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!)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I bought adorable shoes in the North End

...and with one title I alienated almost all of my male readers. But this post isn't really about shoes. It's about the fact that there is now somewhere new that people can buy clothes here in the North End.

I noticed the other day that on Main St. a new little shop seemed to have quietly opened its doors, and when I had a chance I popped in to take a look. "Treasures by Diva - Recycling Boutique" has only been open for 3 weeks, but owner Annette (I'm guessing Treasures by Annette doesn't have the same ring?) is no stranger to the North End; she had a shop on Main at Mountain that closed down two years ago. After a stint in Thompson, she is back in Winnipeg.

Her new shop is a much better space than her old one, and has parking right out front. It feels bright and her merchandise on my visit was a good mix of higher end mall labels (Tommy Hilfiger and such), some special occasion and she even had a little bit of vintage. Throw accessories and hats into the mix and you have a nice little shop. Don't be shy about asking if the furniture is for sale, Annette tells me she wants to get into selling a bit of vintage furniture as well. The 1940s dressers that were in the shop were already spoken for!

She does consignment and will also take donations (I didn't dig deep but I got the sense that the donations were priced lower to help make things even more affordable for those on a budget) and I believe she is looking into giving trade value as well. Overall I found her prices to be mostly quite fair, you will certainly find them reasonable if you are used to paying the highway robbery prices at Value Village.

Hopefully a proper sign will be in place by the time you visit as it can be easy to miss right now.  Treasures by Diva is located a 1404 Main St., just south of Atlantic Ave.

Oh, and those adorable pink polka dot shoes (brand new, had been sold at hoity toity anthropologie) - they went home with me - who said research couldn't involve a little retail therapy?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


You may not know it, but the simple port-a-potty can almost complete sum up why you don't need to automatically be afraid of the North End.

Last week the City started some sort of project on the street next to my house. Despite the fact that in stereotypical fashion there seemed to be one worker for every three guys standing around supervisor, and that actual hours worked didn't seem to be too many, they brought in a port-a-potty, or port-a-john if you prefer (port-a-loo if you're British!)

And then they left it there.

All week and weekend.

Now, much of the bad stuff that happens here in the North End is the result of teenagers with not much else to do. Arguably, some of that could be fixed with increased funding to recreation programs, family programs, housing allowances (so that they actually have a space of their own wherever they are living - nothing says get me out of the house like sharing a bedroom with your siblings!) and on and on and on.

Of course, sometimes, teenagers are just going to get up to no good because that's what teenagers do. As I've mentioned before, I grew up in a relatively privileged part of town, so much so that new McMansions were built in a former deer-filled meadow across the street from me.

With construction workers on site for months at a time, they needed somewhere to relieve themselves. Enter the port-a-potty.

Watch the bored suburban teenagers burn it down. I did. My bedroom window had a perfect view of it.

Goodness knows this wasn't the only act of vandalism that happened while I grew up in the 'burbs, but to this day I can't see a port-a-potty without thinking of the pile of melted plastic and uh, other stuff, that it turned into.

Moral of the story? Bored, under-supervised youth get into trouble in every part of town; it just doesn't always make the news. Much of what happens here in the North End is "typical" bored teenager stuff, not quake-in-your-boots-lock-your-car-doors-when-driving-through sort of stuff.

*Note - the port-a-potty was gone this morning, and not because anyone burned it down, tipped it over etc. We will chalk that one up in the "win" column :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's..... retail????

(The alternate title, of "It's a social service agency! It's an education centre! It's.... retail!", while more accurate, wasn't as catchy)

That's right folks, in the cute-as-a-button storefront at 788 Selkirk Ave, a retail store has emerged. I popped in back in January to see what Teri Beads was all about. Turns out it's a bead shop, owned by a woman named Teri. Huh, who would've guessed?

I remember seeing the construction take place last fall sometime, a bright white clean interior taking the place of what was offices (I believe Doug Martindale and Kevin Chief both used the space at some point). In a sea of places to that can help you get back on your feet, but nowhere to go once you do, it's a breath of fresh air to see some retail.
"Don't worry, bead happy!"

