Thursday, August 30, 2012

Highlights From NYC Day One

Some of my friends who aren't on Facebook have asked me to post more New York photos on my blog.  I'm happy to oblige though I'm saving a few for special posts when my life is less busy and I can give them the attention they deserve.  I took over 1,200 photographs so it's going to take some time for me to do some serious culling.  Here's a few shots I'm happy to share for now.

Times Square in the day time

Tracy and Christina at the top of the Empire State Building

Looking south

The beautiful Chrysler Building as the sun goes down
 The next five photos, up to and including Times Square are from the night bus tour.

Empire State Building

From the Washington Bridge

Times Square at Night
30 Rock

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What's Behind Your Wallpaper?

Along with changes to our front yard's landscape we are also working on some kitchen renos over the next few weeks.  This led to the unfortunate task of wallpaper stripping. I hung a floral Waverley wallpaper in my kitchen in 1997 after I easily stripped the original wallpaper off two of the walls.  At the time I  decided  that the gunky glue and specks of paper I would need to remove in order to paint required more effort than I wanted to expend, so instead of painting, I re-wallpapered.  As it turns out that was not a good idea.  The newer wallpaper was very stubborn and despite home remedies of hot water, vinegar, and cheap fabric softener I had to break down and rent a steamer.

I spent most of the past weekend scraping and peeling small strips of paper off the two walls.  The patterned layer came off in thin pointy strips followed by the linty beige under-layer which required  a bit of peeling, but more scraping and shaving.  Later, smears of glue and tiny paper bits were doused with TSP, and elbow grease was applied to a green scrubby....still working on that part actually.

One thing I looked forward to as I toiled, were the cartoons left behind by the people who originally papered the wall in 1992.  They left a sort of a cartoon time capsule which I enjoyed re-visiting.

When I came across this in '97, I called the phone number and discovered it no longer belonged to Kevin O'Neil.  If anyone out there knows of a Kevin O'Neil who lived in Kelowna's lower Mission in the early 90's I'd be thrilled to talk to him.  It looks like he's been on a few adventures as the drawings show icons from Australia like the Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock and kangaroos.  It looks like he may have done some travelling in western Canada  as well and there are pictures of moose, a train, bats, raspberry bushes, a man in a tree trying to escape a bull, and a bus travelling through foothills.  By coincidence, I entertained myself listening to CBC's Sunday afternoon phone in show and this week host Red Sharon was asking people to share their tales of summer travel.

I'd forgotten that my son had added a contribution during our '97 reno and again by coincidence the phone-in show was peppered with newscasts that included tributes to the late astronaut Neil Armstrong.

After being stuck inside on such a beautiful summer weekend, I resolved to do my very best to never wallpaper in any of the houses I live in from this point on, in deference to future owners.

My hope is that as a result Karma will allow that I'll never have to remove wallpaper for the rest of my life.  I'm not holding my breath however....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This is Not the Paolo I Was Promised

Who remembers the episodes of Friends with Paolo?  That show single handedly turned "Paolo" into a synonym for handsome-romatic-Italian-man.  As so often is the case however, reality is not the same as television (no matter what Mark Burnett says).

Here's a transcription of this morning's online "chat" with Paolo on Telus (a Canadian Phone, Internet and Cable provider).  Though Telus cannot send your bill to your email address due to issues of confidentiality, they are supposed to send you a month reminder to view your bill online.  I hadn't realized this and was going to the website to view my ebill once a month.  With my bad memory, this wasn't working for me.  I "chatted" with Karen who told me I could change my profile to receive the email reminder and she sent me on to Paolo to work that out.  Here's what transpired:

7:15:53 AM PDT : Paolo: Thank you Suzan! Your account PIN is (**** ). May I know if you are trying to register your account at

 7:17:10 AM PDT : Suzan: I am already registered. I pay my bill by going to the website, but I am not getting a reminder in my email box. That's what I'm trying to do, receive an email reminder.

