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Archive for the ‘Learnings’ Category

“The Peel” artist expedition highlights shifting Canadian values

In Learnings on October 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Photo: Joel Luet

Calder Cheverie isn’t one to be pigeon-holed. Neither is is his latest project.

The 27-year old Ontario-born Vancouverite with a background in summer camp and outdoor education is also a wilderness guide, photographer and filmmaker. Ask him what he identifies with most, and he’ll give you the 30,000-foot view.

“I just want to inspire reflection and self worth in people. Creating experiences in nature, and capturing stories about their experiences, is the way I know how to empower them.”

Fortunately for six Canadian artists, he’s done just that with the The Peel Project. Calder and producer, Tony Wallace, led a crew of 12 this past September, in canoes full of camping gear and film equipment, from Whitehorse to Northern Yukon and down the Peel River to experience one of the last intact watersheds in Canada. And they did it while 71% of the watershed is potentially threatened by development, should the Yukon Supreme Court rule in favour of the Territorial government later this month.


Photo: Anthony Wallace

But as Calder makes clear (through all the grant applications, crowd-funding campaigns and personal savings withdrawals), the project is not a direct advocacy campaign for the Peel watershed, just like the development of the watershed itself is not a regional dispute. According to Calder, this is an issue of national values.

“If an incredible amount of our vast wilderness is slated for development, does the story we tell about ourselves as Canadians change?”


Photo: Joel Luet

Hence the six artists from urban Canada — a musician from Toronto, a writer from Vancouver, a visual performer from Calgary, a glass welder from Toronto, a photographer from Toronto and an illustrator from Calgary — were provided paddle training, water-tight supplies and enough guidance to safely experience “wilderness” to produce their own expression about the impact of political-economic decisions in “the north” on the romantic narrative of “the south”.

Calder is the first to admit that artist expeditions aren’t new. Since before Canada’s birth as a country, artists have reflected on our national worth, often articulating values that the average Canadian takes for granted — our untouched wilderness being just one.

But unlike historical artist expeditions that parachuted in, “captured art” and left without return, The Peel Project will screen the doc and show the art exhibit in the Yukon communities that hosted them and shared their lives so generously.

“The Peel Project invests,” says Calder. “Yes, we will share it with communities across the country. That’s part of our objective. But the other vital part is to maintain lasting connections, and we’ll do that by sharing the project in the communities where we were first accepted, and by giving of ourselves.”


Photo: Joel Luet

Now with the outcome of the Peel Watershed court case poised to ripple across the country, Calder is back in Vancouver editing the doc and reflecting on the 10 days he and Tony spent after the trip interviewing local First Nations and conservation advocates in the Yukon.

“If only loosely, The Peel Project contributes to a fight that our friends and partners in the North feel very passionately about. The main intention is to engage in a conversation about national collective values with Canadians—through film, art and science. It’s not about tearing apart our identity. It’s about looking at how our values are shifting, and recognizing that decisions made on a provincial, territorial and national scale do impact the character of the nation as a whole.”

So which way does he think the Supreme Court ruling will go?

“I have a feeling the Supreme Court ruling will end in a forced compromise between the government’s proposed Land Use Plan and the 2011 recommended plan that resulted from the territorial inquiry and was agreed upon by First Nations.”

And, when asked if that will be good or bad, his response is again from the top:

“That’s for Canadians, both in the north and in the south, to decide.”

— — —

In addition to The Peel Project, Calder Cheverie is the founder of Our Nature Foundation and co-founder of the Vancouver Outdoor School. Contact Calder at to book a screening of the film and exhibit of the art show or invite Calder to speak at your event. More information:


Calder with partner and The Peel’s lead scientist, Emma Hodgson.

I do it for the stories

In Doings, Learnings on July 2, 2013 at 8:37 AM


For the last nine months, I have been organizing, wrangling, negotiating, pitching, designing, coding and sharing my passion project, Community Catalysts.

It’s a retreat series for everyday changemakers. And it’s the most rewarding work of my career so far.

Community Catalysts was created as an antidote to the negative effects of our reality. Modern realities like nature deficit, urban isolation and creative withdrawal.

These realities get me stuck. And I believe they get my community stuck, too.

