A Little Something (Local) Under the Tree

November 13th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Anyone else finding a little bit of enjoyment/distraction in starting their Christmas planning early this year? Full disclosure: I started picking up the odd thing here and there in September!

Even though it looks like we’re headed for a household-only Christmas this year, it’s still nice to think about the perfect gifts, especially for the kids who are being such troopers during this year of endless cancellations and disappointment. And ok, I’m also hoping that if I hit on JUST the right presents, it might buy me an extra hour of peace & quiet to enjoy my coffee and Baileys.

It’s pretty clear: small businesses need and appreciate our patronage this year, more than ever.

One of the coolest things that’s come of this pandemic has been watching these local businesses pivot and adapt so quickly. The availability of delivery has been a game-changer for me, since we don’t have a car and aren’t taking the bus any more than absolutely necessary.

Sometimes it takes a little more effort to buy from a smaller retailer than from a big box store, but it makes a massive difference to our community, our local economy and the environment.

So, today I am sharing some of my favourite places to shop locally and safely and conveniently this holiday season!

McNally Robinson
For books, music, movies, games, baby books/toys/gifts and so much more great stuff! Grab a Reader Reward Card while you’re at it and save 10% on all purchases, which will get you $5 Canada-wide shipping so you can send gifts to your loved ones elsewhere, no post office trip required.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Toad Hall Toys
For toys, books, games, art & craft supplies. Lots of items in their online shop but only a fraction of what they actually have in stock so call or email to be sure. Honestly, something for everyone here!
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Tara Davis Studio Boutique
One of my favourite local shops. She doesn’t have an ecommerce site, but she’s doing phone/email sales! Check out her Instagram or FB page for a glimpse of the gorgeous soaps, textiles, ceramics, jewelry and other beautiful treasures she’s got in store, then let Tara work her magic.

Kite & Kaboodle
Giant selection of toys, games, puzzles, and much more. This is one of the only places you can buy LEGO from a local independent business!
Taking phone orders for curbside pickup at St Vital Centre and The Forks.

Across the Board – Board Game Cafe
For a massive selection of games & puzzles of every kind and for every taste.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

MB Children’s Museum Gift Shop
For science & craft kits, toys, books & more.
Free local delivery over $25.

Local breweries
For beer & gift cards, obviously, but lots of them carry cool merch, too! Most offer local delivery and/or curbside pickup. Neat to see breweries offering goods from other local makers in their online shops.

Nonsuch – beer, glassware, art prints, sweatshirts, enamel pins, etc
Sookram’s – beer, tees, hats, glassware, jerky, etc
Kilter – beer, coffee, soap, patches, tees, hats, glassware, etc
LBJ: beer, glassware, local maker gift baskets, etc
Half Pints – beer, tees, hoodies, hats, glassware, etc
TCB – beer, hats, hoodies, tees, soap, etc
OGC – beer, hard seltzer, apparel, etc
Torque – beer (their own + 5 other local breweries), hoodies, hand sanitizer, etc
Barn Hammer – beer, apparel, candles, honey, coffee, etc
Stone Angel – beer, glassware, jerky, apparel, etc
Oxus – beer, glassware, jerky, hand sanitizer, etc
Fort Garry – beer, apparel, hats, bottle openers, etc

Plain Bicycle Project
Bikes (new and used) and every bike accessory you can dream of. Plus fun t-shirts, masks and new for this winter, KICKSLEDS!!

Fromagerie Bothwell
Way more than just cheese. Order online from hundreds of products from 80+ local makers. Cheese, charcuterie, preserves & sauces, olives, baked goods and too many other categories to list. I’m definitely going to be adding some goodies from Bothwell to my gifts of home baking this year.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Parlour Coffee
For coffee, cool shwag, honey, brewing gear, cool mugs, chocolate and other stuff that will make you feel extremely cool.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Forks Trading Co
This is a place I have to drag myself away from IRL. So many lovely things! Lots of nice Christmas stuff, and plenty of items from local maker. Thinking I may be getting stocking stuffers from here.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Little Sister Coffee Maker
Coffee, chocolate, cute mugs, totes, cards, tees, etc.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head, and there will almost certainly be many more innovative and creative offerings to come over the next few weeks. Just this morning I saw the West End BIZ has launched a gift box initiative that looks amazing!

