Friday, 29 March 2013

B is for Book Launch...

The last time I went to a book launch/signing was at Barnes & Noble in New York, and the book in question was 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends' by Rob Lowe. What can I say? I was a huge West Wing fan. And, yes, his eyes really are that blue.

I love a good book launch, and have a special place in my heart for fiction writers.  As a lover of both books and writing, I - myself - am sadly completely incapable of writing fiction.  I simply have no stories in me.  Therefore, I am completely in awe of those who can, and who can do so well. Corinna Chong is one of these people.

Her new (and first!) book is called Belinda's Rings and is a beautifully written book filled with quirky, imaginatively written prose about family relationships - mixed in with deep sea creatures, crop circles and UFO's. At 85 pages in, I am thoroughly enjoying it. How can you not like a book where one of the main characters is called 'Squid'?

Corina is originally from Calgary, but lives in Kelowna and teaches at Okanagan College, which appears to be emerging as a hotbed of creative talent, who were out in force to celebrate their colleague's (significant!) achievement. Well done, also, Mosaic Books for organising the event. Seeing local talent celebrated and supported is a wonderful thing, and Corinna thoroughly deserves it.

It's wonderful to have discovered a literary community in Kelowna, and if the crowd at the reading at The Bohemian Cafe is anything to go by, its a good one.  The crowd was warm, supportive with lots of intelligent questions for the author post reading, and filled with writers and poets and other creative and talented people, which bodes well.

Rumour has it there's also an active poetry community in town as well - hurrah. I'll keep you posted.


"Belinda's Rings is about childhood and adolescence and sisters and mother's and piano lessons, but it's also about UFOs and mysterious squids and stunningly beautiful crop circles near Stonehenge. The writing has a mesmerising grace and an Atwoodian fascination with science and swirling fractals and deep sea divers and puzzling family bonds. Belinda's Rings is a vital,vibrant gem."  
Mark Anthony Jarman, author of 19 Knives and My White Planet

Belinda's Rings by Corinna Chong, $19.95, is published by NeWest Press ( and is available at Mosaic Books, 411 Bernard Ave, Kelowna (

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Hooded Merganser...

One of my favourite things in the world is (good) food.  Another of my favourite things is a nice view.  Put the two together, and... well... you had me at 'hello'.

My husband and I also love going for 'runs' - which to translate from the Scottish vernacular into Canadian means going for a drive. And nothing is nicer than a scenic drive with a destination, which I am happy to say we have now found. Yesterday, with the sun shining and the sky so beautifully blue, we decided it was the perfect day to explore a little further afield. Our meanderings took us to Penticton, where we discovered The Hooded Merganser, a lovely restaurant with a view that just won't quit.

Part of the Penticton Lakeside Resort, Convention Centre and Casino, The Hooded Merganser offers that hard to find combination of a lovely dining 'experience' - ie great decor and view - with good, reasonably priced food. Yesterday we had lovely lunch, with an entree with a couple of glasses of wine apiece, yet only spent in the region of $75. Result. Plus both my husband's and my food (a 'Hood' burger and a beef dip respectively) was tasty and well presented.

The breakfast menu includes stalwarts like omelets, Eggs Benedict, pancakes, and bagels, as well as the imaginatively named B.E.L.T.C.H. - bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, cheese and ham. With prices ranging from $3.5 for a bagel and cream cheese to $18.50 for steak and eggs, this is a great breakfast option. Lunch concentrates on burgers, sandwiches, salads, pastas, etc. in the $10 to $16.50 range with a small steak and seafood selection at a higher price range. Dinners are more expensive, but the food is also a little more substantial - steaks, seafood, lamb, etc, in the $20 to $33 (for Surf & Turf) range, but reasonable choices like burgers, pasta and salads ($12 - 18) are also available. Both lunch and dinner menus offer a wide range of appetisers, in the $7 to $12.50 range. 

Personally, we want to go back just to try the Beef Carpacciao (thin sliced ultra-rare beef tenderloin with Parmesan cheese and Dijon vinaigrette), $12.50, or the Merganser Poutine (fresh kennebec fries with duck confit, local cheese curds and duck reduction) - me the former, my husband the latter - I'm afraid I love ducks too much to eat them. (I know, I know, cows are cute too, but I was raised in cattle country... beef is in my blood).

