Ordinary, extraordinary Okanaganites –
Pigeon-holing? Not so much my style. But a few months ago, I was people-watching from a downtown Kelowna bench and it struck me that there are some incredible types milling around. The girl with the sandals and the pug? She just might head up the latest game studio. The guy on the bike? Maybe a sommelier, stay at home dad or Ironman contender. Sure, the Okanagan’s got unique places to explore and activities to try. But even more fascinating about this landscape are the regular folks—the ordinary, extraordinary people you walk by every day. The ones I found are happy to tell you why they’re here, and about the places and spaces they occupy in the Okanagan.
We know you’ve got your own favourite places, secrets and struggles. Add your profile by posting a comment on this story at www.OkanaganLife.com.
The Tranquility Seeker
By day, this Toronto transplant creates delightful user experiences online. And on her own time? Drop the “online” and this single girl’s determined to create a great UX for her new life. Despite some initial urban withdrawal, she’s finding that the Okanagan’s got a good framework to work with.
Friends would say: funny, creative, generous, spontaneous.
Talents and hobbies: yoga, meditation, travel, photography, painting.
What you’d say to a friend moving here: It’s got a sense of tranquility you can’t find in a bigger city—an amazing retreat from the busy life to more simple and abundant.
Summer activity: wine tasting and boating with friends.
Winter activity: cross-country skiing.
Wednesday evening: dinner
with the girls.
Sunday afternoon: hot yoga.
Picnic place: lots of little beaches on Pandosy.
Websites browser: Fast Company.
Dream: traveling around the world with friends.
Saving for: a beautiful penthouse loft in Toronto.
Okanagan events you never miss:
the One of a Kind show at Summerhill Pyramid Winery.
Fave summer drink: mojito.
Best free Okanagan entertainment: Pecha Kucha Kelowna.
Social media: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn.
Mobile: 24/7—always on.
Apps? Etsy, Clear, Evernote.
Worst thing about Okanagan
living: lack of winter sun—hurray for Vitamin D!
Neighbourhood: I live mid-town so I can easily commute on my bike.
Clothes shopping habits: Online, consignment downtown.
Okanagan secret: Last summer I drove past Summerhill Winery, and decided to continue driving uphill, just to see what’s there. I stopped my car on the side of a mountain hoping to get some photos of the Valley. To my surprise there’s a path that goes all the way down the mountain to a public beach with waters so crystal clear that you could see the colours of the rocks in the water. I was blown away and inspired to continue exploring.
Who you are in the context of the Okanagan: It took time for me to adjust to living here. I now have time to be more creative and paint during the winter, and truly relax in the summer with friends. Being here has allowed me to see, taste and feel everything so differently from what I’m used to and I’m really thankful.
The Adventure Seeker
Sports star, game champ, snow warrior, sun-seeker, loves friends and always finds frolic. For this seven-year-old, the places and spaces of the Okanagan are perfect backdrops for new adventures. No matter the season, Ethan is ready for more.
Friends would say: nice, fun kid.
If one of your buddies were moving here: “Cool! You’ll love it.”
Inside adventures: mini-golf, video games, Lego.
Sports adventures: road hockey, scootering, biking, golf at Michaelbrook, ziplining in my friend’s backyard.
Creature adventures: catching grasshoppers, watching salmon spawn in Mission Creek.
Seasonal adventures: Davison’s orchard and pumpkin patch in Vernon, buying fresh bread and popcorn at the Farmers’ Market, making giant sandcastles at the beach with auntie.
Best thing in the summer: swimming in the lake.
Best thing in the winter: snowball fights, tubing at Silver Star, ski lessons at Big White.
Favourite breakfast: with my family in my kitchen.
Best overall Okanagan spot: Rotary Beach.
Best dinner: BBQ hamburgers at home, East Side Marios.
Best thing about the Okanagan: we get snow in the winter and hot sun in the summer.
Worst thing about the Okanagan: winter’s always a bit too long.
Dream: being a hockey player.
Okanagan secret: the coffee shop in Kettle Valley has the best frozen yogurt ever.
Final adventure ideas: the library’s cool.
The Startup Guy
The undercurrent of entrepreneurial energy in the Okanagan is fuelled in part by individuals who believe the culture is just right here to make big things happen. That’s the case with our entrepreneur who seems to have a winning mix of dreams and discipline.
