Friday, December 24, 2010

a little goes a long long long long long way...

My father fell in love with Cajun cuisine during a business trip to New Orleans when I was about 10. Despite the sweat pouring from his forehead and the tears streaming down his cheeks, he enjoyed every bite of the spicy dishes he was treated to at the business luncheons and dinners. When he stepped off the flight home, his checked baggage was filled with Cajun spice mixes, which instantly converted me as well, despite the shedding of similar tears while eating.

Last night I attempted to recreate a Jambalaya dish for myself and my boyfriend. As I've witnessed the boyfriend eating Jalapeno peppers like candy, I decided this dish needed to be authentically spicy. So I added a quarter-cup of Rooster sauce - that amazing bright-red red pepper sauce you can find on the table or counter at most Asian restaurants.

The dish cooked well, and an enticing scent filled the whole apartment. I took a bite - and the same tears started pouring down my cheeks.

The boyfriend, who loved the dish, told me that a tablespoon would probably have made a dish sufficiently spicy for both of us.

My lesson: when cooking spicy dishes, being thrifty about the spice really does go a long way!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wrappin' blues

I'm a fusser, and we fussers don't need much excuse to worry, or pay overmuch attention to, the smallest things. Hence wrapping a gift is almost as intense as choosing and buying the gift, for me anyways. How to make the gifts look beautiful without breaking the bank and denuding the shelves at Hallmark? Here are some of my favourites:

1. Raid the sewing basket. I do a lot of my own mending and sewing, so this is one of my first stops. Buttons, brightly coloured thread, ribbons, and fabric can all add pizzazz to a holiday gift.

2. Re-use bags. Paper shopping bags just need a few thoughtful touches to become beautiful gift bags. Tie on a brightly coloured bow, add some red or green tissue paper, or decorate the bag with holiday-themed stickers.

3. Ask the store to wrap it. Some people on your holiday gift list are probably loyal to certain brands of clothing, beauty products, etc. If these stores have a free wrapping feature this season, go for it! This way, the recipient gets the thrill of the gift twice: from the wrapping, and from what's inside.

4. Charity wrapping stations. This one is very special. Most malls this season will have volunteers staffing wrapping booths, with all donations to the wrapping service supporting an important charity. If you've made purchases at the mall, seek out this booth - the volunteers will do a great job, and you'll get beautifully wrapped gifts as well as the knowledge you've helped a great cause.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

please pass

My friend AB recently bought a house. It came with everything he wanted - a huge backyard, two-car garage, newly renovated kitchen, partly finished basement - but it also came with a lot of things he didn't want. Specifically: the people who sold him the house left a lot of their unwanted belongings behind for AB to manage.

When I first visited the house, a painting on one of the basement walls caught my eye. "You have good taste," I said, thinking that the soothing colours and delicate design of leaves would suit almost any decor. So I was shocked when AB responded by saying, "This ugly thing? I'm throwing it out. The previous owners left it behind."

Needless to say, a five-foot-wide painting is now hanging in my living room. I'm not sure I want to know how much the painting would have cost me to purchase, or to frame, and I hadn't really given any thought to what would hang on the walls of my new place - aside from some art that my parents were getting rid of.

The strange thing is that the cast-off pieces that make their way to me all seem to fit a particular colour scheme. My furniture, my paintings have come from many different sources, and most have come for free, but they all seem to fit harmoniously together.

I'm very proud of my decorating on a shoestring budget, it's worked out well so far. Hopefully, I'm proof positive that it is possible to make your place look amazing without breaking the bank. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One person's treasure... now another person's treasure.

In need of a new futon mattress for my frame (I'm sleeping on the current one; I prefer it for my back), I hopped off a bus on my way home and stopped at Dream On | Futons on Osborne. The link takes you to one of 15 pages of available fabric, from which you can order customized covers, cushions, and more.

My new "Delta Beach" futon cover will be available very soon, but it's what Dream On does with excess fabric that caught my attention. "We used to just send it to the landfill," confided store employee Leslie, "but now we have a woman who sews [the remnants] into purses."

I'd been looking for a small zippered bag to carry my external hard drive - especially now in the cold weather, I don't want to drop something so expensive! I tested a few purses and found one just the right size. The price? $2.

Two dollars to keep beautiful fabric from entering a landfill? I'm sold.

You can get your own, one-of-a-kind fabric purse at Dream On, too.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Don't just give it away (every time)

As soon-to-be grads trying to find our way into the workforce, myself and my fellow CreComms are looking for ways to get ourselves noticed. One good way, especially in our current city, is pro bono work.

Recent DMT grad and successful freelancer Jamie Isfeld shared a very relevant post on her blog about when not to take on a client. I highly recommend it as a simple warning to us - there is such a thing as biting off more than we can chew, especially when we're new to the neighbourhood.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Charging more for less

Since moving, I've become a loyal Safeway customer - there's one less than a block from my current residence, and I need all the free exercise I can get. I wandered in on Saturday to pick up my favourite on-the-go snack, SunRype's new, thicker Fruit to Go bars. You can get a package of 30 bars for about $14.99....

Or I thought you could, until I walked into the store and was greeted not by packages of 30 bars for $14.99, but packages of 12 bars for the confusing price of $12.99. What happened? I wondered to myself. Maybe there's been a mistake?

