Let’s make some everyday magic

Note to Self - Faye Armstrong
Note to Self – Faye Armstrong

How would you rate your life on a scale from one to magical? Most of us have a checklist for what would be required in order for our lives to reach fairy tale status – and I’m all about having goals – but how do you find the magic in your life as it is right here, right now?
If all we have is this very moment, I want to make this moment beyond epic. But you don’t have to sell all your worldly possessions and sell handmade seashell necklaces in Costa Rica in order to feel like you’re living a full and adventurous life. I mean, if that’s your dream, go get it, Babe. YOLO! But either way, there is awesomeness in your everyday life right now that is just waiting to be tapped into.
Here are a few ways to get in on that.
Plan to have fun
You know how life just feels so much better the weeks leading up to a vacation or a big event? That feeling of having something to look forward to seems to just inject a little extra sunshine into the day.
Recreate that on a smaller scale by doing one thing just for you on a regular basis. It could be each day, each week, each month – and it could be anything from getting your nails done to making a batch of cookie dough just to straight up eat (don’t judge), or planning a full-day adventure outdoors. Whatever gets you excited. Treat yourself!
Be in nature
Speaking of being outdoors: do that. Connecting with nature is refreshing, energizing, and can help you stay grounded. Meditate, explore, take photos, connect with a friend, connect with yourself, just sit and enjoy – anything to get out there! There is something so inspiring and magical in observing how the cycles of nature just flow so… naturally! Breathe it all in.
Find the connection to your vision
When I was working at my very first job in retail, I remember thinking: “I definitely don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.” Not that there’s anything wrong with working in retail, it just didn’t inspire me. The thing is, most people don’t have the luxury of having a job that inspires them. So how do you find the passion in something that doesn’t inspire you? Tie it back to your vision.
Here’s an example: I want to help people. That has always been my vision and that is what I am passionate about. So what got me through working in the mall (besides the discount) was finding the moments that related to helping others. Did I change anyone’s life by selling them a pair of shoes? Probably not. Did I get to help them and make a positive difference in their day? Absolutely!
Whatever your vision is, look for the opportunities and moments that allow you to live it each day in some way.
Feed your soul
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of stagnant energy if you stop challenging yourself. You can’t glow if you don’t grow.
Make a commitment to your own personal growth. Read a book, take a class, learn a new skill, volunteer – anything that welcomes new experiences into your life and promotes growth will do.
Practise love
If you want to love your life, live your life with love. It’s not always easy to approach things and people in a loving way, but it is something to strive for. This means being compassionate, looking at things from other people’s perspectives, and quite simply, being genuinely kind.
Yep, that’s a tall order some days, but love is one of those things that you get more of the more you give away. Dole it out freely and watch the magic happen.
Faye Armstrong is a life coach based in Winnipeg who is passionate about living life to the fullest and helping others do the same. For a little motivation or to learn more about personal coaching, visit http://www.fayeaarmstrong.com.

Feel the Musi: local app creators streamline listener experience

By Brenlee Coates

Everyone these days is a YouTube DJ.
You want someone to hear the newest track from your favourite artist, and you go straight to YouTube to pull up the video. Then you play the next recommended video, and the next one, and suddenly you’re running through Beyonce’s entire discography.
That’s because YouTube “has every single song ever,” says Aaron Wojnowski, developer of the app Musi. “YouTube is a music centre… but no one had a way of listening to the (songs) directly.”
About two-and-a-half years ago, Aaron and his high school pals, David Bell and Christian Lunny (of Dash Agency), dreamed up an app that allows you to “organize and manage (YouTube’s content) as if it was your own.”
As long as you have Wi-Fi, or are using data, you can access the endless YouTube (and Soundcloud) libraries, listen to the songs, and create playlists right in Musi.
“We really like to push Musi as an organizational tool,” explains Aaron. “(It’s a) simple app to let people listen to YouTube videos.”
Although it’s an app that simplifies a process – YouTube has playlist capabilities, but nothing like what music listeners have come to expect – Musi’s been nothing short of life-changing for some people.
“A lot of people use it at work… It’s really changed a lot of people’s lives.
“To make people’s lives easier through music, that’s really rewarding,” says Aaron.

