Friday, 24 May 2013

Cree's a Charm...

One of the things I love about smaller communities like Kelowna, is the connections - when six degrees of separation becomes more like three.  

Case in point. 

I recently worked the BC election, spending a 14 hour shift at Rutland Centennial as a Voting Officer - which could have been hell, if not for the fact that my partner for the day was the loveliest - and funniest - lady ever, who's son just happens to be an aboriginal jewellery designer by the name of Justin Rivard. After finding this out, of course I had to pop down to Turtle Island Gallery to have a look at his work. 

I really like aboriginal art, especially when the artists or craftsmen manage to add a contemporary element or angle to their work. Rivard has managed to do just that with his wonderful 'silver totem charms'. 

Think traditional Pandora charm bracelet, but with an added 'Cree' twist; Rivard's tiny silver totems are carved with traditional native animal or bird totems, like the eagle, raven, bear, wolf, hummingbird, killerwhale, etc, and fit any Pandora, or Pandora style charm bracelet.

What I also love about Rivard is the fact that he fell into carving and jewellery design by accident. According to Justin's website (and his mother!), his story goes like this:

'I was 21 in 1985, and I needed something to do -- the local technical school’s automotive program was full. My father, being actively involved in west coast native communities, introduced me to Ray Dumont, a local native artist. Ray suggested I try carving, and the rest, as they say, is history.'

Rivard's  design aesthetic fluctuates between west coast and plains styles, due to his having been raised on the West Coast but having roots in the Cree tribes of central Canada. 'Each offers its own unique quality, stories and history,' says Rivard, 'and its impossible for me to limit myself to just one type of design.' 

In addition to the totem charms, Rivard also creates a full jewellery line (bracelets, necklaces, earring and rings) and sells his gold and silver pieces at locations like Turtle Island Gallery here in Kelowna, and galleries in Vancouver; he  also is available to design custom pieces for private clients. 

'When I create a new piece, I always picture the wearer in mind. My job is to produce jewellery that makes the wearer feel good. Many of my favorite pieces came from custom requests, because I had a specific wearer in mind, and was able to shape the piece to that person’s personality and taste.'

For more information about Justin's work check out his website at, or pop down to the aboriginal treasure trove that is Turtle Island Gallery, #115 - 1295 Cannery Lane, Kelowna, BC, V1Y 9V8.

(PS: Justin Rivard's mom is really proud of him. TG(N)L couldn't agree more.)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Yum Yum Thai...

When it comes to Asian food, the one city that comes up absolute trumps is Vancouver - surpassing, in my humble opinion, even major centres like London and New York. There are a plethora of restaurants specialising in Pacific Rim cuisine, and Thai eateries like the Sawasdee on Main Street and the SalaThai.on Cambie have long been on my list of all time favourite eating spots.

I love eating, and restaurants, and Thai food has to be one of the yummiest categories known to mankind.  I also love great design - interior and otherwise. So imagine my delight in discovering Kelowna's newest downtown Thai restaurant, Mon Thong on Ellis, which just may become my new lunch-time favourite.

If the name sounds a tiny bit familiar, you wouldn't be wrong.  They have two other locations, the first at Orchard Plaza and the second in the Landmark 5 building. But their newest location really ticks all the boxes when it comes to a delicious and stylish eating experience. The white interior is fresh and contemporary, and provides the most urban of dining opportunities. The restaurant looks fantastic, and - happily - the food is also up to par.

Beautifully presented dishes cover all the usual favourites: crispy spring rolls and satay appetisers; spicy soups like Tom Yum Gai (spicy and sour chicken soup with lime leaves and fresh mushrooms) and Tom Ka Gai (a rich and spicy broth of lemon grass, coconut milk, galanga - that's Thai ginger to you and me - and tender chunks of chicken); mains like Pa-Nang curries (nutty flavoured red Thai Curry with coconut milk and your choice of meat), Pad King stir fries (your choice of meat stir-fried with baby corn, mushrooms, onions, pepper and ginger sauce); and noodle dishes like Pad Thai (a typical Thai lunch consisting of stir-fried noodles, shrimp (or your choice of meat), egg, tofu and green onions topped with bean sprouts and crushed peanuts).

