One evening in late spring Erika McMeekin (aka The Academy of All Things Awesome) and I took an evening bike ride around the lower city. We were floating out a whim of an idea to uncover some real Hamilton gems. Now there’s is nothing that I love more than exploring this city but roaming it together with someone who’s brimming with optimistic enthusiasm was really pretty energizing. We found ourselves perched on various rooftops admiring different vantage points of the city. Eventually we made our way through the grounds of Dundurn castle, and across McQuesten bridge peeking out from lookouts and gaps where the trees parted in search of a rumoured secret garden. A few times we took wrong turns down different trails that lead to nowhere (all part of the adventure). It was an eerily breathtaking sight to finally find ourselves standing in an overgrown and lush green modern day ruin. I’ve got to give thanks to my Hamilton writing hero Paul Wilson who wrote about the Sunken Garden, which is what led us to check out the forgotten space ourselves. As the evening was starting to stretch its way across the bay we biked through Hamilton’s oldest cemetery looking in awe at the old epitaphs, and admiring the ornate and beautiful mausoleums. From downtown rooftops, secret gardens, to Bayfront Park, roller skating and sunset views throughout the city; the minute we started peddling around town Erika and I were scheming plans for future adventures. Our first ride out was a super awesome way to kick off the start to summer. This one evening of exploring turned into a series of summer time bike rides. We wove our way from east to west, up the escarpment and down, on foot and by bike, with a road trip to Dundas and the mountain to confirm urban legends of secret lakes, the best peanut butter cookies, and an abandoned obstacle course. Not everything was as glamourous as we’d imagined in our minds but some places were breathtaking and made us fall in love with this city a million times over. The best part about hanging with Erika on these adventures is that she actually puts these lofty city daydreams into action in the form of super cool events through The Academy of All Things Awesome (check them out!). But most importantly all this Hamilton exploring actually culminated into an amazing collaborative project between myself, Erika, and fab friend and illustrator Jacqui Oakley. Stay tuned for more posts later this week and for a sneak peak of the project. Can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to! You’re going to loooooove it. Trust me –you’ll want first dibs.
It’s around this time in spring, where lawns are greening in fluffy tufts of yet-to-be cut grass, starlings start their chirping at ungodly early morning hours and blossoms –oh the blossoms start to appear!
One of my favourite neighbourhoods to have a wander about is the Durand neighbourhood. Especially when I’m into daydreaming about how my life might be like if I was rich and lived in one of those insanely gorgeous old manors.
I consider Durand to be a downtown neighbourhood. It’s tucked behind city hall and pushed up back against the escarpment. The houses are not all castle-like mansions like on Ravenscliffe. Durand has an amazing mix of turn of the century apartments: 1960′s highrises, manors, and stone terrace row houses like Sandyford place on Duke (Hamilton’s limsestone version of Brooklyn Brownstones).
In spring I like to take an intentional trip to walk these streets and soak up all that is spring. The magnolia trees are especially breathtaking. Some of these trees are so old; their branches reaching wide and weighted heavily with blossoming magnolia pinks, white, yellow and purple.
I also love the ornate details on so many of the houses (especially on Bay) conical roofs, rounded windows, and slate or cedar shingles. Fine features that you just don’t see in every neighbourhood. I wonder about the houses that were levelled to build the highrises and city hall. And I think about Whitehern and how it’s just an island of historic refuge in the midst of redevelopment that must’ve hit the Durand neighbourhood all in one fatal swoop in the 60′s. If you’ve never checked out Whitehern’s secret little garden, then you should. It’s got beautiful ferns, and magnolias that would do for the perfect urban spring picnic.
Sometimes I wish that spring in Ontario was a full four months; slow and gradual as opposed to how jarring it can often be. You know, snow storm one week and the next hot enough for shorts and sandals. But I shouldn’t be complaining. Spring is here at last!
If you’re looking for something to do on a weekend to enjoy this fine spring weather (with kids or without) I highly recommend checking out Crawford Lake; a reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian Village.
Whether you want to visit the old Iroquois Longhouses (which are actually super cool) or just got for a hike around the lake itself it is ALL worth checking out.
We went during maple syrup season on an unseasonably warm day in March. The sap was literally dripping out of their tree-taps like a leaky faucet.
Our main mission for the morning was to wander around the lake via the lovely wooden boardwalk that circles around its entire circumference.
We packed a picnic and along with some friends we made a great morning treading along the 1.4km trail taking in the various vantage points and views of the deep deep lake.
The lake is unique in that its depth is deeper than its surface area and it is also a meromictic; meaning it has layers of its water that do not intermix.
I want to come back again to spend some more time exploring the Longhouses. And one day maybe we’ll venture for the longer 4-5 hour hike via the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail to Rattle Snake Point and back.
