hamilton street art

I’ve been noting the little subtle pieces of street art that have been popping up most recently throughout the city.

Hamilton red-brick spotted on James North

I love the classic Hamilton red-brick.  We have a few Hamilton bricks in our backyard -they’ve helped in the making of our little mini back patio. When the Century theatre was torn down we managed to snag a few of them (it was literally a sea of red Hamilton bricks after the demo). Every time we walked by we’d pull a couple of bricks through the demo fence to carry home for patio making.

 

I’ve been especially adoring these sewing themed bits of street art.  The Singer sewing machine, fabric sheers…  Has anyone else seen any additional sewing related pieces on walls, perhaps a giant bobbin, button or spool of thread?

hamilton street art

At Gore Park, James St. North & King St.

Hamilton, sewing street art

On Queen St. at Hunter. I think I spotted another pair of scissors somewhere else on James North too.

If you’d like to see the documentation of ChildisHeArt artwork stop by here.

j.h. gordon books

Like much of downtown Hamilton, King Street has seen its fair share of vacant buildings and lacklustre storefronts.  So I was happy to see another store opening up that I would potentially see myself regularly popping into.  It seems like stores like Julie Gordon’s bookstore -J.H. Gordon Books- is just one of the many places deciding to set up shop on King.  Newish stores like Accoutrements, MODify Your Closet have opened on King in the past year or two bringing some new life to the street while fitting in nicely among other established stores that have stood the test of time such as Dennigers Foods of the World, Tundra Leather and least I forget Rock’N Tees -how long has this shop been around for?!

I don’t remember how or when exactly I first stumbled across Julie Gordon’s blog, but I remember being thrilled as I read through it that a neighbourhood bookstore was soon to be opening up on King Street East. Yay!

It is with great perseverance and determination that Julie has finally got her gorgeous bookshop.  People don’t often know the behind the scenes work it takes to get a new business up and running in this city; the red tape, renos, permits… the list could go on and on.  Now that the wheels are finally in motion and the store is open it seems like all her hard work has paid off and was worth it all in the end -the place looks great!

Kristin (from I Heart Hamilton) and I were in the neighbourhood checking out Apple Berry Café (next door), and being the book lovers that we both are, we couldn’t resist taking a peak in. Everything is beautifully arranged with a refined curatorial selection of choice books from History, to Sci-Fi to classics and even rare antique books.  Julie mentioned in the next little while that she would be expanding her collection of Graphic Novels, which I was super excited about.  In the mean time I picked up a few books myself for some summer reading, and made a mental note that the selection was fabulously ripe for future gift buying for all those book lovers in my life too.

Julie is as passionate about literature as she is about Hamilton.  As a result she has already started to build a community of likeminded literary enthusiasts that frequent the shop for different bookish occasions.  Stop by her store some time to chat books with Julie or to see what types of literary events she has in store for the neighbourhood.

Welcome to King Street Julie!

You can check out Kristin’s blog post about our mini tour of King St. here.

*J.H. Gordon Books, 314 King St. East, 905.522,1862

 

apple berry café with i heart hamilton

A little while ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kristin from I Heart Hamilton.  Both of us, being explorers of Hamilton, decided to collaborate in our meanderings and check out a few of the new places popping up on King St. East together.

So happy to see revitalizing changes going on along this strip of King Street!

Our first priority was to stop for a bite to eat.  Kristin, knowing all things Hamilton, got me caught up with the word on the street that a new Caribbean lunch spot had just opened up.

In the space where the old Barbarossa Moroccan tea house used to be now stands the brand new Apple Berry Café.  It’s a down to earth kind of place that’s got the right prices for healthy, fresh lunches and snacks on the go or to eat in house.  Kristin and I were in no hurry so we sat back in a window-seat booth ordered our lunches and chatted with owner Opal Osiol.

Opal is just about the happiest woman on King Street!  You can tell she loves what she does mostly because she does everything with a gorgeous smile. When chatting with Opal she mentioned that for years she lived in Hamilton just down the street from King but had just recently moved to Oakville. When she saw the space on King Street become available and the opportunity to open up Apple Berry she couldn’t turn it down despite now having to commute into the city. Funny how things sometimes work out, isn’t it?