When I mentioned this to my mother, she shook her head. Nope, no mistake, she told me. Companies are shrinking the size of their product and charging a very similar price. Whether your toilet paper square got 0.004 of an inch smaller, or your 'variety pack' suddenly holds fewer of each variety, many food product manufacturers are making you pay the same amount for less product.

For more of a lowdown, check out the excellent article on the Free Press's website.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

But we just met!

Good friends shouldn't be parted so soon!

I definitely don't have a shoe fetish, but I think flats are cute. The fad came and went, and I wasn't able to buy a pair because I couldn't find any that fit me. Then, while shopping at one of my favourite second-hand clothing stores, I found them. Black with brown detailing and an itty-bitty heel. Floral print inner lining. Perfect for me.

Or so I thought until walking home from the bus one rainy evening. My right foot felt cold and wet, although my left foot was fairly dry. When I got home and examined my shoes, it was instant heartbreak: the sole of the right shoe had cracked completely through, letting in dirty rainwater that chilled my foot.

The shoes had cost me $4, and so I thought it was no big deal to dispose of them - repairing the sole would cost me at least three times as much as the shoes had. I'd only been able to spend a few months with these wonderful shoes, though, and the question of whether or not I should repair them has puzzled me ever since the right shoe broke. After all, if the point of making second-hand purchases is to conserve the environment by continuing to use goods that can still be used, did my disposal of the second-hand shoes fly in the face of this? Or is the point to get as much use as possible out of the shoes, and so the goal has been reached with this particular pair?

Let me know. Why do you buy second-hand, and what do you do with the items when they reach the end of their useful life?

Image credit to "38-Parrots" at

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

So long, and thanks for listening.

Sometimes you meet a person who's one thing to strangers and another thing to friends. Marty Gold was one such person. On air, he went overboard to express emotions that many citizens often feel: rage and frustration. Off the air, he was a friend to every student who helped with his show. He asked about our course load, offered help where he could, and was excited to help us learn how to operate the sound board. He frequently asked me if I had any classmates who wanted to learn, or if there was any way he could help us with our studies of radio.

At first, I was deeply alarmed when I worked for his talk show. He said a lot of things I strongly disagreed with, in ways that seemed rude and exaggerated to me. But many of those he spoke out so fiercely against were invited onto his show and did attend - Mayor Sam Katz being the most notable one. Watching Katz and Marty joke around off-air was encouraging; it reinforced to my mind that the anger was "just for show" and that Marty would welcome even those who called to tell him he was outright wrong - just as long as he knew people were thinking about civic issues and starting to be more aware of what goes on in their city.

The accusation that there was no student involvement in his show alarms me. No students were asked if they were involved in his show. One of my classmates would have shown up to operate the soundboard for Tuesday's show, had she not found out via TWITTER that it had been cancelled. The first-year students who opped for his show weren't asked or told about the cancellation, either. Another classmate who often appeared as a student commentator on his show wasn't told either. And I, volunteer news director for the station, was not consulted.

I've been told that Marty's spot took up a convenient time for students. And even though most classes end at 5pm and his show went from 4 to 5:30pm, I'll agree that some classes end earlier and so that statement is valid. But Marty did provide opportunities for students - students who went on to have their own shows and to teach others, like I did. Students who weren't consulted before a decision was made.

As a longtime volunteer for KICK FM, and a PR student, I feel that we volunteers are an important internal audience who should have been given a voice. And I also feel sad for Marty - at the end of the day, he's a person with feelings too, and he genuinely did want to help any student who wanted to learn about radio. I feel that he is a loss to the college's radio station.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion of his show - there are days that I changed the station while he was broadcasting, too, if I didn't see eye-to-eye with him on a topic. But looking beyond that to the advertising he brought in for the station, the live-remote broadcasts he did that I assisted on, and his interest in helping students, I see opportunities lost.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To re-gift or not to re-gift...

Ah, it's that time of year again. A hint of frost is in the air, the leaves have already vanished from the surrounding trees, and a young woman's heart heavily turns to thoughts of...Christmas shopping.

What to get my grandmother who, approaching 90 years old and with over 60 grandchildren, is sure to receive enough duplicate gifts as it is?

How about for my younger sibling, so absorbed in the online world that any desired gift can be ordered instantly and cheaply from e-Bay without the cumbersome tasks of waiting until Christmas and unwrapping the gift?

On top of all these how-to-find-the-perfect-gift questions remains one: is it ever ok to give something you have already received, even if the gift is unopened?

I have a favourite aunt who would show up for my birthdays and at Christmas with clothes, makeup, or various accessories she had either bought and not wanted, or used and no longer liked, and had wrapped up for me. Since my aunt is cool and fashionable, I never minded as a kid, and I find that I care even less as an adult. This is something she liked, I reason, and she thought I would like it too. No harm done.

On the other side of the spectrum, I had an acquaintance give to me, for Christmas, the exact jar of hand cream I'd given her as a birthday gift. How did I know it was the exact one, and not just the same scent from the same company? IT WAS OPENED ALREADY WHEN I UNWRAPPED IT. I was doubly hurt - not only had she not liked my gift, she had given it back rather than get a gift for me. It seemed to speak volumes about how she viewed our friendship, and we stopped talking to each other soon afterward.

