The First Weekend in December

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The first weekend in December is one of my favourites in Hamilton. The lighting of the Christmas Tree of Hope and Victorian Night in the Village have both become one of my holiday traditions. This year, I added Lights of Locke Street to the mix. 

Christmas Tree Lighting at City Hall
My first stop of the weekend was City Hall for the lighting of the 40th annual Christmas Tree of Hope. New this year is a temporary synthetic ice rink that is FREE to the public between Saturday, December 3 and Friday, December 9 (noon-7:00 p.m.). Skates are available to rent free of charge. The lighting also featured music by the Coverboards and hot chocolate or cider. As always, CHML broadcast live for their annual 12 Hours of Christmas. 

Victorian Night in the Village
The 6th annual Victorian Night in the Village featured free horse and carriage rides, apple cider in Ferguson Station, and Christmas carolers. Most importantly, it's a chance for shoppers to pick up local gifts from the International Village's many shops, which stay open late for the festivities. (I snagged up a few things from the Gifted and J.H. Gordon books).

Display at The Thrifty Designer (203 King Street East), a shop that aims to reuse, recycle, repurpose, and repair quality used clothing.

Window display at one of my favourite Hamilton shops, The Gifted, located at 249 King Street East.

My vintage finds at J.H. Gordon Books at 314 King Street East. 

Lights of Locke Street
Featuring Santa rolling up on a vintage firetruck, letters to Santa at Quills (158 Locke Street South), carollers, and a tree lighting, Lights of Locke Street was perfect for checking a few people off my shopping list. First stop was Finch on Locke to fuel up on coffee.

Finch on Locke (formerly Johnny's Coffee) recently opened at 129 Locke Street South. 

I gush about my love of Quills (158 Locke Street South, above the Starbucks) at least every six months on this blog. During Lights of Locke Street, they featured letter writing stations for little ones hoping to reach Santa.

Next stop, polishing off some complimentary bubbly at Pure (174 Locke Street South). 

The future home of my better half's new restaurant on Locke Street (190 Locke Street South, formerly the Cheese Shoppe). Follow CIMA on twitter for updates.

Each year, Epic Books (226 Locke Street South) reveals their 12 Books of Christmas, offering 25% off each other title. If you look closely at this photo, you can see my dad peeking through.

And then Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrived ...

Maker's Market
Our last stop of the day was another holiday tradition — the Maker's Market at Christ's Church Cathedral on James Street South. The Maker's Market it Hamilton's original "hipster craft fair" as I've started to call them (affectionately) as dozens have seemed to pop up over this holiday season. Believe it or not, it's celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Saturday, 3 December 2016
"I lay awake, trying to go to sleep, but instead I was thinking about the evening and the strange little group Clare had gathered around her this weekend. I wanted to leave so badly it hurt — to be back at home, in my own bed, with my own things, in the blissful peace and quiet. Now I was counting down the hours, and listening to Nina's soft snores and behind that to the silence of the house and the forest."
I began reading In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware around the time it was released, in July; but after a few false starts I abandoned it. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying it. It's gripping from its first page. But In a Dark, Dark Wood is far from a beach read. Suspenseful and nail-biting, it's far more appropriate for Halloween, which is around the time I finally devoured it along with a few battered books by R.L. Stine I've hoarded since my teen years.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is the story of Leonora — known as Nora or Lee, depending on who is addressing her — an English mystery novelist who has recently received a strange invitation. She's been invited to Clare Cavendish's hen (Known to we North Americans as a bachelorette party) in a glass cottage in the clearing of a forest. She reluctantly attends, despite not having spoken to Clare for a decade — under circumstances that aren't revealed to the reader until the book's final chapters. This decision thrusts Nora (as readers know her) into the centre of a plot fraught with suspense, friction, and eventually, murder.

Failing cellphone reception, a broken landline, and mysterious footprints quickly put Nora and Clare's other guests on edge, leaving readers to guess who, or what, lurks outside the cottage. In a Dark, Dark Wood is endlessly unsettling, and, for me, a novice suspense and thriller reader, it was never predictable. Finishing it in less than a week, it's no surprise to me that it was named an NPR 2015 Best Book of the Year and will soon be adapted as a major motion picture by Reese Witherspoon.

I read In a Dark, Dark Wood in an attempt to expand my reading horizons, which most often includes literary fiction and non-fiction. I must admit that 2016 has been a year of books that have become unlikely favourites for me, and this is one of them. I can't wait to read The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware's next thriller, which will be released next month.

9 Nuggets from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists

Sunday, 27 November 2016

I love small, easily digestible books that, despite their short length, can still stay with you for weeks. I finally read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists, on my way to and from the Leadership Summit for Women, an annual intergenerational community-wide event that aims to create a safe space for the diverse voices of women, trans* individuals and our allies. It is presented by YWCA Hamilton, McMaster University, and the McMaster Students Union. It was obviously a perfect read during an inspiring and rousing day.

