Remembering New School

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Last night we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the New School, an alternative program at Dawson College based on principles of humanistic education. At the same time, we paid tribute to Greta Hofmann Nemiroff, retiring longtime teacher and co-director of the school.

I got a chance to experience the New School in its heydey, when it still occupied two whole floors of an Old Montreal office building. After an unhappy high-school experience where I’d ended up in advanced science and math classes despite not a shred of interest in those subjects, I was finally in my element. We had darkrooms, film editing labs, art studios, a ceramics kiln, and a black-box theatre. Apparently we even had our own library, though I don’t remember it. Classrooms felt more like living rooms, complete with grubby homey couches. We brought mugs to make tea in the common spaces, where plenty of plants added to the cozy feel. I became addicted to Earl Grey.

broccoliI felt like a whole person at the New School, respected and valued for qualities beyond my academic performance. We “shopped” for “learning groups” at the start of each term and created our own curriculum. These groups were later matched with official government-sanctioned course names in a strange ritual called “course matching.” I would look at my transcript every semester and have no idea what courses I actually took.

Everyone participated in twice-weekly “bands” in which the subject was our lives. We talked a lot about process, about our feelings, about how we interacted with each other. We did self-evaluations and group evaluations. I learned to become self-aware. We were very earnest and idealistic.

There was a saying at New School, emblazoned on a T-shirt:

There is no broccoli at New School, but if any showed up, we would accept it for what it was.

You probably had to be there.

I met people from all walks of life and made lifelong friends. I learned the art of the potluck and discovered hummus. I listened to Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Jane Siberry, Joni Mitchell. I became addicted to the toasted tomato sandwiches served in the basement cafeteria.

One semester, I facilitated a learning group and we put out three issues of a school newspaper, in the era just before desktop publishing became commonplace. We cut up typewritten newspaper articles, pasted them up with scotch tape, and photocopied and stapled them together. We ran a bake sale and car wash to raise funds for photocopy costs. I wrote this piece for one issue:

What a New Schooler Sees

I pursued my passion for theatre and soon discovered an even greater passion for film, encouraged by a mentor in the form of teacher Simon Davies. (I went on to study film and TV at university.) Through Greta and my peers, I discovered feminism and activism, became even more unafraid to go against the tide, and learned how to articulate and speak up about things that were important to me.

At New School, I thrived, and it helped shape who I am. I wish New School all the best for the next 40 years.

Smoothie Adventure

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Blender

There sat the word on my “Things to Get” list for well over a year. As a smoothie-lover, my $40, 14-speed Osterizer just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Barely crumbled ice cubes, lumpy date residue… I needed to face facts: my smoothies were sad.

During a trip to warmer climes this past winter, our living quarters were graced with some positively kick-ass blenders. They whirred like a boss. Frozen drinks abounded. I quickly became spoiled.

With the return of hot and humid weather in Montreal, I’ve been motivated to find out just what those magical blenders were, and where I could get one.

Several emails and one Amazon order later, the Oster Versa Performance Blender is mine. It’s got 1,100 watts of mighty melding power. And I’m in smoothie heaven.

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 minutes
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1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 pitted date (for sweetness, you can use another type of sweetener if you prefer, like honey)
1 frozen banana chunks
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. nut butter, any kind (I like trying various nut-butter combos from Nuts to You)
1-2 ice cubes (optional, if you have a high-performance blender they’ll give your drink a more slushie-like texture)

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

I have this smoothie for a quick breakfast at least a few times a week.

This recipe is a variation of the original Vegan Chocolate Milkshake from Food52.

Pineapple Mango Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Print

1/3 cup fresh pineapple, cubed (I’m sure canned would be fine too)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh mango, cubed
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (you could use water, regular milk, or orange juice if you prefer)
3 tbsp. orange juice (optional)
1 tsp. honey (or your preferred sweetener, like agave or cane sugar)
3 ice cubes

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

This smoothie has a delicious Creamsicle-like flavour. I may try a few drops of vanilla next time to boost that impression.

This recipe is a variation of the original Tropical Smoothie from the Oster Versa Fresh & Fit Recipe Guide.

Got a favourite smoothie recipe? I’d love to know about it.

Getting Comfortable With Child Themes

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When I get excited about something to do with WordPress, my usual inclination is to create a presentation to share my enthusiasm with others. That’s what I did for child theming, a handy way of making changes to a pre-made theme for a self-hosted WordPress site – without losing all your tweaks the next time you update the theme to its latest version.

