Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tactical Suburbanism: the Highest Point Pop-Up Playground project

[27 May 2015 update: We are extremely grateful to accept a Project Accelerator Grant from Make Something Edmonton for this project! However, we are switching our attention to a different location, due to permit problems with the original site. Please read on for the details of our revised project on the new site.]
[12 June update: We now have a Facebook event page! Also, we're modifying our plans slightly. Look for the crossouts and text in purple below to see how we've changed things.]
[5 July update: I've posted some tips based on what I learned and a Storify of all the #DIYcity over on The Local Good's blog!]

(sign created by our collaborator Green Spectacle Creations)
We want to create a pop-up adventure playground and transitory community-created art installation to animate Rabbit Hill Natural Area for #DIYCity Day. (Here's our Make Something Edmonton project page.) Won't you help us use the ideas of tactical urbanism to create a family-friendly suburban event? 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tactical Suburbanism: the Bridge To Somewhere Pop-Up Playground project

[27 May 2015 update: we're grateful to accept a Project Accelerator Grant from Make Something Edmonton for this project! However, it turns out the land at The Bridge To Nowhere is owned by the Province of Alberta, and we cannot get a permit for land use in time for #DIYCity - so we are switching our attention to a different site on City of Edmonton parkland. If there is a DIYCity2016, we will attempt to get permits for the Bridge To Nowhere site and carry out the original idea then. Our new proposed site is at Magrath Park and Rabbit Hill Natural Area - please read our latest blog post for more details.]

We want to create a pop-up adventure playground and transitory community-created art installation to animate The Bridge To Nowhere for #DIYCity Day. (Here's our Make Something Edmonton project page.) Won't you help us use the ideas of tactical urbanism to create a family-friendly suburban event? 
This is the view of the underpass from the top of the hill on the north side of Anthony Henday Drive. The pedestrian underpass access is on the east bank of Whitemud Creek, and it's suspended about 7 feet above the creek. 
Who: We're an as-yet-unnamed collective of artists looking for collaborators and volunteers to make this thing happen. (If that's you, please leave a comment below and I will get in touch!) We are passionate about creating a series of pop-up play places in both urban and suburban neighborhoods that activate underused or lost public spaces and create feelings of community connectedness. We see Bridge To Somewhere as the first installation in a series.
What: Bridge To Somewhere Pop-Up Playground will be a pop-up adventure playground, transitory community-created art installation (chalk and wheatpaste), and solar-lit textile art installation under The Bridge To Nowhere. It will be paired with a temporary slide down the grassy steep path on the south side of the highway, and a mix of temporary and permanent wayfinding and interpretative signs along the paths that help people find the spot while informing them about the ravine's cultural and natural history.
When: June 21st, 10am to 6pm
As you can see once you get closer to the underpass, there are broad grassy areas used as maintenance vehicle access roads along both sides of the creek that could work well as pop-up play spaces.
The view back through the underpass from the south side.
The south-eastern end of the pedestrian underpass bridge is rockier.

This steep grassy hill on the south side of the bridge is well-suited to a temporary slide installation.
Where: The Bridge To Nowhere is a pedestrian underpass on Whitemud Creek Ravine under Anthony Henday Drive that is not yet connected to paved multiuse or pedestrian trails. The Whitemud Creek Ravine overpass on Anthony Henday Drive is located at 53.428738, -113.563197 on Google Maps (you can kind of see it in Streetview). Its' design and construction is described at and the adjacent ecologically-sensitive parkland is described at
Currently this is a completely lost space, connected only to dirt paths and used by street artists and teen taggers, City employees painting out the work of said taggers (last done in approximately July 2013), and the occasional dog walker. The infrequency with which graffiti is painted out has effectively made this one of Edmonton's secret free walls, so we'll be riffing on that with kid-friendly impermanent street art techniques.
Existing tags have been created using spray paint or adapted fire extinguishers.

Access will be via paved multiuse paths and dirt paths, and we will encourage those who need parking to use the lot at the strip mall at the corner of Rabbit Hill Road and Mullen Way, then follow the wayfinding markers along the paths from the suburban residential neighborhood through parkland to the highway underpass.
This gravel path, and the section that follows that has retained its battered asphalt, was once part of Rabbit Hill Road before the streets were reconfigured to accommodate the building of Anthony Henday Drive and the residential neighborhood.
The location is on the boundary of the former Papaschase Reserve, near a nature sanctuary and a former coal mine, so we plan to use wayfinding, art, and playhouse creation to help foster connection with the natural and material history of the place. We hope to reclaim the place's historical importance and foster social investment in the ravine with the pedestrian underpass as a focal point.
Why: By creating a common focus (creative play) in an unusual setting, barriers between community members can be dissolved in a low-stakes but intentional way, and neighborhood identity can be discovered. In newly built suburban neighborhoods, this process can be especially helpful in giving community members a sense of belonging and engagement that we hope will encourage civic identity and involvement.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My 2015 Goals and 2014 Year-in-Review

