Exploring Edmonton is a series in which I share adventures and discoveries in my new home in Alberta's capital city. View previous Exploring Edmonton features.

Given that my last big vacation was based completely around drinking as much tea as possible in Scotland, it's safe to say my love for all things steeped runs deep. When I heard that Edmonton would soon be graced by the presence of a new hotspot for tea devotees, I was ecstatic!

London Tea Bar is a haven for those of us who love anything brewed from the camellia sinesis plant, as well as flavourful herbal infusions, and even tea-flavoured ice creams. Visually speaking, what sets this place apart from other tea rooms is the utter lack of floral print, doilies and tchotchkes scattered about. Owner Shannon Mikolas describes her business as a contemporary tea bar, and the expansive, bright, and minimally adorned space certainly feels more modern and fresh than your average place to take tea.

Here, the emphasis is on serving the highest quality tea blends free from any sugars or additives. Mikolas believes the focus should be on the natural taste of the tea which, I can attest, is superb. They offer an extensive in-house line of teas, as well a selection from Toronto-based purveyor, Sloane Fine Tea Merchants. There is also a wide array of tools and accessories, from teapots to infusers. A recent collaboration with Edmonton farmer's market favourite Revolution Ice Cream resulted in the creation of several ice creams flavoured with their house blends. Stop in for a scoop for the perfect pick-me-up on a steamy summer afternoon.

Since opening its, London Tea Bar has been hosting a variety of special events, such as a showcase of work by Edmonton-based painter Amy Dixon (see below) as well as private tea tastings, and shopping pop-ups with other local businesses.

I for one am so happy to welcome London Tea Bar to Edmonton. It's a welcome addition to the vibrant Old Strathcona neighbourhood, and its products will be quickly filling up my cupboards.


Once in while, a dream project comes along and I just have to do it! When Amanda and Danielle told me about "Friend Soup" i.e. the best friends portrait session they were dreaming about before Danielle moved to New Zealand, I was ecstatic and knew I had to photograph it. Please keep reading to hear all the details from Amanda herself!

What does the phrase "Friend Soup" mean, and where did it originate?

Friend Soup originated in a balcony jacuzzi tub in Puerto Vallarta in May 2015. My partner's cousin was getting married in Mexico, and after getting all ready and purchasing the tickets, he was unable to make it. With three days notice, Danielle agreed that she would pack her bags and join me for a week on the beach (with family that isn't mine, and she had never met!) We spent one day awfully sick (we were told 'don't drink the water' and learned the hard way that you also don't wash your fruit with the water) and managed to get to Mexican Wal-Mart to get some crackers, ginger ale and cup o'noodles.

Danielle ran the bath, full of bubbles and invited me to join her for 'friend soup', where we enjoyed a soak in the bubble-filled tub and a snack of cup o noodles!

Why did you decide to do a best friends portrait session?

Our friendship continued to grow after Friend Soup, and we have shared in many adventures. On March 18th, 2017, Danielle and her husband Steve were set to make the journey to Auckland to begin their life as New Zealanders. We wanted a way to commemorate some of our favourite things, including sharing snacks like burgers and hot dogs, indulging in a bottle of wine or drink together, doing our hair and makeup to get ready for a day or night out (or in...), and of course, to recreate the magic that was 'Friend Soup'

We could not have asked for a better network of women to work with. From Jenn and Mike's beautiful home which they generously allowed us to take over for the afternoon (Mike even scrubbed the bathtub to be spic and span!), Dallas's ever impressive skills as a photographer and director, and Jenn and Katryna's willingness to help with props, we had an unforgettable afternoon.

Jenn pointed out something that we may not have noticed on our own, and something I am incredibly grateful for. This photoshoot, from the planning to experience to product, was an exercise in self-care. This project was for us, we designed it, we found the best resources and people to help us execute our plan and we are ever so grateful to Dallas for making our vision come to life.

How did you prepare for your portrait session?

We had many ideas (most of them snack-related) about how we wanted to take our friendship and capture it in photographs to be enjoyed for years to come.  I had some ideas of how I wanted to style the shoot and our Friend Soup Pinterest board was a great inspiration! Most important was having a location that gave us many options so that we could get the most from one space. Jenn and Mike's home gave us the dining room, the living room (with the incredible art!), a bar, a bedroom, a bathroom and a tub! We could not have asked for a better space.

On the day of the shoot, we made a list of all the 'poses' we wanted to stage and all the outfits and props and ran down the list one by one. Dallas was so organized and patient with us as we figured it out. The shoot in and of itself was an unforgettable experience (I imagine in 10 years, doing a photoshoot to recreate the photoshoot of friend soup...very meta).

Can you talk about the experience being photographed with your bestie?

I love my niΓ±a. She is the best and the whole experience of being photographed felt natural and like a normal experience of us hanging out together (with the added bonus of Dallas telling me to stick out my chin and elongate my neck - thanks Dallas!).

This is one of my favourite experiences and I think more women (and people!) should do this! 

Many people think of having professional photos for branding, engagement and wedding parties, children and family photos, but why does it have to stop there? This photoshoot engaged us both before and during the shoot to articulate the things we have in common - things that seem very natural, but are so important to us. Dallas captured my niΓ±a and me in so many wonderful ways, and she got some insight into our friendship that I was happy to share with her and want others to see as well. 

