Have you ever noticed all the secret back alleyways in Hamilton?  There are more than you would think -mostly tight little unknown spaces tucked nice and snug between buildings.

I don’t know how many times I’ve walked by this particular alley without ever noticing its existence and its ornately crafted steel work.

james st. north, hamilton, ontario, alleyway, steel work

I sometimes wonder about back in the day, where did the lane-way lead to, who used them back then?

sakura, sakura

The other day I was walking by Hawk & Sparrow vintage clothing store and I fell in love with their romantic spring-scene window display.  I loved the hot pink cherry blossom (sakura) flowers and the bright red-orange colours of the kimono.  Everything about the display pulled me right in and got me thinking about shopping for the spring season.

If you haven’t stopped by Hawk & Sparrow yet you should.  There are beautiful hand selected items from local Hamilton designers, a wonderful and delicate selection of men and women’s vintage finds, jewellery, shoes and accessories.

hawk & sparrow, window display

hawk & sparrow, window display, hamilton

hawk & sparrow, window display, hamilton

With the temperature at 15+degrees today, and crocuses already in bloom does this mean that spring is here to stay?


For another Hawk & Sparrow sneak peek check out my blog post here.

*Hawk & Sparrow, 126 James St. north, Hamilton, Ontario

the old haunt

On a weekend visit to Toronto to meet up with some old friends I happened by my old neighbourhood and stopped for some coffee and treats.

Eight years ago when I had just moved back to Canada from Japan, I remember taking a photo of this corner.  It was an old portrait studio from the 50′s that was closing down (sorry I couldn’t find the photo).  Now it is home to the super minimal and swish Nadège patisserie at Queen West and Gore in Toronto (next to Trinity Bellwoods Park).

nadege patisserie, 780 queen st. west toronto

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the hunt for a good croissant or pain au chocolat.  In a city the size of Toronto you think this would be easy, but in fact a good croissant can be surprisingly hard to come by.  My go to place was always Clafouti, and now (well it’s been there for a while) just a stone throw away from their café I can add Nadège to the list of satisfactory places to find delectable croissants among other delicate and delicious confectionaries.

nadege patisserie, 780 queen st. west toronto

nadege patisserie, 780 queen st. west toronto

nadege patisserie, 780 queen st. west toronto

My friend sampled a chocolate, caramel mousse creation, and I tried my first macaron -old-fashioned marshmallow and a salted caramel, which was amazing!

nadege patisserie, 780 queen st. west toronto

In addition to sweets Nadège had a full lunch menu with sandwiches, fresh soups, salads and the like.  I couldn’t help eyeing the table next to ours, with their delicious home-cooked vegetable soup!  If you’re looking for a light and quick lunch with a bit of class this is a perfect park-side stop.

I love the occasional weekend trip to Toronto.  It’s never as far as I think, and always good to see old friends and visit new places.


Hansen-Lübbers design and furniture shop opened this week on James St. north!  It is a beauty of a shop in every possible way.  In addition to carrying quality Canadian-made furniture designed by Gus* and eco-friendly paint and wallpaper by Farrow & Ball, they feature local Hamilton artist’s artwork on their walls (currently Julia Veenstra‘s paintings), and their store is located in just about the most gorgeously renovated old building ever!  For more details about the building renovations take a look at a blog post from the ladies at White Elephant here.  I read their post and saw that the store was opening and I had to go and see it for myself that same day!

The store was still being set up, but I couldn’t resist snapping some pictures of the space and some of the furniture that I hope to one day have in my own home. There was a steady trickle of people stopping in for a late Thursday Hamilton afternoon.  Everyone seemed enthusiastic about the new store location and were simply coming by to check it out, congratulate and welcome Hansen-Lübbers to the neighbourhood (Hansen-Lübbers did operate another store that was located on Locke street before deciding to make the move to James north).  Customers chatted casually with one of the owners, who was happy to talk about the progress of the space. He told us of the drapery sewing room and upholstery workroom that will be opening up in the store’s basement, and he gave us some details about the renovations like the radiant heated, poured cement floors, and amazing original 100 year old 6 feet by 6 feet skylight that was letting in beautiful light considering it was a grey and gloomy day.  The glass is actually welded in right level with the rooftop!

I remember when the building sold, and also while it was in transition as Buttrum and Son’s gallery space.  What an amazing transformation the whole building has taken.  I believe there was a point in time when there were no floors from top to bottom, and there was an intriguing wall with about a thousand layers of old wallpaper.

hansen & Lubbars, 114 james st. north, hamilton, ontario

hansen & Lubbars, 114 james st. north, hamilton, ontario

hansen & Lubbars, 114 james st. north, gus funiture, filament lighting, feather light

hansen & Lubbars, 114 james st. north, hamilton, ontario

I love the sofas, and one day when I actually buy some “grown-up” furniture, one of them will be mine!

hansen & Lubbars, 114 james st. north, hamilton, ontario, gus sofa

I think Hansen-Lübbers will be a great fit for the changing and evolving neighbourhood.  A perfect complimentary partner in combination with the up-coming opening of the AGH’s design store moving in just a few stores down.

For a little more history of Hansen-Lübbers’ Hamilton design dream and aesthetic read here.

*Hansen-Lübbers 144 James St. north, 905.308.7777

bánh mì

I have an addiction.  I am addicted to Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches.

My favourite place for a classic bánh mì in Hamilton is from none other than Tung Hing bakery.

The bread is made in house and sometimes it’s so fresh that they won’t seal the clear cellophane sandwich bag so that the steam from the hot mini-baguette doesn’t make the sandwich soggy -mmm those days are my favourite!

I’m a fan of the $3.25 grilled chicken bánh mì made spicy with a sprinkling of fresh green chilies, cucumber, coriander, pickled daikon, carrots, and a special sauce.

The thing I like about this particular bakery is that A. it is attached to B&T Foods, which is my one stop shop for all my Asian necessities in grocery shopping and B. it has some of the most delicious pastries, savoury treats and steamed buns.

My mom loves it when I swing by for an afternoon tea after having picked up a whole box of puffed meat pastry, pâté chaud, and deep fried sesame balls with lotus paste filling.

I do somtimes venture out for a Vietnamese sandwich from Bánh Mì Excellence next to August 8 at the corner of James St. north and Wilson (shh -don’t tell the folks at Tung Hing) which is good too, but I always find myself coming back to Tung Hing proclaiming my love for more of their bánh mì.

*Tung Hing Café & Sweets, 103 Queen St. north (at Queen and York Blvd. next to B&T Foods), 905.527.8333


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!



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