"The 50 Goal Club" by Tieja MacLaughlin for Shaw TV Okanagan

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

Vancouver native Shelley Robinson is the latest winner of the Food Network TV competition, Chopped Canada.

The former executive chef at Delta Sun Peaks beat out three other contestants using mystery ingredients to prepare dishes in a timed contest.

The 49-year-old has been in the food industry for over two decades and has also owned two restaurants.

Shelley prepared petite lamb with warm vinaigrette for her appetizer, grilled pork steak with grape leaf salsa for her entree and couscous fritters with a grapefruit salad for dessert.

Shelley said she hoped to be an inspiration to young female chefs.

"I think it was a pretty substantial win in terms of the all-male competition," said Shelley, who was up against three male competitors. "I hope this sends a message that women can be top chefs too."

Robinson says she plans to put the $10,000 prize money to good use, going towards something she has always dreamed of, although she wouldn’t say what that was.

Shelley is currently working as a culinary instructor at Vancouver Community College.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

A group of grade nine students have lifted a balloon all the way to space.

As part of a four month project, ninth grade students at Dr. Knox Middle School, with help from fourth and fifth grade students at Bankhead Elementary, recorded the journey of a balloon on its mission high into the sky.

Students spent weeks planning and constructing the balloon before it was launched at Dr. Knox on October 28, 2013. The balloon was strapped with three video cameras, GPS trackers and a flight data recorder. School mascots were also aboard - a falcon emblem from Dr. Knox and a bulldog from Bankhead.

The balloon reached an approximate height of 95,000 feet before bursting in Canadian airspace over Similkameen River. The balloon parachuted and was then carried by strong winds of over 100 km per hour over the border, touching down in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The full flight was between 4-6 hours in length.

The following week, two teachers at Dr. Knox took on the lofty task of locating the balloon, driving across the boarder and hiking up the mountain.

Once the footage was retrieved, grade nine production students edited the feed and created videos. Grade four and five students voiced over the videos.

"It was a really cool and fun project," said grade nine student Nicholas Oumsted. "I learned a lot and it was especially fun to be a part of the launch team."

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

All across the country daring Canadians took part in the Polar Bear Dip, an annual New Year’s Day tradition.

Peachland held its annual dip at Swim Bay near the Community Centre on Beach Ave.

218 costumed dippers dashed into Okanagan Lake - a record number since the event started in 1996. Hundreds of spectators were also on hand to watch.

"This a community event that the District of Peachland puts on every year for our citizens," said Cheryl Wiebe, Director of Community Services with the District of Peachland. "We draw all sorts of people from other locations as well."

The Rotary Club served hot chocolate to chilly guests, while The Lion’s Club provided hot dogs. Both organizations also accepted donations for the food bank.

MP Dan Albas attended the event with his two daughters, and Bob Purdy paddled alongside swimmers in support of his cause “Paddle for the Planet.” January 1 marks the third year anniversary of Purdy’s daily paddle, and he wore a pink tutu for the occasion.

"The whole beach was full and people were right out to the end of the piers; you couldn’t find a place to park," said Peachland resident Mike Pudney, who was out to watch the event.

Certificates were given to all those who participated.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

Okanagan College has changes in store for its Trades and Apprenticeship Program.

In January of 2014, Steve Moores will take over as the Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.

Moores has spent nearly three decades working in education as an instructor, program chair and associate dean during his 23-year tenure at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

“I am excited to contribute to the College’s agenda,” said Moores. “Specifically along the lines of working with industry, First Nations and the ITA to promote the future of trades training to meet the needs of this region and beyond.”

Canada is expected to see a shortage of skilled workers in the coming years. According to Statistics Canada, a number of skilled-trade professions could face labour shortage as fewer young adults obtain trades certificates to replace the preceding generation.

The federal government has noted that the construction sector alone will require 319,000 new workers over the next seven years.

“[Moores’] experience and qualifications combined with his vision for the future of Trades training are going to make him a huge asset to our College and community,” said Dr. Andrew Hay, Vice President Education. “He is coming to us at a time when we have great opportunities to deliver innovative and practical solutions to meet the needs of our region, province and country.”

Moores’ introduction as Dean comes as the college moves ahead with construction of the new Trades Training Complex - a $33 million project to renovate and expand their current facility.

The innovative and environmentally sustainable facility, to be completed in the spring of 2016, is expected to be the largest trades training centre between the Lower Mainland and Calgary, providing space for more than 2,400 students.

