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.

festiveness for the rest of us

Usually I am not one to really go all out and decorate for Christmas.  Actually for the past 7+ years Steve and I have really done nothing in the form of holiday decorating.

Since I was hosting my staff Christmas party at our house this year, I thought that it probably wouldn’t be acceptable to be a total grinch.  This would have to be the year that we do it up (just a little) for Christmas and the holidays.

My mission with this started off with buying some cedar and pine boughs from the corner of Main St. and Ottawa.  They had a fresh and wonderful collection of cedar boughs.  The next stop was to Gage park to collect some pine cones for table centre pieces, which were actually strangely hard to find. I also picked up some tangerines, cloves and red ribbon from the store to make some deliciously scented orange and clove ornaments.

Gaige Park, Hamilton

With the sun setting on Gage park, and the temperature dipping we got home and warmed ourselves with some hot chile cocoa and marshmallows before getting down to business.  I was a bit of a neighbourhood sleuth/thief as I clipped a couple mini branches of red berries from the house down the street.

Christmas door decoration, wreath, cedar boughs, pine

My friend Lis, who was visiting for the day, helped to make our tangerine clove decorations.

clove and orange Christmas decorations, ornaments

A few final decorative Christmas pieces came from my parents house.  I visited them a few days back and dragged out from under their stairs, an old box of Christmas decorations.  My favourites were these quilted ornaments.  Although, we did decorate this year, we haven’t ventured into the world of Christmas trees yet, so I hung the quilted ornaments on picture frames, and door knobs.

quilted Christmas ornaments

I even strung some popcorn cranberry garlands, and made little cedar and pinecone centre pieces for the tables. I admit having a little Christmas spirit did me no harm.  Maybe we’ll even move on to a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree for next year.

 

bmore

Baltimore House opened its doors last week on King William!  It’s a great spot and charmingly decorated in all its gothic goodness.  I had about 30 minutes before work one morning to stop by and grab a coffee.  I got an americano and besides being amazing, it was rich, full-bodied, creamy, not too bitter, AND it kept me going for the rest of the morning.

I’d like to stop by again to check out their Victorian parlour (when it opens in the new year), where I’d like to spend a snowy afternoon reading and relaxing in a comfy and cozy chair.  Especially now that the course I’ve been working on is wrapped up and done I will finally have the time to enjoy a place like this.

I’ve heard great things about their sandwiches too, so I will definitely be back to do some more food drink sampling.

Bmore  I think you’re my Hamilton dream come true. Did I hear talk of film nights, and a theatrical production of the Importance of Being Ernest, or am I just making this up?  AND a regular night for album spotlights (open mic for vinyl every Tuesday)!  Amazing.

For more reading on Baltimore House check out the Spec’s feature article here.

*Baltimore House, 43 King William St., Hamilton, 289.396.4830

a very dundurn christmas

I recently visited Dundurn castle for about the millionth time.  Truth be told I really love Dundurn castle and all of its Victorian splendor.  I’m somewhat enchanted by the whole place and how an entire population of people worked to dress, feed, entertain, make a living for themselves and uphold the glamour and stature of the MacNab family.

I’ve been on so many tours of Dundurn that I find myself getting slightly aghast when a tour guide might forget to point out or mention one of the many interesting details of the MacNab home, like the piece of artwork that is made entirely of hair!  I love it when a tour guide delves into some of the history of Hamilton and about rivalry between growth and development of Toronto and Hamilton.  According to one tour guide it would’ve taken 5 hours by horse and carriage to make the trip between the two cities.

In the picture below you can see what was once used as a bird aviary or really fancy home for pigeons, which was needed to make a MacNab family favourite -pigeon pie.  When I was a kid this little stretch of the castle was home to all different kinds of birds kinda like a miniature Dundurn zoo.  If I remember correctly it was even home to some gorgeous peacocks and other fowl.  Apparently in 1996 when that wing of the castle was being renovated the birds were moved to another location and after the renos they did not return, thus putting an end to 70+ years of the Dundurn Aviary.