Musi helps you build what looks and functions like a library of YouTube music, as long as you have Wi-Fi or are using data.
Musi helps you build what looks and functions like a library of YouTube music, as long as you have Wi-Fi or are using data.

For those wondering about licensing, Musi doesn’t actually allow you to download music – it streams songs from licensed material from YouTube. “They just publish their data, and they handle all the licensing, and then we’re allowed to play the content,” explains Aaron. While it may look like you’ve built up a library in Musi, the songs aren’t actually saved onto your phone. “You can’t download music, or listen to the music through (another) music app,” says Aaron.
There have been a few copycats since the Musi makers started, but between Aaron’s search engine optimization expertise and Musi’s user-friendliness, it has stayed competitive.
It’s even a concept deemed worthy of CBC’s Dragons’ Den, where partners Aaron and Christian recently presented.
While the results are under wraps, the exposure of the show will no doubt help them earn more free downloads – which also helps them earn cash.
About six months ago, they introduced banner ads on Musi, and are reaping the rewards. “Recently, it’s really skyrocketed,” says Aaron. “I really wish I did it from the start.”
Interstitial ads – or full-page ads that pop up before or after content – have just recently been incorporated, which means revenues will grow exponentially.
The duo is user-conscious, so it won’t go too far to interrupt the ease of Musi. (Likely why they’re after Dragon money at all).
Aaron has always been about enriching users’ experiences with technology – in Grade 9, he was the go-to techie to jailbreak people’s iPods (essentially opening up the device to non-Apple approved apps, which can be somewhat arbitrary).
He earned enough money from this practice to buy his own iPod – but he yearned for bigger and better.
His dad made him a deal. If Aaron could build him a purchase ordering software for his company, he’d buy him a Mac.
Aaron was successful, and soon went on to do contract work for startups in Winnipeg, and even New York.
He is now completing his second year of computer science at the University of Manitoba, and landed a job in San Francisco with a startup this summer – a passion of his.
“I love just boot-strapping initial products, getting viable products together.
“I like to work with startups a lot too because they don’t have a lot of rigid processes in place.”
If Musi survives the Dragons’ Den, there’s no telling where his own startup could go.
The Musi app is available for free in the App Store. Visit http://www.feelthemusi.com for more information.

Cocktail culture finds home in the Exchange

By Brenlee Coates

There has been a bit of a cocktail movement in the city – not only reviving classic and new mixed drinks, but celebrating the men and women behind them.
Event posters have plastered the names and faces of mixologists known for their creative dash, and they help fill seats for things like RAW:almond’s cocktail bar, the Made With Love mixology competition, or the Table for 1200 afterparty with featured bartenders.
But no permanent venue had ever made the bar or its tenders the nucleus of its being – until now.
“I think we’re the first in Winnipeg to put the drinks first,” says Mike Fox, bar manager of Albert Street Cocktail Company. “It’s always a really great restaurant, and then the bar’s just a small focus of that.
“We got to set this place up sort of ideal for a bartender to work at.”
The long, marble bar is like a stage at Albert Street – bartenders steal guests’ attention with flame-poured cocktails and elaborate processes. And they have a captive audience: clientele is interested in cocktail culture – and can even leave with their own gear.
Albert Street Cocktail Company is one of the first places in Winnipeg to make high-end special bitters and syrups available for retail, and they sell barware along with them, sending you home cocktail-ready.

The El segundo cocktail at Albert Street.
The El Segundo cocktail at Albert Street.

Bartending resume
Mike moved to Winnipeg from Brandon five years ago, after working as a bartender while completing his studies in music.
He worked a few gigs in Winnipeg, and then applied to Peasant Cookery on a whim.
He admittedly didn’t have a lot of cocktail bartending experience, and Kaitlynd Landry was sort of trailblazing the cocktail renaissance there. “She was doing it five, six years ago, (when) people weren’t really doing it here. She taught me a lot.”
Peasant Cookery encouraged Mike to come up with his own cocktails early on, so he hit the books, and the um, bar, and learned to love the creative freedom of mixology as much as music. “I’m still doing music… but cocktails are right up there too.
“In my own time, I’m always reading blogs and websites.”
As a name and face who’s filled his own special events – The Mitchell Block had a full house for a one-night-special bar menu created by Mike – he was a natural fit for heading the bar at Albert Street.
The owner and general manager, Richard Krahn, approached Mike about four months ago with his concept.
After hitting a stalemate at the old Ragpickers building, Richard looked into the former Mondragon space, which had an eccentric interior, but good bones. Richard and his business partner stripped the place and brought it to a classy environment with character.
Some of the furniture was built by hand, and the modern fireplace mixed with antique furnishings and cocktail glasses gives it the right amount of elevated retro comfort.

