A holiday weekend

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Last weekend, my daughter Katie and I kicked off the holiday season with three events: The Holly & Ivy holiday home tour and Christkindlmarket in Des Moines, and the Beautiful Land Holiday Market north of Ames.

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We started at the historic Salisbury House, a 42-room manor estate lovingly decorated with period antiques and artwork year-round but especially gorgeous at this time of year, with each room decked out by local designers. The annual Holly & Ivy tour is a fundraiser for the Salisbury House Foundation ($20 admission), and this year it also included a holiday market at the Central Presbyterian Church, two private homes, and West End Architectural Salvage.

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Salisbury House kept us busy snapping photos and oohing and aahing over each room – including the bathrooms – filled with holiday themed decorations, ranging from the feminine Victorian dressing room of the home’s original matriarch to a modern take on a small dining area. There was a masculine hunting-themed room, a large dining table fully covered with fancy dishes and holiday greenery, and Christmas trees in pretty much every room.

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After visiting Salisbury House (4025 Tonawanda Drive), we ate lunch just down the street at La Mie (841 42nd St.), one of my favorite bakeries/cafes in Des Moines. Any excuse will do to stop for a to-die-for raisin-pecan scone or almond croissant – or one of their very nice sandwiches or salads, both of which we enjoyed for lunch. It doesn’t get any better than this.

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With our tummies happily filled, we headed for the historic Owl’s Head neighborhood. I was even more excited to see these private homes decorated for Christmas than I was to see Salisbury House, because my friend Kate’s home (above) was on the tour and I knew it would be incredible.

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It was! Kate and her mother both have impeccable taste in interior design – and a large collection of Christmas decorations – and her house was just filled to the brim with Christmas trees, poinsettias, holiday dishes, greenery, and family heirlooms. I love Kate’s house any time of year, but especially at the holidays. We lingered there for a long time, talking to Kate and her parents and soaking in the history of the house. (It was built in 1905 and was once featured on the cover of Midwest Living magazine.) The whole first floor was beautifully adorned, but I especially loved the dining room (pictured above) and the porch.

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We finally tore ourselves away from Kate’s home and walked down the street to another home on the tour (above), this one built in 1907. The exterior of this house is a bit fancier, with a large front porch and high gables, and the holiday decorations inside were very nice.

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From there, we drove downtown and walked through the Christkindlmarket. This European-styled Christmas market featured hand-crafted toys and ornaments, European foods, German beer, and Glühwein, a type of warm, mulled wine. I have to say I was disappointed in everything but the mulled wine, which was pretty tasty. Otherwise, I didn’t think there was much to see or do there, and for the most part it didn’t seem very European.

We also visited the Beautiful Land Holiday Market held at Prairie Moon Winery/Alluvial Brewery just north of Ames. This event is a “sister market” of the more well-known Lucky Star Market that’s been happening a couple times a year for the past several years in Ames, sometimes at Prairie Moon and other times at Research Park in south Ames.

I thought this particular market was especially nice, with a lot of hand-crafted items – jewelry, paper products, hand-knitted scarves and hats – but also plants, food items, and antiques. I always want to buy things for myself at these markets, and I struggle to remind myself that I’m there to shop for others. I did buy a few small gifts, but I succumbed to my love of all things holiday and bought a couple of wooden snowmen and an antique Santa mug.

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