My friends and colleagues, Jeff Willis and Janey Chang, felt the same way. Sure, we were inspired by the people and ideas of Vancouver’s typical networking events, professional development conferences and TED-like talks. But we were starving to learn actionable knowledge.

Plus, we wanted a time and place to share these tools, tricks and techniques while making immediate positive change in our everyday lives. We didn’t want to get together and moan anymore. We wanted to take all that inspiration and make something of it with our own hands.

And what better place to do all this, we thought, than amongst the most humbling of teachers — Mother Nature.

In August, 2012, we took stock of what tools and techniques we each had. Jeff runs a beautiful nature sanctuary in Howe Sound known as Camp FircomJaney had a thematic vision to guide our hands-on learning. And I love communicating and connecting all of the above.

jeff_bw_circle  Janey Chang_circle   jocelyn_bw_circle

In April 2013, we offered our first retreat, Sacred Earth.

There, amongst the Pacific ocean and Alder trees, 40 ‘changemakers’ shared their fun, creative and tangible knowledge through hands-on experiences. We learned about mentoring, art therapy, courage, adversity, ceremony, self-care, entrepreneurship, and probiotic fermentation. Facilitators got participants using their tools and resources immediately, and participants got facilitators thinking bigger and listening harder.

We had no expectations of this retreat. We were just bringing a dream to fruition and hoped others shared it.

Turns out, others did share our dream. And they’ve continued to share it since returning to the city.

Since April, we’ve seen our 40 retreat attendees turn first encounters into monthly potlucks, strangers into friendships, friendships into business partnerships, work into passion, ideas into projects, and (my favourite impact) curious participation into workshop facilitation at our next retreat this July.

This residual, positive impact is what gets me unstuck. And they’re the stories of everyday change I will share on this blog throughout the rest of 2013 and into 2014.

Want to hear these stories firsthand? Want to experience this everyday change for yourself? Then you must join us for our next retreat, Living Wellness, July 12-14. Email me for personal Q&A: infoATcommunitycatalystsDOTca

weekend agenda 2

Workshop: BC Camping Conference

In Doings, Learnings on February 21, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 12.32.07 PM

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the BC Camping Conference at RockRidge Canyon outside Princeton, BC. The BCCC has been a client of mine for the last six months (I developed and maintained the conference website). It was exciting to see our hard work come together!

I also had the great educational experience of facilitating a workshop, “Effective Communication for Camps.”

Click here to download the accompanying resource, “Effective Communication for Camps” (PDF, 885 kb)

Tuesday morning, I talked with over 30 passionate camping professionals about how camps, including staff and external stakeholders, can be effective communicators.  

You see, different departments within camp deal with different audiences. These audiences have unique needs, motivations and interests. For example, Food Services and Human Resources may both deal with volunteers, but volunteer adults helping in the kitchen will have different needs, motivations and interests than volunteer teenagers helping run a day of programming for child campers. 

The workshop touched on the five elements of effective communication but focused on one element in particular: The Receiver. In other words, the Audience.

We split into small groups and considered the unique needs, motivations and interests of unique audiences that a camp would commonly communicate with:

  • Teenage camper
  • Soon-to-be bride
  • ‘Helicopter’ parent
  • Site maintenance volunteer
  • Executive director
  • Existing donor with decreasing funds.

By the end of the hour workshop, we had discussed how effective communication isn’t just about sending and receiving information. Rather, effective communication is about asking for action, listening for feedback, assessing your abilities, learning more about your audience, and asking again.

Click here to download “Effective Communication for Camps” (PDF, 885 kb) for an overview of the workshop content and more in-depth questions you can ask yourself to ensure your next piece of communication results in action!

Effective communication is a never-ending circle of action. Any person or organization on any budget can achieve effective communication. The key is to regularly and clearly identify who you are communicating with, what you want of them, and how you can make the most of existing means and resources.

Questions? Please contact me at or read more about my work here.

RockRidge Canyon, Summer

RockRidge Canyon (near Princeton, BC). Just add some snow, ice hockey enthusiasts, and a campfire to stay warm in -5*C weather, and you get more of the February camp feel.

