Thursday, February 5, 2015

Way better than dinner for two (served by a waiter who hates you)

I can say that with authority, because I have been a server my entire adult life, and Valentine's Day is right up there with Mother's Day and New Year's Eve - while there may be some "normal" people who dine out on these "Special Occasions" (read: if you need a special reason to dine out, your waiter also hates you) the majority are people who are very far removed from understanding the social graces of this world (read: tipping, and treating wait staff like human beings). So, if you are looking for something to do the weekend of Valentine's Day, that doesn't involve a "romantic" table for two approximately one foot away from another couple - may I suggest Winnipeg Mardi Gras!

Running on both Friday February 13th and Saturday February 14th at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, Winnipeg Mardi Gras will be a great chance to shake off winter and maybe meet that special someone (Saturday allows for singles to "wear their heart on their sleeve" to make it easier to spot fellow singletons). If you're already in a relationship perhaps Friday evening's Zombie theme is more up your alley - I will let you infer what you will about couples and zombies.... ;)

I was lucky enough to get invited to the media preview of this event, and let me tell ya, if for some reason you're immune to wanting to get up and dance when you hear Zydeco music (Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers will be there again this year) then you should go just for the food. Oh... the food. I am inept and can't seem to get the menu to show up in this post, so click here to be taken straight to the menu. I think the Louisiana Style Shrimp with Pasta was my favourite, but whatever you do, be sure to leave room for the Basin St. Pudding - absolutely fantastic. I left the event with almost a full-term food baby!

So while I imagine going to the real thing down in New Orleans is also probably a lot of fun, Winnipeg Mardi Gras doesn't involve a plane ride (with a connection - shudder), over inflated hotel prices (as of writing this post you could stay at the Ft. Garry on Friday night for $111 or the Delta, right across the street for $139 on Saturday) or the smell of pee and vomit that permeates Bourbon St. on most weekends, never mind during Mardi Gras (yeah, the tourist brochures never mention that part...)

As for what you do to get your beads? Well, I'll leave that up to you ;)

*Yes, I got to go to the media event and they let me eat delicious food for free, but I wouldn't say nice things about it if I didn't mean it. If you don't believe me, invite me to try your horrible food for free. That said, I would probably stick to the wise words spoken by kindergarten teachers everywhere - "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all"

Monday, January 12, 2015

Next thing you know we will get a Starbucks...

Well. The news is in.
Never has a store opening excited me this much. Oh, IKEA was great, I even got a sneak preview, but this, THIS is epic.

What could be getting me, generally against chains, quite so excited?

First, let's talk about the location of this new store. Salter St. and Flora Ave. Arguably the absolute core of Winnipeg's infamous North End. So, what have we got at that corner? Well, there is a grubby feeling Esso/Laundromat, Children of the Earth High School, Gill's Furniture Warehouse and, up until recently, a Petro Canada gas station with perpetually for sale fried chicken business inside.

Quite a few months ago they started what seemed to be dismantling the Petro Canada (the gas price on the sign last read 129.9 if that gives you an idea when it shut down). Only recently did it become obvious that it wasn't a complete tear down, but rather a massive renovation.

Then, the other day, this:

I literally cheered out loud as I drove by the sign.

Now, 7-11 is not without its faults, it truly is a convenience food store - should you want anything remotely healthy be prepared to pay through the nose for it. However, they are clean, their milk is always in date and they adhere to the maximum milk prices set out by the Province.
Oh, and they have SLURPEES.

I don't know how you missed it if you're a regular reader of my blog, but I bloody well love Slurpees. I can't explain it.  Otherwise I'm quite normal (ok, not really, but I can skip most of the things that other people can't live without and I'm indifferent to regular pop). 7-11 has always been my first stop when travelling to get a sense of what basics like bottles of water (in places where you can't drink the tap water - bottled water is ridiculous otherwise) should cost; it sets a benchmark. They are always brightly lit, open and clean. Oh, and in Thailand, serve as an excellent bill-breaker for those ridiculous 500 and 1000 Thai baht notes that no one else will accept.

