Favourite Posts of 2017

Sunday, 31 December 2017
It's been quiet here, but it hasn't been because I haven't been writing or spending my time exploring. More than five years is a long time to sustain a blog, and most days this one seems to be in its final days. But that said, I'm not letting it die completely (yet), even if it simply acts as a hub to share other things I'm working on.

I'm proud that earlier this year I helped launch The Inlet with a number of peers and friends. Also, this fall, The Hamilton Review of Books released our third (maybe best?) collection of reviews, interviews, and essays.

Here are a few of my favourite posts from Not My Typewriter and beyond.

Not My Typewriter
Wine. All. The. Time.
Eating and Drinking in Vancouver
Behind the Scenes at Cirque du Soleil
Places from Books: Petty Harbour
Review: Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear
Hamilton Winterfest 2017

The Inlet:
Best Antique Markets Worth a Drive
Best Free Music Series to See Before Summer Ends
Best Places to Buy Pie
Hamilton Toy Museum
Auchmar House
Safer Gigs Hamilton
Connaught Fish & Chips
Bonanza Bakery

The Hamilton Review of Books
Review: The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
Review: Baseball Life Advice

Review: The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History by David McPherson

This review originally appeared at The Hamilton Review of Books.

The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History ends with a call to action: “... I encourage you to do your part to support live music wherever you live,” writes David McPherson, a music journalist and the book’s author. “At the end of the day, that’s what will keep clubs like the Horseshoe Tavern open and viable for the next generation.”

A timely book of music nostalgia, The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern explores one of the country’s most famous music venues — an institution with a nondescript facade that has stood at 370 Queen Street West since 1947. While McPherson has written his book in commemoration of the ’Shoe’s 70th anniversary in December, it also comes during a year in which historic venues like Zaphod Beeblebrox in Ottawa and the Silver Dollar Room in Toronto have closed. In Hamilton, our own Baltimore House on King William Street shut its doors in the spring.

McPherson’s passion for music and the Horseshoe Tavern is evident as he takes readers inside the bar that the Tragically Hip immortalized in their song “Bobcaygeon” with the lyrics, “That night in Toronto/ With its checkerboard floors.” The Horseshoe Tavern was one of the first places in Toronto to get a liquor license and the first to have a television set. It was also the place for bands, including Blue Rodeo and countless others, to get their first real break.

To read the rest of this review, visit The Hamilton Review of Books

Review: Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game That Saved Me by Stacey May Fowles

This review originally appeared at The Hamilton Review of Books.

Award-winning novelist, journalist, and essayist Stacey May Fowles knows which sections of a ballpark are safest for her to sit in. She knows where she’s least likely to be harassed or to hear sexist, homophobic, or racist language. She also knows that despite being a space that is often unwelcoming to women, a ballpark is her “church,” a place that offers her a precious few hours of escape and a sense of constancy.

Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game That Saved Me is Fowles’ collection of enthusiastic essays that celebrates baseball and the “strange grip” it has on her, while also being critical of the sport. It is a much-needed look at baseball through a gendered lens, exploring topics including Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, the correlation between sports injuries and mental health, and the male-dominated media’s “very limited and skewed depiction of women’s relationships with sports.”

On many occasions, Fowles’ fandom seems obsessive. “The emotion the game stirs in me is like an itch I can’t scratch, a feeling I’ll never really understand,” she writes in the book’s first essay, “It’s Enough That We’re Here: Thoughts on Baseball and Recovery.” At times, her wistful language and metaphors that compare baseball to romantic love might seem hyperbolic, especially for casual baseball fans. However, it is quickly understood that Fowles’ love of the game is deeper than an admiration for her favourite hitters and pitchers. Baseball is a refuge from her sexual assault, infertility, and “the thick fog of sadness” that overtook her mental health.

Read the rest of this review at The Hamilton Review of Books.

Wine. All The Time.

Monday, 13 November 2017

I read Wine. All The Time: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking months ago, over the summer; however, it's a book I've revisited dozens of times since. Written by Marissa A. Ross, a contributing editor and official wine columnist for Bon Appétit magazine, Wine. All The Time. is the perfect book for anyone interested in educating themselves about wine enough to hold an intelligent conversation, without having to plod through pretentious wine writing.

