Bicycling baker gears up for spring

As the warmer weather approaches, cookie connoisseur Diana Manuel is excited to be able to ride her red bicycle full time to deliver baked goods.

By Ashley Corbett

(Ashley Corbett Peninsula News)
(Ashley Corbett Peninsula News)

As the warmer weather is approaching, cookie connoisseur Diana Manuel is excited to be able to ride her red bicycle full time to deliver baked goods.

Manuel runs her business out of her home kitchen, where she bakes small batches of cookies that are ordered by customers online. Deliveries are then made by bicycle (weather permitting).

She will also be a proud vendor at the Halifax Crafter’s Society Spring Market this weekend.

The birth of Cookie Cravings

Manuel, 26, created her company, Cookie Cravings, in 2012, but only started running it full time in November. She had always loved baking and learned her skills throughout her childhood from her mom. Bicycles were something she got into later in life.

After graduating with a degree in psychology, Manuel realized she was not sure she wanted to pursue her field of study after all.

“I think a lot of people in university are somewhat confused about what they want to be doing,” says Manuel. “So I started thinking saying, ‘okay, what do I love? And what do I find myself doing the most in my spare time?’”

And so, the idea for her business fell into place.

Equipped with a bell, leather seat and a cherry red coat of paint, Manuel has found the bicycle of her dreams. Though a few days of snowy conditions forced her to resort to other modes of transportation, she has used her bike to make deliveries throughout most of the winter.

She definitely prefers her trusty bicycle to other methods.

“Biking is a lot more fun, and I find it relaxing. Also if I have deliveries downtown it’s a pain to try to find parking,” Manuel says. “It’s also been a good way to get outside in the winter.”

Manuel with bicycle inside her home

Sticking close to home

Manuel strives to use local ingredients in her cookies as much as possible. Some of her locally sourced ingredients include butter and dark chocolate from Cow’s Creamery in Prince Edward Island, and oats from Speerville Flour Mill in New Brunswick.

Looking around her kitchen, colourful paint and dishware strike your senses. Manuel wears a red and white-checkered apron tied around her waist. Her glass jars of flour, sugar and other baking ingredients are lined up in a row.

Manuel in her kitchen (Ashley Corbett Peninsula News)
Manuel in her kitchen (Ashley Corbett Peninsula News)

In front of the jars sit four brown bags neatly packaged, tied with green twine and decorated with a bicycle stamp. The packages will be delivered to cookie customers that day.

“I think cookies make people happy, so everyone who orders from me and who I deliver to are really sweet,” says Manuel as her eyes light up.

“No one is grumpy when they’re getting cookies,” she says with a smile.

Springing into action

Currently, Manuel is gearing up for her booth at the Halifax Crafter’s Society Spring Show this weekend. The Halifax Crafter’s Society is a not-for-profit organization that’s been around since 2005.

Alissa Kloet, one of the volunteer organizers for the event, is passionate about helping local crafters like Manuel get their work out to the public.

“This is making a difference. This is giving people the stepping stones that they need in their businesses and in their professional endeavours,” she says.

Kloet says the spring show will have about 70-80 vendors.

Manuel is excited to be one of the vendors participating as she hasn’t been involved with the crafting society before. She’ll be selling mini egg cookies, one of her favorite treats right now, as well as her sandwich cookies and many other types.

The crafter’s show will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Olympic Community Centre.

Define HFX team goes through outreach results

The feedback is in for Define HFX, a public branding project for the region, and the results will be announced in a matter of weeks.

By Ashley Corbett

Point Pleasant Park
Strolling through Point Pleasant Park. (Ashley Corbett/Peninsula News)

The team behind the Halifax Regional Municipality’s most expensive public engagement initiative, Define HFX, is sorting through its findings.

The surveying phase of the project ended the first week of March.

Breton Murphy, manager of public affairs for HRM, said those involved with the project are working on articulating the brand so that they may present it to regional council.

“What we’ve done now is we’ve collected the feedback from people, and from that information we will distill the key attributes of the brand,” he said.

Getting the facts

Define HFX is a project which has reached out to residents to gain and articulate a collective sense of identity.

