Building Community: From DIY to DIWO

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting with some interesting, inspiring business-builders in my neighbourhood. Our community is in the midst of a big change, and we came together to share and learn how we can help each other’s businesses grow and thrive. We left our unofficial “launch” with an attitude of gratitude, and on reflection, I know what it is that I’m most grateful for: that we’ve moved from DIY to DIWO.

What’s that, you ask? It starts with an idea, any idea, you may have to strengthen the bonds with your community. Taking a step into action, any step, however small, means you’ve moved to “DIY”, or do-it-yourself. Encourage even one other person to join you, and your movement will suddenly become “DIWO” – do-it-with-others. That’s where community happens, and there’s nowhere to go but up!

Community Equals Connection

Recently our neighbourhood came together for an annual spring event, the Big Park Cleanup (in fact the whole community gets cleaned, as much as we can). Many hands made light work, and Regent Park looked even better when we were done. We had volunteer photographers, like Mark Shapiro, we were well fed by the Regent Park Catering Collective, and community facilitator and animator Barb Brook and volunteer Leonard Swartz organized us in grand fashion, just to mention a few.

Tonight many of us will come together again for our bi-monthly community potluck – the theme this month is gardening. Can’t wait to try all the delicious food! (Hmm…do you sense a theme here?) It’s at the Daniels Spectrum, 6:30pm. See you there!

Kids in the City – How Families are Hacking Highrise Living

One of the great things about having “gone condo”, is the wide mix of families that are coexisting in our building. I can remember living in the suburbs when our kids were small, convinced, as many families, that it would be really difficult to raise kids in an urban environment. Experience, and the families that surround us every day, have convinced me otherwise. As we travelreflecting pool Toronto Sign about, we see strollers, wagons, bikes, kids on their own two feet – just as we once did in the suburbs. Densification has made this such a hot topic, the City of Toronto even commissioned a study – called the Growing Up study.

It was really interesting to discover that it’s not just empty-nesters like me who have decided to take advantage of the convenience of condo life. I was especially enthusiastic to read in the report, about the parent who commented that they are able to give more time to their kids because they aren’t weighed down by a bunch of exterior maintenance on their home. There were lots of other interesting insights – if you like finding out how other people organize their lives, you’ll enjoy it also.

As climate change, expensive city homes, and other factors lead many of us to consider taking up only the space we need, rather than the space that advertisers, television shows, or social/peer pressures try to convince us to want, tall and tiny homes are becoming increasingly popular. Far from being a compromise or a sacrifice, we’ve found it to be a very freeing exercise – and our commitment to super-organized, minimalist, needs-not-wants living is the only thing that’s growing, while our footprint is most decidedly shrinking to “just-right”.

 

 

Seeds grow more than plants

IMG_5006Learning to grow your own food, whether it’s a single pot of herbs on the kitchen counter, or a bigger enterprise, like this, is an empowering activity. When you grow something you can eat, you appreciate all your food just a little more than you did before. For many of us, gardening is a labour of love, and out of tiny seeds, many lessons grow. Here are just a few:

  1. Attention: some gardeners plop seeds or plants in the ground, water, and walk away. If they don’t see something happening immediately, they stop paying attention. They don’t realize that daily attention will help them learn when to water, whether there are pests or problems, or how to recognize the living things they are producing, at each and every stage.
  2. Patience: plants can be fast-growing, and beans, or other species, are useful for first-timers. They show themselves very early. This is why transplants can be helpful in the first-time gardener’s plot. The beets and carrots, on the other hand, make us wait. And wait. But we learn they are worth it.
  3. Resilience: sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped. Gardens teach us to go with the flow. They demonstrate that sometimes we get something more wonderful than we expected, but that there are also disappointments – yet the garden carries on regardless.
  4. Ingenuity and charity: over-abundant plants, whether they are tomatoes, zucchini, or other super-producers, provide us with an opportunity to research ways of preserving them to eat later. They can nourish us in the winter, when food prices escalate, or they are natural, healthy gifts we can share with our friends and family.

Gardens need not be restricted to giant country or suburban plots. Small spaces produce amazing and wonderful amounts of food. Busy lives mean that parents may never have learned to garden, and so can’t pass this valuable skill on to their kids. Fortunately there are dedicated volunteers like the folks at Green Thumbs, who are making sure the gardening knowledge is passed on to new generations of growers. I urge you to click the link and check out these neighbours of mine!

 

How do I Find A…in Regent Park?

Dive In!Regent Park is a neighbourhood in transition – where new residents are meeting and mingling with folks who have lived here for a very long time. So some of us newcomers, like me, are finding our way around to the services, people, and places that surround us.

One of the places to connect is our amazing aquatic centre – with this friendly guy at the entrance. There are lots of other opportunities to connect also; all you have to do is dive in! (Yes, I’ve been known to like a pun or two).

Today, for example, and every Wednesday for the summer, you can get an amazing, tasty meal for only four bucks at Regent Park. Just show up around 6pm, and buy a ticket from the folks in the Community Food Centre booth. Get in line, and be prepared for something delicious (last week it was rice, lentils, curry beef, and salad – tasty!) While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the vendors on site, selling fresh bread, Ethiopian coffee, and lots of other treats.

One more great way to get involved in the RPNA Logoneighbourhood is the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association, or RPNA. You can also find the RPNA on Facebook, or follow what’s happening on Twitter. There are lots of amazing people to meet, with tremendous community spirit, and whether you want to simply find out what’s going on, to communicate with others who live in this fantastic community, or you need to find where to get a…well, you name it, the Neighbourhood Association’s got a place for you.

So come and visit, or if you live here, walk around – there’s so much to see and do. And if you’re so inclined, follow my WalkEatLive blog, or my tweets where I talk about places to walk and sightsee; healthy, fresh-made food; or other stories about the way we live and get the most out of life.

Fast food!

  
Today’s lunch is on a limited time budget. Lots of client work to do, problems and puzzles to solve! So how to make good food fast? You can never go wrong with a salad.

It helps to have one or two serving batches of frozen cooked legumes on hand, as they are much healthier than canned. But even those are an excellent choice in a pinch.

I layered some prewashed spinach on plates, and then cucumber, celery, mushrooms, and the chickpeas. For the dressing, 1/3 c or 80ml cider vinegar, 1 T/15ml olive oil, and the same amount of Dijon – whisk together for 2 servings. 

You could also make one of those handy mason jar salads this way, and take it to the office.

That’s it! Now back to work.