“Same same but” Better at Brodo Kitchen

I’m adapting that delightful phrase oft heard in Asia, “Same same but different” to describe the launch of the new menu at Penticton’s Brodo Kitchen. (It’s a saying that evolved as a basic way to tell foreigners that an item being sold is just as good as something with which they are familiar to a broader truth expressing how we share common human experiences throughout the world.)

Just shy of its five-year anniversary, Brodo Kitchen has tweaked its menu to refresh what’s available as regular offerings. From its opening in May 2013, Brodo Kitchen was an immediate success and local favourite. Consequently, Chef/Owner Paul Cecconi, wife Holly, Sous Chef Liam McNulty, and team, didn’t mess dramatically with the winning formula. Rather they’ve seized the opportunity after years of presenting daily specials to see what items tickle the taste buds of customers and to consider what are emerging trends in cuisine.

Owner/Chef Paul Cecconi introduces Brodo Kitchen’s revised menu

These observations are now honoured on the invigorated menu. Plus, popular options like being able to create your own Soup Flight of three of the day’s varieties remain.

It’s still the folksy approach we love posted on chalkboards above the order counter or on the bulletin of daily specials pasted on the cash register that I first wrote about in Savour Magazine in Fall/Winter 2013. You can link to that article, found on page 44, Savour Magazine Fall/Winter 2013, if you’d like to read more about Chef Cecconi’s culinary background.

Brodo Kitchen was included in an article called “Trash to Food Treasure” that I wrote for OpenRoad Driver Magazine. Read it on pages 26 to 30 of Volume 14, Issue 1 OpenRoad Driver.

On www.tastebrodo.com you can also learn more about the Brodo story, its menu, catering, and takeout as well as read the blog to get to know the team and latest accomplishments.

As you’d expect, there’s still a strong connection to comfort food and what can be sourced locally and what’s in season in the Okanagan. The motto of “simply fresh food” remains and “farm fresh” ingredients are purchased locally and from producers in the Okanagan or from around BC. All seafood is Ocean Wise ®. The new menu provides a few more vegetarian options and upon request, everything can be made gluten free.

What you might not expect are some delightful surprises emerging from the kitchen as Brodo’s contemporary spin on comfort food is enlivened with an international flair. Think Cubano sandwich, Soba noodle salad, Truffled mushroom and lentil soup.

On Chinese New Year’s, I was lucky to be included in an afternoon sneak preview which included small bowls and bites of the new items. Already I have some personal favourites such as the Spicy Tomato Meatball sandwich; Smoked Salmon ‘Nicoise’ salad or Pulled Chicken and Dumpling soup which I’ll be seeking regularly to jettison cravings.

The preview proved that you can’t go wrong whatever you select. Some items such as the Grilled Cheese sandwich represented a fine tuning of the previous one offered. If like me, you’re ready to shed tears for a couple of favourites no longer on the chalkboard, fear not: Brodo Kitchen plans to feature them periodically on its daily specials – more reasons to follow Brodo Kitchen on Facebook and @tastebrodo on Instagram.)

While the food reveals the touch of an accomplished and experienced team, the ambiance at Brodo Kitchen shows no snootiness. For those late to the fan club, you’ll find Brodo Kitchen at 483 Main Street, Penticton, BC. It’s open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 8 pm.

Step in the door and head to the counter on your left to peruse the chalkboard menu organized by Soups, Sandwiches, and Salads. Be sure to check out the daily specials bulletin and the glass cabinet for desserts of the day. Place your order, pay, and await your number to be called. If you’d like some water, just fill one of the mason jars on the side counter from the container beside them. That’s where you’ll find napkins and cutlery.

Choose, too, from a nice selection of beverages such as local wine, craft beer, apple juice, Backyard Beans coffee roasted in Summerland, and Brodo’s own bone broth and homemade seasonal fruit drinks.

#bcwine such as CedarCreek Estate

While you’re waiting, check out the coolers for take-home soups, broth and other items; and see the shelves above the water counter for pickles and preserves you can buy.

The restaurant’s atmosphere exudes an appreciation for community and while the team doesn’t brag about it much, you’ll find them involved in many local initiatives. Once a month, Brodo’s hosts Soup Sisters/Broth Brothers Penticton where folks pay to participate in soup-making for the women’s shelter with the bonus of growing friendships and indulging in a bowl of that beautiful soup along with a glass of local wine.