 7:18:18 AM PDT : Paolo: That's right the account is already registered under username: ****  May I know the content of that email? And do you have access to your ebilling account?

 7:20:51 AM PDT : Suzan: I'm not sure what you mean. I was told I could change my profile to receive an email reminder that my bill is available to be viewed. I am able to access my ebill, however I have to keep going to the site to see if the bill is ready yet. I want a reminder to tell me the bill is ready to be viewed/paid. I was told if I registered for ebilling that would work. I see no where to register for ebilling [on my profile].

 7:22:23 AM PDT : Paolo: As per checking on your account your ebilling is already activated and every 7th of the month you'll received an email. Reminding you that your ebill is ready for viewing.

 7:23:22 AM PDT : Suzan: Are you saying you have made the change? Or is it already there. I have never received a reminder email. Is it being sent to ****

 7:24:49 AM PDT : Paolo: It's already setup from the beginning and Yes you'll received it at ****

 7:24:56 AM PDT : Paolo: Aside from those concerns, would there be anything else?

 7:25:39 AM PDT : Suzan: It was not set up from the beginning because in the almost two years since I have been with Telus, I have never received and email. It is not working so something must need to be changed.

 7:26:08 AM PDT : Paolo: Do you want to check it on your end?

 7:26:18 AM PDT : Suzan: What do you mean?

 7:26:43 AM PDT : Paolo: Do you want to make sure that your already enrolled for monthly ebilling?

[I AM enrolled for monthly ebilling, if I wasn't I'd be receiving my bill in the mail, so I was getting pretty frustrated at this point].

 7:29:43 AM PDT : Suzan: You are not getting what I am saying. I am getting extremely frustrated. I can see my ebill but I have NEVER in 2 years received an email. Something is NOT working.

[long pause and I take the time to look at my open ebill infront of me on my monitor]

 7:30:57 AM PDT : Suzan: It says my account is active on the ebill.

 7:31:23 AM PDT : Paolo: Do you have access to this email ****

 7:31:31 AM PDT : Suzan: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

 7:31:38 AM PDT : Paolo: OK

 7:31:47 AM PDT : Suzan: I asked you if it was being sent to **** and you said it was.

 7:32:35 AM PDT : Paolo: Yes it was being sent to that email address.

 7:32:50 AM PDT : Suzan: **** was changed to ***** when we switched to Telus and I was told that everything would be switched including billing.

[long pause]

 7:33:32 AM PDT : Suzan: ITS NOT BEING SENT TO *****  BECAUSE I AM NOT RECEIVING IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[long pause]

 7:34:06 AM PDT : Suzan: Am I actually dealing with a real person here?

[long pause and then a window that says “Do you want to continue this session?”]

 7:38:02 AM PDT : Suzan: I want my question answered.

 7:38:50 AM PDT : Paolo: Can I have your TELUS Ebilling username and password, Let's try to refresh your ebilling

 7:39:00 AM PDT : Suzan: I want my question answered

 7:39:28 AM PDT : Paolo: I'm uncertain why you are not getting your ebilling statement because directly your enroll you suppose to get reminder monthly.

[I found it interesting that when I questioned it's human-ness it made grammatical errors as if to indicate it was]

 7:39:33 AM PDT : Suzan: Are you a person or a computer program.

 7:40:51 AM PDT : Paolo: I'm uncertain why you are not getting your ebilling statement because directly your enroll you suppose to get reminder monthly.

Suzan: I will be switching to ****** telephone, tv and internet as soon as possible unless you answer whether or not you are a person or a computer.

 7:43:20 AM PDT : Paolo: Sorry but It's not necessary for me to answer that particular question of yours.

Suzan: Since you will not answer I will be change to ****** or some other service provider as soon as possible. I would say the answer is you are not a person and you have wasted my time.

