C/O Cee, Unsplash

These local Hamilton bakeries have Valentine’s Day Menus sure to make your day extra sweet! 


Whether you are craving some comfort, looking for the perfect gift or just want to spread some love to friends and family, you can never go wrong with delicious desserts. Here are some bakeries with Valentine’s Day treats meant to bring love and care with their beauty and scrumptiousness. 

Cake + Loaf Bakery  

Instagram: @cakeandloafbakery  

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Located in the Kirkendall North neighbourhood of Hamilton, this is your one-stop sugar cookie shop with a number of sweet options on their Valentine’s menu, including “We Belong Together Like” sugar cookies. Iced in pink or teal with white cursive on top, these heart-shaped sugar cookies are showcase your choice from the 15 most popular food duos over the years such as avocado and toast or peanut butter and jelly. Alternatively, you can create custom cookies with any two names to create your own iconic duo!  

If you are looking for an activity to do on your own or with a partner, you can paint your own Valentine’s Day cookies with two blank sugar cookies, two cookie paint-palettes and two paintbrushes.   

Cake + Loaf Bakery has vegan options as well, including chocolate heart peek-a-boo sandwich cookies filled with pink icing shown through a heart-shaped window and covered in a dark chocolate drizzle and sprinkles.  

Li’s Sweets & Treats  

Instagram: @lissweetsntreats   

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Li’s Sweets & Treats delivers to Hamilton and surrounding areas and has a Valentine’s Day Special with options that look absolutely delicious! If you are searching for a small budget-friendly gift or want lots of variety already pre-packaged for you, this shop is ideal.  

You can order a small box with chocolate covered strawberries, or a medium box with chocolate covered strawberries and red velvet truffles. Lianna’s large boxes have iced sugar cookies, soft sugar cookies, red velvet cookies, chocolate covered strawberries and red velvet truffles. However, if you only want cookies, you can get a dozen cookies for $20, choosing from red velvet, iced sugar cookies, soft sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies with hearts and shaped chocolate chips. 

Perrella Cakes 

@perrellacakes 

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Cookies, cookies and more cookies! Perella Cakes is a custom cake maker and decorate in Hamilton and has the cutest Valentine’s Day cookies.  

If you want hearts, you can have single hearts, pairs of hearts together, or a heart struck by an arrow. Perella also has lettered cookies that spell out love, accompanied by hearts and sets of heart-shaped cookies with little messages for your Valentine including “Be Mine”, “I Love You” and “Hugs.”  

For more detail, Perella can draw different images on her cookies, for example a lobster saying, “You’re My Lobster,” or a cookie with a sandwich and the phrase, “I love you more than Joey loves food” for the Friends fans out there.  

For family and friends, there are also Valentine’s Day Decorate Your Own Cookie Kits with 12 heart-shaped sugar cookies, four colours of royal icing and six varieties of decorations. 

Dolled Up Desserts 

Instagram: @dolledupdessertsbaking  

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My housemate’s personal favourite, Dolled Up Desserts is a gluten free and vegan bakery in downtown Hamilton. Their Valentine’s day menu is open for pre-orders, including choices that are classic and unique and some surprises still to come. They have Valentine’s Sprinkle Sugar Cookies, Black Forest Cake Brownies, Red Velvet Oreo Cheesecake Blondies and Buttermilk Scones. With weekly rotating flavours, their Vegan Heart Macarons have seasonal flavours including candy cane two tone, gingerbread and vanilla snowmen. They also freeze well. After all, why should Valentine’s Day occur only once a year?  

Furthermore, the Valentine’s cake flavours at this bakery are truly one-of-a-kind, from coconut passionfruit, earl grey blackberry and chocolate raspberry to a customizable macaron cake.  

This is a great option to suit many dietary needs but make sure to check the ingredients if you or your Valentine has a nut allergy. 

Multi-talented artist is learning from and giving back to the Hamilton community

C/O @clairitytarot

Clairandean Humphrey is a jack of all trades, but far from a master of none. The oracle card reader, artist and movement instructor reads tarot cards, draws, paints, makes video art, sings, writes songs, teaches yoga, Pilates and much more.

Throughout their life, Humphrey picked up and refined these different practices. In all their work, Humphrey is guided by the principle of affirming that they’re here.

“[T]here's so many stereotypes and tropes that see past a person's existence. We don't really get to know people because of prejudices and our biases. And so a lot of my work now is exploring and investigating anti-oppression and gender-inclusive language and understanding that it's always changing,” said Humphrey.

“[T]here's so many stereotypes and tropes that see past a person's existence. We don't really get to know people because of prejudices and our biases. And so a lot of my work now is exploring and investigating anti-oppression and gender-inclusive language and understanding that it's always changing,”

Clairandean Humphrey

Humphrey added that it is important for them to stay in conversation with others, adjust to the various nuances and be aware of the ways they are impacting others.

