Toyland, Toyland

Toys and Christmas go together like, well like, Santa Claus and reindeer, whip cream and hot cocoa, Sun Valley and holiday cheer. There is nothing more precious than waking Christmas morning to see the wonder in little one’s eyes, and hear the shrieks of joy, as they unwrap packages carefully selected just for them.

Come into the Toy Store in the Sun Valley Village to be inspired and harken back to simpler times

Come into the Toy Store in the Sun Valley Village to be inspired and harken back to simpler times

In Sun Valley, toys are synonymous with The Toy Store with locations in the Sun Valley Village and downtown Ketchum. Owner Carol Knight, who has been in the business of making children’s wishes come true for 35 years, hand selects the finest toys for her colorful, whimsical shops, sure to delight infants through teenagers.

If you’re planning to be in Sun Valley for Christmas, be sure to leave a few items on your list unchecked because any visit to the Toy Store in the Village inspires. Stocked, floor-to-ceiling with toys to ignite the imagination, encourage creativity and bring hours or enjoyment to children of all ages, you are sure to find something on the shelves that is exactly what you were looking for. And probably a few things you haven’t seen anywhere else.

A toy Pisten Bully groomer will bring home Sun Valley memories for years to come

A toy Pisten Bully groomer will bring home Sun Valley memories for years to come

The Toy Store carries many items that will bring back memories of your Sun Valley Christmas. Among them, are a Pisten Bully grooming truck, just like the ones used to create perfect runs on Baldy. A line by Action Sports brings the terrain park pipe action home. Children can create ramps and pipes and then put snowboarder or skier action figures to work actually riding them. Kids can build these in the snow or sand, making this toy ideal, no matter where you call home.

A classic Madame Alexander doll with a snow culture twist can be your favorite child's this Christmas

A classic Madame Alexander doll with a snow culture twist can belong to your favorite child this Christmas

For little girls with dreams of snow, The Toy Store carries a Calico Critter set featuring a snowboarding bunny, as well as a collectible Madame Alexander doll representing Switzerland, complete with skis, poles and traditional garb.

Board games offer fun for the whole family, and some old fashion "unplugged" bonding time

Board games offer fun for the whole family, and some old fashioned "unplugged" bonding time

Carol said she also always recommends the classics and toys that bring families together. To this end, pop in and grab one of hundreds of board games or choose from a whole wall of Legos. Other timeless toys like Carolle baby dolls, colorful tin tops, infant activity mats, crafts and building sets of every ilk will also keep children happy and busy when they are not out enjoying Sun Valley’s amazing recreational opportunities over the holidays. Our family grabbed the game Qwirkle to set out over the holidays because Carol recommended it for all ages and we will be entertaining merrymakers from age 5 to 76.

A melting snowman is a great stocking stuffer

A melting snowman makes a great stocking stuffer

The Toy Store also offers fun stocking stuffers. Among Carol’s favorites: a melting snowman craft activity and Boogie Boards – LCD tablets that allow children to draw in neon, erase and start again.

This working chairlift captivates in the window of Sun Valley Signatures & Gifts

This working chairlift captivates in the window of Sun Valley Signatures & Gifts

A few doors down, the Sun Valley Signatures & Gift shop also offer carefully selected toys, including some that are very specific to snow sports culture. Be sure to pop in to see the huge chair lift toy carrying happy skiers and snowboarders on its miniature chairs and gondolas.

Harken back to the innocence of a simpler childhood, where toys came alive with a child’s imagination, and not every activity required batteries or a screen. I love shopping at The Toy Store for my children. The staff is extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and I always find something unexpected and delightful.

Ho, ho, ho.

–RES

The 7th annual Family of Woman Film Festival

The 7th annual Family of Woman Film Festival in Sun Valley will take place March 7-9, 2014, at the Sun Valley Opera House. The festival supports the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which works in over 150 countries to achieve a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. For more information please visit www.familyofwomanfilmfestival.org

The Jolly Holiday Season Begins

Santa listened earnestly to many children's wishes during the Winter Wonderland Festival

Santa listened earnestly to many children's wishes during the Winter Wonderland Festival

Things were jolly, indeed, this weekend in Sun Valley. Families flocked to the Village to enjoy the second annual Winter Wonderland Festival. Children raced around with scavenger hunt cards looking for clues, boarded a colorful train for a ride, carefully (or not) decorated gingerbread cookies with gobs of frosting and whispered in Santa’s ear.