OK College offers trades programs in aircraft maintenance, culinary arts, construction, electrical, and welding among other disciplines.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

The rental apartment vacancy rate in the Kelowna dropped 2.2 per cent this year, according to the Fall Rental Market Survey.

The survey - based on privately-initiated rental apartment structures of three or more units - was conducted by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMA).

Lower vacancy rates for all bedroom types were recorded across the Kelowna CMA in October 2013 compared to October 2012, while the average rent for a two-bedroom unit increased by approximately $40 to $970.

"Increased demand … coupled with fewer additions to the stock of purpose-built rental apartments this year compared to last year were key factors contributing to lower vacancy rates in 2013," explained CMHC Market Analyst Paul Fabri.

Other factors contributing to lower vacancy rates include: reduced competition from investor-owned rental housing, fewer renters moving to the home ownership market, increased employment in the Kelowna area, rising enrollment at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, and residents temporarily displaced from fire damaged apartment buildings.

Castanet classifieds are currently listing 2,198 unique rental spaces.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) is now accepting applications for the 2014 Water Conservation and Quality Improvement (WCQI) Grant Program.

The program, in it’s ninth year, provides $300,000 in funding for projects that conserve water or improve water quality. Successful applicants can receive between $3,000 - $30,000 towards their project.

The WCQI Grant Program promotes collaborative water management, uniform standards, and best practices for the valley. The funding is provided to local governments, irrigation districts, and non-profit organizations for projects focusing on sustainability.

On average, Okanagan residents use 675 litres of water per person per day, more than double the usage of the average Canadian. That figure rises to 1,000 litres of water per person per day in the summer. Yet, the Okanagan has the lowest per person water availability in Canada. We use the most water and have the least to use.

"Over the last 40 years the Okanagan has become a leader at addressing water issues but we still see areas for improvement," said Anna Warwick Sears, Executive Director of the Water Board.

"Our annual inflow of water to Lake Okanagan is hugely variable. Both flood and drought conditions can come with a host of quality problems, which is why supporting community-based projects is important for managing the quality and quantity of our water."

Since it’s inception, the WCQI Grant Program has granted over $2.6 million to 160 projects throughout the Okanagan.

The 2011-funded Silvopasture Project received a Premier’s Innovation and Excellence Award. The Central Okanagan based project brought together government, industry and private groups to focus on protecting water quality, while providing range land for cattle and timber for forestry.

This year the Board is calling for projects addressing OBWB’s 2014-2019 strategic goals. Eligible projects must demonstrate water savings or improvements to water quality, be supported by local government through a board or council resolution, and be consistent with water management planning objectives in their respective jurisdictions.

Preference will be given to projects that focus on: source water protection, promoting/enhancing science-based planning, promoting/enhancing inter-jurisdictional collaboration, and long-term adequate supply addressing changing conditions in climate, economy and population growth.

Deadline for grant applications is Friday February 21, 2014 at 4 p.m. For more information visit: www.obwb.ca/wcqi.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

Dozens of women in Kelowna marched in an Angel Walk on Dec. 6th in honour of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. They joined thousands of other Canadians in remembering 14 young women who were killed at Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal 24 years ago.

The event raises awareness for violence against women that is still taking place today.

"It is very frightening that every year we seem to be adding more names to the list," said former Kelowna mayor Sharon Shepherd of the victims, each honoured by a rose. "It means that we still have a lot of work to do."

Over 50 roses were laid at the Kelowna march this year. Province wide, more than 1,000 physical or sexual assaults against women take place each week.

"Despite the important work that has been done to end violence against women, on this day we are reminded that this work is far from complete," NDP leader Adrian Dix and women’s issues critic Maurine Karagianis said in a statement. "Today, we remember those that have been lost, and the women and girls who spend each day living under the threat of violence."

The local community continues to raise awareness for the issue - Aboriginal men have started another initiative, wearing a small piece of moose hide as a symbol of their commitment to the cause.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for Castanet

Motorcycle enthusiasts in the Okanagan made a special run to assist local families this holiday season.

Now in its 28th year, the Motorcycle Toy Run helped to deliver over $5,000 worth of donations to the Salvation Army to be distributed as Christmas gifts for children.

Harley Davidson employee Brendan Buttler has been a volunteer organizer with the event for the past four years, and used the over $3,600 worth of cash donations to purchase everything from e-Readers to basketballs.

An additional $1,500 worth of toys were strapped on to the back of bikes earlier this year in September and left with the charitable organization.