*Crawford Lake, 3115 Conservation Road, Milton, 905.854.0234
With summer nearly here the gardens are all a bloom and I’m dreaming of a day when my garden might swell with fragrant blossoms as unique and beautiful as the collection of flora that Jessica Hunter’s A Fine Medley‘s flower shop carries.
Throughout the day I kept seeing these amazing A Fine Medley floral arrangements on my Instragram feed (you can see some of the bouquets arranged that day on Jessica’s beautifully curated blog -right here!).
Just short of the last 10 minutes left of the shop being open, I managed to eject myself out of the cozy warm comforts of my house to get one of the last bouquets of the day, finally ending the torment of my late winter flower Instagram envy.
I loved the colour and composition of her arrangement. It was dark with soft romantic pops of colour, and most importantly different from the usual bouquets you might get in a more traditional flower shop.
What also makes A Fine Medley unique to other florists is that Jessica uses environmental and ethical practices. When possible she forages and grows her own plants and flowers, and uses locally sourced greenery, herbs and blossoms of the best of what is in season at the time.
Although A Fine Medley does not have a brick and mortar shop yet, you can get custom arrangements for your home, small and large events, and photo and film shoots.
If you have the chance check out at A Fine Medley’s blog -it’s all kinds of beautiful!
A the start of early spring another new place on King Street East opened up. It’s on the corner of King and Walnut Street right next to its sister store MODify Your Closet.
Around four years ago I remember enthusiastically rushing into MODify Your Closet the day it opened and speaking to owner Melanie McArthur about how happy I was about a vintage and consignment store like hers opening up on what was then a pretty vacant looking King Street.
Since then stores like Girl On the Wing, Vintage Soul Geek, and now Melanie and her business/life partner in crime Vito’s latest project… Studio 205. They’ve all taken up shop on this strip, each helping to transform the vintage and Canadian made retail landscape of King east.
In addition to being a boutique that focuses on local and Canadian made goods, Studio 205 is also a take-out espresso bar serving up barista coffees, specialty teas and my fav Hamilton’s original Grandad’s Donuts. They also carry delicate treats from local Hamilton organic bakery Made For You By Madeleine to accompany a coffee or tea to go.
Studio 205 is eclectic in the sense that is sells locally made items from hand painted shoes, to vintage typewriter key cuff-links to hats, necklaces, jewellery, feather hair fascinators, leather bags and knit goods to hand blown glass, pottery, art and fancy hats. Basically a one stop shop gift shop or place where you can find limitless ways to treat yourself to something beautiful, unique and handcrafted.
Besides selling some gorgeous goods made by Canadian artisans, Studio 205 also offers workshops like upcoming flower arranging workshop April 25th from 1-2:30pm by Mum’s Garden Floral. There are sure to be many more crafty DIY workshops that will be popping up in the future.
If you’re in the neighbourhood you should definitely stop by and check it out all that is happening in this gem of a store.
Oh and by the way… May 10 is the first of the spring/summer series of Village Station Bazaars (a hip artisan flea market, which owner Melanie helped to spearhead -she just doesn’t stop)! It’s also worth a gander and is just down the street from Studio 205! See my post from last year about it here.
Even though spring is officially here there’s still a chill in the air today, and if the mini blizzards that swept through the skies over this past weekend were any indication, we still have a little ways to go before spring comes in at full force.
In the depths of that extremely long and cold February, I decided to create a bit a spring atmosphere in the house by planting a handful of Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs.
For the past few springs I would enviously see posts up on blogs or Instragram of these beautiful blooming buds. And just when the thought of crocuses, and tulips blooming in the garden seemed like an eternity away, I figured it was high time that I got in on the Paperwhite action too. And that is just what I did.
I purchased my Paperwhite bulbs on James North from i-fiori flower shop.
Since I was a little late in the season to plant the bulbs some of them were already starting to sprout little green shoots. I was reassured that this was no problem. This was true; we had blossoms galore!
After acquiring the bulbs, I collected an assortment of vases, jars and vessels from around the house along with a little pile of smooth stones.
It was all really pretty easy:
1. Fill your receptacles with a few stones
2. Plop the bulbs on top
3. Add water until just the base of the bulb is wet
4. Place in a sunny window
5. Continue to water daily to the level of the bottom of the bulb or to cover the soon to be shooting roots
6. Observe daily as the bulbs start sprouting and shooting up
I read somewhere that you can add a little vodka to the water to avoid the toppling of stems that start to happen if they shoot up to be very long. The vodka will stunt the growth so that the stems are shorter and hardier, thus not toppling with the weight of the blossoms.
Warning: the flowers do have a pretty pungent smell. I wouldn’t necessarily call it fragrant. But I figured the smell was the price I’d have to pay to have something beautiful, blooming and spring-like in the windows for the month of February.
