Tag Archives: Okanagan

Suspended in Time, Love and Kissing the Year Goodbye


Sunset_and_Moonset(Photo courtesy of European Southern Observatory (ESO))

The short time between Christmas and New Years is like a plane ride—there’s really no one looking for you, asking you to do much or cares whether you are asleep, reading a book and snacking on salty chips.

It’s a time of in between, when you exhale from over-indulgence and begin to turn your mind, ever so slightly, towards your life and what you’ll make of it the following year.

I am feeling the pull of solitude after so many conversations—the need to think, and let sentences uncoil in my mind and have time to track down where they are taking me. The tug of stories that want to be written is polite but insistent, like children who’ve waited a long time in a lineup but implore you with their eyes that a chocolate bar would do wonders for their mood.

I realize I’ve been damming up my interior self for so long it feels like the sandbags—work, chores, bills, deadlines—have to now give way for some creativity. Of course, what follows after the river runneth is always a scene of me screaming I don’t want to go to work around January 5th, but let’s not talk about that just yet.

Christmas has left me with a new feeling in my heart and this comes from new people in my family. It’s amazing how a culture you’ve never known can suddenly feel so dear to you overnight. My nephew Luke married Jan, a woman he met a few years ago in Thailand and now she is living with him in their smart new place in Kelowna. Jan had her first Christmas in Canada and I was really privileged to be part of it. I noticed how her graciousness and respect for family was paramount and my role as Aunt seemed to have real meaning and significance. Her idea of family is so different from my experience I was deeply touched when she intimated that I should live with my son in their apartment building as well. After all, why wouldn’t we all live right close by one another?

As we struggled over language and culture barriers, the snow came down through the pines, and we ate tins of German cookies and watched the fire, sharing stories and opening gifts and while I’m not yet sure exactly what the new feeling is—hence the need to have some solitude to sort it out into a poem—I do know it feels wonderful to be loved. That’s what my Christmas gave me and isn’t that, I mean really and truly, such a gift?

I think so.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to detach and focus on some poems for the coming year, ponder my recent acceptance into the Creative Writing graduate program at UBC (very exciting), and how I might make the most of this gorgeous suspended time, between what was and what will be.

I hope you find yourself suspended in your own cloud of yearning, looking up into the night sky, kissing 2015 goodbye and falling into the arms of 2016. xo

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Filed under Non-fiction

Summer Laze


Holiday. It can be a state of mind, sure, I’ll give you that. But it truly only happens in a specific place. When we tell each other memories of our vacation, we usually start with the place. The way the trees drooped down over a boulevard or how the sun set every night beyond your balcony or the way the lavender smelled in the air long after you’d hiked beyond those purple fields lit by a moody afternoon sun or the sound of waves, crashing in the dark just beyond your window.

My holiday place every year is in Kelowna, British Columbia in a region called the Okanagan. It (as in life) has usually become so unbearable in Vancouver by the time July rolls around I am itching to hit the highway and get to my happy place where peaches hang from trees and counters overflow with fresh berries of every kind and I am at peace under the hot glare of a true summer sun. This time around I drove a slow, lazy route up to the Okanagan, stopping in Osoyoos which is a desert and hot as, well you can imagine a desert could be, and then meandered up to Kelowna where I stayed with my ex sister-in-law of nearly 30 years who isn’t an ‘ex’ anymore but a dear friend. She cooks, I eat. A lot. We talk, water the garden, cocktails are made, plans hatched, relationships pondered and dreams unfurled for inspection. Everything is extraordinarily ordinary and simple and satisfying. Salad and herbs freshly pulled get tossed in a bowl with homemade dressing. Magazines get sticky from the heat, and are turned slowly, as you drift off to sleep in the sun. But best of all, I get to laze around with a small dachshund by the name of Louie who is my favourite animal in the entire world. You’d love him too if you met him. You can see him in the slideshow below.

If you are reading this and thinking of coming to BC, please, spend a few days in Vancouver, but ensure you get up to Osoyoos, Oliver and Kelowna and all of the amazing wineries that abound in our beautiful Okanagan. It’s really heaven on earth. And don’t fly. The backroads are what make it a holiday.


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Filed under Non-fiction

How German Traditions Rescued my Canadian Christmas

When I was growing up, Christmas was a really welcome event as it followed Advent, which, in our Irish Catholic family, was a rough four weeks of a lot of prayers and preparation. I never followed the through line of Advent other than one of my brothers had created the Advent candle holder in his welding class and while it really was so ugly, my mother set it out on the table like it was Swarovski crystal. Being the bottom of 11, there was never a Christmas in my life that wasn’t populated by huge hordes of Doyle’s. I was knee-deep in the second generation, and the sole bridge between the immediate family and their offspring. So, inevitably, as my brothers procreated ad nauseam, my poor mother might have 37 or so people for a sit-down dinner.

There was always some crazy thing that happened at the last-minute as the clock struck 6 pm on the 25th, as in a few cops showing up (my brother was a Vancouver policeman for 12 years) or an unexpected neighbour, or some new immigrants referred by Catholic Charities. No matter. My mother always just shrugged and said, “I’ll put another potato on”.

So, traditions, both spiritual and familial, were strongly observed and cherished around this holiday. One of my favourite traditions was the hanging of pictures of all 11 children sitting on Santa’s knee, which had been glued to a ribbon and cascaded down the foyer door. I never tired of looking up at all the faces, crying and smiling, and finding myself on the bottom of the door, in colour instead of black and white.