Friends would describe you as: nerdy.
Hobbies: Electronics, astronomy, playing guitar, photography, programming.
Your favourite music: from modern classical piano to blues and rock—as long as you can’t describe it as Rap or Top 40 I’ll probably listen to it.
Favourite summer activity: running.
Favourite winter activity: running.
Where’d you come from: most recently Vancouver—Toronto before that.
What you’d say to a friend moving here: Do it. The Okanagan is beautiful and Vancouver is a short flight or drive away.
Sunday afternoon: running or reading.
Wednesday night: working.
Breakfast spot: the Bohemian Café for delicious huevos rancheros.
Picnic places: Tugboat Beach.
Favourite dinner: Mamma Rosa’s.
Bookmarked: Brain Pickings, Harvard Business Review, Apple Developer site.
Dream: driving a Lamborghini through northern Italy.
Okanagan events you never miss: UBCO’s Distinguished Speaker series.
Best free Okanagan
entertainment: Parks Alive!
Fave summer meal: Moolix Ice Cream. (Ice cream is a meal, right?)
Best thing about living here: the marsh, the waterfront and Knox Mountain.
Clothes shopping: quality at a low price, except for shoes. I have a Fluevog habit.
Grocery shopping: vegetables come to my fridge to die.
Okanagan secrets: the Okanagan Observatory, Mosaic Books, Mad Mango.
Who you are in the context of the Okanagan: I’d always thought of the Okanagan as a vacation spot. Now I’m active in the technology community and surprised at all the talent here.
The Trail Blazer
Addicted to leaving tracks, our 36-year-old Trail Blazer seems an interesting paradox. A graphic designer, he counteracts his computer skewed work hours with extreme exploring of the natural treasures the Okanagan area offers.
Friends would describe you as: lots of fun to be around, but a little crazy.
Music: indie rock.
Favourite winter activity: trail running in the snow.
Where’d you come from? Vancouver.
Why do you stay here? friends, work, the outdoors.
Sunday afternoon: enjoying a spicy mocha at Gio Bean coffee after a nice long run.
Wednesday afternoon: training with the P.A.C.E. crew.
Breakfast spots: Wild Apple or Bliss Bakery.
Picnic places: Knox Mountain or Bertram Park.
Favourite dinner: RauDZ.
Website browser would show: the amazing artwork of Françoise Nielly.
Favourite cultural activity: Farmers’ Market, Art Walk, Fabulous Finds.
Dream: running a multi-day stage race with my wife and friends.
Currently saving for: a mountain bike.
Okanagan events you never miss: Art On the Line at UBCO.
Best free Okanagan entertainment: a lantern festival in the fall where people make homemade lanterns and parade them through the streets.
Favourite summer drink: cucumber water with a splash of bourbon.
Social media: Twitter is always good for a laugh, a semi-sarcastic discussion about local politics?—?or both. Media helps me stay connected more globally than locally. Local media drives me crazy.
Long term goal: run a 100-mile ultra marathon.
Worst thing about Okanagan living: There aren’t a lot of good, accessible cultural events. You either have to be rich, have kids or have low expectations.
Grocery philosophy: Shop local. Buy fresh. It’s better if it comes without a package.
Clothing philosophy: I don’t buy clothes with logos on them. Companies should pay me to advertise for them not the other way around.
Okanagan secret: Carmelis goat’s milk gelato.
Best thing about Okanagan living: Trail running through the hills; the temperatures are perfect every season. There are great trails close to town and wonderful world class trail runners who’d love to show you around (if you can keep up). I love seeing the lake every day, enjoying local wines at sunset and how summer really lasts until October, but we don’t tell anyone. (Shhhh.)
Everyone talks about the great golf around here and leaving for Arizona when the first winter chill hits, and there are lots of fancy frou frou spots to tout. But what about the ordinary stuff? This retired couple revels in the wonders of the “regular.” After the work’s all done, there’s a lot to love about an active, uncomplicated Okanagan life.
Friends would describe you as: hopefully as honest, regular people.
What you’d say to a friend moving here: Be prepared for high housing costs. Also, it’s become pretty busy in the 20-odd years we’ve been here—and will only get more so.
Summer activities: fishing in early summer and swimming/beaching in high season.
Winter activities: skating and cross country skiing.
Wednesday evening: home.