Well, this year I finally made it to my first ever visit to the infamous Christie Antique Show! Even though there are two opportunities a year to check it out (at the end of May and start of September) the universe seems to have always had other plans for me.
This past May my antiquing stars finally aligned when good weather combined with a well timed toddler nap allowed us to get out and wander around the antiquing grounds.
It was the perfect way to spend a sunny spring Saturday; casually perusing the variety of antiques and oddities that spanned what seemed like an endless expanse of the Christie Conservation area. In our pre-baby days we would’ve leisurely walked through the stalls and tents, stopped for a slow afternoon beer or coffee to accompany lunch and maybe even a quick nap or newspaper read under the shade of a tree before continuing on to hunt for the perfect rare treasure vintage find all before calling it a day.
However, with a little one in tow and no agenda to purchase anything in particular, the intent of our visit was to simply have a Saturday afternoon outing.
We “window shopped” and pointed out curiosities as we attempted to keep Omi entertained with his new love for dandelion seed blowing.
There were antique dealers from all around Canada selling a good mix of mid-century modern, folk art and classic Victorian pieces.
Although we’d only spent an hour or so wandering the rows and rows of stalls we’d only covered maybe one third of the whole 10 acre show before we had to call it a day and finally give in to Omi’s pleas to be free. We left empty handed and antiqueless but I had many daydreams of returning again in September.
This Saturday is the second and last Christie Antique Show for 2014. The show is one day only from 8AM-5PM rain or shine, and admission is $10 per person.
*Christie Lake Conservation Area, 1000 Highway 5 West, Dundas, 905.628.3060
Since the second summer we’ve been at our house we’ve had a backyard vegetable garden. It’s a small urban one because our yard is pretty teeny, but so far it has done the trick!
We’ve been able dabble with growing garlic, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and some herbs.
We did a quite a bit from seed this year but with multiple work and home projects on the go we also needed to supplement with a few purchased seedlings that we acquired from the Mustard Seed Co-op’s Seed Sale from a few weeks back.
In fitting with the end of Ontario’s Local Food Week, The Co-op is having their big grand opening celebration this Saturday June 7 from 12-6pm with a whole slew of local producers/vendors, face painting, live music and kids activities.
Early this spring Omi attended his very first kid birthday party.
It was one of the first warm days after the winter thaw, and we were all so keen on being outside and enjoying the non-nastiness of winter; perfect for the little ones to run around in the yard.
Carrot cake birthday cake with that cream cheese icing -yes please! These were the best homemade birthday cakes ever! The birthday boy’s grandmother made them. She even made a stacked Momufuku malt-brownie cake topped with Whoppers (my hero)!!
Two weeks ago Omi learned how to say peacock. Well, he actually says it so it sounds something more like “peatock”. In any case, I took his new adaptive use of the word as motivation for an impromptu visit to Westdale’s Friends of the Aviary, which is home to a lovely male and female peacock.
The aviary had a small crowd of weekend family visitors that casually checked out the various hens, roosters, chicks, peacocks and other fowl in their large outdoor cages. It also has an indoor coop for a variety of parrots and other small feathered friends. You can pay a small donation to help support the volunteer run aviary and enjoy the garden grounds on your visit.
Attached to the aviary grounds is the Churchill Park Community Gardens. For a small yearly fee you can till and sow your own garden. There were a lot of fairly large plots and even some espaliered fruit trees. I know a few friends that have been successfully growing their bountiful cornucopia of vegetables there yearly and they love this little spot of land.
Right by the gardens is the Ravine Road Trail entrance to Cootes Paradise. Although we were somewhat ill prepared for a proper hike, we figured we could handle a little four by four stroller trekking on the trails while taking in some of the changing spring forest landscapes.
At first the trail was mostly brown and leaf covered with little sign of spring. But then as we got further into the forest and trail we started to see bright green patches of spring time growth. I don’t know what these large green leafs were. At first I thought maybe they were lilies but they seemed too big. The leaves were huge and looked almost like giant lettuce leaves or swiss chard.
As we walked further along, the trail headed uphill towards a ridge that overlooked Cootes Paradise Marsh. As I looked across the tree line I could see little speckles of pink and red that dotted the tree branches. They were the little red and brown buds on the trees just before the fresh and new leaf greenery were to appear.
This was from two weeks back, so I bet this weekend if you were to go, the forest would be lush with bright fluorescent green bursts of new leaves and forest foliage!
I love that despite having lived in Hamilton for five years there are still plenty of places to discover and explore. With every season each of these places take on a different look and beauty that can be rediscovered again.
So looking forward to consistent warm days and the planting of our own backyard and community garden!