You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Sweet Finds’ category.

Feeling the need for a family fix and a couple of good granny meals, I decided to motor off to the rich province to the west for Easter weekend. Then, being conditioned to multi-tasking, I figured I’d kill two birds by picking up some hand-me-down furniture for my new place en route. So I increased my carbon footprint dramatically by renting a ridiculously gigantic cargo van and hurtling several hundred kilometres in a giant loop, from Regina over to Calgary, then up to Edmonton, across to Wainwright, and then back around, through Saskatoon and back home.

I carpooled as far as Moose Jaw with Dave and Al, and then drove the long haul to my home-town, arriving late the first night to the land of Black Gold wealth and real estate mania. I don’t really relate to Calgary very well anymore, so it was OK that my visit was a short one. But it was a delight to see Pammy, one of my oldest friends. She’d been holding a mighty gift for me ever since I left home for university, and this past weekend I finally got to cash in on it: a giant cowgirl armchair, with half-wagon wheels for a frame and a great bull’s head emblazoned on a green vinyl chair back. We hauled it out of her basement (breaking off a piece in the process…it’ll glue) and into the van. Then I got invited into the garage to dig around in boxes and collect more loot. Score.

Then it was back on the road. Destination number two was Edmonton, where I was treated to a Filipino feast and birthday cheesecake, and left with family heirlooms including my great-grandmother’s wooden rocking chair, an antique bookshelf, an old wooden footstool (which I also have a miniature version of that my grandfather built for my dollhouse), some serious artwork, and a bunch of other good loot. After that my dad joined me on the third leg of the journey to Wainwright to visit the (ailing but lovely) grandparentals, eat more decadent food (lots of meat, mashed potatoes, turnip puff, aspic, etc.), and drive out to the lake cottage to score an antique office chair and a delightfully rustic and unnecessary dresser.

Not the most relaxing Easter holiday on record, but it did serve the joint purpose of furniture and family. Before I knew it I was back on the road for the last leg of my whirlwind furnishing adventure. Unfortunately, about halfway between Saskatoon and Regina I was in a full-on blizzard. Yup. April in Western Canada. I am so ready for spring.

But for now I’ll have to satisfy myself with my new-to-me furniture, and the delight at having survived my epic cargo van journey through the brown bland almost-spring prairie. Hopefully by this weekend I’ll be close to fully moved in to my new place. And then in a few short weeks my mom leaves her idyllic Vancouver Island home to do her horticulture practicum landscaping my new garden. Yes, bizarre. More on that to come, as well as pics of the most excellent new-to-me furnishings.

xo n

Tonight I went to hear the mythical David Suzuki speak at the University of Regina. It was the best live talk I’ve ever been too. Hands down. That man has so much cred that he maintains absolute legitimacy even while hollering into the microphone like a raving lunatic. It was seriously excellent. For some reason I thought powerful oration was a lost art, but clearly I was wrong.

He’s heading west and has a number of stops left to go, so if he hasn’t already passed through your town yet, please try to check him out. Find the sched here. ‘Cause we all need more heroes, right?

xo n

to never watch TV again. The wondrous alternatives are endless, and I love the way this dude captures them. Actually, I think his whole ebook, Live Simple, is pretty cool.

Ok, so I fell off the map for the last while, but I return with some major news: I made a very large and very old purchase. As of yesterday I am the proud (and terrified) owner of a 1944 bungalow in “Canada’s worst neighbourhood.” I’m not fazed by the bad neighbourhood part (I’ve lived in some most excellent bad neighourhoods in my day, and I actually think I prefer them…call it the Romantic Starving Artist archetype within). What scares me is the responsibility, commitment, and probable substantial cost of the endeavour.

There seem to be two schools of thought on home-owning in this day and age. There’s the standard one, which goes along the lines of, “Why pay rent every month to someone else when you could be paying it into your own investment?” Though I sometimes wonder if that that line of thinking might be nothing more than big bank propaganda, it’s ultimately the one I decided to go with, mostly because Regina has such an affordable and growing real estate market. In that way, I’ve made a very calculated investment (a.k.a. risk). I fully intend to make money from this and put it towards something else (of even greater value, whether financial or spiritual). Of course, in the meantime it’s also going to be my home, which is one of the most important parts of my life.

But there’s a critical argument against investing in real estate too, and that’s the one that is scary. It goes something like, “Maybe, just maybe, buying something huge that requires constant upkeep and maintenance isn’t actually the best way to move towards sustainability (financial independence, smaller ecological footprint, simpler life, etc.). Why would I want to live in (and pay to maintain) a comparatively huge property and structure, when I could certainly spend less money by not owning my own house? A couple of my more righteously hardcore friends have also reminded me gently that a whole house is more space than most of the world’s population has, and that it’s my responsibility as a privileged Northerner to decrease the amount of global space and energy I take up.

