To anyone who knows me, it’s no secret that one of my lamest pleasures is reality TV. Specifically, shows in the Bachelor franchise. When they announced that after two seasons of Bachelor Canada, they’d be doing Bachelorette Canada for the first time, I was cautiously optimistic. Let’s face it: the two seasons of Bachelor Canada were kind of lame – little travel, everything looked so “budget”, and despite what I’m sure were the production company’s best efforts, the show just felt so “Canadian trying to be American” and naturally, failing.
Well, with this inaugural installation of Bachelorette Canada, I have been pleasantly surprised – the season is fantastic! As good, if not better, than its American counterpart. The lead, Jasmine, is a delight to watch, and I think that has made all the difference. The gang has done a significant amount of world travelling, and are now back to Canada for “hometowns”, where they visited Newmarket and Waterloo, ON and, drumroll please… our very own Winnipeg, home of fan favourite, firefighter Mike Ogilvie.
Spoiler alert: despite an amazing meeting with his family, Jasmine sent Mike home this past week. Their relationship was just moving too slow and he hadn’t opened up as much as he needed to for the process to work (read: things were developing at a normal pace for the real world, but doomed in this context). Poor Mike. When the season started, I didn’t quite understand the fan bases’s Mike-mania, but as the weeks went by, he kind of grew on me. Mike for Bachelor Canada 3? I’d be happy with that.
Anyway, I am going somewhere Winnipegy with all this. Did anyone else find that it was almost Winnipeg itself that was the contestant in this season, rather than Mike? As someone who at one point was intensely curious about Winnipeg’s inferiority complex and love/hate civic relationship, I found it fascinating that Winnipeg became such a plot point.
Could Jasmine, a travelling free spirit now currently based in BC, see herself in Winnipeg? (Mike didn’t see himself leaving his firefighting career here – but I always wonder how much of those “where would we live?” discussions make it to air. I was under the impression that firefighting is a profession in most places.) I don’t think the words “a boring old podunk town like” were ever uttered before “Winnipeg” but you can read between the lines. (Of course, all this took place before that Vogue thing happened… we’ll never know if that could have swayed things in favour of our hero.)
Well, it turns out that Jasmine grew up in Kenora, and so living in Winnipeg would feel like coming home in a way: familiar, comforting, known….but still. There was just something unspoken about the city that clearly was a roadblock. Settling. A step backwards.
Winnipeg was cast as the unfortunate underbelly of a seemingly all-star contestant. In all the years I’ve been watching this franchise, I don’t think a contestant’s place of residence has played such a prominent role in the lead’s assessment, except of course for Iowa in Chris’s season.
In the same way that most Canadians are hyper-aware of any references to Canada in the US television, when you live in Winnipeg, your ears really perk up when our city is mentioned or represented anywhere (except if it’s to name us the murder capital of Canada or the Slurpee capital of the world. That’s yesterday’s news.). And so, I just found it really interesting how there was never any real debate (spoken or implied) over whether Jasmine would want to live in some random part of Ontario, but Winnipeg? Come on. Without question, that would fall into the “things the we do for love” category, and maybe not even then.
Poor Winnipeg just can’t catch a break. (Although now that I think of it, Drew didn’t do Toronto any favours either.)
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for production during this season. Was the “Winnipeg Factor” really such a huge thing, or did it get a little help from the editing department to make it play out as a bigger issue than it really was? And if so, whose idea was it to cast Winnipeg as this insurmountable obstacle – all biased and oblivious producers from Vancouver and Toronto? Is it possible a Winnipeg producer could have exploited his or her understanding of the local inferiority complex to betray us in this way? I know it was an obvious choice—everyone knows Winnipeg makes a great butt for jokes—but it did feel a little tired and predictable. And considering how great this season was, that was a bit of a letdown.
So — did you watch this season? Am I overreacting to/overanalysing the Winnipeg issue? Would love to know your thoughts.
Howdy fellow ‘Peggers!
It’s been too long. As always, there have been plenty of amazing things happening around town (and of course, some not-so-amazing things too), but this will be a pretty personal post, mostly making a record of some of my summer highlights.
July kicked off with a “moms’ morning out” date with a good friend and neighbour. We try to do this once or twice a year – have someone else take care of the kids for a morning and then hit the town for what is usually a series of food-related stops we’ve been wanting to try. This time, we had an ambitious list of places we were hoping to make it to, and I was pretty happy with what we managed to fit in.
First up, we headed downtown, aiming to check out Fools & Horses on Broadway. We had parked a few blocks away because downtown was super busy that weekday morning, with something apparently going on at the Convention Centre — hundreds of people in beautiful and colourful outfits were converging there. We asked some snazzily-dressed people walking by what was going on, and they said it was Eid, a celebration marking the last day of Ramadan, and invited us to join them. We were pretty set on our morning plans but appreciated their welcoming gesture….friendly Manitoba! We made it to Fools & Horses and had fancy-schmancy toast (highly recommend the gouda/savoury fig toast and the Toast M’Goats) and coffee for breakfast, with a side of people watching. What a great location!
After our downtown adventure we made our way to Corydon. There were a couple shops we wanted to visit, but the real goal was to go to Pennyloaf Bakery. There we drooled over the amazing selection of breads and sweets, settling on the olive loaf and half-dozen cookies (I loved the flourless chocolate cookies). Lastly we made a stop at Make Coffee+Stuff for an iced coffee….delish. On the way back to our neighbourhood we stopped in a Dierbe, a natural cosmetics/toiletries shop on Marion, and spent way too long smelling basically every item in the shop. It was great.
