Healthy Commuting

When I asked Jim what he liked most about living at Sedona Heights, he said, the commute. Not something I was used to hearing in congested Vancouver. But in the Okanagan, commuting has a very different feel. Jim commutes from Summerland to Keremeos every weekday, about a 45 minute scenic drive through the Similkameen Valley. Instead of bumper to bumper traffic, this commute is full of orchards and farms, lakes and rivers, quaint towns, Big Horn sheep and mountain goats clinging to mountain cliffs. Keremeos is home to some of the best fruit stands in the Okanagan. Many of the farmers there are fixtures at the Penticton Farmers Market.

In the morning Jim has his road coffee, the drive helps him to wake up, he told me. And at the end of the day, it helps him to unwind. He used to live a few minutes from work, but he said, he would often be cranky when he got home. Now he has transition time, so when he steps through the door, he’s ready to pitch in, help get dinner ready, or suggest to his wife that they go out for the evening.

A healthy commute? Who knew there was such a thing.

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Summer Wine Festival

Sedona Heights is smack dab in the middle of Okanagan wine country. The community is surrounded by award winning boutique wineries like Dirty Laundry, Sonoran Estate, Thornhaven, Silkscarf  and 8th Generation to name a few. So it’s always wine time around there. But it just happens to be the Summer Okanagan Wine Festival right now, so there are more happenings than the usual wine tastings. Like bubbly breakfasts, al fresco lunches, picnics and barbeques, tours, mixology contests, blind taste tests and of course all paired with lovely Okanagan wines. Check out the events listings, the Okanagan Summer Wine Festival is on through Sunday.

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My sister-in-law just emailed to say that there’s an exciting event going on in the Okanagan this Sunday – the Granfondo. I had no idea what a Granfondo was until I googled it. For those of you who might not know either, it’s a European style bike race. There are several events, the Granfondo is 160 km, the Mediofondo is 92 km and there’s an even shorter one introduced this year called the Cortofondo, a mere 55 km. Two thousand cyclists will participate including some legends, beginning at 7 am. The route runs through beautiful South Okanagan Wine country and right by Sedona Heights in Summerland! Todd and family will be out there cheering on the riders. The event also features great food and family fun and, of course, a Granfondo Wine Tasting, in conjunction with the Okanagan Wine Festival Society. Just make sure you have a designated cyclist on hand to double you home.

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Lemon Cream Pie

I had already filled my plate with two scrumptious looking desserts – a pineapple cheese cake by Lynda and strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream by Linda. But as I turned away from the Sedona Heights potluck table, my sister-in-law Lisa said, “Spring, wait, you have to try Olga’s lemon cream pie.” And so I did. And well, let’s just say, the trio lived up to my dessert eating philosophy: If you’re going to drown, drown in the Ganges. Olga was kind enough to share her recipe, which can easily be doubled she says. Two pies are always better than one.

Olga’s Lemon Cream Pie

1 graham crust pie shell

1 cup graham wafer crumbs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Mix all together and press into pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Cool.

Pie Filling

1 1/4 cups sugar

6 tblsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp salt

3 medium egg yolks, slightly beaten

2 tblsp freshly grated lemon peel

1/3 c freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups hot water

1 tblsp butter

1 cup sour cream

1 cup whipping cream, whipped, sweetened

Combine all ingredients, except sour cream and whipping cream in a sauce pan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Cool completely. Add sour cream, beating until smooth. Pour into pie shell. Chill until set. Spread whipping cream over top. Then drown in the Ganges my friends!

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Artist in our Midst

Albertine Meyer, a resident of Sedona Heights, is a beautiful painter. She is having her first solo exhibition at Christina Lake Living Art Centre this summer. Her show is titled, “Nature’s Offerings.” The series is inspired by two beautiful settings: local Linden Gardens in Kaleden where she painted on site and Iceland. Yes, Iceland. A friend of hers returned from a trip to the Nordic country with many pictures. Albertine was so taken with the landscape that she knew she had to capture it with her brush.

Albertine was influenced by Henry Matisse, David Hockney and Georgia O’Keefe. She has deep concern for the environment; her response is to express the beauty around us through her art. When you look at the landscaping outside the home she shares with her husband Jim, you can tell it was done with an artist’s hand. Albertine’s show runs from June  1st through August 31st in Christina Lake. You can meet the artist on Saturday, August 11th.

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Sedona Dad

My Dad has been my brother Todd’s right hand man on the Sedona Heights development. No job is too big or too small for him. On any given day, you might find my Dad organizing the tools at the lift station, sweeping up around the job site, taking a load of recyclables to the landfill, or putting sand on the road during the winter. He has also kept a photo album from the beginning of construction. I’ll be showing some of those before and after pictures in future blog posts. My Dad looks much younger than his 80 years and he’s very agile. However, he is no longer permitted to scamper on rooftops or do any heavy lifting, like trying to roll one of those big boulders around. If you happen to see him doing any of these activities, please report back to me. We want to keep him around for many years to come. Thanks for all you do Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

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Your New Home?

