Home Page
Order Books
Featured Plants
Seasonal Advice
News Columns
Other Work

Book Signings and Lectures
by Monica Brandies


Would you like to be notified of new books or website updates?
Join our Mailing List.
It is completely confidential and voluntary. You may Subscribe or Unsubscribe at any time.



The Brandon Fresh Market

Olga Santamaria is the instigator and organizer of the Brandon Fresh Market, and she sells delicious breads, bottles of dipping oils, and Amish butter. For the holidays she had some philodendron plants with leaves decorated as reindeer faces, a gift worth the trip.

Every Saturday from October through May, from 10am until 2 pm, the Brandon Fresh Market is the place to be. Started at Parsons and Mason and briefly on Lithia, the market now has a permanent location on the south side of Bloomingdale between Kings and Providence in front of the Winthrop Old Pole Barn.

A single stop will introduce you to the adventure and surround you with the fragrance of evergreen, potpourri, and delicious food. You'll discover a wonderful variety of fresh produce, gourmet food, baked goods, plants including orchids and fresh herbs, plus handmade items that you won't find anywhere else.

You'll also meet a varied group of hard working vendors who will take the time to help you and share their expertise. And you can enjoy music and food and coffee samples as you shop. Beware: this could become a delightful habit.

Olga Santamaria started this market three years ago with several vendors. Besides keeping the market itself going, she has a booth that sells wonderful breads with no preservatives, bottles of dipping oils, and Amish butter. For the holidays she also had philodendron plants with leaves decorated as reindeer faces, this itself worth the trip. Call her at 748-0441 if you'd like to be a vendor or want more details. Also check the website at www.BrandonFreshMarket.com.

My friend and webmaster Sherrie Henne and I started with Mike Roberts' tents of poinsettias and Christmas trees (here and at two other locations), open for business daily from 8 am until as late as people show up in the evening from now until Christmas.

Mike Roberts and Troy Waldrop have tents open everyday of poinsettias, Christmas trees, and made to order wreaths.

Mike handpicks his amazing assortment of trees from his own farm in Michigan. They are immediately placed in water and shaken with an electric shaker to remove any needles likely to drop before they are baled for transport. They also hand-make wreaths to size and give free coloring books and candy to the kids.

Ellen Stanley has been a regular since the market opened three years ago. She sells Christian symbols and gifts made by Jane Davis, whose company is called Tidings of Love. Ellen and I once worked together in Nativity Church's library, but I hadn't seen her for years. That's another great thing about the market. It is a place to meet new friends and run into old ones. She knows the wonderful stories about every angel and pin she has for sale, especially the Clinging Cross that brings comfort in hard times.

For the best choices, you may want to be there early, but later in the day there is still plenty to see and buy and more time for visiting. Stephanie Martin, personal chef and owner of Mealtime Magic, had sold out of her Carmel Apple Jam, Sweet and Sour Pickles, and several other items. She only had Corn Relish left and was offering samples.

Nana's Homemade Pierogis, a new vendor, was giving out samples. I bought some of their delicious pastries. Sherrie was meanwhile drooling over the fresh shrimp, large and giant, that she found "less expensive than you'd find them anywhere else."

I also had to drag her away from at least two jewelry booths and one with beautiful Christmas ornaments. She bought a bag of potpourri from one of several tubs made by Sweet Harvest where Cynthia Jennings also sold her folk art dolls and European antiques.

Chemist Mother: Benita Byrne sits in for her teenage daughter Katherine who makes all these soaps, shampoos, and natural cosmetics as part of her home schooling.

My friend Joan McLain is a regular with the orchid plants she grows herself, a gift few gardeners or non-gardeners can resist. Sandy Wall, who is usually there selling dessert roses was missing that day. I met Willow LaMonte of Herbal Delight Gardens, another new vendor starting this Saturday. Other vendors include Don Connolly selling homemade fudge, Val and Dave selling spices and salts from VSpices and Tony Tirado with Tios Bakery.

At the booth of Natural Instinct Body & Spa, Benita Byrne was sitting in temporarily for her teenage daughter Katherine who makes all the natural cosmetics as part of her home schooling.

There was so much to see that, of course, I'll have to go back to really enjoy it and do more shopping.