Things infusing in vintage cocktail ware.
Things infusing in vintage cocktail glassware.

“I feel like we got the best place for this in Winnipeg,” says Mike, of the location. “The cocktail revival has been going on all over the world in the last 10 years.
“If we didn’t do this, it was coming (to Winnipeg) within a year.”
Mike was integral in planning the menu, which has 10 signature cocktails, as well as a fine-tuned wine and beer list. The cocktails are original – but not outlandish. “You want to be as creative as possible and do something really interesting – but not be pretentious and be accessible to everybody,” explains Mike.
Specialty cocktails range from about $9 to $15, and have inventive ingredients like jerk spice simple syrup and whole eggs – prepared with fresh-squeezed juices and herbs.
Opening its doors in late April, the bar serves from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. six days a week, closing Sundays. Light lunch fare is available as well as a pared-down snack menu in the evenings.
Check out Albert Street Cocktail Company at 91 Albert St. in the Exchange.

Rayannah hits stride with EP release “Boxcar Lullabies”

There was a collective gasp as Winnipeggers saw Rayannah’s breath expelled on-screen for the first time in the music video for her single, “Boxcar Lullabies.”
At once stunning, raw, and quintessentially Winnipeg, the beautifully produced “Boxcar Lullabies” video launched Rayannah into a new league right in time for her debut EP release.
Her breath is an appropriate focal point; Rayannah’s voice has carved her career to this point and lent itself to commanding her first instrument: loop pedals.
“I’ve always been a vocalist – that’s my first love,” says Rayannah, who studied jazz voice. “But I kind of had a yearning to be a part of a band.
“Since I’ve started playing the pedals, I feel more like part of the band.”
Rayannah often is her own band: she imaginatively layers beat boxing, synths, percussion, and melodic harmonies to form complete songs that can be carried on their own, or incorporate new instruments. Her Boxcar Lullabies EP features strings, piano, train sounds and double basses accompanying her vocal creations.
Beginning to experiment with loop pedals just three years ago, “Boxcar Lullabies” is a tight display of her craft, grown in force and impact by the supporting sounds.
At her EP release party in May, at its peak, she had eight string players onstage with her. “I just wanted to go with the most exciting possible version – the biggest, most extravagant,” she says.
As with her EP, certain songs are stripped down, but she didn’t shy away from spectacle and grandeur. “There’s one song where there must be my voice coming through 30 times,” she says.
Rayannah started her career a little backward, touring before having recorded material to promote – but her commanding stage presence is ready to support a record she’s proud of, that matches her enthusiasm for live performance.

Rayannah performing on tour in Ottawa at Raw Sugar Cafe.
Rayannah performing on tour in Ottawa at Raw Sugar Cafe.

“For me, recording and performing is so, so different… (The EP) felt like I was making art there as much as I am when I’m performing or playing a show.
“When really everyone in the room is feeling the same thing – that’s the moment that I’m living for.”
Based on the reaction to her video premiere, everyone is really feelin’ Rayannah.
In true Winnipeg fashion, the crisp and neatly produced look came across with the help of just her longtime friend and videographer, Jonathan Stanners, and her sister, visual artist Caro LaFlamme. “We had just a giant list of ideas and kind of went at it,” she says. The scenes are dynamic, with authentic Winnipeg landmarks locals can pick out.
“It’s about our city in a lot of ways,” says Rayannah, of the single. “I just wanted to be really honest with my video. It’s actually shot in my living room for a lot of cases… and the rest is places that I go, that I cross super frequently.”
Though other cities’ residents can relate to the dirt- and snow-filled beginnings of spring, the awkward in-between dress of sopping weather, and a morning coffee steaming in a ceramic mug, the song and video is an ode to the city Rayannah loves to call home.
“Without making it this utopia, for me, it feeds everything that I need it to feed, and it is everything that I need it to be.
“I have no plans to uproot home in the near future.”
Though her two feet are firmly planted in the city, Rayannah’s taste for travel gave her momentum as a performer.
“I was going travelling and I was like, ‘Maybe I can do some shows.’
“It kind of happened organically… the tours have gotten more and more extensive.”
With the EP release, her goals are similarly humble, with unlimited potential to pick up steam. “I think the EP is going to open up doors for me in the (touring) department.
“I want to get it into as many ears as possible,” she says.
Visit http://www.rayannah.ca for more on Rayannah’s music.

