short + sweet

I’ll make this post short and sweet.

The other day Steve was a baking master and made four whole pies -two peach and two meat!

The peach pie was made with fresh, local and in season peaches.  So yum!

It was one of the best peach pies I’ve ever had and perfectly paired with a mega scoop of Dr. Scoop Icecreamist Vanillaallin; salted caramel swirl.

I was happy to have finally made it out to the Ottawa Street market to buy some of Dr. Scoop’s infamously delicious ice-cream.  It was Ciara Brennan’s last day selling her organic and handmade ice-cream for this summer season.  Got some just in the nick of time!

In addition to the Vanillaallin I also picked up a Cinnamon Peach.  So amazing!

bishop park

Some of my favourite evenings of this summer were spent at Bishop Park in the Stinson neighbourhood.

Every Thursday evening from July 7th until August 25th the neighbourhood surrounding Bishop Park gathered to hear some fabulous live music.  Songs from the Bishop showcased local Hamilton musical talent from the likes of Terra Lightfoot of the Dinner Belles to Adam Bentley from The Rest plus many other fabulously talented musical acts.

The times I’ve gone the crowd has varied from about a hundred people to an intimate gathering of neighbourhood folk. People seemed to know each other. They’d gather on the park benches, on the grass or on lawn chairs to sit back and take in the musical act of that particular Thursday evening.

In the canopied shade of Bishop Park we would sing along whenever we could.  Kids often busted out into awesome dance moves and routines, and overall there was just a real sense of community and neighbourliness.

I loved how the late summer sun was sinking behind the trees, and you could just tell the summer season was coming to a close.

The most recent concert I saw in Bishop Park was the last one of the summer.  Adam Bentley, who was integral in putting on Songs of the Bishop, played for us. His voice is so beautiful and it carried wonderfully in the open air -almost hauntingly.  It was a different sound and a real treat to hear Adam sing in bare bones form -without the ambiant wall of sound (from his band The Rest) that usually accompanies him.

I only ever made it out to two evenings of the Songs from the Bishop and wish I’d come out for more. I really do hope that next year the concert series continues.

I love all the secret little things that are happening in Hamilton all the time.  It makes me adore where we live and gets me excited for what new creative initiatives we will discover in the months and years to come!

I leave you with a little music from Hamilton’s The Rest.  They do have a new album out so go out and get yours!

 

fiesta forever…

I would say that we’re no traditionalists when it comes to baby showers and other such celebrations.  So when my sister and friend offered to plan a “baby shower” they made sure it would be as unorthodox of a shower as you could get.  We went with the theme of a fiesta! I couldn’t have thought of a more fun and colourful way to celebrate.

Collaboratively we gathered up, bought and made fiesta decorations for the house and yard which were fabulously vibrant.  Everything looked so beautiful! The weather cooperated and it was proper summer hot and breezy.

Setting up pre-fiesta, with morning sun shining in.

frida kahlo drink coasters, fiesta wedding, fiesta baby shower

Loved the Frida Kahlo drink coasters!

Lavender, mint lemonade with lemon ice pucks.

We had a tub of cold cerveza, Mexican pop, and sangria. And of course a party would also not be complete without… tequila!

Since we already had our friends and family in attendance, and since there was great food, drinks, and lovely decorations up -Steve and I had thought to ourselves why not combine this baby-fiesta with non other than a SURPRISE WEDDING!! And that’s just what we did.

It was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.  I loved seeing the expressions of shock on everyone’s faces, followed by tears, exclamations, and hooting and hollering.  We had such a fabulous day celebrating AND not to mention I felt content having escaped the pressures and stress that all come when you plan an unsurprise wedding.  There were people that of course we would’ve liked to have invited and would’ve travelled from a far to celebrate with us but this surprise wedding really made everything so simple and brought it back down to the basic crux of the matter -we got married and we had so much fun doing it!!

fiesta wedding, surprise wedding

 

i’ll say it just this once…

baby-moon.

With only a month and a half left before our baby’s due date Steve and I decided to take some advice from our friends who have children, and go on a mini-vacation just the two of us (before we lose this privilege for what many claimed would be an eternity). It was also really just a great excuse to escape from the city for some real relaxation: no computers, no phones, just good food, pool side swims, afternoon snoozes and time to enjoy the fleeting moments of summer and life as just the two of us.

Not wanting to go too far we looked into a few inns around Niagara on the Lake but opted instead for something a little more out of the summer wine country tourist trap area and alas we came upon Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario!

Taking only the country back-roads it took us just less than 45 minutes by car from downtown Hamilton to reach this little 100 something year old country estate and oasis.