Favourite breakfast spot: Perkins.
Hobbies and tinkering: gardening, home maintenance, fixing things.
Favourite picnic spot: near the Shuswap River at Ashton Creek.
Favourite dinner: Capri Hotel Vintage Room.
Website browser would show: Globe & Mail stocks
Favourite apps: no!
Mobile habits: just a pay-and-talk cell phone used mostly to make calls.
Social media: not interested.
Best thing about Okanagan living: ease of access to stores and services, but also some nice scenery, beaches, etc.
Worst thing about Okanagan living: it’s getting a little too busy, especially the traffic and so many drivers.
Neighbourhood: Lower Glenmore—convenient to all shopping and services.
Grocery shopping: Superstore for best overall prices.
Long term goal: stay as fit as possible and enjoy outdoor activities, family and grandchildren.
The Social Butterfly
The Okanagan is abuzz with activity and top-notch entertainment possibilities, all perpetuated by people who love the lifestyle. For Penny, life in the Valley is about capturing the moment, savouring all the best things and keeping busy, but also taking time to close her wings once in awhile so she can enjoy the stillness, too.
Friends would describe you as: very busy, very outgoing, with a tremendous sense of humour.
What you’d say to a friend moving here: “Good choice. This is God’s country.”
Favourite music: Lady Gaga, Canadian Tenors and everything in between.
Summer activity: gardening, lunching with friends on an outdoor patio, shopping.
Winter activity: spending time at Silver Star Mountain in our cabin.
Why you stay in the Okanagan: we love the lifestyle—there’s clean, fresh air, a beautiful climate—it’s a perfect place to raise our two daughters.
Sunday afternoon: I’m a realtor—so hosting an open house.
Wednesday evening: watching American Idol, showing property.
Favourite breakfast spot: Country Tyme Gardens on Kal Lake Road in Coldstream.
Picnic place: my beautiful back yard in Coldstream.
Favourite dinner restaurant: Bamboo Beach in Vernon.
Website browser: real estate.
Culture: ballet, traveling, live performances.
Dreams: being cancer free for the rest of my life.
Currently saving for: Spain!
Never miss events: Kalamalka Rotary Dream Auction, Run for the Cure, SPCA fundraisers.
Best free Okanagan entertainment: Davison’s Orchard.
Okanagan secrets: Sparkling Hill Resort, Modern Accents Tablescapes done twice a year by Lynn Archibald in Kelowna (sort of table setting 101)
Media: KISS FM, CBC, Oprah Winfrey Network.
Mobile: Blackberry—used constantly—but not for apps.
Neighbourhood: We’ve got an unobstructed view of Kal Lake and there’s lots of privacy.
Clothes shopping habits: Winners, Jigsaw in Kelowna, Crazy River in Salmon Arm.
The Salsa Storm
Amongst all the ways to inhabit private spaces and embrace simplicity, the Okanagan offers plenty of opportunity for the fast-paced and dynamic. This tech/art professional has a strong desire to capture both the calm and the chaos. Her balancing trick? Dancing between both worlds.
Friends would describe you as: always up for spontaneous adventure, curious, people-centric.
Summer activity: road trips, beach BBQs and building sand castles. Dancing! And I’m totally addicted to the road with Ruby (my bike).
Winter activities: dancing.
Where’d you come from: Regina. I grew up in Williams Lake and Nakusp.
Why Kelowna: Family. I travelled and moved around a lot in my late teens and 20s. Kelowna became home base and I developed close friends I liked to come home to. Then I got a crazy cool job and so I stay. It’s hard to find a reason to leave (other than wanting to conquer the world before 40).
Sunday afternoon: napping, cycling or visiting with friends.
Wednesday evening: working or out for dinner with friends.
Fave breakfast spot: my sister’s house.
Picnic places: Strathcona Park or Hot Sands Beach with family.
Best place for dinner out: Waterfront Wines.
Currently saving for: a rainy day in Buenos Aires.
Okanagan events you never miss: Twisted Salsa Saturdays at Habitat, Footwerk events.
On work and life: I am fuelled by creativity and being around creative people. I love bringing definition and form to things. We find ourselves in new territory—sometimes without a map to follow and we get to make it up. Collaboration is one of the key ingredients to creative satisfaction for me—in work and in life—and in my work the only way to get anything done is to collaborate. I get to work with a huge variety of disciplines and different types of people.
