Essay on the recent Parkland Institute Conference

I have been working on more pieces like this as a way to practice essay writing and express my critical thinking. It took me a ridiculously long time to write, and I personally think this piece would maybe get a 60% if graded, so I have a lot of practice ahead of me! Thanks for being gentle in the comment section (wink).

I recently attended the Parkland Institute Conference online. The sessions were spread across three days, with a few “Workshops” scattered within. I mostly found the workshops useless, or rather, the name was inaccurate to the content presented. The sessions were themselves inspiring and informative. The speakers and topics as follows:

  • Dr Pam Palmater, Working Together to Save Our Peoples and the Planet
  • Jim Stanford, Changing Work for Good After Covid
  • Kate Raworth & Ben Geselbracht, Doughnut Economies for Thriving Communities
  • Alicia Elliott, Why We Should All be Activists: What Haudenosaunee Philosophy Can Teach us About Our Responsibility to the Earth

There were a few common themes running through the four sessions, which is unsurprising and just goes to show that they chose their session topics and presenters wisely! The first that really stood out for me is the respect for Indigenous knowledge. And the requirement that we (white, settlers, Global North, etc.) must go back to that in order to find our best way forward. This is linked directly to colonization and de-colonization work we must be doing in ourselves and our communities. In her presentation on Doughnut Economies, Kate Raworth spoke on how Indigenous groups organize themselves, and asked the question “can westerners learn to understand again”. I often think that we have lost so much thanks to our racism and colonialism, how can we even begin to quantify that. Alicia Elliott spoke about how “progress” created the mess we are in (progress mixed with white supremacy). I cheered when Dr. Pam Palmater exclaimed “what about jobs?! As if jobs trump lives, as if jobs trump having a planet!” These two Indigenous women were a powerful and steadying open and close to the Conference. A lof of my personal anti-racism, anti-fascist, anti-white supremacy work and learning lately has been link to the land. This stems from my Not Ladylike Community and recent trips to the mountains and other parts of our province. I instinctively know that we must respect and return to Indigenous knowledge and ways of being in community with the land, but I am still learning what that will look like and the work it will take. Both Alicia and Dr Palmater spoke to that in significant ways. “The land is part of the Haudenosaunee so they protect the lands as they care for themselves,” says Alicia, ever the poet and essayist. Dr. Palmater was a bundle of energy throughout her presentation, and shouts “land back!” Land back equals resources back, but it also means respecting Indigenous sovreignty and governance over their territories. Echoing Alicia, they were born to protect these lands.

This leads in to the next theme, which was top of mind during the other presentations: we have to get rid of what’s not working, not just try to reform it. Looking to the future that we want, what do we need to disrupt to build something new. Something that ensures everyone can thrive while respecting the wellbeing of our planet. Jim Stanford spoke to pre-pandemic problems making working situations specifically worse during the pandemic. One of the solutions is that workers must have the power to raise issues (with their employers or the state) and then win change. This impacts all other solutions to changing work for good, and involves turning many industries on their heads. Kate Raworth encourages us to escape the old idea of constant growth and insists that if we want to change the future we must change the dynamics. I know from experience that manyfolks cannot imagine a future where we are fighting the climate crisis and still enjoying a high quality of life. I agree that it’s difficult to imagine the possibility. But as Nanaimo did, we can divest (as individuals and communities) and move funds to ones that better meet our environmental goals. And maybe that will help our imaginations expand. In response to a question about capitalism vs. socialism, Kate Raworth stated that she doesn’t use those terms. She’s going beyond and getting to the heart of enterprises. The old things are not going to be useful going forward, so let’s get excited about the new ideas. And see how we can push these new ideas forward. This was very inspiring, and something Alicia Elliot stated later reminded me of this: “so many things in our modern world become irrational when considered against Dish With One Spoon Treaty or Seven Generation Knowledge.”