Additionally, Chef Cecconi volunteered at Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School located on the Penticton Indian Band Reserve, as part of the Okanagan Chefs Association program, Chefs in the Classroom, last spring. Not only has he signed on again, he’s convinced his Sous Chef McNulty to join the team of volunteers.

Be sure to check out the new menu soon at Brodo Kitchen. I’m sure you’ll be ecstatic like me to find it “same same but better”.

Bonus on Chinese New Year’s Menu Launch – Lucky and Tasty!

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Front Row to Canada’s Sexiest Cuisine: Canadian Culinary Championships

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You can seize the opportunity to observe the top chefs from across Canada vying for the coveted Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals of the Canadian Culinary Championships next week in Kelowna. I can’t resist the adrenalin.

Limited tickets are still available to the culmination of a year of competitions in which these chefs placed first in their rigorous regional challenge to earn the right to put their culinary skills on the line. If you are passionate about food, it’s a privilege you won’t want to miss.

Said Wolfgang Puck, “Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors – it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.”

Following strict guidelines in three unique competitions, these chefs will draw upon their creativity, expertise, speed, and stamina to climb to the podium much like our talented Canadian Olympians. In fact, the net proceeds from the Canadian Culinary Championships are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundations which supports athletes and high-performance programs such as Own The Podium. To date nearly $12 million has been raised.

The late, great Chef Paul Bocuse said, “It is our duty to give meaning to the life of future generations by sharing our knowledge and experience; by teaching an appreciation of work well done and a respect for nature, the source of all life; by encouraging the young to venture off the beaten path and avoid complacency by challenging their emotions.”

We watch our athletes rise to the call in the Olympics, and in support of them, at the Canadian Culinary Championships, we can witness great chefs at peak performance. Each year I attend I am blown away by the ingenuity and skill of the competing chefs and their teams.

And as Julia Child observed, “People who love to eat are always the best people,” so it’s a joyful and fun event in which to participate.

Tickets can be purchased separately for the Friday and Saturday evening events. To witness the Black Box competition, you need to purchase the inclusive event pass.

EVENT DETAILS:

Mystery Wine Pairing – Competition I
Date: Friday, February 2, 2018
Time: 6 pm: Reception followed by sampling each Chef’s dish paired with the mystery wine
Venue: Delta Grand Okanagan Resort
Fee: $145
Parking: $24 in hotel Parkade, $32 for Valet
Dress: Smart Casual
Chefs are given a mystery bottle of wine and are challenged to create a dish with
local ingredients that best complement the mysterious vintage, in a set amount of
time and with a set budget.
Guests have the pleasure of sampling these creations on the opening night of
the competition, in a stand-up cocktail reception format. During the event, guests
taste the mystery wine and play ‘judge’ as they vote on the ‘People’s Choice Award’ for
the best food and wine pairing.
In addition, five ‘Gold Medal Pints’ finalists (selected from 50 craft beers from across
Canada) will be featured and the bronze, silver and gold medal winning beers will be
announced! A silent auction of rare wines and other experiences is featured.
Food and wine included.
Please note the evening is a stand-up reception format. Food and wine included.

The Grand Finale – Competition III
Date: Saturday, February 3, 2018
Time: 6:30 pm
Venue: Delta Grand Okanagan Resort
Fee: $285
Parking: $24 in hotel Parkade, $32 for Valet
Dress: Cocktail

The Competition (stand up reception format)
6:30 pm Sample each Chef’s dish and their paired beverage and an opportunity to meet all attending Olympic athletes
The Celebration (seated, please refer to table number on your ticket)
8:15 pm Dessert created by Executive Pastry Chef Arthur Chen
MC: Olympic Gold Medalist in Ski Cross, Ashleigh McIvor
Entertainment: Canadian Classic Rock Band 54-40
Live auction of once-in-a-lifetime experiences
Crowning of Canada’s Best Chef for 2018!