Awareness of this impact is especially important because of the multiple avenues through which Humphrey has interacted with the Hamilton community since moving to the city in 2019.

One of these avenues is through singing and songwriting. They grew up in a musical household and began writing songs in their early 20s. During the summer of 2019, they put together an extended play record, recording in it in a kitchen and an attic. In April 2020, they released the finished project called Moving in the Dark.

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“[The process of making the EP was] very scary and I didn't want to do it. But for some reason, I need to record this EP. It's sitting inside and it wants to get out, so it feels like a restlessness . . . [I recorded it] and then I sat on it. And then 2020 happened . . . I did a mini-concert online when it was big and hot on the internet. And it was just fun, even though I was nervous and felt terrified. It was just fun to express that and to put that in the world. And I feel like that was a part of my healing from going from Toronto to Hamilton and allowing myself to learn here,” said Humphrey.

"It was just fun to express that and to put that in the world. And I feel like that was a part of my healing from going from Toronto to Hamilton and allowing myself to learn here,”

CLAIRANDEAN HUMPHREY

However, music wasn’t the only practice that Humphrey grew in Hamilton. Much of their time has been devoted to their involvement with Pilates, yoga, and mindfulness studio, Goodbodyfeel.

While Humphrey has always been an active person, it was in their 20s that they began practising yoga. After getting out of a toxic relationship, they re-entered a movement practice more seriously. They joined Goodbodyfeel in 2018 and completed training with the studio in late 2019.

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Through Goodbodyfeel, Humphrey was introduced to trauma-informed movement and anti-oppressive wellness spaces. As an instructor with the studio, they teach a class exclusively for queer, trans and nonbinary folks and a Saturday morning class called Mantra + Movement + Mindfulness.

In this class, Humphrey pulls an oracle or tarot card at the beginning and then creates a mantra throughout this class. This class incorporates their role as a tarot card reader.

Humphrey was introduced to tarot through a partner who was also interested in the occult world. While living in Quebec for four years and learning French, they had the time to study the mythology and meanings of the cards. During this time, they also discovered they were a witch through understanding the uses of medicinal plants.

Now, through Clarity Tarot, Humphrey reads tarot for others. As with their movement practice, their tarot readings are trauma-informed, anti-oppressive and gender-inclusive. They are currently offering readings online through Zoom. In the past, they have also done readings at Hamilton store The Witch’s Fix.

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“[T]arot has done a lot for me, but it's kind of hard to put it in all in words in one shot. When you're talking about the intuitive arts, it can sound really like up there. I think what I do is try to make it more practical. It's in your mundane world. It's how you make your tea. It's having a conversation with a friend. There's spiritual moments in that, even just connecting with someone else. I think people think the spiritual is very far away [but] it's right where you're at. You don't have to look far and it's a lot simpler than you think,” explained Humphrey.

"There's spiritual moments in that, even just connecting with someone else. I think people think the spiritual is very far away [but] it's right where you're at. You don't have to look far and it's a lot simpler than you think,”

CLAIRANDEAN HUMPHREY

Currently, Humphrey is working on a number of projects. They are doing a number of trainings to deepen their understanding of trauma-informed movement, teaching movement to youth, anatomy, physiology and merging justice work with yoga.

They are also working on a number of art projects. They are organizing their works so they can begin sharing them with the public. They are also part of an art collective that is trying to get grants to create movement pieces.

As they have in their own life, Humphrey encourages students to go after the things that they want.

“If you are truly passionate about something or you're feeling intrigued by something, don't let anyone stop you. And don't let your doubts stop you. And it's not to say you're not going to have fears or doubts, but don't let it stop you from expressing what you need to express,” Humphrey said.

New festival by Red Betty Theatre is offering a stage for BIPOC women stories

C/O @redbettytheatre

The experience of colonization is something communities around the world are familiar with. However, since no two places had identical experiences, each community has its own histories and struggles to grapple with now. At its core, decolonization is about holding space to share these diverse histories and acknowledging the hurts that hide there in order to build a better, more equitable and inclusive future.

Theatre, like all art, is an essential part of decolonization for the unique opportunities the stage offers to share stories and experiences. Though theatre has been around for centuries all across the world, it is too often regarded as a European tradition. As such, it is often difficult for marginalized and racialized individuals to showcase their work and share their stories.

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“The majority of artistic directors look at things through a Eurocentric lens and the plays that I write maybe are alienated, by the titles even. For example, my one play which has won awards, it is called Rukmini’s Gold, if they don't know that Rukmini is a name, if they don't know what it is, they have no tie to it culturally. So it's the last thing that they'll read on their pile if they'll even read it. So I found that the only way to get my work produced was to start my own company,” explained Radha Menon, the founder of Hamilton’s Red Betty Theatre

"For example, my one play which has won awards, it is called Rukmini’s Gold, if they don't know that Rukmini is a name, if they don't know what it is, they have no tie to it culturally. So it's the last thing that they'll read on their pile if they'll even read it. So I found that the only way to get my work produced was to start my own company.”

