food in tins

The first really warm spring day about a week or so ago, I packed up some treats and headed out for a play date picnic with Omi at Gage Park.

I do love picnics. Especially meats, cheese and snack type foods.

I gathered some items that we had around the house along with some foccacia bread for make-your-own mini open-faced sandwiches.

Finally put this handy stackable tin lunch container to good use. This little contraption is called a dabba (or tiffin). We picked it up when we were travelling in India. It’s kinda like the Indian version of the obento box.

For dessert I made this super yummy treat. Get this -Mars Bar Rice Krispie Squares! Yeah, it’s pretty decadent, but they are so yum. If you can believe it there’s three Mars Bars in this one batch! Sometimes I have to remind myself about the three bars to stop myself from eating the entire tray all in one go. Three Mars Bars in one day is just totally unacceptable.

 

 

baby room

Sometimes, if I don’t think about it, I forget that when we first bought our house it was in some pretty rough shape. I didn’t think it at the time but now looking back and seeing how much work we’ve done, I can see that it has come a looong way. There’s still a million things we still want to do, but I think that this will always be the case.

Here’s the Before and After of the room that has become Omi’s room.

Before

This room wasn’t the worst of the rooms we’ve renoed. However, it was wallpapered, which always sucks to peel off, AND as I peeled the wallpaper we found some black mold growing all around the window. The wood of the window was rotting and the moisture was getting trapped in between the wall and the layer of wallpaper. It was super gross. We stripped the walls down, insulated and ended up having to put in a new window. Once it was a fresh and new I moved all my things in, and it served as my office and guest room until Omi’s arrival.

After

 

This tiger print was a gift from our friends Jen Hsieh and Kyle Reed from Sorry You’re Happy. Kyle did the artwork -which I love! Every morning when Omi wakes up we say good morning to the various characters from the art work around his room. We call this one El-tigre (there’s Rooster & the Egg-man too).

For Omi’s baby shower we asked for books to build a library. His shelves are now pretty stocked. There are so many fabulous new children’s books out there; I can’t wait to discover Omi’s favourites and to reread and share some of the books and authors that I loved to read when I was a kid too.

fish and chips

If there’s one thing that Steve and I love doing it’s going to a nice classic pub for pints and good pub fare. Since we don’t live in England, where people don’t automatically think you’re the worst parent in the world if you show up to a pub with a kid. And since we can’t exactly leave Omi at home to fend for himself; then I suppose the next best thing to going to a pub is if the pub comes to you. Hence our idea to make homemade fish and chips!

This was our first time taking on such an endeavour and it turned out to be surprsingly easy and delicious. A simple cold bitter beer battered recipe turned out some beautiful crisp results on our first go. I picked up some haddock from the farmer’s market, along with a Mill Street Spring Imp bitter lager (should’ve really used an ale but it still tasted fabulous). We used a beer battered recipe that I found here.

I whipped up a quick tartar sauce inspired by my friend Vern’s fish and chip post from her blog Nine Ate Seven. For my tartar sauce I mixed in mayo, finely chopped capers, pickles and green onions plus a dash of apple cider vinegar, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch or two of sugar. As per Vern’s suggestion on her post we also tried out the double deep-fry method that successfully resulted in some extra crispy sweet potato fries.

Who knows, this may just inspire a frequent stay at home pub night at our place. It’ll be fabulous once we can sit in the backyard again -patio time!

vintage market place

Over the weekend we made our way to Hamilton’s very first Vintage Market Place at the Hamilton Convention Centre. It was really nice not to have to trek all the way to Toronto for a vintage market sale -finally! There were was just the right amount of vendors so as to not feel totally overwhelmed and to still have the energy to go off and do something else for the day (like say see Oprah, go to the Food and Drink Fest or just go home and have a nap).

White Elephant was there selling a beautiful selection of vintage dresses. I happily noted that they carried dresses of a variety sizes too; not just the typical teeny tinies. Bodega was there representing their 80′s rock vintage wares, and Chaises Musicales was also there showing off their vintage furniture.