(On our list of to-try places for next time: Sleepy Owl Bread, Clementine, PEG Beer Co.)
My family’s next big adventure was our annual summer road trip to Alberta to see my extended fam. We often stay with friends just outside of Regina for our mid-point overnight stop, and this time we stopped at A L’Epi de Blé bakery on Main St. to get some bread and pastries to bring our hosts. Man, trying to make a selection in that bakery is near impossible – everything looks and smells so divine. After I’d finalized my selections, the always-charming owner caught me ogling the cheese cooler and insisted on letting me sample some Laliberté cheese from Quebec, saying “I just want to see the expression on your face when you taste it” with a knowing grin. And she was right, it’s the sort of thing you can’t eat without a little sigh of pleasure. I will be back for more of that.
The first day of our drive coincided with the inaugural Steinbach Pride, which I was able to follow quite closely on Twitter since my kids were being unusually well-behaved and self-reliant in the back seat. More than once, I teared up seeing the images of the crowds, and of all the groups that came from across Canada to be there. I would have really liked to be there myself. In case you didn’t hear the backstory, this was the first-ever attempt at a pride event in Steinbach, and the organizers enountered a few obstacles in getting things going. They anticipated maybe 200 people would attend; between 2500-5000 showed up. I am almost moved to tears just typing that. #loveislove
Greg Gallinger also took some amazing photos:
There were a few things I was keen to do in Lethbridge – most of them, of course, are just about being with people I love. I was also excited about a new microbrewery that had recently opened: Theoretically Brewing Company. On our first night in Alberta my BFF Aaron showed up with a couple bottles of theirs – Curiosity Amber Ale and Quantum Wheat Ale. Both were good, but I wish I’d had a chance to try the Publish or Perish Porter and the Black Hole Beer Stout. Next time!
While in “LA” (which is how cheesy 90s radio ads referred to Lethbridge, and so naturally what we call it with others in the know), we also went to the downtown farmers’ market. This is a relatively new event and I think it’s fantastic. Lots of great vendors and a nice atmosphere. Leaving the market we crossed at Lethbridge’s first-ever pride crosswalk and got coffee from the pop-up Penny Coffee House stand (the coffee shop where I basically spent 100% of my high school job paycheques).
I also loved going to the big Saturday farmer’s market at the exhibition grounds. I’ve been going to this market with my mum since I was a kid. The official smell of the farmers’ market to me is dill, and luckily, the aroma hasn’t changed a bit in 25 years. My all-time favourite Lethbridge farmers’ market buy is the Hungarian poppy seed roll (the walnut roll comes in a close 2nd). This year I also bought a couple bottles of honey wine from Spirit Hills to bring back as gifts. And some aged gouda that was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth… though I can’t remember which cheese place that was from (I think probably Crystal Springs).
Back at home in Winnipeg we had a short break from being on vacation before heading out to Albert Beach for a week. My in-laws had rented a cottage there, choosing “la plage Albert” specifically because it is known for its large Franco-Manitoban community. I absolutely adored this place. Here is why:
- everyone was really friendly
- we were less than 2 blocks from the beach
- there are people on bikes everywhere, and cars drive nice and slowly, so I felt safe and comfortable walking, even with a gaggle of small children
- Saffies, the general store, had basically everything we needed to supplement the food and supplies we’d brought from the city. Plus they got in amazing baking from Einfeld’s bakery and Upper Crust Bakery (out of Selkirk). They held karaoke on their patio on the Sunday night, and we couldn’t resist walking down to check it out. So much fun!
- We ran into lots of people we had connections to, because of the French community, which basically meant the “all roads lead to Portage & Main” effect also applied to Albert Beach.
At last, I had a chance to the imperial cookies from “the bakery in Victoria Beach” (which turned out to be Einfeld’s).
My verdict on the imperials? Well, to be completely fair, I’m not sure I’d classify them as a true imperial. Einfeld’s calls them “Dream Cookies” and they don’t have a piece of cherry on top, so I guess technically they can’t compete with “true” imperials, but they are remarkable similar. While the cookies were a little thick for my ideal cookie/jam ratio, they did taste *really* good. I would definitely eat them again.
We also tried a loaf of onion-cheese focaccia from Upper Crust Bakery. It was unreal. The crust was super buttery, almost oily. I feel like this isn’t really a trademark of an authentic focaccia, but man, was it delicious.
Our week at Albert Beach flew by, and at last, we were home sweet home for the rest of August.
As much fun as we had on vacation, I was really glad to be home. And luckily, there was more fun in store for me! A few things stand out:
A friend invited me to Folklorama – an event I always wish I made more of an effort to get to. We went to the Poland Warsaw pavilion and thoroughly enjoyed the food and dancing. The Glenwood Community Centre is a great venue, and the crowds were just big enough to feel festive, but not so big to feel overwhelming and crowded.
I also went to Movies in the Park at the Lyric Theatre at Assiniboine Park for the first time! A friend and I saw Spectre and ate our weight in snacks. I was amazed that by the movie’s end near midnight, even my hoodie, jacket, and fleece blanket were not enough to keep the shivers at bay. Next time, sleeping bag!
