Knit one, knead a little

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It has been a really long time since I have written much at all.  Aside from Instagram blips here and there I really haven’t found myself with the urge to write.  Perhaps a lack of inspiration, the winter blahs and a bit of just not knowing which direction I am heading have held me back.

In January my right arm began to ache from constantly knitting in awkward positions and by early February it forced me to stop and pause.  Being away from knitting left me feeling exceptionally displaced – now what?  I needed a way to slow myself down and clearly knitting was becoming more of a hurried to do that I was causing myself pain.

In search of something new to try out I spent far too many hours on Instagram and Pinterest.  I dabbled in a few new hobbies but most were duds (to me not in life) and quite costly in a time when I really need to do my best to keep things affordable.  Single income living for a family of four is incredibly challenging.  Factoring in the above failed attempts and need to practicality I narrowed my search down.

Cue the bread baking madness that has consumed my life!  I got my hands on a copy of Bonnie Ohara’s book Bread Baking for Beginners, grabbed some of the basics from her super helpful supply list located in her profile on Instagram (linked to her website that is full of info) and just kind of dove in to it all.  The book eased me in to the art of making bread, instructing in a way that just makes sense to my directionally challenged mind.

One by one I worked my way through Bonnie’s book while following her journey on Instagram and something about it all just felt… like home.  Suddenly I had bread goals – sourdough and beyond!  Visions of feeding my family and friends deliciously healthy breads baked with love.

I never anticipated baking much more then muffins for my children but our budget wasn’t allowing the fresh handmade breads I wanted my family to enjoy and this was the solution – making it myself!  I was already accustomed to sourcing local foods including flours from places like Oak Manor and Arva Flour Mills so I knew I had basic good quality nutrient dense ingredients on hand to give it my absolute best shot.

One by one I worked my way through Bonnie’s book while following her journey on Instagram.  Something about it all – the way she communicates her passion and her story, her love for community – all of it… it feels like home.  Suddenly I have bread goals as I work through sourdough experiments and beyond!  Visions of feeding my family and friends deliciously healthy breads baked with love.

I’ve since been able to return to knitting and am now happily balancing the pair with all of my other life duties.  I am incredibly thankful for stumbling in to the bread life and will continue to grow and challenge myself with it as I do with knitting.

I have no idea where I am headed in any of it but I am thoroughly enjoying every stitch and every fold as I go along.

If you have any interest in bread baking I highly recommend Bread Baking for Beginner’s.  This is my honest to goodness opinion with no strings attached.  Bonnie is good people and deserves all the love.

JESSICA

Links to the above mentioned businesses:

Alchemy Bread Website

Arva Flour Mill Website

Oak Manor Website

* Both Arva and Oak Manor Flour can be purchased direct from the businesses or from retailers such as the Mustard Seed Coop in Hamilton, Ontario.  Cake and Loaf Bakery in Hamilton also carries a handful of Oak Manor items in their Dundurn shop.

 

 

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’tis the season – thinking small

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It has been quite a while since I have written anything here but I really wanted to share some of my shops/spots I love or would like to check out myself this season because they seem lovely as can be!  There are far too many fabulous places to list so this is just a snippet.  Most are greater Hamilton area though others are a little further away but still very drivable!

There are plenty of coffee shops/cafes in that offer gift cards, coffee beans, tea, brewing equipment or treats you could grab along with a cup of something delicious on the go for that special host/hostess in your life from one of these wonderful places!

#HamOnt :

  • Cake and Loaf – Dundurn and the Farmer’s Market (baked goods are the market focus AND in December you can find packaged goodies at Limeridge Mall in their  holiday pop up!)
  • Relay Coffee Concession St and the Farmer’s Market
  • Durand Coffee – Corner of Charlton and Caroline
  • Emerald coffee Co. – Barton St E
  • The Cannon – Ottawa St N
  • Cafe Orange – King St E
  • Ward IV Coffee Bar – Main St E
  • Mulberry Coffee House – James St N
  • Donut Monster – Locke St S
  • The Mustard Seed Cafe – York Blvd

#HamOntDogFriendly :

  • My Dogs Cafe – Locke St S
  • Munchies Coffee Housed Barkery – Upper Gage Ave

#VeganHamOnt :

  • Democracy – Locke St S
  • The Hearty Hooligan – Ottawa St N

#Burlington :

  • Kelly’s Bake Shop (also Vegan!) – Brant St
  • The Sunshine Doughnut Company – Brock Ave

#Dundas :  Detour Cafe – King St W

#Simcoe :  Joy Cafe and Bakery – Robinson St

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Dining out is also a holiday favourite for many!  Taking those special to you, out for dinner or giving them a gift card so they can go after the seasonal rush is always welcomed.