It was great to see a lot of vendors that I’d never heard of before like High Flute VintageVintage Soul Geek and Girl on the Wing, who by the way is soon to open up her shop here in Hamilton at 181 King St. East -can’t wait!

Rekindle Home Upcycled Furniture

I was happy to score two tops perfect for the summer and the ever (still -ugh) transitioning shape of my post-baby body.

I’m really looking forward to watching this Vintage Market really grow in the following years.

previously crawled

In recent months I’ve really been appreciating the art openings that occur at a handful of galleries on the Thursday evening before the monthly art crawl on James St. North. They’re kinda like mini pre-crawls, where you actually get a chance to chat with the artisit and hang out in the space observing the art work in greater detail.

This Thursday I checked out our good friend Jen Hsieh’s art opening at Defacto Mulberry. Her show is called Thirteen. It is a beautifully touching exhibit surrounding the exploration of her feelings regarding the loss of her mother thirteen years ago.

Mother and Child by artist Jen Hsieh

Moored by artist Jen Hsieh

Make sure you stop by during the crawl tonight or throughout the month to see her show!

 

I was also able to sneak a quick peak at the opening at Hamilton Artisit Inc.

The Inc. has quickly become a favourite of mine. They have fabulously curated exhibits of established Canadian artists in their main gallery section. This month’s exhibit is a video installation called Control Fields by Montreal artist Michel Boulanger.

 

I also absolutely adored the exhibit last month No Overnight Camping by artist Dagmara Genda, and Bruce Montcombroux.

Corrupted Animals (Elk) by artist Dagmara Genda

The New Babylon Satellites by artist Bruce Montcombroux

Another gallery that I always make a point of checking out is b contemporary. Last month’s exhibit by Hamilton artist Andrew McPhail was a fantastic series of “pixelated” portraits. I loved staring at each painting up close and then far away; appreciating their abstract and organic quality up close and then their almost digital quality when viewed from a distance.

Be sure to stop by b contemporary to check out this month’s exhibit by artist Paul Cvetich -Shaboom Shaboom.

sugar bush

The last weekend of March we were in Kingston visiting some old friends. While there we decided to make the most of the early spring weather by heading out to a nearby conservation area for a maple syrup festival.

To the sugar bush!

The trees were tapped with the sap flowing. We noted that they had several different methods of tapping, some with metal pails, other trees with blue plastic buckets, and some were tapped atop a hill with a series of connecting tubes that ran towards the sugar shack down the hill below (definitely the most efficient).

maple syrup evaporator

There wasn’t any snow of the ground so we weren’t able to do the classic maple syrup on snow or ice. Of course there were pancakes and although we’d already had a delicious breakfast we could not forgo sampling at least one (or two)!

This pancake was so delictable and the maple syrup was so fresh!

I hadn’t been to the sugar bush since I was a little kid. I’m sure in the upcoming years we’ll be doing an annual maple syrup pilgrimage to Mountsberg (and the like) with the little one.

 

studebaker

When I used to work in the North End I would sometimes bike between the Bennetto and Keith neighbourhoods crossing over the tracks at Victoria Avenue. Taking a few neighbourhood side streets, to avoid the industrial highway of Burlington Street East, I would always pass by a huge old abandoned factory. You would’ve seen it too if you’d ever driven down that way.

On Victoria Avenue North past the General Hospital and just before Burlington Street East you would’ve seen the old Studebaker factory. It’d be hard to miss. It was a 4 block monstrosity of a factory, where in all honesty at least 3 football fields could’ve fit inside its 7.5 acre lot. I used to marvel at it every time I passed by.

photo taken from www.studebakerhistory.com

 

Like many of the older factory and industrial spaces tucked into Hamilton’s landscape this one too had been empty for some time. The last Studebaker to be rolled off the production line at this factory was in 1966.

Studebaker 1946 -image from www.curbsideclassic.com

 

image from www.cursideclassic.com

 

Recently there was some talk of the space being repurposed as a film studio (would’ve been awesome). But as per the fate of many of these industrial relics, it is currently in the process of being torn down. A new industrial complex will be built in its spot. (for more info see an article from The Spec here).