One Sunday, my brother- and sister-in-law showed up at family lunch with a big wedge of cheese from the Holland, Manitoba monks. Third time’s a charm, and they’d finally managed to secure the purchase of this elusive and delicious cheese!
We had a lovely porch night with our neighbours, catching up on Glenelm news and life in general, after a summer of crossing paths. Our kids were thrilled to be reunited with their neighbourhood friends, and played together outside as much as possible before schools started up again.
Now the days are getting shorter, and summer is definitely on the wane. It was a great one, but I am ready for fall, having realized that I am not the sun lover I was even six or seven years ago. Fall and spring are more my jam, I’m coming to realize.
School starts tomorrow, and soon my calendar will fill up with appointments that are little less leisurely than summer adventures, but just as meaningful. I am hoping to write about some of those things soon.
Hope you all had a wonderful summer, too!
A quick and random post today.
I was catching up on Peg City Grub (one of my faves!) the other day and came across a fantastic quote, one the sums up something I’ve felt since my earliest days as a Winnipeg newbie. In the PCG post, chef Terik Cabildo of Vera Pizzaria on south Osborne is talking about his training and early days as a chef in BC:
On working on the west coast Terik said, “It helps gives you context to your city — and if you don’t travel, you won’t have that. I won’t say one is better than the other; there are so many gems in Winnipeg, but you won’t know that until you go somewhere else.”
That. “There are so many gems in Winnipeg, but you won’t know that until you go somewhere else.” Exactly that. It applies to everything, not just restaurants. And the concept works both ways. Exploring other cities gives you an appreciation for what you have at home, and it also gives you inspiration and vision for what you could have.
I’ve often wondered whether the folks who run the show at the city, the ones whose vision for Winnipeg’s public transit is stuck firmly in the dark ages, have ever been to another major city where public transportation actually works? And not just works, but is more convenient than taking a vehicle?
(Aside: I went to Vera a couple months ago and it was out of this world. I can’t wait to go back.)
Anyway. Just a random thought for today. Now onto a couple other blogs I’ve been wanting to give a shout-out to:
- Beer Winnipeg is a very cool site that I’ve been keeping tabs on over the past year. They’ve been doing product reviews, brewery visits, and updates on Winnipeg’s thankfully-now-growing craft brewery scene! Big congrats to Beer Winnipeg on your one-year blogiversary. Looking forward to year 2!
- The View from Valour: Natalie Geddes shares the secrets of her beloved West End neighbourhood with us, with lots of pics and a dose of relatable self-deprecation. Her kick-off post is a love letter to the West End, and I recently enjoyed her tours of Sleepy Owl Bread (drool) and Barn Hammer Brewing Company’s build in progress… hmm… I’m sensing a theme in the blogs I’ve been enjoying lately… 😉
- 8 pieds à Winnipeg: a lovely, photo-rich blog from a semi-homesick Québécoise exploring our city and province. I haven’t gotten through all her archives, but the kick-off post explains why she moved to Winnipeg a little over two years ago, and it appears that she and her family are enjoying themselves. (The bonus is that this blog’s also been a good way for me to keep up with my French reading comprehension – conversational tone in subjects I’m interested in!)
There you go – three blogs you should add to your reader, if you haven’t already!
Hmm… it’s fair to say I’ve been doing much more blog reading than writing lately. To everything there is a season, I guess!
After seven years here in the ‘Peg, I sometimes think I’ve heard about all the “Winnipeg things” there are to hear about. But every now and then a new one pops up.
My massage therapist and I often talk about food during treatments and about this time last year, as we were discussing Christmas treats, she mentioned that one item she always makes for the holidays is a chocolate treat called Cuban Lunch – something I’d never heard of, despite being quite enthusiastic about holiday sweets. She said Cuban Lunch was a chocolate bar she loved as a kid, and that this was a homemade version. I was sold and wanted to make them right away, but alas, everywhere I went was sold out of butterscotch chips, so my hopes were dashed.
This year, I was still thinking about them, so I made sure I secured the chips in November so I’d be ready for holiday baking. A few nights ago I prepared the recipe — a bag of peanut butter chips, a bag of milk chocolate chips, a bag of butterscotch chips, and a cup and a half each of crushed salted peanuts and crushed ripple chips — and filled up dozens of little foil candy cups with the sweet concoction. After they’d set, I tried one – and they were pretty good, though my husband and I thought we’d use more peanuts and chips the next time, along with a nice dark chocolate chip instead of milk chocolate chips – they are awfully sweet.
Anyway, the next day a friend was over and I told her I’d made this recipe and she said she’d made them before too. I thought it was a bit odd that I’d never heard of them, but two Winnipeggers had. When my husband asked about the origins of the chocolate bar’s potentially culturally-insensitive name, we undertook some research. Here is what we discovered:
- Cuban Lunch was a chocolate bar manufactured made by Paulin Chambers and possibly later McCormick (see the ad at right describing “new Millenium packaging”, which leads me to believe they were available until at least close to the year 2000.)
- They were made right here in Winnipeg!
- I saw some references to Wikipedia saying Cuban Lunch was primarily distributed in Western Canada, but I can’t find that on Wikipeda at present.
- According to a Regina candy retailer, “The Cuban Lunch is discontinued – Probably one of our most requested items.”
- No one knows what the deal is with the name, though one commenter wondered, “Because they used Spanish peanuts?”