The grounds of the inn were quite beautiful, and included tennis courts, croquet course, heated outdoor pool, vegetable garden, pond, 12km of wooded trails (for hiking or biking), plus a spa with free access to their sauna, hot tub, and steam room.

They had a gorgeous vegetable garden that Steve and I drooled over at length.  Purple plum tomatoes, bell peppers, purple kale, and pumpkins ripe on the vine already!

A little pool side reading that I had picked up from Mixed Media (thanks Dave!).

I frequently get told that I’m carrying small so as luck would have it I could still fit into this dress and I think I may have just made the cut for the Langdon Hall dinner dress code (dinner at Langdon Hall was a formal affair: no denim or shorts, and a suit jacket is recommended)!

The food was devine, delicate and ornately beautiful. We sampled some snow crab with edible flowers, raw elk with oyster (Steve sampled that), duck, beef, dessert or a choice of sampling from the cheese cart of exclusively gourmet Canadian cheeses, and then again more dessert.

A three course dinner came with our hotel stay plus a gorgeous country breakfast in the morning. If you so fancied you could get a seven course meal with wine pairings, as well as pairings of scotches, brandy or cognacs to go with your gourmet cheeses and dessert sampling platter.

I have to admit this was an extravagant visit and we will likely not indulge in something so exquisite again for a long time. I don’t think I would’ve been able to comfortably camp this summer so a fancy hotel was our ONLY alternative -right?  I am sure that we’ll make up for it for many years to come when our summers will be spent camping and exploring the far reaching corners and wilderness of Canada and the US -sounds pretty dreamy to me!

*Langdon Hall Country House & Spa, 1 Langdon Drive, Cambridge, Ontario, 519.740.2100

the upholstery man

I had the great pleasure a short while ago of meeting a very interesting man.

His upholstery shop was closing after over half a century of service in Hamilton.  I was fortunate enough to take a peak at his old shop and to spend some time hearing his stories.

During my visits he showed me some of the most beautiful hand painted and embroidered spools of fabric purchased from back in the heydays of New York City -the designer’s name hand painted onto the end of the fabric on each bolt.  He was selling the bolts for only $30-50 each -they must’ve been a pretty penny back in the day. When I went to visit him for a second day he had mentioned that just after I had left some folks from the textile museum stopped in to take photos of the fabric and do some documentation.  He said he felt a bit like a movie star! I had wished that we weren’t in the process of purging and decluttering our home otherwise I would have taken at least 1-2 bolts off his hands without a doubt.

He seemed to be 80+ years old but with his wits and humour still abound.  He knew very well how to price the items he was selling. There were some great antique pieces that needed to be gone by the end of the week. An old medicine cabinet, wooden farm chairs, and wooden trunk plus many other pieces being over 100+ years old (and priced at over $100).  He was sure to sell to some real antique buyers -no garage sale steals to be had here. And those pieces did sell.

I really felt like I could’ve visited the shop everyday that it was to remain open (there were only 5 days left until everything had to be out). I felt quite enchanted with the store’s history as well as the life of the shop owner.  The last day I visited was to pick up the least antique like thing in the shop.  Steve and I bought a shelf unit that would fit our record collection perfectly as well as our newly purchased TV (first TV purchase ever!).  While Steve went to get the dolly from our house to wheel the shelf back home I chatted with the upholsterer.  I felt a kind of sadness for shops similar to this one with such history rooted in Hamilton -all the stories he had and people he’d met throughout his life in the city that would soon be lost or never told.  I wanted to hear about everything: how the city had changed, how and why he ended up in Hamilton… I intended on coming back every day that week, but for some reason didn’t make it back.  The store is now empty and closed.

I hope one day that I run into the upholsterer again…

the real instagram

The past 9 months have been dedicated to organizing, sorting and purging all in preparation for our little one that’s due to arrive in 4 weeks (ahh!). Thus far we’ve managed to sort through a ton of stuff which has been tough.

Let it be known that Steve and I like to collect things, and by that I mean things that we have carted around with us from place to place (for years) with the hopes of one day fixing, using, or just holding on to for the sake of nostalgia.

Take this polaroid camera for example.

What a beaut!

We had one. It’s now gone (sniffle, wipe tear).  Alas, we had no film for it -whaddya do just keep on holding on simply for its vintage coolness factor?  Yeah -duh.  Well we let it go…

I did come across my Japanese version of a compact polaroid called a Cheki that I picked up while living there about a decade ago.  It still works, and I thankfully still have some film. So it made the “to keep” pile, and I already have plans to put it to good use.

There have been other golden treasures that we’ve sorted through, many of which we’ve kept others which have moved on.  I’ll be sure to continue posting these relics from the past as the organization process continues.

vintage garden tea room

When a friend suggested a summer tea reading at the Vintage Garden Tea Room just off of Locke Street, I could not say no; fresh scones, devonshire clotted cream, preserves, lavender lemonade and a tea reading to boot!

