Trousdale’s General Store: Filled with Magic of the Season

Trousdale’s General Store, located in the heart of Sydenham village is a treasure trove of unique finds. Push open the door and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the spirit of Christmas.

Ginney Trousdale, owner Trousdale's General Store

Ginney Trousdale, owner Trousdale’s General Store

The oldest general store in Canada, its enchanting world is a reminder of a time and place that today still captures the joy of this magical holiday season.

The store has been owned and operated by the Trousdale family since 1836, originally a bakeshop and then a hardware and general store where customers came to collect their groceries and supplies.

John Trousdale and his wife Ginny carry on this tradition today. Ginny worked as a grief counselor for many years. But in 2004, after her children had grown and with the passing of Johns parents decided to help out in the family business. John was busy with the other new stores Trousdale’s Foodland and the Home Hardware.

“Back in the day, the store was the busiest on a Saturday night. All the chores done on the farm, people cleaned, dressed up and came into the store for weekly groceries. Some might bring a fiddle and the store stayed open late for much socializing,” says Ginny.

Ginny is an artist, a painter and photographer with a keen eye. She used these skills to recreate the old general store by reinstating original fixtures, artifacts and memorabilia.

The store has been opened longer than there have been shopping bags in existence.

There has always been a Trousdale behind the counter. John worked in the family business since a child. Where, long ago you would find his parents Noble and Marg Trousdale behind the counter.

“Customers would come in with their lists,” said Ginny. “You would advise what you required for supplies, Noble would then send John off in search of it behind one of the cubbies in the large walnut counter.”

You will discover the very same counter on your visit today. Search out the pictures of Winston Churchill or other vintage finds such as old tins, the original gas pump, fashionable hats and the old ice-cream parlor from the 30’s.

The store is a destination worth seeking out. Only a 25min drive from Kingston and a picturesque drive from Gananoque, Brockville and Ottawa. Sydenham village is buzzing from cottagers in the summer to the outdoor pursuits long into the winter.

The past meets the present here. The soft hum of your favorite holiday tune, greeted by a warm smile from the staff. The old shelves are lined with preserves, jams, jellies, olive oils and every kitchen gadget you can imagine. Best part is friendly assistance in finding the perfect gift for a friend, family member or a little something for you.

“A customer came in and said, ‘I’m looking for two bizarre things.’ Ginny laughed and replied, “Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place.”

There is something for everyone on your list. Shop for goods and goodies that are noteworthy, whimsical and useful. With a nod to the past or a look to the future – vintage toys, books, cards, women’s boutique clothing and jewelry, warm wooly socks, tea towels and special holiday decorations and even “Get Along with Your Co-Worker’ gum.

If you are a foodie this is paradise. Purchase beautiful full fruit preserves, British Yorkshire teas, Dundee marmalades in whisky and champagne, easy to prepare dips, and an Everything Sauce that literally can be paired with anything from bread, cheese, chicken and vegetables among other things. It makes boring old meatloaf and a plain sandwich memorable.

Cooking gadgets that make life easier are also available such as the handy silicone banana leaf lids. It’s BPA free and can be heated up to 428 degrees F. Super for cooking messy things in the oven that splatter or for transporting lasagna to a friends for dinner.

“I swear by the Daddios bake ware,” says Ginny. “I’ve been baking for over thirty years for years. Last year when my son married I volunteered to make the pies. The end result was a consistent golden crust, perfect in color.”

Stumble in. I fell in love with the Don Stinson wooden bowls and vessel sculptures. Trousdale’s has a range of designs. Stinson bowls are well sought after, you will find them in stores around the world each one a unique handmade design.

“Chocolate is now a food group,” Ginny says. “We have Newfoundland chocolate wrapped in charming images of the houses that line the streets of that region.” You will discover chocolate in all its forms, sinful and delicious dark chocolate and even Johnny Walker filled with whisky and crunchy chocolate popcorn.

Taste and sample while you’re here. I tried the Perth Pepper and Pestle products made into a warm Bombay cranberry squash dip from a recipe available in store and the Wildly Delicious pink peppercorn dip.

If you are looking for easy things to prepare, some selections you simply twist the lid, warm and serve.

Find the cold pressed artisan camelina oil from Three Farmers. Oil rich in omega-3 and vitamin E, along with family owned Ralo olive oils.

“Ralo oils are a local Ontario business. The owner travels to Greece and hand picks the olives used in his oils and then he hand delivers the goods to us. It’s just great that this style of trade still exists.”