Radha Menon

The theatre recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Though it has received little support from the city of Hamilton, the theatre has offered its stage to productions including Ganga’s Ganja (2012, 2018), Cockroach (2017) and In The Shadows (2018), written by Menon and put on by Black, Indigenous and People of Colour actors, directors and designers. Its upcoming productions include Blackberry, in partnership with Hamilton Fringe, from June 4 to 13, 2021 in Carter Park and the Decolonize Your Ears Festival in June 2021.

Decolonization is at the core of the theatre’s work. It offers a stage for the stories of BIPOC women so that they may reach broader and more diverse audiences. Red Betty also encourages Canadian theatre groups to better reflect cultural diversity and the cultural practices of different communities.

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“[Red Betty Theatre] is inclusive, non-competitive, friendly, equitable, for the people, by the people, of the people. We are open to women artists who are Indigenous, Black or racialized because we believe that their stories are important, our stories are important,” said Menon.

The art world is a difficult one. Theatre projects are typically funded through grants from the government or other institutions. Currently, these grants are extremely competitive and often privilege older, more established organizations but funding cuts in the arts sector have made this process increasingly challenging. Newer organizations especially struggle to receive necessary funding and it is often even harder for groups like Menon’s Red Betty Theatre. 

“So put it this way, it took us 10 years to get a Canada council production grant . . . [W]e don't get much funding from the city because we're a new organization and the way the funding structures in arts bodies work is very much based on how long your institution has been around. So all the older ones which are generally male, white-led, they get funded to the teeth whereas the new organizations get the leftovers . . . It's very hard to get everything going and it takes us a lot of time to be able to plan for even one show,” explained Menon.

For example, Menon has had the idea for the Decolonize Your Ears Festival for some time, but it was only recently that the theatre was able to secure the necessary funding to make this festival reality.

“We don't see anything on stages that reflect the cultural diversity and the cultural practices of different communities. So, Decolonize Your Ears is that opportunity for artists to express their own specific cultures and communities in ways that are unrestricted and uncensored,” said Menon.

“We don't see anything on stages that reflect the cultural diversity and the cultural practices of different communities. So, Decolonize Your Ears is that opportunity for artists to express their own specific cultures and communities in ways that are unrestricted and uncensored.”

Radha Menon
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The festival will feature four plays. One by Menon and three others by emerging BIPOC women playwrights: Natasha Cecily Bacchus, Melissa Murray Mutch, Gaitrie Persaud-Dhunmoon and Joanne Roberts. The festival also offers these playwrights the opportunity to consult and develop their pieces with Hamilton-based playwrights Marilo Nuñez and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard.

Offering a stage and a space to share these stories is a crucial part of not only decolonizing theatre but also the larger decolonization movement. 

“Until there is the decolonization of all institutions, government and non-government, we will continue to see racism, bigotry and harassment . . . Decolonization is a massive thing that needs to happen, for there to be any equity amongst people,” said Menon.

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Theatre is very personal and different people will walk away from a play with different impressions. Menon especially encourages students to check out the festival and the theatre’s other work, not only if they’re interested in or studying theatre but also if they’re curious about and interested in new stories. 

“[T]his is the place where you will hear stories that you will never read in class or in the library or see on TV. These are stories that have been curated especially because of how unique they are and this is an opportunity to grow. And for students, I think the point of going to any kind of institution is to grow. Universities are very colonized places and this is an opportunity to step out of that colonized space into a decolonized space,” said Menon.

“[T]his is the place where you will hear stories that you will never read in class or in the library or see on TV. These are stories that have been curated especially because of how unique they are and this is an opportunity to grow. And for students, I think the point of going to any kind of institution is to grow."

Radha Menon

Decolonize Your Ears Festival will take place from June 22 to 26, 2021 outdoors, public health restrictions permitting. Alternatively, the event will be livestreamed. Menon hopes that the festival will become an annual event.

Organizations such as Red Betty Theatre and festivals such as Decolonize Your Ears are crucial components to sharing communities’ diverse experiences and histories with colonialism, decolonizing theatre and creating a more equitable and inclusive future.

Alex Moore-Gibson is raising money and awareness for breast cancer through her lifestyle brand

C/O Honey and Glow

When Alex Moore-Gibson opened Honey and Glow to sell her handmade and sustainable bath, body and home products seven years ago, it mainly served as an outlet to unleash her creative energy. Today, it has turned into something greater than just health and beauty. It encompasses messages of women empowerment, community and breast cancer awareness.

Growing up with problematic and sensitive skin, Moore-Gibson had trouble finding products that were both gentle and effective enough to meet her skin’s needs. To address this problem, she began making her own bath and body products using DIY kits her mother bought her. She continued this hobby all throughout high school and university.

After much encouragement from family and friends who received her handmade products as gifts, she opened Honey and Glow as a passion project aside from her regular day job as a teacher. She currently sells lip balm, sugar scrubs, loose-leaf teas and beeswax food wraps.

