A Haunted History – Going Home Star

“If you believe in yourself, who you are, where you came from, your culture and more importantly your language, it will take you to places you have never even dreamed of.” – Steve Wood, founder of Northern Cree Singers

 RWB Company Dancers in Going Home Star - Truth and Reconciliation - photo by Samanta Katz

For the 75th season, Royal Winnipeg Ballet wanted to open with a ballet that represented Winnipeg in a unique way. The RWB chose to present one of the darkest chapters in Canada’s history: residential schools and the forced assimilation of the indigenous people. Andre Lewis told CBC, “Winnipeg and Manitoba has a large Aboriginal presence, and to include them and be part of the solution for this made total sense.”

Using the arts to connect the non-indigenous and indigenous to illustrate the separation there was between the two was something that I was honoured to be a witness to. Intricate symbolism, contemporary movement, and Aboriginal music was mixed with a traditional European dance, ballet, to tell the story and represent the culture of Aboriginal people beautifully.

Liang Xing and Sophia Lee in Going Home Star - Truth and Reconciliation - photo by Vince PahkalaGoing Home Star tells the story of Annie, a contemporary First Nations woman, living disconnected from her culture, until she meets a homeless man who teaches her about her ancestors and the stories of children in residential schools. Joseph Boyden, the writer of the story, chose to set the story set in the past and the present, showing that the effects of residential schools carry on today.

The medium of dance communicated the dark facts of history in a deeply emotional way. The movements and music were haunting and dark. The story is drawn from testimonies of school survivors that experienced their culture being stripped away, their hair being sheared off, violent beatings, and, some even, sexual abuse. Though I knew these things happened, I felt them in an entirely new way as I watched them expressed through dance.

“[Dance] communicates or transmits pure emotion. For the RWB, this is another way to tell part of the story.” – Andre RWB dancer Yosuke Mino - photo by Samanta KatzLewis.

At the world premiere last night, the audience members consisted a mixed crowd of government officials, residential school survivors, and season ticket holders. Together, we watched and experienced a story that demands to be told over and over. As Andre Lewis said before the red curtain rose, “We are witnesses and agents of change of a story that we can never forget and never repeat.”





Post by Meghan Zahari – Photos by Vince Pahkala & Samanta Katz 


Processed with VSCOcamSince she was little, Meghan has had a love for words and kept her nose firmly stuck in a book. Now, she’s a writer and a wife, with a baby on the way. She spends her days writing all kinds of stories for kids and working at a local stationery shop and a chiropractor’s office. She is also working on opening a donut and coffeeshop with her husband and brother-in-law.

Sarah Zaharia

Harvest Moon

harvest moon cornI almost don’t want to write about this.  I don’t want anyone to know how amazing the Harvest Moon Festival is: small, pastoral, and friendly.  To let others know how wonderful it is would be to open the flood gates to the masses, who would certainly ruin it.

I’m acting like I discovered it.  I have no right to be so covetous of a Festival in its “13th Perennial” year.  And yet … I am.  Small is beautiful, and Harvest Moon seems to know this.

It’s mid-September and there’s a nip in the air, but just enough summer for the brave and fleece-clad to still camp out for this weekend celebration of Manitoba music, farming, and food.  The small population of Clearwater and surrounding communities goes into overdrive to make the Festival happen.  Former Clearwater residents drive home, one volunteer proudly informed me, just to help out.

This Harvest Moon has a big pull — unseen gravitational forces draw some of the province’s musical luminaries from their big city life to a stage surrounded with bales of hay.  Royal Canoe, Les Jupes, DJ Hunnicutt, all work it under the moon and stars for the 1,200 or so who make the annual pilgrimage.

harvest moon at nightOff to the side, there’s a small assortment of Festival merchandise perched on tables with handmade signs exhorting the virtues of buying local.  The staff of Organic Plant, the Wolseley staple, man one of the food kiosks.  Great purple dill-spiked bowls of borscht, pulled pork, and — one table down – piping hot samosas served late into the chilly night.  It’s a music festival so, yes, there’s local beer … and it’s on tap.

Just outside the stage and restaurant enclosure, a tent city has popped up.  Brightly coloured canvases and flags lend a distinct carnival feel.  Sure someone might trip over one of your tent pegs in the middle of the night, and yeah, guitars strum all night, but if you have a problem with that, there’s always the quiet campground.

During the day, children’s entertainers and smaller acts take the stage.  Need to give your eardrums a rest from an evening spent crowd-surfing to Ridley Bent? (Yes, it turns out, you can crowd-surf to country.) Head on down to the fair trade farmer’s market where jewellers, lotion makers, artists and honey producers line the street.