Best thing about Okanagan living: outdoors, cycling, summer.
Worst thing about Okanagan living: Can sometimes feel without a progressive overall spirit. With our structures, we should take a cue from Europe and realize function and form are equally important. Ugly things make people less happy.
Social media: I’ve got a love/hate thing with Facebook.
Mobile: iPhone—can’t live without it.
Fave apps: Twitter, Shazam, Fring, Google Maps. I’m into function for apps.
Long term: To live an honest, authentic life. To contribute to making my world—the space that I influence—more beautiful, better and fulfilling.
Okanagan secret: Most inspiring, community-building activity I love right now is Kelowna’s small but growing salsa scene. I take lessons at Latinesque. Warren Eaton is owner/instructor and his classes are really fun, a great place to learn and the people who go are all really accepting. Every two weeks he hosts Twisted Salsa Saturdays at the Habitat. We dance for hours, with friends and strangers. There’s salsa, merengue, cha cha, bachatta and more. You don’t have to know how to dance because there are lots of people to teach you—even a lesson early in the evening to get your feet wet.
Who you are in the context of the Okanagan: Having my family here makes the Okanagan feel like home. Despite a busy, collaborative life, in some ways I am defined by really simple things here: my family, my work, dancing and my bike. I take a lot of pleasure in small ordinary things—good espresso, family BBQs, the beach, lots of walks—and dance.
The Super Duo
By the light of day, Andrew and Marla both work in the public sector. But after hours, this daring pair takes time to discover secret spots that make the Okanagan “the best place to live in the world.” So far no Kryptonite …
Friends would describe you as: fun, smart, a crazily romantic story or “the good hair couple.”
Summer activity: sitting on the beach followed by happy hour on a pub patio.
Sunday afternoon: shopping at Costco.
Fave breakfast: home for Marla’s blueberry pancakes.
Picnic place: Kalamoir Park.
Dinner out: Earls (best Caesar salad ever!), Quail’s Gate for a special occasion.
Website browser: Andrew on Facebook and Castanet, Marla on eBay and urlybits.
Culture: Marla picks art galleries, Andrew’s into drinking Guinness on weekends.
Dreams: world peace, winning the lottery, a flatter stomach.
Saving for: short-term—a trip to Europe, long-term—early retirement.
Okanagan events you never miss: Kelowna Art Gallery fund-raiser, Sopa Fine Arts monthly openings, Okanagan Fest-of-Ale.
Best free Okanagan entertainment: people-watching in City Park, hiking.
Fave summer drink: Super Sonic Gin & Tonic at Joey.
Day jobs: Andrew works at Kelowna Community Resources helping newcomers to Canada get settled into our community and culture. Marla does public relations for the Okanagan Regional Library system to make everyone aware of all the great resources available to them.
Best thing about Okanagan living:
summers, and everything is five minutes away.
Social media favourites: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.
Mobile: Andrew doesn’t have a cell and doesn’t like being reachable, but Marla feels naked without her Blackberry (though considering the big switch to an iPhone).
Hobbies: running and fitness, volunteering, reading (both), do-it-yourself jewelry and fashion (Marla).
Worst thing about Okanagan living: winters, drivers who don’t know how to merge
Neighbourhood: Casa Loma (best kept secret neighbourhood in the Okanagan).
Grocery shopping habits: hate to admit it, but usually big box.
Clothes shopping habits: eBay, Value Village (yes!), other preloved stores like Frock, The Wardrobe. Also locally-owned boutiques like Kolu, dlux, Posh.
Okanagan secret: trail running. Also, Summerland Sweets and the Village Cheese Company.
The Tidal Wave
Does the Okanagan cultivate
healthier kids? We’re not sure, but judging by this teen, it’s entirely possible. Tia’s on a swim team, loves sledding, and finds time for friends and family. She’s got some big plans and dreams—plus the speed and determination to chase and catch them all.
Friends would describe you as: funny, loyal.
Favourite music: Top 40.
Summer activity: beach.
Winter activity: sledding.
Sunday afternoon: hanging with friends.
Wednesday evening: swim practice at H2O.
Breakfast spot: IHOP.
Picnic place: field below my house.
Favourite dinner spot: Montanas.
Dreams: a swimming scholarship and going to university.
Currently saving for: a decent car for when I turn 16.