Yes, yes, yes and yes. I know these things and am in full agreement. And even though I’m scared and have lots of questions and fears about the whole thing, I still wanted to buy a whole house. Why? What am I hoping to achieve through this purchase that I think might actually serve the common good?

1. Financial Independence. So how exactly does my financial independence serve the common good? A fine question. Please refer to Your Money or Your Life for the best answer, but in the meantime here’s my version: by becoming less dependent on the mainstream socioeconomic structure, my work is freed up to happen on my own terms, without being as compromised to cultural expectations. In other words, I can focus on the work that is most important (and most fulfills my purpose/potential) without having to worry as much about how I will survive.

2. Greater freedom over the choices I make and my lifestyle. For example, I can (hopefully) use my property to grow food, which increases my self-reliance, decreases my reliance on Big Food, and localizes/simplifies/improves my food consumption. I can also choose to make energy efficient choices/upgrades in my home, and design my space based on what I legitimately need and think is of value rather than simply filling it up with a million things. (For the record, I also plan to share the space, so if any of y’all know of any potential roomies who might be keen to share the practice of Subverting Overconsumption, let me know!)

3. Greater sense of home, community, connectedness, happiness. Ok, one cute little house won’t necessarily give me all (or any) of these. But I’m working towards these states in my life, and while a happier, more connected me may not sound like a giant service to humankind, I actually think it is. The more successfully I can resolve the doubts I have about my role in the world, the more successfully I can focus on the business of fulfilling my potential. Though my purpose sometimes feels like it is eluding me, whether it’s ultimately to publish independent media or write or simply be a good and compassionate friend and neighbour, the happier and more at peace I am, the better. Hopefully building a healthy, functional home that reflects my values will support that.

So there you have it. I have high hopes for my little house on the prairie. I don’t expect its red trim and hardwood floors to provide a map to world peace or a solution to climate change, but I do hope that it will be the beginnings of a home base that will help to manifest my vision. With regards to this project, I think it will be a wicked fun challenge to see what I can do with it from here on in.

See you at the housewarming,

xo n

Addendum (2/2/07): Upon reflection this started to bug me. Check out my next posting for some elaboration. xo n.

The 1st of February 2007:

Participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming!

The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet. http://www.lalliance.fr

People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the first of February 2007, between 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm in New York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy. 1.55pm in Ottawa, 10.55am on the Pacific Coast of North America.

This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, and costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate.

Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris.

This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight.

Ok, so I thought the 100-mile diet was radical until my mom forwarded me this article called “Consumed with less: not buying any food” (Globe & Mail, January 13, 2007)*. It’s about the Freegan movement, which basically takes freecycling to the next (and perishable) level: dumpster diving for wasted food that is still fine to eat.

It’s not something I can personally envision myself doing, probably for a combination of reasons including a slight phobia of other people’s dirt and germs, and the cultural perception of what it means to dig through the garbage. On one hand I have a long and proud history of finding treasures in the trash, but eating only from the garbage probably wouldn’t cut it for me. Eating is not just a political statement for me. It also has everything to do with health, and I find it hard to imagine having a consistently well-balanced diet through Freeganism alone.

That said, I have to admit I like the idea. One girl’s garbage is another girl’s treasure, a truth that undoubtedly holds for food too. Visit www.freegankitchen.com for more info and to see a great video blog about cooking Freegan style that makes it look totally appealing and sexy. And here’s a YouTube clip that’s fun too:

*For some reason the link to the complete article doesn’t work, but I did access it by Googling “consumed with less globe mail.”

For the past two and a half months I’ve undertaken to buy nothing new, and I’ve resolved to keep up the effort for another 290 or so days. Hurtling into 2007 has found me feeling very much like I’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible with this project, and like it might be time to start taking it to whole other levels. Not all at once, but with clear intention and resolve. (And joy and uproarious laughter, pretty please!) So here is what I am dreaming of and working towards for Subverting Overconsumption in 2007:

1. Becoming financially independent
No small feat, I’m aware. But I’m resolving to practice the nine fabulous steps of Your Money or Your Life until I get there! How I consume is inextricably linked to how I spend, and I want my relationship to money to be aligned with my values. I think that’s what differentiates stated versus actual values (i.e., what we say is important versus the choices we make and actions we take). So Your Money or Your Life is officially being added to the Revised Guidelines for Subverting Overconsumption.