“It’s about asking, ‘What is the essence of this place we call home?'” said Murphy.

In November, regional council asked its staff to look at a brand initiative. It had been 20 years since amalgamation of Halifax and its surrounding municipalities.

Revolve Brand Inc. is the name of the local brand agency that was awarded the project at a cost of $217,000.

Dynamic outreach

In December, Revolve launched a website for Define HFX that would serve as a means for people to find information about the project, but would also provide a centralized hub to collect comments posted in social media channels.

The sunrise over Citadel Hill
The sunrise over Citadel Hill. (Ashley Corbett/Peninsula News)

The team behind the brand also began its outreach late last year, seeking residents, as well as people outside of the region, to get their feedback about the identity of the HRM.

Murphy says more than 20, 000 individuals have been involved with the project in some way. Revolve sought feedback through online surveying, and also a streeter approach.

Responses

“It is clear from council and from residents that there isn’t a mutually exclusivity between having pride in your community, whether that be Bedford, or Dartmouth, or Sackville, or Halifax, and having an affinity, a connection, and a pride in the region as a whole. We’ve found that one supports the other,” said Murphy.

Murphy says the brand is about “putting our best foot forward,” but it has to be authentic.

“We are asking, ‘What is about it that makes it special? What gives people to call it home? What can attract others? What helps us compete internationally?’ Getting to this essence is about our best attributes,” said Murphy.

However, Murphy recognizes that in going through this exercise some people will express the shortcomings of the region.

“It’s not only about positivity in terms of the research,” said Murphy. “It’s about understanding where that gap is. We have aspirations, say to be at X but currently we’re at Y. Part of it is about understanding how we can strive effectively.”

The future of the project

No statistics or information gathered is currently available to the public, but they will be once the brand has been proposed to regional council. This will be a matter of weeks, rather than months, said Murphy.

Pending council approval, the next stage of the project is implementation of the brand.

The investment associated with implementation has not yet been determined.

Emera Oval closes for the season

Families flocked to the Emera Oval this week to get in one last skate before the season ends this Sunday.

By Ashley Corbett

During the light snow fall on Tuesday, families ventured out to the Oval during their children's March Break. (Ashley Corbett/Peninsula News)
During the light snow fall on Tuesday, families ventured out to the Oval during their children’s March Break. (Ashley Corbett/Peninsula News)

Families flocked to the Emera Oval this week to get in one last skate before the season ends this Sunday.

The skating rink has been open four seasons now. The oval is Halifax’s only outdoor skating rink, and has hosted approximately 123,000 visitors according to one of its staff members.

“This puts a lot of demand on us,” says Lisa Doyle, acting community recreation coordinator for the oval. “But the public are so great. They are always understanding when we have to close due to weather, so it’s challenging but it’s such a great facility.”

The oval has a collection of more than 900 skates, including figure skates, hockey skates and speedskates. All of the figure and hockey skates have been donated. The speedskates belong to the Halifax Regional Speed Skating Club, but they allow the rink to rent them out during public skate sessions.

Weather is a factor

Doyle says that maintaining suitable ice conditions has been difficult this season.

“Safety is the first component we have to think of, so we can’t open [with] bad ice conditions.”

Doyle adds that this winter’s fluctuating weather has not helped.

“It’s been one extreme to the other, so that’s been very challenging this winter.”

Programs at no cost

The Emera Oval is a city recreation facility that provides their service free of charge. Anyone can use the rink and rent skates for free during public skate times, as long as they provide photo identification.

Anna (left) and Abbey (right) enjoyed their 3rd skate at the Oval this season. One of their trips was on a school field trip.
Anna (left) and Abbey (right) enjoyed their 3rd skate at the Oval this season. One of their trips was on a school field trip.

The oval provides many different uses. Their two core services are offering the public skate, which takes place multiple times a day, and providing a space for the speed skating club to practice.

In addition, the oval offers a Learn to Skate program on most Saturday mornings.

School Skate is also popular. This is when school principles or teachers can schedule time to bring their students to the rink.

As a School Skate session begins and the excitement of eager children fills the air, catchy pop music blasts through the speakers. The benches beside the rink are bustling with people tying up their skates.

