Giving context to our city (plus my latest Winnipeg blog finds)

March 18th, 2016 by Emma Durand-Wood

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!


Cuban Lunch: A Winnipeg Classic?

December 1st, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

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.

Cuban Lunch ad. Image Source: CBC

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.

Old (?) Cuban Lunch wrapper. Image source:

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.

Sources: 7 Horribly Named Candy Bars | Balonie goes to the big city (a first-person account of working at the Paulins factory) | 8 retro candies you wish you had right now

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!

QuickCare Clinics: totally all they’re cracked up to be!

November 10th, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

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’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!


Homes are where the heart is

November 9th, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 🙂
  10. 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.

Navigate Winnipeg Neighbourhoods with Navut

June 5th, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

navut-logo-shortAs 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!




Mural Mania in the West End!

June 2nd, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

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!

Manitoba Munchies

May 26th, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

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.11010565_862486960483239_6839240461189304388_n

I got to try…

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 🙂

On Not Coming of Age in The Peg

May 1st, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

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.

My Latest Winnipeg Food Finds

April 22nd, 2015 by Emma Durand-Wood

One of the best things in life is food. And lucky for me, one of the best things about Winnipeg is its abundance of great markets and restaurants!

What I especially love about Winnipeg’s food scene is that it really is a cultural mosaic (so much more appealing than a “melting pot”). Here are some of my latest faves and discoveries from the last little while:

  • Yesterday I had a chance to check out Kelmar Bakery and Kelmar Country Meats and Deli, after a delicious breakfast at 925 Bistro & Lounge with a friend. At the bakery, my friend pointed out the zwieback: delightfully fluffy white buns that tear neatly into two puffs of deliciousness. She mentioned that it’s a classic part of a Mennonite tradition called faspa, alongside sliced cheese, cold cuts, butter and jam. I love learning about these traditions!
  • While at Kelmar Bakery, we also noticed fergasa bread, which took me back to my first time eating at The Tallest Poppy several years ago. I’d never heard of it and after some research determined that it might be a regional item. At any rate, fergasa is a tasty onion and cheese loaf that dares you to just eat one piece. I don’t eat bread that often but I’m willing to make an exception for fergasa! (The name sounds Italian… anyone know the story behind it??)
  • After all these years (7 this summer!) of living in Winnipeg, Filipino food is one type of cuisine I hadn’t had much opportunity to try out. But recently I tried two Filipino breakfast classics, longganisa and tocino, which are served over rice with a fried egg and lots of vinegar and hot sauce. They were procured, frozen, by my brother-in-law from some ladies he works with, so his family gets to enjoy tasty ethnic breakfasts from the comfort of home. He says that Myrna’s on Sargent is a great restaurant option too, though I haven’t tried it yet.
  • One of the foods I miss most from my Vancouver days is shawarma. So I was delighted to see Peg City Grub’s roundup of Winnipeg’s best shawarma the other day! I’ve tried shawarma from Baraka and Shawarma Khan, and they were both good; now I’m psyched to see how Best Pizza and Donair in Fort Garry stacks up. Maybe a special treat for Mother’s Day! (hint, hint!)
  • The bannock. From Neechi Commons. So good. ‘Nnuff said. (Also worth writing home about: the hashbrowns at the Neechi Commons cafe.)
  • I was bummed when Mercadito Latino moved away from my area, as I used to buy hot sauce and corn tortillas there regularly. Thankfully I was alerted to the fact that you can buy corn tortillas from JC’s Tacos and More… I think they’re even better than the ones I used to get, and price is very reasonable!
  • Although it doesn’t get much more “Canadian prairie” than a roast chicken, I’d be remiss not to mention how amazing the pastured chickens from Fort Whyte Farms are! I ordered half a dozen frozen birds last fall and cried a little tear when we polished off the last one. They were SO good. Can’t wait for more this fall. Meanwhile, I’m on the list for pastured pork. Drool.

I could probably go on all day, but those are some of my latest discoveries.

What are your favourite world foods or dishes — or just favourite food finds around town?

P.S. On a general food note, did you hear that the Red River General Store has moved into town? And close to my hood, too, at 1342 Main Street. Super excited about this!!



What is it really like to move to Winnipeg?

December 19th, 2014 by Emma Durand-Wood

I recently got an email from someone who’s contemplating a move to the Peg, looking for the lowdown on what it’s really like to move from Vancouver to Winnipeg. I’ve included her message and then my response below. If you’ve moved here from a bigger or very different city, let me know what you think — would you add anything to my thoughts? What would you say to reassure someone who is feeling conflicted about moving here?

I am a Vancouverite who’s managed to fall for a Peg boy. I grew up in the Fraser Valley and have started school at BCIT after realizing a B of A is pretty much useless. I’m looking at moving out that way in the summer and I’m caught between excitement to live with the man I love and panic due to the fact that I’v always seen the prairies as being non-options for anyone that wasn’t blue collar. I’ve realized that Winnipeg has a great Art scene which I love, but I’m in panic mode about what sort of careers a person can pursue there. I’ve been looking into Red River College for schooling, and I can do some distance learning through BCIT, but I’m still struggling with letting go of my prejudice of the prairies as being bastions for the blue collar crowd.