2. Becoming a home owner
I don’t want to give away Canada’s best kept real estate secret, but Regina is probably the last Canadian city where the likes of me (a.k.a. The Creative Class/Working Poor) can still aspire to invest in real estate without being permanently in debt. Of course I’m not talking about buying a new house! I’m talking about a tiny, old, ramshackle Regina character home. Just imagine setting up house and fixing up a fixer-upper without buying anything new! The possibilities are endless: skills exchanges, community sharing of tools (e.g., ladders, lawn mowers, etc.), learning handy skills, scoring recycled or freecycled building materials, taking epic road trips into rural Saskatchewan searching for the perfect vintage living room suite. Documenting the project could be a project in itself!

3. Incorporating food
Ah, food. The grand caveat. The original Guidelines for Subverting Overconsumption had everything to do with “stuff”, but nothing to do with how I actually nourish my body. And man, have I ever been taking advantage of that. Treats and wine and restaurant dining galore!

But in the meantime I’ve been exposed to some inspiring food ideas (The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the 100-Mile Diet, to name just a couple). On top of that, Your Money or Your Life has been kicking me in the ass and raising my consciousness about all aspects of my spending. The combined effect is absolute clarity that ignoring food in any conversation about consumption is just silly. So although I’m not quite ready for the 100-mile diet in Southern Saskatchewan just yet (though I have a friend who’s working at it as we speak), food is coming under the microscope in 2007. For now I’ve started buying Canadian wine (it’s important to celebrate the small victories, right?).

4. Incorporating Culture
See above…even sillier than pretending to be able to talk about consumption without talking about food is trying to talk about it without talking about culture. I want to produce more than I consume (i.e., I want my net creativity to be positive). I don’t want to have a TV again. I think I might not even want internet at home. I don’t think I need to read magazines anymore. I think what I really need to do is write. And make images. Make make make make make.

(Practical steps for producing more including: 1) taking this magazine writing course; 2) adding a Nikon digital SLR camera to the Wish List; 3) joining the Film Pool and Neutral Ground; 4) telling people what I’m trying to do.)

5. Working less
The status quo does not support the philosophy that working less than full-time is justifiable or even possible. People keep asking me how I like my new job, and I keep giving the same answer: it’s good, but I don’t like working full-time. Usually they laugh at me. Or sometimes their response is, with a slight edge to their voice, “Well, we all have to work.” The cultural conception seems to be that you must be lazy to want to work less than full time. But I don’t know if anyone who knows me would use the word lazy to describe my personality. And I can think of several reasons off the top of my head why full-time work might not be an ideal option for a person (parenthood, disability, art, activism…). So what does working less have to do with my intention towards subversive underconsumption? I want to produce more than I consume (in the creative and consumer senses). So I need more time to produce, and I need fewer resources with which to consume.

6. Finding a co-conspirator
I’m probably the most romantic cynic you’ll ever meet. At this point in my life, I am also one consummately single human. But I don’t particularly aspire towards that being a permanent state. I think this adventure would be so much more fun if I had someone really kickass to kick my ass. I haven’t been in this city long enough to justify adding “awesome boyfriend” to the Wish List, but this is me putting the possibility out to the universe.

So there you have it. Think big? Ok, you got me. Go down in flames? Well yeah, sometimes. But this isn’t about success or failure, right? It’s about my goddam process…staying awake to it, and to what the universe sends me. Right now it’s sending me—in no uncertain terms—photographers and debates about the nature of hope, both of which I’m doing my best to receive with gratitude and grace (or something related to grace).

With that I wish you all bountifully underconsumptive 2007s.

xox n

Check out the press release for Global Orgasm for Peace Day below, and the delightful science behind why mass synchronized orgasm could change the world at www.globalorgasm.org/demo.html and noosphere.princeton.edu. And don’t forget to celebrate the event on December 22! I can most certainly think of worse ways to act for peace.

Anti-War Activists Plan ‘Global Orgasm For Peace’

(CBS/AP) SAN FRANCISCO Two peace activists have planned a massive
anti-war demonstration for the first day of winter.

But they don’t want you marching in the streets. They’d much rather you
just stay home.

The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, whose immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.

“The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after
it,” Reffell said Sunday. “Your mind is like a blank. It’s like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change.”

The couple are no strangers to sex and social activism. Sheehan, no relation to anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, brought together nearly 50
women in 2002 who stripped naked and spelled out the word “Peace.”

The stunt spawned a mini-movement called Baring Witness that led to
similar unclothed demonstrations worldwide.