Just last week I paid my respects to that old factory. It is currently being torn down to the ground into a rubble of red Hamilton bricks. I was able to snap some photos of whatever reminants of it that remained.

In its former industrial incarnations it housed production for everything from Otis elevators to the classic Studebaker -it was even used a weapons factory during World War I and II!

the studebaker factory getting plowed down to the ground

I was happy to note that the corner portion of the building will remain intact to be a repurposed as part of the new industrial development.

Not to mention, I was pleased to see that it wouldn’t end up as just another brown field like the one directly across the street from the Studebaker lot.

 

Hamilton, the times they are a changing.

 

 

 

sleep over

Among the many things that people will tell you when having kids is that your life will never be the same and that you’ll never be able to live like you used to. Honestly this idea kinda petrified me -to think that I’d be sequestered to an isolated parental island void of all “normal” social contact and/or limited only to baby/parent talk.

However, I’ve suprisingly found that besides the obvious life changes invovled in having a child, life with some effort can be quite as it were pre-baby.

The beauty is to come up with novel ideas on how to continue to socialize and maintain social equilibrium.

Thus far we have found that life can take on many of the same ceremonious social rituals (however, I’m sure this too will change). We’ve managed to finagle going out for dinners, visiting with friends, and more often than not, these days having friends over. We must of course give thanks to our friends, who have continued to request our social presence.

There are challenges that do arise in trying to socialize. Especially when we want to meet up with friends who live out of town that also have kids. Between naps, dinner, baths and bed time, this all  leaves little room to get in a satisfactory visit.

So in honour of living life the way we used to like let’s say having dinner with some old friends from out of town, we pulled off our first ever parent sleep over and it was a success. Once the kids had their dinner and bath time, and it was all quiet on the western front. We parents camped out in the mainfloor of the house with wine, escargot, bubbly Italian beers and fondue -how so appropriately over the top adult like of us.

an assortment of snacks -pickled radish, turnip & carrots plus some other randoms

tempura oil fondue -a Japanese twist on a French meal

the next morning -starting the day off right with some colouring

mini kitchen reno

We did a mini kitchen reno back in December (when I say “we” I really mean Steve).

When we did our mega main floor reno over a year ago I had the crafty idea to paint over our old stained yellow vinyl floors (it was a bad idea by the way).

Although they looked great for about a week, it was a total fail. The floors stayed tacky with all kinds of dirt and grime sticking to them -so gross. In the end the floor was disgusting and it was not something that I could’ve lived with for much longer.

Knowing that it would be a long while until we would be able to do a full gut and reno of the kitchen, we decided over the Christmas holidays that we could manage a fast and cheap reno to tide us over until the real thing.

To fix the crap paint job I did on the vinyl floor we decided to try out using plywood for the floors and then figured we might as well redo the counter tops with plywood too.

We also replaced our backsplash with subway tiles. There’s plans to do a paint job for two accent walls. The paint has been purchased but has yet to make it onto any walls yet.

It was a fast and furious reno -did I mention that Steve did this entire reno in two days?!

During all this chaos we also organized our spice shelf and said good-bye to our kitchen tape collection.

Not to worry we didn’t get rid of the tapes! They’ve just found a new home up in the attic. I remember when we rediscovered our mixed tapes and old tape collections and got many solid nostalgic re-listens. We’ll have to wait a few more years before I willingly slide one of those tapes in the cassette player without letting out a mega groan.

still use this bad boy everyday

john street

Since moving to Hamilton, I have been keeping a close eye on a short stretch of John Street, South and North.

At first glance, the two-and-something blocks between Main East and King William may seem a semi-abandoned and derelict portion of a “typical” downtown Hamilton street. But if you look a little more closely you might notice signs of life, both old and new, and, dare I say it, rejuvenation.

I spend most of my walks downtown wandering with my eyes up, taking in the old architectural beauty of the Victorian cityscape and observing the history of the buildings that line the path of the daily meanderings.