Dundurn castle bird aviary, pigeon home, Hamilton, Victorian Christmas decorations, cedar boughs, dried flowers

This particular visit to Dundurn castle was to check out their beautiful Victorian Christmas decorations with the hopes that it might inspire some of my own yuletide festiveness.  The castle’s halls were quite literally decked in boughs of holly.

According to our tour guide the traditional Victorian Christmas tree would look like the one below.  Presents were reserved only for the young, where children would pick a number which would correspond to a number written on a present, which was tied to the tree.  The presents were small novelty gifts of porcelain soldiers, dolls and other trinkets.

Dundurn castle, parlour, Victorian Christmas tree, Victorian Christmas decorations, Hamilton

The dining hall was prepped for a feast, which would often contain 12+ courses.

Dundurn castle, dinning room, Victorian, Christmas decorations, Hamilton

Dundurn castle, master bedroom, Sir Allan MacNab, Hamilton

dundurn castle, servants dinning hall, Hamilton

This is where the servants would eat.  This room is actually in the basement, which was not as grim as you’d picture a castle basement to be.  There was some gorgeous afternoon light pouring in.  According to our tour guide the servants at Dundurn castle led relatively good lives in comparison to many, getting paid a fair wage, having good work conditions, and a daily ration of beer and spirits from their own brewery, which was housed in the basement along with a 15 foot hole in the ground where ice was dragged off the lake in the winter and kept for usage all year round.

If this post didn’t make it entirely clear, I am a nerd and have no shame in admitting that I will likely visit Dundurn castle about a million more times.

*Dundurn Castle, 610 York Blvd., Hamilton, 905.546.2872

 

easy peasy

As much as I dislike cheap forms of laminate “wood” flooring (like the kind that looks like a sticker of wood pasted onto plastic) I do still think that our kitchen looked better with the crappy laminate than it did for the past 4-5 months with the super ugly 1990′s floral laminate tiles that were faded yellow and just gross (Steve would beg to disagree ).  I took it upon myself to make an executive decision to paint the tiles a cement grey. I know it is a major painting faux-pas to paint atop plastic tiles as typically it’s difficult for paint to adhere to a surface like laminate, but if the folks at Hindsvik say you can do it, then I believe that it will work!

Ouno Design made it sound soooo easy peasy.  The whole thing although not hard, was quite a process.

1. Empty all furniture from the kitchen

2. Sweep, dust, vacuum floors

3. Wash the walls and baseboards -eww they get so dirty behind fridges and ovens

4.  Wash the floors (2-3 times with just water, 2-3 times with TSP to get rid of the glossy finish)

5.  Sand entire floor & vacuum

6.  Wash floors again

7. Paint first coat

8. Wait 24-48 hrs.

9.  Paint second coat

10.  Wait another 2-3 days before moving any furniture

11. Move all furniture back into kitchen (and start to eat like a normal person who has a functioning kitchen does)

12. Don’t wash floors for 3 weeks!

 

Hoping to move everything back in tomorrow, and here’s to wishing that the paint sticks to the tiles and doesn’t flake off.  I’m crossing my fingers.

gorilla cheese

I experienced my first Gorilla Cheese grilled cheese the other day and it was delicious!

I heard that the Gorilla Cheese truck was going to be parked across the street from our house so I made extra sure that I would be coming home for lunch that day.  All morning long I was anticipating the cheesy tendrils of this treat, and fantasizing about the gooey melty cheesiness of a real good grilled cheese.

I didn’t think there would be much of a crowd ordering from the truck since our house is located in a weird in between corktown/downtown mixed commercial residential area.  Clearly I was out of touch with just how much daytime commercial population is in the neighbourhood because there was a good solid crowd of 15-20 people waiting for their grilled cheeses!

gorilla cheese, grilled cheese, food truck, hamilton ontario, gourmet, sandwich

Once we got to the truck there was some debate as to which sandwich to get. I hmm’d and haa’d about my selection and was stuck between the OG (Original Gorilla) -better than your momma’s grilled cheese, aged Canadian cheddar on white or multi or the Sarducci -mozzarella, red onion, fresh basil, tomato, balsamic glaze on multi. I eventually settled on the Sarducci for $7.50.

