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

 

Summer update and Boosh!

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Well in to August I feel like the summer is just flying by.  Most of our days have been spent with a quiet park wander, collecting acorns, sticks and stones and visiting with my grandmother.  I am also in the midst of writing my Live Small Town Fall piece and starting to think of back to school and fall projects!

A lot of heavy feelings have surrounded me lately so I have been putting extra energy in to the ups of everything.  Making goodies for people here and there, slowing down to enjoy nature in all its beauty, snuggling my kiddos a little longer – and Wally dog too!  Even in the thick of it there is something to smile about.

I also had a FANTASTIC experience with Boosh recently – they make and sell natural lipstick here in Ontario, Canada!  If you haven’t heard of the brand look them up on Instagram or Facebook!  I purchased the lip plumping balm and it seemed to take a long while to get to me but I couldn’t even remember when I ordered it so I sent an email just to ask.  Sarah replied so quickly and pleasantly eager to help.  Canada post was just slow (typical 😉 ) and it arrived the next day!

I love this product SO much!  It has the nicest cool sensation and keeps my lips so soft.  I am a pretty plain person and wear minimal make up but this will be something I use often.  I also have my eye on Nova – a light colour I think will be perfect for just a little something when the mood strikes.

If you like lip colour check out the bold and subtle choices available and support a wonderful small business.

I will leave it at that, on a high note and with a reminder to be a kind human.  It really makes all the difference.

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

 

 

 

 

HR Ceramics – a look at another lovely Canadian artist

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Just before Christmas I happened upon HR Ceramics (Quebec) on Instagram – yes I find most things on this platform; it is my favourite.  I noticed that Hanna had made this sweet country inspired mug that I wanted to buy for my country loving sister in law.

I reached out through a direct message and Hanna quickly responded she would be happy to create this for me!  Since I was late making such a request I knew it wouldn’t be ready for Christmas – these things take a lot of time – but it was the perfect gift and I didn’t mind waiting at all.

I was updated throughout the entire process and as soon as it was complete Hanna sent me photos and even shipped it directly to my sister in law – who loved the surprise so much.

After admiring Hanna’s work on her HR Ceramics Instagram account for a while I finally purchased something to have in my own home.  Two sweet little dessert plates that have started my hand made tableware set.

The plates shipped out quickly and arrived packed perfectly protected with a hand written note.  I love the little things like that, it warms my heart and is a solid reminder of why I set out to purchase items made with love and intention in the first place.

My entire HR Ceramics experience has been wonderful and I enjoy following Hanna’s inspiring pottery journey on Instagram.

As a bonus if you are local to Hamilton Ontario you don’t have to travel far or online to purchase an HR Ceramics treasure.  You can find some of Hanna’s gorgeous work at Thuya Floral Arts on King St E .  How is that for close?!

I hope this peeks your interest and you go take a look at all of the wonderfully made pieces!

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

 

 

Think small and local this season!

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*Pre- read FYI* I just wanted to let you know that I am not sponsored or affiliated with these outstanding places in any way!  I do this because I love sharing places and things I find!

It’s that time of year already!  Parties, coffee dates and gift lists galore.  It is at times much easier to walk in to –>insert what ever boxed store here<– and grab this and that just to get it over with.  But what if you took a longer look at your Christmas list and at the people on it and thought about something just right for them!

Sometimes the conventional route is the way to go to do just that but perhaps there is someone on your list that would love a special book from Epic Books on Locke St S or J.H. Gordon Books on Kind St E.

Canine companion on your list?  My Dogs Cafe on Locke has treats for your pouch and Whiskey Tan online offers some gorgeous collars!

Perhaps you can find an extra special  toy for a child on your list at Barefoot Babies on Ottawa St N or Citizen Kid on Locke.  Some of my kids favourite things have been the quirky ones I have found in small shops!

The maker on your list just might love a little something from Needlework, Mixed Media or Handknit Yarn on James St N or perhaps a gorgeous skein of hand dyed yarn from Hello Stella.