Event Pass for all three competitions: $490

Tickets must be purchased in advance. For complete details on all of the competitions, competing chefs, judges, sponsorship partners, and to buy your tickets before they sell out, visit https://goldmedalplates.com/home/culinary-championships/

Moments from 2017 Competitions

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So many menus, so little time

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With the return of DINE AROUND THOMPSON OKANAGAN presented by the Wines of British Columbia January 17 to February 4, 2018, members of The British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA) are presenting another exciting array of menus.

You’ll find tasting menus featured, generally three courses, for $15, $25, $35 and $45 with suggested BC VQA wine pairings, BC Craft Beer pairings or spirits and cocktail pairings. Says Christina Ferreira, event coordinator, “More than 8,000 people are expected to take in the festival with some 50 participating restaurants from Kamloops to Penticton.”

Half the fun is checking out www.dinearound.ca to learn which restaurants are committed to the action and to preview their Dine Around menus online. This festival inspires owners and chefs to show the capability of their kitchens, so reservations are highly recommended.

“This festival is great for restaurants as we help promote their businesses during what has been traditionally a slow time of year,” comments Ian Tostenson, President/CEO BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “Consumers also appreciate it as they have the opportunity to sip, savour and save with these delicious three course menus for such incredible prices. Many residents take the opportunity to get out and try restaurants that they may not have ever been to or don’t visit often enough, it’s a win win for the consumer and our member restaurants.”

Ferreira adds, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to promote the Wines of British Columbia during the Dine Around Thompson Okanagan Festival. This is an excellent opportunity for local restaurants, wineries and breweries to focus locally and showcase how well BC VQA wines, BC Craft Beer and Craft Spirits pair with our local foods.”

I’ve been perusing the many delectable menus in restaurants in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland, Penticton, Summerland, Vernon, and Kamloops, and keen to try out a few.

I did have a sneak-a-peek at the Dine Around Launch held last week at Okanagan College. It’s worth the trek to Kelowna from Penticton just to see the range of options available. At the launch, some 300 people enjoyed an evening featuring delicacies from 15 restaurants and 20 wineries.

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As if the special menus weren’t incentive enough for the community to visit participating restaurants during Dine Around, The BCRFA is added a contest you can enter to win $250 in restaurant gift cards by requesting a ballot entry form, completing and leaving at the restaurant. There are also chances to win throughout the festival by winning $25 gift cards from participating restaurants by using social media; to enter, the community is encouraged to take a photo of your food and wine, spirit or beer pairing and then tag the restaurant you are visiting along with #dinearound2018 and post to twitter, Facebook or Instagram to be automatically entered, winners will be selected at random throughout the festival and there are more than twenty chances to win through social media.

To follow the festival, you can like the page on facebook.com/sipsavoursave follow @bctastesbetter on twitter and Instagram and follow the hashtag #dinearound2018

Now which restaurants to choose this year?

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Winter Solstice: Brighter Days are Coming

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It’s Winter Solstice so, for me at least, there’s hope in the air. As the hours of sunlight each day progress toward Spring, my recollections through the Christmas season promise golden moments in the new year.

 
I count myself as lucky and live a good life although I wouldn’t be straight with you, if I didn’t mention there’s been a melancholy brushing up against my world.

 
The realization in November it was 25 years ago since we said goodbye to my Dad hit hard. Today, as I write this, my dear friend Jennifer Cockrall-King is delivering a talk about her Dad (Terrence Cockrall, Q.C.) at his Memorial Service and Prayers in Edmonton. My husband Mark and I are there in heart with her and her family. We had the privilege of reading the text of her presentation. In her usual fashion, she is humble about the talented piece of writing in this time of deep sadness.

 
December 9, 2016, my brother-in-law’s Mom (Ida Kearns) passed away at age 93 on what would’ve been my Mom’s birthday had she not died in 2008. For me and my siblings, Sandee and Barry, she was the last of our surviving parents. If that doesn’t touch your mortality, I’m not sure what would.

 
How long Mom and Ida lived on after their dearly loved spouses was also a reminder that life goes on. We were so proud of both these strong ladies on moving forward from such loss.

 
My Dad had always been healthy and strong beyond normal standards. He had survived World War II despite on four occasions having his tank hit sustaining no personal injuries. On one of those occasions he was blown right out of the tank to be the sole survivor. To his death, his teeth were almost perfect save for a couple of cavities related to shrapnel hitting him during the War.