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In 2019, Moore-Gibson temporarily closed the shop to welcome her second son. As Honey and Glow was growing rapidly, it became overwhelming to balance her day job and raise her two sons all the while maintaining Honey and Glow. During her break, at the age of 34, she was also diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

Last year, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she underwent a mastectomy and began chemotherapy and radiation. Although these were some of the most brutal and darkest times, once she regained her energy, she needed Honey and Glow to relieve her suppressed creative spirit and find new direction and purpose as she finished up her treatment journey.

“Once I got through the really dark days and I started to have more energy, I was finding that I had this real energy, creative energy building up inside of me and I didn’t really know how to use it, especially during a pandemic,” said Moore-Gibson. 

Honey and Glow recently reopened and is currently offering curbside pick up, online orders and delivery. 

Moore-Gibson also started to donate a portion of the sales to Rethink Breast Cancer, a Toronto-based foundation focused on empowering women and families living with and affected by breast cancer. The donation is used for breast cancer awareness programs and events, research, resources and community work.

Moore-Gibson chose Rethink Breast Cancer because the stories of other breast cancer patients, survivors and families shared by the foundation served as a source of inspiration and comfort during her most difficult times.

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Integrating her personal story in her work for Honey and Glow became very important for Moore-Gibson. Sharing her breast cancer journey has allowed her to connect with customers and supporters at a deeper level and engage in conversations with others affected by breast cancer.

“Even something as simple as the amount of women that have reached out to me being like, “Today is such a dark day and seeing your face and seeing your hair in a headband is giving me hope” makes it feel so worth it. It makes me want to keep going,” explained Moore-Gibson.

However, sharing her story online wasn’t easy. It took much courage and trust to post her vulnerable side on the internet.

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“I’ve always had a very private social media account . . . so I was worried about being vulnerable. But I would say the response has been nothing but supportive,” said Moore-Gibson. “Sharing my breast cancer story has given me even more courage to share more and be more involved and to just keep going.”

The brand has become more meaningful and healing in ways that she could have never imagined. Her favourite part of running and growing her business has been being empowered and inspired by other young female entrepreneurs and building new friendships. Her love for her local community of supporters and like-minded small business owners has led her to do many collaborations and giveaway events with local makers and artisans.

From seven years of running Honey and Glow, Moore-Gibson has learned to believe in herself and to take a chance. She encourages others who may be hesitant to pursue their dreams to take their leap of faith.

Local artists and cultural workers express their concerns about gentrification and the housing crisis in Hamilton

C/O Hamilton Artists Organizing

The arts and artists have long been associated with the gentrification of inner-city neighbourhoods, the displacement of vulnerable groups and working-class communities. With increasing focus on creativity in urban development, artists and cultural workers have become a vital part of city revitalization projects.

Yet their creativity has become highly valued not so much for their innovation, artistry or vision, but more for its power to attract investors and wealthier residents. This has caused real estate values to rise, residents to be pushed out and poverty conditions to intensify. Hamilton is no exception to this trend of art-stimulated gentrification.

Walking down James Street North, you may have seen the slogan, “Art is the New Steel”, on public art, t-shirts and posters. The emerging arts districts in Hamilton have brought social and economic changes, leading to the recent dramatic shifts in housing costs and migration of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour groups to more marginalized neighbourhoods.

Walking down James Street North, you may have seen the slogan, “Art is the New Steel”, on public art, t-shirts and posters. The emerging arts districts in Hamilton have brought social and economic changes, leading to the recent dramatic shifts in housing costs and migration of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour groups to more marginalized neighbourhoods.

Reports from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton in 2019 revealed that about 45 per cent of residents spend a disproportionate amount of their income on their rent. Furthermore, between June 2019 and June 2020, the city’s rents experienced the highest spike in the country, increasing by 33.5 per cent.

The rise in unaffordable housing is one of the seven urgent issues highlighted by Hamilton Artists Organizing in a letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the city council. HAO is a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers and cultural workers mobilizing against gentrification in the city.

The rise in unaffordable housing is one of the seven urgent issues highlighted by Hamilton Artists Organizing in a letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the city council. HAO is a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers and cultural workers mobilizing against gentrification in the city.

The group formally formed in 2019 and began drafting the letter prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, a larger group of local artists, including current members of HAO, have been assembling and discussing the involvement of the arts in gentrification for some time.

They have engaged in conferences such as Gathering on Art, Gentrification and Economic Development at McMaster and Pressure Points: Gentrification and the Arts in Hamilton at Hamilton Artists Inc. art gallery. Sparked by these conversations, the collective ultimately formed to take direct action and break the cycle of art-powered gentrification.

“The fact is that artwashing and these kinds of vanguard behaviours by artists to move into communities and gentrify them is a historical relationship that needs to be interrupted,” said Derek Jenkins, a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker and member of HAO.