What else does this say? Well, I think it demonstrates that the North End has come a long way. Many years ago there was a 7-11 at the corner of Salter and Aberdeen (now a mom and pop convenience store) but it closed, if I had to hazard a guess it was probably because between shoplifting and robbery it wasn't a profitable location. The fact that they are setting up shop again tells me that perhaps the North End is turning a corner in the minds of people who analyze risk for a living.

So, rarely will you see me quite so excited about a big corporate store opening up shop, but since I buy about 80% of my milk at 7-11 (in one litre containers only, otherwise their prices are absurd) and 100% of my Frozen Carbonated Beverages (tee hee, that's the generic name for Slurpees) there and it's perfectly placed to be a pit stop on my way home if I've headed south, I am over the moon!

Oh, and to any of you negative Nancys who are making snide comments about poor people/large sized people etc, just remember, it's a 7-11 deep in the heart of Southern Suburbia that sells the most Slurpees every year.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How to shop for the holidays in a socially concious way

**Look for links right in the post with more down at the bottom!!**
If the person you are trying to buy a present for has cupboards full of food and didn't make a special request for something, chances are the best present for them isn't at the mall.

Lululemon is but one example of who's at the mall but they were just in the news because they *only* sold about $420 MILLION in the last quarter. They don't need your money. Many small business would be over the moon if they sold $42,000 in that same time-frame.

A quick side note, and this applies to everything from retail to restaurants and to the music and film industries. Every little fish of course wants to be a big fish. The bigger the fish you are the more successful you must be and the more money you should make. The more money you make the more freedom you have blah blah blah. It's a vicious circle and I certainly can't claim to not also wish for success for myself and my little vintage business. I don't hate on business for having been successful, but more so for how it often breeds greed.

That said, you do you think appreciates your support more, the big fish faceless corporation at the mall or the little fish?

It doesn't matter if you want to help people on the other side of the world with micro loans (imagine if a small loan was enough to start your own business and literally stop your family from starving to death) or your local artisan who is now able to put his/her kids in dance classes because of your purchase.

Photo of Danielle from her GoFundMe page
There are also other options that you can give to instead of buying a present at the mall - support a local artist, buy a handmade card (or make it yourself!) and tell them why you thoughtfully chose to support someone like Danielle from my blog post the other day. Danielle lives right here in Winnipeg and she has a brilliant mind but a body that doesn't quite function like most of ours. She needs a wheelchair to get around but the wheelchairs provided by our health care oddly enough aren't designed for Winnipeg winter use. Instead of giving up and sitting at home on disability she volunteers her time to help others. She will undoubtedly help others if she's able to get her law degree - but that's next to impossible if she's housebound because her wheelchair is broken or because she can't get through the snow. Why doesn't she just suck it up and buy herself one then you ask - well, what job do you know of that is going to pay her well enough to buy a $30,000 wheelchair when she can't always make it to work because she's stuck at home waiting for someone to come and fix her unreliable chair? See, another circle.

If children can ask for donations instead of presents for their birthdays (that's a big thing now) surely you can buy a goat (Oxfam), buy a homeless person dinner (Siloam) instead of getting your Aunt Mabel a Walmart gift card (The Oxfam link will take you to their site where you can buy more than just goats, lots of great items)
Buy a goat for someone (image from Oxfam website)

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with presents, but if you're going to give something tangible consider shopping local, as in locally made or sourced not something from the local mall. Remember a $40 present from a local shop or creator puts that money into the hands of someone you know*

*since Winnipeg has probably about 3 degrees of separation at best.

You can even shop from 100's of local shops from the comfort of your couch - if you've not yet heard of etsy it's a great place to be impressed by the ingenuity of those around us. They also have a lot of vintage items. Check out this link to search etsy listings just in Winnipeg:

The Scrap Came Back - a local upcycling shop on St. Anne's that says "All of our products are hand-made pieces constructed from hand-picked scrap. Many of our pieces are made from Manitoban artists, many of whom have disabilities. A few of our pieces are made by people overseas; all of these products are strictly fair-trade."

Similar to Oxfam, Plan Canada offers the chance to purchase items to help those in need in other parts of the world. Access to education, clean water, healthcare - all things we typically take for granted.

By no means is my list exhaustive - there are so many ways to give local, shop local and to help those in developing nations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Know EXACTLY where your donation is going

'Tis the time of year where we are all in a giving mood, but where to donate our dollars?