You can tell that the business for Opal is really a labour of love. She’s committed to making all her dishes fresh and from scratch. While we waited for our lunches Opal squeezed up two fresh lemonades.  They were super refreshing on a hot summer day and they were priced so reasonably too -$1 each!

The menu is pretty extensive.  Ranging from breakfast, baked goods and sandwiches to full lunches with sides.  It’s kinda a secret but Opal even mentioned that although not on the menu on some days (if they have all the ingredients) her daughter, who works along side Opal, would cook up roti too (you just have to ask)!

I went for a lunch combo of pan fried fish with lemon and butter.  With the combo you can pick a side of either home baked macaroni and cheese (which looked awesome), rice pilaf or rice with beans.  I opted for rice with beans.  For a meal including a drink and taxes, everything was under $10!

While Kristin and I were there we saw a bunch of people picking up their pre-ordered lunches to go and we saw Julie Gordon from J.H. Gordon Books next door stopping by for a freshly made smoothie.  Apple Berry already seems like a great neighbourhood fixture, and even if you’re not from the neighbourhood you should stop by for a bite to eat. There are some good things going on over there on King East.  While you’re there stop in and visit Julie at her bookstore too.

Apple Berry’s does local neighbourhood delivery service for lunches on the go to anywhere in short walking distances.  Or if you’re in a hurry and have a limited lunch hour you could always order your lunch in advance and swing by to pick up too. Apple Berry’s is open from 9:30am Mon-Wed 5:30pm  (Thurs-Fri 9:30am until 7:30pm).  Friday, July 27th is there Grand Opening! Stop by for some free menu sampling and say hi to Opal.

It has been great over the past few months to be meeting up with some of the other fabulous people that are just as much in love with Hamilton as I am. Had a great time with Kristin exploring, and I feel honoured being included on one of I Heart Hamilton’s tour stops. Thanks Kristin!

Check out I Heart Hamilton’s post here.

*Apple Berry’s Café, 312 King St. East, 905.962.8488

 

pedalling past hamilton’s history

One of the reasons I chose downtown Hamilton as the place I wanted to live was because of its urban setting and accessibility on foot or by bicycle to key places located in the downtown core.

Let’s face it, in southern Ontario there aren’t a lot of other city-living options besides Toronto, (the expensive and no longer affordable) where you can find a downtown core with beautiful surrounding neighbourhoods that make walkabiIity and living an affordable urban lifestyle possible.

I like living in a way where my life is not dependent exclusively on a car, and where most amenities like the library, market, local bakeries, cafés, restaurants and useful shops are no more than a 10- to 20-minute walk away. All of these factors contributed to our choosing Hamilton as the place where we wanted to live. Growing up in Burlington and knowing a life dependent on car living, and having lived carless in Toronto, I knew Hamilton would fit the bill as an affordable, exciting and new alternative to Toronto city-living.

I was hoping to find a job in Hamilton but to be safe we bought our little Victorian row-house near the GO station just in case I had to bite the bullet and do the Hamilton-to-Toronto commute. I did try out the commute, and although not the worst thing in the world, I did feel like I was part of the rat race, and it was a race that I didn’t want to be running in.

I remember being rushed by a crowd of what felt like thousands, and then being funnelled out of the turnstiles of Union Station and into the TTC subway station. And that was after having been abruptly woken up from a delirious and droolly early morning sleep-in on the train ride to work. I knew I just wouldn’t be happy being a commuter.

Luckily, within a month of our move I landed a job in the North End a 10-minute bike ride away from home.

Unlike when I was still living in Toronto and commuting to work 40 minutes just one way by bicycle, this new 10-minute bike ride was going to be more like a joy ride. Instead of battling through the busy downtown streets of Toronto, like I was used to, I was able to make my new morning commute in Hamilton a casual and enjoyable one. I took the side streets all the way down to the North End — even though I had to cross a few (OK, all) of Hamilton’s notorious busy one-ways.