 
While it was after us kids had grown up and urged him to share stories, we learned of other significant incidents where luck seemed on his side. Once, he came upon a field of mushrooms, which he always loved, and was so thrilled to have a change in the army rations, he wandered randomly happily gathering up all he could find. Just hours later without any new enemy activity, a group of allies were taken out by landmines buried in that same field. Another time, he got caught behind enemy lines and hid first in a grain field. Then local friendlies, at great personal risk, stowed him away for a few days until it was safe enough for him to creep back to his side. The Canadian Army had advised his parents he had died and quickly had to telegraph them with the good news he was alive.

 
In civilian life, he defied death, too. When he underwent emergency surgery in Calgary for a ruptured appendix, the surgeon discovered he had ruptured previously. His body had formed his own protective sac around it preventing the infection from draining into his abdominal cavity. Somewhere in medical journals, this amazing fact is documented. Because of Dad’s steadfast health, my parents knew exactly that the earlier rupture had happened when we lived in Fort Churchill, Manitoba in the sixties. They recalled Dad had a brutal stomach ache, however, refused to go to the hospital. The only doctor in town at that moment was known to be a morphine addict and there was no way Dad would trust him.

 
In the end it was Dad’s hard work that changed his luck. He died from Mesothelioma, industrial-based cancer from asbestos exposure. Some folks would be extremely bitter about that. Not Dad. If his family would be taken care of, he could resign himself to the fate, saying who knew at the time there’d be such consequences. Oh, he demonstrated hope and put up a good fight. Then, died graciously surrounded by love.

 
Here I share a Luck was a favored companion, written about Dad by Brian Brennan in his Calgary Herald column Tribute: People Who Made a Difference.Buchanan_Lloyd_Luck_CalgaryHerald

 

That year as we celebrated Mom’s birthday, December 9 without him and dreaded the arrival of Christmas, their wedding anniversary on December 26 and New Year’s and beyond in his absence, I sent out the Christmas message shown below.Christmas at the Crossroads

 

We Do Move Forward
In examining my melancholy, I accept some of it’s related to a coming of age and changing of seasons. The departure of old things making way for the new. Some of it extends beyond me to people I care about. A friend whose marriage ended, a nephew-in-law who lost a sister far too young to die, a girlfriend’s whose husband died from cancer, friends sandwiched between aging parents and needy adult children, other friends experiencing career challenges and so goes the list.

 
Tearing at my heart is my husband’s growing desire to move away from this acreage that I love so much. In the stressful final years of my fulltime working days, creating this home on this view property was my talisman that kept me going. Now, having actualized that dream where we live comfortably within a wildlife corridor whose occupants give me so much joy, I am reluctant to let go.

 
Then I remember my Mom and how awesome she was every time my Dad said it was time to move again. For the love of him, she would pack up our family, start the dialogue about the wonderful experiences ahead, and then fill us with love for our new home. It was magical, and reminds me of the strength in giving our happiness freedom from one place or time or thing.

 
As the poet William Wordsworth so eloquently put it in Intimations of Immortality:
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind”
Read the whole poem here, www.bartleby.com/145/ww331.html

 
For now, forgive me if I over post on social media, all the splendour in which I’m immersed. I’ll “be in the moment” until the new journey unfolds.

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Cittaslow, Naramata-style

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, joyful lilts of music, cadences of children playing and neighbours chatting, and aromas of home cooking floated from the grounds of the Naramata Centre as the second annual NaramataSlow Harvest Supper unfolded 3 to 6 pm, October 15, 2017.Children IMG_2199(2)

A few years earlier, community leaders of the Canadian village called Naramata – which is placed like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on the southeastern shores of British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake, got together to pursue the “Cittaslow” designation. To revitalize their Cittaslow commitment, they envisioned a harvest meal.Naramata IMG_5833

When you’re talking about a village like Naramata, BC, where citizens have the determination to adopt the “Cittaslow” ideology, “Once upon a time” is a valid opener. Cittaslow is an inspiration of the Slow Food Movement founded in Italy and at its core, endeavours to improve the quality of life by encouraging a slower pace of life that holds dear community traditions. The vetting process to be one of the 100+ towns and villages worldwide is vigorous so declaring such values without truly embracing them is avoided.