Aggregate activities

In Learnings on September 21, 2012 at 8:52 AM

One of the best learning decisions I ever made was subscribing to Seth Godin’s blog. This marketing guru is a machine. Pumps out a post a day. Sometimes just a few sentences, sometimes a plug for one of his projects, sometimes observations on the world through a marketing lense.

And sometimes he offers practical gems, such as his recent post “The simple power of one day”:

There are at least 200 working days a year. If you commit to doing a simple marketing item just once each day, at the end of the year you’ve built a mountain. Here are some things you might try (don’t do them all, just one of these once a day would change things for you):

  • Send a handwritten and personal thank you note to a customer
  • Write a blog post about how someone is using your product or service
  • Research and post a short article about how something in your industry works
  • Introduce one colleague to another in a significant way that benefits both of them
  • Read the first three chapters of a business or other how-to book
  • Record a video that teaches your customers how to do something
  • Teach at least one of your employees a new skill
  • Go for a ten minute walk and come back with at least five written ideas on how to improve what you offer the world
  • Change something on your website and record how it changes interactions
  • Help a non-profit in a signficant way (make a fundraising call, do outreach)
  • Write or substiantially edit a Wikipedia article
  • Find out something you didn’t know about one of your employees or customers or co-workers

Enough molehills is all you need to have a mountain.

After reading just the first few suggestions, I feel empowered! The day is mine, and even the smallest activity can lead to big results when done in doses. Aggregate activities, baby.

What’s a communicator?

In Learnings on July 22, 2012 at 10:20 PM

When you work in the field of communications, whether you’re an internal employee or an outside contractor, there’s always the challenge of articulating what our work involves.

On top of that, communication is sometimes one of the first things to be cut in economically sad times. Articulating our value is also a challenge.

I recently saw Annie Leonard’s new “The Story of Change” video and took the proceeding quiz to see what kind of “Changemaker Personality” am I in the SOS Community. Unsurprisingly, I am a communicator.

The resulting description was useful to dive into more research, particularly the examples provided. Some questions I want to explore:

  1. What is common amongst the example Communicators offered?
  2. How did they each fulfill the three activities described of a Communicator?
  3. What of this do I take interest in? What similar activities and thinkings come easily to me?

These things weren’t discussed during my bachelor studies in Communications. So, let me begin the self-education:

Communicators tell the stories and share information that build our power, bring us closer together and closer to a better future. Here’s how:

  • Using your creativity and expression to share knowledge in compelling and accessible ways, whether through art, film, oratory, music, online or innumerable other ways.
  • Reminding people about all the ways we’re connected.
  • Spreading news, information and ideas to other Changemaker Personalities.

Some Notable Communicators who have done awesome things to change the world:

Pete Seeger: Musician

As a song writer, he is best known as the author or co-author of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?“, “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)“, (composed with Lee Hays of The Weavers), and “Turn, Turn, Turn!“, which have been recorded by many artists both in and outside the folk revival movement and are still sung throughout the world. Born in 1919.

Arundhati Roy: Author

An Indian novelist, Arundhati won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays. Her writings on various social, environmental and political issues have been a subject of major controversy in India. Born in 1961.

Michael Moore: Filmmaker

An American filmmakerauthorsocial critic andactivist. He is the director and producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, which is the highest-grossingdocumentary of all time and winner of the Palme d’Or. His films Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Sicko (2007) also placed in the top ten highest-grossing documentaries, and the former won theAcademy Award for Documentary Feature. In September 2008, he released his first free movie on the Internet, Slacker Uprising, which documented his personal quest to encourage more Americans to vote in presidential elections. He has also written and starred in the TV shows TV Nation and The Awful Truth. Born 1954.

Sojourner Truth: Public Speaker

The self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in SwartekillUlster CountyNew York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, Ain’t I a Woman?, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, Truth tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. Born 1797, passed 1883.

Favianna Rodriguez: Graphic Designer

A printmaker who got her start as a political poster designer in the 1990s’ struggles for racial justice in California.

Her vibrant illustrations have become synonymous with grassroots efforts to defend Ethnic Studies, immigrant and women’s rightsaffirmative actionand youth activism. More recently, Rodriguez became renowned for her bold posters against racism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether handmade or printed en masse, her prints reflect new subjects, new ways of seeing, and the impact people can have on their conditions.

