seedy saturday

On Saturday we attended Seedy Saturday!  This is where we’ve been happily getting our seeds for our vegetable garden for the past three springs.

This year there were seed vendors, give aways, door prizes, seed swaps and a lot of families and like-minded garden enthusiasts.

The best part about the day is the seed swap, where you can exchange and/or pick-up free seeds. I find it a little hard not to be greedy or over ambitious with garden plans when there’s such a variety of free seeds right in front of you -it really is like being a kid in a candy store.

The most unique find of the day were these purple Jerusalem artichoke tubers.  I’m interested to see how these will look like once they’re in the ground and blooming.

There was a sweet stack of vintage garden catalogues and books that you could give a small donation for and take home for further perusal.


Seedy Saturday is put on by the Hamilton Community Garden Network.  This year it was held at Ryerson United Church at 842 Main St. east.


grandad’s donuts

When I moved to Hamilton a few years back, I started my first job in the city tucked into a north Hamilton neighbourhood in between John and James Streets north.   Contrary to what some people may think, Hamilton’s North End is a wonderful little pocket with a strong and proud community.  You can even see some North Enders sporting T-shirts that say “The North End.  Hamilton’s best kept secret.”

And it’s true!   The neighbourhoods have that characteristic lower city Hamilton charm.  They’ve got old Victorian homes that hug the bay and waterfront.  There’s easy access to some great hidden Hamilton treasures, like the Bayfront Trail, the outdoor ice-rink at Pier 4, Hutch’s Harbour Front, Hamilton Harbour Queen Boat Tour, The Harbour Diner and Grandad’s Donuts, a fine donut establishment I was fortunate enough to have stumbled across.

The particular Grandad’s I refer to is the one located on the corner of Burlington Street east and James Street north kitty corner from the Port Authority.  It is a true North Hamilton staple -just ask anyone who lives in the neighbourhood.  On any given day you’ll likely see a crew of construction workers lined up getting their early morning or late afternoon Grandad’s fix.  Or you might see the usual crowd of friendly north end regulars teasing and joking around with one another at the donut counter over their coffees and delicious donut treats.

Their donuts, unlike most donut chains these days, are made fresh daily from scratch right in the Grandad’s kitchen.  Specialty donuts like the Ghostbuster -think éclaire meets Boston cream, never cease to blow my mind.  With its light and slightly crisp donuty exterior and its soft and smooth melty-whipped fresh cream interior, dipped into a bath of chocolate goodness -it’s no wonder that I can never resist getting just one whenever I’m in the neighbourhood.

With its 70’s rusty orange decor, yellow booths, and a counter top you can cozy up to the with old-school bolted-to-the-ground stools, its retro familiarity reminds me of donut shops from when I was growing up as a kid.

Grandad’s even has those classic fountain juices; peach and lemonade that flow from an eternal waterfall of fruit juiciness within their glossy clear plastic viewing containers.

To be honest I have a soft spot for this place not just because their donuts are the best donuts in the city, but also because I’m somewhat sentimental for nostalgic places like this one, and these days I find places like this are becoming harder to come by. When you can sit at a counter, whether a stranger of not, order your coffee and chat with the people sitting next to you and the friendly staff, you know you’ve got something special.

Although I no longer work in the North End, I do on occasion feel the need to satisfy a craving for a Grandad’s donut and coffee.  I’ll find myself willing to make the trek by bike or on foot and without skipping a beat it’s like I never left the neighbourhood.

Grandad’s Donuts could very well be Hamilton’s best-kept secret.  Hamiltonians be proud of another original homegrown Hamilton donut fixture. If you have yet to check out this gem it is most certainly worth a trip to the North End.  Buy a dozen and grab a coffee.  You won’t regret it, and you will surely be greeted with a warm hello and welcome from staff and customers alike.

You find the extended and beautifully edited article here in the Hamilton Spectator!