I loved this commute and my new job and so it reconfirmed that our decision to move to Hamilton was a good one. I felt that my standard of living had increased by being able to bike or walk to work. Every day I biked home to eat lunch together with my work-from-home freelancing partner. On nice days we’d eat lunch in the back yard or meet at the market or Mulberry for a coffee. It was such a nice way to break up a 9-to-5 work day.

On my daily Hamilton commute, my favourite route to take to work was down Mary Street from King Street. In just the few short pedals it took me to get to work, the cityscape would change from the classic downtown buildings facades of King Street, through an industrial mix of old factories and houses, and finally to the distinctive North End residential neighbourhoods. I loved seeing the history of the city unfold as I passed through these diverse-cross sections of town.

Good Sheperd at Cannon

While pedalling, I would imagine what I would do, if I had millions, to develop some of the vacant buildings that I noted on my ride to work. One of my favourites was the old Century Theatre. I loved that building and was heartbroken to see it torn down. I had dreamt of a day when it would be gloriously refurbished.

I was also in awe of the old Cannon Knitting Mills on Mary between Cannon and Wilson streets. What a building! I adored the wood curve of the corner window and always imagined a potential café or storefront on that south-west corner of the building looking out onto Beasley Park. I dreamt that artist studios might one day transform the space similar to the studio spaces that have opened in the old cotton mill factory of 270 Sherman. Or what if McMaster or Mohawk bought the space to develop a downtown campus focusing on the arts? It’s still sitting empty. There was a small glimmer of hope when the space was suggested to the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board as an alternative relocation space to remain in the downtown core, but to no avail. I still have dreams of the potential future of that building. Maybe one day?

The following are a series of photos of the old Cannon Knitting Mills. I’ve heard that there are plans to redevelop them.  Check out the link from The Mills, Innovation Exchange here. So exciting!!

The intersection of Mary and Cannon streets is an interesting part of town. The Good Shepherd on one corner; undeniable evidence of some of the needs present in Hamilton, with early morning lineups of people waiting to access the food bank. Kitty-corner from the Good Shepherd is the fabulous 157-year-old stone William Pring House, recently purchased by the Ritchies, who run the Hamilton Guest House. And of course the unforgettable old knitting factory standing vacant on the opposite street corner.

Pre confederation wood home on Mary St.

Stone Pring House at Mary & Cannon, new home of Hamilton Guest House

If you haven’t been by these neighbourhoods check them out. They are home to diverse urban landscapes and some of Hamilton’s oldest homes and buildings.

 

This post was originally printed in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, July 15th and can be found here.

 

treat yo’self

I can count on my one hand the number of manicures and pedicures I’ve had in my life (that’s not many). However, now that I’m entering into the last trimester of my pregnancy I’ve self-declared that I deserve a little pampering.  When you can’t bend down anymore to take care of your own feet and your hands swell and hurt, sometimes you’ve just gotta get someone else to step in and sometimes you’ve just got to treat yo’self.


Enter the Ten Spot.

When I was still living in Queen West in Toronto I remember when the Ten Spot Beauty Bar opened up on Queen. I unfortunately never took the chance to go before I moved to Hamilton. But funny how sometimes things come around full cirlce; Kristen Wood owner of the Ten Spot and a relatively new Hamiltonian resident herself has just opened a Ten Spot here in Hamilton on James St. North! Not yet even a week since its opening I’ve upped my life total of mani/pedis by having visited the beauty bar on multiple occasions (already)! Making up for lost time? I know -so overindulgent! But I can’t stop myself. I think that I could get used to this pampered life-style. The staff are super friendly, and I always leave feeling like a rock star with the nails and funky colours to match.

Kristen has created her own fab line of lacquers and polishes called Get Nailed.  With the Get Nailed product line also comes microbeads.  Being such a manicure novice I had no idea what this was.  The ladies at the Ten Spot happily busted some of the microbeads out and showed me what it was all about.

My fav was the black microbeads on the black Get Nailed polish -so black caviar shiny!

Click here for the complete DIY guide to doing your own microbeaded nails.