As evening falls and temperatures drop, the musical acts heat up and so do the communal fires. Palettes of wood are hauledjess reimer across the grass and heaved onto the pyre.  Those who aren’t dancing huddle around and chat while the flames cast playful orange glows and dark shadows over our faces.  It’s primal, but with small talk.  No one is voting anyone off the island.

Waking up after a spectacularly cold Friday night, I clutch my oversized mug and wait with bleary eyes and a runny nose in a long line for Mick’s coffee.   So. Worth. It.

Mick takes his time crafting the perfect cup from his blue trailer on a jerry-rigged espresso machine that brews, steams, and foams every cup, one at a time.  His coffee beans are ethically-sourced and roasted in Brandon.   There are no misspelled names on cups by frantic baristas.

“That’ll keep you going for a while,” he drawls.

He’s right.  No naps needed.  Which is just as well, because the sky clears and it turns out to be the perfect day for a hike through a nearby plunging forested trail.  The weather varies wildly for this late summer festival but it is Canada, so dress for it and suck it up.

making guacBy afternoon the sun is out with a vengeance. We spread a blanket in front of the tent and lay out picnic fixings.  It’s late enough in the season that you don’t have to worry about ticks and it’s too cold for mosquitoes.  There are far more pleasant picnic crashers at Harvest Moon: friends you’ve been meaning to meet up with all summer might amble by and spoon a little salsa on a nacho with you.  Strangers might take a seat and offer a comparative analysis of the province’s various summer festivals.

The Harvest Moon stage isn’t just for music. It’s also something of a soapbox for small producers and the farm-to-table movement, and it can get a little political sometimes.  The recent seizure of meat products from Harborside Farms came up. In case you were wondering — the people who run Harvest Moon? — totally not on board with seizures of food from small producers.

Harvest Moon doesn’t dwell too long on politics.  After all, there’s another act ready to take the stage.  There are fires to stoke. katie pic There are burgers spattering on the grill.  There is another fleece to pull on in the keen night air.  There is fun to be had — a lot of it.

lf you’re going to take one last kick at summer, kick it in the country and kick it at Harvest Moon.

I’m going to go again.  It’s really great.  Tell a friend.   Just don’t tell too many friends, ok?



Post by Katie Nicholson, photos by Natalie Reimer Anderson

IMG_0318Katie fell in love with Winnipeg the moment she arrived (despite the fact it was minus 30 that day).  She loves tasting everything life has to offer which is a nice way of saying she has a tendency to overdo it.  She has worked as a theatre and film critic in Canada and the UK.  She has roadtripped all over the US in search of dynamic regional flavours and the perfect cocktail. She can occasionally be found sabring bottles of bubbly.

Sarah Zaharia

The Tallest Poppy

IMG_3007The greatest restaurants are really a reflection of the people behind them.  Lucky for the Tallest Poppy the people behind it are rich in flavour.

It’s opening day and Talia Syrie hasn’t slept much – possibly not in three days — she tells me.  But there’s a weary contentment in this statement.  In the space of roughly 3 months the old Campsie space in the Sherbrook Inn has been radically transformed from dank, dated, and carpeted to bright, modern, and cheery.

There’s a Partridge-family-esque “C’mon get happy” ceiling, wide evening sun-worshiping windows, and sky blue wall-mounted squares.  Fans slowly rotate above an eclectic assortment of mix and match tables and chairs.  The restaurant runs deep.  You hit a good-sized bar on the way to the brightly-lit kitchen.  Across from the bar, in a little nook, hangs the warm wooden sign of the original Tallest Poppy.   Four tin-plated ridges nestle in the ceiling above two cozy tables.

Syrie’s impish partner in crime, Steve Ackerman, tugs at his hair while he sorts some last minute business out on the phone.  He kind of has the air of an expectant father from the 1950s pacing outside the delivery room.

2 toneIMG_2998IMG_2952It’s too easy a cliché to say The Tallest Poppy is a labour of love.  But really, truly, it is.

Of course, most Winnipeggers remember the original Poppy on Main St.  From the moment it opened, The Tallest Poppy seemed woven into Winnipeg’s fabric.  Situated in the Occidental Hotel, the Poppy had a rustic, haphazard charm: like hanging out in a really cultured grad student’s apartment who also had, like, this AMAZING way with food.  The Poppy on Main had its problems, sure.  It wasn’t always the most consistent spot but Syrie says that’s all going to change in its new incarnation.

And with its cool retro design, its ipad ordering and payment system, and its fully operating bar, this Poppy certainly seemsIMG_2956 a lot more grown up.  But Syrie is adamant; the unpretentious charm of the original won’t be lost in this swank new spot.