- Apparently the chocolate bar was just peanuts and dark chocolate. Not sure how the ripple chips came to be in the homemade version.
- Trademark registration record – I can’t make much sense of this, but it seems that the name Cuban Lunch may have been used in Canada as early as 1948, and the trademark was automatically expunged this year after the current owner failed to renew it.
So – dear readers, you have always been a fountain of knowledge and I’m sure someone around here can give us the inside scoop — I know there are some Paulin’s Puffs lovers out there; maybe somebody knows more about the company? What’s the story behind the name? When did they stop being made? Were there chips in the original?
Until then, I’ll be trying not to eat all the 80 knock-off Cuban Lunches currently in my freezer, awaiting their dispatch to dainty platters and care packages. Wish me luck!
Wow, two blog posts in once week after months of silence… what on earth is going on??
I found myself writing a lengthy comment to Derick at Around This Town, on his recent post called “QuickCare Clinics: not all they’re cracked up to be“. I, myself, am SUCH a fan of the QCCs that I felt I should probably post my thoughts here, with thanks to Derick for the inspiration, and apologies for the shameless re-purposing of his post title! 🙂
In his post, Derick shares a couple of incidents where a QCC would have been the perfect solution for his medical situation, but the clinic’s hours of operation wouldn’t accommodate him as they close at 7:30pm. He points out that other private walk-ins are open equal if not longer hours, and wonders why the province is investing and funding these types of clinics if they’re not stepping in to fill the gaps left by the private sector. That’s a completely legitimate complaint.
I would like to share my own experience. I have two young kids who have a terrific NP, but we can never get in to see her on the kind of short notice that certain illnesses and ailments require. I, myself, have a family doctor but her office is a half-hour drive away and also hard to get into on short notice.
So, over the past year I’ve taken various members of our family to the QCC on St. Mary’s a half-dozen times, including once on Thanksgiving Sunday.
I LOVE IT.
I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes to get in, the NPs are professional, caring, and efficient. They encourage you to make a follow-up appointment with the same NP if need be — continuity of care that is rare in a walk-in situation. The clinic is spotlessly clean and the staff are bilingual.
Basically, the QCCs are the polar opposite of every single private walk-in clinic I’ve ever been to. (That’s a good thing.) For me it’s hard to even put a QCC and a typical walk-in clinic in the same category since one is so vastly superior to the other, in my experience. In the past I would have spent a day or two waffling over whether to drag my butt to a walk-in (or worse, endure an hours-long wait with a sick child), just dreading it. Now that I know about the QCC, the decision to get medical care is an easy one that’s almost pleasant to make.
All that said, I think they must be a too-well kept secret – I admit I’ve actually been a little concerned that they’re not busy enough. Clearly they are in need of better promotion, though I think word-of-mouth is starting to work – I got the scoop from a family member who’d been there, and haven’t been to another walk-in since. Now whenever the topic arises, I make it a point to let people know about them.
I personally think it’s a terrific model (NPs are the more appropriate care provider for the sorts of ailments that bring people to the clinic, and cost less to employ, to boot). The hours work well for my family, and the other families I know who’ve used the QCCs are huge fans. But of course, there’s always room for improvement — they could certainly serve even more people by extending their hours and doing a better job of communicating exactly what those hours are.
The province definitely has work to do in improving efficiency. But adding more services in hospital-based clinics (as Tom Brodbeck suggests) is, in my view, not the solution. My kids’ NP works out of a hospital clinic. We tolerate it because she is awesome. But I have two major complaints about the location of her clinic: one, parking around St. Boniface Hospital is a costly nightmare, and two, it’s in a hospital, a germ-infested sick zone that’s the last place I want to bring my generally healthy kids (and self) into for checkups and other minor ailments.
I’m a big fan of keeping health care services in communities and neighbourhoods, rather than consolidating them into mega-centres. In the grand scheme of things, I think that the visibility of the QCCs within the landscape of our daily lives is helpful in reinforcing the idea that healthcare can be associated with wellness, not just illness and injury (as most associate hospitals with).
So that’s my two cents on our local QuickCare Clinics. Would love to hear others’ thoughts and experiences!
This summer we made our semi-regular trek to Alberta to visit my family. It was a fun-filled visit that saw my entire family together for the first time in almost two years – with a new nephew on the scene and my other niblings growing up so fast I can hardly believe it, I cherish these times more and more each passing year.
My visits to Lethbridge also give me a chance to catch up in person with Aaron, my B(and O)FF. If you’ve been reading WoMH since the beginning you know that Aaron started this blog with me and our other good friend Laurel in 2009, when our lives converged here in the ‘Peg for a whirlwind eight or nine months. Aaron and I met in Grade 10 and became fast friends. He’s probably the reason I survived my otherwise mostly unpleasant high school years. Through my dad’s death, moving away for university, new relationships, breakups, great apartments and grotty ones, street meat at closing time and coffee over Coronation Street on Sunday mornings, Aaron and I have been through a lot together. Now that we’ve put down our roots in two cities hundreds of miles apart, we only see each other once or twice a year. The time we spend together is scarce and sacred.