Gorilla Cheese, grilled cheese, food truck, Hamilton, Ontario, gourmet, sandwich

I have to admit that I thought $7.50 was a little steep for just a grilled cheese, however, I was not disappointed. First off the grilled cheese is not just any grilled cheese it’s a Gorilla Cheese and it is huge! I could’ve probably had a meal of just a 1/2 portion. The bread was delicious (crispy and buttery), plus you get a tasty pickle as a side. I swear carrying two grilled cheeses back to our house to eat from fresh off the truck it felt like I had 5 pounds of grilled cheese in my one hot little hungry hand. So in conclusion for $7.50 I don’t think you could have a tastier grilled cheese sandwich. Definitely a special treat that I would pick up again.

Way to go Hamilton for starting a food truck revolution! I missed the food truck rally back at the end of September, but have heard there’s a mini one coming up on Ottawa Street for 3 Fridays starting on December 9th 11:30am-2:30pm with Gorilla Cheese, Cupcake Diner, El Gastronomo, and Bonfire Catering.  My hope is to sample some wood fired pizzas from Bonfire Catering.

zeus

I’m always happy to see Zeus play in Hamilton.  Not only do I love their music and think that they are fantastically talented musicians, but they are also some old friends so it is always nice to see them stopping through town on their tours.

zeus, arts and crafts, neil quinn, mike o'brien, carlin nicholson, rob drake

Their debut album Say Us was released in February 2010 by Arts and Crafts and is A-mazing.  At their show last week at the Casbah we got to hear some newer songs that I hadn’t heard yet, and they did not disappoint.  Their next album is set to be released in early 2012 but they have been releasing multiple 7″s throughout the year.  If for some reason you have yet to listen to Zeus you are missing out on something really special. You just need to listen.

zeus, arts and crafts, neil quinn, mike o'brien, carlin nicholson, rob drake

One of my favourite songs off of Say Us is Heavy on Me.  There are instrumental harmonies that climax into an orgy of solid rock godness. If I were in the band I’d feel like a total rockstar playing this song.

zeus, arts and crafts, neil quinn, mike o'brien, carlin nicholson, rob drake

zeus, arts and crafts, rob drake

*The Casbah, 306 King St. West, Hamilton, 905.521.4441

under $5

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 5 months since our renos.  Which means it has also been 5 months of having bare walls. We finally got to hanging a few pieces, and even pulled some artwork from the attic that hadn’t been unbubble-wrapped or seen the light of day since we moved over 2 years ago!  For the most part the artwork had been leaning up against furniture on the floors and collecting dust in our recently demoed attic.

Much of our decor and furniture are found or scavenged items and I can safely say that a large percentage of our art work cost us less than $5.  I luck out a little here since Steve is an artist he does score some great trades (although I didn’t take any photos of those pieces -oops!).

This paint by number came around full circle in the fam.  Steve and his brother and sister used to buy their grandfather paintbynumbers from way back in the day, and in time many if not most of these paintbynumbers are now in our hands.  I especially like this one.  One day we’ll either mount it or get an old frame to put it in.

saucey

We had a pretty successful summer harvest of tomatoes this year.  The beefsteaks were so massive and juicy and the romas weren’t bad either.  When there were just too many tomatoes to eat Steve started making some simple tomato sauces and freezing them.  The goal was to eventually get it all into one pot and make one real mean sauce, like one that cooks on the stove for hours and hours.  That is just what we did.

homemade tomato sauce, garden grown tomato sauce, freezer tomato sauce

The sauce was a great success.  I love that as we use it we can add other ingredients to change up the flavours.  Homemade soups are our next venture, and then our freezer will be all set for multiple winter meals.

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