My top 20 goals for 2015, in no particular order:

1. more dyeing

2. more hooking
3. more creating
4. more connecting
5. more community-building
6. more self-care
7. more deliciousness
8. more dancing
9. more writing
10. more travel
11. more organizing
12. more making
13. more learning
14. more gardening
15. more togetherness
16. more decorating
17. more sunlight
18. more bike rides
19. more doggy walkies
20. more love

I'm going into 2015 feeling a bit burnt-out. Last year I said yes to too many projects; this year, I need to set boundaries and delegate more things and be kinder to myself. So maybe that list above looks like too much. However, that "more more more" list above really boils down to this: choosing only things that reduce my stress or bring me more joy. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Family Recipe: White Sugar Cookies

I had the pleasure of attending the annual Slow Food Edmonton sugar cookie bake on Candy Cane Lane this holiday season. From our host Cynthia, I learned two tricks for baking sugar cookies: roll them out with extra icing sugar (instead of flour) on the countertop to keep the dough from getting too dry, and use a sil-pat sheet to keep them from sticking to the cookie sheet. Seriously, the sil-pat worked like magic, but parchment paper works almost as well.

Cynthia has a snail-shaped cookie cutter. THE CUTEST.
This is the recipe I made in advance to bring with me: the classic "white sugar cookie" recipe that came to me from my husband's grandmother, Delma (nee LeBlanc) Vienneau, via his aunt Lorraine (Vienneau) Miller. We're not sure how old it is. Aunt Lorraine also had adapted the recipe, so I'll append her version to this post. This is the doubled original recipe.

4 cups sifted wheat flour (I use half unbleached all-purpose, and half organic "soft white" flour from local growers Gold Forest Grains)
2 cups white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter

Preheat over to 350F / 180C.

Sift then measure flour. Add baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt to flour.

In another bowl: cream the butter until soft and smooth. Add while mixing: sugar, vanilla, eggs, then flour mixture (a bit at a time).

(The dough can be chilled or frozen - or used right away.)

Roll on a lightly floured board to about a quarter-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 10 or 12 minutes. You may sprinkle with sugar before baking if desired - or decorate with icing once cooled.

Aunt Lorraine's adapted sugar cookie recipe:

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda (not baking powder!)
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup shortening (instead of butter or margarine)
1/4 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients (except sugar).
Cream shortening until soft. Add while mixing: sugar, eggs, vanilla.
Add 1/4 of flour mix, mix well, then add 1/2 of milk and mix well.
Add 1/2 of remaining flour, mix well, add rest of milk, mix, then add rest of flour and mix until all traces of flour disappear.
If dough is too soft to handle, add extra flour.
Roll to about 2 cm thick, cut and bake 10-12 minutes at 350F / 180C.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

DIY organic, allergen-safe lip balm

My daughter wanted to make lip balm! After reading scads of recipes and lots of ingredient labels, here is the recipe I came up with. It is most heavily influenced by these three because of the ingredients I chose to use; you'll probably want to adjust the ratios based on your preferences and ingredients. 

the ingredients we used
My daughter is allergic to peanuts, so I looked for organic ingredients with super-clear allergen labelling. This brand of cocoa butter and coconut oil says it may contain tree nuts, but is free of peanuts, gluten, dairy, and a bunch of other things. Different people have different sensitivities and allergies; for tree nut allergies, you'd need to switch to other soft waxes and carrier oils to make the lip balm base.

Allergen-Safe Lip Balm Recipe
1-2 tsp organic beeswax (or soy wax to make it vegan) < hard wax is added to make tubes of lip balm that won't melt in your pocket or during summer heat, you can use less if you like it softer and creamier or glossier
2-3 tsp pure organic cocoa butter 
2-3 tsp organic coconut oil 
optional: a few drops (say, 6-12) of peppermint oil, or lemon oil, or almond oil, or cocoa powder, or matcha powder, or whatever other flavouring agent you desire (alcohol extracts may not mix in properly)
optional: 1 tsp organic creamed honey (liquid honey may not mix in properly)
optional: a few drops of vitamin E oil (cut open capsules) - to act as an antioxidant so it takes longer to spoil, and to promote lip healing; some people use tea tree oil instead
optional: pigment: powder from beets or cranberries, or mineral pigments (like, say, a good-quality mineral blush) (we used a locally-made organic lip gloss as our source of pigment)

If you prefer a shiny gloss instead of a waxy cream, you can reduce or skip the beeswax and use more aqueous ingredients (liquid honey or maple syrup, aloe vera, flavour extracts instead of oils, fruit juices instead of powdered pigments for colour), and change the container accordingly.