So, dear readers, where does the issue lie? If the gift suits the new recipient, isn't open or past its expiry date, and isn't originally FROM the new recipient, is it ok to re-gift, or is that the ultimate faux-pas? If you read this blog, I want to hear from you!

1) Would you re-gift? To whom? Under what circumstances?
2) What would you think about receiving a gift that was obviously re-given?
3) Is it deceitful to re-gift and not have the new recipient know the gift's origin?

Comment here and let me know!

Image courtesy (stockxchange)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The grain of rice that started it all

Melanie Lee Lockhart was kind enough to choose my PR proposal as one to be forwarded on to Winnipeg Harvest. What comes next, I'm not sure. Maybe WH will like it, and maybe they won't. I'm excited either way, because I liked my ideas too.

One of my ideas was to have a Twitter contest where, for every guess made in the contest, one dollar would be donated to Harvest by a very kind sponsor, in lieu of that sponsor quietly handing over a lump sum. The contest, I thought, would be exciting for everyone, the donor included, and the contest participants would have chances to win prizes too!

The idea originally came from a site where, for every correct guess, a certain number of rice grains are donated to a charity that feeds hungry people around the world.

Come play now at! How much of a difference can you make, today, with just a small donation of your time?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hurt or Inert?

I bought myself a blue exercise ball years ago, fully intending to take up Pilates and stop shelling out excessive amounts of money on gym membership fees. The ball itself cost only $40 and came with a Pilates DVD, plus there are all sorts of Pilates demonstration videos on the Internet. I thought this was perfect.

My exercise ball has since served two purposes: to gather dust, and to seat the occasional guest to my apartment when I run out of actual chairs. My gym membership has been cancelled, but only so that I can become a desk chair potato, one who spends her time doing homework and such, but gets nowhere near enough exercise.

So how's this for a post-birthday resolution: I will make sure that the exercise ball is not a waste of money. I will push aside the living room furniture so that I have enough space to do Pilates, or exercise ball sit-ups, or whatever the latest exercise ball fad happens to be.

Just as soon as I figure out where I've stowed all my gym gear.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What do you mean, this isn't what you ordered?

A lot of little "traffic calming" circles have appeared in my area of the city lately. They don't panic me - I've spent time driving in Europe, where five-lane roundabouts that require traffic lights are quickly becoming the norm. But I've heard distressing stories about people that have almost been in collisions, and then roll down their windows to frantically scream "Where do I go? I'm sorry, just tell me what I'm supposed to do with this thing!"

They always say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - meaning, of course, that pre-planning is always cheaper, in the short and the long run. Yet the city's spending of economic stimulus money has gone in the opposite direction. Widespread public outrage and, in some cases, proof of the absolute uselessness of the changes, has prompted lots of what's been done to be undone. And in the case of Omands' Creek, a lot of what had been planned for, and budgeted for, never took place because it wasn't the right thing for the neighbourhood, and the neighbourhood found out just in time.

What really worries me here, is that the residents of my neighbourhood didn't order traffic calming circles, and weren't told. Not many people know what to do with these things, and this will lead to collisions and injuries. Couldn't some of the stimulus money have gone into informing residents that the circles would arrive, and telling them how to behave when driving through one?

Of course not. That would just be a waste of money, right?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spend the least - look the most!

I love playing hostess. Tonight and tomorrow I will be making my new home spotless for weekend visitors, and decorating excitedly in preparation. I have borrowed most of what I don't have from my parents, including extra folding chairs. I'll be wearing a second-hand little black dress. All so I can pay for what really matters...

A $65 bottle of champagne to celebrate my champagne birthday.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, October 4, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want (without paying for it)

Since moving not that long ago, I've discovered exactly how many small things it takes to maintain one's indoor environment. I owned a vacuum, but it's also necessary to own a broom and dustpan (who knew?), not to mention that if you want to have guests, you need to have more than two seats available, since not everyone is THAT comfortable with sharing.

Of course, being the thrifty person that I am, I tried to get as much of this as I could without spending a lot of money. "My friend has an old picture he doesn't want that's PERFECT for the living room!" and "My parents have a bunch of old brooms in their shed," and "I think my cousin has an old leather couch that doesn't suit her repainted living room..."

My roommate has more sense than this, thankfully. He went out and purchased a brand-new broom and dustpan, without missing bristles or cracks in the plastic. He has also discovered an inexpensive black loveseat that will be perfect for the living room, and produced from somewhere a collection of really great movie posters that will suit much better than a sedate picture of different-coloured leaves.

I also heard a horror story about a friend who accepted a neighbour's old couch only to find that while sitting in that neighbour's garage, the couch had acquired a sizeable bug population that was NOT welcome in said friend's house. So while I might have to shell out some money (in addition to the rent), I will have a happier, more comfortable home in the end.

Not to mention a happier roommate.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

iHope I Can, iHope I Can!

Let's be friends?

I have a bit of a problem.

You see, as a busy second-year CreComm student, juggling an IPP with homework assignments, a blog, and squeezing in a personal life (which scant free time mostly consists of chores and a distracted "bye, honey!" as I tear out the door in the morning), I've found I really do need a smartphone. I could update my blog from the bus, do homework almost anywhere (but never in class!) and respond to the many emails I now receive as interim News Director for 92.9 KICK FM.