I should mention that the Ten Spot is not limited to just manicures and pedicures but their services also include their acclaimed waxes; bikini: Brazilian, Cracker Jack, and the other usual hairy culprits.  And gentlemen services are not just for ladies only, but also include a whole menu of men’s services too; The Hand Job -man-icure for men, The Foot Job -pedicure for men, the Manzillian, Mankini etc.

The Ten Spot is a fun and sassy new addition to James North!  Congrats on your opening in Hamilton!

*The Ten-Spot, 146 James St. North, 289.309.1010

summer time

So much to do! So much going on!

I love summer! I also love that I have the summer off this year, and that there is so much to do locally in the city to fill up my days.

Just this week I sat on the rooftop of Jackson square and ate my schnitzel sandwich from the market; in the breeze, with the sun, and the beautiful sound of Terra Lightfoot‘s voice singing CCR and Fleetwood Mac covers carrying through the open air. Sigh.

Two young ladies "rushing" the stage.

The next day I headed to Gore Park for their grand opening of the new designated pedestrian area and their Summer Promenade’s first of several weekly events. So nice to see pedestrians taking over that space and seeing crowds of people gathering and hanging out at Gore Park.  The Gore Park Promenade event with vendors, and live music runs Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 11am-5:30pm until September 15th.

Image by Jason Leach taken from Raise the Hammer

Last night I joined the Stinson neighbourhood in Bishop’s Park for their weekly Thursday evening concerts: Songs From the Bishop, running from July 5th to August 23rd. It was such a nice and laid back community event, it just made me love where we live more than ever.

I feel like I say this every month… but tonight’s art crawl is going to be an awesome one! There’s a craft show being put on by the newly open Mint Studio in the Sonic Unyon building (3rd floor).


Blush’s pink trailer coming all the way from Guelph selling gorgeous and delicate women’s clothing in partnership with Beaux Mondes.

The Sweet Ice Snow Cone ladies will be out selling their refreshing treats.  Check out their promo video it is so adorably sweet!

The AGH’s new Design Annex will be open for its very first art crawl.

Dr. Disc will be celebrating its 21st birthday with bands like The Rest, New Hands, The Dirty Nil, and Greg Preston & The Great Machine playing on their rooftop. Plus after Dr. Disc’s Raise the Roof event there’s an after party at The Casbah.  That’s a super packed crawl!

On Saturday there’s also the Farm Crawl!

It seems like everyday there’s something to do, and some place to check out.

lakeside park

If you’re looking for a nice strip of beach not too far away from the old hammer then head to the little oasis of Port Dalhousie.  Just outside of St. Catharines proper is this beauty of a lakeside park.  With its whispering silver poplar trees and long sandy banks perfect for wading you could spend a day lounging and picnicking.  We went before school was out, so the beach was quiet and calm.  People were busting out their picnics for dinner, and firing up their hibachis for hotdog roasting and bbq’d burgers.

I would definitely come back here for a day to enjoy the sun and sand.  There’s ice-cream shops, pubs and patios all before you hit the beach, as well as, an old school carousel from the early 1900′s that charges only 5 cents a ride!

Truth be known Lakeside Park and Port Dalhousie were not on my radar of places to visit.  Steve on the other hand, being a huge Rush fan, had secretly known about this park and had suggested we go.  According to Steve, Neil Peart drummer of Rush, had grown up in Port Dalhousie and had written the lyrics of song Lakeside Park specifically about the park in Port Dalhousie.

Midway hawkers calling
“Try your luck with me;”
Merry-go-round wheezing
The same old melody
A thousand ten cent wonders
Who could ask for more
A pocketful full of silver
The key to heaven’s door

Lakeside Park
Willows in the breeze
Lakeside Park
So many memories
Laughing rides
Midway lights
Shining stars on summer nights

Days of barefoot freedom
Racing with the waves
Nights of starlit secrets
Crackling driftwood flames
Drinking by the lighthouse
Smoking on the pier
Still we saw the magic
Was fading every year

Everyone would gather
On the twenty-fourth of May
Sitting in the sand
To watch the fireworks display.
Dancing fires on the beach,
Singing songs together…
Though it’s just a memory,
Some memories last forever.

