Posts in Inspiration

Sometimes Things Just Don’t Go As Planned

This is not the story that I intended to write. After introducing you to the English Channel Lake Monsters team in my last post, I had planned for this post to be all about my excitement for our first open water race of the season: the Across the Lake Swim.

The Across the Lake Swim (ATLS) is an annual event (currently in its 64th year), where 500+ swimmers of all ages and abilities swim roughly 2.1km from the old ferry docks in West Kelowna to Hot Sands beach in City park. It was to be my first pre-English Channel practice at trying to speed up when it matters (in the English Channel there will be times when we have to speed up to fight the current and to get safely around shipping traffic).

From a personal level, the Across the Lake Swim is the reason that I am swimming today. My New Year’s Resolution in 2011 was to try to swim the ATLS for the first time that summer. I’m not originally from Kelowna so I had not swam it before, but kept hearing that it was a fantastic event to take part in, so I was interested to get back into swimming and try it out. As such, I joined the Okanagan Masters Swim Club (OMSC) to start training.

Thanks to joining the OMSC, I became good friends with fellow swimmers, got in shape, found my competitive side, and eventually ended up on this English Channel team. That New Year’s Resolution to swim the ATLS changed my life.

Last summer, three of my close friends from OMSC and I decided to swim the ATLS as a relay team. Including my current English Channel team mates Paul, and Phred, with the addition of our friend Ashley, we competed as the Fintastic Four. (Relay teams combine their individual times for crossing the lake for an overall team time, last year we came in 7th). This year we planned to swim as the Fintastic Four again, and hoped to move up in the standings.

But instead of swimming I will be watching from the sidelines. Two weeks ago while out wake surfing I got whiplash from a bad wipeout. It meant that I couldn’t move my neck from side-to-side for a week, and now (even though I do have mobility back in my neck), when I tried swimming again for the first time last night I found that it hurt to turn my neck to breathe. If this was the only swimming event planned for the summer I might have swam anyway, but in three weeks our English Channel team is going to attempt the Salish Sea Swim from Sechelt to Nanaimo as a practice run for the Channel. It is more important for me to participate in that swim than to swim the ATLS, even though the ATLS means so much to me.

I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to swim, but I will be cheering loudly for the remaining Fintastic Three (which just doesn’t have the same ring to it) and our other English Channel team mates. If you want to come cheer on my team mates and the other 500+ swimmers, the race starts at 8am this Saturday July 14 and you can cheer people in at the finish line on Hot Sands Beach.

Meet the English Channel Lake Monsters

Photo by Angelique Duffield

My name is Leora Dahl. And next July I’m going to attempt to swim the English Channel as part of a relay team. That’s a 35km swim (in a straight line, which the currents generally don’t allow for), in 15—18°C water. We are not allowed to wear wetsuits. Our 6 person team must each swim for an hour at a time, cycling through until we either reach France, get pulled out because of hypothermia, or get pulled out because the weather is too bad. Fewer people have successfully swum the channel than climbed Mount Everest. Over the next year I’ll be writing about my experiences (the good, bad, and ugly) training for this with my fellow “OMSC Lake Monsters.”

Today I’d like to introduce you to myself and my teammates and why each of us has decided to take on the challenge.

Denise, Tracey, Leora, Phred, and Paul celebrate our first training swim in April in 6C water. Photo by Angelique Duffield


“I have had a very long love affair with all things swimming. Please do not think for one second that I am elite athlete and winner of tons of medals, oh no, just a regular person who loves to swim. Jimmy Buffet sings a favourite song of mine called “First Look” it is what happens to a person when they see the ocean for the first time. I did not just love the sea I adored it! I moved to the Cayman Islands where I taught Scuba Diving. Hours on a rocking boat, heavy seas, cold, yes, cold water, jelly fish and dragging someone back who is too exhausted to swim, that kind of experience tends to toughen you up a bit! What possessed me to take up this challenge to swim the English Channel? I remember reading as a teenager about people who swam the English Channel. Flash forward 40 years or so… Hubby and I have moved to Kelowna and I decided to do a very Kelowna thing, sign up for the Across the Lake Swim. Because swimmers are just a friendly bunch of people in bathing suits, before I knew it, I was asked would I be interested in training as part of a relay to swim the Channel and I was nodding my head and saying YES! My opportunity to realize a childhood dream! You just never know, when you get to live your dream, just grab it and go for it.”