Rodriguez is also co-founder of Tumis Inc., a bilingual design studio providing graphics, web, and technology development for social justice. Rodriguez travels extensively to collaborate with organizations interested in using political graphics and the Internet to promote community building and social change.

Dennis Brutus: Poet

South African activist, educator, journalist and poet best known for his campaign to have apartheid South Africa banned from the Olympic Games. Born 1924, passed 2009.

Amy Goodman: Journalist

An American progressive broadcast journalistsyndicated columnistinvestigative reporter and author. Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, an independent global news program broadcast daily on radio, television and the Internet. Born 1957.

Bernice Reagon Johnson: Performer

A singer, composer, scholar, and social activist who founded the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock in 1973. Born 1942.

Free Range Studios: Storytellers

The crew behind The Story of Stuff, and behind many other well-communicated projects. They’re an inspiring agency, and one that divulges its work flow and processes. A great learning tool!

From childhood to university: How Maurice Sendak still guides me

In Learnings, Thinkings on May 19, 2012 at 7:52 PM

There are many reasons to publish to a blog. You can publish highlights of current events, you can share photos of your dog, or you can help your Modern Vancouver Family find a house. But today, as I weed through stacks of collected papers and prepare to move house, I want to publish a paper I wrote in university.

Don’t yawn yet. The paper’s topic is actually quite timely and, in my biased opinion, quite interesting. It’s about the work and impact of influential Maurice Sendak, who passed away Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

But first, some context:

Since my own childhood, I have been fascinated with the stories adults tell children through all mediums: television (Sesame Street), magazines (OwlKids), and books (The Giver, just to name a few, before the Internet age). But sometimes you get caught up in life (i.e., university and hopes for a job) and forget what excites you (a clever illustration). So in my final semester of university, I enrolled in an elective course called EDUC 465: Children’s Literature and Culture. It was the reminder I needed to work at what I love.

Halfway through the semester, we were assigned a take-home midterm exam. Choose a children’s book illustrator. Review the illustrator’s critical reception. Discuss the illustrator’s signature style. Analyze one picture book that you think best exemplifies the illustrator’s work. Use explicit examples to support your ideas. Quote directly from the courseware. Provide a copy of the illustration. 

In short, it was the best assignment ever. 

So to celebrate the late Maurice Sendak, and to show my gratitude for having been set on a path towards working at what I love, here is that paper. (Note: Since I am the author and the publisher — hooray for self-publication — I’ve taken the liberty of editing out some of the academic reference brackets and page number junk so that it doesn’t induce an early bedtime. But, c’mon, it’s still academic. So I’ve included pictures!)

Maurice Sendak 

Prepared for Dr. Elizabeth Marshall
EDUC 465, Summer 2009

One of the things a visual narrative can do,
perhaps more truly than words,
is to replicate the logic of dreams.
– Jonathon Jones, 2008

Maurice Sendak is not just a children’s book illustrator and author. He is arguably “one of the most powerful men in the US” (O’Doherty). He has the ability to “give shape to the fantasies of millions of children” and to retain “a vivid sense of what life was like from the viewpoint of a child.” Two of Sendak’s books in particular, Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1973), exemplify these arguments.

Both books are part of Sendak’s ‘trilogy.’ Along with Outside Over There (1981), these were a group of books he wrote and illustrated to explore his own ‘inner’ subject: that is, how fantasy acts as a coping mechanism for children. Both books are “fantastical dream narratives” in which the protagonists, Max and Mickey, enter their dream worlds, perform symbolic tasks and eventually return to their own rooms. According to Sendak, these two books are variations on this theme: “How kids get through a day, how they survive tedium, boredom, how they cope with anger, frustration.”

Critical Reception

Sendak’s depiction of fantasy in Where the Wild Things Are and in In the Night Kitchen received significant criticism, both positive and negative. The negative came in the form of adult fear and censorship: Where the Wild Things Are was deemed too frightening for small children while In the Night Kitchen was attacked for its cartoonish style (as it was distinctly different from his previous work) and his use of nudity.

