New Year. New Camera. New Adventures.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Despite the barren trees and dead leaves clinging to tangles of branches, Princess Point in the winter is teeming with life. Youngsters chase pucks along patches of ice that have been cleared of snow. Bufflehead ducks gather in the frigid waters of the DesJardins Canal. And a beaver gnaws at trees, gathering the tools he needs to make repairs to his home. 

Yet in the winter, the portion of the Hamilton Waterfront Trail that connects Princess Point to Bayfront Park is eerily quiet. 

The voices of the young hockey players sound muted from the ice. 

A hawk glides overhead, but it doesn't make a sound.

Joggers still hurry along, but the snow quiets their footsteps. Bursts of breath escape from their lips. At this time of year, a half hour may pass before another comes down the trail.

Every so often, the silence is interrupted by a train braking along the tracks or a barking dog, cautiously making its way onto the ice. 

I bought myself a new camera for Christmas in order to capture moments like these. But, unfortunately, I haven't mastered remembering to charge it before I venture out to take pictures. The result is the following mixture of a few decent photographs from today's hike, followed by more taken on my phone.

Cheers to the New Year

Friday 10 January 2014

The last book I read in 2013 was my favourite. The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden brilliantly brings a post-Contact Wendat world to the page, recreating a society that is so complex, yet often simplified or ignored in our history texts. His intricate prose was the perfect bookend to a year of reading that began twelve months ago with The Great Gatsby.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Life ends and begins for me twice each year. It ends once when summer ends, when the days grow shorter and the claustrophobic feeling that something is ending begins. And it ends and begins again at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Though I’m not one for grand New Year’s resolutions, I do suffer from a bad case of nostalgia, and it forces me to compartmentalize my experiences into small, manageable chunks. Each year I feel the urge to reflect on the things that made each year unique.

2013, for me, was not only a year of reading good books. It was also a year that took me travelling, from a hotel room overlooking the Alamo to a medieval bell tower in Bruges that was once immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But I didn’t need to cross international borders to discover new things, spending a lot of time here at home, in Hamilton, uncovering new spaces. Among my favourites were Treble Hall, 270 Sherman, a nine-kilometre trek down York Boulevard, and my own neighbourhood on a blustery winter day.

Hamilton remains, for me, a city with much to discover. I look forward to a 2014 filled with discovering local books and local spaces, and meeting more of the amazing people that make this city unique.

To a wonderful 2014!

Why We Shopped Second Hand

Saturday 4 January 2014

This article originally appeared on on December 20, 2013.

Two Saturday mornings ago, I started my Christmas shopping, but I didn’t hit the likeliest of spots. Instead, I wandered down Ottawa Street, a stretch that acts as a throwback to Hamilton’s industrial past. The street, which once housed the booming garment and textile industry during WWI and WWII, is still known for its fabric shops, as well as many cozy caf├ęs and antique stores, the latter being the reason for my visit.

For the second year in a row, my dad’s side of the family committed to buying second hand, which meant combing thrift stores, vintage boutiques, flea markets and antique stores for the perfect gift under a strict $20 budget. To make things even more difficult, we each only bring one gift to the festivities, never knowing who will take it home. That means choosing something that is suited for any family member.

Let me confess, when the idea was first suggested last year, a lot of us grumbled. Selecting a gift that was perfect for any member of the family and keeping to a strict budget was already difficult enough. But despite some hesitation, we decided to give it a try. And it was an incredible success!

Unlike picking the best bang-for-your-buck from a big-box store, our vintage gift exchange was overflowing with personal touches. My dad, who had never baked a thing in his life, filled a vintage cookie jar with homemade cookies. My mom crafted a chalkboard out of an old picture frame. Vintage suitcases, a rose-coloured plate and even a singing Santa were all exchanged. And so, we decided, in 2013, we’d keep things vintage.

I found this year’s gift at Steeltown Pickers, an antique shop with everything from musical instruments to vintage kitchen supplies. I chose a small wooden cheese crate, which I filled with cheese from my local cheese seller, The Cheese Shoppe on Locke. My better half, found his gem — a vintage Tupperware set circa the 1970s — right down the street at a shop called Antiques Unlocked.

This year’s gift exchange took place on Saturday, and for the second year in a row, shopping vintage was a huge success. This year’s haul included a heap of vinyl Christmas albums, a picnic basket (with a pie inside!), a plant with a vintage watering can and an antique cocktail set.

There are many reasons to shop second hand during the holidays. For one, second-hand gifts are unique. You never know what oddities you’re going to find while scouring flea markets, garage sales and antique shops. They’re also economical, especially since in many shops you can barter and name your own price. There are also environmental reasons (less packaging!) to shop second hand, all while supporting local vendors in your community.

Happy searching!
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