 7:45:51 AM PDT : Paolo: OK

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to Remove a Giant Ponderosa Pine

After watching our pine tree do a wild figure-8 dance during a windstorm this spring, we came to the sad conclusion that it was best to take the old tree down. At an estimated eighty to one hundred feet high and probably one hundred years old, I hated the thought.  It wasn't just the cost, it was because it seemed like a fairly healthy tree despite the many holes in it's trunk put there by the the pileated woodpecker and the many flickers that visit in the spring.  Add the fact that we were finally paving our driveway after sixteen years which required doing some rock work around the roots and we decided that for the safety of our house and passers-by, it had to be done.

Friday afternoon I spent three hours photographing the proceedings as Tony Wilkinson and his crew from Action Tree (Any tree, anywhere) did a very professional job and taught me the recipe for tree removal:

1.  First you need one big-ass crane:


2.  Add five lumberjacks:

Tommy, Andy, Tony and Steve.

3.  Add one tree chipper....

4.  Get out of the way and watch the fun!

Just a little off the top please...



5.  Upon completion of tree removal add one Stump Grinder.

They were kind enough to cut up the wood and with a little work and a year to dry out we'll have some nice fuel for our fireplace next winter.

The wood looks beautiful and we saw no evidence of pine beetle but if you look closely there is evidence of racoon...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eat Local!

Yesterday, I stopped by My Country Garden, to pick up supplies to make this years batch of dill pickles.  Surprisingly it took me three stores before I found any pickling vinegar.  It's not that they were sold out, neither Extra Foods nor Stooperstore even had a spot of the shelf for it.  What's up with that?

I couldn't resist these cute little eggplants, though I had no idea what I was going to do with them.

I ended up roasting them with some olive oil and chopped garlic.  They were delicious along with the steamed corn from Don-O-Ray, pork tenderloin from Mission Meat and caprese salad with cherry and pear tomatoes from our own garden and boccocini from Valoroso.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Myra Canyon Trestles at last!

Soon after we'd moved to Kelowna in 1995 we took a short hike over a few of the Myra Canyon trestles with visiting relatives. Each June since then, I've declared "..that this will be the summer we finally bike the Myra Canyon Trestles".

In January 2003 my desire to do the trek was renewed when Myra Canyon was designated a National Historic Site.  Then sadly, nine months later, 12 of the 18 trestles were burned in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire

I was rather annoyed with myself for not taking advantage of the opportunity to experience this beautiful trail.  How devastating it must have been to the dedicated volunteers who beginning in 1992 spent three summers repairing and making these trestles safe, building a 4 foot boardwalk across each trestle, putting up guard rails, constructing benches at various lookout points and posting interpretive signage.  All labour, material and equipment was donated and once the restoration was complete, the volunteer group continued to maintain and oversee the upkeep of the trail and trestles.  How disheartening it must have been to see all that hard work up in smoke in a few short days.

Thank goodness for volunteer groups!  One year after the fire, the first trestle was rebuilt and five years later in 2009, the final trestle was complete, thanks to the Myra Canyon Reconstruction Project Management Committee which was made up of the original Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society (MCTRS), BC Parks and helped along with a grant from the Federal/Provincial Disaster Relief Fund.  

Still, it's taken me another three years (I was so sure we were going to do it last summer), to get around to biking the trestles.  This past Sunday morning we loaded our bikes and packs into the back of our little red truck and we travelled the washboard Myra Forest Service Road up to Myra Station.  Myra Station is actually the end of this section of the railway bed, but whenever we visit the area, we start at this end because the trestles are closer together and the two tunnels are in this stretch.  

By 9:45 we were on our way across our first trestle, #18.  It was a great time of day to be on the trail.  Due to the elevation and early-ish hour, it was a bit cooler compared to the valley bottom.  The east side of the trail was fairly shaded by the tress and rock faces that we wound our way past and the tunnels were quite cool inside.  Dark too.  It was an odd sensation peddling through the murkiness, watching the light streaming through the opening ahead, not really able to see the road beneath you (especially if you kept your sunglasses on).  There weren't many people on the trail yet - more cyclists than hikers at this point.  At times it seemed like we were on our own with birds, butterflies and chipmunks as our only companions.