My small problem becomes a bigger one when I consider that I have an existing, regular phone contract. There's a year and 4 months remaining on said contract, meaning I will owe to my wireless provider either the monthly cost of the phone, or $200. I owe whichever is the smaller amount, but that's shaping up to be a tidy sum for a student trying to cover books, living expenses, and transportation.

Then there's entering into a new contract. I have my eye on Rogers and an iPhone, but that won't be cheap either. Data plans start at $25/mo and go as high as $60/mo, and that's without factoring in the cost of a phone. The 3GS is $99.99 and that's not even the latest model. The iPhone 4 with 16GB is $159.00, and the 32GB version is $269.00. There must be student plans, I'm sure, but if all goes well, I will graduate in 2011 and be a student no longer.

If I can find someone to take over my existing plan, that will cover some of the cost of the phone, but not the data plan. How much data will I use? Once I'm locked into a contract, can I pay for less if I don't use the full capacity I'm paying for? Can I upgrade? Will I even know what to do with an iPhone if/when I have one?

iHope I can!

Image courtesy

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Zen of Baking

I walked past the Chocolate Zen bakery today, and looked into the window. I was close enough to it to see the muffins, cookies, and other delicious pastries through my own wistful reflection. Croissants! Pies! These things could be mine for just a little money...

It's not worth it, though. Not when I currently have enough groceries to make these delicious things for myself. When I run low on flour and baking soday, though...then it will be time to see what this amazing bakery has to offer.

Maybe next week...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who knows cooking better than...

Betty Crocker!

A well-worn copy of "Best Recipes" sat in my best friend's mother's kitchen, looking as though it had belonged to her own grandmother - still intact, but obviously well-loved. When I mentioned wanting my own copy, I unwrapped it that Christmas courtesy of that friend. Stocked full of helpful tips, old favourites, and new twists, it's a wealth of advice in a very small package.

That package just got smaller with the Betty Crocker Mobile Cookbook for iPhone. What better way to choose a meal while stuck in rush-hour traffic, really learn how to saute properly, or figure out what to do with the bumper crop of beans in the backyard garden? As the purchase webpage, , says, the world-famous cookbook is now right at your fingertips no matter where you are.

So if Betty Crocker is in the recipe-book business, why are they making all their recipes free to you? (Yes, this app is free!)Isn't that counter-productive? In the short run, it might seem that way, but in the long run, it definitely isn't. Here's why.

1. The app builds trust in the Betty Crocker name. It puts the company's brand at the fingertips of iPhone users, familiarizing them with Betty Crocker and building brand loyalty.

2. Loyalty influences purchasing habits. If I know that my Aunt Sally loves to cook and doesn't have an iPhone, perhaps I'll consider buying her a printed Betty Crocker cookbook. Or a Betty Crocker set of spatulas or measuring cups - after all, Betty Crocker isn't just cookbooks anymore. How likely am I to make a purchase from the Betty Crocker product line if I'm not familiar with the brand? Not very, I'll be lucky to notice it among all the other brands on a Wal-Mart shelf. But if I'm regularly turning to Betty Crocker for advice on meals anyway, I'm very likely to think "Betty Crocker" when wondering what to get that special cook on my Christmas shopping list. Not to mention, I'm also more likely to use Betty Crocker products in my own kitchen, once I trust them.

When the appetizer's free AND tasty, of course you're that much more likely to want to pay full price for the main course. By getting their name out there with a free, useful app ("I don't have to wait hours stuck in traffic to get home and look through a recipe book!"), the company builds relationships with current and future loyal customers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Keeping it fresh - and free

I'm in the process of moving to an apartment this week, and while I'm very happy with the place I've found, there is one thing that I will especially miss. While I'm no fan of yardwork and won't be seen anywhere near a lawnmower, I definitely love working in gardens. I've helped in my grandfather's garden since I was old enough to walk, pulling "weeds" that turned out to be carrot sprouts. And my parents, who've been kind enough to let me hermit in their basement, have a large backyard garden as well.

Gardens ask very little, and in return they give a lot. Excessive weeds can be a pain, but I just cultivate them under with the hoe or hand cultivator when I can. Watching plants bloom and prosper is a reward in itself, to say nothing of the taste of fresh frutis and vegetables in season. Why would I purchase a carton of weeks-old raspberries when I can wander out the back door and pick them for nothing? Or sort though overpriced beets when a few minutes' of digging can turn up enough for a meal, gratis?

This year, the garden has already yielded fresh tomatoes, rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, peas, beans, and small grapes with tons of seeds. Watermelons (!!!), beets, strawberries, and carrots are not far behind. I'll be on hand to help with the harvesting, of course, but it won't feel like the garden is really mine. And, believe me, the food really does taste better when you've also shared in the work.

There's a room in my apartment that gets tons of light each day, so I'm wondering how much of it I can devote to a "potted garden" without infringing on my roommate's space. Hydroponic equipment is expensive and takes a lot of electricity, as does the self-monitoring "Aerogarden" (link forthcoming) - a little hydroponic machine that helps grow fresh herbs. But if I have enough sunlight, I can have fresh tomatoes year-round, too, right?