Sure, not everyone needs beads (she also has other decorative things like ribbon and such), but it's a start. Teri has kept the space nice and simple and her bright colourful beads are a particularly enjoyable sight during this long dirty winter. With the transformation of the Merchant's Hotel into education and housing space, more and more people will be coming to Selkirk Ave. on a daily basis; I think this means great opportunities for retail/restaurant spaces. With real estate now at a premium city-wide, you might want to think about Selkirk Ave - it once was a hub for shopping in the neighbourhood and could be again.

If you can't make it down to Selkirk Ave., clearly because you are not mobile, not because you are afraid of Selkirk Ave. (not an acceptable reason) check out Teri's online shop or her facebook page.

Also, when you pop down there, you will almost be directly across from Lao Thai restaurant - try the salad rolls, they're divine.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Happy House-iversary to me!

This isn't a real post but buying my house still remains one of the accomplishments in life that I'm most proud of, so I like to celebrate it. I also like to add another year to my tongue-in-cheek statistic about how long I've managed to go with out being _________ (insert as appropriate depending on reader's irrational fear: carjacked, robbed, stabbed, raped, murdered)

8 years free of major crimes! As many of you may know, I've had flowers stolen a few times (or just plain vandalized) which, because I'm a sensitive soul, has made me cry, but when I put my big girl panties back on I remind myself that for the difference between my property tax and that of most of my friends I could make a pretty big dent at the local garden centre. Did you know there are still tons of folk paying only $250/yr net property tax here in the North End?? (Sadly, I am not one of those people - however at around $1200/yr I'm not complaining either) 

I've seen big changes here in the North End in 8 years, and almost all of them for the good. We have a ways to go yet, but I without a doubt now consider myself a North Ender, my Charleswood roots now a dirty ditchwater memory. 

Recently I met a blogger who moved to Winnipeg and moved to the North End in part because of reading my little musings on the North End (well, that may be giving myself too much credit - at the very least I was a contributing factor in not being terrified of here - I'll take what I can get!) I always try to explain to my friends (ok, anyone who will listen) that by staying away they are part of the problem, not the solution. It doesn't take many "good" people on a block to make the bad folks feel unwelcome. 

So, since I'm out of the country at the moment, escaping what is now officially the worst winter in my lifetime (I KNEW IT!!!) apologies for the post with no real content - but happy house-iversary to me :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'm at LAX (and I shouldn't be)

Before I get you to click on over to my other blog, a travel blog, that I had the very best intentions of writing in often (have posts ready to go but want to add photos, which seems to be impossible via mobile unless I have google+) I thought I would do a quick post here.

Basically, I'm in LA. I should be fast asleep in my prepaid hotel room in Bangkok. United Airlines screwed me, for the second time this trip, so here I sit. It makes my travel post that I'm about to send you doubly relevant for me for the second time in two weeks! It will also be almost 24 more hours before I am in Bangkok.

However, I am writing this post from the Star Allaince lounge at LAX, a small perk I was able to get, and I'll take it! Cross your fingers for me that I also get myself moved on  to business class...

And although I know everyone has their stories good and bad for all airlines, let it be known that United should likely always be a last resort, the "charm" of most of their employees is often even below that of Air Canada.

Read my travel blog post here:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I have very little shame

Which works out well - when people offer me free things (food especially) in exchange for a blog post or some tweet and such thing, I have no problem jumping right on that train. So, back in January when I was invited to the Taste of Mardi Gras my wee little brain thought first: wheeeee free food! And secondly, oh that's probably a good idea, I should get out more.

So, it was a cold and blustery day of the tasting, and I first headed to the car wash after work, knowing that I was going to indulge in underground parking at the RBC Convention Centre. I got there nice an early so decided to also indulge in a little overpriced yummy blended beverage from Starbucks, knowing there was one in Portage Place I started the hike via the skywalk system. I'm don't remember when we added that little piece between the Delta and CityPlace (or rather I guess it goes around the Delta) but I'm sure it was opposed, because that's what we do in Winnipeg, but what a blessing.

After stopping in at the Millennium Library to renew a book - by the way, hats off to the white haired gentleman at the returns desk who is bold enough to wear overalls in public, what a gem of an employee! Can someone please pass this post on to the person that needs to see it at the library?? (With any luck I'm on an island with no electricity as this posts - robbers take note, my roommate, who rarely leaves the house is probably at home. I also have nothing of value, like, nothing *sadface*)

So, onto the real reason for this post - do you need something to do to shake off your winter funk? How about checking out the Winnipeg Mardi Gras? It runs Friday February 14th and Saturday February 15th at the RBC Convention Centre. Friday will feature a Valentine's Celebration, and singles fear not, they have you looked after too - participate in Singles Awareness Day by wearing the red Valentine's heart they have on offer so you can easily spot others who might be up for a little somethin' somethin'.