The letter was written as a group, with perspectives and contributions from artists who are new to the issue and by those who have been researching the issue for a long time.

In addition to rental costs, the letter questions and demands the current plan of action with regards to the shortage of adequate social housing; class-based disparities between neighbourhoods; poverty; homelessness and loss of service providers; with references to impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until the Hamilton city council responds and meets these demands, the group and supporters have promised to withhold their services and focus more on highlighting the actions, or the lack of actions, from the city.

Since being published in January of this year, the letter has garnered more than 580 signatures from community artists and cultural workers. There have also been overwhelming inquiries from local artists to join HAO.

HAO believes the purpose of the letter is two-fold: it is aimed at both the city counsellors and artists. Artists are in a unique position in that they are at both ends of the gentrification cycle. They not only help fuel it, but they are often part of the group that experiences displacement due to redevelopment.

It is easy for artists to become ensnared in a vicious cycle of moving to a cheaper area and then being forced out due to their creative activities that raise the economic potential and property cost of the neighbourhood. Take Barton Village as an example.

It’s considered one of the cheaper neighbourhoods in Hamilton; however, it has seen a recent boom of cafés, expensive restaurants and art spaces due to the high saturation of artists in the area who help raise civic interest.

As an artist, it can be challenging to not be complicit with gentrification.

“Many artists are precariously employed and many are experiencing the housing crisis as well. It can become a very difficult problem for artists to weigh the costs of opportunities that may adversely affect their living situations,” explained Jenkins.

“Many artists are precariously employed and many are experiencing the housing crisis as well. It can become a very difficult problem for artists to weigh the costs of opportunities that may adversely affect their living situations,” explained Jenkins.

However, it is often these city and corporate-funded work with less community-minded interests, such as painting a mural in a derelict area, that fuel the cycle.

Members and supporters of HAO hope the letter and their continuous work will help raise more awareness about the power of the arts in gentrification.

“I hope that the artist community can lend our support in ways that we can. As part of our practices, we have all of these skills that we can offer in various contexts. I think it would be really exciting to see how artists can support local organizing,” said Danica Evering, writer, sound artist and member of HAO.

In the coming months, HAO is planning to have general meetings to continue the conversation around gentrification and expand the collective’s network. They encourage student-artists and activists to join.

In the words of Hayden King, an Anishinaabe writer and educator: “Artists must recognize that they're an active player in gentrification and if they are committed to social justice, they should devote their energies to ensuring that people are not being displaced.”

In the words of Hayden King, an Anishinaabe writer and educator: “Artists must recognize that they're an active player in gentrification and if they are committed to social justice, they should devote their energies to ensuring that people are not being displaced.”

It is these words that drive Jenkins, Evering, HAO and the artist community to continue raising their voices against the housing crisis in Hamilton.

As provincial COVID cases rose rapidly, Ontario imposes a new stay-at-home order

By: Alexandra Podkoscielny, Contributor

Despite many people’s illusioned hopes, hanging up a new calendar did not leave the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Only 12 days into the new year, the province of Ontario proclaimed a second provincial emergency.

In a news conference at Queen’s Park on Jan. 12, Premier Doug Ford promulgated both the state of emergency and a stay-at-home order under section 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

“The measures [introduced on Jan. 12] are absolutely necessary to save and protect the lives of Ontarians . . . The number of cases and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 are at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic a year ago,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliot. 

“The measures [introduced on Jan. 12] are absolutely necessary to save and protect the lives of Ontarians . . . The number of cases and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 are at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic a year ago,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliot. 

The number of single-day COVID case increases in Ontario reached a record peak of 4249 on Jan. 8, 2021. “By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives,” said Ford.

Now, since Jan. 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. until at least Feb. 9, 2021, residents of Ontario are required to stay at home. “Remain in their place of residence at all times,” according to the stay-at-home order.

Now, since Jan. 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. until at least Feb. 9, 2021, residents of Ontario are required to stay at home.

Residents must stay home with the exception of leaving for purposes that are deemed as essential. These exceptions most notably include groceries, medicine, healthcare services and exercise. Among the many other permitted exceptions outlined by the order, people are also able to leave for essential work. Non-compliance with the order can result in fines.

The order has received some criticism for being unclear.

The order has received some criticism for being unclear. With 29 exceptions, many Ontarians are left puzzled. However, according to Ford, the order is clear. 

“There is no confusion here. It’s very simple. Stay. Home. Stay home. That’s it. If you’re questioning, “should I go out?”, you got the answer: stay home,” said Ford. 

The guidelines of the stay-at-home order layer onto previous rules and restrictions; however, some have become more stringent. During the state of emergency, non-essential businesses can only operate between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. through contactless curbside pick-up and delivery. 

“There is no confusion here. It’s very simple. Stay. Home. Stay home. That’s it. If you’re questioning, “should I go out?”, you got the answer: stay home,” said Ford.