I spoke with Patrick Murphy at Remax Summerland during the recent Sedona community potluck. He confirmed that the market in the Okanagan has come back and that homes are really selling again. One reason is that the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will be reversed by the spring of next year. In the meantime, the provincial government has transitional rules in place so that new homeowners pay no more tax through harmonization than they would have with the old PST system.

The introduction of the HST pretty much shut down new home construction, but that is not the case anymore. Todd is building this home right now at Sedona Heights. If you or your friends are looking in the Okanagan, there are a couple of other reasons to check out Sedona, besides the great locale. The developer – my brother Todd – owns the land. Because there’s no middleman, he can offer high-end, quality homes below market value. In fact, the prices are competitive with the used home market.

And by the way, this home is not spoken for yet.

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Fort Joy

Joy and Don hosted the community potluck last week at Sedona Heights. They are still putting the finishing touches on the inside of their house. We gathered in their large living room with the great view. Even though that room is complete, they have left the plastic on the couch. Not to protect it, but so my young nephew and friends can play fort when they drop by. Which says a lot about Joy and Don. I hear Joy makes a mean cup of cocoa too.

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Action Fest

I went to a potluck at Sedona Heights in Summerland on Monday night. Met most of the residents and had a wonderful time. The food was incredible. Some of my faves: scalloped potatoes, local asparagus steamed on the barbeque, lemon cream pie (I am going to try to get the recipe). There were 22 adults, 3 kids and a dog – well not a dog, a poodle as the owner kept telling us. I heard a lot of great stories, which I will write about here. I also learned that there is a great event happening in Summerland this weekend. It’s the 30th annual Action Festival. A three day weekend of music, entertainment and family activities including wheel barrow races. There’s a slow pitch tournie with more than 20 teams, a Man of Steel Triathlon and run up Giant’s Head Mountain. Sounds like Summerland will be action central this weekend.

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The Family Compound

Okay, this is cheating a bit because I wrote this for my own blog. I’m heading up to the Okanagan in a week and I plan to meet with some of the folks who live at Sedona Heights, hear their stories, tour their homes and gardens if they are willing. So I hope to have lots of new material. In the meantime, something from the archives.

I have been harping on my brother, an Okanagan developer, for a couple decades now about building green. I am sure it has very little to do with my harping, but in his latest development, Sedona Heights, several of the “southwest-style” homes, including his, will have geothermal heating. He is weighing the pros and cons of solar street lamps and there is the potential for rainwater collection in on-site cisterns. And although he is still pining for palm trees, he has finally agreed to a more native landscape in keeping with the semi-desert region. A Western Mountain Ash will stand in for the palm.

Sedona Heights is on a hillside in Summerland overlooking Okanagan Lake and a stone’s throw from a couple of renowned vineyards. For those who don’t know, the Okanagan Valley is the Napa of BC. The small but vibrant community is tucked in between Penticton and Kelowna. It is the perfect blend of rural and urban. You definitely feel like you’re in the country when you’re at home, in the midst of rambling orchards and lush vineyards, but you are 10 minutes from the cute little Tudor town with assorted shops, delis, restaurants, artist studios and galleries. Summerland Sweets is there, they make those delicious syrups and have their own orchard and factory. And the  Summerland Research Station, aside from doing agricultural research has a beautiful xeriscaped  ornamental garden.

There are several nearby schools including Glenfir, a private school, an excellent community centre with fitness area and pool. Oh and plenty of golf courses. I’m not a golfer. I think because I was forced into it as a kid. I carted around my little pink golf bag for years.

Penticton has even more amenities. And Kelowna, well, it’s a bit of a strip mall, I call it Little Richmond, but it has everything you could ever want or need, including all the big box boys. Both towns also have airports.

The Okanagan is famous for its skiing, downhill and cross country: Crystal Mountain,  Apex, Big White, Silver Star. In the summer, it’s a boater’s paradise – you’re five minutes from boat launches and beaches. My favourite, activity is floating down the river channel in an inner tube, a big ol’ bus picks you up at the end of the line and takes you back to the starting point. I love to do this especially when the athletes are sweating it out during the Penticton Ironman in August.

Now let’s talk food. There are farmers’ markets galore including my personal favourite in Penticton. There’s now a Feast of Fields celebration held at the Valentine Farm in Summerland! And there are some superb restaurants to eat at – including many on vineyards. My favourite restaurant is the Gasthaus in Peachland with its beautiful lakeside patio and authentic German fare. I get the sauerkraut spaetzel every time. The pear and gorgonzola salad at the Hooded Merganser lakeside in Penticton is well worth a try.

I am not a big fan of gated communities and have said more than once that I would never live in one. At one point I was calling Sedona Heights the family compound, because my brother lived there. My dad had a house there (which he has since sold). And my other brother and his wife were thinking about building a house there. But I spent a lot of time in the Okanagan in the past year, and had a fresh look at my childhood home. I have to say I love the feel of this place. I like the slower rhythm of life there. And the real estate is still very affordable. Check it out if you’re in the neighbourhood.

After years of preaching, I have learned that people come around in their own time and in their own way. As I often find myself eating my own words, chances are I’ll be living in the family compound soon.  Beautiful work Todd, on the development and on my conversion.

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