mmm, coffee

Here's something I really don't need but lust after anyway. Imagine an espresso con panna with a drizzle of caramel or fresh decaf americanos for the evenings - without leaving the house. Ivy thinks it would be the ultimate luxury to have steamed milk on demand. I might get tired of the barista lifestyle at home though. In any case, I might start doing some machine research and keep my eyes open for a used one some day. Or maybe I'll just keep walking to the coffee shop, it's good exercise.


wish list

Wish List

Just for interest's sake, since it's too late to be of any use to the people who actually do their shopping ahead of time, here are some items from my wish list. I started this post over two weeks ago but got mad because the pictures didn't go where I wanted them - they're still in the wrong spots but if I don't just get this up I'll have to change it into a what I got for Christmas list.

Partial donations, used, homemade and regifted items are welcome unless it's food...

- $$ towards a hockey camp I'd like to go to next August
- wines, cheeses and dark earthy breads
- hanging/wall mounted wine rack for up to 6 bottles (the wooden one is great, I threw the fancy one in for fun)
- stove top kettle with whistle so I don't forget it as often
- oxfam unwrapped presents

The Buy Nothing Christmas campaign makes me proud to be of Mennonite heritage but I fell short of the mark again this year. It's so hard to get off the gifting train when that seems like the way to show people you love them at this time of year. No matter how often we emphasize that it's not about the presents I feel like a schmuck not giving at least something to those I love, especially since they're all sending something my way. We're working on weaning ourselves off the cycle but for the time being I'm switching to largely home made or gently used items. Oh and yes, I'm not so enlightened that I don't like receiving stuff on occasion!


sunshine and belly dancing

This is kind of turning into a basic journal type theme but it feels better than waiting for that "perfect" topic to write about. Who is it I imagine is policing my blog to see if it is sticking to the stated topic? Too many years of school in me...

Woo hoo, sunshine! It was sunny most of the day on Sunday and it was heavenly - so good for the spirit. After lounging around and soaking in the rays through the windows we toured out to a new coffee shop in Penticton and checked out the Cannery building. I don't even know how to describe the place. It's an old warehouse that was being used as a low budget mall of sorts with a discount bakery (yikes), small engine repair shop and a locksmith all anchored by a local brewery - appropriately named Cannery Brewing. Someone had the vision to put a small theatre in the other end and now there are more artsy things going in like a traditional dance studio, bellydance/yoga studio, pottery shop, karate and gymnastics. Jeremy took some bizarre pictures and has posted them here.

The strangest part of this all was that a bellydance dvd was being shot in the building as we were there. Imagine walking down a deserted and kind of ugly hall lined with vintage videogames and suddenly you see several belly dancers in full costume casually strolling out of their studio and into the theatre, then you hear live middle eastern music start up. Very surreal. The costumes are amazing with their colours and jingles. It made me really, really want to continue learning belly dancing. I took a super basic community centre type course two years ago and loved it but didn't pursue it further at the time.

I could be a belly dancing hockey player. That would be quite something.


For personal photos of the festival check out the family site. It was fun and the weather was perfect. It snowed all day and tapered off as the evening was starting, nicely setting the mood. It was probably just around the freezing mark and we had no tears about being cold. Plenty of tears, yes, but not about being cold. I guess crowds and noise wouldn't be particularly fun for me either if I was less than 4 feet tall and couldn't really see what was happening. Ivy and I headed for home before the fireworks and watched together from the living room which is about the most comfortable way to do it.



It's about the zillionth cloudy day in a row down here in the valley and I'm beginning to recall why I occasionally miss winter in Winnipeg. Freakishly cold, but often sunny. It's also the time of year when our favorite Giant's Head mountain to the south blocks our direct sun (if it does shine) throughout the entire day. The brains are foggy and the first cold/flu of the season made it's rounds here over the past two weeks.