I do love dainty things like afternoon tea, and I do like checking out places I’ve never been to.  I just may have visited this tea shop way back when it was directly on Locke Street but that was over 8 years ago, and I’m not even sure if it was the same tea shop -in any case the location on Pine just east of Locke was a first for me, and it was lovely.

 Vintage Garden Tea Room, Hamilton

vintage salt and pepper shakers

 

There were a lot of ladies there for high tea, with a small speckle of the men-folk.  The atmosphere was abuzz with quite a stir and chatter as tables received their tea leaf readings. There were also hats and other fancies that if you so desired you could don to add to the dramatic flare of afternoon tea time.

This was my first tea reading, and I must say that I was thoroughly impressed.  I’m not necessarily one for psychics and the sort, however in the past few years I have had a couple of tarot card readings at showers and bachelorettes that have intrigued me.  This tea reading was by far the best!  For $12 the resident tea leaf reader Sandee doesn’t mess around: she’s direct, gets to the point, and doesn’t do a lot of seeking or prodding.  She tells it like it is, with specific time frames and scenarios for how your future might just play out.  I won’t reveal my reading (although it was interesting!) you’ll have to go and get one yourself.

Readings are done on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am-2:15pm with the highly recommended suggestion to reserve a table and reading before hand.

Vintage Garden Tea Room, Hamilton, Ontario

Sorry about the picture of the half eaten scone -we couldn't resist some sampling before I got around to photo taking.

 

You can go for the full English High Tea spread complete with cucumber sandwiches and sweet treats.  We opted for a Cream Tea, which came with the most delicious and fresh scone, clotted cream and preserves plus a pot of loose leaf tea of your choice.

Vintage Garden Tea Room, Hamilton, Ontario

 

*Vintage Garden Tea Room, 35 Pine Street, 905.523.8282, Tues-Sat. 11-4

 

the ‘other’ side of downtown

The boundaries of what I consider downtown Hamilton are somewhat arbitrary. Downtown for me is often defined by the radius of wherever I can walk 15 to 20 minutes from my neighbourhood.

This usually means walking 15-20 minutes toward the core, as into Gore Park, Jackson Square, the Farmers Market, and James Street North. I do venture east on King Street on occasion to pick up some German delicacies from Denninger’s or to peek into J.H. Gordon Books. But for the most part I find that I rarely continue to walk east past the infamous steel Downtown Hamilton archway at King and Wellington. The gateway so boldly implies that wherever you were just east of Wellington, you weren’t downtown.

On foot I don’t often explore beyond this imaginary boundary unless it’s through the Stinson neighbourhood side streets (a more picturesque and relaxing route for walking). Travelling outside the designated “downtown” area more often than not calls for transportation by car, bus or if I’m feeling dangerous and daring by bicycle — whatever mode of transport that offers the quickest way to travel through the main thoroughfares such as Main or King Streets.

There’s no need to stop, to dawdle, or look at storefronts (what storefronts?). Just keep on keeping on; this isn’t downtown and there’s not much going on. Right?

As I drive from east to west on King along some of the roughest patches of road in the city, bumping along the potholes, I sometimes sneak quick-second glances at the old buildings and seemingly abandoned storefronts. I imagine a time when this “dejected” part of downtown was considered part of the whole, when it must’ve hustled and bustled like the rest of King Street once did.

There’s a part of me that is intrigued by this “other” downtown side of King East, similar to how much of Hamilton pulls at my heartstrings. I’m a nostalgic optimist who gets caught up in daily fantasies about Hamilton’s past and potential future. What can I say?

On a recent hot and dry summer afternoon I decided to get to know King Street East on a more intimate level. I took a long walk way down King East — waaaaay past Wellington and its Downtown Hamilton sign.

An almost immediate and obvious observation was the street broadening to accommodate the four and five lanes of car traffic. It felt like I was in a different world. As the traffic moved with the timed traffic lights I felt the ebbing and flowing of the one-way King Street traffic blowing by me, and then leaving eerie ghost-town-like gaps of four-lane emptiness.

But as I walked, I could tell that once there was a time when this leg of King Street was alive and thriving. Its buildings have the height and stature of a proper downtown cityscape. There are storefronts and neighbourhoods north and south that have some real character and charm.

For a little extra read on the Carlton Tavern (it’s for sale) click here.  Paul Wilson writes about the soon to close Tavern.

This whole strip of King feels like it was lost in some bizarre time warp from the ’60s and ’70s — perhaps that’s when businesses started to falter and pack up for the ‘burbs?