What was it like receiving your images and looking at them together?

We. Were. Floored. Dallas put the icing on our Friend Soup cake by having all our images ready for the day before Danielle flew to New Zealand. I received the email gallery, started to look and had to stop - it didn't feel right to look at them alone! I headed over to her apartment and amidst all the suitcases and boxes she was packing, we stopped and went through the images one by one. The images were perfect, and the experience of looking at them together brought us so much joy (and so much laughter). To be able to see these photographs was so special, and we both look at them all the time. I think so fondly of Danielle and of this experience.

Any other thoughts you'd like to share!

I call Danielle my "adult best friend". We did not grow up together, or go to K-12 school together. We didn't meet in University. We met when we were 25 at LUX Beauty Boutique as we both worked there part time. 

To me, an adult best friend is hard to find, but it is so valuable. Danielle is not a friend of circumstance, she is a friend I chose (and she chose me!). We spent time together outside of LUX and share with each other our lives and experiences and create new ones together.

Think about the last time you met another adult and said "I think we should be friends". It doesn't happen that often, and it isn't easy. So our friendship required some bravery, some risk-taking, and the payoff was huge. 

We text everyday. We send each other short videos of what is happening in our lives, and we share stores and pictures. We Facetime on a weekly basis, and I'm planning a trip to New Zealand for December 2017 to celebrate New Years on the beach.

Lastly, a friend of mine, Pamela, speaks about the "Nana Diaries" - a collection of stories of the things you did in your youth that if you have kids / grandkids, they will go "really Nana? You did WHAAT?" The Friend Soup Photobook is something that I want out on my coffee table for years to come and I want to take it to the old age home with me in 60 years. I want young people to see the book and say "really? that's you? What is Friend Soup?" to which I will say "get me a mama burger and a cup of noodles and I'll tell you a story from the Nana diaries". 

Thank you so much for inviting me to document your beautiful friendship, Amanda and Danielle! 


Exploring Edmonton is a series in which I share adventures and discoveries in my new home in Alberta's capital city. View previous Exploring Edmonton features.

The Beauty Parlour is one of my happy places. It's the place where I go when I need to refresh my look, where I am welcomed with warmth and great conversation, where I enjoy a latte while getting my locks all fixed up. It's also the place where my hair colour was rescued!

As anyone who colours their hair may know, moving to a new city and finding a new colourist can be very challenging. In each city I've lived in, its always been a series of trial and error until I found my dream hairstylist. By the end of my time in Montreal, Madison and Toronto, I'd found a hair kindred spirit who I knew I could count on to create something beautiful, and my last visit with each talented lady before a move was quite emotional for me. Great hair can be hard to come by, so when you find a person who works magic with your tresses, you hold on to them! Shoutout to Anka in Montreal, Rosalee in Madison, and Nicole in Toronto.

I was not lucky with my first two hair colour (mis)adventures in Edmonton, and I was desperate to find someone who could help me save my hair from it's patchy, orange state. Luckily, Lane from Pura Botanicals recommended The Beauty Parlour and I ended up in Kirsten's chair for colour correction.  It was a process that took three visits and excellent planning and precision from Kirsten. Afterwards, I am happy to report that my hair looks pretty lovely and continues to look better with each subsequent visit as any remnants of the old disastrous colour grow out.

The Beauty Parlour's doors have been open to happy customers for eight years. Situated in Edmonton's Old Strathcona neighbourhood, it is a sunlit space on the second floor of a building on the always bustling Whyte Avenue.

Owner and senior stylist Desiree Liley has created a space that's closely aligned with her eco-conscious  and "beauty with a conscience" philosophies. The salon's dΓ©cor is all made from salvaged and repurposed materials, which creates an atmosphere that is as warm and chic as it is eclectic and whimsical. The flooring, for example, is made from reclaimed wood from a local grain elevator.

It was one of Edmonton's first salons to strictly use ammonia-free hair colour, and it maintains its "clean air salon" atmosphere, using products that have low scent properties and chemical emanations. The safer hair colouring products are also appropriate for clients with sensitivities or expectant or nursing mothers. For styling, they primarily use Kevin Murphy products, which are sulphate free, paraben free and cruelty free.

I look forward to every visit, as I always leave with a spring in my step and fabulous hair.

Take a look around this magical space! Thank you to Desiree and Raquel for inviting me in to photograph The Beauty Parlour, and thanks to Kirsten for helping me find my way to great hair.


I was recently commissioned by Edmonton-based painter Amy Dixon to do some portraits and studio images for her and it was a dream shoot for me! To meet Amy is to adore her, and to see her work is to want to fill every wall in your home with it.

We planned out a Sunday afternoon shoot in her home and studio that would include a range of outfits and beauty looks, headshots, photos of her at work creating her vibrant pieces, and generally just a collection of images that she could use for her website and social media.

I did her makeup and Amy did her own hair and styling. She chose a beautiful selection of vibrant outfits, which coordinated perfectly with the colour palette of her work. And of course, I invited her sweet kitty to join in our shoot. Pets are always the best sidekicks in portraits, in my opinion.

Amy, I feel so lucky that you found me! Your are such an inspiration.

See more of Amy's work on her website, and be sure to follow her on Instagram @amydixonart.