There’s a set of things we always try to do when we reunite in Lethbridge. We always go to Humpty’s. (Yep. The poor man’s Denny’s whose turn of the century ads featured Brett Hart wrestling a giant egg. That Humpty’s.) It’s something we’ve been doing since we were teens: after we’d stayed till closing time at the Penny Coffee House, we’d shuffle a few blocks over and continue our conversation at a place with no closing time and no locks on the door. Back then we had our favourites on the jukebox and a quirky waiter we’d kid around with and a standard order of panfries and coffee. Lately, we fit these Humpty’s dates into busier schedules and sometimes we have to turn an otherwise strictly carbs-and-caffeine date into (gasp!) an actual meal. More often than not I’m drinking decaf, cause’ a girl with little kids has gotta take all the sleep she can get. The decor in our preferred Humpty’s has changed (for the better) over the years, and they’re not listed as “panfries” on the menu anyone (“savoury diced potatoes”? come on!), but our conversations still revolve around the same topics: love, money, happiness, sadness, gossip, dreams, family, the past, and the future.
We always go to Winners. Both of us weak in the presence of adorable and often frivolous home furnishings, we are now trying to be more sensible with our money. On this last visit, Aaron snagged a rolling bike rack that he’d been waiting two years to buy. I lingered over but ultimately thought better of a pink cast-iron anchor-shaped decorative hook. We left triumphant, our yearnings for whimsy sated and bank balances mostly intact.
We also always go for a drive. For two people who are generally fairly eco-conscious this has always been our weakness. A basically aimless drive around the city, listening to the soundtrack of our younger years (Ani DiFranco, Counting Crows, Rufus Wainwright, Dar Williams) interspersed with our current favourites, guilty and otherwise. Sometimes we just drive, and other times we hold true to our high school days and get Twizzlers and peanut M&Ms and park at Henderson Lake and chat in the dark, not caring that we’re basically stationed at Old Makeout Point. We drive past places we’ve lived and yearned to live, schools we’ve gone to, friends’ and lovers’ apartments and the empty Blockbuster where we knew every title in the Canadian and documentary film sections.
On one of these drives this summer, Aaron behind the wheel and I in the passenger seat, I found myself staring out the window at all the new developments along Mayor Magrath Drive, the main commercial drag closest to where I grew up. It has expanded so much in the past 10 or 15 years that I can hardly believe it. It got me thinking about what a hometown really means, and my ever-evolving relationship with my own hometown.
I’ve written here before about my relationship with the southern Alberta town I grew up in. When I was a teen I couldn’t wait to escape. Once I left, for the longest time, my visits home were met with a mix of low-grade dread and obligation. Not because of my family and friends, of course — I was glad to see them all and would never have considered not going home. There was just something about the town that I pushed back against. Old ghosts.
When we envisioned our future life together, my now-husband and I agreed that we could live anywhere as long as we had family nearby – whether that was Lethbridge or Winnipeg or somewhere else. But it wasn’t until I had my first child that I really started to see things in Lethbridge that made me think…hmm… maybe I could live here again, after all. The city seemed to offer more than it did when I was a teenager, but maybe that was just my adult impression. For as small and accessible as Winnipeg seemed to me when I moved here from Vancouver, Lethbridge felt even smaller, in a nice way. It was growing (almost 95K now!), and had better concerts, retail stores, etc., than it did when I was growing up, but on the whole it was still a manageable size. They even had a francophone school, which was important to us.
For a while I thought we might even alternate living in Alberta and Manitoba every few years, so we could be near to my family. But you know how it goes. You get settled in, your roots get deeper. It took me a long time to make good friends here; to up and leave now would be starting from scratch.
Still, on that night drive with Aaron, thinking about Lethbridge and everything it’s been to me, I surprised myself by starting to tear up. I mourned the impossibility of living in two places at once, and the cruel irony of having come to terms with the town at a point where it’s too late to give it a second chance. As we drove around a totally new-to-me development in the south end of the city, I thought about how I would never know all of Winnipeg the way I know all of Lethbridge — or at least all of the Lethbridge that existed when I left. I don’t know why this feels important, but it does.
I’ve always been fascinated by — and romanticized — the civic relationship. I’ve felt certain, for most of my life, that I was maybe meant to be born and live my whole life in a very small town. I love shows and movies set in tiny towns where everyone knows each other. I am equally intrigued at how there are cities like New York that have such strong characters that they actually become an inextricable part of citizens’ identities.
Blogging here has given me such a great opportunity to explore many aspects of Winnipeg, the place we call home. But is it really my home? When planning a trip to Alberta, I constantly catch myself thinking of it terms of “going home”. But when I’m there, I refer to home as my “real”, present-day home, in Winnipeg. I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom the term refers to more than one place. To stray slightly from cliche lane, if home is where the heart is, then my home will always be in more than one place. And that’s okay. I think life is all the richer for it.
Aimless Driving Playlist for Aaron – Fall 2015
- Bloody Motherf&%#$S A$$hole – Martha Wainwright
Heard on Orange is the New Black, researched and downloaded immediately. Have sneaking suspicious Aaron may have already made me a mix CD with this track on it at some point, but it felt new and powerful to me. As teens Aaron and I thought it was awesome that one of our favourite singers, Dan Bern, was rumoured to be dating Martha Wainwright, whose brother Rufus we loved too.
- God Only Knows – Natalie Maines
Aaron and I loved the movie Saved! with Mandy Moore, and the REM version of this song that played over the end credits. We both love Natalie Maines and while this particular version isn’t my all-time fave, I can’t help but think this was a great track for her powerhouse voice.