* Grandad’s Donuts, 574 James Street north

street find

A couple of weeks ago I spotted an amazing street find just outside of La Cantina.  It was still there a few hours later, so we went and picked it up.  It’s found a nice little spot in our living room.  I’m not entirely sure if it will be a permanent fixture, but for now I think it’s alright.  I love curb-side finds!

curbside find, green vinyl bench

valentine’s bake off

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m not usually much of a celebrator of Valentine’s Day.  Although, the first Valentine’s Day that Steve and I lived together, I sidewalk chalked the Queen Street sidewalk in front of our Toronto apartment with a big I LOVE STEVE.  It was pretty cute.  This year I baked some Valentine’s Day cookies, mostly because I have been craving something sweet and I’ve had some time on my hands.

I got this recipe from a friend, and it is like a dream!  The cookies melt in your mouth, and they are ridiculously easy to make.

1 cup room temperature butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
Beat butter and icing sugar and vanilla.  Add flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue beating until creamy (5-10 minutes).  The longer you beat it the fluffier the cookies will turn out.  Roll them out delicately.  Bake at 325 for 10 minutes you don’t want them to be golden brown.
easy to make, valentine's day, short bread cookies

vintage cookie tin

I picked up this gorgeous vintage cookie tin on King St. near Walnut, where there are a spattering of antique stores.  This particular antique store (next to Sparkle Chinese restaurant) was closing down, so as a result I got the tin for a steal.  It might’ve been $2?

valentine's day, easy to bake, shortbread cookies


The trim is finally up!  During the renos last summer Steve salvaged the old original 10″ baseboards, which have been painstakingly reaffixed to their appropriate walls.  It was a tough job as each wall’s baseboard did not necessarily measure up or match with the pieces that we had left over post reno.  The size of the baseboard from wall to wall varied anywhere from 9 to 11″ tall.  So it was a matter of puzzling everything back together and making some nice clean angled corner cuts too.  So happy that Steve took on this precision work.

old 10" trim, victorian house

Luckily this time around we had a little help from our friend the nail gun.  This saved me from my usually assigned task of tapping in nail heads with a counter sink and hammer (groan).  Thank you compressed air nail gun, you were my savior!

The outcome was grand.  We went with a soft semi-gloss grey, and added another piece of 2-3″ trim to help with the gap that appeared between the wall and floors during the reno when 4 layers of flooring was ripped out.

refurbished 10" victorian trim

Last we painted the interior front and basement doors with a nice dark blue-black, which I feel makes everything look nice, clean and polished.

Sometimes it feels like we still have so much more to do, but when I think about it retrospectively, we are living in a totally different space that pretty much looks unrecognizable to how it looked when we moved in 2.5 years ago.  I love it!



a hint

I know it is only February, but it does feel like there’s a hint of spring in the air.  Doesn’t it?

In our backyard the garlic scapes are already growing, and I can see the tulip bulbs starting to peak out! So I guess in honour of this bizarre springish winter I bring to you a lovely splash of colour from a secret little alleyway off of James Street north.

Colourful houses, James St. north, Hamilton, Ontario

What a contrast to just a week and a half ago when we saw the most snow fall all winter.  Does this mean I’ll have to start planting my seedlings for the garden early, or is winter still to make another appearance?

incline railway

For a little winter exercise as of late Steve and I have taken to walking the rail trail ending up at the top of the escarpment by the James St. south stairs.  A while back we noticed some remnant parts of Hamilton’s unique and historic past.  Just to the slight east of the escarpment stairs you can see the ruins of what was once an incline mountain train line.

There were two such incline trains in Hamilton, one at Wentworth, and the other at the base of James St. south.  At the time the mountain boasted a population of 6000+ people, and there had been talk of building a third line at Sherman or Ottawa to keep up with the boom town expansion of Hamilton in its hay day.  The lines ran from roughly 1890 to the 1930′s.

james south, stairs, escarpment, hamilton, ontario

hamilton, james st. south, ruin of incline railway, escarpment

incline railway, james st. south, hamilton, ontario, ruins, escarpment

The fare for riding one of these 1-2 minute train trips downtown cost you from 2 cents to a whopping $1.25 by the 30′s.  There were some gorgeous views of the old Victorian city from the trains.  According to a Hamilton promo pamphlet from the 20′s the view could be described as follows:

There is no finer view anywhere on the North American continent than the panorama to be seen from the Hamilton mountain. The city below, the blue waters of Hamilton harbour and Lake Ontario. In the background, flanked on the east by the famous Niagara Fruit District and on the west by the beautiful Dundas Valley and a range of hills, combine to make a picture no artist could paint. There are several roads leading up to the summit and you can drive upon “high”, but if you want to enjoy a unique experience and give the family a thrill, drive your car onto one of the Incline Railways and you will have something to tell the folks about when you go back home.