Indoor gatherings between members of different households are now banned, with some exceptions, such as religious rites. Outdoor gatherings cannot exceed a maximum of five people and must comply by social distancing guidelines. Outdoor use of masks is now being advised during instances where social distancing is difficult as well. 

Remote learning in elementary and secondary schools is extended until Feb. 10 in schools that were in grey zones prior to the state of emergency, including Hamilton. Post-secondary institutions must continue to carry out their courses online, aside from mandatory in-person components, such as clinical training.

“[Ontario] should have somewhere around or below 1,000 new cases a day,” said Williams.

In a news conference on Jan. 18, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams explained some general requirements for the lockdown to end. “[Ontario] should have somewhere around or below 1,000 new cases a day,” said Williams.

Since the new measures were imposed, the province has had an average of approximately two-and-a-half times this proposed daily target per day and last had around 1,000 new cases per day in early November.

Brittany Aiello discusses how she finds comfort and stress relief through her hand-painted plant pot business

During the stress and isolation of lockdown, people have returned to pastimes such as art, dancing and writing. However, one of the most popular trends is planting. There is something therapeutic about nurturing plants that has convinced many people to rekindle their garden romance during this pandemic.

If you are a plant lover and have been researching local Hamilton businesses to support, you may already be familiar with The Crazy Planter Lady on Instagram. Behind the beautifully painted pots and cute plants is Brittany Aiello.

The artist started the Instagram page back in 2018 to share her extensive plant collection. After successfully debuting her hand-painted plant pots at a 2019 art crawl, she turned her planting and painting hobby into a business.

 

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Aiello fell in love with painting plant pots because planting and art enabled her to unplug and relax. She loves her job as an educational assistant for students with special needs, however, it can be very stressful and painting plant pots is the perfect hobby that combines her passion for both art and gardening.

She also appreciates the community connection she is able to build with other local artists, plant enthusiasts and small business owners.

“[Painting plant pots] is a really good escape for me, physically and mentally. But on top of that, I've gotten to meet lots of cool people and whether it be at shows, customers or just people asking me for advice on how to take care of their plants. I think the community of Hamilton as a whole has a lot of great people that are willing to support local and so I've met awesome other business people like myself and artists,” said Aiello. 

"[Painting plant pots] is a really good escape for me, physically and mentally. But on top of that, I've gotten to meet lots of cool people and whether it be at shows, customers or just people asking me for advice on how to take care of their plants."

The painting technique she uses most involves dish soap and acrylic paint to create unique, abstract patterns that also come in endless colour combinations. The most popular designs are galaxy and metallics.

Her pots can be purchased in a variety of sizes with or without a plant and custom typography can be added as well. Another collection the artist offers are the "tiny planter buddies" ranging from animals to miniature Starbucks cups.

Since uploading her first post on her Instagram page, her page has been flooded with support and love from the community. In fact, it was the same community that convinced her to sell her hand-painted pots. Behind the scenes, her husband who is a graphic designer helps with advertisements and social media posts.

 

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Outside of her social media page, Aiello also participates in art shows. Although her last show was in the summer of 2020, the supporters who come out to see her art motivate her to continue developing her business.

Aiello’s pots are available at Nest gift shop on Locke Street, which is currently closed due to the lockdown. However, her pots are still available for sale using contactless payment and pickup.

To fit the theme of a plant-based store, Aiello’s business is also eco-conscious and sustainable. All the packaging is made of recycled materials and she also offers plant rescues for her customers’ dying plants. Through this service, she is able to support new plant owners and share the values and benefits of planting with the community. 

“I just love having living decor that you can change and it really brings up your mood inside your living space as well,” said Aiello.

“I just love having living decor that you can change and it really brings up your mood inside your living space as well,” said Aiello.

For those who are just starting to care for plants, Aiello shared her tips.

“You really can't go wrong with getting a desert plant like a succulent because it really does only need water once a month and you can forget about it and it looks beautiful. I think people just need to remember, it's okay if you lose a plant because then you learned a lesson and you can get a new plant,” said Aiello.

Being a plant parent can provide solace, distraction or beauty during this time of hurt and uncertainty. Whatever emotions you may have during the pandemic, planting — with the help of folks like Aiello — might be just the outlet you need to reignite a little jubilation.

Escarpment Kombucha Co. is hand-crafting small batches of kombucha for the Hamilton community

As the only kombucha brewers local to the Hamilton area, Escarpment Kombucha Co. owners Robyn Starkey and Andrew Ernest are setting a precedent. They started their company in January 2020 and currently operate out of The Kitchen Collective on King Street East to brew and bottle their small-batch kombucha.

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage. Starkey describes kombucha by noting that it is to tea what wine is to grape juice. Starkey and Ernest’s mixture undergoes two rounds of fermentation before it is strained, carbonated and transferred to a keg for distribution.