I have lived in many different areas of Canada so the act of moving is not new for me. But I am now in my 30’s and these choices that were once made with very little thought, are more real and intimidating then they were in my 20s. I would like to say, I love my boyfriend very much. The idea of moving to a place I used to look down on (why, because Vancouverites are almost as bad as Torontonians for seeing other cities as not as good I’m ashamed to say) is something I’m doing because I know it’s worth it to be with this great man. I just can’t let go of the BC snob in me that says “But it’s Manitoba!” even though I’ve never set foot in the city. I do have family in the area and I know they will be thrilled to know I’m moving to my Grandfather’s home town.

But what’s it really LIKE there, from someone who’s used to living in a city like Vancouver. I’m not of the belief that people are better here mind you. In fact, they’re kind of a pain for a girl who grew up in a small town and is used to people who nod and smile as they pass; but are there opportunities for people who are willing to work for them? My boyfriend is a lifelong Manitoba boy and has never felt the need to live somewhere else, so it’s hard to get a real understanding for myself as someone who has. I’m not looking for you to have any answers really, I’m just wondering if you found that there are really any parts about Vancouver that are truly absent there (besides the mountains and ocean of course). I’ll be there in a few weeks for a visit, but I’m curious to know your take on life for a Vancouverite in Winnipeg. Sorry for the ramble, I’ve swung more on to the worried side of my “holy cow, I’m moving to the prairies” spectrum. 

This is what I responded to her: 

Believe it or not, I get A TON of email from people in basically your shoes. But I have good news. I think you’ll be absolutely fine.

When I moved here, I had worked in Vancouver in a professional environment (with my trusty diploma from SAIT) for 5 years and people here seemed to be pretty happy with what I assumed must be my “big city” skills. There are absolutely opportunities here for people who want to work for them. On the schooling front, the beauty of attending a local college like RRC is that you’ll make tons of local contacts in your chosen field, especially during your practicum(s). RRC has an excellent reputation, and I think (?) they tailor their admissions to local supply and demand.

>Because like you, I’ve lived in several different places, I too find it sort of strange that so many Peggers never felt the need to try living anywhere else. I chalk it up to two different schools of thought: 1) Winnipeg is wonderful, my whole family is here, I’m friends with the same people I’ve known my whole life, so why would I leave? or 2) Winnipeg sucks so probably everywhere else does too (the “I was born here. What’s your excuse?” folks). I think there are probably lots of people in both camps, but it’s the ones in the first camp that make this such a charming place to live, with such deep roots and interconnectedness.

Winnipeg has some things that are frustrating for people who come from big cities. Public transit is pretty hit and miss. This was my #1 biggest adjustment. I didn’t have a car in Vancouver and transit was an essential yet almost invisible part of life – it was such a seamless part of my day that I almost took it for granted. When I moved here, it wasn’t so much that the transit was terrible (which it is certain routes/areas) but that people here had no concept or vision for what it COULD be. Instead of having vision for building a subway or light rail, we are part-way through a bus rapid transit line that by most accounts hasn’t actually improved things that much. This is one area where I feel Winnipeggers could benefit from getting out into the world a little more.

Other than transit, I will tell you what I miss about Vancouver. I used to go to a bunch of docs and movies at the Vancouver International Film Festival every fall, and I really miss that. (I know there are smaller festivals here, but nothing of that scale. I will be the first to admit that I haven’t really sought them out.) I miss walking to a little neighbourhood movie theatre for a second-run double bill. I miss how much exercise I got just from walking to do errands and to and from work on pleasant days. I miss certain local restaurants and I miss the humidity. But none of those things are dealbreakers for me. And to be honest some of those things wouldn’t be much a part of my lifestyle anymore, now that I have two little kids.

What Winnipeg lacks in Vancouver qualities, it makes up for in other ways. The housing is incredibly affordable, people don’t have that “go go go” rat race mentality, and while there is certainly a strong hipster contingent here (see I don’t feel that same competition between identities based on ideology/stuff as there was in Vancouver. Instead of the seasons being all essentially the same (and don’t get me wrong, I loved the weather all year Vancouver), here, there is a certain enjoyment in having distinct seasons.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes, Winnipeg and Vancouver are really different, but it doesn’t really matter. When I think back to my five years in Vancouver the only thing that really makes me sad is thinking about my little clan of friends — we were all from other parts of the country, and explored the big city together. It was that special time of our lives – our 20s – when we were young and building our careers and figuring life out… and then we all moved away, back to our hometowns or to new places with our spouses or just on to the next adventure. It was who I was with that made the experience what it was.

I moved here for the people. I had both sides of extended family here and one really good friend, and other than that, I was going on a feeling in my heart that I needed a change and that Winnipeg seemed like a safe and comfortable place to try out. It wasn’t super logical but I did it anyway. In my view it’s as good a reason as any, because what’s a home without people you love?

So — I don’t know if that reassures you. I think you’re going to be just fine. I know it seems like a major shock (although I can’t totally relate to your perceptions of the Prairies as I grew up in them!) but come to this city with an open mind and I think you’ll be just fine.

Try not to dwell on the differences between the cities if you can’t change them. Just accept them and focus on finding common ground. There are great people in any city you’ll live in and if your boyfriend has lived here his whole life, he’s probably got an amazing network of good people who are waiting to bring you into the fold. Once you’ve got some good winter boots, you’ll be golden 🙂


What do you think? If you moved here from somewhere else, how did the city meet your ideas about Winnipeg prior to moving? And what do you think about it now, when you look back at your previous city?