The Park Theatre’s 100-year evolution

By Brenlee Coates (concert photos by Dwayne Larson)

The Park Theatre has been the Madonna of theatres in the building’s 100-year history – constantly reinventing itself.
Even in a decade’s time under current ownership, it’s undergone many looks and changes. “We had DVD rentals. We had coffee. We had desserts. And for a little while we had a kitchen area,” says owner Erick Casselman.
When DVDs became outdated, and the dining function never took off, the Park decided to concentrate on what it did best: hosting live entertainment. “It actually allowed me to focus on what our strength was, which was live music and live comedy and events,” says Casselman. “Everybody that works here has the same idea of what this place could be.”

Owner Eric Casselman says The Strumbellas' show was one of his most memorable this year.
Owner Eric Casselman says The Strumbellas’ show was one of his most memorable this year.

The singular vision has paid off: Park Theatre recently won the Western Canadian Music Award for Venue of the Year. On top of hosting diverse musicians both locally and internationally, plus being a hub for comedy and community events, the Park Theatre creates its own signature programming. “Those are really key to me – because those are ones we’re developing,” says Casselman. “If you’re not doing stuff with your community – what’s the point?”
In August, the Park will debut a brand-new festival in its South Osborne neighbourhood. “It’s a street festival of sorts, taking place in six places on the street within a two-block radius of the Park,” says Casselman. “I’ve always loved this neighbourhood… We’re in the best community.”

The Parks is surrounded by unbeatable fare from Deseo Bistro and Vera Pizza.
The Park is surrounded by unbeatable fare from Deseo Bistro and Vera Pizzeria.

The Park is also partial to the local music scene, with friends across every realm, and musicians occasionally moonlighting at its venue.
Wanting to continue to help foster newcomers, Casselman and a couple partners are looking at starting a separate venue, which will have an even more intimate feel for developing artists. “Watching people grow and watching them come into themselves… it’s the best,” says Casselman. “Right now, I think we’re seeing some of the most talented, who should be widely recognized, artists come out.”
While the music scene in Winnipeg seems to be hitting its groove, the same could be said of the Park. Shedding its retro diner look, and ditching some old functions, the Park now has a chic lounge to greet you in its holding area, before entering the completely made-over stage and theatre. Without a kitchen function, the Park makes deals with neighbouring restaurants to provide limited menus to the space.

The sleek interior before the entrance to the theatre.
A sleek interior greets you before the entrance to the theatre.

Setting the stage for success
Above all, it’s a great place to catch a show. Many local musicians count the Park as a favourite. “Bands are one of the most important parts of our business,” says Casselman. “We have sound equipment that’s the best.
“We try to make the backstage, the stage, and the room as comfortable as possible for them.”
The same goes for patrons. “I’m always gauging the audience. ‘How can we make this a little more friendly? How can we make everyone a little more comfortable?’
“There’s still lots that can be fine-tuned,” says Casselman.
In 100 years, there’s been a lot of tweaking to the space. “It’s just always been a slow transition to what it is now,” explains Casselman. “Going from vaudeville, to black and white (cinema), to colour, to then second-run movies… to sitting empty for a few years (before we got it),” he says.
Casselman doubles as the CEO and head talent buyer at the Park, but with programming over 300 days a year, they’re open to hosting events from weddings, private parties, socials and craft sales, to many music styles and performances. “It’s really about it being your space,” says Casselman. “Diversity’s always been our agenda.
“We’re going to make you feel comfortable and welcome, because we’re thankful that you’re here.”
Visit http://www.myparktheatre.com for upcoming events and ticket information. 

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