#HamOnt :

  • Mattson & Co. – Locke St S
  • The West Town Bar & Grill – Locke St S
  • Hambrgr Hamilton – King William St + Ottawa St N
  • The Burnt Tongue – Cannon St E + Locke St S
  • Twin Elephants – Fennell Ave E
  • Patties Burger Bar – Rymal Rd E
  • The French – King William
  • Aberdeen Tavern – Aberdeen
  • Shorty’s Pizza – Cannon St E

#HamOntVegan : Boon Burger – Ottawa St N

#Burlington : Bitehaus Bistro – Guelph Line

#MountHope :  The Pigeon (Catering and Takeaway) – Homestead Drive (Near Hamilton Airport)

#Cayuga :  Twisted Lemon Restaurant – Norton St W

#Oakville :  West End Social – Lakeshore Rd W

#StoneyCreek : Rony’s – Gray Rd

You can find so many other awesome spots to eat on blogs like Hamilton Small Fries – hamiltonsmallfries.com, TasteHamOnt – tastehamont.com, Hungry in the Hammer –hungryinthehammer.blogspot.com

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Other yummy options for gift boxes/baskets and more!

#HamOnt :

  • Hello Baked Sugar Shop – Barton St E
  • Dundurn Market – Dundurn St
  • The Mustard Seed Co Op – York Blvd
  • East Hamilton Cheese Company – Ottawa St N

#Ancaster :

  • The Little Gourmet – Hatton Dr
  • Tajmahal Spices & Cheese – Wilson St E

#Dundas:

  • Beanermunky Chocolate – King St W
  • Picone Fine Food – King St W

#Waterdown :

  • Harrington Lane Farm Village Shop – Main St S
  • Beanermunky Chocolate – Main St S

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Perhaps you haven’t had a chance to make it out to one of the holiday markets this season but you really want a unique or made with love gift!  These fine places are either shops or makers you can purchase that special something from.

#HamOnt :

#Ancaster :  Black & Smith – Jerseyville Rd W

#Dundas :

  • The Made in Canada Store – King St W
  • The Handmade House – Foundry St

#Mississauga :  Whiskey Tan – whiskeytan.com

#Norfolk :  The Shop at Sweetwater – Cockshutt Rd

#PortColburne : Kayla Marie Ceramics – Clarence St

#StCatherines :  Shed Pottery – Pelham Rd

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There are great shopping options for that creative maker in your life too!

#HamOnt :

  • Needlework – James St N
  • Handknit Yarn – James St N
  • Hello Stella Fibres – hellostella.ca

#Ancaster :  Needle Emporium -Wilson St E

#Westdale :  Mixed Media Shop – King St W

#LocalPatternMakers :

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One of my favourite gifts to receive is a book.  Nothing beats flipping through actual pages of text!

#HamOnt – James Street Bookseller – James St S, J.H. Gordon Books – King St E, Epic Books – Locke St S

#Waterdown :  Pickwick Books – Dundas St E

#Westdale :  King W. Books – King St W

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Last but not least for the flower lover on your list why not check out the stunning work of House of Penney on Barton St E or order something spectacular from Thuya Boutique Online!

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I hope this was somewhat helpful and that you find the perfect gifts for those near and dear this holiday season!  I will share all of these fantastic places on Instagram and I will share other places I love that are further away over the next week!

Happy Shopping/Eating/Sipping!

JESSICA

 

Whiskey Tan + Wally’s new collar

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Several months ago I contacted Whiskey Tan about their beautiful handmade collars!  The trouble was Wally is a restless spirit who really hates being tinkered with in anyway so buckling up a nice traditional collar wasn’t a great option.  Chantel, the wonderful human behind Whiskey Tan, told me to leave it with her and she would see what she could come up with.

Before I knew it I received a message that adding a quick release was completely do-able and she would be happy to make Wally a custom collar!  I was so excited!  All the details such as width, length, colour etc were sorted out and Wally’s collar was quickly in the works.

