10 November 2014

Hibernation Mode

Things have taken a turn for the chilly around here, and it's only a matter of time before snow blankets the ground and temperatures plunge for the long haul.

Every winter I have this battle between my desire to stay in and avoid the cold and my sense of obligation to go out. But this winter, I've decided to embrace staying in, and to help it feel a bit more productive, I've come up with some hibernation projects.

1. Find out what the deal is with borscht. I never liked it as a kid, but I'm going to get a great recipe and try again.
2. Watch AFI's best 100 films. Like, all of them.
3. Learn to make some excellent cocktails. Then invite friends over to drink them.
4. Read books. A lot of books.
5. Successfully hold a handstand for longer than 0.000052 seconds.
6. Buy a brand new album and listen to it the whole way through and not do anything else. Except maybe lie on the floor. And consume alcohol.
7. Finally finish sewing patches on that damn blanket. (A project that's been sitting around partially done for about 2 years. Yeah, I'm the worst sometimes.)
8. Complete a puzzle.
9. Master a difficult baked good that I've tried and failed at before. Something that involves the use of a candy thermometer and/or yeast.
10. Make out :)

What about you? Any plans for the winter hunker down?

3 November 2014

Photographers Who Make Winnipeg Beautiful

One of the best things about Instagram is the way it helps you look through the eyes of someone else and find beauty in the most unexpected places. Two Instagramers in particular, @markiatsu and @a.chea, have changed the way I look at Winnipeg.

I had the pleasure of teaching high school English to both Mark and Amanda and reconnected with them at Winnipeg's Instameet a month or so back. Their passion and energy is catching, and I quickly reached out to them to learn more about their photography.
Tell me a little about how you got into photography.
Mark: It goes all the way back to Tumblr in 2009. It was all the hype back then: reposting and liking photos. Occasionally I would get inspired by certain photographs and it motivated me to go out and shoot. I remember stumbling across this long exposure shot of car lights, and that really propelled me into the excitement of photography. After watching a YouTube video on how to capture similar shots, I borrowed my parents camera and tripod and sat on my front porch waiting for cars to paint their light on the road.

Amanda: I think now that I've grown up a little and looked back I'm pretty sure I was born with it. Even when I was a kid, I'd always find a camera in my hand: not a fancy one, but like a small, normal point and shoot. I took pictures of everything and anything really. But I guess ever since the summer before high school, and all the media courses I took, I started to take it a bit more seriously. My friend took me to a car meet; a group called TopTier imports organized meets during the summer. Throughout the years, I've gotten to know a lot of people in that whole car scene, and I'm glad to say most of them are now good friends of mine. A handful of them are professional car photographers. I'd say they've taught me a lot about photography and videography.

What do you like about photographing in Winnipeg?
Mark: You often hear a "nothing special" stigma around Winnipeg. Some people fail to see the beauty. With modern advances, Winnipeg is shaping up into a sophisticated metropolitan while showcasing its classic architecture. Winnipeg is full of diversity; and because of the fact that this city can resemble many other places, photographing Winnipeg is like capturing different corners of the world.

Amanda: What I like about photographing in Winnipeg is that we do live in a beautiful city with beautiful people and places, and some people don't see that. Instagram has been where most of my inspiration comes from; seeing all these talented individuals and learning what they have to offer is so amazing. I've met a handful of new people from it too. I love making new friends that have the same interests as me. But I'd give all the credit to Mark, because he was the one who showed me how to have an adventure in your own city, opening my eyes and noticing the art in everyday things.

Have you had any crazy/scary experiences while shooting?
Mark: My friends and I usually like to go out where no one's really been to capture sights yet to be photographed. Recently, after Winnipeg's first Instameet, a group of us decided to shoot on the top level of a building under construction. As we were leaving, we were spotted by a cop. We saw an opportunity to take off, but we played it smart and just turned ourselves in. It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life. Seeing that I'm trying to get myself through school, I don't know what I would have done if I had landed in jail. It's probably an exaggeration of the outcome, but running into authorities really isn't my cup of tea.