The Hooded Merganser open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and pretty much every table has a great view, but... about that name. The hooded merganser (pronounced mer - gan - ser) is a rare North American duck that summers on wooded rivers and lakes.  Legend has it that one such wee beastie flew onto the deck in the middle of the session to name the restaurant, and voila, the rest - as they say - is history.

The Hooded Merganser is open daily from 7am to midnight.  Located at 21 Lakeside Drive W in the Lakeside Resort.  Reservations at 250 487 4663 (250 487 HOOD).

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

D is for Doggie Park...

One of my fondest memories of visiting NYC is waking up the morning after arrival at about 6am, with no hope what-so-ever of getting back to sleep.  Dragging my jet-lagged body out of bed, I hit the local Starbucks for a take-away Grande Latte to take to Central Park.  It was a gorgeous spring morning, the sun just coming up golden, and patches of mist still clinging to the low spots.  In my wandering, I came across a little bit of New York magic - the local doggy park, where even at this early hour folks were gathered with coffee and pooches, all having a great old time.

Yup.  I love doggy parks, and think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  The chance for urban pooches to get to run around off lead is something really special.  Kelowna is no slouch in this area, and I love taking our dog, Muddy, down to the big off-leash dog park in Mission Recreation Park for his daily constitutional.  It is a wonderfully huge space, and very green, with a smaller fenced area for smaller dogs right next door, which is greater for keeping the little pooches from been trampled by the larger ones.

There are picnic benches and lawn chairs for 'parents' to sit and chat while their furry charges exercise, and like all good gym facilities there is also a water fountain and water bowls for them to re-hydrate.  But the thing I love best is the fact there are always some extra poop bags handing at various stations on the fence, just in case you forget your own - or god forbid - run out. Now that's what I call  thoughtful.

The park is also a great spot for a little matchmaking, but maybe not the kind you think.  Muddy our whoodle now has a lovely girlfriend - a red-haired labradoodle named Daisy. While there won't be any  kids on the agenda, they are definitely one cute couple.  Arf.

Mission - N. Mission/Crawford Dog Park: 3975 Gordon Drive, Kelowna. Gordon Drive at Lexington Drive.

Image sourced

Monday, 18 March 2013

It's Only Fare...


Grocery shopping has definitely come up in the world since I grew up. You can now get sushi at Sobeys, organics at Superstore, and find Starbucks concessions at Safeway.  But if you really want a a food experience extraordinaire, try popping into Urban Fare in the Mission Park Shopping Centre.  I don't think I have been this excited about doing a weekly shop since discovering Whole Foods at Columbus Circle in New York. You've heard of boutique hotels?  Think boutique grocery store, and you'll start to get where I'm coming from.

Urban Fare is chock full of the yummiest, freshest, most beautifully presented food you can find. As our lifestyle palettes become more sophisticated, it makes sense that people now want to fill up their food baskets in environments that could easily fit into an issue of Metropolitan Home. The store itself has a health bias, offering healthy choices likegluten free products, power-foods (filled with antioxidents, vitamins and phitonutrients) and BC grown produce. They also have a huge food bar in their cafeteria/lounge, where you can build your own designer salads or hot food combinations or chose freshly cooked meats from their carvery.

Kelowna is the first location outside of Vancouver to get an Urban Fare, and we should count ourselves lucky. From its gorgeous fresh fruit and veg, to its luscious pastry and bakery selections to the most sumptuous array of boutique chocolates or gourmet coffees, Urban Fare is both a delight to the tastebuds and the eyes - for example, pluck your fresh baked baguettes out of beautifully woven wicker baskets. And, with your 'More' loyalty card you can get the same savings as you would at Save On Foods around the corner. Honestly, I will never buy my bananas anywhere else.

Urban Fare: 3511 Lakeshore Road, Kelowna, BC, V1W 3S9
Tel: 250 860 0608

Sunday, 17 March 2013

AA Addiction...

It used to be that you knew you were in a proper city if it had a Starbucks. Now, however, the coffee chain is so ubiquitous it's more like you know you have completely left civalisation (as we know it) if there isn't one on every corner.

Today a better litmus test of urbanity - at least if you are a trend-following fashionista - is whether or not there is an American Apparel in your town. Even if you don't shop there, you somehow know you are connected to cities like New York and London just by seeing its utilitarian logo gracing your shopping street. (Note: did you know that American Apparel's founder is actually Canadian? Yup. Dov Charney is from Montreal - ironic, no?)

