Month: November 2015

Sunday Sundries | Vol. 24

Good evening!

I had the great fortune of spending this weekend in the company of Applehead Studio while sitting in on their East Coast Survival Guide workshop for photographers. I met some great people, had some great soup (thanks Jen!) and got some great ideas for ways to improve the photography side of my business. Great weekend.

While the workshop was going on, I got to sneak out to interview and photograph some local Halifax Jugger players. Never heard of jugger? Boy, are you in for a treat. It’s kind of like rugby or football, but played with medieval weapons. I’ll post the link to Soundcloud once my piece airs on CKDU!

On to the cool stuff du jour:

And that’s it everyone!

I hope you have a great week. What are people up to? Anything you’re looking forward to? Anything you’re dreading? Are you going somewhere? Taking a trip? Is something happening to you? I hope you’re doing well. And if you’re not doing well, I hope you find a way to get through it.

All the best.

Across North America, Day 17: Reprieve in Jasper

In which we answer the questions of where to find good wifi, coffee, and 2am pizza in the alpine town of Jasper in western Alberta.

After clambering down from the tea houses at Lake Louise outside Banff, we headed on to Jasper.

Now, I am very lucky in that I have an aunt and uncle who live there and offered us a place to stay.

This is the true secret to travelling across the country on the cheap: Having family or friends who’ll share a futon with you.

If you’re ever in Jasper, pop in to Rocky Bear Gifts. Say hi to Karl or Colette and tell them that Mel sent you!

Pretty much everyone who lives in Jasper is involved in the tourism economy somehow. The nearby Mt. Edith Cavell is one of the most beautiful mountains in the Canadian Rockies. It’s only about 5km outside town.

We slept in all the way to 10 am. Our legs were stiff from the 15km hike the day before and we had a leisurely start to the day.

We also had some work to catch up on. We hadn’t really stopped to answer emails and such since we left home on August 1st, so we decided to catch up on that.

Thus begs the question:

Where can you get the best cup of jo/wifi connection in town?

Luckily, since my aunt, uncle, and twenty-something cousin Megan all live there (although since we left Megan has moved to New Zealand – way to go, Megan!), they were able to point us in the right direction.

The Wicked Cup

Every local we asked said it was the best coffee place in Jasper.

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They also had lots of power outlets. And coffee.

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That’s a bear in my coffee!

The matcha latté at the top of the post is also from there. Had to keep my caffeine intake sources varied.

So we worked the day away at the Wicked Cup, then went to my aunt and uncle’s place and did some laundry. You know, the glamourous life.

We then took a nap before heading out to:

The Whistle Stop Pub

It’s attached to Whistler’s Inn. One of the most popular places to stay in Jasper. It was crazy there in the summer. My family was telling me the season was much busier than usual. The low Canadian dollar was one factor.

In a dim corner of the Whistle Stop we met up with my aunt’s nephew. David is also a journalist; I’ve met him a few times before. He’s currently working in the Jasper food and restaurant scene to save up some money.

He’s also got one of those crazy memories.

We grab a pitcher to split between us as he explains I can tell him my birthday, and he’s able to tell me exactly what day of the week I was born on.

Me: “No way.”

Him: “Yeah.”

Me: “April 29, 1990.”

Him: “Sunday.”

Me: “Holy shit! That’s right.”

Him: “Yeah.”

He tells me that there are 28-year cycles for the day of the week. All he has to do is count back from our current cycle to figure out what day it would have been in 1990…

Or something like that. Clearly that one conversation at the bar hasn’t clinched it for me. But, it’s a pretty cool bar trick.

We go on talking and then Rob gets up to use the washroom. He comes back and mentions their urinals.

They’re shaped like lips.

Me: “What? No way.”

And then David and Rob enlighten me to all the different kinds of urinals there are.

This was something I had never really thought about.

They say there’s some shaped like lips, ducks, target signs, flowers, etc.

Some are even games.

Me: “What kind of games?”

They tell me there’s golf greens, battleship (Yeah, battleship. You have to try and knock the ship over and sink it.),  interactive urinals, etc.

I Googled. There’s one interactive game called ‘Clever Dick’. It’s a quiz game.

I made Rob sneak back in with my iPhone and take a picture.

I wanted proof.

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And proof I got.

I’m considerably unimpressed that someone designed something for men to pee in that looks like a woman’s mouth.  The world is a strange place.

So, after discovering the hidden world of men’s themed urinals (something I had never thought about or considered, until now) we decided to go get pizza.