Trousdale’s prides itself on customer service and quality products. The story goes that if they didn’t have it in stock they would find it for you. In the past customers would barter for goods and things were bought on credit. While bartering doesn’t happen anymore, what you will still find is good old-fashioned friendliness and kindness, what better reason to shop local.

The store is a museum in its own right. “It holds loads of memories,” says Ginny. “I remember when my daughter was born she was so tiny that we would bring her down each day to be weighed on the scales to be sure she was gaining.”

The store has changed but the high tin ceilings; old floors, doors and cabinets remain. When I push open the door, I can still imagine the history in those walls. The early starts to heat up the oven in the shop. The waft of warm butter and vanilla mingling in the air as John, the original baker or Percy would peel the loaves of bread and fresh baking from the large oven with the 12 ft peel.

“He would deliver the goods to the mica mines for storage or to the villagers. The old horse knew the path well and pulled the cart along the familiar route,” Ginny recalls. Today the original cart can be found in the window of the store.

As I leave the store, I turn back and see the warm glow of Christmas bursting from its windows. I love this time of the year; this little shop brings to mind how magical this season continues to be.

Trousdale’s General Store, located at 4395 Mill Street, Sydenham or visit the website for a glimpse inside at http://www.canadasoldestgeneralstore.com. Store is open daily from 9:30 am till 5:30 pm and on weekends 10 am till 4:30pm.

If you have a restaurant or foodie biz that you would like me to check out please email ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow my blog Ladydinesalot.com or facebook.

Winter Warm Up at Harper’s Burger Bar

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“Yum!” was all that was said at our post Santa Parade dinner. Our table of four ate in silence after the food arrived. Generally, quite an animated bunch, this is the norm at Harpers.  One bite and you want to inhale every bite. Harpers Burger Bar is a great place to drop in for a legendary bite to eat.

The downtown Santa Parade marks the beginning of holiday season.  Beginning with big flakes of white stuff softly coming down – the snow fall added to the holiday feeling as the floats passed that evening.

We try to get to the Parade as an annual treat. Once we even volunteered to help. While a frosty commitment we always relish the hot chocolate at the end, followed by the lightning of the Christmas tree in Springer Market Square.

This time our daughter was in the parade and needed to be there prior to get organized with her peers, a welcome opportunity for holiday shopping and secure a good viewing place. We found a spot outside Harpers Burger Bar. Soon the street was lined with children and parents, some snuggled up curbside for the perfect siting of the big guy in the red suit trailing the parade.

Harpers Burger Bar was already filled with early diners. Something they say is a regular weekend occurrence, even outside of the Santa Parade event. The restaurant is a popular spot, long time famous, is now about to be infamous for its food across Canada. In October, they received a call from the Food Network announcing that they had been chosen by the show, “You Gotta Eat Here” to be featured in an upcoming episode in March. Last week, the crew was filming on location in Kingston.

The burger bar has long been a favorite of our family. It’s a relaxed, urban location that serves up good local food. Harpers’ is one of four restaurants that owner Tim Pater has in Kingston the others being, le Chien Noir, Atomica and the new addition Diane’s Fish Bar.

The parade was magical. The bells of Chris the Town Crier, in full regalia bellowed the start of the parade. Canada Post collected the letters to Santa from the little boys and girls. The little boy at my feet belly laughed each time the police or fire truck sirens rang out. He was bursting with enthusiasm, while the adults were reminded of Christmas’ past. The music and children’s laughter filled the air. Dancers, gymnastic clubs, dogs dressed in festive bow ties and floats with beautiful lights twinkled through the evening. We danced a jig to keep warm. All the while, the door at Harpers would swing open on occasion briefly warming and beckoning us in with the delicious aromas from inside.

Nearing the end of the parade, I went inside Harpers to secure us a seat. Truth be told, it was to warm up a little. A busy weekend spot, it was certainly within acceptable wait time. Best part is that no matter how long it’s worth every bite. On other visits, I’ve waited no more than ten minutes, if at all.

The menu is full of creative food choices. We started with deep fried pickles and white truffle oil aioli for dipping. It’s fun to build your burger with loads the loads of variations listed. Choose from AAA beef, turkey, blackened chicken, fish, pork or mushroom – choose a bun and then add a variety of other unique toppings, you won’t be disappointed. (Just writing about it makes my mouth water) Don’t worry the classic is available too. Foot long hot dogs, pulled pork tacos and salads too. Pair with fresh cut Yukon gold fries or the meal in itself pulled pork poutine and even a Thai version.

Hubby had the Bulls Eye, a flat top seared AAA beef burger, topped with Monterey jack cheese, fried egg, jalapenos and bbq sauce. I savored the La la land with chicken, avocado spread, goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper, arugula and pesto mayo. I was definitely in ‘la la land’ afterwards. 