So. Paris, Antwerp, Stockholm... Kelowna. Our city-by-the-lake is hanging with some good company thanks to its American Apparel branch at 441 Bernard Street. According to their blurb on Yelp, 'American Apparel is the place for cool basics, made Sweatshop Free' and go on to cite 'great-fitting clothes you can depend on in a constant stream of new patterns, fabrics and styles' and ' high-quality "Made in USA" garments at a good price and fashionable clothing that is part of an ethical business model from top to bottom'. All great stuff, but what makes AA so cool?  Well, it's advertising campaigns certainly don't hurt.

Taking a leaf from the Calvin Klein and Gap schools of marketing, by blending 'real people' models with the controversial -  think nudity, sexual situations and the occasional porn star, a mix that has led them to both be criticised for their sexually charged content and 'lauded for their honesty and lack of airbrushing' (according to Wikipedia, the font of all modern knowledge).

American Apparel is 'flashdance' for the 21st century, with its dance-inspired bodysuits, leg warmers, leggings and oversized tee shits, all of which come is a rainbow of colour. And, the kids can't get enough of it.  I remember in my old life, taking a group of 45 trainee fashion students over to Paris for an overnight trip - I think at least five of them were in the same American Apparel super shiny, ultra-tight lycra 'Disco' pants, each pair expressing a unique colour choice.  And at least another five pairs were unpacked by others to wear the next day. The group was a walking billboard on the streets of the Marais.

Now I'm not going to be running out and buying neon lycra trousers or ultra-mini dresses anytime soon, but I do love their choice of black leggings, and I also have a soft spot for their (very sexy) black stretch mesh bras and knickers (that's 'panties' in Canadian). Even my husband has me running in to stock up on their black short sleeve men's t-shirts for him. And to inject some colour, I do love their neon bright or shiny metallic nail varnishes - when testing them for colour, just close your eyes, take a deep sniff  and you could almost swear you were on Bleecker Street, and that's cheaper than a plane ticket to Manhattan..

P.S. Fashion Forward Alert:  Forget skinnies. Check out American Apparel's high-waisted pleated pants for one of the newest fashion silhouettes. Yes, we are heading back to the early 80's with a full hip, pegged-ankle silhouette that after three decades suddenly looks fresh and edgy again.  Just when you thought you'd never...

American Apparel: 441 Bernard Avenue, Kelowna, BC V1Y 6N8
Tel: 250 868 6090

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Thoroughly Modern Me

I love contemporary design, so one of my big fears when moving to Kelowna and buying a house was how I was going to furnish it? No offense to that old Canadian standby, but The Brick was just not going to cut it.  Imagine my delight when I discovered a number of furniture stores catering to more the ‘Metropolitan Homes’ readers than ‘Traditional Home’ ones.
One of my current favourites is DK Modern Furniture on Banks Road. They have great furniture and accessories for the home and they have a great combination of price ranges - pricier lines that are pure investment pieces, along with less expensive versions for those who want the look but don’t have the budget.  For instance, if you fancy a classic Barcelona chair, and you have the money to buy quality, you can get the real deal. But if you don’t, they also have a less expensive version. I love that fact that they realise that great taste and unlimited budgets do not necessarily go hand in hand. I was also especially impressed by Canadian line EQ3, who offer great design at affordable prices. Their ‘Burrows’ dresser with its textural, three dimensional wood front is like functional sculpture for the bedroom.
Great taste also does not equal unlimited space - even in Canada.  So the other thing that impressed me about DK Modern Furniture is that they had furniture to fit a number of different scale houses or condos.  After falling in love with several sofas at other stores, which we then realised we would not be able to fit in our living room and still be able to move, finding things in smaller dimensions was a revelation.
We ended up investing in a gorgeous, sleek black Italian leather sofa from Italsofa, and I only wish we had had the budget left for the Mobital ‘Sensui’ bed, a low platform bed with a large padded head board and side bar, which create the perfect space for your pets to bed down with you and is so much more stylish than assorted wicker baskets.
You also don’t fully appreciate the concept of ‘no commission’ sales staff until you have been accosted in other stores.  I have a drawer full of business cards that were thrust into my hands the minute I walked through the door by eager-beaver, very-nice-but-slightly-desperate sales people, so it was such a pleasure to have a real human chat with someone about furniture that didn’t leave me feeling obligated forevermore.
And… thank you soooooo much to Justin and Denis for organising to get our sofa delivered the same afternoon when they found out we were about to spend another weekend sitting on the floor. Another big thanks to their regular clients, who agreed to have their delivery bumped by a day to make it possible. You definitely would not get that happening in London.

