A dash of raspberry farming, gardening, wine touring, gourmet cooking and splash of open water swimming all blend into a life in the glorious Okanagan Valley Village of Naramata in British Columbia, Canada.

Orange is the new green – The $100 view

Okanagan Lake banded with orange for a few more days before the stark beauty of winter takes over.
Atop Munson Mountain in Penticton is a good spot to be benched although they present a Goldilocks dilemma.
The 360-degree views from the mountain offer a view of ordered orchards and vineyards with a peak at Skaha Lake in the distance. 
Looking toward Penticton and my favourite swimming beach.
The park sits right above Penticton’s landmark giant letters first created in 1937 to put the town on the map. The sign has been maintained by volunteers ever since.
One hundred dollar view – literally – The view from atop Munson was featured on Canadian $100 bills from 1954 to 1974. 
Aside from the striking views, native vegetation makes this a special place with its spicy sage smells.
I’m lichen this rock close-up.
In the distance is the road to Naramata that is a beautiful drive home no matter the season.

The Holy Grail of ginger cookie recipes

Literally dozens of ginger cookie recipes carefully filed away are now in the recycling. I have found it. Best-ever ginger cookies that more than live up to their name.

The ultimate in fall comfort cookies, the humble ginger cookie, can get no better than these. The recipe is from my new favourite local cookbook called The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan and it’s genius creator is the Bean Scene Coffee Works in Kelowna.

It’s hard to pin down what makes this recipe so good. I think it’s the combination of the spices and of course, butter.


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp good quality cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup white sugar + 1/2 cup for rolling cookies
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
Fit for a king

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk the flour, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar and 1/3 cup of white sugar together on high speed, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue mixing on a lower speed until blended. Add molasses and mix again for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the dry mixture, mixing on low speed until all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Roll dough into 1 tablespoon-sized balls and drop onto a plate containing 1/2 cup of white sugar. Roll cookies in sugar and press lightly to form a disk, making sure to coat both sides. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Bake one cookie sheet a time on the middle rack for 11 minutes. The cookies should come out of the oven with the traditional crackle appearance and looking slightly under-baked.

IMG_2503.JPGBest eaten warm with a lovely cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

I’m not kidding about these being the ginger cookies I’ve ever baked although I fully admit I’m prone to exaggeration. I love it when you can bake the best of the best of simple, traditional recipes… like the shortbread cookies I made yesterday which were elevated into another realm with the addition of fresh vanilla bean (French Laundry recipe).

The pink hat

Jaunty angle
Jauntier angle
Serious town
Happy town
Jaunty and bearded

Fall and soup go together like a good book and a crackling fire – Roast maple butternut squash soup

I used my wood-fired oven to roast the squash…a regular oven will do the trick too.

Only a few simple ingredients are needed for this recipe which can easily be scaled up if you plan to make a lot and freeze some.

Butternut squash are inexpensive to buy and are a farmer’s market staple.
I cook outside whenever possible. I get the whole idea of a summer kitchen. All the mess is easier to sweep off the deck.


  • 4 cups roasted butternut squash (2 medium squash)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 apple and/or 1 pear
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt (to taste…important as some chicken stocks are very salty and you may want to only add 1 teaspoon of additional salt)
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 3 cups chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock if you like)
  • 1/4 cup cream or milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (for garnish, optional)
Here is a batch roasted in a conventional oven.

Roast the squash, apple/and or pear: Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut squash and apple and/or pear in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds and dark orange stringy flesh and the apple or pear core. Brush with a light coating of olive oil. Place squash and fruit cut side down on to a baking sheet.  Roast in pre-heated oven for 55-60 minutes or until very soft when you press on the top of the squash.
Remove from oven and using a spatula, flip the squash halves and fruit halves over and allow to cool a few minutes. Using a spoon, scoop all the roasted squash flesh out and in to a bowl, being careful not to take any of the skin.

For the soup: In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring, until onion has softened and is translucent. Add the 4 cups of roasted squash and stir. Add the chicken stock (or vegetable stock) and stir to combine well. Bring to a light boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes to blend the flavours. Add in the maple syrup and cinnamon. Using an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender, puree the soup just enough to remove any big chunks. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth unless you like it that way.
Taste soup. Add salt as needed and some freshly ground pepper. You may wish to add a splash more maple syrup, again, if needed.

At this point I cool and freeze any soup I have made for later. (Do not add the cream or milk before freezing.) Before serving, heat up the soup again and add the cream or milk. Garnish with some chopped parsley or croutons and a tablespoon of sour cream. I like to add a side of homemade corn bread.


Naramata’s contribution to the Trans Canada Trail – So stunning the scenery looks fake

I get the feeling I’m looking at an expertly painted back drop for a movie set on certain days on the Kettle Valley Railway section of the Trans Canada Trail (The Great Trail) looking over the Village of Naramata. I get that same feeling in other special places in the world too…like Venice.