"I see the joy in my own children when they open their gifts," said Buttler. "And knowing we’re helping other children to do the same makes it all worth it."

The Salvation Army sorts and packs hampers suitable for a middle-class family income, and any surplus donations are rolled over to next holiday season.

While many of the Salvation Army’s donations come from third party groups and corporate sponsors, individual donations have been made possible through the Angel Tree program with children’s gift suggestions.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for The Daily Courier

Just when it seemed that is was all over, the Kelowna Rockets came alive.

The Rockets picked up a 4-3 overtime win against the Vancouver Giants on Tuesday night at Prospera Place, sparked by an effort in the dying seconds of the game.

With 17 seconds remaining in regulation, Ryan Olsen potted a goal that would force overtime and allow the Rockets to pick up their 20th win of the season.

"Our third period was good," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. "That was the one period I thought we played with some urgency and pace, and a lot of that came from our backend."
It was defenceman Damon Severson who scored the overtime winner, as he slid to his knee and put an unassisted shot on net.

"We have to get more out of our forwards right now," said Huska. "They have to play with more urgency and a little more physicality to their game."

Kelowna’s front end has been led by Tyson Baillie who has eight points - four goals and four assists - in his past 10 games, including a goal and two assists in the win over Vancouver.

"Today felt good," said 18-year old Baillie. "I felt more confident playing centre, which is my natural position."

Vancouver was led by Cain Franson, who scored a pair of quick back-to-back goals for the Giants in the second.

Franson - the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson - scored his first goal on a shot that trickled through the five hole of Kelowna goalie Jordon Cooke. Less than two minutes later, he recorded his second on the power play.

Colton Heffley buried a backhand for Kelowna that tied the game in the third, before Alec Baer replied for Vancouver with what appeared to be the game winner.

But Olsen gave the Rockets life with his late marker.

"We were fortunate to have a puck bounce our way," said Huska. "We were able to get it into the zone and then our players did a good job of just getting it to the net."

Steadfast netminder Cooke picked up his 15th win, and is among the top five in the league in goals against average, save percentage, wins and shutouts.

Tuesday’s game was the first of a three game homestand for the Rockets, who get set to battle Everett - the top team in the Western Conference - on Friday, before suiting up against Kootenay on Saturday.

"We got away with these three wins," said Baillie. "But our work ethic and our focus has to be better going forward."

ICE CHIPS: When the Rockets host the Silvertips on Friday night, the team will hold its first Teddy Bear Toss night. Fans are asked to bring a teddy bear to the game and throw it on the ice when Kelowna scores its first goal.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for The Daily Courier

The Kelowna Rockets beat the Kamloops Blazers in dramatic fashion on Saturday night.

A shootout goal from Justin Kirkland was the deciding factor in the second game of a home-and-home series between these B.C. Division rivals, with Kelowna winning both contests 3-2.

The Rockets (19-3-0-2) faced a couple of tough tests this weekend against the Blazers (6-18-2-2), who are dead last in the Western Conference.

"They played very well both nights that we faced them," Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said of the Blazers, who have lost all four meetings with Kelowna to date. "We got the four points this weekend, but we were rewarded when maybe we shouldn’t have been.

"They competed and won a lot of puck battles," Huska continued. "They were the hungrier team tonight."

Despite being outshot by the Blazers in all three frames and in extra time, Jackson Whistle earned his fifth win of the season for the Rockets.

Opposing netminder Taran Kozun picked up his 12th loss.

"I don’t know if maybe we were coming out thinking it wasn’t going to be as tough because they’re in last place," Whistle said. "But you cant think about that, we have to be ready to go no matter what team it is."

Carter Rigby netted the Rockets’ first goal, before Tyson Ness tied the game in the second period for the Blazers. Ness scored his 20th of the season on a rush up the left side before unleashing a shot that stunned Whistle on the glove side.

Ryan Olsen restored Kelowna’s lead in the third, before Kamloops captain Matt Needham scored a power-play marker to force the game into extra time.

Myles Bell and Damon Severson missed in the shootout for the Rockets, as did all three Blazers shooters.

Kelowna has won 12 of its last 13, and has been ranked as the third-best team in Canada in the CHL Top 10 rankings for two straight weeks. The Blazers’ last win was Nov. 5.

The Rockets are back in action Tuesday, hosting the Vancouver Giants in another 7 p.m. puck-drop at Prospera Place.