DK Modern Furniture: 310 Banks Road, Kelowna, BC V1X 6Y4
Tel: 250 861 8637

The Road to (the) Eldorado

I have always thought that a really important thing to factor in one’s living environment is the availability of a really good bar.  And by bar I really mean a good ‘chill out’ place, somewhere to relax, to decompress, to refill your spirit. 
My very favourite bar in the whole wide world happens to be the Lobby Lounge of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan.  Situated on the 35th Floor of 80 Columbus Circle, its wall of windows looks out over the southwest corner of Central Park and the rest of the Big Apple.  I could probably sit there for the rest of my life, sipping Heitz Napa Valley Chardonnay - which, brings me to what (in my opinion) makes a place special… fabulous wine and a spectacular view. Of course, yummy food doesn’t hurt, either, and the Mandarin has all three in spades.
However, my second favourite bar in the world does as well, and guess what?  It is situated right here in Kelowna.
Yes. My very second favourite bar in the whole wide world is the one at The Eldorado Hotel. Situated on the east side of the Okanagan Lake at the Eldorado Marina on Cook Road, this is a place to sit and sip - great wine, local and imported beers or inventive cocktails - while watching the boats dock (summer) or the gloriously moody weather patterns roll in and out over the mountains (winter). The staff is friendly and professional, and the ambiance actually reminds me a bit of Manhattan… it has that lovely dark wood, ‘member’s only’ ambiance of a Manhattan’s men’s club, crossed with the breezy openess of a Cape Cod yacht club.  The result is a luxurious, laid back and distinctly grown up.
If you are feeling flush, sit in one of the window tables and savour the local Quail’s Gate Chardonnay, which is utterly gorgeous. Or try one of the pretty reasonably priced martinis like the Java Jive (Sobieski Vodka, Kahlua, and fresh pressed espresso) or the High Tide (Raspberry Vodka, lychee liqueur, pineapple juice and cranberry juice). My husband also gets very excited by the single malt scotch menu, and the fact that Patron Tequila is available. And come the summer, the patio will be open and jumping with sun-worshipping socialisers, popping in for food and drink, and to spend the afternoon watching the world wander by on the boardwalk outside. I have been on the receiving end of more than one sunburned nose whiling the day away in such a blissfully relaxed fashion.
Like the Mandarin, the bar at the Eldorado also boasts a great quality casual dining menu, which ranges from beautifully prepared Crispy ‘Mediterranean style’ Calamari with Tzatziki, to Pacific Mussels, to Jerked Cornish Hen with Caribbean-style coleslaw, to the gorgeous Prime ‘El’ Burger with (subtly) rosemary-salted french fries. All are perfect to soak up any tipsiness, or put paid to hunger pangs. 
When I sit in the Eldorado, I feel at one with my universe. I also feel like I could be anywhere in the civalised world, but with the added bonus of small town friendliness and gob-stopping natural scenery. Which - actually - is exactly why I moved here.

Hotel Eldorado: 500 Cook Road, Kelowna, BC V1W 3G9.
Tel: 250 763 7500

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Welcome to The Good (New) Life

Apart from short-ish sojourns in LA, Vancouver and San Diego, I have lived the majority of my adult life in London - England, that is. And I loved it. I lived the good life in a very big city way, and enjoyed pretty much every minute of it.  But times change.
After a certain age, family become more important, and at the same time you realise that your parents will not be around forever.  Suddenly a 9+ hour flight seems a very, very long way away from the ones you love.
Then there is the slow reckoning of reality. If you are not actually partaking fully in the bars, the clubs, the gigs, the galleries, the socialising and the shopping in an ongoing and meaningful(?) way, is it really worth the transit, the pollution, the crime and the extortionate cost of living, and the inherent stress all these things combine to create?
My husband and I decided it wasn’t, at least not any longer.  We realigned our values and decided that extended family, a dog and a garden for the cat were more important than whatever perks the uber-city had to offer.  But having said that, we also weren't ready to forego them completely, which is why Kelowna seemed to be the perfect choice for us.  It's small enough to get a parking space downtown, but big enough to get sushi and designer coffee in pretty much every neighbourhood.  We think we're going to like it here.
Image sourced form

We're not in Streatham Hill anymore...
Image sourced from