A 1976 live performance of Lakeside Park by Rush.

day trippin’

On a recent hot and sunny weekday Steve and I decided to do a mini day trip to St. Catharines’ old downtown strip.  To be truthful I had not been in St. Catharines since I was a little kid and the only thing I remembered about the city were its 1970′s suburbs and that huge bridge that crosses over the Welland Canal that makes you feel like you’re driving right up to the sky.  I’d never been to the old downtown St. Catharines and I was pretty excited to take a looksy.

St. Catharines’ downtown is capital O-L-D (for a Souther Ontario city).  According to Wikipedia:

The area was originally known as a storehouse for goods at the crossing of an Iroquois trail over Twelve Mile Creek. Curving Indian trails formed the foundation of the downtown streets as they appear today. Among them remains the largest and most historically-significant of the city, St. Paul Street.

Unlike many planned North American cities whose downtown streets run in a straight grid-like line St. Paul Street curves and meanders along a little ridge mimicking the winding rivery creek that used to run behind it.  There’s no creek back there now, but there is a highway.  This is just my guess as the only indications that there was an old running river was from some old writing I noted on the side of current artsy occupants of Bang On hair salon‘s building that says that it used to be an old flour mill -presumably powered by the current of the river that used to flow behind St. Paul Street?

In any case, our first stop on our mini trip was the  Niagara Artists Centre, which I had been wanting to visit for a quite a while.  It is not by any means a monstrosity of a gallery but similar to the 1-2 room gallery space of  Hamilton Artist Inc.

Artist Jared Charzewski‘s exhibit Salvage Swell was installed in the back gallery.  It was awesome! His sculpture was made up of piles and piles of used clothes.

*Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St.Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.641.0331

A few doors down was vintage clothing store Out of the Past -I know, I know Hamilton has one too but this one is the numero-uno original and I loved it! The prices were so right, and there was such a great collection of items for both men and women.

*Out of the Past, 340 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.288.6007

The next place we happened upon was a real treat.

The Write Book Shop is one of those bookstores that you can get lost in for hours and hours and still have a stock pile of rainy days banked to come back for further exploration. They had two floors plus several back rooms of books ranging form rare antiques to classics, children’s books, books on Ontario, history, crafting, cooking and sewing. You name it they have it.

*The Write Bookshop, 285 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 905.684.8426

For lunch we stopped in at a vegan restaurant/bakery/café called Rise Above. I first heard about this place via the folks at Mjolk and it looked so good that we decided to check it out for ourselves. The lunch was great and so was the Bill Murray painting exhibit (Still Murray by Grant Redman) but my favourite part of this stop were the vegan donuts. Yeah, it IS possible -vegan donuts!  AND they were good.

You can read more about the creator of these vegan donuts -Kyle Paton here.

I would love for both Kyle (owner of Rise Above) and Bruce Worden (chef or Rise Above) to open up a fresh and contemporary place like this in downtown Hamilton. Can’t you just picture it in one of the storefronts of Treble Hall?

*Rise Above, 120 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines 289.362.2636

I was reading that similar to Hamilton downtown St. Catharines was rampant with one-way streets. In effort to rejuvenate the core they converted their one-ways to two-ways and low and behold look at the new businesses opening up. I’ve even heard rumours of the rerouting of the Niagara Wine Route so that it will eventually pass through St. Catharines’ downtown. Gotta love good city planning and investment in the downtown core!

Overall it was a great little day trip to St. Catharines. I think that it has something going on, and besides I’m always up for a new place to explore.

 

awesome mom

My mother for most of my life has worked in the garment and fashion industry.  So when I told her that I was sick of buying maternity clothes and struggling to find things to wear, she was quick on the industrial Singer to start stitching up a line of comfy maternity clothes for me.  In total she made me three things with still more to come.

I love this top.  But it also makes me laugh because growing-up we had cushions made out of this material and since the pattern of the fabric is square and so is the shape of the shirt, it really reminds me and my sister of our 1970′s couch outfitted with these cushions.  Great reuse of fabric I say.

The real beauty of this shirt is that it is airy, made from cotton, and has lots and lots of room for my growing belly!  Post baby it wouldn’t take much to cinch it in and wear without a baby bump.

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