In the end, the decision is community-driven and demonstrates a genuine attitude of caring about a balanced life where heritage, culture, the arts, environment, plus health and welfare of its citizens matter. For skeptics, it might all sound like a bit of a fairy tale – hence, in launching into my story, I start with “once upon a time” to give naysayers leave to look away.

Naramata’s history is a tale of Okanagan First Nations, then fur traders, miners, beef ranchers, orchardists, railway personnel, and settlers, then artists, writers, recluses, vacationers, innkeepers, and retailers, and more recently, winemakers, and filmmakers. Even how Naramata was named evokes colourful debate whether it was in a séance that founder John Moore Robinson witnessed medium Mrs. Gillespie speaking with the spirit of an Indian Chief who spoke fondly of his wife “Narramattah” translated as “the smile of Manitou”. For more on the history, go to Discover Naramata’s website history section.

Whether it was Manitou or some other spiritual force that smiled upon this region, the area is truly blessed with bucolic lifestyles and backdrops. Little wonder the twisting stretch of road extending from Penticton through Naramata is punctuated by some of the finest vineyards and orchards in North America. It’s also no surprise that spring through fall, locals are forced to slow down as visitors dipsy doodle along the route. Who wouldn’t want to zigzag to check out wineries, distilleries, breweries, cheeseries, fruit stands, bistros, beaches, parks, the repurposed Kettle Valley Railroad (KVR Trail) and other hiking trails? To learn more about this wine region and wine touring tips, check out Naramata Bench Wineries Association.

While the population swells in peak season, the village is home to about 2,000. Along with the tranquil setting, the pace is more thoughtful and less frenzied. The daily agenda is dictated more by Mother Nature’s ebb and flow and less by man-made formulations. Naramatians, as locals call themselves, tend to embrace this reality and are more likely to weigh decisions that bring change through the filter of how they’ll impact the community rather than expediency.

If you’re looking for night clubs and urban distractions, there are more suitable destinations. On the other hand, Naramatians are a friendly bunch and are delighted to welcome likeminded people into their fold even if you just visit seasonally. Plus, the #naramatalove (The Twitter hash tag that celebrates the region), extends well beyond the village’s boundaries.

Accordingly, Naramata Cittaslow committee created the NaramataSlow Harvest Dinner, in 2016, as a celebration of harvest and community with all ages welcome. The goal was to raise awareness and create conversations around what it means to Naramata to be designated as Cittaslow. It sold out quickly and response was so positive, the first year’s event barely began before it was conceived as an annual event.

In 2016, I was lucky to be hosted as a guest media with my husband, and in 2017 when the tickets went on sale, I quickly snapped up two. Tickets were $15 for adults and $5 for children with sales intended to help cover the basic costs of set up and service.

2016 NaramataSlow Harvest Supper

It’s a potluck-style community meal so each family is asked to contribute a dish. The menu highlight is savoury slow-roasted pork contributed by Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose of Bella Homestead Farm, that they raised and prepared.Pork by Bella IMG_5871

Guests were “asked to use as much Naramata grown, raised or sourced ingredients” and it was inspiring to see how fully that request was respected. Naramata Cittaslow hopes to build a library of the recipes from those dishes.

A popular feature for those willing to participate was a Preserve Exchange to highlight the local harvest. Participants brought a jar of their favourite preserve and traded it for a neighbour’s jar.
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What would a feast be in wine country without wine? Appropriately, a select group of Naramata wineries offered wines for purchase.

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A tasting area showcased “the unique terroir of the Naramata Bench with wines made from grapes from vineyards located within the Naramata Cittaslow designated area”.
Open Air Wine Lab IMG_2158(2)Terroir IMG_5853

Children played in the park and plotted out their approach to the dessert tables inside even before dinner.
Dessert Table IMG_2217 (Edited)Music overflowed from the Naramata Centre’s Columbia Hall melding with the aromas from the outdoor buffet and arrival of the succulent pig to stimulate conversations and cravings.
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The formal portion wasn’t formal at all with blessings given and some commentary on “NaramataSlow: Recognizing and celebrating traditions, events, organizations and people that are fundamental to a Naramata way of life”.

The Naramata Community Church Women’s Group offered the sale of 50/50 tickets to support the local fire hall, bursaries for Naramata students, the Penticton Soupateria and other local causes. Guests were invited to write down their perception of the benefits of Naramata Cittaslow.