Other recommendations?? I welcome your suggestions in the comments!

p.s. For grocery delivery, don’t forget Diversity Foods (I’ve ordered from them many times and their produce quality and service are excellent), King’s Head, Pineridge Hollow and Gimli Fish (much more than fish!),

A pandemic event of no fixed duration

October 30th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Years ago, during a particularly long, cold March, I wrote a post called “A Winter Event of No Fixed Duration“, in which I tried to embrace our inability to know how long winters will last.

This week I find myself thinking about our current “pandemic event of no fixed duration”. I sensed in March, when things happened so quickly, that we would not be going back to normal within weeks or months. I bit my tongue when people expressed hope that the kids would be back in school before June. For a while, I thought maybe we’d have things under control by Christmas 2020. Now I know we’ll be lucky for a normal-ish Christmas 2021.

It’s the not knowing how long that’s hard. My mum and siblings live in Alberta and BC. I have no idea when we might get to see each other. If I’d been told at Christmas 2019, “ok, you’re not going to see your family for two entire years”, it would suck, but by now I’d be thinking, okay, we’re almost halfway done. Instead it’s just, I have no idea.

I alternate between feeling extremely low, like I’m moving through molasses, and like that reaction is a selfish, privileged one that I should snap out of.

In my head, I compose thoughtful letters and emails to friends and family who’d love to get a letter. And lengthy, reflective essays for posterity. I debate firing up the ol’ LiveJournal or posting here more often.

Instead I pour a glass of wine and pick up a cozy mystery, which I have learned is an actual genre, and escape to a world where people can pack into shabby chic bistros and host boisterous dinner parties where the killer may or may not be among them. (OH THE IRONY)

My mind is exhausted from the never-ending calculations of morals and risk and reward and trying to apply public health principles to real life.

In the early days it was figuring out the answer to “should I bake with this flour? because what if I run out and can’t get any more?”

And “should I spend a little extra money supporting local business, or should I be saving in case one of us loses a job?”

And “can I hold my newborn nephew in good conscience”?

Now it’s “Should I be spending money on local small businesses and breweries and restaurants that I really want to survive the pandemic? Or should I donate the money I would normally spend on wants to organizations that will provide the less fortunate with their needs?”

And “Am I bad parent if my number one priority is for the kids to be able to keep going to school?”

Despite our rising case numbers, I’d just started feeling like I could let out the breath I held for all of September. School is going ok. The kids are used to masks and everything. They are amazingly resilient. Yes, there are cases in schools but it doesn’t seem to be spreading at school. I think they are safe on the bus and in class. They are so much happier there than they are cooped up at home, bickering nonstop and driving me up the wall.

But then in the span of 24 hours I found out that two friends are in isolation because a close contact tested positive. I don’t have any friends or family or acquaintances who’ve tested positive yet, but the degrees of separation are decreasing. It’s getting much closer to home. And with winter on the way it feels like the walls are closing in. I find myself having regular mini teary breakdowns. My pledge to get more sleep so that I’m better able to cope with the stress lasted exactly three nights.

24 hours later and another two people I know personally, including a close family member, are in isolation for potential exposure. All of them because of school.

They’ve just announced the ICU at St B is over-capacity. Doctors are sounding alarm bells.

This week feels like that week in March when everything changed so quickly and drastically, almost hour to hour, and it was impossible to focus on anything.

The words in the earlier part of this post, which I wrote two days ago, seem like an underreaction. It seems likely we’re on the verge of code red and now I’m second guessing whether school is a good idea.

The “lockdown”, if you can call it that, we had this spring was an emotional trial for me. On Twitter people were talking about what series they were binging, all the sourdough they were baking, what hobbies and skills they were taking up with all their spare time. Or how lonely and isolated they felt, longing for human connection and hugs.