“Growing up in the boating community in Vancouver and working as a lifeguard for many years, I am no stranger to the water. I’ve always had a love/fear relationship with it. I love the water, but fear the things in it. Fortunately, swimming with the Okanagan Masters Swim Club, the only things I have to fear are tight speedos and jamming my fingers into the lane rope, but open water swimming presents a whole new world of scary creatures lurking beneath the surface. I currently work as a counsellor at UBCO and am forever spouting the health benefits of exercise and facing one’s fears to my students. Training in the lake for the channel has provided plenty of opportunity to follow my own advice as I encounter endless debris in the brown turbid water. There have been many moments when I was certain Ogopogo was reaching for me only to discover a tree branch sticking out from the lake bottom. The lure of the channel is both exciting and terrifying: a challenge I knew I could never do alone but actually seems possible as a part of my relay team. Swimming the English Channel is an opportunity to travel abroad and achieve a unique challenge that tests both my physical and mental limits.”
Continue Reading…

“Land Awakening” Documentary in Penticton

Filmmaker Raul Alvarez

On Monday June 11th the Western Canadian premiere of the independent documentary by Mexican-Canadian filmmaker Raul Alvarez’ “Land Awakening” will be showing at the Okanagan College Lecture Theatre in Penticton.

“Land Awakening” is my personal journey to experience hands-on organic sustainable agriculture, turning into the discovering of alternative technologies and approaches to producing and gathering food.  The experience resolves to a spiritual reflection into our deep and sacred relationship with the Land.  It has been a long personal challenge to put at test my perseverance and commitment to the cause of healthy food and to my profession.”

Roused by his son’s WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) expedition to Spain, Raul set off on his own journey which eventually took him around the Mediterranean and back into Canada.

Ines Sanchez of the Institute Of Permaculture Monsant

Through dynamic characters comes exploration into alternative ways of understanding terms like ‘agriculture’, ’tilling the soil’, ‘supermarkets’ and even ‘weeds’.  What we have come to depend on as ‘easy living’ is nothing more than huge profit for mega-corporations and pharmaceuticals;  in fact a supermarket is not ‘easy’ for the consumer!  It’s full of confusion and trickery and 9 out of 10 times you come out with way more purchases than you wanted, or spent way more money than you intended.

We’ve learned to survive without having any responsibility for our humanly consumptions or the impact we make on the earth we all live and depend on.  But there

Francois Couplan

are people out there who giving back and in turn re-building the foundations of a happy and healthy community where everyone prospers.  Call it a revolution, call it a global transformation – regardless,  filmmakers like Raul Alvarez are capturing it on film for the rest of us to see.  Once you can see someone else ‘doing it’ the idea of an honest and sustainable life doesn’t seem ‘utopian’ but rather attainable and ENJOYABLE!

A big thank you to C.URB – Centre for Urban Agriculture and Nikos Theodosakis from “THEOS Restaurant” both of Penticton for showing their generosity and support for this event.

Where: Okanagan College, Penticton Campus Lecture Theatre
When: Monday, June 11th – doors open at 6:30 PM, show starts at 7 PM
How Much: $10
For: Everyone

For more information click here…

Life is About Creating Yourself

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” -George Bernard Shaw

Inspiring New Winery & Creamery Now Open in Penticton

It all comes down to living life with passion and not letting even the largest obstacles cloud your vision, a great lesson learned through the creation of Upper Bench Estate Winery & Creamery in Penticton.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to sit down with Shana Miller, Cheesemaker and part owner of the newly opened winery & creamery in Penticton. Shana’s husband Gavin is the winemaker, Wayne & Margareta Nystrom are part owners and grow grapes for the operation, and their daughter Tessa is in charge of marketing AND will be organizing and producing Tessa’s Tree Fruit Stand this summer. Plus her beautiful photography is showcased in the tasting room!