Well, if you want to see your dollars in action, possibly quite literally, then you should donate to Danielle Otto.

Danielle is a Winnipegger with big dreams and an even bigger hurdle - winter. From her Go Fund Me page:
I've been a wheelchair user since was five years old, and I have an awesome life.
Wheelchairs are often seen as as very negative: confining, limiting. But my power chairs have been extremely liberating to me. I can go anywhere, anytime I want without anyone's help.  And because I have Cerebral Palsy, that is a level of mobility I'd never be able  to achieve without this technology. It's amazing.

I've done a lot with the freedom my chairs have given me. I have a degree in Psychology. I work as a counsellor in a health clinic, and as advocate for university students. I'm hoping to go to law school in the Fall of 2015.     

Unfortunately though, my current chair isn't working out so well. It has poor traction in cold or snowy environments (a BIG problem for someone living in downtown Winnipeg who is a a die-hard pedestrian and public transit user). The footrests have broken EIGHT TIMES in a year and half. They are not designed for the way I need to use them. 

It is a constant source of worry and frustration.

I can't simply request a better chair.  Wheelchair Services in Manitoba offers only a few pre-selected chairs, made by a single manufacturer, and it doesn't really matter if those truly meet your needs. 

So I'm hoping that you will help me buy a Permobil M400 Corpus 3G. This device is VERY expensive , but Permobil chairs are well-respected in the wheelchair industry for being of superior quality, and having cutting-edge features like a special powered footplate that will not snap without warning...and drumroll please...SNOW TIRES.

By donating toward the purchase of an M400, you will give me tremendous peace of mind, and enable me to keep working toward my goals without slowing down for repairs.

Since this is Winnipeg, I "know" Danielle by only one degree of separation, and what she doesn't mention in her writeup is all the time that she has spent volunteering. Or how hard it can be to get a job that pays enough to cover additional expenses associated with her Cerebral Palsy; what jobs do you know that young adults have that don't typically require someone to be able-bodied?

Danielle has a brilliant mind and to help this young woman attend law school, something that will come with additional challenges for her over the other students, would be a benefit to society as a whole. She's one of those "going to change the world" sort of people.

So, this holiday season, if you are looking to do some good, or perhaps make a donation in lieu of a gift, consider helping Danielle out. If you are local to Winnipeg, you might even get to see her roll on by with her new wheels - that's seeing your dollars in action!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Do you know this woman?

*Update: November 4th - it looks like the original facebook post that I linked to is gone but I didn't want to delete the post lest I seem like an even worse blogger than I already am!

*Update: August 28th - she has been found!*

I am terrible with technology and I couldn't seem to figure out how to send this as a far more simple tweet, so here you are world, let's find this woman and get her her pictures back!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Take a hike! (Ok, a walk, a guided walk...)

Last fall I was lucky enough to get to go on one of the mural tours offered by the West End Biz. If you haven't been and you are looking for something unique to do in Winnipeg, this could be it. It's doubly great because while interesting for an out-of-towner, it's also really interesting for locals - no complaining that "there's nothing to do"!! The tours are also only $5 for adults and $2 for kids, so it falls under cheap things to do as well. If you're not from Winnipeg, know that being cheap or free often is a deciding factor for a Winnipegger.

Let's get the contact stuff out of the way so it doesn't get lost at the bottom of the blog post. If you are interested in taking one of these great tours, you can visit the West End Biz website at
or email directly. Heck, you can even go old school and call them at 204-954-7900.

These tours run until the end of August, but don't wait, if I recall correctly, space often sells out!