The couple have studied evolutionary psychology and believe that war is
mainly an outgrowth of men trying to impress potential mates, a case of
“my missile is bigger than your missile,” as Reffell put it.

By promoting what they hope to be a synchronized global orgasm, they
hope to get people to channel their sexual energy into something more
positive.

The couple said interest appears strong, with 26,000 hits a day to their
Web site, http://www.globalorgasm.org

“The dream is to have everyone in the world (take part),” Reffell said.
“And if that means laying down your gun for a few minutes, then hey, all
the better.”

xo n

Hmmm…Not as naughty as it sounds, but these posters from Take back Your Time are still fun.

It’s true! There is a correlation between how much time we spend working and how much we consume. In general, the more we earn, the more we spend. And the more we work, the less time we have for everything, including making conscious choices.

Check out www.timeday.org for more info.

Waste Less

Adult Playground Rules

Trying to buy nothing new for a year is definitely challenging me to think outside the box when it comes to my consumption habits. In other ways, however, Subverting Overconsumption is requiring me to play some things old skool. It turns out that sometimes the solution I’m looking for has always been there, just waiting for me to notice it.

Take the public library for example. This past Saturday I visited the central branch of the Regina Public Library (RPL) to get myself a library card, something I haven’t had since I was about ten years old. While I was there I visited the art gallery that’s housed on the library’s premises, and checked out the schedule for the RPL theatre, Regina’s only repertory cinema. I received a brief introduction to the library’s services from a RPL staff-person, got my card, and before leaving spent a bit of time browsing the stacks and the online catalogue.

One visit was all it took to fall in love with my public library! I feel particularly lucky to have moved to a city where the library seems so especially excellent, and where the central branch is only a few blocks from my house. It’s possible that all city libraries are as cool as the RPL, but to be honest, I’ve had my head up my ass too long to know one way or another. For the past 20 years I’ve been completely oblivious to this most excellent of public spaces/services.

I’m not sure why the public library disappeared from my radar for so long. Living the majority of my adult life in a city where my first language wasn’t the official one probably had something to do with it. Plus I think I just got caught up in the romance of owning books. There’s just something undeniably sexy about having one’s own library. When I visit someone’s home for the first time I invariably check them out via their books, and I assume nothing less of my houseguests. There’s cultural capital in having interesting books on one’s shelf. (It doesn’t matter that I often buy fabulous sounding books only to have them sit on the bookshelf for months or years before I get around to reading them.)

When I decided to try to buy nothing new for a year I was scared that not having access to new books would make me out of touch and ill-informed. So thank heavens for the RPL. As I begin to update my ideas about what a public library has to offer I realize that things have likely changed a little in the 20 years since I had my last library card. For example, the Internet and digital media happened. On my way into the library on Saturday I passed a youngish guy with an armload of DVDs, and before that moment it had honestly never occurred to me that it was possible to borrow DVDs (for free!) from the public library. It turns out the RPL has 11,000 DVDs to choose from, a collection I can browse online from the privacy of my own home. I may never have to set foot in a Blockbuster again!

I know how all this must sound to you open-minded and intelligent public-service utilizing citizens out there. It’s like I just woke up from a 20-year coma and am stunned by how far the world has come while I was asleep. The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes it’s the simplest things that this project is getting me to notice, just by forcing me to take a little extra time to think about the ways I consume. Things like the public library that have always been there, right under my nose and free, seem incredibly exciting and innovative. In the case of the library, the very thing that makes it so special – its accessibility – might be the same thing that makes it so easy to take it for granted. As one of our last truly public spaces, my fear is that dimwits like me will keep sleeping through the wonders of the library until it does finally disappear into the oblivion

Some facts that make me love the RPL even more (courtesy of the RLP website):

  • “The RPL Film Theatre began as a community film society in the mid-1960s. We are the only cinema in the city to consistently present and support critically acclaimed Canadian, foreign and independent films.” (Adult admission is $6 or $9 for a double feature.)
  • “The Dunlop Art Gallery is dedicated to engaging, researching and presenting a diverse range of visual artwork…We are fortunate to be located within the Regina Public Library. A place people go looking for answers. At the gallery we pose questions.”
  • “Library Art Rentals: There are currently over 200 works of historic and contemporary paintings and graphic art by Canadian artists. This collection circulates through loans to individual patrons and organizations with a Regina Public Library borrower’s card for a modest fee. Works are not available for sale.”
  • “Homebound Service: Available for Regina residents of all ages who, for reasons of ill health, disability or age are unable to visit the Library; are unable to leave their homes for a period of three months or longer.”
  • Internet, free of charge.

Flickr Photos