It took us an hour to get from trestle 18 to the park entrance at Ruth Station, which was about a kilometre from the last trestle we crossed, which was in fact trestle #1 (confused yet?).  The total distance from the where we parked at Myra Station, to the park entrance at Ruth Station was 12 kilometres so I think we did quite well considering I stopped to take 38 photographs along the way.  Here are a few:

This is one of the original signs though I'm not sure when it was posted.  The caution "It is recommended bicycles be walked across the trestles." indicates it was definitely pre-1995 when the boardwalks and guard rails were in place.  Before that time a cyclist had died as the result of a fall from a trestle.

The first Myra Canyon Trestles, along with two iron bridges and two tunnels were constructed between 1912 and 1914 and are part of the Kettle Valley Railway which was built to connect the Kootenys to the BC Coast.

Rock oven built by Italian stone masons who help build the railway.
I wanted to find out more about the brave men who risked their lives, and I'm sure there were some who died as well, to build this challenging triumph of engineering. Unfortunately all the websites I found in my searches focused on John McCullough the design engineer.

"In a truly outstanding feat of railway construction engineering, KVR Chief Engineer Andrew McCulloch managed to locate, layout, and construct a railway directly through the Myra Canyon by seemingly hanging the supporting engineering works around the rim of the canyon, several thousand feet above the canyon floor. "  Quite a feat for one man wouldn't you say?

I did manage to discover a book called "Myra's Men" written by UBCO professor  Maurice Williams.  It's definitely going to the top of my "to read" list.

We turned our bikes around at Ruth Station and stopped for lunch on a bench in the shade near trestle number 1.  As you can see I'm quite pleased by our accomplishment.  I wasn't very active 15 years ago when we first started talking about biking the trail, and a 24 kilometre bike ride seemed quite daunting to me then.  Turns out it was a piece of cake.

Here's a shot of trestle number one.  Our trip back took about two hours, mainly because I stopped to take 85 more photos.  My husband really is a patient man...or at least he was until about photograph number 75.

I added the close up of trestle six because of the "design" along the side. I think it's just from weathering, but it does almost look like a mural depicting mountain range.  Or is it just me?  Mother nature does good work!

Along the edge of the trail as you approach the first tunnel from the south, people have been assembling Inukshuks from the rock fall.  I made the one below, all on my own.  My partner was finding it a bit warm in the sun and preferred to watch me toil from his spot in the shade.

From here on it started to get a lot busier, and a lot warmer.

We only had a couple of kilometres left so it wasn't too bad, but if we did the trip again I'd try to be at the beginning of the trail no later than 9 am.

With a predicted high of 35 degrees in the valley, I wouldn't  have wanted to be starting a hike or bike ride at that time of day.  It was getting on to 1:00 by the time we headed back down the logging road and we did come across quite a few vehicles on their way up.

All in all it was a wonderful day and I'm looking forward to sharing it with the next group of summer visitors we have.
Trestle 18
Until then, I'll leave you with one last photo.  Remember my earlier post about Scenic Canyon Park?  I mentioned we didn't make it to the highlight of the hike, the base of Layer Cake Mountain.

This was taken at the bottom of the forestry road that leads to Myra Station.  Here you have an excellent view of that oddly shaped mountain, giving you an indication of how it got its name.  I hope my next hiking post will show you the canyon and creek at the base of the mountain... maybe next Sunday?!

Note:  If you're just visiting Kelowna and didn't bring your bikes Monashee Adventures offers many options for bike rentals and guided tours. They'll drive you up to the site and let you work your way back down.  There are also bikes at their canteen at rental station up at Myra Station (though I think it's best to book ahead to make sure there's a bike for you once you get there).