Positive criticism of these books described Sendak’s work as “revolutionary” and “heroic.” Public opinion suggested that ‘ordinary’ children should not behave like Max, Mickey, the Wild Things or the Oliver Hardy bakers. Rather, Sendak “reminded us that the world of children’s fantasies is one of their best-kept secrets” (Silvey).

Sendak’s work repeatedly challenges assumptions about children. His work invites adults to “recognize their detachment as parents and look inside the child’s mind, to learn something” (Zornando). He is known for his versatility and for his belief in matching his illustrative language with the author’s textual narrative (Alderson). Critics repeatedly recognize Sendak’s “unusual gift” of maintaining his “child self”and creating “a kind of map of the emotional and visionary terrain of childhood.”


Due to the variety of his works, Sendak’s signature style is difficult to pinpoint. From the flat, comic-book style of In the Night Kitchen, to the richly detailed pen-and-ink drawings of The Juniper Tree, to the detailed crosshatching of Where the Wild Things Are and the soft, lyrical watercolours of Outside Over There, Sendak’s style maintains subtlety, superb control, sensitivity and a “deliberate sense of responsibility for the child for whom he is writing” (Swanton).

His style is precise and firm in Wild Things: “Max can dream a thing so forcefully, it is real. Sendak finds a way to express this visual as graphic robustness” (Jones). His work uses surrealism, a “rich fabric of references,” and has been paralleled with New York surrealist Joseph Cornell and Andy Warhol (Jones).

Sendak’s influences: Andy Warhol

Though drawn in different media or moods, Sendak’s work often makes use of “clots of characters who resemble one another but who function rather as a Greek chorus” (e.g., the Oliver Hardy bakers and the Wild Things themselves). Sendak’s work “unscroll[s] with a resemblance, page to page, but no repetition: things are subtly different each time they’re drawn.”

His style has a “distinctly European flavour” and is influenced by nineteenth century toys, books and illustrators, such as George Cruikshank and John Tenniel.

Sendak’s influences: George Cruikshank

Sendak’s influences: John Tenniel

Even hints of Picasso and his 1937 Minotauromachy can be found in Sendak’s work, particularly Where the Wild Things Are.

Sendak’s influences: Pablo Picasso

Maurice Sendak is also heavily influenced by music and theatre: “I hoped rather to let the story speak for itself, with my pictures as a kind of background music––music in the right style, in the best taste and always in tune with the words.” Perhaps then Sendak’s style can be described as flexible and adaptable but always a “consistency of motifs and images…you could call it theme and variation, range and repetition…impressively varied” (Maguire).

Case Study

Of the two books I’ve chosen, I believe In the Night Kitchen best exemplifies Sendak’s work as an illustrator because it contains many aspects of his flexible yet referential style. In the following analysis, I will offer examples from various pages in the book and will refer to one in particular, the only text-less and double-page spread on which Mickey has ascended into the night sky and the three bakers watch him from below, increasingly distanced from each other, setting up “a rhythm of approach for the eye to work up to the leap above the milk bottle” (Maguire).

Maurice Sendak creates meaning through the use of borders, specific typeface, placement of text relative to pictures, and pictorial dynamics.

Comic-book frames are used in Night Kitchen to indicate scenes and sequences. The initial and final pages in which Mickey is leaving and returning to his room, include much more white space outside the comic frame borders than the middle pages. Nodelman & Reimer write, “Events seen through strictly defined boundaries imply detachment and objectivity, a fact that many illustrators of fantasy world use to advantage.”

Along this vein, Sendak’s use of strict borders and obvious white space emphasize when Mickey is within his fantasy and when reality returns. Sendak also breaks his borders with dialogue bubbles and parts of his characters to, as Nodelman argues, amplify tension. This is particularly useful in conveying the intensity of Mickey’s wrath when he shouts, “QUIET DOWN THERE!”

The typeface used throughout the book is handwritten, by Diana Blair, and is incorporated effectively into the illustrations, making the entire book visually smooth yet tactile. Type size varies during dialogue and is always upper case which insinuates that the story is told from a third-person narrative perspective. The placement and relationships of pictures and words, such as the dialogue bubbles and narrative boxes, are contained within the comic frame borders. The hand-drawn text is seamlessly blended into the pictures, permitting them to not only work together but become co-dependent.