The particular incline railway at James south was powered entirely by steam.  Just a little further east of the last post of the railway at the base of the escarpment you can see a square, cemented, deep frame.  This was used as a water reservoir as you can see in some of the old postcard photos below.  I’m not sure what exactly the reservoir was used for perhaps needed for steam power? Or maybe for the use of water in homes?


Hamilton, ontario, incline railway, James St. south

James St. south, Incline Railway

Hamilton, ontario, incline railway, James St. south, water reservoir

high level reservoir, & James St. south incline railway, 1908



baltic bread

I came across this storefront some time ago, and just thought it was so amazing to see such a little neighbourhood bakery tucked in just north of Barton.  I imagine it looking just the same as it did 30+ years ago.  When I was a kid I remember going to bakeries just like this to get fresh kaisers, onion buns and loaves.  When I walked into the store a little old school bell dingled, and I could smell the sweetness of fresh bread and baked goods.  They had egg-buns, rolls, rye breads, pies and other baked confectionery.  It really felt like walking into a 1970′s time warp.  I savoured every minute of this soaking in all its bready aromas.  Really Baltic Bread and Bakery has been around for much longer than the 70′s.  The rumour is that they’ve been around for more than a 1/2 century traditionally baking the finest of European bread.

I took the photo for nostalgic reasons, and then realized that Baltic Bread is sold everywhere!  Since noting this bakery I’ve seen their bread sold in grocery stores and at their stall in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market -yeah I know it took me a little while to make this connection!  It was the super vintage lettering that has the “I” dotted with a star that gave away the fact that they were all one in the same -Baltic Bread.

baltic breads, 200 Gibson Ave., Hamilton, Ontario, rye bread, bakery

baltic bread, Hamilton Farmer's Market, rye bread, baked goods

baltic bread, the best rye bread, Hamilton Farmer's Market

If you can’t make your way to visit their home location on Gibson Ave. you most definitely will be able to pick up some of their bread at the Farmer’s Market. They do make a tasty rye.  I ate some of their delicious dark rye with my eggs at breakfast this morning.

*Baltic Bread, 200 Gibson Ave. Hamilton, 905.549.5929

when we was young

Back when we were young(er -ahem), Steve and I lived in a very old storefront building on Queen West at Ossington in Toronto.  It was in truth a bit of a ram shackle dive but we liked it, the rent was cheap, and we had no lease!  It was a 2 bedroomer and had a giant urban rooftop.  The master bedroom was huge and doubled as my workspace, and the 2nd bedroom operated as Steve’s studio.  We threw some legendary parties in that apartment for many a year, and Steve along with the art collective A Collection of Foreign Objects even had an art show in the temporarily vacant apartment below us.

Looking back I can’t believe that we lived there for 4 years! We saw the neighbourhood go from dodgy to mega hipster.  We moved to Hamilton just in time to miss the Ossington super explosion of gentrification and boy am I glad we got out of there when we did.  Queen Street was getting progressively rowdier and the local watering holes were no longer really servicing the locals. I couldn’t be bothered to wait in line ups, compete for taxis or navigate through crowds of overpacked swassy bars.  Don’t get me wrong I still think it is a great area and I still love going back to visit to check out all the new places that are continuing to pop up on that strip and beyond.  However, I do have to say that I really adore where we live now. Hamilton, I have no regrets!

seema narula, queen st. west, toronto

Walking down the old 'hood back in winter of 2006.

Fluorescent green kitchen. Note the tape collection. Awwe I kinda miss our eating nook.


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