Summer drink: slushies at the corner store.
Best thing about Okanagan living: quad riding out the back door on the best trails in the world.
Favourite apps: today? Temple Run.
Long term: become a teacher.
Mobile: iPod—when I have time.
Clothes shopping habits: going to the mall, but not buying anything.
Okanagan secret: ZipZone Adventure Park in Peachland.
The Culture Consumer
What’s life like for pre-teens in the Okanagan? According to Maya, not bad. We’ve got an appropriate mix of shopping, music, access to social networks, great food, theatre venues and (obvs) more shopping…
Friends would describe you as: loud.
Hobbies: drawing, acting.
Sports: dancing, running.
Activities: Canadian School of Ballet, classes at the Actor’s Studio.
Best place for alone time: Orchard Park Mall.
Best place to hang with friends: Orchard Park Mall.
Fave summer place: beach.
Fave winter activity: drink hot chocolate.
Sunday afternoon: home.
Wednesday evening: with friends.
Breakfast spot: Cinnabon.
Picnic place: Mission Creek.
Best dinner: Chopped Leaf.
Culture: music, theatre.
Saving for: iPhone.
Best free Okanagan entertainment: the beach.
Social media: Facebook.
Mobile: cell—quite a bit.
Okanagan secret: Frock in Kelowna.
Clothes shopping habits:
I shop too much!
Life for this working mother is busy. With the philosophy that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and a great support network of other moms, she seems to be on top of the world—or at least the Okanagan. From skiing to rowing and everything in-between, this savvy working mom makes the most of every minute with an outlook that matches summertime in the place she calls home.
Friends would describe you as: outgoing, energetic, talkative.
Summer activity: rowing, water skiing, wine tasting.
Winter activity: skiing with my boys.
Where’d you come from? Vancouver, via Nova Scotia and Ontario.
Why do you stay? family (it’s a great place to raise children), the people, lifestyle.
Best thing about Okanagan living: being a mom here is great—there are so many of us! I’m lucky to have such an incredible support network available to help out in a pinch or just to get together for a glass of vino and a chat. I can walk to the beach in five minutes and drive less than an hour to ski or taste fantastic wines.
Sunday afternoon: at the gym.
Wednesday afternoon: working.
Fave breakfast: The Bohemian Café, De Dutch.
Picnic place: the beach with my boys.
Dinner out: Waterfront Wines, Twisted Tomato, Cabana, RauDZ.
Website browser: I research everything—travel, entertainment, social media, parenting.
Culture: Live theatre, music.
Never miss Okanagan events: anything food or wine related, the SPCA Paws for a Cause walk—my boys and I volunteer every year at the crazy hair station where we have tons of fun using coloured hairspray on people and their dogs.
Best free Okanagan entertainment: Canada Day at Waterfront Park, Beagle Meetup at the Mission Park Dog Park on the last Sunday of the month (there’s nothing cuter than a bevy of beagles chasing each other around, ears flapping and tails at attention).
Fave summer meal: Barbecued wild BC salmon topped with fresh local fruit salsa.
Social media: Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t delved into Pinterest too much yet, but it’s next.
Mobile: Blackberry Torch to text, email, update social media…and even phone people.
Fave local apps or follows: Moksha Yoga, The Hot Box Yoga, H20 Fitness and Adventure Centre, Sparkling Hill Resort, Home For Dinner, Big White Ski Resort, Beth Veenkamp-Constructing Life Coaching.
Grocery shopping habits: Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market and produce stands in summer. Urban Harvest organic delivery is great year-round. Save-on-Foods and Lakeshore Market in the Mission fill in the gaps.
Clothes shopping habits: Winners, anywhere clearance, great finds from Influence, Fracas, Bella, The Wardrobe.
Okanagan secret: Riding one of the city’s double decker transit buses—just for a different view. Also, something else every local mom should know about: Bread on Wheels Bakery. They’ll deliver fresh-baked goodies (my kids love the braided bread and the chocolate croissants), Cherry Hill coffee and farm-fresh eggs to your door once a week.
Being a working mom in the Okanagan: Life is busy and family time is precious. For me, living across the street from H20 and a block from the beach helps make things like picnics or after-dinner swims easier. The Greenway and Mission Dog Park are also easy walks, something our beagle appreciates. ~Deanna Kent-McDonald