Starkey is originally from Mississauga, attended Dalhousie University for creative writing and English, then graduated to become a legal assistant. At the same time, Ernest became the manager of a coffee shop in Halifax. Together, the couple discovered a shared interest in home fermentation as a healthier alternative to sodas and juices.

 

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Upon settling in Hamilton, Starkey and Ernest decided to turn their passion project of two years into a business. Once a small studio apartment operation consisting of a bookshelf of kombucha for friends and family, the two put pen to paper in order to turn their dreams into a reality. The company’s name pays homage to the geography and wildlife of the Hamilton area by referring to the Hamilton escarpment

“I think that Escarpment Kombucha Co. is trying to take kombucha at the local level and bring it to the city of Hamilton. We're trying to make a product that is as sustainable and delicious as possible without sacrificing on the health benefits. If you think you don't like kombucha or you've never tried it before, this is the kombucha you should try,” said Starkey.

"If you think you don't like kombucha or you've never tried it before, this is the kombucha you should try,” said Starkey

Ingredients for the kombucha are sourced locally wherever possible. They use tea from Toronto-based company Lemon Lily Tea. Fruits are sourced from Boreal Berry Farm in Warren, with seasonal ingredients from local farmers including Sunfire Herbals in Hamilton and Baba Link Farm in Flamborough.

“[Sourcing locally] is really great because if we make relationships with local people, then we get to be harvesting, processing and turning the ingredients into kombucha and selling them. It's a really satisfying part of the process . . . My favourite part of the summer was when I had an entire table of drying sumac and mint that I picked and there [were] hops in the cupboard, waiting to go,” said Starkey.

If you’re looking for a new flavour to pick up, a fan favourite is the raspberry lavender, made with raspberries from Boreal Berry Farms and lavender from Weir’s Lane Lavender in Dundas.

 

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Starkey’s personal favourite experimental flavour is pear hops, a seasonal variation which she described as cidery, with a hint of beer taste. Currently, they are in the process of experimenting with seabuckthorn, a sour berry that Starkey described as the liquid version of sour patch kids candy.

The company’s products are available at 17 retail locations near the Hamilton area and they currently offer free contact-free home delivery, which can be set up on a recurring basis for customers’ weekly, biweekly or monthly fix of kombucha. 

Their kombucha is offered in growlers, a more sustainable option packaged in reusable glass bottles and sold at a discounted price to encourage zero-waste alternatives as the company works towards entirely zero-waste packaging. They currently utilize compostable seals and all of their bottles are returnable or reusable.

“We've only been in business for one year, but I would hope that [students] can see that the process of starting your own business and coming up with a big dream pays off. It’s really just making lists and getting it done and finding people to help you navigate. This is not what I went to school for — I was not a business student — but I really value that I was able to figure out what we were doing,” said Starkey.

“We've only been in business for one year, but I would hope that [students] can see that the process of starting your own business and coming up with a big dream pays off."

Escarpment Kombucha Co. is a testament to the importance of following your passions, which for Starkey and Ernest is brewing one small batch at a time. They have created a tasty and healthy beverage that they hope people in Hamilton and beyond will enjoy.

McMaster graduate’s new business is making jewellery both affordable and fun

Fashion choices, including jewellery, are inherently personal but can also be an accessory to explore and have fun with. However, jewellery especially is often seen as a luxury that is out of reach to students as affordability can often constrict choices. Businesses such as Emily O’Rourke’s No Prob Co are helping to make jewellery both more affordable and fun.

O’Rourke is a recent McMaster graduate and was the Editor-in-Chief of the Silhouette during Volume 89. She is currently working in public relations, but about a year ago when she had some time off during the holidays, she began to explore jewellery making.

A few months later when the pandemic began and she had more time, her hobby snowballed into No Prob Co.

“It's very much a nice passion project. I think I would put it that way. I love doing it and I love having that time to craft or to make things that I like . . . it's more of a fun thing to do instead of something I focused on as a business,” explained O’Rourke.

“It's very much a nice passion project. I think I would put it that way. I love doing it and I love having that time to craft or to make things that I like . . . it's more of a fun thing to do instead of something I focused on as a business,” explained O’Rourke.

O’Rourke mostly makes jewellery and hair accessories, but she has recently branched out into home goods, such as candles. All her products are made by hand and are available through her Etsy store

 

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The reception has been increasingly positive, particularly over these past few months with O’Rourke now receiving orders from across Ontario.

“I really enjoy making things that are fun and exciting and part of my own personal tastes. Like things that I would wear myself or things that I'd buy myself, so I’m glad to know that other people share the same taste as me,” said O’Rourke.

“I really enjoy making things that are fun and exciting and part of my own personal tastes. Like things that I would wear myself or things that I'd buy myself, so I’m glad to know that other people share the same taste as me,” said O’Rourke.

While suggested prices are listed alongside each product, No Prob Co operates on a pay-what-you-can model. Financial accessibility is important to O’Rourke and part of what inspired the name for her business.