Which brings me to the final theme: everything is connected. And y’all, I am petering out of this essay. It’s been a long time since I wrote one. And I kind of forget how to do it. I have so many great point highlighted from the notes I took, but I am struggling to summarize them in my own voice. I want to capture the feeling and the inspiration I felt in every session. So I am going to dial it in with a list:

  • Human rights and environmental protections are not popularity contests, we are not waiting for a consensus (from Dr. Palmater’s session)
  • White supremacy isn’t a fringe issue; it is the foundation of our society (from Dr. Palmater’s session)
  • When you figure out your boss is trying to kill you, you get angry and fight back! (from Jim Stanford’s session)
  • The Economy = Human Beings
  • Canadian identity = nature as separate, nature as extracurricular (from Alicia Elliott’s session)
  • The nation-state is different from the people who live in Canada, but the nation wants us to believe they are the same things; it is imporatant however to distinguish them (from Alicia Elliott’s session)
  • Everything is interconnected; the doughnut framework allows us to look at it holistically and see all the connections and be connected (from Kate Raworth’s session)
  • Consider land a gift to be acknowledged every day (from Alicia Elliott’s session)
  • The hole in the middle of the donut are where people are falling through; “leave no one in the hole” (from Kate Raworth’s session)
  • Our only constraint is US, our capacity, our ideas, our ingenuity (from Jim Stanford’s session)

I continue to read through my notes, and get re-inspired to be courageous, vulnerable, and build the community we need. I am sorry this essay was mostly garbage, but as I continue to learn and grow I hope to at least inspire you to do the same.

FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES

Dr Pam Palmater

Alicia Elliott

Jim Stanford: Centre for Future Work

Kate Raworth: Doughnut Economies

Maude Barlow

Daily Pages Creative Habit

I started this small book at the end of September 2021 in response to a “Daily Pages Challenge” initiated by a favoured online personality and creator. I was looking for a kick in the butt to get back to my craft room, get creative, and take some pressure off. Two months later, one finished book, and a newly started book, I can say that this is a success. And a new creative habit that I will be continuing to practice

Daily Pages are all about pulling a small amount of paper, thoughts, photos, words, or bits of life into a small notebook. They’re a creative habit for you to tell your stories. 

Kristen Tweedale

KEY TAKEAWAYS

There are three main takeaways – or lessons – from this first book that I am taking into this daily practice.

  • Use what I have. I didn’t buy any new supplies for this “project”. It is important to me to align my hobbies with my values. That is, anti-capitalism, with a strong fear and understanding of the climate crisis. I have so many beautiful and fun supplies in my stash to use up. And in future books I am excited to try my hand at collage using found items. A mental block to work through in the future is that “no item is too precious to include”.
  • No pressure to make a perfect/beautiful page. Some of these pages are so ugly! Ha! Thankfully the purpose of the book is to be creative every day, and not spend hours agonizing over the placement of each element and create a magazine-worthy spread. It felt very nice to be open to create whatever came to mind with the objects at hand. That is how I learn what I like and also grow as a crafter.
  • Document my day, or just play; it’s all good. I see a lot of the other folks documenting their days via their daily pages habit. Some of my pages were an active documentation of an event or a feeling from the day. But many were not. I only included one photo in this book, and I think this will be a trend.

I have already started on my next book, one that I built myself with some extra stationary from my collection. My most important lesson is that I really love this daily habit. I am grateful I have been able to keep at it, and am building it into my routine. It goes to show that I am not done learning and growing as a creative person.

FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES

Daily Pages – My New Creative Habit? (Not Ladylike)

100 Days of Carving Patterns (Not Ladylike)

100 Days of Stamp Carving (Not Ladylike)

The Awesome Ladies Project (rukristin)

Daily Art Habit

September Hiking in Jasper National Park

For Part One of this series – “September Camping in Jasper National Park”, click here.