I felt the opposite. Intensely envious of anyone who was busy running out of things to watch on Netflix while I was juggling work and devices and school video classes and running out of toner and paper for all the worksheets, while defusing yet another sibling spat and trying to figure out how and when I might be able to get groceries next, watching our TP stash dwindle, and honestly wondering we should maybe start rationing food and supplies a little bit.

And simultaneously, as an introvert, feeling like I was drowning in people and noise and contact but still feeling like a bad friend and family member if I didn’t make time to check in with my loved ones who may actually be feeling lonely/isolated/overwhelmed/scared to see how they were doing. The days felt unbearably long. The novelty of video chats wore off in about a week (it’s always nice to see people’s faces, but does ANYONE truly enjoy an awkward group Zoom??) We stopped setting alarm clocks. From the moment I got out of bed in the morning, I was counting down to bedtime.

People would ask, how are you managing? And honestly, the answer I usually gave was, “it’s hard, but we are so lucky compared to so many others, that we are actually fine.” In the big picture, we really were. But still.

As we waited for the case numbers that never really came, and the days got longer and the trees began to bud, we had things to look forward to. Nice weather. School wrapping up for the summer. Bikes. Beer on the porch. And then even in-school classes starting in September. Some activities re-starting. Routine.

But now it feels like there’s nothing to look forward to. In retrospect I wish we’d travelled to see family this summer. And now we know it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

I try to remind myself of all the ways we are still so lucky, through privilege and chance.

I try to focus on the little things that will bring joy to us and to others over the coming months. Pleasurable things to distract and delight. Christmas music and baking. Sledding and seeing a fresh layer of sparkling snow on the naked elm canopy. The fun and satisfaction of finding the perfect gifts for each person on my list. I do this while trying to quiet the voice in the back of my head that scolds me for indulging in these luxuries while people are worried sick about their loved ones, sitting ducks in care homes, and dread the prospect of bringing the virus home from their healthcare job and infected their families.

I try to use my long-standing mental trick for easing nerves or anxiety about an upcoming event or situation: by reminding myself that “by this time tomorrow/next week/next month, it’ll be over”. The problem is, there is no end date for this.

When things first started getting crazy in March, I surprised myself by immediately adopting a “no fixed duration” mindset. I knew it would be easier to do that than to get my hopes up only to have them dashed. Somehow, I knew that in order to cope, I had to have zero expectation of how long it would last – whether it was months or even years. And in some ways I think has helped.

But that was a lot easier to do six months ago. I was about to say that six months in, I know what life in a pandemic feels like and what I’m in store for, but it occurs to me that I really don’t. It’s clear now that we didn’t even really have a first wave here in Manitoba. Horrors may well await.

And now today (it’s taken me days to write this post) we are indeed in code red, a state of semi-lockdown for at least two weeks. Obviously it’s what needs to happen, but it might already be too little too late.

And while I shake my head wondering what on earth the government was doing with that 6-month headstart on pandemic planning, I am asking the same thing of myself. How did I fail to make my own plans to endure more of this pandemic event of no fixed duration? As we head into winter, no less. I don’t know.

By this time some day, it’ll all be over. Or it won’t really be. We’ll have to get there to find out.

As ever,

Good Things Yet to Come

February 20th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Well, we are closing in on March and I think I should put my Winnipeg Gratitude series to rest, even though I fell short a few days.

This is the last post in my series of reflections on the people, places and things I’m grateful for in my adopted hometown of Winnipeg. This one is easy, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind all along. I’m grateful that there are so many wonderful experiences yet to come, the many fun adventures that I can look forward to, and the progress our city can make. Some things were on my mind because of the recent holiday season (like making 2020 the year I will see the RWB’s Nutcracker – something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a child!) and some are things I’m dreaming of doing once the weather warms up (like checking out Back Alley Arctic in Wolseley). Or going to a migration supper at Oak Hammock Marsh, seeing a Planetarium show, canoeing in the Seine, biking to Birds Hill…the possibilities are almost endless. There are dozens of only-in-Winnipeg things that 11 years in, I still haven’t experienced.

I embarked on this project because I wanted to feel less crappy about this struggling city, with issues and challenges that seem insurmountable. I found 26 things that I’m truly grateful for – some of them serious, others less so, but all of them, a special part of Winnipeg life.