I’ve presented this talk at a couple of WordCamps, and the video from last year’s event in Montreal is now online. Curious about child themes? Check out the talk – about 35 minutes including audience questions – and slides below.

Hand Model

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When I was much younger, I used to bite my nails and cuticles. Perhaps from stress, possibly just a bad habit. Then one day for some inexplicable reason, I no longer felt the urge to bite my nails anymore, and I stopped.

Having messed-up hands as a kid, I never ever would have expected that one day a talented jewellery designer would ask me to model some rings for her new website.

And yet, it happened! My friend Rachel Dhawan needed some hand models, and a gathering of friends was the perfect opportunity to have some of us lend a hand – literally.

Here’s how it went down.

It was a fun experience… but I don’t think I’ll give up my day job.

The Techie Continuum

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When referring to myself over the years, I’ve always adamantly declared that despite whatever skills I might have,

“I’m not a techie.”

I didn’t study computer science and I’m not what I’d call a “hard-core programmer.”

And yet some might point out the obvious. I’ve been sharing WordPress knowledge in forums and at conferences ever since I started using it. I’m my family’s on-call tech support. I help folks with technical issues all day, every day, and even get paid to do it. I solve people’s WordPress problems, quash quandaries, clarify conundrums.

Even so, I still wouldn’t dream of referring to myself as an expert, guru, or ninja. (And let’s not even bring up “rock star” – just don’t go there.)

Due to a combination of low self-esteem, imposter syndrome, and, let’s face it, a severe case of Canadianitis, I’ve only recently come to truly believe that I may actually know some stuff. I now realize that everyone can be found somewhere on a techie continuum, and perhaps, just maybe, I’m somewhere toward the higher end of it.

No matter where you are on the techie continuum, chances are you know a bit more about something than someone else. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with them. It feels good. It’s giving back. And maybe some day you’ll even start to feel confident that you know a few things.

Ninja

Not a ninja. Photo (cc) by Nick Harris

Perfectionism and Blogging

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Kathryn P.:

I shared some thoughts on the Press Publish blog about how perfectionism affects my blogging. The conversation it sparked reminded me that I’m not alone.

Originally posted on Press Publish:

Perfectionism is a tricky flaw to have. It makes me want to do everything perfectly – and doing a thorough and awesome job at something can bring on the accolades, which in turn makes me want to be just as perfectionistic the next time.

But striving for perfection is stressful. And sometimes it stops me from doing anything at all.

Take my blog, for example. After not even having a blog for many years – especially embarrassing considering my profession, first as a web designer building custom WordPress sites and later as a WordPress Happiness Engineer – I finally launched one in late 2013. But I’ve only published 26 posts since then! I want each entry to be special and memorable, whether it’s a gallery of images I’ve taken, a story I tell, or an experience I’ve had.

Other bloggers I follow talk about their kids, or their cats, or…

View original 45 more words

Press Publish Portland

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If you’re into WordPress, you’ve likely heard of WordCamps – grassroots events held around the world, with sessions aimed at developers, designers, and users of the WordPress open-source software. You may also have heard about tech-heavy WordPress conferences like LoopConf or business-focused ones like PressNomics.

Last week, a brand new WordPress event called Press Publish made its debut in Portland, Oregon, and I was lucky to be a part of it. An initiative of Automattic, the conference mixed advice and inspiration for bloggers with tips on making the most of WordPress. It was jam-packed with motivating talks, from speakers like Erick Prince-Heaggans, a travel blogger and photojournalist, and Ananda Leeke, a “yoga, creativity, and Internet geek,” both of whom I had the pleasure to chat with during the course of the event.

I loved being involved in Press Publish – from meeting WordPress users of all levels and helping them at the Happiness Bar, to bonding with my fellow Automatticians. Oh yeah, I also gave some talks and workshops! My short presentation Wild About Widgets was recorded, and the video should be out in a few weeks. I gave a workshop on using the WordPress Customizer with Sheri Bigelow and another on mastering menus and widgets. My colleague Michelle Langston and I ran an intro workshop on CSS, putting together a reference site and demo where we showed examples of how you can tweak your site with CSS to get it looking exactly how you want.

The next Press Publish is on April 18 in Phoenix. If you’re anywhere in the area I hope you’ll consider attending. I’d love to meet you!

I had a comment after my Hawaii post that there were no photos of me. I hope this one makes up for that. :) Thanks to Josh Root and Anne McCarthy for some of the pics.