2017 NaramataSlow Harvest Supper

Volunteers cleared tables and did dishes so by the end of the evening few crumbs of evidence were left, save the scraps of coloured paper posted on the bulletin board singing the praises of the momentous occasion and Naramata life. For information on Naramata and upcoming events, My Naramata is a great resource.

Bulletin NaramataSlow IMG_5863Thanks, NaramataSlow and the many groups who came together to make it possible. May you live long and stay slow!
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Grandma Fengstad’s Prism Lamps

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Latent memories work in strange ways and sometimes I find myself nostalgic for no apparent reason. Other times I can sniff out the breadcrumbs that took me here. Today is one such occasion.

I read a fascinating article by John Butterworth titled “How the rainbow illuminates the enduring mystery of physics” and before I knew it, I was sitting back on my Grandma Fengstad’s bed learning all about prisms. You can read Butterworth’s article here: https://aeon.co/ideas/how-the-rainbow-illuminates-the-enduring-mystery-of-physics

I recall fondly the couple of weeks each summer vacation spent in my early years at Crooked River, Saskatchewan at Grandma and Grandpa Fengstad’s home. Mom and Dad insisted that our mornings were spent in the Evangelical Lutheran Summer Bible School – both to instill a sense of moral values and to please Grandpa, also known as Reverend Fengstad, the founding pastor. Generally, it was good fun with lots of arts and crafts. Still, as the prairie heat baked the church and the aroma of baked wheat grew toastier as the sun scorched the fields, we were relieved when the sessions ended. We’d race home, gulp down fresh well water before shedding our Bible School best for summer wear. Lunch was a fast affair of sandwiches, soup and sometimes Dad’s Oatmeal cookies. Then we were off to the outdoors, mostly to play in the shade of the caraganas with that season’s litter of kittens. Sometimes it was so hot, we went down to the reservoir for a refreshing dip with a prayer we’d be quick enough to avoid the resident leeches.

More of an introvert than shy, I cherished opportunities when I could recover from the bustle of Bible school and the din of other children. In those last years while Grandma Fengstad was still alive, the house was a dark sanctuary. We were all warned to be quiet because Grandma wasn’t well and needed her rest. On those occasions, I’d slip into a cool corner of the house and read books in the dim light.

Despite my efforts to tiptoe past her partially closed door, on days when she was feeling slightly stronger she would smile and beckon me into the bedroom. Tears well up even now as I think of her sweet smile and the joy I felt in being invited to climb up beside her. Sick as she was, she spied my fascination with the prisms hanging off the lamps by her bedside. She reached over and released two of the hooks, handing me one of the prisms while dangling one herself. Grandma taught me how you could make the light dance on the walls and ceiling. She showed me depending on the angle and whether you just used the lamp’s lights or drew the curtains back to enlist sunlight, how the colours could change.

For me, it was my first encounter with magic. Grandma told me rainbows were Mother Nature’s prisms. While she gently explained the physics of prisms and rainbows, her words only made the mystery more compelling and magical.

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If Mom noticed me there, she’d always ask Grandma if I was too tiring. Whatever the truth, Grandma’s answer was always no. She’d assure Mom we were having fun and she’d let me know when it was time to go. It was our time. I have no sense of how many minutes or hours we played this game together rather that time stood still. Grandma Fengstad died when I was 4 ½ years old.

We got the news at home in Ottawa and I remember Dad cradling Mom as she sobbed. I recall finding privacy for my tears by climbing on to the top shelf of the linen closet in our small basement apartment. I didn’t quite comprehend the finality of it until the next summer. There was barely budget for Mom to travel alone to Crooked River for Grandma’s funeral.

Our annual visits to Crooked River continued long after and were always filled with joy. Still Grandpa’s house seemed much emptier and I longed to see Grandma’s smile again.

Grandpa was often busy those afternoons when Grandma Fengstad and I played so he never really knew about our special game of light. One visit when I was a teenager, Grandpa saw me in her old room admiring the crystal lamps. He said to me, “Oh, how Ma loved those lamps.”

I said, “Yes, Grandpa, I remember. We used to play with those prisms together.” When he questioned how I could remember such a thing because I was so young when she died, I described in detail our magical moments. He just smiled and nodded his head.