Today I will add one final thing to the list. Millennium for All just unveiled a massive surprise: a new song from John K Samson & co.:

I’m grateful, and brought to tears, by seeing, hearing, and even just thinking about this.

I’d been feeling tired, so tired of trying my hardest to fight for change in our city, while balancing my family, friends, personal interests and activities. I had been feeling awful, like I was trying and failing (or not trying hard enough, or at all, and so of course, failing) at all of it. But seeing this video reminded me that I am not alone, that others are working relentlessly, that a better future is possible if we stick together.

Peg Gratitude: Day 26 – The Big Red Church

January 25th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

In my neighbourhood there is a big beautiful church, officially named Gordon-King Memorial United Church, but known fondly as the Big Red Church. It is home to some of the friendliest people I have ever met and it is rapidly becoming a vibrant community hub for Glenelm.

What can I say about this lovely congregation? These folks are truly walking the talk of “loving thy neighbour” and it’s a boon to our neighbourhood that they are so committed to this principle. From knitting clubs and all-ages/instrument jams, to climate strike delegations and parents morning out, to the community gardens and bulletin board, and the famous Gordie’s Coffee House, there are so many great things happening that that have nothing to do with religion. While I’m no longer a church person, and my spiritual beliefs are not as straightforward as they once were, I grew up in the United Church so this place feels very familiar and comfortable to me. That said, I believe that many find this space as welcoming and free of agenda as I do.

Oh, and the sight of this majestic building brings me joy every time I pass by. Simply beautiful. I especially love seeing on a Thursday night, all lit up with the coffee house crowd inside, glowing in the night.

I’m super grateful to have such a great neighbour in the Big Red Church!

Peg Gratitude: Day 25 – Sidewalks

January 25th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Oh hi. It’s me again, still plugging away at my “31 days of gratitude” series that will have taken me more like 60 days to write.

For my 25th day (should I just call it number 25?) I’m reflecting on how sidewalks are awesome.

I really didn’t think too much about them or what it’s like to live in a neighbourhood without sidewalks until we were visiting family in Ladner over the holidays. We had an absolutely wonderful time getting to know this sweet little place and walked into the village from the Port Guichon neighbourhood almost every day. The only part of that I didn’t love about that were some residential streets without sidewalks, where we had no choice to walk on the road. Maybe (?) not terrible if you’re an adult and there’s plenty of daylight, but with a gaggle of young children it really changed the feel of our pleasant stroll.

In my neighbourhood not only do we have sidewalks everywhere (except for one connector with sidewalk on one side only – blarg), in most places the sidewalks are buffered from the street with a wide boulevard, which hosts our magnificent elms and a growing number of diverse young trees!

They say you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone, and man, I came home from that trip with a newfound love and appreciation for the humble sidewalk. Sidewalks or bust!

Peg Gratitude: Day 24 – Grassroots Groups

January 11th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

If there was a theme to my 2019, it was finding ways to put my dreams for a happier, healthier, safer city into action by getting involved with grassroots groups. From our boulevard tree project and trees coalition to Safe Speeds Wpg to YIMBY Winnipeg, I’ve found so much optimism and hope in meeting other folks who share a common vision, and trying to take concrete steps towards making that vision a reality.

Not only am I grateful for the opportunity to create change, I’m personally grateful for the relationships I’ve formed and, somewhat unexpectedly, the chance to learn about myself and about working in groups as a result. It’s been quite a journey exploring what my strengths are, identifying or confirming what my weaknesses are, and sometimes challenging myself to step outside my comfort zone.

Volunteer work isn’t always easy and often feels futile, but when it’s good, it’s great. I’m grateful to be in such good company. And I’m grateful for all the grassroots groups in our city pushing for critical change, like Functional Transit Winnipeg, Millennium 4 All, Manitoba Youth for Climate Action, Bear Clan — and so many others.