There are also some choices that are new to my radar - I'm going back just to try the Pad Kee Mau - wonderfully described as 'stir-fried drunken meat (marinated in whiskey) in a ginger and chilli sauce'. Thai food and whiskey - now, that's one fusion I can get behind.

A small selection of traditional desserts are also on offer, including Sticky Rice with Mango, Thai Coconut Custard, and Jackfruit (which looks like slices of Mango but tastes more like Lychee) with either vanilla or green tea ice cream. For chocoholics, they also offer a Chocolate Lava Cake - which comes with vanilla ice cream, jackfruit, and raspberry sauce.

The dinner menu is even more extensive, and prices for both lunch and evening menus are reasonably prices with appetisers under $10, mains between $12 and $17, and deserts at $6.95.  The lunch menu also offers spring rolls and satay by the piece, and soups by the half order, which is a great option.

Mon Thong is located at:

1573 Ellis Street,
Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250.868.8009
Open from 11:30am to 9:30pm daily 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

SOPA: Painting the Town...

One gorgeously sunny afternoon in New York, I found myself in a little gallery in Chelsea near the High Line.  It was one of those chance discoveries while wandering the city, fueled no doubt by the New York 'Time Out' listings. I had gone to see a little exhibition by a couple of fashion photographers I was familiar with, but what I found instead, in the main gallery, was a wonderful exhibition by an artist whose work really moved me.  

The gallery was the Andrea Rosen Gallery on West 24th Street , the  artist was Elliott Hundley, and the exhibition was entitled "Agave of the Bacchae". His expressionist assemblage canvases were full of colour, and detail that needed to be looked at closely - including the thousands of tiny golden pins and wires that jutted out from the surfaces, giving them a depth and shimmer.  From a distance they were simply breathtaking, huge organic visuals, as were his large accompanying sculptures made from found objects like bits of wooden stools, magnifying glass, and folded paper. The whole experience was somehow transcendental.

That's what I love about contemporary art.  A good piece hits you on a very subliminal level.  It makes you...  feel.  Or makes you...  think.  Or... both. To me, the colour block paintings of Mark Rothko are hypnotic, and I could easily sit for an hour staring into the dark burgundy-black depths of No. 12 (Black on Dark Sienna on Purple) for hours, literally falling into the canvas.

But... this long rambling intro about the international art scene is merely getting me to the main focus of this blogspot.  The SOPA Fine Arts on Pandosy.  Because, I am very happy to report,  Kelowna has it's very own international contemporary art hot spot.  

Established in 2005 by self-confessed (according to her Twitter account!) 'Okanagan art maven'  Deborah Boileau, SOPA  brings contemporary art to Kelowna in a way that surely has serious collectors and budding art aficionados rubbing their hands together joyfully.   

The 2600 sq ft gallery changes its exhibitions monthly, and at the moment I am thoroughly entranced by Spanish-Canadian artist Jordi Alfaro's sensuously organic, rounded ceramic sculptures, and also by ex-Montrealer (now a Salt Spring resident) Michela Sorrentino's colourfully patterned cold wax and oil panels.

SOPA represents a veritable who's who of up-and-coming and established artists from as far afield as France and Germany and as close as the Okanagan Valley. The Good (New) Life recently contacted the lovely Ms Boileau to talk galleries and geography, with the following results:-

TG(N)L:. What was your idea/inspiration/driver behind starting the gallery here in Kelowna?

DB: My husband is an artist, and so early on we began collecting art. Over time, we grew to appreciate more contemporary artwork but found there weren’t any galleries here that specialized in it. SOPA Fine Arts has been a self-serving endeavour, since the gallery only represents artists whose work I also want to collect.  Now I waver somewhere between being passionate about art and being addicted to it.

TG(N)L:. What do you look for in the artists/work you chose for the gallery?

DB: Relevance is a big thing for me. I don’t want to represent an artist who chases market trends because that sort of work can become passé just as easily as it was in style. When an artist is making a genuine contribution to the art world, finding their own voice and following their own path, the work becomes timeless.