I jotted down my favourite quotations from We Should All Be Feminists. It's a book I encourage everyone to read. Thankfully, many teenagers will have the opportunity. 

Ngozi Adichie on what we teach girls ...
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”

“We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons.

“We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretence into an art form.”

Ngozi Adichie on gender ...
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”

“What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?”

“If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem "natural" that only men should be heads of corporations.”

“Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change. In addition to anger, I am also hopeful, because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better.”
Ngozi Adichie on femininity ...
“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.”

Ngozi Adichie on being a feminist ...
“My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”

Review: Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Sunday, 20 November 2016
"Badasses are rampant in fiction, but they're not as rare in real life as one might believe. They know how to do everything, or at least are confident and knowledgeable enough to give people that impression. They don't worry about having to please everybody, because they make the right people happy without trying, and don't care about the rest. They are loved and feared. They exude confidence and bleed bon mots. They learn from their mistakes and take their shortcomings in stride. Even if they're short, they stand tall. Even if they aren't beautiful, they are sexy in their own way. It's impossible to surprise or shock them: they are ready for anything." — Mara Wilson, Where Am I Now?  
I was introduced to Mara Wilson as most children of the late 80s and early 90s were — her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Matilda, and Miracle on 34th Street. I was reintroduced to her a number of years ago when I stumbled upon her Twitter account where she has gained a reputation for fiercely funny one-liners. (See Buzzfeed's article 23 Times Mara Wilson Was The Comedy Queen Of Twitter.)

Wilson very quickly became one of my favourite feminist voices online, so when I heard she was publishing a book, it climbed to the top of my to-read list. Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame is partly a witty account of a child navigating the very adult world of show business; however, it's so much more. Through moving and insightful essays, Wilson explores growing up in a household of boys after her mother's death, puberty as a child actor, mental health, sexuality, and finding one's voice.

It won't come as a surprise, but my favourite part of Where Am I Now? happens when Wilson pens a letter to a fictional character I'm quite fond of — Matilda, who Wilson famously played in the 1996 film adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic. "Your book was my favourite," she writes. "There weren't many other girl characters I could look up to." The film premiered, gaining a cult following, around the same time Wilson lost her mother to cancer. The raw essay, simply titled "a letter", illuminates the ways in which Wilson was shaped by both her mother and Matilda.

You don't have to be a fan of Mara Wilson's filmography or follow her on Twitter to enjoy Where Am I Now? Wilson's universal struggles — love, loss, family, and friendship — make her immediately relatable (and likeable). Heartwarming and heartbreaking, Where Am I Know? might just be my favourite memoir of the year so far (and it's already November!).

Telling Tales 2016

Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Telling Tales is a yearlong reading campaign dedicated to promoting literacy and inspiring a love of reading. If you know anything about me, and my career so far, you'll know that both of these things are monumentally important to me. Each September, Telling Tales culminates in a one-day festival that brings thousands of young book lovers and their parents to Westfield Heritage Village. If you haven't been, Westfield Heritage Village is "a living history museum with over 30 historic buildings surrounded by 324 acres of woodlands and meadows with several well-marked nature trails." Owned and operated by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, Westfield has, among its many highlights, a church, a general store, a blacksmith's shop, and a number of homesteads.

I've blogged about Telling Tales before, but because it is so special to me, I thought it deserved a revisit. We're incredibly lucky to have this unique literary festival in the Greater Hamilton Area. You don't have to be a kid (or have kids) to enjoy it — and I'm the perfect example of that.

Here are a few of my Telling Tales highlights, among them a performance by Hamilton Youth Poets.

Hamilton Haunts: Ottawa Street

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Somehow it's November and I've yet to post photos from the blogger tour I was invited to by the Ottawa Street BIA back in the summer. Highlighting some of Ottawa Street's shops and restaurants, the tour took local bloggers — and a few from Niagara — to one of #HamOnt's most unique streets, giving us the chance to talk to shop owners and learn a little bit about Ottawa Street's past. 

Petal to the Metal was making its market debut at the Ottawa Street Farmers' Market on the day we visited. They're Ontario's first mobile flower shop, and I've seen them popping up all over the city, most recently at the Hamilton Flea. 

AllSorts Gallery
Sadly enough, AllSorts Gallery is somewhere I've just never visited in nearly a decade in Hamilton. A local artists co-op, it sells local, handmade, and unique artistic gifts. I'll definitely be back in mid-to-late December when I inevitably realize I need to start my holiday shopping!

Antique Avenue
At 8000 square feet, Antique Avenue has been my go-to for unique antiques and reasonably priced records for the past few years. They've recently rid themselves of their incredible vintage book collection, but I won't hold that against them. There are so many other things to keep you busy in Antique Avenue for hours.

Antiques Unlocked
"Hey, Jes. Is that 'not your typewriter?'" Yes, bloggers. Yes, it is.

Remember When Antique Emporium 
The former Avon Theatre opened as a 770-seat theatre called the Avalon in 1941. It became the Avon in 1969 and ceased to be a theatre in 1985. Today it houses Remember When Antique Emporium.

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