Amanda: Crazy and scary experiences are what I live for. One time Mark and I went to Pinawa for the first time, just because. We got to the other side of the suspension bridge and he says, "Let's go walk this way, and if there's nothing interesting a minute in, we'll come back." So we head into the woods/forest, whatever you wanna call it, and a good 5 minutes pass. We were already lost and off trail. We came across a baby bear and the first thing we did was run. I wasn't planning to be killed by a mother bear that day. There were these high rock mountain cliff things we climbed to get away; I slipped on my way up, and almost busted my head, but I didn't, thank God.

At night sometimes, 10ish to midnight, we like to find buildings with fire escapes and climb them up to the rooftop for a better view of the city. Once you're up there, it's pretty relaxing. Michael (@305ivemm) was terrified of heights, so when we got him to climb, he stopped half way and kind of caused a scene in the middle of the night. Some lady from the street yelled, "Either jump or keep climbing!!" I found that funny, because while the rest of us were already at the top, there were people encouraging him from down below. He made it up safely 20 minutes later... haha.

What are some of your goals? Where do you hope your camera takes you?
Mark: Although Winnipeg is an amazing background for many shots, I have this thrill for photographing at heights. One day, I hope to get enough money from either my photography or work to travel to cities with massive high rises. If you look at my Instagram feed, it's basically full of people with nifty kicks sitting on the edge of a skyscraper.

Amanda: Photography is great and all but video and film have my heart. I'm just saving up for video equipment stuff, and photography is there just helping me grow into it. I'd like to help produce a movie one day. I recently got asked to be the director of photography in a short film here in Winnipeg, so I'm pretty excited about it. My camera has opened up so many doors and opportunities for me already. I'm grateful for that and I can't wait for more. I'd love to travel outside of Canada but I know that's not going to happen anytime soon. #brokelife

What advice would you give to people who are playing around with photography?
Mark: Keep on shooting. Know the power of photography. Photography is a hearth. It's the foundation to the fire you want to ignite the world with. Every flame starts with a little ember, and every time you go out there and shoot, you feed that fire. Keep that passion burning and pretty soon, your photographs are no longer just pictures, they become tinder that will spark others' flames.

Amanda: My advice to anyone honestly, is to do what makes you happy. You shouldn't beat yourself up because someone's better than you at what you do, because there's always that someone. Do you and stay inspired because that will inspire others around you. Don't worry about people that doubt you, cut 'em, you don't need that kind of negativity in your life. Have fun!

Thanks you two for showing us all what a truly beautiful place we live in :)

27 October 2014

Maps Turned Art

I'm one of those freaks who genuinely enjoys reading maps and navigating. I also happen to think that maps are pretty beautiful. There's such a history and a romance to an authentic physical map.

So when we got this amazing print by illustrator Raymond Biesinger in at Little Sister Coffee Maker, I raced over to Tiny Feast to snap one up. I cannot wait to get this beautiful piece of Winnipeg history up on my wall. I'm completely in love with all the fun detail.

If you're interested in this print, they might still have one or two left at Tiny Feast, and they'll be getting more in come November.
Do you have any cool maps or map prints hanging around your place? I always love to hear from you :)

14 October 2014

It's Cabin Time

Recently, Chris and I have been jonesing for a bit of a get away. We discussed Seattle, Portland, Washington D.C. and Montreal, but we just didn't have the cash for the flights. So, for the first time ever, we decided to rent a cabin. After a fair bit of research, we went with Riverview Lodge for its lakefront views, option for a private outdoor hot tub and the fact that they allow pets (although we ended up deciding to leave Slim with family for the weekend).

It was a weekend of relaxing outdoors, drinking pour over coffees, curling up with good books, trying out new recipes, building fires, long talks and spending time with my absolute favourite human on the planet.

I'm so glad we decided to do this and it's definitely an option we'll be using again. Owners Margriet and Walter were so kind, helpful and thorough, and the entire weekend was an absolute dream.

6 October 2014

Winnipeg Neighbourhood Guide 3: West Broadway/Wolseley

Known affectionately as "The Granola Belt," Wolseley has a long and fascinating history as a residential district. Thanks to concerted community efforts to fight Dutch Elm disease, it's canopied by great, hardy elms: making it one of the most beautiful places for a fall stroll in the city. And right nearby, West Broadway has been blowing up over the past year or two. With a crop of hip new businesses and a brand new bike lane along Sherbrook, its dingier days seem long gone. Wolseley/West Broadway is rapidly becoming one of the hottest destinations and most desirable areas in the city.