There’s some great character and history to the buildings on John Street. Take, for example, the John Sopinka Courthouse (formerly the Dominion Public Building built in 1934). It’s a beauty of a building, the depth of an entire block, enveloped by Main, John and King streets. With its ornate Art Deco stonework and lettering on the exterior it’s not a surprise that on the inside, fitting with its architectural era, you’ll find glossy marble floors, and polished metal work decorating the elevators, tills and counters. Everything has a certain sparkle and sheen to it that you just can’t find in many buildings these days.

Across John Street, next to the abandoned Crazy Horse Saloon, you’ll find the old Royal Connaught. It’s hard to miss, as it too occupies nearly a full city corner (not to mention it’s been boarded up for the past 10 years).

When I walk by the old Connaught I sometimes get a waft of the musty dankness seeping from the cracks of its boarded-up windows, and with that I usually feel a little pang of despair as I wonder about its fate. Wrecking ball or refurbish? Word on the street as of late is that the Connaught will indeed see new life again. I can’t wait. What a difference it will make to the core and surrounding areas. Is it too early to say aloud the silent chanting I’ve secretly been saying in my head: “Ren-nai-sance! Ren-nai-sance!”?

Just past the courthouse and the Connaught, over the tail end of Gore Park and past the old 1940s Pagoda Chinese restaurant sign at King and John, you’ll find a scene that is typically Hamilton. It’s no frills. Hamilton is what it is and that’s what I like about it.

You’ll see folks going in and out of the John Street Clinic (one of the city’s methadone dispensaries), or waiting for the bus, leaning against the backdrop of yet another stretch of seemingly abandoned buildings such as the Golden Fortune Restaurant or Treble Hall.

However, despite the description, things here are not quite as they seem. This little stretch is teeming with life both old and new. There’s change happening here on John, slowly but surely.

Take Treble Hall, for example, one of my favourite buildings in the city. Built 134 years ago (that’s 1879), Treble Hall has been undergoing a full-haul restoration by owner Jeff Feswick of Historia Restoration. Moulin Rouge, a French-inspired café and clothing store, occupies two of Treble’s street-level retail spaces. A bit of Paris in Hamilton? Why not?

Just across the street from Treble Hall you’ll see Downtown Bike Hounds, which a few years back made the move to John (relocating from Cannon and James streets). Maybe owner Sean Burak had the same inklings of optimism about John that I do. Regardless, every downtown needs an urban bicycle shop and bike rental place in its core. Next to Bike Hounds is the tasty and always busy My Thai restaurant that has been going strong for a decade already.

If you are old enough to remember taking a dinner “vacation” to the Grotta Azzurra at the Capri Ristorante Italiano — a destination-themed restaurant from the ’60s — then you’ll know the Capri is a Hamilton fixture. Although the second floor “grotto” is no longer open, Capri is still serving up classic pizza and pasta on its main floor.

Recent to the block is my new favourite art gallery, the Nathaniel Hughson Gallery. The gallery features some fabulous established Ontario artists. It’s named after one of Hamilton’s city founders, who at one time owned much of the prime downtown real estate from James to Mary streets and from Main to the bay.

At King William and John is Lulu’s, serving one of the best shawarmas in the city. If you haven’t tried their chicken shawarma, you’ve been missing out.

There are many new and old businesses on John, ranging from shoe repair, hair weave and beauty supply to the London Tap House, a Greek restaurant, Korean BBQ and Chinese hotpot. They’re all — a pretty amazing and eclectic mix — on just these two downtown Hamilton blocks.

Let’s be honest: John, like much of downtown Hamilton, still has a long way to go. But I’m optimistic and excited to see these changing downtown streets start to take shape. I hope one day to see streets like James North, King William, John and King — all of them coming back to life — start to connect together. Imagine that, a full chunk of our city core hustling and bustling like it did back in the day.

Some may say my optimism, and my daydreams of the Hamilton I want to see, show me to be naïve. Perhaps I am. But how will Hamilton ever change if we don’t start to see the potential for all that we’ve already got?

Hamilton, you’ve got a soft spot in my heart. I’m here for the long haul.

 

This article was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, March 16th 2013. You can see the article from The Spec website here.

 

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