Train rides around the Sun Valley Village were popular among the younger set

Train rides around the Sun Valley Village were popular among the younger set

Members of the Wood River High School choir serenaded the group gathered outside the Boiler Room and Sun Valley provided delicious food and warm drinks to keep the merriment going. By all accounts, it was a lovely, festive way to spend the afternoon.

Peter and Chloe enjoyed gingerbread man decorating in the Boiler Room

Peter and Chloe enjoyed gingerbread man decorating in the Boiler Room

Then, on Sunday, the elegant Lodge Dining Room opened for its bountiful champagne brunch. Newly configured this year, the Brunch offered its signature abundance of fresh, delicious food to suit everyone’s palate at numerous stations. From bowls of crab legs and shrimp, to made-to-order omelets and crepes; from Eggs Benedict to salads and fruit, it was hard to maintain discipline at this all-you-can-eat occasion! And that doesn’t even begin to cover the dessert table and the flowing champagne! Live guitar music offered a soothing soundtrack beneath lively conversations. This special meal will be offered on Sundays all season long and is something everyone who visits Sun Valley should experience.

Dessert, glorious dessert!

At champagne brunch, it's dessert, glorious dessert!

A crepe station is always popular at brunch

The crepe station is always a popular option

On the mountains, Baldy and Dollar hosted happy skiers and boarders all weekend long. Dollar is now open daily for the season, providing top-to-bottom runs as well as many fun and challenging terrain features. On Baldy, runs on Seattle Ridge also opened on Saturday. Skiing and boarding are now available on all over the vast mountain, offering great possibilities for a full day on the snow. Roundhouse Restaurant, Seattle Ridge Lodge, Warm Springs Lodge, River Run Lodge and Lookout are all providing tasty treats of all varieties to keep your energy high for just one more run.

Baldy's Seattle Ridge is open for the season!

Baldy's Seattle Ridge is open for the season!

But the fun is only beginning. A special breakfast with Santa takes place on December 21 and 22 at the Lodge Dining Room. Also on the 21st, be sure to come to the Sun Valley Village at 5 p.m. for the Tree Lighting Ceremony outside the Inn. Carolers, Santa and ice carving demonstrations will ring in the season.

There is nothing like Christmas Eve in Sun Valley with the Nutcracker on Ice, Torchlight Parade and fireworks

There is nothing like Christmas Eve in Sun Valley with the Nutcracker on Ice, Torchlight Parade and fireworks

On December 22, be sure not to miss the sixth annual Classic Christmas Concert at the Sun Valley Opera House. The tradition is enriched this year with several popular local acts including the Sun Valley Hallelujah Chorus and special guest Joe Fos. Carolers and dancers from the Footlight Dance Centre will also perform. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for $20 at the Sun Valley Recreation Center or online.

Everything leads up to Christmas Eve festivities, including the popular Nutcracker on Ice at the outdoor rink, followed by Sun Valley’s traditional torchlight parade and fireworks.

Please join us to celebrate the happiest of holidays!

–RES

Strolling through a Winter Wonderland

Sun Valley’s second annual Winter Wonderland Festival, taking place this Saturday, December 14, springs straight out of a picture book depicting an ideal holiday setting. Snow sparkles all around, the inviting smell of peppermint hot chocolate wafts through the air mixing with fresh baked gingerbread, holiday windows display cozy, colorful ways to keep warm and children’s laughter rings out from every direction.

The village brightens up with million lights

It is a family affair, indeed, at the Sun Valley Village when the Resort invites everyone to join them to officially usher in the Christmas season. The young and young at heart will decorate gingerbread men, little ones can enjoy a train ride around the Village, live music provided by choirs from Wood River High School will offer a light-hearted soundtrack and food will be plentiful.

Santa, I have been a very good boy this year...

Santa, I have been a very good boy this year...

Santa is coming to town, too, and will be available to hear children’s Christmas wishes, all while posing for that all-important holiday picture.

Back by popular demand, a scavenger hunt will also keep guests busy. Village shop windows are dressed with wonderful black and white archival photos depicting Sun Valley’s history as America’s number one winter destination resort. By identifying photos and completing the scavenger hunt, participants qualify for a free (yummy) prize!

Be sure to clear your afternoon. Gingerbread cookie decorating takes place in the Boiler Room from 2 to 4 p.m. Train rides are also offered during this time. Santa will take center stage on the Boiler Room deck beginning at 1 p.m. and will be ho, ho, ho’ing for two hours.