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Harpers’ is licensed and features local beverages along with home made milkshakes and even beer floats! Kitchen closes at 9pm. No reservations required.

We left filled with good eats and the magic of Christmas. You really gotta eat here.

Harpers Burger Bar is located at 93 Princess Street, downtown Kingston.

If you have a restaurant or a foodie biz that I should check out email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow my blog Ladydinesalot.com or on Facebook.

Harvesting Peace

Gazette Lifestyle – YMCA Peace Week is celebrated Nov. 16 -23 each year across Canada. The hope is to inspire others to actively become engaged in peace in their everyday lives.

Catherine (Cath) Styles is the 2013 YMCA Peace Medallion recipient, celebrating her work as founder of the GROW Project in support and partnership with Loving Spoonful.

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The GROW Project is an art installation and community gardens network across five schools throughout the Limestone District School Board. It engages children to be more socially active by developing links with the school, the kids and the wider community. It enhances knowledge of sustainable food production through participation and cultivation.

Loving Spoonful is a non-profit organization; its main objective to enhance access to healthy food to Kingston residents. They offer a free pick-up service from restaurants and caterers across town, delivering the surplus food to twenty shelters and social service programs in addition to a variety of food education programs. The GROW project is an extension of their programs specific to children. Loving Spoonful volunteers maintain the gardens throughout the summer months.

In every community, there are exceptional leaders whose work influences the lives of others. As an artist, activist, wife and mother of two, Cath is very deserving of this award for her efforts in reinforcing activities that promote a more peaceful environment.

“Peace means so many different things,” said Styles. “For me it’s about tolerance and understanding. The ability to live in a community where everyone is different but there is acceptance for what makes each other different.”

“Peace is really about all of those values that you find in religion -it’s trust, respect and the rules of conduct that allow you to respond in an appropriate way.”

Styles and I share the same philosophy on peace and the benefits of building stronger connections to food and community.

“The culture of food is something that is lost today,” she said.

“We’ve turned food into a chore, into a consumable,” continued Styles. “We need to turn it into an approach in cultivating a food mind.

“My mother always had beautiful perennial gardens. I had two aunts who had amazing vegetable gardens. I have these fond memories of a communal interaction with food. Where the family and extended community would work together. I would help with preserves. While I can’t tell you how to can a beet, I do have memories of washing and preparing the beets for canning. It was family affair.

“As a kid there was music and food always around us.” said Styles. “It was a social activity where we kids helped by replenishing food during gatherings or washing dishes. Today, we still do this. Seven of my cousins and extended family rented a house for a week’s vacation. It was packed with our families, bikes, dogs -the whole week revolved around food.”

The enjoyment of food, in both its preparation and consumption, is intertwined with social custom feeding us physically and mentally. Food connects.

There is a joy in working, sharing and building community.

“The GROW idea was to initially to talk to the kids about public art, and how they can use their voice to affect their community,” said Styles.

“The idea just grew, from how do we show them,” explained Styles. “Ok, lets paint murals, let’s put them on a fence and why not make this fence around a garden.”

The first GROW Project garden was built at Rideau Public School in the Winter/Spring of 2009 with approximately 60 Grade 5 students participating in classroom activities. Today, over 170 children participate from Grades 1 -6. Local artist/illustrator, Nancy Douglas at Nelson Street Studio helped divide classes into groups and worked with students, developing murals that would be painted on the garden fences. RONA provided building materials, cut to size, at no charge, and the fence sections were assembled and primed by parent volunteers before mural painting days.

Emily Dowling from Root Radicals CSA on Howe Island generously donated tomato seedlings for the project, and two of her interns came in for a classroom session, teaching the kids about raising vegetables and transplanting seedlings. Susan Belyea, former Executive Director of Loving Spoonful, mentored the program development and came in to talk about Loving Spoonful and the role of other social agencies within Kingston.

“It was decided that the GROW Project was going to adopt [the seedlings from Emily Dowling] and grow and plant them and then donate to Loving Spoonful,” says Styles.

Since the spring of 2009, four additional GROW Project gardens have been built at schools in Central Kingston, including First Avenue, Rideau Heights, JG Simcoe and Winston Churchill Public Schools. In 2013, through a Weston Foundation grant, additional education programs to the project have been added.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

Cath Styles works at it. To learn more about the GROW Project and the work Loving Spoonful does to assist healthy food to the people of Kingston visit lovingspoonful.org.

If you have a restaurant or food biz I should check out email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com, follow my blog ladydinesalot@gmail.com or on Facebook.