INTRODUCTION

There are hundreds of trail choices in Jasper National Park, depending on your goals and skill level. We chose three trails that offer a variety of options, for both the seasoned hiker and the tourist with little experience. I wanted to share all three of them here because

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Native Land tells me that the following Nations have at one time called these Treaty lands home: Tsuu T’ina, Stoney, Secwepemc, Mountain Metis, Michif Piyii (Metis), Ktunaxa (Kootenay), Aseniwuche Winewak. And a very clever woman whose name I didn’t write down passed along some wisdom from an Elder that we should personalize Land Acknowledgments. I feel that Land Acknowledgments are very important, but also I walk a fine line as a white settler doing them appropriately. (That is perhaps a subject for a future post.) I am personally grateful for all the Indigenous People and peoples who have stewarded this land since time immemorial, that is so important to my personal history, storytelling and wellbeing. I have been visiting Jasper since my birth and have only over the past 5 years started learning the darker truth behind the legacy of our National Parks. Knowing the history, knowing more about this land informs my exploration of Jasper. I am grateful to the knowledge keepers and Elders who have and share this information and I hope to make my ancestors proud as I move through the land with respect and purpose. And teach my son to do the same.

MOUNT EDITH CAVELL & ANGEL GLACIER
  • A trail option for every level, with increasing effort if you want to take a longer trip (The Meadows trail)
  • Breathtaking views at every turn
  • Opportunity for adventure no matter which level you choose; you could spend all day here exploring
  • My favourite place on earth
WHISTLERS MOUNTAIN
  • It costs a lot of money to take the Gondola to the top, but if you can swing it the views are amazing
  • It allows non-hikers to get to the top of a mountain!
  • There are hiking options once you get to the top, and you can explore beyond the area around the tea house
  • There is also a trail connecting the gondola stations if you are feeling extra adventurous and have a lot of hours to spare!
  • Don’t forget to book your flight in advance; we saw lots of disappointed folks leaving the ticket booth
  • Bring a jacket as the temperature at the lower station is always a few degrees warmer than the upper station; it’s a bit of a shock in the summer
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT
  • Great for folks with more experience who want to stay away from the “tourists”
  • Great for folks who have a bit of experience and want to push themselves with a rewarding day hike
  • Very steep, but not a lot of technical areas
  • This is a leg of the Skyline Trail, so you could easily take it a step further if you want to try your hand at backpacking
  • Getting to the top and seeing the view made me cry tears of joy
MY HIKING STYLE AND GOALS

I love writing about this even though (or perhaps because) it makes me realize how much things have changed for me over my adult life. My hiking style these days is slow with lots of breaks. Heaving breaths, intense focus on where I am stepping. Breaks are good because I like observing. Slow is fine because I cleared my schedule for this and I’m not in a race to get anywhere.

In terms of goals, climbing mountains is fun, but it’s not a requirement. I want to work my body, feel my heart beat, push my legs to their limit. I want to see trees, listen to the wind blowing through them, watch birds flit through the canopy and squirrels chase each other over the dead fall. I want to get outside and feel the ground under my feet, breathe in deep the air of these lands, be in conversation with the natural world that is a part of me (and I a part of it).

I guess I have some specific trail location goals that as well, but they are tied to my excitement in exploring areas that are new to me, that excite my imagination. And are within a few hours drive.

LEARNING AND TAKING ACTION

All I want from posts like this is to inspire people to go outside respectfully and with care. It’s not enough to be a tourist in your backyard with conscious consumption and observation, or rather it’s such a shallow thing. Especially considering all the we know about the climate crisis and anti-Indigenous racism that is tied directly to the land. Here are some links you can use to learn and take action around issues directly tied to the land.

What is land back? Briarpatch’s article here, and one from The Breach here featuring Dr Pam Palmater.

Dr. Palmater has loads of resources on her website (and You Tube channel, and podcast) around Indigenous law, sovereignty and nation-building.

Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Territories

1492 Land Back Lane Legal Fund

CPAWS Northern Alberta takes action against coal mining in Alberta

15 Beloved Places Struggling with Overtourism (Conde Nast Traveler) I actually hate how this article still encourages visitors to travel these spots, but their descriptions of the destruction due to tourism is worth a read.

September Camping in Jasper National Park

The “view” from their campsite. That’s the bathroom building in the middle ground.

Wow oh wow I pulled off a last minute (for me), long weekend camping trip to Jasper. In September. With two longs hikes. If feels like I should get at least 3 medals and eighteen gold stars for this one. For being out there only 3 days, we covered a lot of ground. I have so many photos of trees, and mountains, and moss, and clouds, and rivers, and burritos. This post covers our campground set up, meals, and must-have gear. I have lots to say about the mountains, that’s coming too.

