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

trim

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.

 

cannon coffee co.

I love, love, love Cannon Coffee Co!  It is just the type of coffee house that the east end needs.  Cannon Coffee is on the corner of Ottawa and Cannon, and has a gorgeous wide angled street view from their corner window.

Opening its doors just in time for the Christmas rush, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout are serving up some of the best coffees in the city using locally roasted beans from Detour, Red Hill, and (soon to be added to the roster) Speakeasy, AND they are also baking muffin tops (yeah I know how is that even possible!?) cookies, scones and other delicious sweet treats too.

When we stopped in for a mid Friday afternoon coffee the shop was successfully abuzz with nothing but people who were just really excited to drop in and check out the fresh new space and have a coffee.

Cindy and Anne are so sweet and charming, and happily chatted with Steve and I about how they put their whole space together.  No doubt the ladies have been working hard to get everything set up and ready to go.  It really is a true work of inspiration and dedication and they have definitely been successful in creating a unique space where you just want to sit and look out those big wide windows for hours.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout
cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, light installation Enoch Kuu

The light installation is the work of Toronto designer Enoch Khuu.  The table art book is a published work of photographs and artwork by the super talented Brooks Reynolds, whom I believe is a Hamilton local.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout

Original tiles and ghostly blue-grey hand finished pine plank floors.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, Cindy Stout

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, lattes, coffee

This was honestly the best latte I’ve ever had (thanks Cindy!).  Mine is on the right. I take it with a little swirl of honey.  I swear with each sip I would sigh and say something really cliché in all seriousness like “mmmm this is so delicious I could die”, or “this is the best latte ever”.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout

Owners Cindy Stout and Anne Cumby.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north

 

*179 Ottawa St. north, kitty corner from Steel Town Pickers, open M-F 7-6. S 9-8. S+S 9-5. 905.912.1980

morning feast

Merry Christmas!  I know I’m a little late but I still wanted to post some photos of Christmas.

When I picked up my parent’s old box of Christmas decorations, I was really looking to score the beautiful and delicate glass balls that I remember from when I was little.  One day we’ll get a Christmas tree but being a treeless house this Christmas I thought displaying them in some vases would do too.  I especially love the pink one below.

Christmas decoration, Christmas balls, Christmas bulbs, vintage Christmas decorations

The latest tradition to develop in my family around Christmas time is to have a delicious Christmas morning breakfast of savoury treats, meats, and cheeses -my favourite!

This year we hosted Christmas breakfast at our place and was it ever a feast.

meats, cheeses, spread for Christmas, Christmas breakfast feast

My father had made a special request to have tator tots as part of the spread -you can never go wrong with some tots! SO we had tots, a cheese fondue, meats, other various cheeses, crostini, spicy pickles, pâté, caviar, jams, jellies, coffees and teas.  I would love to start any day with a feast like this.

aga & eggs

If you don’t know what an AGA is… it is truly a wonderful thing.  It is a cast iron, gas running, super heavy (1052 lbs!), radiant heating, 2 burner beast of a beauty of an oven.  It is definitely a different kind of cooking and living experience.  Eggs get fried here on the hot plate, or in the oven, biscuits get baked and stews get simmered, AND one of my favs bedsheets, and laundry get toasty warm and dry in minutes next to the AGA.  It is a super nice wintery treat to have one of these in your home.

We visited some friends in Guelph, who inherited and AGA from their parents.  They made us the best eggs ever served on a pita with yoghurt, fresh orange juice, and some really good coffee. Mmmm.

An AGA is so heavy that if you had one  in your home you’d have to reinforce the supports in the floor or basement.  Our friends added a couple floor jacks in their basement.

After breakfast we all got down to business and helped build an intricate train track system, which sprawled across the living room floor (the way a train track should).  We passed some easy hours of train tracking, train derailments and constant bridge reconstruction.

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