Gavin & Shana Miller met each other while Shana was living at Poplar Grove Winery in the 90’s. That Gavin Miller has quite the following in the industry, they all know who he is and just what he’s capable of producing. Throughout the years he’s created award-winning wines at places like Painted Rock and Poplar Grove. It’s long been a dream of theirs to open their own family operation, but of course finding land on the Naramata Bench and kicking the whole thing off the ground ain’t no walk in the park!!

King Cole, the boldest of the blue cheeses produced by Upper Bench Estate Winery & Creamery

In January 2011, a foreclosed Holman Lang establishment was up for auction so Gavin and Shana viewed it, it was perfect! But hold on… after more number crunching they realized they were just not going to be able to scrape the money together to launch the business the right way, and there is no such thing as doing a half-ass job in that family. Dismayed and downtrodden they felt it all sliding away…

A peek into the cheese locker!

Until one fateful day Gavin found himself standing in line at the grocery store with an old friend he hadn’t seen in ages and the pair got to talking; catching up on years past. Gavin filled his friend in on what life’s hand was dealing them, feeling so close but so far away to building their own piece of the wine industry pie. The very next day they received a phone call from that friend in line at the grocery store, saying that his wife had recently been talking about opening their own winery (they already grow grapes on their property at Margaretta Vineyards), and they were ready to make partners. Instantly the bond was formed, they created their partnerships and got right down to business. Gavin and a realtor friend made the trip to Vancouver to fight for the property. The anticipation was fierce, but in the end the Miller’s bid was the highest. THEY WON! THEY WON! Oh how their heads were spinning, they were about to live out their dreams! The years and years of each of them perfecting their craft was about to be realized in starting their own company in the sunny Okanagan! One year later, viola! Upper Bench Estate Winery and Creamery is now open for business!

 Here’s a list of the goods they have on sale in their tasting room right now:


Riesling (2011)

Pinot Gris (2011)

Pinot Blanc (2011)

Chardonnay (2011)

Upper Bench Winery's 2011 Rose

Rosé (2011)

Pinot Noir (2010)

Merlot (2010)

Upper Bench Estate Winery supports the “Put a Cork In It” recycling program. Cork is a 100% recyclable and renewable resource that can be used to make building materials such as cork underlay, cork flooring, acoustical cork wall tiles, and

cork fabrics which all qualify for LEED points in sustainable building practices. For more information on “Put A Cork In It” check out their website at


Gold (washed rine, firm, many ‘eyes’, pairs with Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc)

Gold French (firm, brine washed, mad with basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lavender, fennel, tarragon herbs, pair with Riesling)

Gold Italian (firm, brine wash, made with sundried tomato, onion, and garlic herbs, pair with Pinot Gris)

Okanagan Sun (mild, soft, brine washed, pair with Pinot Noir)

U & Brie (buttery, creamy, pair with Rosé)

King Cole (12 wks old, full flavoured blue cheese, pair with Merlot)

Grey Baby (mild blue, veins throughout, pair with Pinot Noir)

Moody Cow Coming Soon!

Artist Johann Wessels paints the mural on the side of Upper Bench Estate Winery & Creamery

When it came time to start re-designing the drab building, the owners threw around the idea of having a mural painted on the facade of the building. Next thing they knew an artist walked through the door and pitched the idea of having a mural painted on the side of their building. “Oh really? Funny… we were thinking the same thing!!”

Johann Wessels is the artists name, originally from South Africa he was used to seeing great wineries cloaked in beautiful murals and just felt something was missing from the wine country in the Okanagan – there was no large-scale art. On a hope and a prayer he approached the Upper Bench owners and pitched the idea of having the murals on their building. That project went off without a hitch and Johann would love to see more being created throughout our area.

He’s been a part of the Re-Imagine Festival which is an event hosted by the Downtown Penticton Association. The organizers get artists together and disperse them throughout the downtown core to places graffiti (artists?) would target, and create a mural there instead. As a graffiti (artist?!) would not likely paint over someone else’s art it is a great way to beautify and preserve the downtown core. You will have to keep your eyes open the next time you’re in our beautiful little city!