We were limited in our choice of campgrounds because of how late I left it to book. Which was fine actually. We have very limited needs and wants in terms of location. Wabasso had the only reservable sites left in Jasper that weekend, for all the nights we needed. So it was the perfect spot! HA! And it was fine (shrug). Most of the trees in these campgrounds have been cut down (pine beetle? renovations?), so they feel less like the forest I remember in my childhood. Gotta love the free firewood I guess?!

Wabasso Campground is situated in between Highway 93A and the Athabasca River. There are hundreds of sites, no hookups, full washrooms and loads of trails along here. In fact, if you wanted to stay close to your site for your entire visit, or use it as your trailhead, you have a lot of options. Always a reminder to be bear-aware, and hike in a group and carry bear spray if you can. Many of the trails along the River are bike-friendly and also so beautiful. Highway 93A connects up to other touristy spots like Athabasca Falls, Mount Edith Cavell & Angel Glacier (watch for a future post), and Marmot Basin (for downhill skiing). A large chunk of this highway is closed in the winter season, so be mindful of that when visiting.

PACKING AND SNACKING

Our camping setup hasn’t changed much over the years, ever since I got it just the way I like it. We have a simple tent and sleeping gear. That’s where most of the $$ is, to be honest. It pays to have a good sleeping pad or mattress and a warm bag. Our bags are army surplus because that’s what Dan likes. We bought our pads at a local shop and they roll up so small. As this is bear country, none of our cooking gear or food stays out on the table, so it makes sense to have the least fussy set up. We tried to set up our shelter but the wind busted one of the screws within a minute, so that came down fast. Packing light is also important due to the size of our vehicle. Mabel the almost-station wagon might look small, but with those seats folded down we have plenty of space for everything we need to bring.

Our camping food is simple, and repeatable. Eggs and toast for breakfast, along with pour over coffee. Burritos and our favourite noodles (recipe at the end) for dinner. And sandwich wraps with fruit for lunch on the trail. This simplicity means we need very few cooking items. Most of our gear is secondhand, or the good stuff Dan bought when he was still a bachelor. I have no gear tips other than keep your eye on the thrift stores for plastic or metal plates and cups, take only what you need (2 people = 2 plates), and get yourself a good, yet small, pot and pan.

LEARNING AND TAKING ACTION

Jasper National Park is located on Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 as well as the traditional lands of the Beaver, Cree, Ojibway, Secwépemc, Stoney, and Métis Nation. The First Nations and Métis people who called these lands home were forcibly removed from this area to create both Jasper and Banff National Parks. To learn more about this history, the steps Parks Canada is taking to reconcile with our Indigenous neighbours, and to see how you can experience Indigenous culture on your visit, please explore these links:

Nations of Jasper welcomed back to the Park – The Fitzhugh

The shady past of Parks Canada: forced out, Indigenous People are forging a comeback – National Post

History of Jasper – Municipality of Jasper

Here’s how to experience Indigenous culture in Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park Indigenous Partners – Parks Canada

Jasper National Park – The Canadian Encyclopedia

RECIPE
Dan & Lisa’s Camping Noodles

Ingredients:

  • One box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese
  • One package of your favourite vegetarian sausage
  • 1/2 bell pepper, any colour
  • 1/2 onion, any colour
  1. Cook your shells according to the instructions. We like to drain them while they are still very “al dente”, as the shells these days tend to loose their shape very quickly.
  2. Cut your sausage into pieces. Dice the bell pepper and onion. Combine all in a skillet with a bit of cooking oil or butter.
  3. Once pasta is cooked, drain, then add the Velveeta cheese package.
  4. Combine pasta with sausage mix.
  5. Serve hot!

Full Moon Picnic

Thanks in part to struggling for many years being a single mom trying to do all the roles, and being a working parent with depression, I haven’t been taking the time to craft personal rituals and traditions. This is something that is important and interesting to me, but it never won out in the time war.