Other illustrated objects derive “much of their significance…from within a picture itself, particularly from the ways in which the objects relate to one another” (Nodelman & Reimer. Sendak uses (and equally avoids) shape, size, grounds and changing focus to achieve this significance. “Square shapes are rigid, round ones accommodating,” say Nodelman & Reimer, yet Sendak’s use of square and round challenge their conventional significance by breaking his characters and objects out from their rigid frames.

“Larger figures tend to have more weight [read: importance] than smaller ones,” (Nodelman & Reimer, p.288) yet when Mickey is being stirred into the cake batter, only his small hand or forehead is visible but the reader is drawn to search for him, raising his importance over the larger bakers. Sendak does drawn on the conventional significance of figure and ground as Nodelman & Reimer describe: Mickey and the bakers are outlined in thicker black lines than their surroundings to emphasize their importance; and characters are shown “against fuller grounds” of the ‘night kitchen’ so to emphasize “the effect of the characters’ environment on them” but also Mickey’s effect on the night kitchen.

“Variation in focus also affects the way viewers respond to a scene,” and Sendak changes the focus throughout Night Kitchen, moving from middle-distance (Mickey in bed) to close-ups (page-height bakers) to long shots (double-page spread of Mickey above the milk bottle). Despite these variations, Sendak seems to maintain “a shallow depth of field, where the main action of the page…is never more than an implied eight feet deep” (Maguire). This is perhaps Sendak’s way of achieving what Nodelman & Reimer call a balance between intimacy and distance.

Sendak creates mood through colour (hues, shades and saturation), shapes, lines and his chosen media, watercolour paints. Predominating hues in Night Kitchen include white, browns, yellows and blues. Shades of these hues tend to be darker, creating a “gloomier” mood. However Sendak’s use of bright white and yellow for the moon is so bold and jovial that this contrast in shades creates an appropriate mood for a victim-turned-hero story.

Sendak’s use of shape and line follow Nodelman & Reimer’s assertion to create a sensual texture to the book: round shapes, such as the bread dough and the chubby bakers, “are soft and yielding” (the dough is malleable and the bakers fear Mickey eventually). Angular shapes, such as narrative text boxes, are “rigid and orderly” while uncompleted lines, such as the ‘beam of light’ text box which guides Mickey down into the cake batter, are “energetic.”

Finally, Sendak’s choice to use watercolour paints as his medium creates mood through its translucency, creating “the impression of light” (Nodelman & Reimer). His avoidance of “absolute opacity…acknowledges the presence of the paper” (Maguire). Perhaps Sendak wanted this effect so to remind the reader that despite his bold, believable pictures, the book is just a book: a visual depiction of a dream.


Through his use and manipulation of these artistic conventions, Sendak expresses his attitudes about his audience, both children and adults. Perhaps this is his most unique contribution to the field of children’s literature: he initiated a revolution, “turned the entire tide of what is acceptable, of what is possible to put in a children’s book illustration” or in a children’s book as a whole (Silvey).

Sendak assumes that children are “fantasy-plagued” and that adults have forgotten this coping mechanism but should not fear it. His works, particularly his personal trilogy, repeat a thematic structure in which fantasy is deployed to handle frustration and anger. Through my research of Maurice Sendak, I found most significant his versatility and range of impact on so many ages of people. His significance to children’s literature is his “tremendous bond of sympathy between text and illustration;” a steadfast belief in the “total effect of the book” (Swanton).

To this day, critical reviews are being written about Sendak’s work and it is to his credit that so many children and adults are continually challenged to explore their personal ‘night kitchen’ and to discover ‘where the wild things are.’


Bibliography (if you care to know more)

Alderson, B. (1993). Maurice before Max: The yonder side of the see-saw. Horn Book Magazine, 69(3), 291. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier. (2009). Maurice Sendak: Biography. Accessed June 25, 2009 from

Hunt, P. (2003). Literature for children: Contemporary criticism. New York: Taylor & Francis. Accessed via SFU NetLibrary.

