What I See When I See Smiths Falls

This is the first in a series of visual love letters to Smiths Falls, one of my favourite towns.


I’m from Vancouver, and while there are great things about the westcoast, I have called rural Ottawa home for the past 20 years.

The single best thing I love about living in the east is the riches of small towns and villages, roads that lead everywhere, chalk-full of opportunities to stop, talk to people, poke around and discover. Smiths Falls, just 20 minutes from where we live, has been my second home since the birth of our first child, when my in-laws sold up in Sudbury and moved to be close to us. Continue reading What I See When I See Smiths Falls

New York and the MTA Underground Art Museum

I love riding New York’s subway system – just not as much as I love walking the city. 

Riding necessitates paying attention to lines and stops and tracks – my mind can’t wander for fear of ending up in who-knows-where – but walking favours mental and corporeal freedom, especially when time holds no sway.

However, my penchant for perambulation has its downside: walking New York means I’ve all but missed the MTA Underground Art Museum, an Ali Baba-on-steroids-sized treasure trove.  Continue reading New York and the MTA Underground Art Museum

It’s Just Not Christmas Without Homemade Baileys

Every Christmas since I’ve been an adult, I’ve used my mom’s recipe to make bottle upon bottle of homemade Baileys, which I’ve distributed to friends and neighbours.

The original recipe card is so well-used it’s begun to look like an ancient artifact. You’d think I’d have memorized it by now, but every year I pull it out of the drawer and diligently check that I’m getting everything right. The stuff is so damn good as is, I leave no room for improvisation.

For everybody who’s ever asked me for my ‘secret’ recipe over the years and to whom I’ve replied “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you,” I have a Christmas gift just for you.

Here it is:

Lena’s Bailley’s Irish Cream

1 cup Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 cup lite cream (coffee cream)
1 1/2 cups rye
2 tsp cocoa (frys)
1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee
2 medium eggs

Put in blender in same order as above and mix. Makes 32 ozs. Keep in fridge (Note: it lasts @ 3 weeks if refrigerated).


This leaves you two choices: Try out the recipe for yourself, or wait until I show up at your door with my annual bottle. Because – ready or not – here I come! (ps. If you haven’t returned last year’s empty bottle, now is definitely the time)

A very merry Christmas to all my friends and family near and far and those interesting souls with whom I have yet to cross paths.

All the best,

Andrea xo

My Brain on Art-O-Mat®

It’s more fun than Pez and more addictive than crack.

I nearly lost my mind when I stepped into District Taco and spotted the Art-O-Mat® against the wall. It’s a refurbished cigarette machine, but instead of vending cancer sticks, it dispatches micro art pieces for five bucks a hit.

Of course, I immediately started plugging it with money and pulling the levers. Continue reading My Brain on Art-O-Mat®

Walking the White Rock Pier

It’s curious how one can routinely walk the same path for so long, then alter a single element and watch the common unfold in an uncommon way.

This night (and day) I put aside my camera bag – a constant – and tucked my iPhone in my vest pocket. Without the weight, my body felt lighter and my step quicker. I was free to simply look, feel and shoot instead of forever adjusting, adjusting.

The place I’ve known since childhood transformed into dots and streaks and lines and colours, shadows and refracted light. Graininess replaced the sharp, movement the ever-steady, drifting into the abstract unknown. Continue reading Walking the White Rock Pier

“Too fancy and ingenious”: Children’s Books by Adult Writers

Reading to children is inextricably intertwined with the idea of home, comfort and love. These five children’s books by authors better known for their adult writing, are available in first edition form from Peter Harrington, London’s leading rare book firm. And because we all love a good backstory, the home lives of the authors prove as interesting as the books themselves. 

This piece is reproduced with permission from its author, Rachel Chanter, and Peter Harrington Rare Books Continue reading “Too fancy and ingenious”: Children’s Books by Adult Writers

Larry’s Christmas Cards

I didn’t so much as meet Larry Racioppo as find him. Home from NYC and working on this piece, I admired his photographic work on the 9/11 Memorial & Museum site and he agreed to lend me an image. Turns out, he’s lived a fascinating life; he’s been a NYC taxi driver in the early 80’s, staff photographer for the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development during the city’s lowest (and scariest) point, and a well-respected photo documentarian and keeper of knowledge of life, pre-gentrification, in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Check out his site at www.larryracioppo.com. Continue reading Larry’s Christmas Cards

The Sham of Highest and Best Use

This triplet of houses in Québec City defies the modern logic of “highest and best use” and its inherent rule of being “maximally productive.” It flaunts every last morsel of economic thought except one: It is a keeper of history, and provides a vital and extraordinary point of interest in the city’s viewscape, arguably contributing to the profits realized by the city’s tourism efforts. Continue reading The Sham of Highest and Best Use

Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 3

Click here for Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1

Click here for Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 2


Not Set in Stone: Memorials for the Future

The National Park Service (NPS), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute collaborated on Memorials for the Future, an international ideas competition that took place between March and September 2016. The goal of the competition was not to directly produce new monuments, but to reimagine how we think about, feel, and experience memorials. 

It called for designers, artists and social scientists to develop new ways to commemorate people and events that are more inclusive and flexible, reflect the country’s diversity in history, heritage and culture, and that enrich Washington’s landscape while responding to the limitations of traditional commemoration. 

The jury chose four finalist teams –  Climate ChronographAmerican WildThe IM(MIGRANT) and VOICEOVER – who offered distinct concepts and approaches.

Continue reading Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 3

Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 2

Click here for Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1


Having finally seen Washington, DC for myself this summer, it was great to connect with this presentation by Marcel Acosta, Executive Director of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Federal Planning Agency for America’s Capital. In it he discusses how the city came to be shaped, and how it will continue to be shaped in the future.

Acosta and Beth White, NCPC Commissioner, were guests of the National Capital Commission (NCC) in Ottawa, presenting in September as part of the NCC’s Capital Urbanism Lab public lecture series. Continue reading Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 2

Exploring the intersection of people, their homes, and communities