Now that I have a better – yet incomplete – understanding of what I like, and what I’d like to try, I’m making the time for those activities. Hosting a Full Moon event has been on my wish list for some time now, and I finally made it a priority in October 2021.

October 2021, Full Moon Picnic on top of Queen Elizabeth Hill in downtown Edmonton

Picnic Details

What is a picnic without tasty snacks? Well, I’m not sure and I didn’t want to find out so I bought a bunch of “fancy” snacks from the local Italian Centre. It’s helpful to have a theme when working on any kind of party. Thankfully one of the names for the October full moon is traveling so I purchased snacks from other countries. Polish popped corn, Californian grapes, Italian cookies and chips. Everyone brought their own chairs, so I was able to set the goodies on a picnic blanket in the middle of our circle. The only thing lacking was light! It gets dark fast up here this time of year, and my single speaker lamp wasn’t cutting through the gloom well enough. Although that did make for a more atmospheric evening!

Full Moon Details

Each full moon of the year has a name, or multiple names. These are usually based on the traditions of our European ancestors, and the Indigenous peoples of this land. We no longer use the moon cycles to track other natural events, so the names often feel out of date. I think that actually makes them feel more special, and it helps connect us to our past, and the history of this land.

For a full list of all the moon names of the year, by month, I used this website: Time and Date. It will give you a really basic 2-3 sentence explanation, which was enough for me to start the event planning (the theme), and dig around for more information to share with my attendees. For example, a traditional name for the November full moon is the Beaver Moon, because “this is the time they become particularly active building their winter dams in preparation for the cold season.”*

New Tradition

We are excited to add this new tradition to the Not Ladylike Community event roster! I am brainstorming ways to ritualize the event, or aspects of the event. But again, as I don’t have a lot of experience with that, I am making things up as I go along. A lot of the full moon rituals I have been reading about involve more spiritualism than perhaps some of our attendees would be into. My next goal for these events is to offer a spectrum of ritual aspects to both appeal to my attendees and allow them to try something new in a supportive environment.

The Not Ladylike Community will be hosting Full Moon events once a month starting with October’s Full Moon (as pictured here). For more information, watch the Events page and our Instagram. These events are sober friendly, queer friendly, and for all ages.

I Quit Art Night

What happens when you want to quit an activity that you host?

A few months earlier, I got some strong clues that Online Art Night really wasn’t working for me. I had been riding the struggle bus for ages, so I quickly brainstormed a “rebrand”. Thinking I could re-ignite my enjoyment by changing up the format or the name or something. I literally don’t know. Like I said, I was struggling.

This piece of paper was the ticket to my liberation, but also made me feel really sad. I wrote down everything I wanted for Art Night and had to say “no, not for me right now, but thanks.”

I want to meet in person, and I want to meet in a bigger space than my home. I want to share resources and knowledge. I want it to be bigger than “just” a craft night.

– Me

When I created Art Night back in 2019 I did it in response to some other craft get togethers that had been popping up. Businesses, where you spent $70 to make a cutesy craft, get a signature cocktail, and have your photo taken in front of some shiny balloons. That concept did not feel empowering to me. It felt like another place where I didn’t fit in, and couldn’t afford.

I wanted to create a space for folks to come as they are. To bring whatever craft they wanted. To spend zero dollars and have a great conversation with a new pal. And sure there would be treats, and photo ops. But with like, zero pressure to perform and dress up. Something that would be more accessible to all folks.

But that didn’t work out. Covid is part of it, killing the in-person part that was so integral. And I still need to learn some hostessing skills. Or asking for help skills.

Ultimately I believe that there is a future here. Especially considering we are going to need a lot of solidarity and mutual aid foundations moving into our uncertain future. Community Craft Night sounds like a thing I could get behind. But for now, Online Art Night has come to an end, “not with a bang, but a whimper.”

16 Spooky Books to Read in October

Autumn means pumpkin spice, warm clothes, and spooky books. The evenings are getting darker in Edmonton/amiskwaciwakahegan, and colder. It’s a perfect opportunity to snuggle down into my pillow fort and scare the pants off myself.