- New Morning – Lisa Loeb
When I was a young teen and discovering my dad and I shared some of our musical tastes, he gave me a copy of Bob Dylan’s New Morning on CD, saying it was one of his favourites (I still have his handwritten Christmas gift tag tucked inside it). I loved discovering this Lisa Loeb cover on a kids’ album; it’s got gorgeous harmonies in the chorus.
- Chandelier – Brooklyn Duo
My old boss in Vancouver has two lovely daughters, one of whom is a Juilliard-trained pianist. Marnie and her cellist husband Patrick formed Brooklyn Duo, and have recorded amazing instrumental versions of top 40 pop songs. Aaron gave me Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear for my birthday last year so this seems an appropriate track for my mix.
- Learn to Let You Go – JP Hoe
I remember Aaron talking about JP Hoe when he lived here, but I didn’t really discover his music until recently, when I heard this song playing during a set change at Festival du Voyageur. Love it. (Especially its sweet mando licks.)
- On the 505 – Matthew Barber
Can’t remember exactly how I stumbled onto Matthew Barber’s music, but I love it and I’ve seen him twice in concert over the last couple years. I like this track in particular because I’m a sucker for songs about current events and this is a really moving one.
- Black and Gray – Michaela Anne
I heard this track in a Starbucks while I was having a solo-date writing Christmas cards last December. I Googled in vain for the lyrics that day, but tried again a few months later and found in. Something about it just feels like a song Aaron and I would listen to on a drive.
- Heart’s on Fire – Passenger
My yoga instructor plays non-whale/chanting music during our class, which I love (hey, good music!) and hate (I become distracted trying to figure out who the singer is, or trying to memorize the lyrics so I can look up the song later). Luckily the lyrics to this chorus weren’t that hard to remember and look up at home.
- Stronger than That – Bahamas
I admit that often the only new music I hear is on CBC and on DNTO in particular. Heard this song one day as I was driving with small whining children and it pepped me up 🙂
- Heavenly Day – Patty Griffin
Patty Griffin has been a fave of ours since we were in high school. This song is especially dear to me as my sister-in-law sang it as I walked down the aisle at my wedding. Love this live version from the Artists Den.
As a blogger I get a (surprising to me) number of “cold call” emails from all sorts of companies and organizations, for various reasons. Most of them are not a good fit for me, as I try to stay away from too much PR-type posting here, but every now and then, something legitimately cool comes along. One recent such email came from the Montreal startup Navut.
In a nutshell, Navut is an online neighbourhood finder. Here’s the story behind the site:
“The founders of Navut have all endured, on multiple occasions, the difficult moving experience. They moved to Montreal from overseas and ended up living in neighborhoods that were not suitable for their lifestyles and paid more than they should for rent and local services. They felt that they were lacking knowledge that before Navut, only locals seemed to have access to.
After facing this global problem head on, our founders made it their mission to create a solution for people moving to an unfamiliar city. Everybody deserves to arrive in their new neighborhood confident that it’s the right place for them, which as everyone at Navut knows, is an invaluable asset.
Basically, you choose the city you’re in (7 major Canadian cities are available), check off what you’re looking for in a neighbourhood, in terms of housing, getting around, neighbours, schools, etc. Your top neighbourhoods appear and are refined the more of your preferences you specify.
Anyway. Navut contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to talk about my neighbourhood for their blog, and since I do love my neighbourhood of Glenelm so much, I agreed. I had a lovely chat with Liz Lee, who’s a content manager at Navut. The result is this blogger and neighbourhood profile!
The funny thing is, the night before Liz and I talked, my husband and I both used the neighbourhood finder independently of each other, and we both got Glenelm as our top neighbourhood. I was floored! When I mentioned this to Liz, she was stoked. She told me that while everyone at Navut thinks their algorithms are pretty accurate (and that when she uses it, her top results are always her favourite areas of her own city), she was really pleased to hear it had worked so well for an outside user. I’ve used the neighbourhood finder tool again a few times since then, and Glenelm has always been in my top 5.
So — if you’re moving to Winnipeg and curious about what neighbourhoods would be a good match for you, I really encourage you to try Navut’s tool. And if you live here already, and try the tool, I’d love to hear how accurate your results were!
This post is long overdue. It’s been almost a year since I was invited to go on the West End BIZ’s Mural Tour one sunny July day. Here’s a little blurb about the tour:
Put on your walking shoes. The West End BIZ’s guided mural tours are available for booking each summer (June-August)!
Join us for a tour Monday through Saturday. Flexible start times available (morning, afternoon and evening). Tours last two hours each and include a refreshment stop at a local eatery.
The cost is only $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for children aged 12 and under.
The West End’s outdoor mural gallery features over 50 pieces of public art, many of which are showcased during the tours along Sargent and Ellice Avenues, along with a few of our more recently painted pieces.
It’s a great way to explore the area! Bring along your summer visitors; consider a tour during your lunch hour (tours can be customized – duration, meeting place, etc), or as a staff appreciation event. Great fun for families and people of all ages!
• Selected as a past “Canada’s Top Ten Summer Attraction” by WHERE Canada
• Winner of the International Downtown Association’s ‘Award of Distinction’
• Manitoba Tourism Award finalist
• Winnipeg Tourism Award finalist
If you are looking to experience the unique history and culture of the West End area, this is your opportunity to do so. The engaging narrative includes interesting history about the area, fun trivia, descriptions about the murals and an introduction to the unique restaurants and businesses of the West End.
