EXPLORING EDMONTON | LONDON TEA BAR

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.

EXPLORING EDMONTON | THE BEAUTY PARLOUR

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 décor 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.

EXPLORING EDMONTON: VALENTINE'S DAY DATE IDEAS

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

As a photographer who documents love on a regular basis, it may come as no surprise that I have a soft spot for Valentine's Day. Everything from the gaudy red and pink paraphernalia to the dazzling array of sweets on offer, and of course the occasion to show appreciation for your partner. Yes, it's a commercial holiday, but I'm in the business of celebrating love, so embrace or discard the cheesiness as you will, but why not take the opportunity to do something fun with the person you adore?

For the latest installment of my Exploring Edmonton series, I teamed up with luxury consignment boutique Blogger Armoire to dream up a few ideas for Valentine's Day dates you could enjoy here in Edmonton. If you're ambitious, you could theoretically do all five activities in one day, or you could spread them out over the week and make the holiday last a little longer. In case you're looking for ideas for this weekend or VDay itself, I visited some of my favourite spots around the city in different looks from Blogger Armoire to offer you a few date suggestions!

All clothing and styling is courtesy of Blogger Armoire.

Photography by my own valentine, Brian.

First up, we visited Credo to start the day with delicious coffee and cake. I am continually drawn to this café for its clean, modern design, peaceful atmosphere, and of course its excellent beverages and snacks. My favourite things to order are the London Fog and ginger pear muffins. They have a devoted clientele of regulars, which adds to the cozy, friendly, neighbourhood feeling of the place.

Outfit details: top (Alice + Olivia)

Next up, we decided to explore the surrounding neighbourhood of 124th Street. This is one of my favourite areas of Edmonton due to the selection of independent boutiques, excellent dining options, world class bakeries, cozy coffee and tea houses and all sorts of other amenities. It's the area I go to most often to run errands and to relax.

Outfit details: joggers (Vince), poncho (Isabel Marant), sweater (Wilfred), boots (Fossil)

Next, I purchased tickets to the Ice Castle, which is located in the heart of Edmonton's Hawrelak Park in the river valley. It was our second time visiting this spectacular structure, and we marvelled at how it was even more beautiful than last year. We wandered the many icy curves and tunnels, and shared hot chocolate and fresh mini donuts beside the fire. It was chilly but very fun and romantic.

Outfit details: coat (Alice + Olivia), blouse (Phillip Lim), Skirt (Chloé), boots (my own, vintage)

One of our favourite things to do is catch a movie at Metro Cinema at the historic Garneau Theatre. It's right by the University of Alberta, so it's always a great after-work date option for us. The setting is lovely and the popcorn is top notch!

Outfit details: skirt (Sacai), leather moto jacket (The Kooples), top (Raquel Allegra)

The finale for our string of dates was a visit to the gorgeous Clementine for cocktails and dessert. To me, the French Art Nouveau-inspired design is perfection. You couldn't ask for a more romantic place to sip drinks and share stories with your sweetheart. On top of that, their cocktails are some of the best I've tasted. They have a creative selection of drinks, but our favourites so far have been their matcha-infused Verte, their luxe, smoky take on a banana daiquiri and Provence, an aromatic delight. All in all, it's an ideal place to cap off your Valentine's Day celebrations. 

Outfit details: dress (Issey Miyake), shoes (Stuart Weitzman), bucket bag (Chloé)

Thank you very much to Blogger Armoire for all the lovely clothing and accessories you provided!

EXPLORING EDMONTON | MAISON CREME DE LA CREME

Maison Crème de la Crème is not your average beauty boutique. In both its opulent setting and unique product line, there is nothing standard about its approach. When owner Akosua Nyarko was conceptualizing her shop, she planned to offer products that couldn't be found anywhere else, which is what led her to focus on customized beauty goods.

For example, a customer can arrive at their newly opened beauty lounge in Sherwood Park, AB with a specific idea or even a vague imagining of a lipstick shade, and Nyarko and her team will whip up an entirely customized lipstick right in front of her eyes. They also offer custom face oils and self-guided fragrance creations, as well as nail glosses, hair extensions, ready-to-wear perfumes and a large variety of mink eyelashes.

The lashes, which were their first products, have developed a cult following through online sales before the opening of the beauty lounge. They've been worn by many celebrities, most notably by Rihanna (!!!) and are also stocked by Edmonton's LUX Beauty Boutique.

I recently dropped by the beauty lounge for a tour and to experience a custom lipstick creation. The process began with a conversation about what kind of lip colour I had in mind. I told them I prefer bold colours, but was open to anything they thought might look nice for the holiday season. One of Crème de la Crème's makeup artists, Sondra, began the design process with me by mixing together various "colour truffles" on a palette until she reached a desired shade. She created three options for me and invited me to try each on in turn. Keep reading to see which one I chose!

Yes, in the end I chose the darkest shade of the three, a deep berry colour. I loved the pink and nude tones, but this one seemed just right for an evening look for the holidays! Once we decided on the colour, I was asked to choose a scent that could be added to the lipstick. I decided on "sugared strawberry."

Above, you can see the colour applied at full intensity, straight from the tube. The formula is matte but very creamy so it glides on easily. Below, I've blotted is off a bit with a tissue for a more muted, stained effect, which has a lot of staying power. Sondra recorded the exact recipe she used to create my custom colour and stored it in my customer file, so when I am ready for a refill, (which I will be!) it's all in their records.

While Sondra completed the mixing and moulding process of the full-size lipstick, I had an opportunity to explore the space a little more. As I mentioned, nothing about Maison Crème de la Crème is ordinary, so it's not surprising that Nyarko had all the furniture and packaging custom designed to her specifications. The result is a rococo-inspired wonderland that is as comfortable as it is ethereal.

Aksoua, thank you so much for inviting me to visit your magical space and experience the joy of a custom lipstick creation. I can't wait to come back!

Maison Crème de la Crème 

Unit 182-150 Chippewa Road

Sherwood Park

Facebook  //  Instagram