Having grown up in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was reminded of Sesame Street — or New York in that era: slightly gritty, with that rusty kind of soft-focused haze that all things filmed during that time have. There were lots of automotive and used car dealerships with those old shiny tinsel banners (see my post on that here), closed up and abandoned storefronts with For Sale or For Rent signs.

I did pass by a few places that seem to hold it down on King East, like the classy Newman’s Menswear established in 1927, Rebel’s Rock Irish Pub, plus a few other restaurants and eateries. I noted a music therapy practice called Fermata that stood out and was looking fresh and new.

King East does have signs of life. The people I passed were friendly, said their hellos and waved as I snapped my photos. I do believe it has the potential to one day become something more than just buildings most people speed by in their cars. Maybe one day the storefronts will again start to cater to the surrounding neighbourhoods by providing practical stores and destinations found in other thriving communities — say a bakery, a deli, a library, a doctor’s office or a mom-and-pop grocery store.

On my way back west on King, I sat for a moment in the shade by the fountain in the parkette (a miniature Gore Park) across from the First Place building at Wellington. I had a great view of the two different and divided worlds of King East.

I wondered if and when these two seemingly opposite “downtown” city spaces would ever merge into one.

I hope that the bravery to set up new shops and try out new things continues along King East as it has in many other arteries of the city like James North, Locke, Ottawa and Concession streets. It is a nice chunk of city that needs just a little love and appreciation.

 

This post was originally printed in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, August 4th 2012 -you can find it here.

market pit stop to guelph

Typically on a Sunday, if heading to Guelph for a visit, we would’ve likely made a stop at the Aberfoyle Antique Market.  But having recently come to know of Mizener’s Antiques & Flea Market (while en route to a day trip to Christie Conservation Area earlier in the week) we thought it would be nice to check out another market that just so happens to be a short 10-15 minutes drive from Hamilton.

It is definitely a scaled down version of Aberfoyle with cheaper prices, fewer people, and a needed keen eye to find those vintage gems.  Mizener’s is the perfect kind of place for breezing through in and hour or two leaving ample time for visits to surrounding areas: local farms, Webster’s Falls, Christie Conservation Area, or wherever it is you’re heading to.

While at Mizener’s we stopped for a classic market bite to eat: peameal bacon on a bun, and fresh cut fries. AND we found a steal of a deal with a stall that was getting rid of its inventory of antiques -an already priced to go vintage 60′s dresser with 40% off.  We grabbed it for $25 dollars just barely fitting it into the car.

Here it is in its new home in our bedroom (the dresser I had before was from when I was a kid, it was definitely time for an upgrade).

We got to Guelph with time for a pit stop for ice-cream at the Boathouse Tea Room before heading to a backyard BBQ for our friend’s birthday.

I sometimes forget that when we go to Guelph to visit this crew of friends that the ratio of children tends to exceed the number adults.  At this particular event I believe that there were over twenty kids under the age of six! The backyard was perfectly suited for little ones, painting, dirt, shovels, a wheelbarrow -what more could a kid want?

When it was time to get the BBQ going the call went out for little hands to help in shucking the corn.  The kids were so awesome and enthusiastic to lend a hand.  SO adorable seeing nearly twenty little hands shucking away. That corn was ready to go in no time!  Oh sweet summer corn.  We feasted on tandori burgers, sausage, sweet corn, and a homemade blackforest cake! A perfect summer time feast -thanks so much for the BBQ Ben and Christina!!

bling on king

I’d been wanting to take a photo of this glitzy and glamours “WASH ME CAR WASH” sign on King Street East for a long time.  I love how sparkly it is. The other day when I was walking by it was shimmering in the sun and I couldn’t resist snapping a shot.

I guess you could say this is a bit of mini sneak-peak of an article that I’m writing for The Hamilton Spectator about King Street East, which should be coming out soon. While walking around taking pictures for the article I found myself getting slightly caught up with all the bling of the old used car and auto dealerships on this drag of King Street. Like what is this 1982!?  I even found a car to fit the era by happenstance in a random parking lot!

I find it so strange that King East is still workin’ the car thing like gas is .20 cents a litre.

I’m not a car connoisseur or a lover of cars -we own a ’95 pontiac- whatever gets you around town right?  But yet somehow I am nostalgic for what memories these used car dealerships were bringing back for me.  The smell of used car, hot asphalt penetrating through my flipflops and the sun beating down and catching little wisps of that used car lot tinsel -it reminds me a little of summers as a kid.  The hot burning feeling of fake leather vinyl  as I gingerly took my spot in the back seat (of course there was no A/C and I had an older sister so I never got shotgun), the too hot to touch metal of my seatbelt buckle (which by the way may or may not have been buckled up -it was the 80′s!), and the many popsicles that were eaten sitting on the massive hood of our green beast of a station wagon.

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