Even if you don’t get to ALL of them, you can at least put some on your TBR list. They are all backlist titles, some mainstream and some maybe more obscure? Who knows. I have no idea what’s trending right now or ever. However, they should be available everywhere books are sold and at your local library. Do everyone a favour and support your local indie (BIPOC owned if possible) bookstore.

Now, on to the list! Additional content notes beyond “scary” are indicated where applicable.

Horror

I am not an avid horror reader, but I manage to find a few each year to scare the crap out of me. Body horror freaks me right out, but it always manages to sneak through my filter. Gadammit. Mostly atmospheric and haunting. That seems to fit my tastes more these days.

Monster of Elendhaven (2019) by Jennifer Giesbrecht. Death, decay, murder and mayhem. A bit of a twisty plot, but worth it in the end. CN for

Ring Shout (2020) by P. Djeli Clark. But what if the Ku Klux Klan were actual, literal monsters? A crafty story that weaves horror alongside low-key commentary on racism in our society and history.

Mexican Gothic (2020) by Silvia Morena Garcia. I started out not loving this book, but it slowly snuck inside my brain and I still can’t stop thinking about it. Vibes like The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – super isolated setting, strange cadre of secondary characters, a confused narrator who doesn’t know what to believe. Some gross body horror in this one, and attempted rape.

Middle Game (2019) by Seanan Mcguire. Gore, time travel (sort of), weird ass power dynamics. This was my favourite book read in 2020. There is a sequel coming out in 2022. Hold my calls.

Monsters

What Big Teeth (2021) by Rose Szabo was not my favourite, but it hits a lot of recommended lists, so I guess I will include it here. After being sent off to school, our narrator returns home to her family of weird monsters. They don’t seem very happy to see her and you can tell right off the bat that there is something bigger going on. Unfortunately the narrator doesn’t follow her grandma’s instructions and weirder stuff starts happening. It takes a lot of teen angst to solve the problem and save her family. I want to include a content warning here for “non-consensual body contact” because I don’t know what else to call it.

This next one hits a lot different from What Big Teeth and feel much more grown up while still tracking a teenage monster. Mongrels (2016) by Stephen Graham Jones is similar with the family vibes, but instead of following a wealthy legacy family, you’ve got an impoverished one living out of their car and whatever shady rentals they could find. Moving from town to town because they’re werewolves and that isn’t considered neighbourly. The main character is a kid who may or may not grow up to be a wolf like his aunt and uncle. The angst is real my friends, and it was precious and fearful. I enjoyed the family dynamics in this one immensely, and continually caught myself holding my breath for how they would get in trouble next.

I wasn’t sure where to sort this next one, but I guess it kind of fits under monsters and that is only sort of a spoiler! Sawkill Girls (2018) by Clare Legrand starts out with the favoured trope of “unsolved missing girls”. The setting is very relevant and very perfect, and the shape of the story feels like a creepy-ass fairy tale. But much, much better. Bonus points for a super diverse cast.

“Girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”

Sci-Fi+

Horror is a sub-genre in science fiction, but sometimes there are books that are mostly science fiction with a bit of horror. Where do those get sorted? Here, they get sorted here.

Black Sun (2020) by Rebecca Roanhorse is the start of what is going to be an epic series. Heavy in fantasy, it follows the imaginary Indigenous people of a south-american inspired world. There are warring clans, a failing priesthood, richly detailed rituals, and enormous crows you can fly upon. Lots and lots of gore in this one, holy crap.

Six Wakes (2017) by Mur Lafferty. A locked room murder mystery, but the locked room is a space ship. A crew of clones wakes up in a mess of blood and gore and their own murdered bodies. Their recent memories have been wiped and the ship’s data is inaccessible. The book switches between unreliable narrators, and you are left guessing at every turn. There is a BIG reveal that was very satisfying.