North Face Pizza

This is the only place to get pizza in Jasper at 2am.

It might be the only place to get food in general in the small town of Jasper at 2am.

And it’s good pizza. Made to order. We pay for our pizzas and take a seat. They’ve got covers of Simply the Best and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun playing.

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We finish our pizzas and say goodbye to David.

On the way home, we encounter the bane of any drunk wandering around Jasper late at night:

Elk sirens.

Okay, that might not be their real name.  Anyone who knows what I’m talking about, please correct me.

There are a lot of elk around Jasper.  There are a bunch of ways that people who live there keep elk out of their gardens and lawns.  You can hang up ribbons, build a fence, plant things that elk don’t eat, etc.

Or, if you’re this one house between the bar and my aunt and uncle’s place, you have an elk siren.

When we started walking past it this little bulb flashed red on the roof and started emitting this high-pitched pulse sound.

It was really uncomfortable. Kind of like a dog whistle, but higher.

Anyway, we ran away as quickly as possible, but man, that siren persisted until we were about a block away. Worst neighbour. Can you imagine going to put your trash out at night and having to listen to that?

We returned home and got into bed, just missing seeing my uncle get up at 3am (He’s an ultra marathoner. The kind that runs death races up mountains. His schedule awes us.)

Another great day on the road.

One last exchange:

David: “My friend is an underwater ceramics technician.”

Me: “Wow. What does he do?”

David: “He’s a dishwasher.”

Badum tish!

Day 17 Costs:

  • The Bear’s Paw Bakery: $16.45
  • The Wicked Cup, multiple drinks, foods, and coffees: $33.03
  • Whistle Stop, beers: $22.59
  • North Face, pizza: $15.05

Total: $87.12

Sunday Sundries | Vol. 23

Hey guys,

Sorry I’m late with this post today.

I was too busy binge-watching Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix.

Whole-lee-shit. It was fantastic. I can’t wait until my fiancé decides to watch it so that I can watch it all over again.

I won’t go on too much, but there are so many good things in this series. Characters with depth, an ex-superhero-heroine who is so real, and written/acted so well that she’s actually believable, and a narrative that’s all about a woman taking back control from an abusive antagonist who is creepy and scary as all heck.

I’m going to call it: Jessica Jones is my favourite series of the year.

Now, on to the reading bit:

That’s it! Have a wonderful Sunday night. I’ll see you back on the battlefield tomorrow morning.

Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

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Can we all take a moment and just cogitate about how profound Nintendo is?

Seriously. I owe these guys a lot. From my twitch-like Command+S behaviour to save documents, to the way I organize my cupboards (like my potions, armours, and alchemy tools in various RPGs).

I’m digitally very organized so often when I walk by someone else’s computer and I see files strewn willy-nilly across the desktop I have to restrain the urge to grab their computer from them and organize everything.

Getting into a good digital organization habit not only helps keep crap off your computer but also helps you get shit done faster. I swear, spending a couple days coming up with a digital organization system if you don’t have one is totally worth your time.

Back to games:

I hear the nature vs. nurture argument all the time with video games. Did the kid like violence and so was drawn to violent video games, or did playing the video games make the kid violent?

What I do know is I had a lot of friends that played the same Nintendo games growing up, and we all turned out differently. Games just magnify whatever tendencies you already have within you.

Like Reza Aslan‘s CNN response about religion, each video game is whatever you bring to it. Some people are going to bring ridiculous violence, some people are going to bring rebellion, some people are going to bring a compulsion to collect relics.

I like having goals, and helping people. For example, both Pokémon and Legend of Zelda have a storyline where you progress by talking to other people, and honing your skills. That’s so nice!

Their games also had storylines that made me laugh and cry.

Always a good time.

As a life philosophy bonus, they also teach you to save  regularly.

Always a good idea.

Whether you’re a professional (go get some backup hard drives and starting hitting Command+S like it’s your snappy catchphrase) or just ruminating on life (if you don’t take the time to be present for memories, you’ll lose them, like you were never there, because you’re never making them).

Download the wallpaper here!

Featuring the Tokyo skyline as seen from the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower.

Sunday Sundries | Vol. 22

Good week to you!

I hope you’re doing well. Me? I’m enjoying being immersed in words and people and editing. Last night, I was at the vigil for Paris in Halifax, interviewing people and recording sounds for a radio piece tomorrow.

In the middle of it, I thought: “You know what’s really thrilling about being a journalist? Having the agency to ask people whatever I want, and knowing that because of my job, there’s a good chance they’ll actually tell me.” That’s so cool!