That year when we were saying our goodbyes, Grandpa gathered some old newspapers and a couple of brown paper bags and lovingly wrapped those lamps and handed them to me. I said, “Oh, Grandpa, I couldn’t.” He just gave me a big hug and said, “You must. In them, you keep Ma alive.”

I never tire of rainbows or prisms. In those refractions of light, in every hue of colour, my Grandma’s smile lives on and comforts me.

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This double rainbow captured in Canada’s Okanagan at Local Lounge, Summerland, BC

 

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Birthday belle to wedding bells

img_3994For Mark and me, our day was already yin and yang, as we headed from the Celebration of Life for our friend Ed Festel held at the Penticton Flying Club to join in the 50th birthday festivities for Leanne Pawluk.

We’d already committed to attending the birthday bash, which another dear friend, Jennifer Cockrall-King (JCK) had offered to host in Leanne’s honour, when we received notice about the event, September 4, 2016, to bid our final respects to Ed. It may seem cold on our part to switch gears to go from one to the other. On the other hand, if ever there was a testament to living life to the fullest no matter what, it was Ed’s story.

And who could resist such a fun invitation?
“Well darlings, it has been a decade since my last milestone birthday (as evidenced by the picture above) so I figured it was high time to celebrate once again! And I can think of no better way than to gather together high atop the Naramata Bench to sip champagne, nibble on chilled lobster, savour prime rib, indulge in chocolate cake, groove to the funky sounds of DJ Mike and, perhaps, chirp a song or two on the Karaoke machine. Are you with me?
Expect white linens, white flowers and pure celebration.
White attire (in some form or fashion) is enthusiastically encouraged 🙂
I humbly ask a few volunteers to bring an appetizer or salad to the fete. 4 salads and 4 appies should do it. Enough for 8 people if you …please. Send me a message to let me know.
Along with the feast, we will be serving super boozy fruit punch along with bubbles galore. If you wish to drink something else, please feel free to BYOB.
We will also be carpooling from Summerland so if you are interested in having a designated driver for the evening, please message me as well.
This is going to be the best one yet… made extra special by having all of you there.
xo
Leanne”

The evening was beautiful and as we drove along Naramata Road enjoying views of Okanagan Lake, orchards, vineyards, wineries and idyllic home sites, it wasn’t difficult to shift from sadness to joy. With the driveway and steps to JCK’s home decked in 50th birthday balloons and the happy chatter echoing from the outdoor patio, the signal was clear we were in for some fun.

The setting was straight out of a magazine spread such as Sunset Magazine. Guests were dolled up as requested and the décor was exquisite. In addition to the lavender gardens and other greenery that bedeck this home, beautiful bouquets of flowers adorned the tables. There was a fine selection of libations such as BC wine and a farm-to-table buffet including fresh lobster.

Our birthday belle Leanne glowed radiantly and her fiancé John Schmidt looked dashing. Who could blame them for deciding why wait to exchange their wedding vows? There’s a line in When Harry Met Sally that goes, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I’m not sure if Leanne and John are familiar with that line, however, suddenly there was a lot of whispering and soon a request if anyone happened to know a justice of peace or person qualified to perform wedding ceremonies.

As Barbara De Angelis is quoted, “The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.” Before long, against the Naramata backdrop with the Okanagan Lake glistening behind, we witnessed vows exchanged between two folks deeply in love. Truly romantic.

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It reminds me, too, of Zig Ziglar’s line, “Many people spend more time in planning the wedding than they do in planning the marriage.” On a summery Okanagan evening, Leanne and John exempted themselves from such criticism. Before the end of a 50th birthday celebration, they were officially signing documents as husband and wife. I tried to capture some of it on video, and while the quality isn’t what I’d like, click here for a bit of Leanne and John’s wedding.

While I feel a bit guilty it took so long for me to share the joy of the 50th birthday-gone-wedding, I’m writing this on what would’ve been my parents’ wedding anniversary. If ever there was love that endured it was Mom’s and Dad’s.

Leanne’s sister Carolynn had prepared a beautiful Black Forest birthday cake. For me it was the first 50th turned wedding cake.

Congratulations Leanne and John!

JCK, you throw a hell of a party!

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