On The Map

Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.
Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.

If you are a bit of an explorer at heart, you might find this interesting.

A while back, I read something about Winnipeg, Manitoba that really surprised me.  And, at the same time, it didn’t.  Winnipeg, nick-named “The Peg”, is the unique and interesting place I have come to call home for more than two decades.  I have been wanting to write a post on The Peg for a while, and when I read the big news, I knew it was time.

A Little Background…

Now, before I get to the news, there is something you need to understand about Winterpeg (That’s our other popular nick-name. With our record low winter temperature being -47.8C before the wind-chill, you can easily guess why.  In all fairness, we rarely get anywhere near that cold!).  People have a tendency to complain about, or at least poke good-natured fun at this place. It’s too cold, there is too much snow in the winter, the drivers are bad, too many mosquitoes in the summer…

If you don’t believe me, check out this hit song, actually titled, “I Hate Winnipeg” (written and performed by a popular Winnipeg band), this Simpson’s clip that was often played on one of our networks, or this commercial (it’s a chuckle).

The Weekday Off

I’ll admit that I have certainly complained at times, especially when I’ve had to drive to work in a blizzard.  Or when my garage door froze shut and I was almost late for work. But I digress…

Overall, there are many wonderful things about Winnipeg.  One just has to learn to see them.  In fact, I have come to see Winnipeg as “a weekday off”. Let me explain.

When I was in university, my summer employment often found me working on the weekends and having Monday and Tuesday off.  Some people didn’t like that schedule, but I saw it differently.  Sure, it wasn’t “The Weekend”, but there were many unexpected advantages to a weekday off.  It was easy to make appointments and run errands, and there was always a choice spot wherever I went… be it a provincial beach or a city café!  In time, I came to love, in some ways, even prefer the “weekdays off”.

And that is the perspective I try to share when we all start getting down on Winnipeg.  It’s a week-day off. If you look at it from the right perspective, Winnipeg has many unexpected advantages, and is a wonderful place with much to offer.

So what’s the big news I recently read?….

Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself!
Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself! My son took this picture.
Picture by Julia Davi.
Picture by Julia Davi.

The Big News

Well, you can imagine what an unexpected and pleasant surprise it was to read that Winnipeg has been named, by non other than the National Geographic Traveler, as being one of the top 20 cities to visit in the world!  Top 20 – On the same list as some pretty amazing places, like the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom; an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that is full of penguins; one of France’s finest vineyards; even places like Bermuda, and New York city.  I won’t go through all 20 places named, but feel free to check it out for yourself. (Here’s a link to the web-site edition… though I still want to read the print edition for the full article.)

Now, when the conversation starts to turn towards the obvious difficulties of living in this climate and city, I remind us: Hey, we’ve been named one of the top 20 cities in the world to visit.  And people pause, smile and nod in agreement.  That’s true, they say.

The National Geographic Traveler has given my positive perspective a lot of credibility.

By now you might be asking, Okay… so what are some of these cool things about The Peg?

Here is a quick list.   Just some of the reasons why Winnipeg is kind of an awesome place (to visit, and yes… to live!):

The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
  • We have wonderful restaurants with authentic cuisine from all over the world.
  • A world-class zoo, the oldest ballet company in Canada, a vibrant arts community, interesting galleries and museums- including the new National Museum of Human Rights.
My son took this picture on a beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
My son took this picture on a quiet beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
  • Many beaches within easy driving distance of the city. In fact, Grand Beach has been listed among the Top Ten Beaches of North America.
  • Lots of beautiful parks and trees, and the Forks (The place where our two rivers meet, The Forks has a children’s theatre, and is full of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafés, and special events – both indoors and out).
  • We have the longest ice skating river trail in the world (at 8.5 km), and a popular winter festival (Le Festival Du Voyageur), as well as many other festivals, many of which take place in the summer.

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  • We are a diversely multicultural city, and also a distinctly bilingual city, with celebrated vibrant French communities amongst the English majority.
  • We have the typical cold, snowy prairie winters.   It may not be easy, but if we look at it objectively, it’s an interesting experience.  That fluffy white snow is rather magical, if you dress for the weather.  One can also try winter sports, or stay inside feeling super cozy and warm.  Bonus:  Bragging rights for being tough enough for the Manitoba winters!
  • We also have beautiful, sunny, hot summers, and fleetingly colourful autumns.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
  • The city is surrounded by cool towns such as Gimli (one hour away), provincial parks, and a national park only 3 hours away.  There are lovely farm fields all around, and lots of nature to be seen, all within easy driving distance.

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The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
  • If you are really adventurous (and don’t mind spending a bit of money), you can take a trip to visit Churchill, and see real-live polar bears and beluga whales in their natural habitat.
  • The house prices and cost of living are still relatively low!  This means that one can have quite a high quality of life on an average income.
  • The provincial slogan for our license plate is “Friendly Manitoba”, and most of us really are.
A unique winter experience
A unique winter experience

On top of everything, there are some interesting facts about this city.  Did you know that Winnie the Pooh was named after Winnipeg?  Or that the character of Bond, yes… James bond was probably inspired by a real-live Winnipegger?  Ditto for Snow White.