Then as time will do, our family grew older and my mother did too. When the house on West 11th sold, an era ended. And with it many of those traditions sadly. I gravitated after my mother passed away (and more traditions vanquished) to my German sister-in-law Moni Schiller, who observes, and heartily practices, strong German traditions blended with her own maniacal Christmas spirit. In her house, I found again the Christmas past, and have come here mostly every Christmas since.

While my waist grows as each Spitzbuebchen cookie is devoured, and late harvest wine poured, I sink into family time, pulling away from work and remembering, oh yeah, this is the important part, to take this moment and think of love, and traditions, some new, some old, of those you treasure and hold so dear.

And nestled there, in our hearts, are the gifts that really matter.

 Ein frohes und besinnliches Weihnachtsfest!


Filed under Memoir, Non-fiction

A few of my favourite places and things…

This week I have a big project to work on for my course in digital media so my fiction, poetry, and blogging is on ‘lite’. Hence, a few fun things that feed me body and soul in Victoria.

Cobs Bread 

Located near my family doctor, it’s always a pit stop on the way home. I throw all my carb fears out the window when I enter this shop because the smell just envelops you. The staff have it figured out–they’re cool, laid back with pitch-perfect service style and somehow you find yourself ordering things that will undo all the thigh-squeezing, squatting, lunging work you did at the gym. I just try to think like the French and enjoy every last lick of my freshly baked Cinnamon bun, ignoring my North American need to count the caloric damage of the insanely pleasurable taste of their thick, gooey icing. I always bring home some garlic cheese bread for my son who promptly sits down with sandwich ingredients and devours the whole thing while still retaining his six-pack, God love him.

The Bengal Room

Last I checked, I am the Mayor on Foursquare of the Bengal Room at the Empress (it says lounge on their website but I prefer room). Why am I the virtual mayor? Because I go there way too often. The Bengal reminds me a little of one of my favourite places in Vancouver which is the 900 West lounge at the Hotel Van (for non-native Vancouverites I am referring to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver) where I spent many a happy, formative, rainy afternoon. So I always feel a little sense of home at the Bengal every time I visit and likely also because the staff know me. (Thank you for great service Paul each and every time). The best time to go, in my opinion, is mid-week, towards the end of the day, in low season. There’s something about the stilled fans on the ceiling while curling up in the warm buttery leather chairs, and the always present scent of the delectable curry buffet (which just got more interesting I would imagine with Chef Kamal on board) that is enchanting. For summer, I would recommend the Verandah where you can enjoy people watching behind your sunglasses with a few pomegranate mojitos.


If you haven’t been on this website, just bookmark it now. I am really so impressed by the volume of info Anita puts out on her blog and of course the incredible value of it all! The other reason I love this blog is that it gives me the news about my business community–I adore hearing how small business’ are marketing their products or what deals people are putting together for tourists’, or what free stuff is out there to do on any given day in Victoria. Anita is also a talented editor who used to edit the famous British Columbia magazine and is a writer I really enjoy reading every day as well. The best part about Anita’s digital deals, in my humble opinion, is that she deftly couples community news with real value, something that this single parent family certainly needs to survive in this town, though I think there should be a weekly column dedicated to hot shoe deals. Just saying Anita.

OKV Gewurztraminer

This is a terrible looking bottle of wine. You’ll snootily pass right by her in favour of a dependable Châteauneuf-du-Pape but if you are on a budget and want a decent tasting bottle of wine, try this one. It’s 9.99, yes, under ten bucks, and is mass-produced but this is a perfect bottle for a summer white sangria or with a picnic at the beach–just ensure it stays cold or she will taste a little cheap. For dinner, I would recommend trying any of the many small estate wines from the Okanagan, and I will be sure to post a whole blog on those soon as I go for my annual wine tour at the end of July. I simply cannot wait to stand in the blistering heat, looking down rows of lovingly cared for grapes, with estate wineries and orchards for as far as the eye can see, and nothing to do but sip, smile, and tuck bottles into the trunk as we lazily meander through our afternoon towards deliciously cooked dinners and conversations outdoors past midnight. No sweater required thank you.

Saxe Point

This often overlooked little park is really a magical place to escape to. In the summer, it is lovely to take a blanket down and read and watch weddings all afternoon in the adorable little wedding area enclosed by gardens and a low stone wall where sometimes 3 or 4 nuptials happen on the same day. The gardens here are really amazing but what is magical are the little paths through the woods surrounding the shore, with little secret benches here and there that open up to a vista of the ocean–perfect for watching the sunset, listening to music, and being mindful. On very hot evenings, okay, maybe the one hot evening in YYJ, you’ll find lots of older folks with incredible feasts laid out, bottles of wine open, playing cards or bbq-ing. (One year, a man of at least 85 shouted out to everyone: COPS! and we all rushed to put away our booze. It was one of the funniest moments of my life). This is a place I go to often in the summer but don’t make the mistake of falling asleep as I did in the little grassy wedding area, waking up to a disconcerted bride staring down at my disheveled guise, about to put her stiletto through my larynx.

Sexy Mouth Wash

I promised my dental hygenist Mary I would one day give her a shout out so here it is. Mary did research on essential oils and their remarkable ability to cleanse and soothe the mouth and leave it sweet-smelling and kissable. She smartly set to work using them in her work with patients at Dr. King-Brown’s practice and now she is manufacturing this organic mouthwash! Bravo for entrepreneurism with a healthy bite! Okay, sorry for the bad joke but her mouthwash really is amazing. She has two kinds, Fresh and Sexy and her company is Synergy Organics. Support this local entrepreneur who really knows her stuff and ensure you have a sweet-smelling kisser year-round! See what people have to say on their Facebook page where you can link out to all the info you need including their url and what local stores carry this awesome kiss-inducing product.

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Filed under Humour