Jones, J. (2008, April 12). Wild things, I think I love you. The Guardian. Accessed June 25, 2009 from

Maguire, G. (2003). A Sendak appreciation. Horn Book Magazine, 79(6), 667–682. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

NNDB. (n.d.). Maurice Sendak. Accessed June 25, 2009 from

Nodelman, P. & Reimer, M. (2003). The pleasures of children’s literature (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Sendak, M. (1970). In the night kitchen. Harper Collins Publishers.

Sendak, M. (1963). Where the wild things are. Harper & Row.

Silvey, A. (2002). The essential guide to children’s books and their creators. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin. Accessed via SFU NetLibrary.

Swanton, A. (1971). Maurice Sendak’s picture books. Children’s Literature in Education, 2(3), 38–48. Retrieved from

Zornando, J.L. (2001). Inventing the child culture, ideology, and the story of childhood. New York: Routledge. Accessed via SFU NetLibrary.

the biodynamic Braeburn

In Eatings, Learnings on October 31, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Put the words “bio” and “dynamic” in front of an apple and tell me that the first image into your mind isn’t one of a fleshy, mutant-red ball of energy. I’m thinking something with a cape that can leap off tall buildings. That can self-replenish itself and save me from regular trips to the doctor. Am I right, I ask, am I right?

Well, no, not really. I mean, if I was to create a graphic novel, the Biodynamic Braeburn would be the right kind of a hero (or even a villain if I gave it a mustache). But in this case, I put down my Pilot pen and picked up the utility knife for a new kind of apple.

You see, this is no ordinarily-grown apple.  “Biodynamic” is a sustainable farming system that goes beyond the organic, holistic methods of manures, composts and no chemicals, and will actually follow an astronomical sowing and planting calendar. That means, this apple was grown according to the stars!

And my first bite of a celestial apple would be thanks to a soccer teammate, Amy. Upon dropping me off at home after our Sunday game, she hands me the bright, solid apple that had been cradled in the cup holder between us. “Here,” she reaches it out to me, “you have to try this.”

I cup it in my hand, barely managing a grip on the mass of it. “What kind is it?” I inquire.

“It’s a biodynamic Braeburn. It is THE BEST APPLE I HAVE EVER TASTED.”

Now, you can’t just make that kind of remark without reason. I opened the car door with my new gift and promised Amy a thorough review and comparative opinion.

Once inside my apartment I set the apple on my kitchen counter, it radiating its health amongst my browning bananas and bowl of Golden Auroras I’d picked up from Davison Orchards at Thanksgiving. My standard market fruit, my common nutrients, were aweing in the Braeburn’s shadows.

This fruit, I silently declared, deserves a special consumption. A proper chop and dice, when my palette was fresh and no other flavour had hit my tongue in 8+ hours. Yes, indeed, this Braeburn would be tomorrow’s breakfast.

I woke at 7:30am and had to double-check my alarm clock radio with my phone because the sky was still so dark. Our system of ‘keeping’ time says “Wake!” despite the body’s preference to hibernate.

But I was soon snapped out of my grizzly state. “The Biodynamic Braeburn!” I exclaimed and bounced out of bed. This would be a morning of firsts.

There it still was, looming at me with that red skin, bolding me down as its inferior. I sliced it with a satisfying chop of the knife and removed the core. I couldn’t even sit down at the table — the anticipation had me perched at the edge of my counter!

Oh, the tartness, forcing me to sip on water between bites! Oh, the crispiness, the acoustic crunch produced as I masticated away! And the juice, oh so juicy, making me lick my fingers as it ran away. Each area of the apple seemed to be a slightly different degree of tart-sweet ratio. The skin – bitter. Immediately beneath – slightly sweeter.  And it’s texture – papery?

I diced half the remaining fruit into my breakfast (a slop of banana, Kashi cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt and milk). I’m not normally keen on Braeburns. I’m more of a Spartan- or Ambrosia-type of girl. Crisp but sweet, is how I like it. Yet the immense tartness of this biodynamic gem blended well with the natural sweetness of the dairy and banana.

I wish I could tell you where exactly Amy had picked it up. All she could recall is that the farmer’s name is Walter and his farm is somewhere in Creston. “I should know more facts,” she texted me, “but all I really care about is the food.”

Here here, Amy!

oh hey, neighbour, savour these biscuits

In Doings, Learnings, Makings on October 4, 2010 at 11:09 PM

Volunteering can be a bit daunting. Especially volunteering solo. Not knowing anyone upon arrival at a new site or a new event, though interesting as it is to you, sure can be an obstacle in following through on your commitment.