That’s not all…  Just for fun, click here or here to find out more.

Sure, going to the Caribbean to soak up some sun does seem like a top choice for a vacation, you won’t get any argument from me.  But still…  Winnipeg is an interesting place for the brave hearts!  How exciting that our square “Peg” has made the top 20s in this round world!

Do you have an unusual or little known favourite destination?

Thanks for stopping by!

Photo by Julia Davi.
Photo by Julia Davi.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.

Life’s Landmarks

For the last 18 years, when we are coming home after a long road trip, there is a tree that welcomes us.

Amidst the prairie farm fields, in a particularly flat stretch, this tree unexpectedly breaks up the landscape, triumphantly announcing that we only have 100km left on our journey home.

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It was already a large tree when my husband and I first admired it, as newly weds, on our return home after visiting family in a different province. Since then, things have changed with each visit.

There have been the uplifting changes, like the years when there were new arrivals to the family – the births of my son, and his cousins. How wonderful it is to watch children grow, and it is hard to believe how fast it happens! This July will be the first time that one of them, my eldest nephew, will spend the whole summer working away from home.

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There have been the inevitable losses, too.  Sadly, my husband’s parents are both gone now, his childhood home sold.  That summer tradition of the family sitting together in that backyard, near that lovingly tended garden, a finished chapter.

Many rich moments connect the years between those road trips. And after all this time, our majestic old friend still welcomes us home.

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Shelter That You Take With You.

Post by Carina Spring.

Recently, my eldest brother scanned big boxes full of old family pictures and shared the files with us.  It was a labour of love for him, taking hours and hours of work.  I was so grateful he’d done it, as those pictures are part of our family history.  It was amazing to see all of these captured moments in places that have represented home not only to us, but also to some of our ancestors. And what really struck me was how much it is the people and the love that make home; the rich, shifting tapestry of relationships that accompany us through life.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map.  It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together.  Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”

Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye?

Series: Can A Song Connect You to Home? Today: Chuck Mangione

The picture above was used with permission: http://www.aliciaandneilphotography.com/

Do You Have A Special Song?

“What song makes you think of home? It doesn’t have to literally be about home. Just a song that somehow embodies the concept for you, or makes you feel at home in some way”.

Just for fun, since we are in February, the month of Valentine’s Day, I decided to ask one of my best friends the question above.

We’ve been friends since university.  She is smart, hilarious, and looks remarkably like Audrey Hepburn.  Lucky her!

This was her decisive answer:

“Feels So Good, by Chuck Mangione”.

This instrumental piece reminds my friend of her childhood on the Canadian west coast in Vancouver. It conjures that feeling she loves of experiencing nature in a lively urban setting, and images of the beach, the ocean and the mountains.

“To me, home is more than just being in a house. I feel at home when I am outdoors, in nature.”

What do you think?  Is there a song that connects you to home?  Feel free to leave a comment.

Enjoy!

BTW…

My friend didn’t yet know about my blog when I asked her the above question, so I had to smile when I thought about my own answer from December 1st:

http://www.homehurrah.com/?p=93 )

No wonder we’ve been friends for so long.

Travel, Moving, and Finding Meaning: a TED Talk by Pico Iyer

The Age of Movement

Image used with permission: http://www.aliciaandneilphotography.com/

Click on the link at the bottom of the post to listen to today’s TED Talk:

“More and more people worldwide are living in countries not considered their own. Writer Pico Iyer — who himself has three or four “origins” — meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.”

Changing our surroundings is a way of waking ourselves up.  The longing to travel is often fuelled by the desire to see the world and our lives through different eyes, and to change our perspectives.

Even more profound is the experience of moving.  If you have ever moved, you know how deeply it can affect your view and understanding of the world, and of yourself.  A small move within the same city can affect you, never mind a change of country or province.

In his TED Talk, Pico Iyers considers how living in the “Age of Movement” is transforming us, and suggests that “stillness” is the best way to find what travel and moving can teach us.

Finding Stillness and Meaning

At about the 9th minute of his TED Talk, Pico shares an experience he had in a retreat at a hermitage.

He talks about “retreat” and silence not as a lack of noise, but as the presence of peace: an experience that helps us to rediscover who we are, and make meaning of all the movement in our lives.

His description makes me long for that kind of stillness and solitude – and maybe some day I will spend a few days at a hermitage on a beautiful mountain!  In the meantime, though, scheduling that kind of retreat is pretty hard for most of us.  It got me thinking: is there a way to create  intentional “retreat”  in our regular lives, at home? 

Rebooting:  Retreat in Our Regular Lives

In his Talk, Pico encourages us to find simple ways of intentionally incorporating “retreat” into our “every-day” lives.  While this probably means something different for each of us, here are some suggestions of ways to build more “retreat” into our lives:

Yoga. For several years, I used to practice yoga and meditation.  The focused breathing on the pose is one thing that approaches the experience Pico describes.  I find it hard to make the time to do this lately, but perhaps I need to start again.

Meditation.  Even if you don’t have time to do yoga, a couple of minutes of regular meditation can bring much needed stillness into our lives.  I will provide an in depth post on this interesting topic soon. There are also many books on the subject. For beginners, the key is to focus on the breath for a minute or two.  Just breathe easy, and if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath.