Despite the general whining and grim tone of my last post, life is actually really good and I'm looking forward to Summerland's "Festival of Lights" on Friday night. It sounds glamorous but essentially the town blocks off main street for walking & vendors and then plugs in the Christmas lights at 7pm. They have piped music in the background and later on some local talent takes the stage. It's got that cheesy/gotta love it Canadian small town vibe where you bump into almost everyone you know and sit on the curb to drink your hot chocolate when you get chilly (and then spill it all over leaving you colder and sticky). Last year we enjoyed the fireworks from the warm comfort of our living room window and might just do it again.


environmental defence

There's actually an organization called Environmental Defense. This is what they're about.

Environmental Defence protects the
environment and human health. We
research. We educate. We go to court
when we have to. All in order to
ensure clean air, safe food and thriving
ecosystems. Nationwide.

Nice to know someone is trying to do it. Might also be nice if the government stepped in too or, crazy as this sounds, maybe we take some responsibility ourselves for what we introduce into our homes and yards. Here's an excerpt from a CTV article on a recent report done by the Environment Defence.

The report, entitled Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadians finds that, no matter where Canadians live, how old they are or what they do for a living, they are contaminated with measurable levels of chemicals that can cause cancer, disrupt hormones, affect reproduction, cause respiratory problems or impair neurological development.

Does anyone wonder if some of that cancer research money would be well spent trying to get some of this crap from getting into people in the first place so that at least our kids have a chance? I guess it's inevitable for large numbers of us to get cancer from what's already in our systems so we're naturally focussed on finding a cure. I'm finding it hard to stay positive about the whole scenario, particularly since so much of it seems out of my control. Some days I wish I could stop caring and head off into ignorant bliss. Even the "back to the land" dream is a myth as the highest concentrations of toxins are often found up North, far away from their places of origin.

I'm hoping to come up with a bright spot to end this off on but I can't muster one. A good night of sleep (assuming I can get one) often brings a new perspective in the morning. Sunrise, birth of a new day and all that.

update: Here's a list of "Less Toxic Products" from Nova Scotia that you may want to keep in mind next time you shop.



- We saw the world premiere of "Independent America" tonite in Kelowna. I loved it, partly because it was produced in Kelowna of course but also because it inspired me to keep working at buying local. I know I sound like a broken record but I have to keep reminding myself because it takes more effort! (see following paragraph for clues as to why I'm back on the warpath) The payoff is always worth it as far as I know. I wonder how many lovely and tasty gourds I can store in my house over the winter without tripping over them.

- The concept of the more you are engaged in something, the more you energy you have has come up a few times lately with both my parents and with Jeremy. I just proved the theory for myself last week. It seems that I haven't been doing a lot of things on my own lately (my choice, nobody's fault) and I found that when I suddenly had a lot more work on my plate than usual I was making the time to do more interesting things and having all kinds of energetic ideas. That's on top of getting a lot of work done by the way. What's up with that?

- There were a lot more juicy tidbits I was saving to share but they must have gotten lost in the shuffle this week, along with my wallet. I am still hoping to find the wallet in the house so maybe the thoughts will come back as well.


I made one of those no-brainer self discoveries in my favorite spot for such things, The Beanery. I've been immersing myself in Christopher Alexander's work again and have tackled a heavy tome with the lofty title of "The Nature of Order, Book 3 - A Vision of a Living World". Let's be honest, I'm looking at the pictures and skimming the text when it looks compelling. The discovery part is that I connect to the world through colours the same way lots of people I know feel music. I don't know how to articulate it but I can look at a particular combination of colours and light infused with life and want to cry at the beauty of it, just like a haunting song. Maybe most people are like this but don't know how to express it either. The picture above is the closest thing to it I could find online at this late hour.

I think I've dissociated myself from the way colours and buildings/rooms affect people because it smacks of the consumer oriented home reno madness. Like so many good ideas, it's been commercialized. Why shouldn't we be paying careful attention to the boxes we call houses so that they actual take on the characteristics of a home and meet our needs rather than worrying about resale values?

Anyone who has ever seen me obsess over a quilt and enjoy throwing intensely coloured fabrics all over the floor in various combinations should enjoy a good chuckle over my little "discovery". I've clearly always loved colours but want to learn to just enjoy it for what it is and be comfortable with it being an emotional or even spiritual experience for me. Now it's starting to sound kind of like a self help book. Probably time for bed.


back on the ice

I'm delighted to report that I've once again suited up for the Summerland Ice Hawks women's hockey team (#18). Sounds official, doesn't it? We had a great practice today and I feel tired and wobbly but supremely happy. I don't know what I like best about it, getting to learn something new, finally playing hockey after talking about it for years, the casual comeraderie or the intense exercise. It's all good.