I dog-earred my copy and jotted down dozens of tips, but here are a few of my favourite takeaways from this energetic, educational, and hilarious book.

1) Learning about wine actually isn't that difficult. 
As Marissa A. Ross writes in Chapter One, she went from drinking the worst wines at aged twenty-two to drinking some of the best in the world by thirty. She's not a sommelier, but her self-education on all things wine related has brought her to where she is now. She argues that we can all better educate ourselves about wine in the same way she did, simply by paying closer attention what we're buying and drinking. Ross suggests approaching wine like we do small plates. "A lot of people are crazy about food," she writes, suggesting we become just as interested and adventurous when it comes to wine.

2) Wine writing doesn't have to be pretentious.
In fact, as Ross proves, it can even include the odd f-bomb. Wine. All The Time is casual and fun, and most importantly, accessible to people of all levels of interest — even those who are only just beginning to explore wine. It includes a glossary with definitions and key phrases, as well as maps, charts, and lists.

3) It's OK to start small when it comes to talking about wine. 
There's so much to learn about wine, including how it is produced and how to describe a wine's taste, but you don't need to learn everything all in one sitting. "No matter what you're drinking, you're learning, and are well on your way to becoming a confident wine drinker," says Ross. She suggests starting small when it comes to talking about wine. "It starts small ('I like light-bodied reds'), but the next thing you know, you'll be talking about notes of blueberry pie and how you prefer stainless steel fermentation for Chardonnay," she says.

4) How to be a confident wine label reader.
If you're like me, you've made a wine-buying decision based mostly on a bottle's graphic design. Wine. All The Time offers simple tips that helps readers decode wine labels, including deciphering terms like "the varietal," "the appellation," and "the vintage." Ross encourages wine drinkers to pay attention to where their wine comes from and what's in it. "... you can't care about where your kale comes from and not care about where your wine comes from," she says.

5) How to order wine at a restaurant. 
Successfully ordering wine from a restaurant, especially when confronted with a leather-bound wine list with hundreds of options, is still something I've yet to master. Luckily, Ross makes it easy with a section called "How to order wine in any restaurant," which follows another very useful section — "Buying wine for a gift." She offers simple solutions, including "Talk to the waiter/sommelier," "Don't worry about looking cheap," and "Don't get hung up on pronunciations," that makes restaurant wine menus seem much less daunting.

Quotable: This Accident of Being Lost

Monday, 9 October 2017

This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is, without hesitation, one of the best books I've read this year. It, alongside Brother by David Chariandy, which I'm reading now, make me think the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize really got things right this year. 

Here are two quotes from This Accident of Being Lost that are among the many I dog-earred. Read my short review of This Accident of Being Lost at THIS Magazine

Eating and Drinking in Vancouver

Monday, 7 August 2017

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” 
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

One of my all-time favourite posts to compile was last year's Eating and Drinking in St. John's post, so I couldn't help but do the same following a solo trip I took to Vancouver back in the spring. I wandered mostly without an itinerary, stopping at coffee shops and restaurants along the way. Here are a few of my favourites.  

Purebread (159 W Hastings St. — Gastown Neighbourhood)

purebread is a Whistler-based family bakery with a location in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood. It boasts its simple mission as "to bake delicious bread, savouries, cakes and treats that bring a smile to people's faces." It was my first culinary stop in Vancouver, and it set the bar high!

49th Parallel (2198 West 4th Avenue — Kitsilano neighbourhood)

Located in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood, 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters' West 4th café has an enclosed patio perfect for rainy Vancouver days, and most importantly, it makes Lucky's Doughnuts on site. This peanut butter and jelly donut was absolutely one of the best things I've ever eaten — and I don't even have much of a sweet tooth.

Granville Island: Tony's Fish and Oyster Café (1511 Anderson St.)

Tony's Fish & Oyster Cafe, a dine-in café specializing in fresh seafood, has been located on Granville Island since 2002. I couldn't help but trying their amazing house-made clam chowder.

Granville Island Public Market (1669 Johnston St.)