Walking.  Walking has benefits similar to a retreat.   When you are mindful of nature surrounding you – yes, even urban outdoor settings are part of nature –  you heighten the benefits.  If you can occasionally include an outing to a park or out of town,  all the better! Yesterday, my mom and I drove out of town, and took a  brisk one hour hike in the cold (- 27c), sunny day.  When I was done, I felt like a new person.  To sum up: a good hike is amazing!

Nature.  Related to the point above is the simple act of connecting with nature.  Whether you can go to a park at lunch break, work on your garden, bike ride around your neighbourhood, sit in your back yard, or go on a camping trip, being outside and interacting with nature reconnects you and is a type of “retreat”. In our first six years of marriage, my husband and I lived in an apartment on the 10th floor. In the summer, spring, and fall, we would sit out there watching the birds and world go by. It was wonderful to watch the distant trees sprout buds, turn green, and eventually orange, all from up above.

These kind of activities may not be the same as going on a solitary retreat, where you can walk and think and meditate for three days straight without the interruptions of daily life.  However, they are activities that are accessible, inexpensive, and can help us reconnect with ourselves on a regular basis.

Do you have ideas on how to find stillness and peace in your life?  Have you ever gone an a retreat?  What was the experience like?

Click below:

“Where I am From” by Sarah Habben

If you are in the mood to read a short story this weekend, click the link below.  It’s a beautiful work of non-fiction, by Sarah Habben, about her vibrant childhood, and the intricate nature of her identity and the idea of home. Sarah Habben was one of the finalists for the Canada Writes CBC 2014 Nonfiction Prize.

http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadawrites/2014/07/cbc-creative-nonfiction-prize-where-i-am-from-by-sarah-habben.html

The image is by Vlado, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

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 Comfort~Inspiration~Ideas

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Living Arrangements – Unique Ideas on What Home Can Be – CBC

Home is What You Make It!

Photo by Ponsulak, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Check out this interesting series that I just discovered on CBC.  In it, people share stories about their unique choices around their living arrangements. From urban nomads, to a tree planter who finds ever-changing shelter, to creative living arrangement for seniors.  Click on the link below, then pick the story that interests you.

What are your living arrangements?  Traditional?  Big ? Small? Minimalist? Alternative? We would love to hear your story here at homehurrah.com, so feel free to leave a comment!  Likewise, please let us know if you decide to share your story on the CBC. I will add a link directly to your story.

Pop by soon for more interesting links, music, ideas, articles and all things home! Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com and can’t wait to share my next post with you!

http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/livingarrangements/index.html

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 Comfort ~ Inspiration ~ Ideas

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A Song Called Home.

“Well, Sometimes Home Is a Person.”

~ Beth Revis, A Million Suns.

 

Today’s song, “Home”, by the indie band Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, reminded me of the above quote.  It’s a fun song (a bit strange at parts, but maybe there is a story behind falling out of the window?),  with a cute little video featuring the large, exuberant band (Currently at 10 members).  My husband recently heard this song included in a playlist, and thought I might want to share it on my blog. He was right, and it’s really worth a listen.

Sometimes, home is a person.  Enjoy!

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 Home, Life, and Living.

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Series: Can a Song Connect You With Home? Today: The Wailin’ Jennys

The picture above was used with permission: http://www.aliciaandneilphotography.com/

Do You Have A Special Song?

“What song makes you think of home? It doesn’t have to literally be about home. Just a song that somehow embodies the concept for you, or makes you feel at home in some way”.

In this series, I am asking the above question. The idea of home is complex, and there are many ways to define it, and connect with it.  Sometimes, a certain song expresses this connection  for us.

Today, I want to share one of several songs that does this for me. The lyrics of this melody describe how I see the world at my best moments; when I am authentic and at home with who I am.  It also expresses a connection and oneness with nature – the change of the seasons and the beauty of life – that feel like home to me.

As the poet Gary Snyder said, “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home. ”

Here it is:

The Bird Song, by the remarkably talented Wailin’ Jennys.

 

Thanks for visiting homehurrah.com and I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

If there is a song that answers the above question for you, leave a comment with the name of the song and I will see if I can include it in a future post!

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Home, Life, and Living.

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We All Long For Home, Whatever It May Be.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

~ Maya Angelou

We each have our own idea of what home means, what or who we associate with it, and where it can be found. Some of us have arrived home already, some of us have left it behind, some us are still seeking to define it – to understand what it means to us. Home can be a changing reality that leaves a permanent imprint in our souls as we journey through life. All of us long to find a home: it may be a place, a person, a vocation, a theology. There is no right or wrong definition of home. It’s an exploration that, like all of the deepest truths in life; you know when you’ve truly found it.

Homehurrah.com is all about this quest. It is a place where we think about home in all its facets: what home is, how the idea of home is expressed, and how our activities at home improve our lives. I am fascinated by this topic, and look forward to sharing this venture with you.

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Home, Life, and Living.

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Hope you feel at home here – you are always welcome!  Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com, and I can’t wait to share my next post with you!