I'm thrilled when something I really love to do coincides with a healthy lifestyle. Playing hockey encouraged me to eat something healthy when I got home (it helped that Jeremy had the food ready) and got me thinking about heading to the gym to work on some muscle conditioning this fall. Another recent occurrence of that type of synergy was learning how much I enjoyed growing plants in summer - can't think of a better way to eat than picking things out of the tiny garden as I need them.

in honour of...

My little Ella Pearl turned two today. Not sure why that's so exciting except it more formally puts those baby years behind us. In the past month I've had the delight of ditching the crib, high chair and yes, diapers. I get the feeling I've written that somewhere already but it bears repeating as it dramatically affects my quality of life. I've taken on more work this month than usual and have even toyed with the concept of getting some kind of regular employment. The idea of any kind of full time job is terrifying and I have no intentions of that but Jeremy and I have always wanted a more eqitable distribution of work (inside/outside the home) and it seems like a reasonable time to start exploring that. The potential for growth and change is exciting even though I'm quite enjoying my role at home with the girls.

Jason, this post was inspired by you. I was mortified to learn that you check for a new post every day and decided I'd better come up with something fast.

See a few Ella birthday pictures here.


what's up with social work?

Perhaps I'm a rotten social worker. No, more accurately I'm a rotten traditional social worker. The underlying principles and aims I sunk my teeth into during school are dead on. The problem comes up for me when I get my quarterly BC Association of Social Worker's newsletter and I read the titles of the articles and seminars. Makes my skin crawl. Not that the issues aren't important or that it's poorly done, it just that most of it doesn't interest me personally, AT ALL. (Minor disclaimer, there was one article on adoption in this issue that is technically of interest to me, as I work in that field). There seems to be precious little content that doesn't directly pertain to a government position in family/correctional services or private counselling practice. Most of it is individual oriented and that is obviously not my area of interest. I think we should be out there making stuff happen at the group and community levels. Am I out there? I think that things like getting involved in the Summerland Citizen's Association and supporting their new link with Smart Growth BC counts as social work. There's a municipal election coming up with some very opposing views, I'm looking forward to that showdown.

Maybe I should write my own article for this little newsletter and see if it flies. That's an exciting challenge I think I may take up.

fall catch up

So about all that soul searching I was going to do about whether or not to keep blogging...didn't get to it because summer was so good. Jeremy and I decided to make his Headspace J sight an official family affair so if I have more family-ish stuff to say I'll post it there. If I have other things I want to record or share they'll go here, as I've been doing sporadically lately but hopefully more frequently now again.

My summer reading mostly consisted of gardens, plants and permaculture. It's something I discovered as a holistic concept back in March and it's really stuck with me. I have reached a point with my reading that is unfamiliar to me - some sort of overload paralysis. I walked into the library one night with the usual anticipation and as I browsed my favorite sections I got more and more agitated. I'm so sick of reading exciting things and then not doing them. I feel like I have enough knowledge and ideas for a lifetime of experimenting but lack the time, money, energy or just plain grit to get into it. Maybe all four or maybe only the last, after all it is much easier to talk about the dream than do it and I have a very well developed fear of failure.

In an effort not to beat myself up too badly I'd better note that I have done some small things. I'm committed to only growing plants that have at least two purposes (possible purposes include: edible, beautiful, medicinal, insect attracting, hedge, windbreak etc.). Aside from a section of select edibles they must all be drought tolerant. My dad helped us clear out a section of mostly dead and ugly junipers in June and we finally got around to putting some plants in despite the strata president's desire to turn everything everywhere into lawn. While we're on the topic of lawn, my opinion of it is that it's generally useless, water hungry and high maintenance. A small patch of high use and more drought tolerant grass for actual living and playing is great. Ornamental strips that are a pain to mow and nobody uses are an abombination.