Last year, a group of friends and I bundled up our children and spent the afternoon in Sun Valley for the Winter Wonderland Festival, even finding time for a champagne toast to the season in the lobby outside the Duchin Room at the Lodge. The afternoon put a smile on everyone’s face and got us all in the holiday spirit.

But wait, there’s more! The fun continues on Sunday, December 15. With only ten days remaining until Christmas morning, now is the time to visit the Signatures & Gift Shop at the Village to have your presents beautifully wrapped. Members of Girls on the Run, a local program seeking to empower girls and young women through fitness and communication, will express gift wrap any present from anywhere. Donations are appreciated for this service.

Sunday also marks the return of the Lodge Dining Room’s famous, bountiful, elegant Sunday Brunch, offered from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. New specialties and complimentary champagne are included in this wonderful tradition.

Sunday brunch at the Lodge Dining Room returns (yay!) on December 15

Sunday brunch at the Lodge Dining Room returns (yay!) on December 15

For details and more information on upcoming Winter Wonderland Festival festivities please visit www.sunvalley.com/holidays.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

–RES

Champagne Brunch at the Lodge Dining Room

Back by popular demand! The Lodge Dining Room will have all new offerings starting Sunday December 15, running until March 30th.  From 10:00am – 2:00pm come join us for a champagne brunch, running every Sunday through March 30th, with the exception of December 22, when Santa will be joining us at the LDR. For information please call 208-622-2800.

Sun Valley Carolers Begin!

Sun Valley Village

Family, Fashion and von Furstenberg

Panache welcomed Diane von Furstenberg, fashion royalty, to a trunk show in Sun Valley Village

Panache welcomed Diane von Furstenberg, fashion royalty, to a trunk show in Sun Valley Village

Sun Valley is a magical place and that magic bubbles up in unexpected ways. On Thursday, at the Panache boutique in the Sun Valley Village, it surfaced as world-famous clothing and accessories designer Diane von Furstenberg greeted shoppers by first name, exchanged hugs and caught up on family news (with her own family in attendance) during her annual trunk show.

The doyenne of high fashion herself greeted old friends and new

The doyenne of high fashion herself greeted old friends and new

Champagne flowed and von Furstenberg’s gorgeous line of pre-fall clothes, handbags and shoes were in the spotlight as elegant ladies enjoyed a first peek at everything DVF. Ms. von Furstenberg personally pulled pieces for the shoppers, suggesting styles, colors and perfect accessories to complete a look.

The festive gathering supported a local non profit

The festive gathering provided great shopping for a great cause

This show was the sixth year DVF has offered a first glimpse of the fall lines to Sun Valley shoppers. Panache owner Kathy Crosson said it is something she always looks forward to. The relationship between the high-end boutique and the famous designer developed when von Furstenberg visited town with her husband, Barry Diller, for a high profile conference. “She saw that we carried her line and came in to say hello,” said Kathy. “She asked if we would like to do a trunk show with her and the answer was, of course, yes!”

The DVF pre-fall line is flattering, feminine and just a little edgy

The DVF pre-fall line is flattering, feminine and just a little edgy

Thursday was another rousing success, with dozens of women enjoying the high energy evening. But all this glamor was for a good cause as each year the trunk show supports a local non-profit organization. This year, ten percent of profits benefited The Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence. A fashion show Wednesday night, entitled Fearless and Fashionable, also featured the stunning collection, again raising money and awareness for the Advocates.

Who said beauty is only skin deep?

–RES

a la Mode Promises a Sweet Summer

The welcome mat is out at a la mode. Come on in for a sweet treat!

The welcome mat is out at a la mode. Come on in for a sweet treat!

Picture this: It’s a late summer afternoon in Sun Valley. The strong sun is high in the sky. You are hot. Most likely, you have spent the morning hiking, biking, golfing, playing tennis, riding horses, swimming or enjoying any of the other countless activities that make the warm weather months here so spectacular.

But now you need a refreshing break.  What better way to recharge your summer batteries than with cold, creamy, delicious (and house made!) ice cream. Step into a la mode in the Sun Valley Village and step back to simpler times. This old fashion ice cream parlor, that opened June 1 for the season, is charming and whimsical, featuring jars filled with brightly colored candy, oversize glass containers frosted with chilled iced tea and lemonade. And, of yes, ice cream.

