winter

When I announced to friends and family I was moving to Winnipeg last spring a few stereotypes came up, but none more so than the icy winter cold. In fact, this winter has been the coldest of the last 65 years. I learned pretty quickly that I had to invest in a good winter jacket (down-filled with a hood!) and mittens if I planned to survive. It’s not that the actual temperature is usually -40, but there is no point in looking at anything but the “with wind chill feels like…” because living on the prairies means there are no mountains to stop the wind from coming.

But one of the things I love about this city is how Winnipeggers truly embrace winter. From dining on a frozen river to spending endless days outside dressed as a voyageur, we know how to do the coldest months of the year. The best part is all the snowy good times take place right in my neighbourhood! Here are a few things to do in January and February to keep a smile on your face (I’m already excited to do it again!):

Spend a weekend morning “brunching” at RAW:almond on the frozen river. Winnipeg is lucky to have innovative chef, Mandel Hitzer of Deer + Almond, who came up with the genius idea to build a temporary restaurant on the frozen junction of the Assiniboine and Red rivers. While dinner tickets are pricey, I dined on a five-course brunch that included bannock, Red River cereal and unlimited hot chocolate. This  frozen meal is quickly becoming known outside of the city and I am thrilled it is only a short walk from my place.

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Take a sunny walk down the Red River Mutual Trail and keep cozy in a warming hut. I’m not quite convinced that these structures actually keep you warm, but they make for a beautiful sight on the long, frozen River Trail. Hockey rinks and skating and walking paths make it a fun walk in the sunshine down the river and dotted along the way are warming huts. Made of pool noodles, red blankets, this year there was even an enclosed library where you could trade books!

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Eat and dance the day away at Festival du Voyageur while listening to local music. No Winnipeg winter would be complete without Festival and just a few short weeks ago I finally found out why! Towering snow sculptures, an endless schedule of live music, tobogganing and sleigh rides, and voyageurs re-enacting the history – there is something for everyone. I learned about the traditional Festival foods: split pea soup, poutine, beaver tails, maple taffy, tourtiere, sugar pie, and of course a drink of Caribou. It was fun to end up in tents as one of the only anglophones and next year I will definitely invest in a Voyageur Pass so I can stop by daily.

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How do you have fun in the winter when it starts to get cold?

This blog title works for two reasons: 1) I intend to write about staying in touch with all my BC loves, but also 2) It’s been about a month since I posted on here. My laptop died almost permanently and it took me awhile to revive, but it’s alive and feeling better than ever so nothing will stop my blogging schedule now.

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I cannot believe it has been over three months since I moved to Winnipeg. In some ways I feel like the time has flown, but in other ways it feels like I haven’t seen my friends and family in forever. It is so easy to lose touch. I have moved once before and while I know if I ever ran into my childhood friends we would get along just fine, I only regularly keep in touch with my best friend.

Sometimes it seems overwhelming to regularly call your family, write letters to your grandparents, text your friends, email your colleagues, and send smoke signals to… just kidding. But aren’t they the most important thing? If everything fell apart here in Winnipeg, aren’t they the ones that I could go home to and fall into their hugs?

Some of my favourite moments since I moved into my new place are coming home to care packages from my parents and sister, letters and gift cards from my extended family, and flowers from a friend. I love when I wake up in the morning to an inbox full of emails from my past colleagues. My family and friends are in my life for a reason – they’re special to me and I share so many memories with them.

So starting today it is my new goal to send one letter or email per day to someone back home in BC. Or phone a friend. I personally think snail mail is the best and while Canada Post can be painfully slow, nothing beats finding an envelope at y0ur doorstep.

I want my family and friends to know how much I miss them. I want people to come home to. I want to be the type of person who makes the time to say “Hello, I miss you, what’s new?”

Who sent you your last piece of snail mail with love? If you wrote to one person today, who would it be and why?

  1. There is no excuse for what I am calling the “transportation issues” here. So many streets are called three different names, there are some scary deep potholes and a lot of the lines aren’t painted which leads me to drive in the middle of two lanes unknowingly.
  2. There are too few Starbucks locations and an incredibly large (really absurd) number of Dollaramas.
  3. When people here find out I just moved from BC, they say “Whhhyyyyy would you ever leave?!”. I much prefer that to the summer I spent in Toronto where people just scoffed and rolled their eyes.
  4. Mosquitoes? What mosquitoes?! Everyone in BC kept going on and on about how big the mosquitoes are here. I am pretty sure I have only been bit twice and I am spending quite a bit of time outside. If anything, West Nile virus is more of a concern to me than the size of the mosquitoes buzzing around.
  5. The artsy/cultural branding of Winnipeg is true. With the Fringe Festival on right now, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet offering free shows in Assiniboine Park, the old character buildings downtown, and the “foodie” love of restaurants and good eats, I feel like Winnipeg has a really great thing going on.
  6. When I tell friends I am moving into St. Boniface, the “French Quarter” of the city, they seem to think “that’s cute”. When I tell them, “No really, there is signage and services that are only offered in French here” they start to to realize it’s more than a tourist-y thing! It is one of the largest Francophone communities in western Canada and I absolutely love that. Such a neat culture to be apart of even if I don’t speak the language.
  7. I don’t miss the mountains as much as I thought I would. Sometimes when I am driving home from work I realize I am staring at endless sky, but I just find it beautiful in a very different way. The only time it bothers me is when the sky is completely clouded over and the weather is humid, then it just feels like there is a big blanket over the city for as far as you can see.
  8. People warned me this was a pretty tough city dealing with many poverty problems. Well, I haven’t been scared yet. I know there are bad neighbourhoods, but I don’t visit them. It’s what happens in every city you live in. And the poverty? It has not been as visible as I expected it to be, but I know the problems exist. It’s what we are tackling at United Way.
  9. The Jets, Bombers, Goldeyes. Everyone has a team or three here and is hardcore about it. Friday night CFL games are big talk at work and I can’t wait until the Jets season gets started! I can tell it really brought pride back to the city.
  10. Winnipeg is the perfect size city for me. Big enough to have the pro sports teams, IKEA, tourist attractions, skyscrapers, and a Forever 21! But it’s small enough to not be overwhelming or claustrophobic for this small town girl.

Lesson learned? People believe stereotypes. I am pretty sure I only know a handful of people who have ever visited Winnipeg or Manitoba, but when I was moving out here everyone wanted to tell me all about it. Until you have actually visited somewhere and spent time getting to know the community, you really shouldn’t judge. You could be missing out on something special.

What is one stereotype about your home that drives you crazy?

Even though it’s late-night, it is still technically Friday so I have a chance to kick off my weekly series of Favourites. I’m sharing the sounds of my roadtrip to Winnipeg this upcoming weekend. Fingers crossed my roadtrip actually happens, right now both highways into Alberta are flooding. Sending love & light to all those affected.

I like to sing loudly and drum on my steering wheel so this is a pretty upbeat list:

Little Numbers – BOY
Inner Ninja (feat. David Myles) – Classified
Take You Higher – Goodwill & Hook N Sling
Soul Meets Body – Death Cab for Cutie
Counting Stars – One Republic
I Need Your Love (feat. Ellie Goulding) – Calvin Harris
What I Wouldn’t Do – Serena Ryder
Feel The Love – Rudimental
One More Night – Maroon 5

And I’ll be reflecting on this idea as I drive across the Prairies…