Back to my little patch - we put in a native vine maple, saskatoon, blueberry and lavender. I transplanted some very hardy chrysanthemums in there as well and we'll see how they do. Once we get the extra topsoil/compost/mulch thing going on I'll put in some bulbs and echinacea and hopefully get a picture. Hmm, the bubs and chrysanthemums are apparently only for beauty and don't meet my criteria. They were cheap and plentiful in my own garden, maybe that should be another factor! It's a far cry from the "guilds" I read about in Gaia's Garden ( I love almost everything that Chelsea Green has published, as an aside) but it's a lot better than more lawn.

Underlying all this planning for plants and more ecologically sound living is general angst about committing to living in this spot. I simultaneously want to literally put down roots and stick around to see them mature at the same time as dreaming of a more "ideal" place to do it (um, could there be a more ideal place that where I actually am?) or more exciting would be to travel to various places to learn more and help others do it. I'm making it a goal to have visited the Kootenay Permaculture Institute by the end of next summer to get a sense of what that scene is like.


strawbale winery

I finally made my way into a strawbale building. The Orofino Winery is less than an hour away in Cawston so we made it the destination for a Saturday outing. John and Virginia Weber are the owner/operators and John was on duty the day we were there. He very graciously answered many questions that he's probably heard a thousand times and let the kids play with his son's wonderful toys (the son wasn't there to have his say in it).

The building was a lot like I expected and hoped it would be. The deep sills and thick walls delighted me most and the cool temperature on a smoking hot Okanagan day was impressive too. I still don't know if I would react to spending a lot of time in a strawbale building, as I'm so incredibly allergic to straw dust. The few minutes I was in the tasting room were fine but the doors were open and there was good airflow. The only thing about the whole scene that worried me was what I felt was a lingering smell of damp concrete (which incidentally, nobody else could smell). I think the building was only completed this year so perhaps it needs more time to cure? Also if the building was heated with wood in any way it would likely end up being on the dry side in short order.

My next stop on the strawbale circuit will be a strawbale fruitstand near Okanagan Falls...can't find a website but this one has a picture.


fruit season

I thought maybe a new template would get me all fired up to post again...we'll see. We're getting into the swing of fruit/veggie season and am trying to figure out the best way to try to preserve all this good local bounty. I have to learn to can or buy a freezer as far as I can tell. Freezing seems much easier but then you have to plug that sucker in all year. Does anyone have tips or personal experience with canning vs. freezing?



I think it's time to officially put the blog on hiatus for the summer. I'm obviously not using it and feel bad for anyone who might be faithfully checking to see if I'm put up a #@&# new post yet. I've been spending very little time on the computer at all which is kind of fun but means there are a lot of kernels of ideas slipping by undeveloped. I don't seem to use my paper journal for those sorts of things.

If I feel dramatically inspired I may add a post but it will definitely continue to be very light until fall at which point I'll reassess the whole thing.


self sufficient'ish'

Blog? I have a blog? Oh yeah...

I stumbled on a website that captured my recent sentiments lately, it's called self sufficient 'ish'. The solo style home steader sounds romantic and all, but I'm not up for the isolation (or back breaking work to be honest). Some of the recipes on the page look tasty, the simple veggie burger is one. I'm glad to see the tips for those who rent dwellings and and don't have the ability and/or desire to go off grid and out of town. It applies equally well to many of us in a strata or condo situation as well. Too bad it's UK focussed and not all transferrable information.


summerland letter

I wrote this letter to the Summerland municipal council today and thought it was relevant to the topic of this blog as well (community participation in town planning). I know letters of this nature are supposed to be shorter but I couldn't stop once I got going. I should also have included a specific call for action or at least a response - how do I forget these basic things? Fear of failure or looking dumb almost kept me from sending it altogether so in that respect I'm glad it's done. The written word (including this blog) is one of the few obvious areas in my life where I feel I battle with perfectionism.


late rambles

Hmm, to go to bed or make up a post out of thin air? The kids went to bed late so I feel I should stay up late to preserve some idea that I'm an adult. Or does this prove that I'm not? Nothing exciting to report except that Jeremy and I keep reading about civic development and urban planning and should really start our own town someday. It would have grand civic buildings and the perfect density of housing - no sprawl. We'd all have roof gardens and meet in the square for sing-songs and pot lucks every night.