Doyle admits this is a bit of a hectic time. They have had up to 600 children on the ice at once.

“They absolutely have the time of their lives so it’s worth it,” she said. “It is utter chaos for an hour and a half but it is totally worth it to see their happy faces.”

The oval is a hit with families.

The oval also hosts a number of speed skating races and sponsor events. This year, the oval put on an event during the Olympics called “The Oval Games” that included a snowball toss activity and sled relay.

Looking forward

Doyle says the oval will continue to offer all of their services again next season. As usual, the skating rink expects to reopen in December, as soon as weather permits.

Visit the HRM website for more information about the oval’s programs.

 

 

 

 

 

Campaign School 2014 set to support women and transgender students running for elections

Campaign School 2014 is a workshop running on Saturday, Mar. 1 that hopes to encourage equal representation in student politics. South House felt it was necessary to provide a workshop for women and transgender students.

By Dina Lobo

Student Union Building at Dalhousie University
Student Union Building at Dalhousie University. (Dina Lobo/Peninsula News)

Campaign School 2014 is a workshop running on Saturday, Mar. 1 that hopes to encourage equal representation in student politics. South House is a Women and Gender Resource Centre at Dalhousie University which has been rallying against transphobia, sexism and other human rights gender issues. South House felt it was necessary to provide a workshop for women and transgender students.

South House has annual questionnaires for candidates participating in the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) elections to see whether or not they have an appropriate understanding of sex and gender issues. Jude Ashburn, outreach coordinator, says that the answers were rated and the results were problematic.

“Some were sexist and some were transphobic. They just needed a little bit of education and needed to work on some things if they are going to represent a diverse student body,” says Ashburn. “We came up with the campaign school to let folks know what barriers they are going to face and it’s really honest. So we say ‘here are the things you’re going to face and this is what it’s like to struggle for representation in the student union’.”

Campaign School 2014 hopes to provide students with advice on how to handle issues like filing a human rights report and what a student could do if faced with harassment and discrimination. Rather than focusing on actual strategies for elections and campaigns, South House wants to remind students that they have support and that there are organizations that will give you resources, says Ashburn.

“It’s not a pleasant topic, no one wants to deal with it. Most people from oppressed groups are sick of even thinking about it and feeling it. The fact is things are not equal and it’s important to fight for that.”

Jessica Dempsey, the first transgender student to run for DSU elections in 2012, is speaking at the event. Dempsey, who ran for vice president, decided to come out during a debate.

“It changed the elections dramatically. People were fighting for my name because it had my old name on the vow and now it’s Jessica. They had to contact the registrar’s office. There is quite a bit of stuff they had to do to make that change.”

Dempsey has inspired a lot of change at the DSU, like the preferred first name policy that will be implemented in the next month to make Dalhousie safer and more welcoming place and the creation of the equity and accessibility committee, which focuses on issues of oppression on campus.

Campaign School 2014 poster
Campaign School 2014 poster

Dempsey says she was surprised and happy with the support she got after filing a humans rights complaint against the cafeteria, claiming harassment and discrimination. South House and other organizations planned rallies in support of Dempsey.

“After I came out on CBC News and it became public, I got personal emails of people who would thank me. They said ‘you have made it easier for me to come out’.”

Ashburn feels it is important for students like Dempsey to join student politics, but that it is also a responsibility for everyone to look at themselves and ask questions.

“If you’re a man in student elections and are a executive counsellor you’re making these decisions and you’re representing the student body and union, ask yourself tough questions. If you’re in a meeting and there’s only men in it, ask yourself why. Really challenge yourself,” says Ashburn.

This is the first time a campaign is designed specifically for women and transgender students running in student union elections in Halifax. In April 2012 a series of one-day campaign schools were hosted by The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM) encouraging women to participate in municipal elections, but not necessarily on those running in student politics.

Dempsey has been with the DSU for three years and continues to be involved in provincial and municipal politics.  She believes it is important for a person to feel like they can express themselves and wants to encourage students to run.

“I really hope I broke down barriers and made it now easier for people to be in the elections.”