When Canada turns 150 next year our biggest present to ourselves will be the completion of greatest trail in the world. Now called The Great Trail, “this epic trail was created by thousands of dreamers, can-doers, volunteers, friends and partners sharing the same audacious goal of connecting our country,” says The Great Trail site.

Our section of the trail came about by funds raised the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, Trails B.C. and locally the regional district and Naramata Parks and Recreation. An active, amazing volunteer group called the Woodwackers formed in the late 1990s are the stewards of this magnificent remnant of the Kettle Valley Railway or KVR. The KVR opened in 1915 to service the growing mining demands in the Southern Interior of BC. The interesting history of the building of the KVR deserves some posts of it own. Just a couple of facts for now…construction was some of the costliest per track mile of any North American railroad project at almost $20 million and it took nearly 20 years to complete. The core portion of the KVR started in Hope  and terminated in Midway. Fruit from the Okanagan was an important commodity carried on the trains.

Photos taken yesterday on my walk show the vineyards leaves starting to turn.

The KVR tracks were removed in the Naramata – Chute Lake area in 1980 and the BC government bought the KVR right-of-way through Naramata from Canadian Pacific Railway in 1990 and the province endorsed the Trans Canada Trail initiative in 1993. Good decisions.

My favourite viewpoint is an easy walk from the Smethurst parking lot.
This is it…the spot that the really nice trail brings you into a clearing and the view so beautiful that it seems unreal reveals itself…gets me every time.

The Woodwackers roll into action in the late 1990s to help give us this beautifully cycle-friendly, walker, runner, cross country ski, horseback trail. In 2010 things heat up in Naramata as a move begins to make the majority of the trail non-motorized with very vocal and hostile opposition to this plan. Hard work and conflict resolution help win the day. The wise decision to keep all but a small section of the trail non-motorized have given us arguable one of the most beautiful portions of The Great Trail.

The spruce that hosts this sign has painted some new routes on the map with its shadows. Road less travelled?

The Great Trail will link 15,000 communities including mine along 24,000 kilometres. However we choose to experience the trail, the result is a connection with the outdoors.

Spoiled, the KVR trailhead is a mere kilometre from our house and this viewpoint is a great turn-around point in a five or six kilometre walk. I guess I’m not as unique as I think, about 30% of Canadians live within 30 minutes of the The Great Trail.(Maybe not as pretty as this bit.)
I often see eagles at this spot on the trail and less often, black bears.
This next series of photos is from the summer –scenery also too good to be real right with summer lighting as well?
Nice spot for a wine break and some photos.


This light at the end of Little Tunnel is the reward at the end of a nice bike or a long run from our place.
Skaha Lake and Penticton in the distance and Naramata’s bays below.


Would love to hear from Canadians about the part of The Great Trail you love in the comments.


Guess who’s coming for dinner…the whole darn Village


Cheers to Naramata and its Naramatians

“Slow down your movin too fast,” is seldom heard in Naramata, an internationally officially-designated slow town.

A Thanksgiving harvest pot-luck at the Naramata Centre beach brought together 182 people who arrived with baskets, platters and bowls filled with locally-grown ingredients crafted into home-made dishes to share at long table under golden-leafed trees by the shores of Okanagan Lake while toasting with Naramata Bench wines. If that sounds a bit too schmaltzy and bucolic, you weren’t there.

Mel, Yanti and Don provided the perfect sound-track for the event that could well have been a scene from a movie.

The Naramataslow dinner was designed to celebrate Naramata’s special status as slow city bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999. Only three special towns in Canada are Cittaslow. We join Cowichan Bay and Wolfville as places where the pace of life is a bit more human.

To quote from the charmingly translated Italian on the Cittaslow website, “A Cittaslow place is motivated by curious people of a recovered time, where man is still protagonist of the slow and healthy succession of seasons, respectful of citizens’ health, the authenticity of products and good food, rich of fascinating craft traditions, of valuable works of art, squares, theatres, shops, cafes and restaurants. These are places of the spirit and unspoiled landscapes characterized by spontaneity of religious rites and respect the traditions of the joy of slow and quiet living.”

Slow food or local food of high quality with connection to the local land made into traditional recipes where the community comes together for a shared meal to savour this intrinsic part of life is pretty much the essence of Cittaslow and last evening’s Naramataslow dinner.

In the midst of a rainy weekend, the sun chose to shine on the 182 diners in one of the most picturesque places in Canada.

Centre stage on the menu for the special dinner was a pit-roasted pig and not just any pig but one that was raised on the bounty of the Village and surroundings. Pig-raiser and Roast-master Jay Drysdale of Bella Wines and his wife Wendy raised this particular pig on mash from Legend Distilling, whey from Upper Bench Winery and Creamery and fruit culls from local orchards.

“I hate to ask but did the pig have a name,” I say. “Yup,” says Wendy, “Chorizo.” Makes sense right and in some strange way makes me feel better than if had been named Babe or Wilbur.

It’s hard to make meat photogenic but I think I nailed it here…apologies to all the vegetarians out there who had many, many options to choose from at the feast.