We'll see.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I < 3 Canning

Welcome back!

Summer is slowly edging into fall (or not so slowly! Is it just me or are the leaves coming off the trees WAY too soon?), and so begins the season for canning. Inspired by my grandmothers, who spent their lives preserving summer produce in heated glass jars, I feel that fall is the season to 'put by' for winter. (Watch for me knitting lopsided gloves!)

In past years I've helped relatives and neighbours combat bumper crops of northern grapes, rhubarb, and raspberries. This year, I'm fortunate enough to know people wanting to get rid of excess apples, grapes, and rhubarb. Already to my credit: jars and jars of rhubarb chutney, applesauce, instant apple pie filling, and clear apple jelly. Up next will be grape jam, once enough grapes have been harvested - and yes, you can grow grapes in this climate!

If you'd like to try your own canning, here are my favourite secrets for making it cheap as well as fun:

1. Don't buy special jars for it. You CAN use old jam/Cheez Whiz/relish jars, however, you must make sure that they are clean and sterilized. To sterilize them, put them in the oven at about 250F. Keep the lids in a bowl of hot water while you boil your jam or chutney, and when you're ready to jar it, wear thick oven mitts, pull out the hot jars, ladle in your preserves, and get that lid on there fast!

2. Don't buy the fruit and/or veggies if you can help it. If you know someone whose garden is out of control, now's the time to offer some of the finished product in exchange for use of the raw goods. In the case of my neighbour with the apples, she just can't make jam fast enough to keep up with the number of apples, and told me that I'm welcome to help myself! If this isn't an option, I would try farmers' markets before visiting a grocery store. Fresh will always give you better flavour than something off the truck from California.

3. Buy bulk. Vinegar is a staple for chutney, and sugar is a must for jelly. Costco is your friend - if you don't have a membership, try Superstore's no-name brands or the Bulk Barn before approaching Safeway and Sobeys. Don't get me wrong, they're all great chains in their own right - but if you're going to make enough chutney to feed all 60 of your cousins, then you're going to need a lot of inexpensive sugar.

4. Share. That neighbour who lent you her soup tureen for you to can all those peaches? The great-uncle who helped you pick enough raspberries for 20 jars of jam (that's a LOT of berries!)? The father-in-law who doesn't need anything and stumps you every Christmas when you wonder what to get him? The answer is here: canned goods. You made them yourself, and everyone knows that handmade tastes better! Place a square of bright fabric over the lid, tie it on with some hemp/ribbon/an elastic, and voila! Instant gift.

The best part, though, is that I know exactly what went into what I'm eating. And tasting the delicious results of one's own hard work is always rewarding.

Canning tips or questions? Let me know here! If I don't have the answer, I bet I know who does. :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

I just put them down for a second, I SWEAR

In the fall of 2009, I was the proud owner of six pairs of mitts - three of which used to belong to my grandmother. Now, as Winnipeg moves into spring, I am the owner of three pairs - one of which doesn't count because they're some kind of opera gloves, and they don't block the cold very well. Yep, I'm one of those people who loses her mitts. Frequently. One pair went missing on the bus. One pair was given away to a very chilly DOMO gas employee on a miserably cold day. But one pair seems to have simply vanished. That makes me sad, because that was the grey pair I'm pretty sure my grandma knit for herself.

Maybe knitting can solve my problem? I inherited a bunch of yarn and knitting books from the same grandmother who used to own the grey mitts and the opera gloves. She learned to knit in school at age six, and knit through illness and injury up until a month before her death - she'd said she wanted to knit all her yarn into mittens for the homeless before she died. She did it. A massive shoebox with over 30 pairs of mitts was donated. Grandma was special and wonderful, and when I knit and cook and sew, I think of her. But I can't knit gloves. Or mitts. Or can I?

It's true, most gloves and mitts aren't expensive. The stretchy synthetic ones that I gave away cost me 99 cents at Superstore. But if I want to spend nothing at all, and feel accomplished at the same time, maybe it's time for me to use supplies I already own and start knitting mitts, or at least trying.

Pictures to follow?

Friday, April 2, 2010

computers don't save me paper

Isn't it sad that we're supposed to be in a paperless era, that computers are supposed to save us so much paper, and yet in the end they only seem to generate more paper?

That's all for this week.

Friday, March 26, 2010

selfmade. chamomile tea

Next Thursday, the magazine selfmade. will launch at Red River College's Princess Street Campus. The magazine is an awesome collaboration between myself, Jenn Twardowski, Neal Snikeris, and Michael Fleischmann. You should join our Facebook group and come out to the launch, but meantime, here's a recipe for growing and making your very own chamomile tea.


Winterize seeds in an ice cream pail half full of soil, with holes in the bottom and lid. Three inches of soil should be on top of the seeds. Water the soil and put pail outside for six weeks in the winter. Plants will be ready to transplant in spring.


Flowers are ready for picking when petals begin to curl backwards. At this point, if they aren't picked, they'll go to seed in a day or two and lose their potency.


Dry picked flowers for a maximum of 10 days. After they're dry, store in an airtight bag or container.