“I say no prob and no problem all the time and also I really wanted this to be like an accessible business . . . Accessibility is part of the “no prob” in the name because it's something that I feel I've definitely been relaxed about instead of like “these are my prices, this is what you have to pay”,” explained O’Rourke.

 

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As a recent graduate, she understands that affordability is of particular concern to students when shopping for jewellery, whether it is for themselves or loved ones.

“I think when I was a student, I was very disappointed when I couldn’t find things that I could afford that I liked . . . [but] if somebody else is making it and I can pay what I want, I think that's a lot more accessible and a lot more like inviting for students particularly,” said O’Rourke.

“I think when I was a student, I was very disappointed when I couldn’t find things that I could afford that I liked . . . [but] if somebody else is making it and I can pay what I want, I think that's a lot more accessible and a lot more like inviting for students particularly,” said O’Rourke.

O’Rourke acknowledged that while it might not be the most sustainable business practice, No Prob Co is more of a passion project than a business. She wants it to be something enjoyable not just for her, but for others as well.

“I really want someone to walk away with something they really like and I think at the end of the day that's why I make these things because I really like to make them. So people who maybe like the same things I do can buy them at the rate they want to buy them at and can walk away with something that they can cherish,” explained O’Rourke.

Struggling to connect with one another through virtual classes, first-year students found community on social media

After four months of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, McMaster University students can finally say that their first semester of online learning is behind them. Some students, however, have only ever experienced McMaster online.

Since September, first-year students at McMaster have experienced a virtual transition to university. As residence is closed for the majority of first years, most have had to meet their peers virtually. However, the opportunities for socialization are different and more limited in an online classroom setting.

Navya Sheth, a first-year arts and science student from Oakville, Ontario, reflected on her first semester. For her, the hardest part of online school was forming connections with her peers through the screen, rather than the new academic challenges.

For Navya Sheth, the hardest part of online school was forming connections with her peers through the screen.

In anticipation of the social challenges that come with an entirely remote school year, McMaster tried to foster community among first-year students by adapting orientation to fit the online environment. This orientation involved a virtual Welcome Week and a new program called Archway, which was designed to help students access resources and meet new friends.

Saumyaa Rishi, a first-year life sciences student from Ottawa, Ontario, was grateful for the effort put into Welcome Week. Nonetheless, she found it difficult to connect with other first-years in that setting. 

“When you do these online [social events], there’s always a bigger group of people. It’s not like in-person where you can just talk to the person standing next to you,” Rishi said. 

“When you do these online [social events], there’s always a bigger group of people. It’s not like in-person where you can just talk to the person standing next to you,” Rishi said. 

Sheth expressed a similar sentiment when discussing her experiences with McMaster’s online social events, in particular, the Archway program. While she did enjoy the Zoom events hosted by the Arts and Science program, she found Archway wasn’t a conducive platform for her to make social connections.

Aniruddh Arora, a first-year international student in the computer science program, found that Archway was most beneficial at the start of the semester. “It was helpful for the first one or two weeks,” Arora noted.

“I had my own friend groups on WhatsApp and Instagram,” Arora explained. 

Arora then added that he later stopped attending meetings. Not only did he no longer have time in his busy academic schedule to attend Archway meetings, he also didn’t find it necessary anymore.

“I had my own friend groups on WhatsApp and Instagram,” he explained. 

Arora is not the only first-year student who has found community on social media. Over the last few months, some first-year students at McMaster have relied on social media to connect and communicate.

“When you talked to people [on social media], you knew that they were sort of going through the same thing,” said Rishi.

Rishi described social media as being a positive force in her first semester. “When you talked to people [on social media], you knew that they were sort of going through the same thing,” said Rishi.

According to Rishi, the impact of social media on her first-year experience has been far-reaching. Not only has social media been instrumental in the formation of friendships, as Rishi noted, but it has also helped first-year students to feel connected to the McMaster community in other ways.

Social media been instrumental in the formation of friendships.

Arora, who is attending McMaster from his home in Punjab, India, pointed out the academic benefits of social media on first-year students. As timezones often prevent him from being awake during the same hours as his professors, Arora has found the group chats created on various social media platforms to be a valuable academic support system.

“It really helps if you’re stuck on an assignment,” Arora explained.

As timezones often prevent him from being awake during the same hours as his professors, Arora has found the group chats created on various social media platforms to be a valuable academic support system. “It really helps if you’re stuck on an assignment,” Arora explained.

Social media has helped first-year students get involved with extracurricular activities as well. As an active member of the McMaster Moot Court, Sheth noted that she found out about the majority of extracurricular opportunities through Instagram.

On the impact that social media had on her first semester, Sheth believed Instagram links people to places where they feel connected albeit virtually. However she noted the challenges of a virtual first-year remain significant on students as some feel isolated to figure out how to adapt to online university.

“[Some] upper-years are living together in houses and can see each other, and I’m at home, trying to figure this out on my own,” Sheth said. “And I think that might be something that all first years are struggling with.”

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