I am getting carried away by the could have/should haves in the way our society is running. The real challenge is to define what it is I feel is missing and find a way to do something about it. My first step is to take care of the ground we have a stake in, by which I mean our common strata yard. It's all lawn and weeds. No bushes, trees or garden plots. It's not even useful for the kids to play on as all the lawn slopes toward a busy street. Guess where the soccer ball ends up? The next question is whether to run it through the proper channels or just start guerilla planting and see how long it takes for anyone to notice or care. A third option is to sanction and pay myself to do it since I'm strata treasurer. Probably some bylaw against it. Or criminal law for that matter....


do you dare?

Do you dare to check the potential health risks of your personal care products? I've already purged a lot from my bathroom shelves but I sense another round coming on...


principles and permaculture

I found principles that line up strongly with my own on a social work oriented site that draws heavily from permaculture. The little bit of time I've spent looking up permaculture for this entry has been exciting. There is another world open to exploration. It's word that corresponds to many of the values I hold and when you google it, a wealth of different pages come up than I've seen before. Computers facilitate the habits of learning junkies in a blissful way.

It's delightful to find that someone else has gone to the effort of writing up something that I would have liked to put together some day. Saves a lot of time. Some of it is a bit wordy to duplicate so I've edited or paraphrased in brackets.

-Evoke whole system sensitivity: (pay attention to whole cycles, not reduce everything to parts)

-Model ecologically-appropriate lifestyles for others to learn and mimic

-Cultivate wise diets: food systems greatly influence the health and welfare of people, place, and planet--as we are what we eat, be sure to carefully consider the origins and impacts of food choices;

-Use knowledge with humility: the more you learn, the less you will know -Practice inclusivity: embrace, affirm, and advance calls of justice for all human and more-than-human species--at once;

-Integrate competence, confidence, and consciousness: begin with what you know, learn as you go--devote time to reflect on how your actions rightly do more good than harm (all things considered);

-Most importantly--have fun: life is too short for boredom, burn-out,tedium, and the like--be sure to enjoy all of what you learn and do--a healthy mind, body, and spirit (and relationships) can then be enjoyed as well. Help to design and grow healthy organizations, communities, and institutions accordingly.

What? Have fun as a guiding principle? Sweet. Here's a beauty from the permaculture perspective

-Maximum effect for minimum effort: go slow and hone observation skills (enlist all senses) for keen theories and interpretations of system states--Mollison & Holmgren: "apply thoughtful and protracted observation, not thoughtless and protracted labour"


little consumers

I'm reading Born to Buy (Juliet B. Schor) about the mass marketing of products to children. It's not that it's so incredibly shocking but it's opening my eyes a little wider to smaller details and trends. It's highly relevant to me because my 16-month old is already recognizing various cartoon characters and Ivy (3) is very concerned about things being "girlish" enough for her (that makes my skin crawl). The kids do obviously watch some tv, but not hours and hours and not every day. In the CBC kids programming there is about a 5 second spot that says "brought to you by xxx" and Ivy picked up on that yesterday. I can imagine the chaos if there were toy commercials on. It's all pretty disturbing and makes we aware how steeped I am in this culture, nevermind the little ones just growing into it.


she shoots...

she scores! My first goal in a hockey game. It came in the first 30 seconds and I got another one in the next period. I should probably point out that the final score was in the realm of 10-0 to put some perspective on that. Hockey has been a blast this winter and I look forward to it all week. No, this entry has nothing to do with the main purpose of my website but I had to gloat somewhere.



As an update to an earlier post, my theoretical website focused on connecting people to local resources has entered the realm of the concrete. I'm gathering info and working on the structure. Jeremy and a fellow Summerlander are getting the ball rolling on a blog that we hope will evolve into a community jam session if you will. We're not sure how that's going to look either but I'll certainly post the link here when it's up and running. It feels good to be working on something rather than just ruminating endlessly.

