanut butter chocolate time.
Christmas Tree Cake & Christmas Pudding Cakes
Laura also does celebration cakes for weddings, birthdays, and of course Christmas.
On the other side of the marquee was the very familiar MedFood, who don't sell medicine, but rather Mediterranean food. They had their usual selection of olives, sun dried tomatoes, nuts, and Turkish Delights (all of which is £3.99 for 200g), but I was disappointed to find that they had dramatically cut back on their dried fruit. I bought a bag of mixed berries, but that was all that was available.
With all the exotic, and naughty food tempting customers, it might be easy to overlook the cafe. The small soup kitchen might not be as exciting, but does offer healthy, and warming food for winter.
Cooks might also be interested in The Knife Sharpener Guy, who, for the laments amongst you, sells knife sharpeners. His most popular sharpener is the Silver A B S, which is £15. Unlike conventional sharpeners that use steel, and end up wearing away the blade, this version requires just a few strokes through two tungsten carbide tips, which help makes the knife last longer. It also has suction cups on the base, so it stays in place while using it.
Moving on from all things culinary, Eden Crafts would not be a proper crafts market unless it had beautiful ornaments to decorate your home. Last year, The Amber Affair just had jewellery, but this time round, they had some beautiful glassware too. These unique candle holders and vases were lined with silver and embedded with amber stones.
Bowbrook Studios brings the heart of the English countryside to your mantlepiece, with detailed bronze sculptures of British wildlife. Somehow they also managed to sneak in some less British gorillas into the collection too.
Eco warriors will fall in love with the designs by Malulu, who source their products through ethical suppliers. Malulu's aim is to help impoverished communities in Africa support themselves through Fair Trade. Some of their product range include items made from recycled materials. Greetings cards are made from water hyacinth, an invasive plant clogging up Kenya's Lake Victoria. The plant is harvested, dried, and turned into paper.
All of Malulu's suppliers have been hand picked for their fair trade practices, and support of their local economy through employment and use of local materials. For example, tree resin, old newspaper, and gourds are used to make bowls, candle holders, vases, and even egg cups and spoons.
The suppliers also provide additional help and support; from advice on managing finances and healthcare, to providing accommodation and paying for their employee's children's education.
Let's start with the head, and work our way down, shall we? African Butterfly is a Fair Trade company that makes handmade hair clips in the Gauteng region of South Africa. These tribal looking designs are made to suit different hair types, and create different hairstyles. My mum bought some a few years ago, and there's barely a day goes by when she isn't wearing one.
Is it a watch, is it a bracelet?
In the jewellery department, there were several exhibitors, my favourite of which had some really neat watches, which were disguised as bracelets. Further on, another exhibitor had some cool steampunk watches with wacky shaped numbers. There was also one there for the math geeks, where 12 o'clock read 6 6. The straps were also custom made on the spot so you can get the exact fit.
In the clothing department, there was nothing more quirky than Shibori by Sally Miller. She has invented some serious wardrobe space-saving tops. At first, these crumpled t-shirts looks like it will only fit on a baby, but put it on, and it starts to stretch out into an amazingly fashionable top.
Buy a handbag, get a free purse.
Need some accessories to go with your new outfit? Buy an handbag, get a free purse.
Wooden Ceiling Danglers
Finally, for the little tiddy-winkles. The toys on sale at Eden Crafts made me wish I knew some kids to buy for. Scratch that. They make me want to be a kid so I can play with them myself. My favourites were the carved wooden ceiling danglers.
Wentworth Wooden Puzzles
There were also puppets, putty faces, and an educational toy stall. Wentworth Wooden Puzzles make unique jigsaws by creating shapes out of the pieces. Some puzzles were made out of the letters of the alphabet, and others were shaped like animals.
Less Rosie & Jim, more Barbie & Ken
At the end of the marquee I was almost blinded by a sea of pink with Barbie-esque rag dolls. A pop princess's dream.