If you’re crafty why not try and make something special for your loved one?  I know as a maker I hardly ever receive hand made things though they are my favourite!  I think people just figure I could make it myself so they choose another route.  Not true!  Makers love other handmade things ❤

Confections – my favourite.  Cake and Loaf on Dundurn is my usual go to for sweets and savoury eats of all kinds.  You can also find other wonderful gifts for the coffee lovers in your life there with a great selection of Detour Coffees and other goodness like honey.  Check out Cake and Loaf at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market for some different things too!

Chocolate on James has a wide variety of fun sweets for people of all ages.  Chocolate suckers are always a hit with the kids I know!

Harrington Lane Farms Village Shop and Harrington Lane Village in Waterdown can package up some delicious eats for you if you contact them ahead of time!  Who doesn’t love the gift of food?  They also have gift certificates!  You can also find the perfect cut of meat here or in a place like Honest Meat Co on Ottawa St N for your holiday entertaining eats.

If you’re looking for some wonderful local roasted coffee or brewing equipment check out Relay Coffee on Concession!  And while you’re at it get a hand poured beverage to warm you up!  My favourite is the maple latte 😉 …They also have a space in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market!

Mela Bath has some fantastic bath products for adults and kids alike.  Lilah and Max get so excited for the “ice cream scoop” bath bombs and whipped body butter!  They are my favourites too.  If you catch her before her Christmas deadline she does deliveries in the greater Hamilton area!

The gardener in your life would love a seed set from Matchbox gardens in Caledonia!  Hanna grows certified organic vegetables, herbs and flowers on her beautiful farm using sustainable farming practices!  These are seeds you can feel good about buying!

If you’re looking to get together for some good eats and a cuppa something great places like Cannon Coffee Co., Mulberry Coffee House on James St N, Finch on Locke, Cafe Oranje on King St E and Vintage Coffee on King St E, Durand Coffee on the corner of Charlton and Caroline, Work Progress Kitchen on James St N and Ward IV Coffee Bar on Main St E (I haven’t been yet but they look SO fun).  Another I haven’t been to but have heard GREAT things about is the vegan cafe Hearty Hooligan on Ottawa St N!  I could go on for days I think about coffee shops.  I love a solid latte 😉 .

Do you have someone who prefers tea to coffee on your list?  Monarch Tea Co – seriously love the packaging and the tea is heavenly – can be found in shops around the city such as the Mustard Seed Co op as well as online!  Pair that with a sweet handmade mug and you have the perfect gift!

This city is full of fantastic places to eat!  So if you are looking at dining out with friends and family maybe think outside the boxed brands and check out places like The French on King William, Mesa on James St N, Mattson and Co on Locke St S, Aberdeen Tavern on Aberdeen!

In the mood for a burger try Hambrgr on King William also on Ottawa St N or Delirious Burger on King St W now on Locke too!

Sometimes some good old fashioned comfort food is in order during the holiday hustle!  You can most definitely find that at Gorilla Cheese on Ottawa St N.  The Burnt Tongue on Locke as well as Cannon offers warm soupy goodness among other things.  Take home a bowl of awesome after a day of shopping!

There really are SO many other great places for food in the city.  Hamilton Farmer’s Market has oodles of great places to get some eats like Pokeh which you can also find uptown on Concession!  Many of these places offer gift cards too!

I could yammer on all day about the wonderful places I have been or hope to check out soon in search of great gifts like Thuya Floral Arts who’s Instagram is nothing short of beautiful but than no one would read it 😉 .

Giving gifts that are a little different and supporting local ventures when possible is something I strive to do regularly.  Christmas really is the perfect time to get out there and see what the city has to offer! James St N, King St E, Westdale, Ottawa St N, Locke St – are all wonderful places to wander in search of the perfect something!

I hope this helps you in your quest to find the gift that will wow or warm the heart of a family member or friend on your list this year!

Happy Shopping, dining and entertaining this holiday season!

JESSICA