Here is the Summerland Citizen's site.

pattern language

I've finally got my hands on "A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander. I'm floored. It's written in an unusual format that is easy to pick up anywhere and skip around a lot. Very useful with small children around. For a taste see this website. It's a huge work encompassing everything from the way a house should flow to the way a city should flow and all aspects of play and work in between. There are distinct connections between the way things work on a micro (personal) level and how it can most often can be repeated on a larger scale. As with so much of my reading it's a great inspiration and at the same time makes me impatient and frustrated with the way things are generally done. Simple, intuitive things like orienting the prime rooms of a house to the south can have such a huge impact on mental and social spaces.

More to follow as I delve deeper into the book.

green building formula

Before I begin - apologies for the even longer gap than usual between posts. Been hit with several cursed rounds of sickness in the Hiebert household...

The US Green Building Coucil (who knew?) has come up with a formula for assessing the relative impact a house or building project has on the environment. This blog post is a short summary of a discussion the author heard on the topic a few days ago. I love the anecdote about people putting more thought into the design of their doghouse than the one they live in. I suppose you are forced to take real factors like sun exposure into account if the doghouse won't have electricity...


the natural step

Isn't it odd how two seemingly separate ideas get fused by making one extra connection between them? I've been following civic politics lately as Summerland makes it's way through an official community plan. Ecological changes are obviously on my mind. In a moment of supposed serendipity I visited Robert Paterson's consulting site and followed his link to The Natural Step. The organization has developed an entire framework for communities to move towards sustainability and sums up their challenge like this:

The Challenge
Many of the social and environmental problems associated with the unsustainable patterns of production and consumption of modern society are manifested on the community level. Communities are where we live and work, and therefore where the impacts of our collective decisions about matters that affect our land, air and water become most obvious.

It's not a broad brush anti-development agenda and I really appreciate that because growth does happen. Canmore and Whistler are already on board and those are both resort towns that are growing. I checked the local library for one of the primers on The Natural Step program and was pleased to find that two of three district copies were already in the Summerland branch - there is hope!

I was both delighted and infinitely depressed to find out how far ahead communities are in Sweden. Can you imagine government inspired experiments in "green" and affordable housing? Subsidized alternative energy plants? A focus on making the towns pedestrian and bicycle oriented? I'm still more authority oriented than I would like to be, so to see a federal level government taking this seriously secretly affirms for me that I'm not some random deluded voice in the wilderness (even though I already know I'm not...).

So I wonder what it takes to run for council? ha.


active blogging

I've seeing a lot of discussion about the purpose and merit of blogs lately and have wondered about my own. It's ended up as an idea repository rather than anything interactive. That's okay as a record and means to reflect but isn't productive or particularly interesting. I have made it a goal to start something that is more interactive or at least disseminates information. Not sure exactly what it is or how it looks yet but it's one of the few 43 things I've decided on so far (I just started on my list yesterday so give me some time).

The last two paragraphs of Peter Levine's post on the press and social programs comments on the perceived divergence between the quantity of bloggers with strong leftish viewpoints on issues and the lack of people taking actual steps to do something active about it. Perhaps the ones that are really active aren't using their spare time to sit at a computer and blog?


Jeremy found this link goldmine for me. It is Greendigit's bloglines account that lets other people benefit from their background work.


vital communities

I love this post from the blog Respectful of Otters and what it says about community spaces. One person's eyesore (derelict house) becomes another's collective gathering place (front steps). It addresses what I see as the gap between intellectual urban planning and ground level community evolution. Her summary:
"Urban improvement plans which don't address differences of race, class, and culture are, essentially, suburban enrichment dressed up in urban language.

The idea ties in nicely for me with Jane Jacobs' vision of creating healthy cities by fostering the things and places that are already there.

Both Jane Jacobs' perspective and the post remind me of my ongoing internal conversation about the benefits of living right in the heart of a city or the peace of being closer to the trees and quiet that I need to stay sane. I think if I found or was able to help initiate my ideal vision of an urban community I would love it as much as I enjoy the quiet I have right now. It might look like the City Farmer's effort (along with the city of Vancouver) to return some asphalt into a "country lane".