The Dread Nation series by Justina Ireland is a YA duology. I preferred the first title (Dread Nation 2018) to the second in the series (Deathless Divide 2020), but both are very well done. The American Civil War is over, but geez those zombies wreaked havoc on the entire country and most folks are just doing their best to rebuild their lives. Black girls are trained to be body guards for the white ladies, and the tenuous “okay slavery is bad, but can I introduce you to our indentured servants” is a whole mood. Shit hits the fan soon after the book starts, and the location swiftly changes to a creepy town way out west, where folks are hoping to escape the hoards that have swept through the cities of the east. But things are weird out here too, what’s a zombie killer to do? Lots of action and a mystery, but also really sweet friendships and characters you really give a shit about. And terrifying, terrifying zombies.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (2019) by P Djeli Clark. Y’all, I put P Djeli Clark on all of my book lists. Sometimes twice. This felt like a buddy detective movie, with the more experienced Agent from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities showing the new guy how it’s done. But this time they’ve got a haunted tram car that seems to defy their skills. It’s a novella set in a beautifully crafted world that you will be craving more stories from.

Short Stories

If you want a little bit of fright in small doses, might I suggest grabbing a short story collection. Here are three of my recent faves. Unfortunately, I don’t have exact content notes for these ones, so reader beware.

If you liked Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and want more stories set in this universe, Tales of the Peculiar (2016) by Ransom Riggs is literally that. The story that stuck in my brain was about wealthy cannibals who strike an arrangement with peculiars whose limbs grow back. Shocking and delightful. Creepy more than scary, it offers a deeper look into the world and history of Peculiars.

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite (2020), edited by Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C Parker. Even the scardiest cat enjoys vampires, I know it. An assortment of stories by a variety of authors offers up something for everyone. A bit of haunting, gore, psychological, campy, it’s all in here.

And to close out the fiction show, let’s tip our hats to one of the masters of the spooky book, Edgar Allen Poe. His Hideous Heart (2019) edited by Dahlia Adler is filled with spectacular re-tellings of Poe classics.

Non-Fiction

This is a section I didn’t think I needed until I remember the precious gift to humanity that is Mary Roach. She has written two glorious titles that deserve a mention on the spooky list:

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I read a handful of spooky books every year, and I consider this a sub-genre that I thoroughly enjoy. While I might never be into the slasher stuff, there are still a lot of horror titles to choose from that offer up a story I can get behind. Ask your questions in the comments, or include some of your favourite spooky books!

Family Scrapbook Tradition

FAMILY SCRAPBOOK TRADITION

HOW IT STARTED

Christmas 2016 is the date of the first scrapbook. That much I know. I asked everyone to either write their favourite thing(s) about Christmas or something you are grateful for on Christmas.  I think my plans were initially to create a book every December holiday we spent together. That changed in 2018 when my sister and her family moved to Dubai in the middle of summer. There was no longer a guaranteed time of year we would be together. And so the tradition pivoted. And I think it’s stronger – and more fun – for that.

THE SCRAPBOOK FORMULA

Each year I pose a new question to answer. That’s what lives on the first two pages of the book. A little preamble, and the set up. The rest of the book is filled with photos and answers. I have been using our Instax instant camera in order to simplify the project, and ensure it gets completed in a timely fashion. There is no waiting for a photo to develop at a lab, or print at home. The photo is taken as I read the question, and then they fill out the card. Each family member gets to choose their journaling card, and they write their own answer there. I especially like this for the kids because we get to watch their printing and writing as it changes over the years. The final two pages are where I get to be a bit more creative. A bit of shimmer or glitter. A big sticker. I learned from the first year (and from a lot of experience) that flat is best in these types of books.

THE TRADITION CONTINUES IN 2021

The layout of the book is much the same as in years past. But the introduction and question has changed of course.

“This past year has no precedence in our lifetimes. But we made it. We overcame obstacles, we saw some wild stuff, and we learned we could do tough and amazing things. This year we answered: What is something I did this year that I am proud of.”

This year’s book makes six in total. Six years. Wow. Wowzas.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. You can start a tradition any time. Like, literally. Today is a great day to start that family scrapbooking tradition you’ve always wanted. You haven’t missed anything. Don’t lament about the memories you haven’t captured. Get excited about all the memories you are going to capture

2. Keep it simple so you are more likely to finish it. Making a formula to follow every time helps. If you think that will make it boring, change up something within the formula – colour or pattern of paper, order of photos, one or two more “creative” pages – but keep the main outline of the book the same.