Add two or three buds per cup of tea, to taste.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Which Our Heroine Tries to Take Up Less Space

Recently in a Creative Writing class, I had the opportunity to watch the darkly humorous British short film Joyride. The simple story it tells in under a half hour astounded me, not only because of how much happens but also because of the completeness of the story arc. From inciting incident to resolution, the plot is suspenseful and intriguing - and the script was probably no more than ten pages.

Less recently and also funny yet tragic: local filmmaker Sean Garrity's Zooey & Adam. This film didn't even have a full-fledged script - instead, it evolved organically out of a three-page outline written by Garrity. These two films represent minimalism at its finest and most efficient.

I am not that kind of a person.

I'm the kind of person whose outline probably resembles an entire script in length - and not for a short film, but for a James Cameron-length epic. I'm the kind of person who, when Karen Press announced a ten-page short film script assignment, promptly wrote what amounts to a novella in order to establish my characters' backgrounds, but I haven't made any headway on the script. This is mostly due to my indecision. What to keep from the novella, and what to toss? And how to convey all this background information while at the same time advancing a compelling plot from its start to its finish?

My saving grace will probably be the fact that I can work with images. I can convey, with a single shot of a character's apartment, her relationship status, work ethic, favourite colours, financial status, what books she likes to read, etc. Rather than needing five pages to describe a bar, I can have the protagonists enter the bar and the audience can take in all the sights and sounds at a single glance.

As I embark on only my second adventure into screenwriting, it is very important to keep these things in mind.

And it's important to try to be a minimalist. Wish me luck!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thrifty IPPs

IPPs are not cheap. A lot of time, money, thought and work goes into creating a finished professional-looking project that the creator can be proud of. After three days of IPPs, here are my observations:

Freaking out: $$$$$$$$$


Not seeing friends, family, significant others: STRESSTRESS

Being finished, and looking down at a finished product that you created: priceless.

Sometimes, it's just worth it. :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm sorry, I can't read what you scribbled on this torn piece of paper.

Here in CreComm Year 1, 70-odd students are polishing up their skills and perfecting their professional images. That includes the all-important first impression. As many of you know from a previous blog post, I'm plagued by curly hair and can't ever hope that my looks will be equal to any situation. Therefore, I require all the accessories that are just add-ons for people with straight, polished hair. Among these: the business card.

There are lots of options for business cards, and I've explored a few of them since my first day of CreComm in August 2009. I found some blank business-card-shaped papers that had been inserted between my mother's business cards to ensure the ink didn't run from card to card. On these, I put my name, contact info, and current status (CreComm student) with a green calligraphy pen. (I'm no graphic artist, but I do pride myself on my penmanship) I have handed these out at conferences, seminars, and randomly, to the point that I have run out and must now consider more costly options.

Anyone could make their own business cards with knowledge of Photoshop and InDesign. There are even thick papers you can get that are already perforated - once you've set your printer up right and it's printed eight cards per page, just punch them out and you're ready to go! Or buy the cardstock yourself and cut them out afterwards. The costs here are paper, ink, and possibly software. But just as important is another cost: time.

There are also many options online. Some companies will print business cards for incredibly low rates - such as Vista Printers - and only charge for shipping on certain orders! That's the key though. These 'certain orders' allow you to choose from 20 designs - while generous, suppose that none of the 20 adequately communicate the image you want to give to clients. What then? You can look elsewhere, upgrade to the more costly print runs with larger or custom design options, or convince yourself that the image of the girl biting into the strawberry really will work for your day care.

Presently, I'm torn. I'm running low on handmade business cards, and computer-designed and -printed cards look much more professional, though a handmade one does stand out. To do in-house (make them mysef) or outsource (pay a commercial printer/choose a ready-made design) is the current dilemma. How will it be resolved and how much will it cost? Stay tuned!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Camera + tripod + 2 batteries + charger = WOE.

Is it cheaper to rent equipment or buy your own?

In the case of the videorecording equipment, I think the time saved by not having to lug it to and from school might be worth the extra money.

That's all from me this week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A short, MESSY post.

A little dab'll do ya?

My apologies to my three blog fans for the late update - apparently there was a misunderstanding between JavaScript and my computer, which has since been rectified.

I've got this horrible cold. And as I bid empty box after empty box of Kleenex adieu, I can't help but wonder if there isn't some better way. What did people do before Kleenex, I thought to myself. The handkerchief! Was this the answer?

I'm not so sure. I'm not sold on carrying the same dirtied square of cloth about in my pocket for re-use, even if I can console myself and my hands with liquid sanitizer afterwards. My other option is to make about 40 of the handkerchiefs for myself. But where would I store them once they were used? Would I need to have a separate Zip-Loc bag just to carry handkerchiefs?

This gets to the underlying question. When you're afraid of both germs and needless spending, what do you do? I have determined that I will at least attempt to befriend the handkerchief - AFTER I'm done with this cold, because right now I am way too busy being tired and dehydrated to actually sew. And of course I'd make my own, I have a bunch of miscellaneous material lying around, and no idea where I'd find a handkerchief today anyway.

Plus, this way I can make mine monogrammed. =D

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Facebook vs Twitter?