TG(N)L:. Where do the artists come from geographically? 

DB: We get submissions from all over, but we try to limit ourselves to North America. One of our artists lives in Germany now and another is heading to France soon... the rest are from Montreal, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, Michigan, Louisiana, Denver, Victoria, Seattle... well, you get the picture. We also represent some really talented local artists. The key was that I wanted to connect the gallery to the larger art world, rather than staying too regional. Small communities often suffer from that stigma.

TG(N)L:.  Do you think Kelowna is becoming more open to contemporary art?

DB: I’ve seen a greater shift towards modern interiors here, which lends itself to contemporary art. But I’ve noticed that even if someone bought a contemporary painting because it suited their modern home, they could easily hang that same piece in a traditional home if they ever move. It’s not quite as easy to hang traditional work in a modern space though. I think more people are discovering this.

TG(N)L:. What advice would you give people looking to buy contemporary art for their homes?

DB: Look at as much art as you can. I always use a wine analogy for locals, since most of us can relate. You never want to invest in the first wine you enjoy, your palette will outgrow that soon enough. Art appreciation is pretty much the same, exposure is the key.

TG(N)L:. What are the price ranges at the gallery?

DB: Our clients love the quality of art we have in the $2500 – $5500 range. But we also sell work lower and higher than that... it all depends on the artist.

TG(N)L:.  What is YOUR very favourite art gallery in the world?

DB: Only one—that’s not fair!!!

SOPA FINE ARTS is located at: 
2934 South Pandosy St.  
Kelowna, BC  
V1Y 1V9
Tel: 250.763.5088

Gallery Hours: Tues-Sat: 11-5, Sun: 12-4 and by appointment.


Friday, 10 May 2013

A Little Recommendation is Good for the Soul...

One thing I don't miss about the big bad city (London, New York, LA, et al) is the furious level of competition generated by the ridiculously large populations.  Don't get me wrong, I think a level of competition is healthy, but in London it has reached a fever pitch, whereby it was not just 'dog eat dog', but 'cat eat cat' and even 'mouse eat mouse'. Everyone is fighting for every inch of space, which has generated the very unhealthy philosophy of thinking that if something good happens to anyone else, that means there is less for you. Blech. Sad face.

I much prefer to subscribe to a more spiritually enlightened philosophy that by helping and being happy for our fellow beings, we generate more good, not just for them, not just for us, but for everyone. Call me idealistic, or even hippy dippy, but that is how I chose to live my life.

And that, in part, is why my husband and I chose to move to Kelowna.  Small(er) towns still have a sense of community, and a sense of the greater good.  Nowhere better have I seen this exemplified than at the utterly lovely homewares store Olive & Elle.

Located on the corner of Pandosy and Lawrence downtown, owner Linda Povarchok and her right hand Kandace - being the lovely and approachable individuals that they are - found they were answering so many questions from tourists about where to go, or where to eat, or where to shop, that they have had cards printed up declaring 'Olive & Elle Recommend'. I LOVE this.

I think Lynda knows instinctively that being protectionist is not really good business. Shoppers will find their way to the best places in Kelowna, whether she helps them or not, so why not help them?  It's just good karma, and the little cards are great advertising for the store, and I'm sure they ensure a very good portion of these visitors return.

If you need any further convincing the Olive & Elle is full of nice people, deserving your shopping dollars, then have a quick read of the 'mission statement' on their website homepage.

'Olive & Elle was born out of a need and a desire to share wonderful things with wonderful people. In the four years that we've been open, we've befriended many of you who have passed through our doors and it's our absolute joy to continue to operate a sort of corner of domestic therapy in downtown Kelowna. Please do come visit soon and let us share our home with you.'

A little good will goes a long way and in times of economic austerity, I don't know about you, but I would much rather give nice people my money. Hurrah for Olive & Elle. Happy Face.


Olive & Elle is located at 1585 Pandosy, Kelowna, V1Y 1P5. Telephone: (250) 862-2778. Or check them out on line at their website or on their blog

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Good (New) Life Meets La Bonne Vie...