In fact, this makes any solo venture daunting.

But sometimes the best experiences come from putting ourselves out there, alone.

Last year’s solo act: a trans-Canada train trip.

Today’s solo act: a last-minute volunteer gig at a community potluck.

And what success! Though the event wasn’t exactly what I expected (it had more families and less pulling of homemade beer than I built it up in my mind), I still managed to have some great conversations with the volunteer coordinator, Jason, and his partner, Laurel, who in fact are my neighbours! In exchange for sharing my experiences of SFU’s Sustainable Community Development certificate program, I was informed of a schwack of possibilities for the future of Main Street’s Village Vancouver. I walked away an hour later from the potluck with opportunities dangling within my arm’s reach, new ideas to be researched, and people to email for coffee!

Oh, but you wanted to know about the biscuits. Yeah, those were my potluck contribution. Want to try?

Leek-Jalapeno Buttermilk Biscuits

The easiest, peasiest drop biscuits ever. I basically take the following recipe and add/substitute whatever I have on hand. Today’s handy ingredients included leek, jalapeno pepper, mozzarella cheese and buttermilk. (That litre of buttermilk I picked up last week for cinnamon buns is sure getting some mileage!)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter (room temperature or slightly melted by Mr. Convenient, the microwave)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk

  1. Mix together the flour, powder and butter.
  2. Mix in your finely chopped leek, jalapeno and cheese.
  3. Next, pour in the buttermilk and get in there with your hands because a wooden spoon just won’t do [well, it will, it’s just far more fun to get messy].
  4. It’s totally ok if your batter is sticky; just mold into somewhat of a ball and plop it on a baking tray (grease if it’s not a non-stick).
  5. Bake for 15 or so minutes at 450*F, or until they get beautifully golden.
  6. Serve and consume to get the best out of their buttery goodness!

a bird tutorial

In Learnings on August 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM

I wish I could fly.

How about you?

If I could be any dinosaur, I would be a pterodactyl. Those were sure fun to draw back in elementary school, with their claws and webbed wings.

But I couldn’t tell you what bird I would want to be. Until last night. When I was introduced to golden eagles.

Forget that balding one. And forget speedy falcons. For its size, for its auburn feathers, for the way it glides like the Wicked Witch of West’s monkeys descending upon its prey — this one is a beauty.

I mean, what animal picks off mountain goats for lunch? Smart, efficient eagles, that’s what. And I’m all for efficiency!

Such effective accompanying music:

The Army Cot

In Learnings on July 12, 2010 at 3:00 AM

My Opa’s family immigrated to Canada soon after World War II. Having been forced to move during the restructuring of what was German-occupied land and is now American-freed Austria, “Germans” like my grandfather decided to make a complete change. Times weren’t easy (I’ve been told, reminded, and humbled several times) and belongings were few. This here cot is one relic that found its way into the hands of my Opa’s mother.

An American company name, “The Telescope Folding Furn. Co.” is stamped in yellow ink on the heavy wood beam, slightly covered by the faded fatigue green. I’m going to assume that when the Americans went home, they didn’t bother bringing their beastly, 50+ lb bedding. I mean, c’mon, the hinges are made of the heaviest metal and I’m certain the frame is solid wood. I can’t imagine carrying this thing around on my back in addition to the rest of my kit!

Anyway, I’m told that it doubled as a sofa during my Opa’s European childhood and Canadian youth.

When my own parents made the move from their birth province of Ontario to British Columbia in 1990, the cot-cum-sofa came too! One of the frame’s pieces got lost during the journey so my Handy Dad fashioned one out of a hockey stick!

My sisters and I each have our own memories of having to sleep on that cot while our rooms were painted many a summer. When friends slept over, we would proudly tell them about the fateful sleep they’d soon endure on “The Army Cot”. Firm but strangely comfortable. I wonder what the soldiers thought of it.

It’s doubtful the American soldiers slept in warm kitchens or had down-feather douvees to curl under every night but, as I re-discovered this weekend while lending my double bed to visitors, canvas ain’t so bad.