Longliner Seafoods (Granville Island Public Market)

Longliner Seafoods carries only hand-selected seafood ranging from wild fresh or smoked BC salmon to local halibut. I stocked up on candied salmon and smoked salmon for my hotel fridge, which helped me get through much-needed midnight snack breaks.

Sprig (Granville Island Public Market)

Sprig is in the heart of Granville Island's Public Market where it serves up amazing contemporary Greek food, including this falafel pita.

Granville Island Brewing Company (1441 Cartwright Street)

I can't visit a new city without doing a brewery tour, so while on Granville Island I did the Granville Island Brewing Company's brewery tour, and stayed to try a few different beers. The brewery opened on Granville Island in 1984 as Canada’s first microbrewery.

Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St.)

As everyone suggested it might, it rained A LOT in Vancouver, meaning museums and galleries were something of a refuge. The Vancouver Art Gallery was only minutes from the YWCA Hotel where I stayed and is "recognized as one of North America’s most respected and innovative visual arts institutions." It's also home to the Gallery Café, which is the perfect place to stop for a soup and sandwich on a drizzly Vancouver day.

Brassneck Brewery (2148 Main St.)

I'm no stranger to drinking alone when I'm travelling solo, so I stopped at Brassneck Brewery's tasting room to sample a few beers. In comparison the Granville Island Brewing, Brassneck is quite new, but it hasn't wasted any time. In the three and a half years since its opened, it has already brewed around 120 different beers. 

Poké Time (1258 Robson St.)

I've eaten my fair share of poké thanks to pokeh at the Hamilton Farmer's Market, but until visiting Vancouver I had never had a poké burrito. That changed thanks to Poké Time, which boasts multiple locations across Vancouver.

Bel Café (801 W Georgia St.)

My trip wasn't all play, no work. After a morning of meetings, I stopped by Bel Café for a much-needed coffee and was tempted by this incredible little Earl Grey macaroon.

Cartems Donuterie (2190 Main St.)

This post is clearly disproving my statement that I don't have a sweet tooth. After stopping at Brassneck Brewery, I stopped at cartems Donuterie, also located on Main Street, for this amazing Earl Grey donut.

Kishimoto Japanese Restaurant (2054 Commercial Dr.)

It's only a minor exageration to say that EVERYONE told me that I needed to try Vancouver sushi, so I met up with some friends at Kishimoto on Commercial Drive, and, hands down, had the best sushi of my life. I was warned there might be a line-up, and there was, but it was worth it. (And don't let me be the only judge of that — The Globe and Mail said the same thing.)

Rodney's Oyster House (52 Powell St.)

Rodney's has two locations in Vancouver — one in Yaletown and one in Gastown. On the evening before flying home, I stopped at the Gastown location, where I sat at the bar alongside a number of other solo travellers, mostly all from Southern Ontario. Freshly shucked oysters and west-coast wine isn't a bad way to end a vacation.

Beer Stores (Various)

This photo speaks for itself. There are so many amazing Vancouver craft beers to try from a variety of breweries, but sadly, I didn't have enough time (or drinking partners) to sample them all. Until next time, Vancouver!

Behind the Scenes at Cirque Du Soleil's OVO

Friday, 9 June 2017

Until Wednesday night, I had never been to a Cirque Du Soleil performance, so I quickly said yes when I was invited to see OVO — Cirque Du Soleil's insect-inspired production — when it rolled into Hamilton. I also got the chance to peek behind the scenes where 50 performing artists from 12 different countries gather for wardrobe and make-up and to practice on a mobile jungle gym prior to their performances, which include aerial acrobatics, juggling, and trampoline tumbling.

The travelling production of OVO brings with it dozens of performers and crew, but it also travels with its own mobile wardrobe repair room equipped with thread of every colour and multiple sewing machines for daily costume repairs. It also brings a handful of industrial-strength washing machines and dryers, which are clearly a necessity for a performance with an "airbrush station." Here are just a few photos I snapped behind the scenes.

There are still tickets available for OVO's Saturday and Sunday performances at Hamilton's FirstOntario Centre. Be sure to see OVO before it scurries out of town.

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