Doesn't everyone absolutely love it when you discover a new place to shop that utterly tickles your aesthetic fancy? LBV Designs (LBV stands for 'La Bonne Vie' - or 'the good life') on Pandosy is such a place for me. This little 'house-like' boutique is packed full of treasure for both the home and your wardrobe, and is an Aladdin's cave of style.

Owner Tracey Wickenheiser embraces design from a global perspective, then distills it into her own world view - and her shop would not be out of place on Melrose Avenue in LA or in New York's SoHo, London's Hoxton or Paris's Le Marais.  The fact that it is here is Kelowna is so cool, and makes me so happy, that I am actually dribbling.

La Bonne Vie's fashion department contains great labels like 7 for All Mankind, Current/Elliot (from whom I-want-I-want-I-want a pair of 'Boyfriend' jeans), 213 Industry, oneteaspoon (from whom I-want-I-want-I-want a pair of chambray 'Bobby Pants' or 'Surrender Super Baggies') and Rebecca Taylor (from whom I-want-I-want-I-want a 'Starflower Shift Dress'), Daisy Knight watches (which I will be doing a whole blog posting about, so stay tuned)... It's like LBV is Holt Renfrew packed into a 'Mini-Me' version.

Then there are the interiors.  Great coffee table books on fashion and design, felted cushions with a beautifully crafted skull motif, a slender fourposter bed with elegantly hooved feet, a 70's-spikey 'Orion' Mirror, and gorgeous wall coverings in deco'esque geometric patterns in sumptuous colours like plum, jade, blush pink and powder blue, mixed with metallic silvers and golds ... LBV's aesthetic for the season is all about modern maximalism, and what a tonic it is.

And... what's in the shop is only the tip of the iceberg, at least as far as interiors are concerned.  Tracey can work with you, bringing in a wide variety of things from her carefully chosen suppliers, to create the kind of home of which you dream.  Whether you want to go whole hog, which could get you featured in magazines like 'Style at Home', or simply pick a few perfect pieces to add oomph to your current decor, your home can't help but be better off.

If I sound like I'm gushing, well... I am. The Good (New) Life [La Bonne (Nouvelle) Vie] has meet La Bonne Vie [The Good Life] and thinks we may well become BFF's.

Images sourced from La Bonne Vie

I've decided that book launches in Kelowna are like buses in London.  You wait ages for one, and then three come along at the same time. I've already talked about the ones for novelist Corinna Chong and poet Tim Linburn, and recently I popped in to new Kelowna bar and grill, Social 242, for a launch party to celebrate local author Becky Komant.

As well as being a writer, Komant is a business woman, personal trainer, and life coach, offering people help and support with all aspects of their lives. It was a lovely evening, and I was able to chat to her about both herself and her new book, The Controlled.

TG(N)L: Are you originally from Kelowna? If not where are you from and how did you end up in Kelowna?
BK: ‘I am a Kelowna girl – born and raised.  I couldn't think of a better place to grow up and also to raise my four children’.

TG(N)L: What made you decide to write: a) a book? and b) this particular story?

BK: ‘I honestly had a vision of writing a fitness book for years which took a wild twist into an dramatic adult suspense!   How did it get there?  A chance run in at the airport with a client and a conversation later, I started taking notes in my iPhone and my journey started.  After sharing some of my ideas, it ignited something inside of me. I wanted to write a book that was not only entertaining but that people could relate to on different levels, such as self doubt, fear and control issues.  

I had a great idea for a story that brewed for several years and figured that I could intertwine many different elements together and create a fiction book that would not only entertain, but it would touch on many issues people deal with in life.’   

TG(N)L How did your work as a life couch influence or help with the writing of The Controlled?

BK: ‘I have been a fitness trainer for years.  I find as a trainer, coaching goes far beyond the physical aspect.  Because of that I became a Certified Life Coach.  It is my passion to help others and because of that I wanted to weave many challenges into the story line.

It is those challenges that make the story so intriguing but also give some readers hope and strength to fight for their freedom from any issues they may be dealing with.  It also is a great story for those in search of a suspense thriller full of intrigue, seduction, blackmail, lies and manipulation.’

