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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

November Hustle

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How did we get here?!  November already!  October was full of fall activities – pumpkin walk at the RBG and picking the perfect pumpkins to carve at this sweet little pumpkin patch were our favourites… well next to Halloween of course!  The kids loved dressing up and trekking house to house to collect treats.

This month making madness begins as I knit, crochet, sew and plan the perfect gifts for the people around me!  I’m hoping to involve Lilah and Max more in the process of spreading joy this year.  They both love to create and share as much as I do so I’m sure it will be a lot of fun for them!

Added in to the mix of my usual creating and mom life is planning a collaborative project with one of my dearest friends.  Since high school we imagined working side by side at some point so this is extra exciting.  It’s basically a dream come true for me and I can’t wait to watch it all unfold!

I also recently submitted my section for the Live Small Town Magazine’s Winter issue so stay tuned for that!

Lots of things going on my way this month, if you follow my instagram you will see bits and pieces as I go.

I hope that November treats you well!

JESSICA

 

 

 

Days like this

The other morning I was startled awake to Max’s cries.  He was sick and a mess so I sleepily stumbled in to the bedroom to assess the situation.  After getting him cleaned up and settled we headed back to sleep only to be woken up by the alarm clock for school 20min later.  Once again I picked myself out of bed and helped Lilah get ready for school and out the door in a timely fashion.

I’m not a morning person by any means.  I’m also not a night person since having kids… I fall somewhere in between.  10am until maybe 5pm is when I meet my best self.  All other hours have varying levels of exhaustion.  Having a sick child just adds another bump in the morning routine which lucky for us isn’t that smooth as is.

As hard as these days can be I am actually kind of thankful for them.  On these days several positives happen.  One being that I am forced to slow things down.  All plans get cancelled or rearranged and I’m ok with that.  It also gives me the time to snuggle and tend to whomever is under the weather and well… one day I know they won’t be so interested in having their mommy wipe their nose or tend to their fevers.

Kindness matters

FullSizeRender 23A year ago on October 18th was one of the hardest days of my life.  It was the day we had to say goodbye to my old boy Toby.  In what had already been a year packed full of heart ache with the loss of our old girl on the 4th of April, finding out that our time with Toby was limited and everything in between – I was pretty broken.  The thing is, to me, dogs are much more than just an animal.  They are my people and if I being completely honest I prefer them to most humans.  The unconditional love dogs offer us just can’t be replaced and so losing my companion of 16yrs changed me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Two days after Toby passed away I walked in to one of my favourite coffee shops – Cake and Loaf (who knew 😉 ).  I was trying my damnedest to keep it together but I just couldn’t.  Tears just fell despite my best efforts to keep them in and I told the lovely soul behind the counter about my loss.  I didn’t expect anything but what I received was irreplaceable. Sincere and heart felt condolences.  My feelings were validated and I felt human again for the first time since I said my goodbyes…  Really for the first time in the longest year of my life.

What this wonderful human did not know is that even before this moment she was already a part of my story.  I had been in many times before feeling wretched on the inside but smiling on the outside and was always treated with complete and authentic kindness.  It’s that kindness I received from her and some other fantastic staff that have kept me coming back especially on my worst days.  Those are the days when they really make a difference without even knowing it.

Life moves onward and things change but we make these connections with each other all of the time.  Sometimes they last only in that minute and others carry through for a life time.  I used to think I didn’t really need a whole bunch of friends and maybe that is so but one thing I have learned is how valuable our relationships with one another are, both big and small.  I know that my words and actions toward others really can make a difference because those of others have forever changed my life.

People come and go from one another life.  Sometimes we are pulled apart and separated for years only to find each other again at what seems to be just the right time.  Some people stay away forever while others never leave.  All of these moments matter though, all of these people matter.  They are part of our next painting, article or song – we carry them with us always in this beautiful chaotic life.

I never expected to find friendship while buying coffee but I most definitely did.

cbde7-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

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Days + New Routine

FullSizeRender 22And just like that September is in full swing and fall routines have begun.  As much as I appreciate the consistency that comes with school days I would be lying if I said I am not missing the tiny voices -that drove me batty just last week 😉 – calling me repeatedly.  This year is especially strange since it’s the first time in over 6yrs I haven’t had a small child at my side day in and day out. I have already found myself asking the dog questions he cannot answer and pointing out adorable critters on our walks.  …Because my dog , Wally, finds humour in things like squirrels chasing each other through the trees as much as small children 😉 ….  Well he does show interest but that is just because he would love to pursue them on an instinctual level.

August seemed to fly by this year and the first day of school kind of snuck up on me.  One day we were planning our next adventure and the next we were waiting for the school bus!  Sending my son Max on the bus for his first day was REALLY hard.  He is still 3 and very small for his age.  The bus steps are his equivalent to climbing the escarpment for the rest of us.  But he did it and thankfully he didn’t look back because than he likely would have seen the tears in my eyes.

We are all fairing well though now that things are picking up and becoming more familiar to us all.  Max is finding JK a bit overwhelming so we are sending him part time for now with the support of his educators.  Making the transition a smooth and pleasant one for us all is our goal!

My daughter Lilah loves grade 1 so far though finds sitting a desk uncomfortable – because it is!  I think it’s awfully hard to concentrate when you’re sitting on something that feels like concrete but what do I know 😉 .  She loves the independence that comes with being in a primary grade and has made some new friends.

As  for me, I am regrouping right now and focusing on re-organizing all the things in the house – toys, books, clothes – pretty much everything I couldn’t do easily with the kids around.  My “to make” list keeps growing and with Christmas (yes I know it’s early) in the near future I have plenty to pass the childfree moments I now have.

The first week has now passed and we are all feeling thankful for the weekend to recharge.  Before we know it we will be in to a nice groove and I think we are off to a good start!

Happy back to school!

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