This past weekend I received the collar and was blown away with the exceptional craftsmanship.  Everything about it is just perfect!  The whole process was so easy and I am happy to have been able to support such a great local (greater HamOnt/TO area) business.  Another bonus is a portion of every sale goes to various animal shelters!

If you are on the market for a well made dog collar I suggest you check out the Whiskey Tan website to see what options are available!  And not to worry, if you aren’t local your collar can be shipped right to you so you don’t miss out.

 

Thanks for reading and happy shopping!

JESSICA

 

 

 

 

Back to the basics

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We are already in to 2018 and so far I have been rather productive!  I am not a traditional resolution maker – in the past I have just disappointed myself after failing 3wks in to a new year and who needs that?!  So I set a mental goal list instead.  One that is loose and flexible so it is almost always obtainable.

This year my goals involve making wearable items.  I intend to knit a pair of socks and knit or sew one wearable item a month.  These things can be started in the previous months, can be larger items like pants or smaller like a hat (which I need) but the idea is I will wind up with a solid collection of handmade items to choose from at the end of the year!

January has been full of handmade.  I completed my Sew House Seven toaster sweater with a gorgeous knit I bought at Needlework, and I knitted a pair of socks and a scarf out of gorgeous Canadian hand dyed yarn from Hello Stella.  Here’s hoping I can keep up the pace!

Aside from making I also intend to me more mindful of items I purchase.  Do I need it?  How was it manufactured?  Is the carbon footprint created in it’s process really worth it?  These are the questions I am asking myself.

As a single income family it is a challenge as things made in a more ethical and environmentally sensitive fashion also come with a larger but well justified price tag.  That is where making comes in handy and shopping second hand.  Thinking of each and every item as a carefully selected piece vs just another “thing”.

We are a wildly stuff driven society and I have become accutely aware of this issue as a consumer.  When the kids were babies I was completely caught up in the “oh I need that” realm of baby world but ultimately we used maybe an eighth of what we had.  And we were broke with a bunch of useless stuff.

Having school age children can make things a little harder.  They see what their friends have and it makes you feel like they should have them too.  I am guilty of this.  So when I am out and about I might grab that package of miniature whatever’s the kids might like but I am learning to put it back more often than not.  It isn’t always easy but I remind myself that it isn’t this “stuff” they will remember anyhow.  It is the moments.  The card games.  The late night movies.  Those are the things I really remember from my own childhood and I know it’s what my children will reflect on when they too are grown.

Writing is something I also intend to make more time for.  I have a sweet project in the works with a dear friend and have already submitted my Spring 2018 article for Live Small Town Magazine!  I look forward to seeing where my written works lead me in the year ahead.

Lets not forget about nature!  Getting outdoors amongst the trees, chirping birds, beautiful landscape and enjoying the peaceful solitude.  I intend to turn to nature more this year for inspiration, it has a lot to offer and is so good for the soul.

Making things, mindful consumption, more writing and getting back to nature is a great way to summarize my 2018 vision and so far I’m off to a great start!

I hope January is treating you well!

JESSICA

 

 

Hello Stella

IMG_0964I’m not really sure how exactly I happened upon Hello Stella on Instagram but I’m so glad I did!  Lindsay is a Hamilton yarn dyer who uses Canadian wool base yarns. The colour ways she offers are brilliant and unique which is likely what drew me in!  A maker with a kind heart and solid passion for what she does.

My first purchase was a skein of ziggy with the intention of making socks!… They took a back seat to Christmas gift making but the yarn is beautifully soft and the colour way – just gorgeous.  It’s so fun watching it unfold as the socks are being worked up!

The 12 Days of Christmas yarn box was one the biggest hand dyed yarn lot I have ever bought.  And it was entirely worth it.  The box was packed with 12 adorable muslin bags each holding a skein with a hand stamped number tag.  I had every intention of opening them up one by one but with a warm sunny December 1st I decided to open them up and snap their pictures!

Some of you likely followed along on instagram where I posted daily but for those who didn’t the following lovelies were in this glorious box of 12 mini skeins – that is a LOT of yarn!  Harvest, tidal, OZ, Lazarus, persimmon, china girl, fox in the snow, purl grey, balsam, London fog, ziggy and bohemian were all a part of this festive collection!