I had my Twitter account about a month before I got a Facebook account, but after getting Facebook I am rarely on Twitter. The reason? Facebook is so much more interactive. I can read status updates, which are a lot like tweets, but I can do a lot more beyond that. On Facebook I can chat with people in real time, view photos and video content, and reply to other people's posts in a way that's directly linked to the post rather than showing up disjointedly and prefaced by a "@" symbol. I know there are a whole bunch of Twitter "add-ons" out there, but most seem to be intended for an iPhone I don't have. And then there's the unfortunate incident that happened to me the day I got Twitter. A spambot linked to me in a post - about a porn site. That's exactly what I want as part of my online professional presence, Twitter! Thank you so much! (That was sarcasm.)

So I abandoned Twitter. I will post the occasional tweet, but there are mostly virtual tumbleweeds drifting across my page. I feel like its time came and went very quickly, to be perfectly honest. It just doesn't do as much as Facebook does, nor does it offer me any control over who is associated with me and why. Facebook allows me to vet anyone who tries to link to me, and to report them as troublemakers if I don't know them at all. I guess that's the most important thing for me: Facebook allows me control.

Only a few of my non-CreComm friends are on Twitter, anyway. My friend Gareth announced, "I don't like things like character limits, especially when my ideas don't fit them in handy, bite sized pieces."

My friend Darran doesn’t have a Twitter account either. "Why? Should I?" he responded, baffled. I wonder if he, like me, doesn't see anything offered by Twitter that isn't also offered, more safely, by Facebook.

I don't have any non-CreComm female friends that use Twitter, but my friend Bryan uses both Facebook and Twitter. " I use both for different purposes: Facebook is for keeping in touch with my friends and family, a way of easily sharing photos, links, and short status updates/stories," he says.

"I use Twitter to stay on top of things that other people do; most of my Twitter viewing is Twitter feeds from people like Wil Wheaton, Jon Scalzi, and software companies. Twitter is a great way of seeing short ideas brought to life, or of gaining insight into the thoughts of creative people whose work I admire."

So Twitter is for people/things that won't add you on Facebook? Or is Facebook just a longer, more time-consuming yet more informative version of Twitter, the way a video is a longer, more time-consuming yet more informative version of a photograph?

Either way, until I find ways to make 140 characters more interesting, I will still be mostly a Facebook girl.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eat your (local) vegetables!!

A week's supply of fresh vegetables, grown by local farmers, delivered each week. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Two years ago, I read about an innovative program in place in California, where urban households paid in advance to receive weekly bundles of veggies from nearby Californian farmers. At first glance, this saves both time and money, since you've paid up front and get a certain share of whatever is grown - and you are also spared some time at the supermarkets, since you know you will be getting the veggies each week.

Yet there are some caveats to the program as well. What if bad weather results in a low crop yield? What if it is a better year for some vegetables than others, so you receive a bumper crop of parsnips but are low on staples like lettuce and tomatoes? Where do you pick up the veggies, and can you take it on good faith that they will arrive as promised?

Furthermore, could such a program work in Winnipeg, where the growing season is so much shorter than in California?

There's a sense of adventure in wondering what random veggies will turn up at your door on Sunday, and what kind of tasty recipes you might discover either in old cookbooks or on the internet to teach an old vegetable new tricks. Having your own personal farmers' market delivered once a week, I think, would have just as many advantages as drawbacks, if not more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Budweiser and buses

First off, I'd like to comment on the Superbowl ad Budweiser rolled out. Cute flight attendants in short skirts pulling odd stunts like kicking hams and pointing at mannequins wearing pith helmets. OK, fine, boobs sell beer. However, I happen to be a girl who enjoys the occasional beer. And I know a lot of other beer-drinking girls. Budweiser, do you honestly not care about the female market at all? Because you've largely dropped off of our radars, but seeing some shirtless pilots drinking some nice cold Buds might change my mind. Maybe. At least, it would make you appear...what's that trendy word...diverse.

Secondly, public consultations regarding diamond lanes are happening next week. Did you know? If you're like many Winnipeggers, that might come as a surprise to you. Want to find out if your area is affected, or where and when meetings are? All I can recommend at this point is to call your councilor or 311. But do check it out - particularly if you're around Assiniboine.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New View vs. Old View: In the Chamber 2010 (Word Count: 805)

Faint overhead lighting, in the shape of a window silhouette, illuminates a stage populated only by essential bedroom furniture: a bed, a nightstand with a lamp, a small table. Muted birdsong is overtaken by tempestuous music as two barely-seen figures appear to struggle in the bed. After one departs, the other remains to be spotlit and lectured in philosophy by a bodiless voice calling itself 'Zarathustra.'

This is not what Gordon Tanner’s Last Man in Universe Alpha-II, the first of two 50-minute one-man plays put on by Theatre Projects Manitoba, is about.

As viewers discover once 'daylight' makes its way onstage, the play is about a disgruntled former employee of a large agricultural corporation. This employee came to a profoundly disturbing realization while investigating a facility fire at one of the corporation's massive hog barns, and committed a terrible crime after coming to said realization. When we meet him, he is in a hotel room, fearful that the authorities will come to apprehend him, and making a video confession to the owner of the corporation.

In this harried, often-sidetracked confession, our unlikely hero emphasizes the plight of the pigs, the heinous way in which they lived and the horrible way in which they died. He also points to a 'new view' in society, which neither mourns the pigs nor assigns any blame to those who might be responsible for their deaths. This 'new view' simply calls the incinerator that the hog barn became a "systemic accident"; under the old view, such an 'accident' would have cost someone their job, if not the company its licenses.