Please check out Johann’s website at

I would definitely keep this stop on your list of places to visit this summer!

These People Are A-OK: Leslie Zednai, Penticton Difference Maker

Rick, Hansen, 25th, Anniversary, Relay, Difference, Maker, Penticton

Leslie Zednai, a Difference Maker in the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay

Tomorrow, May 3rd the Rick Hansen 25thAnniversary Relay will be rolling through Penticton and more than 30 local athletes have been chosen to take part in the relay celebration.  One such athlete is Leslie Zednai who was chosen as a Difference Maker in our community through her advocacy for women’s rights.

“I support those individuals who choose empowerment because I believe in walking that fine line where one can maintain integrity and dignity while taking a stand for oneself and for others. When women are empowered a new leadership style is implemented, affecting both genders. Results are in increased economic stability and improved relationships; whether professional, personal, or intimate. It’s time to rise above the gender power struggle and come to a place to really see and value each other. That is a world that I want to live in – it’s one worth working towards.” -Leslie Zednai

The only previous running experience Leslie had prior to her start in 2010 was back in ’95 when she took part in the Vancouver Sun Run 10k, at that time also discovering she had exercise induced asthma, but that’s not holding her back now.

Leslie, Zednai, Rick, Hansen, 25th, Anniversary, Relay, Difference, Maker, Penticton

Leslie getting warmed up for a run along Skaha Lake.

Fast forward 15 years and she’s picked up her running shoes again, just to get that old feeling back. Shocking even herself she was running longer and with more ease than she ever had which motivated her to sign up for the Scorched Sole Ultra 50k in Kelowna the following June.

Having been on crews for various Ultra runners has been a great influence on Leslie, and as so she began training for her first Ultra Marathon in February 2011. Her goals for 2012 are to complete a 100 kilometer, as well as a 100 mile endurance run.

You can catch Leslie and the other 30 Difference Makers in Penticton tomorrow for the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay. Her portion of the relay will be from behind City Hall on Martin and then along Westminster Ave ending just in front of the Bike Barn, watch for her medal bearer number MB254-032.

You can also find Leslie on Twitter @UltraRHighness, or by email at

Come down and cheer on your local Difference Makers!

Why do I love the OK? Because I’m able to hear the sweet sounds of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra

The Okanagan is jam packed with all sorts of goodies, especially those that captivate your senses. Whether it be fruit, wine, music or sunshine, we’ve got it all. Music was on my mind after hearing a glimpse of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra on CBC radio Friday morning and learning they had a concert that night. A friend and I jumped at the chance to attend and once we got tickets, we were all smiles.

The talents demonstrated by the OSO at their “Symphony at the Movies” performance was indeed captivating! It brought me to fully appreciate their slogan “See It…Hear It…Love It!”.  Scores from Harry Potter, The Pink Panther, Star Wars and The Red Violin were beautifully played to an enthusiastic, full house. The ever so cheerful and charismatic Music Director Rosemary Thomson did a fantastic job at engaging the audience and giving us the DL on the tunes about to be played. Even though I knew the pieces well and had heard them in the movies or on a CD zillions of times, hearing the live versions were simply stupendous!

Add the OSO to your list of A-OK things to do!

Okanagan Young Entrepreneur’s Club Business Mixer!

Join Kelowna’s newest networking group, geared towards young business owners!  Here, you can share insight and inspiration through advice, tell a personal success story and assist others who are just getting started.  Network, share ideas and make new friends!The Okanagan Young Entrepreneur’s Club is an opportunity to take your commitment to the next level. If you’re under 30, become part of this dynamic network, which supports entrepreneurship and discover how other’s have achieved success.

*Learn from seasoned professionals
*Share your knowledge and skills
*Develop valuable business relationships

First meeting of 2012 scheduled for January 6, 2011 at 5:30pm! Call 250-863-9230 or email for more information and to register.