On site parking available. Group sizes of 2-15+ welcome. A bus tour option is also available for larger groups or those with mobility concerns (must provide own bus/driver).
I wanted to share some photos that I took that day – unfortunately the sun was incredibly bright and many of the pics are kind overexposed and do not do the murals justice, but I hope you’ll get the gist of the incredible art that graces the vibrant and eclectic streets of Winnipeg’s West End neighbourhood. I really encourage you to take the tour for yourself this summer!
Below: This was probably my favourite of all the murals we saw that day. I won’t ruin the story for you as it’s very cool to learn firsthand. Suffice it to say that this mural represents a colourful West End character named Zoohky. You can read a bit about him and the story behind the mural here, but I loved the experience we had on the tour and encourage you to hear about it for yourself.
Below: another one of my favourites – this mural of Bill Norrie, entitled Legacy of Leadership, has an incredible amount of thoughtful detail, and I loved learning a bunch of interesting tidbits about our former mayor. (It’s too bad this one is so overexposed, but you can see a better image in the title link above.)
Below: this mural on Ellice & Sherbrook pays tribute to the West End childhood and Hollywood career of actor Adam Beach.
Below: This one honours the memory of social activist Harry Lehotsky. Learn more about it here.
Below: Power Play, a mural showcasing the sports achievements of our city.
Below: the Winnipeg Roller Rink is gone, but this mural remains to show what once stood here. The wood flooring has been incorporated into the U of W building just across the street!
Below: the next two images are from a mural representing Icelandic history and culture, including the cartoonist Charlie Thorson. I didn’t get a picture of the mural dedicated to Thorson’s work (which includes Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd), but you can see it here.
Below: a mural that was a work in progress last summer, though the BIZ’ Mural Mentorship program. Can’t wait to see the finished product it in person sometime!
Below: a mural representing the multicultural makeup of the West End.
Below: this one shows the history of Sargent Ave.
Below: we learned a cool story about this particular mural, which is in “Winnipeg’s only drive-through mural“! Apparently in the original, the Polish girls were holding a Pepsi and a Coke, respectively, to convey the idea of peace and harmony. But as you might imagine, there were some trademark issues, so it was eventually adapted to have the girls holding flowers.
Below: another part of the drive-through mural.
The website The Murals of Winnipeg is a marvelous resource with tons of background info on all these murals and more.
It was a pleasure to participate on this mini-bloggers tour not only because the topic was fascinating, but also because after many years of knowing each other online, I finally got to meet prolific Winnipeg blogger Christian Cassidy in person! Chris later recorded an interview with our lovely tourguide, Sasha Ostrowski, for his radio show, West End Dumplings: The Radio Edition, along with Katie Seymour, who was also on the tour with us. Check out the podcast by going here and selecting the one named 20140720-405. The interview with Sasha starts at about the 24:50 mark.
In it, Chris, Katie, and Sasha shared what their favourite murals were. Katie’s favourite is the Bill Norrie mural , which won the Mural of the Year award in 2013. (I loved Katie’s panda pin memory… reminded me of the special Panda Magic ice cream we had in Alberta during the Calgary Zoo’s panda craze in 1988!) Sasha has two favourites, the Bill Norrie and the Zoohky mural, and one of Christian’s favourites is the Icelandic history mural.
As Christian remarked, this is a fantastic staycation-type activity, and I really hope you’ll take the West End Mural Tour too. A big thanks to the West End BIZ for the chance to take this tour for free!
Lucky me!! I got my name entered into a Manitoba Day draw for a gift basket from The Mulberry Tree (@themulberrytree), just by retweeting. And I won! Because I love finding out about new local products, and supporting small local business, I wanted to share a little about what was in the basket, which was very similar to the one pictured here.
I got to try…
- Wild Rice & Veggie Soup Mix from Wild Man Ricing
- Cinnamon Harvest Granola from Nature’s Farm
- Honey with cinnamon from John Russell Honey Company
- Dill pickle Buckshots from Stone Milled Specialty Grains
- Herb & ginger and cracked pepper & garlic meat marinade from Wild West Seasonings
- Limonetti (lemon lavender) Italian macaroons from Piccola Cucina
- Hibiscus & Ginger herbal tea from YOMM Beverages
- Hand-dipped chocolate cherries from The Danish Mermaid
Although it was a treat to try everything, and I still have a few items to go, my favourite was probably the Limonetti Italian macaroons from Piccola Cucina. I wasn’t sure if I would like the lavender flavour but it was actually very subtle and complemented the lemon perfectly. The cookies were moist and just the right size. I’ve seen Piccola Cucina at the farmer’s market before, and now I’m keen to try the other flavours and products!
I also enjoyed the dill pickle flavoured “Buckshots” — a snack made from buckwheat, that reminded me of a snack I loved as a kid, called Wheat Crunch. (Hoping Buckshots are available in salt & vinegar soon too!).