Of course, if I’m interviewing someone about a vigil, I’m probably not going to ask what they had for dinner (who wants to hear that anyway?), but the pertinent questions I have: “What did you think? How does this change things? Why are you doing this?” They’ll actually tell me. If I was just a member of the public, there’s a chance they might talk to me, but more likely their response would be, “Who are you? Why would I tell you?”

Having people not only be willing to talk to me, but also sometimes actively seeking me out to tell me things, is just the best thing ever. Walking into a scene and being like, “Yeah, it’s my job to ask questions.” is the choicest thing an inquisitive young Mel could have ever hoped for.

Good job me, your younger-self approves.

Here’s what I’m checking out this week:

Thanks for sticking around! Let me know what you think of any of those pieces… I just want to re-watch all of Daria now.

Pure Green Tea with Four Seasons Tea Co.

Four Seasons Tea Co. is a brand new Canadian tea company specializing in Chinese teas.

I first met founder Jeff Kovac when he was my instructor during the Tea 101 module of my tea sommelier training with the Tea Association of Canada.

When I first met him (via Skype), I was struck not only by how personable Jeff is, but also by his knowledge of Chinese tea and the Chinese tea industry.

He lived in China for a number of years, and his knowledge of the region gives the Four Seasons Tea Co. a unique advantage.

He knows everything about the tea he’s selling.

Both the Gan Lu and the Jasmine samples Jeff sent me come from Mt. Meng in Sichuan Province. Tea cultivation on Mt. Meng began over 2,000 years ago during the Han dynasty.  It’s thought to be one of the first places on earth where tea was cultivated.

The leaves picked for the Four Seasons Tea Co.’s Meng Ding Gan Lu and their signature Snowflake Jasmine are grown in the misty peaks of the mountain.  It’s about 800+ metres above sea level for the Gan Lu leaves, and 600-800 metres for those found in the Snowflake Jasmine.

Fun Fact: Meng Ding is also the hometown of panda bears.

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Meng Ding Gan Lu

Gan Lu means ‘sweet dew’. This tea from Mt. Meng is famous for its sweet aftertaste. People have been making it for thousands of years.

I can see right away that the curly, dry tea leaves have a light silver fuzz. This is a good sign.

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A note from Jeff:

“In Sichuan, a lot of Meng Ding Gan Lu is blended with a Bai Hao cultivar. My teas are just high mountain tips ONLY. Not blended.”

 

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Here is the unfurled leaf after infusion. The tips don’t lie.

I had a very pure, bright green-yellow liquor, with a clear, velvety soft taste. There is nothing blended in to dilute the flavour. It slides right over your tongue and hugs your mouth.

There’s a sweet but toasty aftertaste, like green peas or chestnuts.

Snowflake Jasmine

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I can see the jasmine flowers!

It’s funny, but this is an important checkmark for me. I’ve had jasmine tea that has no jasmine flowers in it. That always makes me suspicious – where is the scent supposed to come from?

Here, the tiny white buds unfurl beautifully along with the tea. Beautiful fragrance – not too heavy – and a nice, clean taste from the underlying tea. The warmth of the chestnut flavour works well with the floral.

This is a local favourite in Sichuan.

Jeff told me this Jasmine was incredible and I have to agree. I’m very picky with scented teas because I don’t usually drink them (Earl Grey being the exception), but I’ll definitely be finishing this sample.

Preparation

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Here are three different methods for preparation:

  1. Gaiwan for short infusions: 3 g for 60 ml of water. Pour the tea from the gaiwan into another cup. Do longer and longer infusions.  6s, 8s, 10s, 14s… etc.
  2. Gaiwan with tea: 3 grams for 120 ml of water. Sip and enjoy.
  3. Tall glass with tea: 3 grams just about a cup of water. Leave the tea leaves in while you drink it.

Don’t make your water too hot. 80˚C should do the trick.

Try all three and let me know what you think. I tried both short infusions in the gaiwan, and in a tall glass (mason jar for me).

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Four Seasons Tea Co.

This is a brand new Canadian tea company, and I’m very excited about them. I think Jeff will continue to produce high-quality tea informed by his knowledge of the Chinese tea industry, and I look forward to drinking more from them.

Right now they only sell their teas in 100g quantities. That might seem like a lot, but the quality is such that you’ll be wanting more to drink anyway.

Jeff was kind enough to include a discount code for readers to use on their website store. You can get 12% off your order by using the code: MelhadTea12

The code is valid for the next two weeks. From today until Friday, November 27.