Color and whimsy abound at a la mode

Color and whimsy abound at a la mode

la mode debuted its new summer menu this weekend, featuring house made and local ice cream treats for the entire family. Traditional ice cream, gelato, yogurt and sorbet are all featured on the menu in flavors from vanilla bean to tin roof to butterscotch pecan. Yum! Homemade ice cream bars come in varieties including almond joy, rocky road and orange dreamsicle. The list of toppings is 17 items long and features the usual suspects like marshmallow sauce, but also adds a twist with chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint patties and toasted coconut.

Feeling cooler yet?

And we haven’t even gotten to the creative sundae menu and the parlor’s most popular item: milkshakes. In fact, on Saturday, I met Carlos sitting at the cool marble bar at a la mode, savoring his milkshake. This true aficionado marked his calendar so as not to forget to come in on opening day because he loves the shakes that much.

Curious, and hungry, my family took Carlos’ advice and ordered milkshakes – two chocolate and one Oreo. When the freezing, thick shakes, capped with a festive swirl of real whipped cream were brought to our table outside, the children’s eyes were as big as their appetites. And the milkshakes delivered. Between gulps, everyone agreed, it is definitely the best frozen drink around.

Sundaes layered with flavor...

Sundaes layered with flavor...

Thick chocolate milkshakes...

Thick chocolate milkshakes...

For the sake of journalistic balance, I strayed from the milkshake plan and ordered a banana cream pie sundae. My large dish, layered with crushed graham crackers, vanilla ice cream, pastry cream and of course, loads of bananas and whipped cream was packed with flavor and texture – delicious! All the sundae offerings (grasshopper, strawberry shortcake, chocolate chip cookie, peanut butter cookie, fudge brownie, cheesecake) incorporate fresh ingredients from both a la mode and the Konditorei next door to create one-of-a-kind taste sensations.

Sated, and sleepy, our first venture to a la mode this summer was a huge success. This sweet storefront is sure to be a hub of yesteryear festivity all summer long. Truly, what better way is there to enjoy a leisurely hot afternoon than with ice cream, especially when it is this good?

–RES

Carlos, a huge a la mode fan, gives his milkshake a thumbs up!

Carlos, a huge fan of a la mode, gives his milkshake a thumbs up!

A Midwinter Night’s Dream

The performers perfected the show during a rehearsal

A rehearsal on Thursday allowed the performers to perfect the show

On this, the shortest, darkest day of the year — the Winter Solstice — rich sounds of traditional Christmas carols and holiday favorites will enliven the long night. This evening’s fifth annual Classical Christmas Concert will showcase stirring melodies and soaring voices, transporting audience members into a peaceful reverie and setting the tone for the coming weeks of celebration.

For many, measures of Christmas music strike (pardon the pun) a chord deep within. The first bars of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, the opening notes of carols that have been sung for hundreds of years, a chord from modern favorites, bring a flood of memories and emotions. For instance, for me, Away in a Manger, places me right back beside my grandmother’s upright piano in upstate New York. Her home is decorated with traditional, colorful handmade Norwegian tablecloths and flickering candles. Fresh cookies cool on the rack. Despite the frigid weather, all is merry and bright, secure and safe.

This evening at the Sun Valley Opera House, John Mauldin’s evocative tenor will surely stir your own memories. His sister, Leslie Mauldin’s soaring soprano, will take your breath away. The talents of the Hatvani Chamber Ensemble and of pianist and baritone Jed Moss will weave together bits of memory, feeling and meaning to create an unforgettable evening of live music. Add the festive and popular Sun Valley Carolers and I dare you not to lose yourself to the mood.

It takes a crew a full day to assemble the winter wonderland on the Opera House stage

It takes a full day to assemble the winter wonderland on the Opera House stage

The stage in the Opera House has been transformed for the night and mirrors the winter wonderland outside, bringing evergreens, white lights and everything but the snow, indoors. As the two violins, cello and piano play the first strains of music, close your eyes and let the holidays begin in earnest. But don’t get too lost in the moment – a very special guest is expected to take the stage along with the featured performers.