Seriously one of the better cheeseburgers I've ever bit into. Jon grinds his own beef, so yeah, you can get that patty medium or rare. The food is simple, but flavourful with quality you can taste and the beers and spirits are nicely curated.

Boon Burger
With its all-vegan burger menu, this is a fantastic (and rare) choice for vegetarians, vegans or people like me who just enjoy a good veggie meal now and then. The menu offers a lot of variety and everything I've tried has been fresh, wholesome and delicious.

Oh, and their soft serve is a thing of beauty.

The Tallest Poppy
It's back and people are excited. The decor is eclectic and homey, the staff are friendly and the breakfast is great. I had the Talia breakfast. The bacon was fantastic, the toast was thick cut, perfectly crispy and amazing dipped into my poached eggs, and the salad was fresh and flavourful.

They're still working out some efficiency quirks (seating lagged a bit and our bill was mislaid) but it's only been a week, folks, they're going to work it out. Using the honour system to seat waiting tables creates a friendly, communal vibe. I dig it.

The Nook
Winnipeg loves a greasy spoon, and this one fits the bill with a vintage eclectic spin. Busy, buzzing and familiar all at once.

If you want breakfast cheap and fast, go here. This place is about as blue collar as it gets, with plastic cups, plenty of fried meats and most breakfasts costing less than 5$. The hours are a bit strange and the place is TINY, but the open kitchen, friendly staff and solid food are worth the hassle.

Stella's Cafe and Bakery
Yet another excellent spot for a great brunch. A wide ranging menu with something for everyone and fresh ingredients. Pop next door and take home some bread or delicious baked goods.
Thom Bargen
A hip place to grab a great cup of coffee. They offer quite a bit more seating than most of the specialty coffee shops in town, so it's a great spot for a meeting or study session with a pour over in hand. They also carry a fair bit of coffee gear and beans for your home brewing needs.

The Handsome Daughter
Much to my disappointment, The Handsome Daughter has hit a few snags with their opening date, so I haven't yet had the opportunity to belly up for a drink. But people are talking and I have high hopes that this divvy new place will finally put an end to the revolving door of new business turn-over in this spot.

I'll update you the minute it opens.
Wilder Dry Goods
Located at the rear of Thom Bargen, Wilder sells beautifully made bags with durable, equitably sourced materials. Their bags are designed with everyday use in mind; they're hella tough and they'll only look better with age.

You can also poke your head in back to see the boys at work making beautiful new products.

Organic Planet
This tiny little organic co-op oozes hippy ambience, and is seriously a place worth spending your money on those foods that just taste best organic. I lack the commitment (and honestly the cash) to eat organic all the time, but when it comes to seasonal produce, why not, right?

The Shoe Doctor
This is where I bought my Blundstones five years ago (when this was pretty much the only place in the city you could find them) and four Winnipeg winters later, those boots are still withstanding the test of time. If you've spent a winter here, you know how amazing/rare that is in a shoe :)

They also do affordable and reliable shoe repairs.

Humboldt's Legacy
A great spot to pick up earth-friendly home products - think organic cotton linens, eco cleaning products, hemp shower curtains and more. The staff is knowledgeable and passionate about the environment, but you'll never feel shamed by them. They honestly just want to be part of a positive shift away from waste culture. And their stuff is beautiful.

Tall Grass Prairie Bakery
Two words: cinnamon bun. Seriously dudes, just do it.

The Neighbourhood
Cozy up with a warm beverage and a gently used book from the shelves of this cafe/bookstore. A great, homey place to spend an afternoon or evening.
Art City
By supporting and giving voice to local artists in the city and putting on great events while they're at it, Art City adds something special to Winnipeg's art culture. Check their website for info on upcoming events and to learn how you can support.

Among the most beautiful old churches in the city: complete with stained glass, towering ceilings, organ music and church bells. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a wedding or a Christmas concert here, do it.

Balmoral Street Houses
Just south of Broadway Avenue along Balmoral lies a cluster of beautiful old historic houses. Stroll along, read the placards and appreciate Winnipeg's long history.

Working on this series so far has really help me to appreciate Winnipeg so much more, and I hope it's doing the same for you. I'll be back after Thanksgiving long weekend with more posting goodness.