In addition to the screens showing a live Twitter feed and video cam to get your 15 seconds of fame, there will be live music, showgirls and even better, showBOYS. But of course, the way to my heart is through my stomach, so lets talk about the food.

Thank goodness I now like shrimp! I'm not going to lie, if you're a vegetarian, you might want to have a nibble before you leave the house or come hungry for deep fried pickle spears with a cheesy sauce (admittedly, delicious), sweet potato fries or the Basin Street Bread Pudding with a Bourbon laced Caramel Sauce (this wasn't available to try - oh how I wish it was, sounds great).

I tried to pick a favourite, and in the name of high quality investigative journalism I even went back and tried some things more than once ;) I suppose if I was forced to make a decision I would go with the Bourbon Flamed Garlic Pepper Shrimp, they were REALLY REALLY good. For a lighter bite try the Gumbo. That said, you really can't go wrong with any of the entrees. As for spiciness, I would say nothing I had was above about a medium salsa, so most people should be alright even if it's a little spicier than you are used to. Unfortunately, entrees are priced on par with entrees at a restaurant so if you want to get a chance to try a few things you might need a group of friends that you are at the comfort level of eating off their plate. There will however be an appetizer sampler that is good for sharing.

It would appear I am incapable of posting photos I took to this blog post without signing up for silly Google+ so, you get no photos. However, you can check out the facebook page here:

I should probably revise the title to say I have SOME shame, I won't always be willing to write a post for everyone and everything, and I can't promise to always say nice things; so if your event or thing
kinda sucks, I might not be your gal! ;)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Commited to Plagarism"

No not me, although that would probably result in more frequent blog posting... Select, copy, paste... wait, maybe this guy is onto something??

Who am I talking about you ask? Well, Adamson Roofing Ltd. See, I have a 1 1/2 storey house, and while adorable and cottage-y looking it end up leaking every damn year due to ice dams (damn, dam - get it??). I've been considering replacing my roof with a metal roof for a few years now; it costs a couple hundred dollars to get the snow shovelled off and considering that I'm likely to need that a couple times a year, the long term extra costs of a metal roof could soon pay for themselves. So off to the internet I went, seeking helpful information about "Winnipeg metal roof" (or something along those lines).

Behold! I found this blog post from January of 2011 by local roofer Adamson Roofing Ltd., who is "Committed to Excellence" as per their website. Well written it seems to go right to the heart of my concerns, including the poor aesthetic that I feel metal roofing possesses.
"For the majority of people they associate metal roofing with the typical corrugated, straight-lined metal roofing seen on rural homes, barns and commercial buildings. Because of the industrial look of this material, many homeowners shy away from its use. Fortunately, now there are now several manufacturers that have created more textured and appealing types of metal roofing that possesses all of the benefits of metal roofing without the commercial appearance. Some of these metal roofing options mimic slate or cedar shingles and may be more attractive than many types of asphalt shingles. Various colours are also available, not just the typical galvanized or green styles we are familiar with on rural homes."
This guy is a genius! He totally gets me! Okay, add him to the short list. What else does Google have for me - if everyone is this on the ball I'm golden!

What's this?? An article as first seen in the Winnipeg Free Press back in 2009 - "Ask the Inspector" by Ari Marantz. Wait this looks familiar.... Actually, it seems to be EXACTLY THE SAME. Checks Adamson Roofing post for credit to the original author. Nope, can't find it anywhere. Amusingly his blog post does have over 200 comments, seemingly ALL from spambots. Good times. (Please excuse me if I don't keep up with deleting the spam that this post will generate, I've discovered the word roof has been a magnet for spam in the past).

So, call me crazy, but I no longer feel as though I can trust Adamson Roofing on the subject of metal roofing, I'm not sure they even truly know what it is since they couldn't even write about it themselves. Heck, I would have even accepted a "we couldn't put it any better ourselves" disclaimer and proper accreditation at the beginning of the post!

I'm still left looking for suggestions for a roofing contractor that specializes in metal roofing, more specifically one who specializes in "pretty" metal ones.