TG(N)L: What is your favourite thing about the book or story?

BK: ‘It is hard for me to pick a favourite part of the story.  It would give away the plot.  I enjoyed developing the character Sarah and watching her evolve as she struggled to find her path.’

TG(N)L: What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?

BK: ‘The most challenging part about writing the book was where to end it.  I guess I can put a little hint out there that there is a sequel in the works!’ 

TG(N)L: Did living in Kelowna have any influence on the story in any way?

BK: ‘I wouldn't say living in Kelowna influenced the story but it would be fair to say that growing up in Kelowna and my path in life has made me who I am today. If I had chosen another path, who knows where I would be!’ 

'The Controlled' is Komant’s first book, and is a sexy adult thriller – synopsis as follows:

'Who is in control of YOUR life?

Fitness model and mother of 5 Sarah Ruiz thinks her future is as bright as the Miami sun. By the time she realizes a stranger, who is hell-bent on destroying her, has wormed his way into her life, she finds herself backed into a corner with no apparent way of escape.

The Controlled is an adult dramatic thriller for mature readers who have a thirst for a mystery laced with sexual tension and suspense. Get ready for a fast-paced, hot ride that traverses Miami, New York, and Las Vegas, with a glimpse into the dark side of human nature.'

Sounds like a perfect summer poolside read to me, and I am all for supporting local talent.  

The Controlled is published through BK Press, and you can order your copy through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or through your local bookstore.

ISBN: 978-0-9918115-0-2

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Plays the Thing...

I love live theatre, but will fully admit to being a full blown theatre snob.  I like my theatre challenging, intelligent, evocative and provocative, and have a great distaste for what I call 'theatre for couch tours/tourists'; I walked out of 'Cats', and have never seen 'Les Miserables' on principle (although I do hear the latter is actually quite good). For better or worse, that's just me.

So when visiting New York, one of my very favourite things to do is hit the Times Square 'TKTS' booth and get great cut price tickets to the best Broadway has to offer.  The last time, the highlight of my cultural frenzy was seeing 'Venus in Fur' at the Lyceum Theatre.  It was my 'wild card' choice of the trip; I didn't know that much about the production (apart from, of couse, having read the original Leopold von Sacher-Masoch book years ago) but... 1. It was pouring rain; 2. I desparately wanted to escape the inclement elements with an afternoon matinee; and 3. this was one of the few plays left on offer whose time frames fit my schedule.

It is so great when things work out.

The play itself was amazing... everything I look for in a theatrical experience, and the cast was also brilliant.  As a matter of fact, the two actors went on to win accolades for their performances: Nina Arianda won the 2012 Tony for Leading Actress for her electric performance as Vanda, and Hugh Dancy (he of 'Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene'  and 'Hysteria') received a Drama Desk 'Best Actor' award nomination for his role as Thomas.

So... when I saw posters advertising the play at the Creekside Theatre in Lake Country, I was intrigued.  I really wanted to see what the Fred Skelton Theatre Company would make of this challenging, and rather edgy play, and how this local production would stack up to the one I saw on Broadway - no pressure there. The answer is... pretty darn good.  Dorothy Dalbi was really quite fabulous as Vanda, the mysterious/ditzy/and possibly menacing auditioning actress to Neville Bowman's most competent Thomas, the 'play within a play's' adaptor/director.  And, again, the play - in and of itself - is quite simply... wonderful.

I also couldn't help but think what a brave choice it was for director Shannon Moore. The play's content is challenging and sexually charged, and the vocabulary - at times - the other side of blue.  To see it performed in a smaller metropolitan centre like Kelowna (the theatre was full, and the audience very appreciative - the performance I attended garnered a standing ovation) bodes well for the intelligence of theatre buffs in the area.  Hurrah.

Final words... if this is theatre in Kelowna, I'm going to be one happy bunny.  More please.

'When a young actress shows up hours late for her appointment, she knows she may have blown her chances at the role. But when her emotionally charged audition for the demanding playwright/director becomes an electrifying game of cat and mouse that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex—well, the rules may have all just changed.'

Pictures sourced from Fred Skelton Theatre Company, Kelowna