Sunday, December 20th: Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Good Kwanzaa, Happy New Year & We Hope You Had A Happy Chanukah!

I know some of you are looking outside thinking, "Blech, it is cold and wet out there." Well, get over it, and get on down to your Ballard Farmers Market right now to finish up your holiday food and gift shopping with the best local stuff around. I mean, remember this time last year? We held the Ballard Farmers Market in six inches of snow and with 19 vendors, and 1,300 of you loyal Ballardites showed up on skis, toboggans, snow shoes -- I think I even recall a dogsled, but I'm not sure. And last year this time, there was precious little fresh, local produce to be had. There is still plenty this year. So come wish your favorite vendors a happy and a merry, and pickup some great food and some unique gifts from people who are your neighbors, not just seasonal help working at minimum wage without health insurance for some huge chain that is selling you stuff made half a world away that used to be made in Duluth.

Looking for that perfect roast beast for your Whoville holiday table? Skagit River Ranch has you covered. They have a large selection of beef and pork roasts, as well as fresh and smoked hams, and the odd bird, ready to make your holiday dinner that much more special. I have visited the farm, and I can assure you that these folks raise their animals well and with respect, and the result is great tasting meat that supports the local economy while lacking the guilt of the factory farmed stuff at the big box stores.

Lauren Laughlin makes beautiful pottery that is also plenty useful. I know you'll be drinking plenty of hot beverages, toasting with brandy or whiskey, or sipping sake over the next week or two. Lauren Laughlin Pottery makes gorgeous whiskey snifters, tea and coffee cups, sake cups, and many other wonderful items, and it goes without saying, though I'll say it anyway, that they make great, unique gifts with a story and a face.

Of course, you'll need something to put in those cups, and for that, Rockridge Orchards has you covered. From their sweet ciders, ready for mulling, spicing and spiking, to their hard ciders, to their legendary Tayberry Wine, Rockridge has something to please every palate. Picture you showing up at that holiday party with a bottle of this stuff, whilst the rest of the crowd has two-buck-chuck. I think we know who everyone will think is the coolest person at the party, eh?

Karma Muriel Maclachlan, who has a name worth saying for its own sake, handcrafts these lovely looking, smelling and feeling soaps (above) for Karmela Botanica. With scents from peppermint & spearmint to chocolate, the extraordinary variety of soaps she creates means you'll find something to please everyone on your list, or to just please yourself.

When it gets real cold, like it did a week ago, root crops and hardy greens get sweeter. It is a defense of theirs against the cold, but it also is a gift to us this time of year. Kia Armstrong of Nash's Organic Produce tells me that their Nash's Best Carrots are especially sweet right now. Serve them at your holiday gathering, and everyone will be asking you where you got them.

How about some delicious gingerbread cookies for your holiday table? You'll find them from Deborah's Homemade Pies, where you will also find a great selection of -- wait for it -- pies, too. Don't tell my dad, but her apple pie is almost as good as his, and he makes the best apple pies on earth. And a nice pecan or berry pie will sweeten up any festive dinner.

And what holiday table would be complete without some cheese, some great local butter for slathering on, well, everything, and amazing milk and cream for cooking and just plain drinking. Stop by Golden Glen Creamery earlier today, as their butter, milk and cream tends to sell out quick.

There is plenty of other good stuff this week at your Ballard Farmers Market. For a fuller accounting of what you’ll find today, click on “What’s Fresh Now!” in the upper right-hand corner. However, do keep an open mind today, as our recent cold weather may have temporarily knocked out some of the crops currently on the list.