It was a major splurge but if I am going to splurge on something, I would much rather support a fantastic small biz like Hello Stella.  I look forward to the post Christmas making calm when I can start to use the yarn for a special something just for me!  I really hope to get my hands on some worsted and big stella in the near future for some other projects I have in mind too!

If you knit or crochet and love supporting local talent check out Hello Stella!  You won’t be disappointed.

Happy Making!

JESSICA

December Happenings!

bowsI have been really busy “making” Christmas but I have a few things coming up that I thought I would share!

Holiday shopping guide for gifts!  A post similar to last year with some suggestions to help you find the perfect gift for friends and family in the greater Hamilton area.  I’m hoping to post that by the end of this week!

Hello Stella 12 Days of Christmas Blog Post sooooon!  If you love yarn + gorgeous Canadian hand dyed yarn Hello Stella’s work is beautiful!  Lindsay is an artisan gem in the city and I can’t wait to share her work with you!

December 4th is the press release for the Live Small Town Magazine’s winter edition!  It will be available online that day with hard copies to follow!

“Favourite Things” Holiday giveaway on Instagram!  The date is yet to be determined but I am going to host a giveaway featuring places I love for their warm customer service and quality products to celebrate this festive season!

I also intend to share some of the baking stories and crafting projects I do with Lilah and Max throughout December but there is always a chance time will pass me by far to quickly 😉 .

That’s all for now!

JESSICA

CSA love + Matz Fruit Barn

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As some of you know I have been participating in Matchbox Garden’s CSA for a few years now.  I love the weekly drive out to Caledonia and throughout the summer the kids and I stop and wander along the river enjoying the scenery before we pick up our share.

The last two years Hanna has offered some bonus add ons such as Stasis Preserves, Lovell Spring’s Trout and Matz Fruit Barn (located in Port Dover this is a sweet little shop with a whole lot to offer).  As much as I would love to support ALL of them, I chose to add Matz Fruit Barn to our veggie share knowing the fruit would be devoured by us all!

The season started out with the usual rhubarb and strawberries and as the fruits cycled through we have had such a wide variety – from Gooseberries and raspberries to peaches and coronation grapes (a solid fave of mine) – there is always something for everyone!

Matchbox Garden experienced winter squash crop loss due to flooding in the spring so Matz will be providing it for the CSA shares!  So don’t be fooled by the name, there are loads of veggies available too!  The butternut squash from my share this week was huge and is about to become a great big batch of soup for dinner tonight and freezing for later!

One thing I really love about local farmers is how they work with one another when things like crop failure occur.  Because every year it happens on some level, after all we cannot control mother nature and she can be a finicky gal 😉 .

We are 3/4 of the way through the 2017 CSA season and I look forward to seeing what the last leg of our produce filled adventure sends our way!

If CSAs aren’t your thing I encourage you to check out Matz Fruit Barn directly, it is so important we support our local farms for a multitude of reasons and this is a gem among them!

Enjoy this lovely fall day!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer eats year round

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How is it almost September?  I seriously have no idea how this happened!  Well I do but you know what I mean.  With late summer comes some serious food storage business here, though this year I cut back on what I am saving based on last years experimentation.

I started in July with Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries – all of these I washed, flash froze and than popped in to freezer containers for use in smoothies and baked goods all winter long!

Corn and green beans were next on the list and those I froze as well.  Both of these I blanch which is a bit of a pain 😉 but really easy.  I prefer to use frozen kernels of corn in the winter vs cobs so I cut the corn off before blanching.  This also saves a lot of space in the freezer because there are no bulky cobs to accommodate.  Half of the green beans I cut to make things easier when it comes to soups and such.

*Not everyone blanches these things but I do, it helps preserve both the flavour and colour by stopping the enzymes in their tracks!  Do your research to see what is best and what meets food safety guidelines*

The last item I will be freezing is peppers, I’m expecting them soon!  They are really easy to store.  I just wash and cut them up in to desired sizes, toss them in to freezer containers and they are ready to add to chilis, soups, stews etc.  Last year was the first year I did this – Natalie and Stam Farms recommended it! – and I used them up rather quick it worked so well!

The only food I bothered canning this year was tomatoes!  33 jars of them to be exact.  I like to keep a large amount on hand because they are so versatile.  I didn’t add any herbs to them, I will add herbs I have dried from my garden and garlic I have saved from local farmers as needed.