Peg Gratitude: Day 23 – Thermea

January 11th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

My sister-in-law and I have been taking each other to Thermea – Winnipeg’s amazing outdoor Nordic spa – for our birthdays for a few years now. It is truly one of the most relaxing, enjoyable experiences I can think of!! I used to feel a little sheepish raving about Thermea – it seemed a little lavish, excessive, indulgent, something. Spending 70-odd dollars for a day of lounging and pampering? But my frame of mind changed when I thought about it compared to another popular leisure activity that many of my peers seem pretty cavalier about doing: going to Jets games. Suddenly my splurge of choice seemed completely reasonable.

From the eucalyptus steam room and impressive aufguss rituals to the fancy infused waters and the thrill of a cold dip in the Polaber pool, every second at Thermea is a serious treat that I look forward to for weeks ahead of time. And I love that every season brings a different experience! I’m grateful to have the opportunity and the means to take advantage of this marvelous facility a couple times a year – it is such a restorative way to care for myself, and a cherished opportunity to connect with a dear friend in a peaceful, unhurried setting.

Thanks, Thermea!

Peg Gratitude: Day 22 – Manitobah Mukluks

January 11th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Last winter I got myself a pair of mukluks from Manitoba Mukluks. They are toasty, they are comfy, and they. are. gorgeous.

Intrigued by the name, I researched the company before I made my purchase, and I was thrilled to learn that many of their products are made right here in Winnipeg. Those that are made internationally are clearly marked as such; the company is transparent about its international production policies and is committed to ethical sourcing of leather and fur. Manitobah Mukluks is Indigenous-owned, and when I had to made an exchange for a different size, I was delighted to discover that their headquarters are located in North Point Douglas, just a stone’s throw from my neighbourhood. Talk about local!

This year I asked Santa for a pair of Manitobah Mukluks moccasins to wear as slippers around the house, and lucky for me, I got my wish. My feet have been super toasty and the subject of many compliments ever since.

I’m grateful we have such a wonderful local footwear company in Winnipeg. Seeing the cool footprints left in the snow by my mukluks always makes happy – something I am extra-grateful for in the long, cold winter!

Peg Gratitude: Day 21 – Local Beer

January 11th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

When I moved to the ‘Peg 11 years ago, I believe there were only two local breweries: Fort Garry and Half Pints. A few years back the liquor laws changed and craft breweries began popping up at an impressive rate. At first I could keep track of all the new additions (thanks in great part to the Beer Winnipeg blog and the beer proclivities of Winnipeg Twitter) but now there are enough that I’ve lost count. It’s awesome. To me this is a better indication that we’re becoming a cool big city than any piece of sexy infrastructure or big box store.

One Great City, Nonsuch, Torque, Barn Hammer, LBJ, Grain to Glass, Farmery… there are so many great options to choose from. Whether it’s a cool location, beautiful branding, delicious food at their brewpub, awesome collabs or supporting a great cause, I love that so many local brewers have something unique about them, and I appreciate all these things. And, not to overlook the original two, it’s hard to beat a Stir Stick Stout or Fort Gary Rouge.

I’m grateful for local beer!

(Now, can we please get Pedal Pub to come set up here??)

(And can someone please buy Hamilton House and turn it into a brewpub? Please?????)

(No seriously. That would be amazing.)

Peg Gratitude: Day 20 – Local Artists

December 31st, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

I got the most stunning, perfect Christmas gift from a dear friend this year: a print from Nice Art People of an elm tree ring, from Elmwood no less, like this one. I’m so excited to hang it up.

It joins my small collection of lovely Winnipeg-themed or Winnipeg-made artwork. I treated myself to the Ty Johnson “Great City” print at Tiny Feast (RIP) several years ago, and to a cool Guy St. Godard watercolour print of 1960s Portage Ave at the Signatures Show last year. For my birthday this year I got a beautiful print of a succulent that had been for sale at Sam’s Place (can’t remember the artist and too lazy to open up the frame!). I’ve got my eye on a few poignant Kal Barteski prints. And the Manitoba Dainty Tray print from Happyland Print Shop has been in my etsy cart off and on for far too long – one of these days, it’s going to look great in my kitchen.

Winnipeg is home to an astonishing number of talented artists who make my life and all Winnipeggers’ lives more beautiful with everything from paintings and prints to sculptures and murals. So grateful for Winnipeg artists!