“I want people to feel comfortable.  To, like, really feel — not like at home — but maybe like you had an aunt.  A really cool aunt.  You don’t get to see her very often but when you do she makes you something your mother would never make for you, and she serves you booze and you play gin rummy in the afternoon.”  Syrie pauses with a toothy grin, “Like that.”

The Tallest Poppy exudes comfort.  Not just in the decor or the easygoing staff but in its comfort food-rich menu.   The Poppy used to boast it was where the Deep South meets the North End.  A quick glance at the menu confirms it still is.

Pickerel po’boys, chicken and syrup-infused waffles, and the most moist and tender otherworldly pulled pork sandwiches you could ever hope to put in your mouth. “They take 100 hours to slow roast,” jokes Syrie… or is she joking?

IMG_2969IMG_2995IMG_2966And then there’s the trifecta burger: bison, pork and beef.

I’m not much of a meat expert but I brought along a friend who is.  After several appreciative and thoughtful bites of the onion-laden patty she declared the burger to be superior because it let the meat be the main event.  ‘It doesn’t try to hide the meat with a whole bunch of sauces and extras.”

In the kitchen, staff hand-form the patties of the Trifecta burger. There’s an easy camaraderie here, too.  “Take a picture of the bread,” beams one young guy.  It glistens under the overhead lights.  Most of the original staff have returned – for Syrie it feels like some classic band has gotten back together… only they now have a much bigger venue.

If Syrie is everyone’s cool aunt, that makes Steve Ackerman the cool uncle —  a cool uncle with a wicked flair for mean cocktails.

The cocktail bug bit Ackerman hard in New York where he studied photography.  He remembers the time his sister visited him and they went from bar to bar ordering Manhattans “because we were in Manhattan.”  Ackerman was fascinated with the chemistry of it all — how each bartender tweaked it just a little.

With a crooked grin he tells me his vision of the new Poppy: “I want to be a place where people relax and have delicious food made by someone who cares.  I want them to enjoy a cocktail not for the sake of getting drunk but for the deliciousness of the drink.”

He’s crafted several drinks on the menu but two are absolute stand-outs.  First there is the Mantucky: where Winnipeg crabapple juice collides with icy bourbon, laced with black pepper syrup, lemon, bitters and mint.  He calls it a “slow, genteel drink that wakes you up and soothes you at the same time.”  And then there is the two-tone Caesar: classic Caesar on the bottom, a green salsa verde-spiked mixture on top.  I defy anyone to not to fall in love at first sip.

There’s no doubt about it.  The Tallest Poppy has grown up.  And it’s probably going to stand very tall in its new home.IMG_2998



Post by Katie Nicholson

IMG_0318Katie fell in love with Winnipeg the moment she arrived (despite the fact it was minus 30 that day).  She loves tasting everything life has to offer which is a nice way of saying she has a tendency to overdo it.  She has worked as a theatre and film critic in Canada and the UK.  She has roadtripped all over the US in search of dynamic regional flavours and the perfect cocktail. She can occasionally be found sabring bottles of bubbly.

Sarah Zaharia

Manito Ahbee – All we need to do is listen

Manito Ahbee_8958smlThe 9th Annual Manito Ahbee Festival just wrapped up after several days of awards ceremonies, contests and powwows. The entire festival was an overwhelming display of and appreciation for a beautiful culture and way of life. The powwows that took place at the MTS centre on the Saturday and Sunday were a kaleidoscope of colour and movement.

The dancers’ Regalia, my friend informed me, are all handmade. Each bead sown on, each feather set in place just so. The outfits alone are works of art, but the way they come to life with the movement of each dancer as the drums beat and a chorus of voices goes up in unison is almost transcendent. The best part of each outfit is that it represents the unique personalities and stages of life of each dancer. The Regalia differ from person to person based on age, sex and personal development. The connection between each dancer and their Regalia seemed to me to go beyond mere symbolic meaning and get at something closer to spiritualism, conveying a connection to the natural world and to the humanity of both the dancer and to those around him/her. Did I mention they look incredible? It bears repeating.

The powwow was staged as a contest, but I had this strange sense that the dancers weren’t photocompeting against each other. My friend put it beautifully when she said that in Aboriginal cultures, one competes with oneself more than outside competition, each dancer striving to do better than they’ve ever done, a contest focused less on victory than on personal growth.

I had witnessed this earlier in the week at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, as well. Each performer who came up to accept their award seemed to have a sense that what they were doing was bigger than their music. Every acceptance speech acknowledged a power greater than the self and called upon the community to build each other up and work towards a better future.

photo (1)Manito Ahbee Credit Scott Stephensphoto (1)Nowhere was this more evident than in Shy-Anne’s shocking revelation that she would be retiring from music. She told a stunned audience that she felt called to teach in her community. Meanwhile she went on to win three awards throughout the evening, a testament that success in her field paled when compared to what she believed to be her higher purpose.