Clean and sterilize all your tools and containers:
small saucepan / stainless steel measuring cup / mason jar to melt your wax mixture in (you may want to use something only for this if you're doing it more than once), double boiler style - we used an actual double boiler
containers: food- and cosmetic-safe - we got ours at a local craft store, and ran them through the dishwasher.
a stainless-steel chopstick or whisk for stirring
a dropper/pipette (or a glass liquid measuring cup with pour spout) for transferring the balm or gloss into your containers without spillage

our base mixture melting in a double boiler
Slowly melt ingredients in a double boiler - most people melt the hard wax (beeswax) first, then add the rest of the base ingredients. Since I wanted to try more than one flavour, I melted and mixed the base (50g (one box) of the cocoa butter, then the same amounts of beeswax and coconut oil using the cocoa butter as my guide), then divided in half by pouring the melted base into a glass measuring cup before adding my optional ingredients (honey, vanilla extract and the pale pink lip gloss for a slightly shiny hint-of-tint lip gloss, and lemon flavour (lemon oil + sunflower oil) for the other half). 

Cool slightly, give it one last good stir to make sure ingredients aren't separating, and fill your chosen containers. If you need to test it, you can dip a teaspoon that you've left in the freezer into your balm at this point; if the consistency is wrong, you may want to set some aside to use as a moisturizing lotion or cuticle cream before you start adjusting proportions.

Cool the filled containers in the fridge or freezer (although ours started to solidify at room temperature). Label, if desired, and enjoy.

Our finished product after cooling at room temp for only 10 minutes

On DD's lips, the base that we added tinted lip gloss to - just a hint of tint and shimmer. Perfect!
Note: This post is part of my nonconsecutive #30DaysOfMaking Challenge.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Arleen Brown's beautiful hooked rugs

While I was home visiting family this summer, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with my maternal grandmother's sister, Arleen Brown, who is still hooking gorgeous mats in her nineties despite blindness in one eye. Aunt Arleen learned to hook from my great-grandmother while growing up near Lunenburg, and still closely adheres to the traditional South Shore Nova Scotian techniques (also described in the print edition of Rug Hooking magazine, in the Canadian Connections article about Leslie Langille's rugs)(Vol. XXV, No. 5, March/April/May 2014). Her designs are drawn onto burlap backing, the edges are turned under and crocheted to finish and hide them, and then the mat is stretched on a frame and the design is hooked right to the edge, perfectly even, with no backing showing, and straight lines used for the background. They are a technical tour-de-force.

Arleen showing us photos of her other rugs.
An antique pattern from the Eaton's catalogue that her mum had given her to hook as a young woman. She had me trace this onto red dot fabric so she can rehook it, now that the original backing has become brittle and started to shred.

Chickens are one of her favourite subjects.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Three More Weeks In Nova Scotia

We managed to squeeze in another long visit in Nova Scotia this summer. As I've written previously, our goal is to help our kids connect with their family and their roots. We spent almost all our time hangout out with our extended family this time, and the visit included a family wedding on one side and an anniversary party on the other. Now that they are older, we also wanted to give them a sense of the history of the region, so we made a side trip to Cape Breton to visit the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck and the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Solomon Gundy at Magnolia's Grill in Lunenburg - their scallops were the best I have ever tasted.
A beautiful day at Martinique Beach
Sunset reflected on a distant thunderhead at Lawrencetown Beach
The view of a glassy Bay of Fundy from my grandparents' house in Port Greville
Cape Split at low tide from the beach at Port Greville, with the help of a zoom lens
Five Islands Lighthouse Park
Five Islands at low tide and sunset. Glooscap threw these clumps of mud at Beaver.
A Cheticamp table mat in our cottage in Baddeck.
Twist, cross, twist, cross. Learning bobbin lacemaking at the Fortress of Louisbourg.

One of several period kitchen gardens at the Fortress.
Learning to trout fish at a local lake
Ferry ride across Halifax Harbour to have coffee with a friend
Supper at the Old Orchard Inn after a long day of visiting family
One last walk at Lawrencetown Beach