3. Keep it flexible so it can change if your life changes. My sister moved halfway across the damn world and we still make this work.

Daily Pages – My New Creative Habit?

Daily Pages – My New Creative Habit?

I joined a Daily Pages challenge in September. This is my experience with the Challenge, and a little bit about my current feelings and future in scrapbooking.

What are Daily Pages?

Daily Pages are a “creative self-documenting habit” started by rukristin. Their purpose is to help you cultivate a habit to get your stories down in a small book. A wide variety of folks make Daily Pages, and I have seen all types of materials and supplies go into them. It’s less about rules, and more about: “there are no rules – just do it”.

Why a Challenge?

Y’all I needed a kick in the butt, and an email reminder every day that someone else sent me was (at this point) the kick in the butt that I needed. It’s no secret that I have been struggling with scrapbooking for many years now, and this provided a low key way to use what I have and be a little bit creative every day. And forget about the label “scrapbook” for a while.

What Supplies To Use?

The best part about Daily Pages is that it’s completely defined by each person. And the point is to use what you have. But seriously, to actually use what you have. There is a joke about scrapbookers (and this pops up in every craft), that buying and holding on to supplies is half the fun. For some people it’s all the fun. I still remember a long-time customer at Treasured Memories who bought our Month Kit every month and had never used any of them!

Now, I haven’t purchased new supplies in a long time. Okay, maybe the occasional sticker, but nothing like back in my heyday. And as most crafters know, it is practically impossible to run out of the fun stuff. Glue yes. Stickers and glitter and paper and rhinestones? Never. I may not have a lot of the latest and greatest, but I still have some really cute stuff that I loved enough to buy.

What am I trying to say here? I am trying to say what I am always trying to say. Use what you have.

Thankfully the Daily Pages Challenge actually got me going through my supplies again, with fresh eyes. Everything is still completely unorganized, but there are less things in bins and more things stuck to paper. Winning!

Nontraditional Scrapbooking

I feel very unconnected with the scrapbooking world because I don’t do it like most other folks. This creates a weird feeling in me, as I used to define myself by my scrapbooking. I worked in a scrapbook store, I taught classes, I blogged about it, and I scrapbooked daily. There is still a lot of pressure (self-created) to be in this space somehow.

I need to redefine it and how it works for me. This hobby of artfully arranging photos and paper for the purpose of memory-keeping and creativity.

FURTHER READING

Summer Memories Scrapbook (Not Ladylike)

Daily Pages

Treasured Memories, the best scrapbook store ever!

Autumn in Edmonton

This is just an excuse to post some of the photos I have taken recently. They aren’t great photos, but thankfully this isn’t a photo blog!

I love to explore Edmonton throughout the year, but it really comes alive in the fall. The leaves start to change colour, the golden hour is warm and cozy, and the long shadows creep and tease. Our River Valley is a feast for the eyes.

A few blocks from our home is a large ravine, with a small creek running through. It is dense with mature trees and a lot of trails. Follow those trails north far enough and you reach our River Valley, which is a natural area larger than you can imagine. It stretches for 48km along the North Saskatchewan River, and there are trails along all but a small section. If it’s views you are after, you are in luck, as we are also home to the High Level Bridge, a 110 year old train bridge that towers over the river in the heart of downtown.

If I get started right after dinner I can make it all the way to the High Level Bridge to watch the sun set over Edmonton. It’s a beautiful site, one that makes my fear of heights well worth it. These views always get me thinking about the future of my city, especially that the climate crisis might change them forever. The walk home gives me a lot of time to think about how I might take action in their favour.

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

These are the traditional and contemporary homelands of the Plains Cree, Blackfoot, Tsuu Tina, Metis Nation (Native Land), and many other First Nations and Inuit people now call this place home. White settlers have done a lot of terrible things to eliminate these people and their rich cultures from the land we all call home. This genocide continues and is perpetuated by systems steeped in white supremacy. We must freely admit these truths so we can become proper neighbours, and all enjoy peace and friendship in this beautiful place.