As I reflected on the festival it occurred to me that it’s impossible to talk about Aboriginal arts and culture without looking at the issues of discrimination and marginalization that continue to face Aboriginal people today. I’m certainly not qualified to speak to those issues, but I’m buoyed by the fact that for the fans and the artists, the awards weren’t just about celebrating great music and stunning performances, certainly it’s an honour to stand on stage and accept an award voted on by the fans, but the greatest honour seemed to be the opportunity to speak on behalf of change, on behalf of justice, on behalf of the community and on behalf of hope. There are Aboriginal voices speaking, all we need to do is listen.manito_ahbee_creditDanHarper

(Be sure to check out next year’s 10th anniversary of the Manito Ahbee Festival. It should be a big one)

Post by Josh Benoit – Photo credits to Josh Benoit and Dan Harper


Josh Benoit - head shotJoshua Benoit is a freelance writer, musician with the local band, Pumas and videographer living in Winnipeg. He is passionate about food, philosophy, travel and Kurt Vonnegut. At one time he thought he wanted to be an optometrist but ultimately found more joy in words than in formulas, just as he derives more pleasure from whiskey than from soda.

His life goals are modest and include owning a dog with an aloof demeanor and a needy cat, publishing no less than eleven novels (some of them trash), and possibly raising children, though he’d settle for a weekly afterschool special in which he could impart his street-wise verbiage to the children of the world.

Joshua studied English and Film at the University of Manitoba and took his sweet time about getting his B.A. He now works for the Department of Education and is continuing his creative writing studies through the University of Toronto. To get in touch with Joshua, write to him at jedwardbenoit@gmail.com

Sarah Zaharia

Erin’s Kitchen – Coffee Crisp Cookies

Cookies.  What can is say… I love making cookies! A while back I came across a recipe for Kit Kat Cookies andIMG_6843 thought, now that’s interesting, chocolate bars instead of chocolate chips!  So of course I had to try them.

While I was out to buy my Kit Kat Bars I came across 2 great finds.

One: I didn’t need to buy the bars because they now sell these bags of Kit Kat Bits. Perfect for cookies! Score.

Two: They make a few different chocolate bars as “Bites”. Yay! So I grabbed Kit Kat ones and Coffee Crisp…

IMG_6840The first time I made them I just dumped the bag of kit kat bites in the cookie dough bowl. But when I started to make the cookies with my cookie scoop I could tell that the “bites” were a little bit big. But that didn’t stop me. I made them anyway. And they were good! I couldn’t wait to try them again with the Coffee Crisp Bites.

So a few days later I started making the Coffee Crisp ones. When it came time to add the Coffee Crisp I grabbed my meat tenderizer/ hammer, I let the air out of the bag (re sealed it) put it on the floor an smashed them a few times to break up the balls. Dumped them in the dough and scooped out my cookies! Awesome! They were even BETTER then the Kit Kat ones! (I like Coffee Crisp better then Kit Kat ha ha)

I have now made these cookies at least 2 dozen times.  I send them in large batches to work with my Hubs and I give them to friends. People love them! And the possibilities are endless! Just take any chocolate bar and crush it up a bit and add to your cookies! Yum!

Hope you enjoy!IMG_6853


Coffee Crisp Cookies


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup Coffee Crisp (Bites or Bars)



. Cream butter and both sugars until combined. Add egg and vanilla.

. Add flour, baking soda, and salt.

. Mix until combined. Add crushed up Coffee Crisp

. Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment

. Scoop out 2 tablespoon sized balls or use a cookie scoop and place two inches apart on cookie sheet.

. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. 10 minutes will be slightly underdone (the way I love them) but if you like a more done cookie, let them bake an extra minute  or two. Let cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from pans to cool completely.


Post by Erin McLeod


Erin McLeod Head ShootI’m a stay at home mom and have been for a little over 3 years. I have 2 beautiful girls who keep me on my toes! The house is not always tidy… but I’m learning to accept that.

I have a big passion for photography. My dad is a photographer and I grew up playing in his darkroom when I was little. Yes darkroom! Before the digital take over. I also have a passion for cooking and baking. Now it’s a mystery where this love comes from because my mom hates cooking! She does however make some awesome christmas treats.

Hopefully in sharing some of my experience and recipes, I can inspire you to take some time and make something delicious.

From my kitchen to yours, bon appétit.


Sarah Zaharia

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