One of my favourite murals from the day was this one, of Zoohky, and I asked Sasha, one of this year's mural tour guides to refresh my memory about the story behind this one and this is what she had to say:
The one with the man and the bike is called “Zoohky” and is at 635 Sargent Ave. This was painted by Jill Sellers in 2003. This mural celebrates Walter Zielke Ruesch, also known as Zoohky. Zoohky lived in the West End for the majority of his life and was known by the whole community as helpful and kind-hearted. He would go around the community and found things that people had discarded such as old bicycles, stereos, toys, etc. and would fix them and donate them to families who benefitted from them. He didn’t have a means of supporting himself, so businesses in the community would give him donations so that he could continue living his lifestyle. He also lived with many cats that he rescued off the street and the local Safeway gave him cat food. Initially, the bicycle was not included in the mural but members of the community requested that it be included, so the artist went back a year later to paint the bicycle in. Zoohky was also a poet in his own right and in the mural he is holding his poem “Blue Danube.” This was published in the community newspaper West Central Streets. Zoohky passed away in 2002 at the age of 73.
I also really enjoyed the mural near the new University of Winnipeg building (which has TREES in it - they built around them, how cool is that?!) that was in tribute to the former Galaxy Roller Rink that was torn down to build the new classrooms and accommodation. I grew up being a "Saints" girl in my prime roller skating years but I did go to Galaxy a few times before it closed. We shall not even discuss the sad state that is the current Wheelies location. But now I am getting horribly off topic.

There are so many murals in the West End that the tour couldn't possibly take all of them in, but in whatever tour you take you'll get to learn so much more about history in Winnipeg, and of the West End in particular.

Be sure to ask your tour guide what the girls on the right were originally holding!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spoilt for choice

Maybe it's just me, but I eat a lot of takeout. Like, far more than I should. I blame it on the fact that cooking for one person means tons of leftovers and I have a one portion of leftover maximum threshold. Now, if I'm already out and about I will often pick up my eats, but pickings are pretty slim here in the North End (in terms of variety at least) so I have been known to order in, especially if I've already changed into my pj's or my "let's get some crap around the house done" clothes - What Not to Wear imprinted in my mind that I'm not supposed to go out of the house in these sorts of things...

So although no bribery was really necessary as I have ordered from Skip the Dishes before, the good folk over there are trying to get the word out about their great service and may have enticed me to sit my butt down, stop procrastinating, and write a blog post. I may or may not have been stuffing my face as I wrote this post.

If you haven't used them before, the premise is this, go online, enter your postal code and what time you would like your food (either picked up or delivery) and up pops the options - and we're not just talking your standard pizza and Chinese food delivery options, although of course those are in the mix as well. The food of the world is at your fingertips - Canadian, Japanese, Ethiopian, Chinese, Middle-Eastern, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian and more; you can even get your sweet tooth on from places like Cake-ology, Goodie's and, drool, Johnnie's Sticky Buns. I opted for Chaise Cafe, which I hadn't yet had a chance to try in person - it was good value and delicious, two of my favourite things! And I'm not just saying that because I'm writing this post :)

A few little details that I like about Skip the Dishes? Well, the delivery fee, which varies from restaurant to restaurant, all goes to the "Food Courier" (aka Delivery Driver) as does any tip you may leave. I like that they're up front about that. They offer local chat help on the website, which goes a long way in my books - I've become quite frustrated with websites offering "help" that is really just a call (typing?) centre that will have the business in question give you a phone call later (all car dealerships please take note of this - this is not useful, if I wanted to talk to someone, I would have called in the first place).

Things I find a little quirky about the site are things like 99 Cent Pizza is a restaurant option, and they have a $5 minimum order and free delivery; this would be great except that the cheapest thing on their available menu is $14.99?? In general I find that the "minimum order" amount is a little strange - I mean, if you're willing to pay the delivery fee, what difference does it make what you order? Most don't seem to have a minimum order though and there are even a few that waive the delivery fee with a fairly small order ($10-$15) - I checked and they (Skip the Dishes) pay the food courier what the delivery fee would have been in those cases, so no need to worry that your desire to be frugal is costing someone else their income :)

Finally, if work or pleasure happens to bring you to Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina or Red Deer, fear not you don't need to blindly navigate your way around those cities trying to find something good to eat as Skip the Dishes will bring some of the best of those cities straight to your hotel room.

*Fear not readers, I'm not going to turn into one of those insincere blogs that is constantly pitching things yada yada yada. It just so happens I love eating and I love Winnipeg so occasionally if some PR person sends something my way and I think that there is a way I can be genuine about telling people about it or if I think people will want to know about it (hello IKEA opening!) then heck ya, this poor two-job working blogger may jump on the bandwagon! That said, I won't hold back my real feelings so if something sucks I will let you know (probably best that PR people realize that before sending me ridiculous things/ideas, I have at least a few morals left!)