As for where these foods I have stored came from?  All wonderful local places of course!  Most organic but not all – sometimes the budget just cannot reach an additional $30 for a bushel of something.  And this year things like tomatoes have really suffered thanks to late blight which also claimed the lives of all my plants so naturally the cost is going to be higher.

But for the most part the organic items I have gotten my hands on – with a little help from my friend Krista at Harrington Lane Farms 😉 – have been the same or better priced than the conventional bulk items.  Like the beans I just did.  Best beans ever.  SO GOOD!  And they were from a co-operative type farm system Guelph way.

I’m so happy that much of my summer favourites will be enjoyed by my family through much of winter.  It’s a true labour of love but as someone who believes strongly in supporting our local food growers I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way!

Happy Monday!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

 

For the love of hair + butterflies

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It was bright and cheery August morning, perfect for exploring nature so I headed out with the kids to the RBG to enjoy the gardens.  We walked past some gentlemen chatting on our way in to the gardens, said hello and carried on.

The gardens are exploding with life – full of butterflies, bees and other happy insects going from flower to flower carrying on as nature intended.  We are always on the look out for different bugs, plants and critters we haven’t noticed previously.  Today we took note in a wee little butterfly as it floated effortlessly (well in my mind – I imagine it actually takes a fair amount of effort on their part 😉 ) throughout mounds of summer blooms.

It was time for us to head on home so we said our goodbyes to the flowers, trees and insects and made our walk back to the truck.  We passed the same gentlemen as we returned and this time they commented on my sons hair.  He has a glorious mop of light blonde locks that he loves.  At first I thought they admired it but than it dawned on me that the general feeling was that I should be cutting it.  These men were not mean and I’m certain it wasn’t ill intended but it made me think of they way we as a society have raised our boys.

For the most part the reaction to my sons hair is really good.  I would say 95% of the time people genuinely love it and think it’s great that he has it exactly how he wants it.  But there is this other group of people who really feel I as a mom need to “put my foot down” and tell him his hair is unacceptable.  He is 3yrs old.  And even if he was 13yrs old, it is ultimately his hair and his body.  What am I supposed to tell him – your hair is too… too what?  Feminine?!  Because it is not.  And if that handful of people think there is something wrong with it, well than it’s on them and not me.

The sad reality is that when he starts school there is a very real chance some other child will make fun of his hair and he will want to cut it.  It hurts my heart to think of this possibility, to know that the words of his classmates will have an edge so powerful they just might alter how he perceives himself.

But this attitude is learned and we can change it.  It starts with acceptance.  Accepting that someone else’s attributes whether genetic or chosen do not affect your life in any possible way.  That long hair on a boy or short hair on a girl does not make one more feminine or masculine than the other.

So, I think back to that little butterfly and I envy it a little simply because it exists as it should fluttering about with no external criticism inhibiting it’s natural duties.  As humans I think we could all learn a lot from the butterflies that pass us by all summer long.  No matter their colour, size or shape they dance harmoniously over the gorgeous landscape.

If a butterfly choses to go left when the others go right it will be just fine.  And you know what?  So will my son and daughter and anyone else who goes against the grain (or with it!).  We are all in this together.

Go chase the butterflies!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

Honest Field Farms

 

IMG_9562I’ve been following Honest Field Farms (Erin, Ontario) for quite some time, I really enjoy their Instagram stories and watching their farming adventure unfold.  Also, being a dog lover, I really appreciate all the hard work Rosie the farm dog does 😉 .

This past week I was lucky enough to get my hands on a large CSA share so I too could experience all of the local deliciousness others get to throughout the growing season!  The entire experience was so pleasant – from communication to the beautiful bounty, it was all wonderful.  As an added bonus I was able to pick up my share from Harrington Lane Farms in Waterdown, which is always a favourite spot to shop.

This share included familiar items like carrots, cucumber and dill but also kohlrabi which I had zero experience with.  This is part of the CSA fun, trying things I would never consider, it forces me to get creative in the kitchen.  After some research, I decided to make fritters with them and they were so good!  Maybe next time I can convince my children to enjoy them too 😉 .

Honest Field Farms can be found at the Waterdown, Milton and Georgetown Farmers markets if CSAs are not your thing but if you are interested in a CSA program, this is definitely a farm worthy of your support.

Happy shopping!

cbde7-jessica