And last night I used the cracked pepper and garlic meat marinade on salmon… I was in a rush and didn’t have time to let them actually marinate, so I just sprinkled the dry mix over top of the filets and panfried them, and they were REALLY good. So good that I’m going to make the same thing again tonight using the ginger & herb marinade 🙂
Thanks very much to The Mulberry Tree for this wonderful “I Heart Manitoba” prize pack, and for helping me discover more tasty local eats.
p.s. When former WoMHer Laurel left Manitoba in 2009, we made our own Manitoba-themed care package for her. If you’re curious to see what we included, check it out! Most of the items were a hit, but for reasons I can’t conceive of now that I’m an HDS convert, Laurel never cracked open the honey dill sauce. Actually, she even offered to give it back to me last time I went out to visit her on the West Coast. I’m not ashamed to say that even four years later I probably would have accepted it, if I weren’t wary of an airline baggage honey dill disaster 🙂
I was in Osborne Village last night, getting my haircut and then running a few errands. It was misty and was drizzling a little, and the air was humid and smelled vaguely of pot and delicious fried foods from around the world. The aroma instantly transported me to my younger days in Vancouver, in Kits or East Van, and I thought to myself, “this is the smell of my misspent youth”, feeling happily nostalgic. Of course, I was being melodramatic (I was actually a fairly responsible young adult), but smell is one of the most powerful memory triggers, and I find for the most part, I love those unexpected recollections brought on by that sort of sudden sensory experience.
But it made me sad in a way, too. I’m an introvert, and as a child, once I realized this about myself, I think it caused me a certain degree of loneliness and anxiety, despite always having had friends. Even then, I understood that the world favours extroversion. Looking back on my 20s, many of my most cherished memories from that time are highly social and decidedly not alone. So many awesome adventures with my friends: drinking sangria on the beach, stumbling to Solly’s for a coffee and babka on a Sunday morning, dissecting the day’s successes and failures over after-work drinks, a certain legendary hobo-themed party, and all the little moments of fun and frivolity between.
But it was also during this time that I came to discover – and embrace – that being by myself was a pleasure; something to be savoured. Nowadays, I keep finding myself thinking about how lovely it was to walk to and from work on a sunny spring morning, the magnolia trees in bloom and the cherry blossoms falling all around me. I listened to the several years’ worth of the A Way with Words podcast on those walks; just me and the words and my thoughts. I was accountable to no one other than myself. I did as I pleased, and I explored the city on my own terms. I’d go to a movie on my own, and eat popcorn for dinner. If I felt like going somewhere after work, I did, because unless I had other plans, no one was going to wonder where I was. The freedom was almost endless. I miss it.
Since moving to Winnipeg, though, and with family being my top priority, it feels like I’ve had very little opportunity develop and nurture my identity as an individual within the city. It’s silly, really, to think about consciously seeking out this time, because it doesn’t really work that way. You develop relationships by living them. And of course, I truly would never trade family life away to have the chance to be a swingin’ 20-something single now.
But my moment in Osborne Village last night made me think, it’s more than just the “who am I?” time in Winnipeg that I feel I’ve not had enough of. I think it’s the impossibility of having established any relationship with the Winnipeg that existed here before I did. I realize this is getting pretty abstract, and I’m not even sure I totally grasp what this sense of missing is. Maybe it’s some broad, civic incarnation of FOMO. How could I have been here, while also having those wonderful experiences on the other side of the country at the same time? Es imposible.
It’s an interesting exercise in my imagination, though. What would it have been like to spend my 20s here? Where would I have made my stomping grounds? Which pub would have been “my local”? What concerts would I have seen, and at which venues? When I hear Winnipeggers my age talk about the bars they used to go to (and the drink specials… oh, the drink specials!) and the events that stand out in their memories, I sometimes have a moment of regret that I can’t actually relate to any of it.
Because I am interested in the city as a fascinating place, worthy of getting to know, I’ve become pretty good at recognizing Winnipeg-specific references (I probably even cut the mustard sometimes!). But I realize there are things that no amount of YouTube will be able to teach me. I will never really know what it was like to grow up here. And I suppose the inherent sadness in that comes from the fact that likewise, no one here will really ever know what it was like to grow up where I did. Why should the the inability to relate on such an inconsequential level matter? I really don’t know.
Maybe it’s that my older child will starting school soon, and it feels kind of scary to have no idea what’s in store for him. I guess I’ve always had this assumption that if you grew up here, then your kids starting school wouldn’t be a big deal because you’ve been in their shoes, you’re familiar with the local schools and school systems, so no big deal. But just writing that out, I see how naive that is. After all, how many kids go the same school their parents did? And even if they did, what are the odds that many of same teachers and administrators would even still be there?
I think maybe, as a newer Winnipegger, I get a deep impression of permanence and stability in the population, and so I’ve been assuming that certain things in this city are timeless and unchanging, and therefore comforting and familiar. But I realize now that it’s a bit of a stretch to apply that logic to things like your kids starting school. (I honestly never understood how parents could be so emotional about their kid’s first day of kindergarten, but I am eating crow now. It’s months away and I’m already feeling teary. Another walking, talking cliché!)
And so. This has been quite a rambling, introspective post, but I think I have come to one optimistic conclusion. I have been focusing too much on the past, forgetting that history is in the making all the time. What remains to be seen is how I will look back on this time, the trenches of early parenthood, the most physically attached and freedom-restricted of all stages. I’m actually really looking forward to finding out, long from now, what I remember fondly or distinctly about this time; this experience of negotiating a civic life not just as a full-fledged grown-up, but as a parent. I think I’ll be okay. When I really think about it, I have a lot of sweet memories in my back pocket already.