The sun will set today at 4:32 p.m. Before the doors to the concert open at 7 p.m., enjoy the brisk winter evening in the Sun Valley Village. Bundle up and take a walk through the Village Light Festival, where thousands of twinkling lights mimic the stars overhead. The Holiday Window Stroll leads through whimsical depictions of holidays around the world, Norway included. Visit the Gingerbread Village, a 20-by-30-foot scale replica of Sun Valley’s charm. Enjoy a drink or a bite at a Village restaurant or bar. Then make your way to the historic Opera House, take your seat, and surround yourself with the sounds of the season.

Tenor John Mauldin rehearses a favorite carol

Tenor John Mauldin rehearses a favorite carol

Historically, in the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice has been a time of celebration and gathering. In different cultures throughout the ages, Yule logs have been burned to light the long, dark night. Neighbors gathered and feasted. This pivot point from which days will again grow longer and warmer has always been a time of renewal, ritual and reflection.

What better way to spend this night than by enjoying your favorite music, performed by consummate professionals and wonderful entertainers? Settle in and enjoy this midwinter night’s dream.

Tickets are now on sale at the Sun Valley Recreation Center, by phone at 208-622-2135 or 888-622-2108, or at the door based on availability. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

– RES

Window Wonderland

This detail from one panel shows the great whimsy artists bring to the project

A detail from one of the panels

In a week’s time, when Thanksgiving memories are still fresh and bellies are still full, Sun Valley Village will provide a wonderful opportunity to take a stroll, shop and turn your thoughts to the holidays. Next Friday, November 23, storefront windows in the Village will come to life with eye-popping, three-dimensional, beautifully conceived and crafted scenes depicting the “Language of the Holidays” throughout the world. The new Holiday Window Stroll is certain to be one of the highlights of the season and will hopefully become a Sun Valley tradition.

A transformation of Village shops is underway as Jonnie Hartman, a talented artist in her own right, is busy unpacking everything from bags of brightly colored gumballs, oversize glass jars and Chinese lanterns, to hand-crocheted flowers and huge silver ornaments.  Spread carefully around a staging room in the Village, 13 window-size panels in various pieces, are quickly taking form into a whole.

Holiday window panels awaiting installation

Holiday window scenes awaiting installation

The panels, created by four international illustrators, Danielle Davis (United States), Ben Javens (England), Miguel Ornia-Blanco (Argentina) and Janine Rewell (Finland), are whimsical, bright and detail-dense. According to Jonnie, the artists create the scenes digitally and then transfer images onto enormous, flexible panels – something akin to supersize foam core board but with a waterproof and durable surface. Layering is crucial to the designs.  A sophisticated laser-cutting machine creates lattice borders, drifting snow and hundreds of other details you will have to see for yourself to fully appreciate.

Installation begins at the Sun Valley Signature Store

Jonnie Hartman plans the best way to begin work on a China-themed window

The holiday window dressings are rich in breadth and depth. In the Sun Valley Signatures & Gift Shop this morning, Jonnie was busy measuring and centering the background panel for a display depicting holidays in China. Drill in hand, she readied to hang the panel a foot or so back from the front window of the shop. Once the picture is secured, Jonnie’s next step is to bring the scene to life.  In this case, that means layering a serpentine dragon across the backdrop, hanging paper lanterns and adding dozens of unique touches to the life-size diorama. Stunning.

Throughout this week, installments will go up throughout the Village, as well as in the Sun Valley Inn and Lodge, creating a temporary gallery that encourages a free and interactive self-guided stroll.  Starting on November 23 and continuing through January 4, 2013, participants will receive “passports” at any window location. Visit each one to receive a stamp bearing a holiday greeting, then enjoy a special treat at the end of the stroll

The windows are a part of Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland Gala.  On December 1, join in the festivities at Sun Valley Village to kick-start the season. Free and fun for all, activities include cutting the ribbon at the Gingerbread Village in the Boiler Room, a scavenger hunt, wagon rides, great food, a special visit from Santa and, of course, a look at those windows.  Festivities begin at 1 p.m and last into the early evening.

Sun Valley’s new window displays promise to fulfill that universal yearning for simpler, more meaningful holidays. The vibrant colors, exquisite details and evocative images will transport you around the world and serve as a reminder of what the season is truly about: friends, family, giving and sharing.  Take a moment to stop, stare and appreciate the season in front of these gorgeous works of art – a gift to the community from Sun Valley!

This window-in-progress sums it up! Merry Christmas!

This window-in-progress sums it up

–RES

Crochet flowers will be added for texture and color

Crochet flowers will lend texture and color

Gumballs will be used in the displays

Bright gumballs add to the whimsical feel of a display