Naramataslow organizers had the foresight not to over-plan the event, although committee member Miranda Halliday of Elephant Island Winery says the event was a bit of a “leap of faith. We didn’t have tons of time for preparation and what with harvest being so early this year and all of us small business people being busy it came together rather organically and was actually sold out before we had done much advertising.

“It turned out that the simplicity of it was brilliant. The community came together to pull this off.” As for the weather, Miranda says, “You just can’t script that. What a bonus to have the sunshine on our first harvest dinner so we could eat outside by the lake.”

Tickets to the dinner were a whopping $5 and guests were asked to bring a dish for sharing that celebrates our local bounty. Wow, did we ever step up to the plate. Here are some of the offerings…

Committee member Dawn Lennie of Legend Distilling dresses her work of art.
Eat the rainbow.
Roasted root veggies.
Still life…salad.
Recipes like the one for these colourful latkes are being collected and will be shared in the coming days.
Still life #2…Trifle by the lake
A part of the Naramataslow miracle, Miranda says there was an amazing balance between sweet and savoury items amongst the lovingly prepared recipes with no complicated pre-planning or sign-up sheets.
Still life #3…apple pie with caramel sauce by the lake.
This nameless person had the forethought to assemble dessert before tackling that healthy looking main. The raspberry almond tart topping this dessert plate is my contribution and the recipe can found in the link. The last of my fall raspberry crop ended up in the tarts.
Wine was available by the glass or bottle from a wonderful selection of Naramata Bench Winery Association members. Cheers to them.
Pass the salt please.
General conviviality is a Cittaslow prerequisite. Crushed it.
Miranda says that there was a nice mix of ages at the dinner.  (I like the adult supervisor’s style.)

Miranda says there is a long list of people that help pull off this amazing dinner including the RDOS (regional district), OAP (senior’s group), the Naramata Centre’s Jim, the pig providers Jay and Wendy, the organizing committee (Dawn, Miranda, Jay, Trevor and Nicole and their kids who helped with the set-up, the musicians (Yanti, Don and Mel), Ian  who set up the sound system, Naramata Bench Wineries Association, local photographers Lone Jones and Callum, the poster designer Renee and Chorizo.

A preserve exchange table was set up. Yeah! I made a lot of grape jelly this year.
That’ll do, pig. That’ll do. The left-over pork has been frozen and will be used to make soup for community Christmas hampers.
“It was a bit of a leap of faith,” Miranda says. “There wasn’t time for tons of prep. But we knew it would work. This is Naramata.”


Nothing better than a great air show

Canada’s Snowbirds in action in Penticton

I love a good air show and the Snowbirds never disappoint. With the squadron’s (431 Iroquois) origins in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War I also have a sentimental attachment…my dad was a navigator in the 433 Squadron.

The Snowbirds are made up of 11 CT-114 Tutors.

Munson Mountain is the perfect vantage point for a Snowbirds’ show. You get the full sound of the jets and at times you feel as if your hair gets ruffled they pass so low overhead.

The grey skies provided the perfect backdrop for photos with smoke.

When performing their 9-abreast exit the wing tips are only 5.9 feet apart.

The Snowbirds got their name by way of an elementary school contest in the 70s.

The heart, Canada burst, solo head-on crosses and all their highly choreographed moves are amazing, difficult and there is definitely an element of danger. Seven Snowbird pilots and one passenger have been killed over the years.

The first story I heard when I moved from Ontario for my second newspaper job as a reporter to Grande Prairie, Alberta involved a Snowbird crash. The Grande Prairie Herald’s long-time photographer had been assigned to shoot the airshow in 1978. He had gone to the show, snapped some photos and left to fulfill a family commitment. He left before 32-year-old Captain Gordon deJong’s plane crashed. This was in the days before cell phones and cameras so there were few photos of the dreadful event to fulfill the needs of hungry news outlets. For the best I think… His plane’s horizontal stabilizer failed meaning he had no control and his attempt to eject failed. Said photographer stayed right to the end of events ever after.

The Tutor lights added to the impact light up against the gloomy skies.

The military aerobatics air show flight demonstration team is based near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and comes to Penticton every couple of years. Can’t wait.

During the dramatic solo head-on crosses, the jets are 33 feet apart.





Bird’s eye look at Carpe Diem berry farm

This is my hood for context. Preserved Light is an amazing photography company.

This is a part of our farm in our first year of production with some blueberry picking happening. Can’t wait until next year when our crop should triple. Thank you to our lovely customers at Legend Distilling where our raspberries are happily at home in their Farm Berry Vodka, Nummer’s Gourmet, where they are baked into nummy treats and the Bench Market that sold them fresh or incorporated in their fruit salads.

Harvest portraits


The Okanagan Valley is giving up the last of its bounty in one giant explosion of colour before the grey and white of winter moves in. Most of these photos were captured on the weekend at the Penticton Farmer’s Market or while helping with the grape harvest. Colour wheel!










Blog at

Up ↑