As the stage lights fade on the final scene, the emotionally exhausted man has completed his confession, and sees little hope in his future, or the future of a society that could callously shrug off such horrors as the deaths of 15,000 hogs.

After a 15-minute intermission, the lights come up on a chic restaurant scene, setting of Steven Ratzlaff's one-man Last Man in Puntarenas. Tables for two or four people surround a table of six, where a single gentleman is in the process of a thank-you speech to the five balloons representing his fellow dinner guests.

It becomes clear that this man is either quitting or retiring from a position he's held for a number of years, and his colleagues are present to pay their respects - which quickly turn to rejection as our main character becomes increasingly inebriated and prone to increasingly crass comments about medical tourism, the Health Sciences Centre's handling of paediatric cardiac surgery debacles in the 1990s, and pregnancy. One by one, his guests leave, until he is left alone to examine his son's premature death, the subsequent breakup of his marriage, and the malpractice suit that left his ex-wife grasping at a straw labelled "Your son didn't have to die."

The kind-hearted waiter (Gordon Tanner) then joins our main character and invites him to finish his speech. Confused and flattered, he tries to do so, but he has lost his stride, and is now filled only with emptiness and questions.

While both "Last Man" plays (the titles seem to evoke T.S. Eliot's "Hollow Men") feature minimal props and, at most, a cast of two, this allows the social commentary to stand out more clearly. Tanner has a bone to pick with big business and its ability to deflect blame onto a faceless 'system' that makes humans its victims and is outside of anyone's control. Ratzlaff's target is a medical system guilty of similar offenses. People die, their livelihoods are lost, they are rendered penniless, empty, and grieving while corporations continue to hire armies of lawyers and make lots of money at their expenses - this is the underlying message of the two main characters, standing alone amidst the wreckage of their lives.

After being wowed by Tanner's intense diatribe against big agribusiness, viewers wander back into the auditorium completely unsure of what will hit them next. Yet Ratzlaff's script does not build gradually into a revelation of the central problem and then a cliff-hanger anticlimax, the way that Tanner's did. Instead, Ratzlaff succeeds in alienating the audience as well as his character succeeded in alienating his. Perhaps this is intentional. Ratzlaff could want to emphasize that his antihero, unlikeable as he is, was once a family man with a loving spouse, who lost everything to an uncaring system - everything including the personality traits that made him likeable. But this protagonist lacks the endearing traits that Tanner's had: stumbling over words, tense and exaggerative in a comical fashion, with an almost manic energy. That energy is missing from the second half of the evening - and beginning late at just after 9:30 p.m., that second half feels twice as long as the first.

Last Man in Universe Alpha-II: ****
Last Man in Puntarenas: **

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thanks, Kanye!

The 2009 Much Video Music Awards have gone down in history for one reason and one reason only: Kanye West's in-character outburst during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for best music video. Forget Lady Gaga's covered-in-blood onstage performance. Forget who else won what other awards. Kanye generated attention for himself, Swift, Beyonce, and the VMAs. All in two minutes.

Discussion of Kanye's tirade hit critical mass instantly. I'm certain that after checking their Twitter, Facebook and even their cellphones, hundreds if not thousands of people who weren't watching the VMAs tuned in to see what all the fuss was about, and to find out how the situation would be resolved. Anyone who wasn't familiar with Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Beyonce or their respective music videos would have hit Google in a minute, to find out more about Kanye or to compare Swift's video to Beyonce's and decide for themselves. If they liked what they heard, albums would have been downloaded or purchased online, creating new fans for the artists involved. And don't forget about Much - they got the ratings they needed on an otherwise lackluster TV evening.

Beyonce got to clear her own name by bringing Swift up onstage again to share the limelight and have her moment. Swift got to be the innocent artists wronged by a bad character, which certainly didn't do anything to tarnish her image. And Kanye? He's already famous for a lot of other outbursts. Fans who stuck with him through rants about how much HE deserved others' awards might actually see this as an improvement, since his outburst was on behalf of someone else this time. In the long run, this move was completely effective because everyone involved was helped, and no one was seriously harmed.

The Coupon Question

This morning, a few classmates and I were discussing coupons.

"Jordan gave me a whole bunch of free cookie coupons [from Subway]," said one. "I thought, 'Don't you want these?'"

Just as inflation can end up decreasing the value of money (was it Argentina where this happened a few years ago, and $1000 bills were worthless?), so an overabundance of coupons lead us to feel that they are of no value. Those DOMO coupons that everyone gets about 10 of in the mail every week come in handy, but what do you do with those Domino's Pizza coupons, or drycleaning coupons? Sure, a coupon is nice to have when you're already a loyal customer and were intending to pay full price anyway, but does the coupon really convince you to buy something you weren't interested in otherwise?

For myself, the answer is often "no." Especially where the 'clip & save' flyers that arrive on Saturday mornings are concerned. Saving $1 off the price of salad dressing means nothing to me when I can't remember what the current price of salad dressing is. If that makes the salad dressing bottle cost $9 instead of $10, I'm still going to look for the $5 bottle. Forget the coupon.

Or better yet, I'll trade it to you for one of those cookie coupons.