"I think they’re going to come out hard and so are we," Whistle said. "They’re one of our biggest rivals. We haven’t played them yet this year, so I think it’s going to be a good game."

ICE CHIPS: Severson’s assist on Olsen’s goal was his milestone 100th career assist… . After Tuesday’s tilt with Vancouver, Kelowna hosts the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips (20-4-4-0) next Friday and the Kootenay Ice (15-12-2-0) next Saturday to conclude this homestand.

by Tieja MacLaughlin for The Daily Courier


"That was our game in a nutshell," said Kelowna Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.

The Rockets’ nine-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Victoria Royals with a 4-1 loss on Wednesday at Prospera Place.

Kelowna’s B.C. Division rivals scored three goals during the third period, including two power play markers, to hand the Rockets their first loss since October 22.

"I don’t think we were prepared to play," said Huska. "It’s a tough one. I thought we were out of gas the whole night - our power play didn’t do the job for us and neither did our penalty kill."

Both teams were coming off of road wins heading into last night’s game - the Royals with a 2-1 win at Kamloops, and the Rockets with a 4-3 shootout win at Seattle.

"You can make an excuse that we travelled all night last night," said Rockets winger Tyson Baillie, who potted the shootout winner against the Thunderbirds on Tuesday. "But it shouldn’t be an excuse for us."

Royals forward Tyler Soy scored on Victoria’s first shot of the game, squeaking one between the legs of Jordon Cooke, highlighting a slow-paced first period.

Baillie scored Kelowna’s lone goal of the game in the second frame off of a beautiful drop pass from Winnipeg Jets prospect Ryan Olsen.

"Our penalty kill has been very good this year," Baillie said of Kelowna’s top-ranked penalty killing unit. "But today, they got a couple of power play goals on us, which is unfortunate in such a close game."

Victoria managed only four shots on net in the second, but killed two key penalties in a five on three situation.

The turning point of the game came on a Victoria two-man advantage, when Austin Carroll tipped in a shot from an awkward angle out of the corner. Kelowna had a man in the box serving a minor, along with man another serving a bench minor for too many men - the Rockets’ second such offence of the game.

Victoria’s Ben Walker tallied the Royals third goal, using his speed to beat defenceman Riley Stadel up the ring wing and fire an unassisted wrist shot past Cooke. Brandon Fushimi also scored - again on the power play - to secure the Royals’ 4-1 win. Kelowna recorded only three shots in the third.

WHL-leading goaltender Cooke recorded his first regulation loss of the season, while Victoria’s Patrik Polivka stopped 27 shots to pick up his tenth win between the pipes.

"It’s a good thing we have a game Friday so we can recover quick and get back at it," said Baillie. "We’re just looking forward to continuing another streak."

The Rockets now sit at 16-3-0-2 on the season and will suit up on Friday against the Tri City Americans to wrap up three games in four nights this week.

"It’s something we have to learn from and make sure that we don’t get ourselves into this situation again," said Huska. "(We can’t) look for a crutch … if things don’t go our way, we have to fight through that challenge if we want to be one of the better teams in the league."

by Tieja MacLaughlin for The Daily Courier

Madison Bowey and the letter C seem to go well together.

Kelowna’s newly appointed captain scored two points in the Rockets’ 6-2 victory over the Red Deer Rebels at Prospera Place on Wednesday evening. The 18-year-old blue-liner tallied a goal and an assist en route to being named as the game’s first star.

The Rockets picked up their fifth straight win following back-to-back road sweeps at Victoria and Prince George, respectively. Red Deer, meanwhile, recorded its third consecutive loss.
Bowey was named team captain prior to the Rockets’ two-game series in Prince George last weekend.

Since then, he has recorded seven points in three games and was recently named to the Subway Super Series roster for Team WHL. Wednesday’s contest marked his first game playing in front of a home crowd under his new leadership role.

"I know the fans really support the captain, and it was an honour to wear (the ‘C’) for the first time at home," said Bowey. "It was a great experience."

The Rockets scored four goals in the first 14 minutes of the game before Red Deer goaltender Patrik Bartosak was pulled in favour of 16-year old rookie Taz Burman.

Bowey scored his sixth goal of the season when he buried a rebound off a blast from New Jersey prospect Myles Bell.

"I thought (Bowey) played really good, especially early," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. "I feel like he’s been more assertive (since being named as captain); he’s got a presence about him."

Bowey and Kayle Doetzel dropped the mitts in a stale second period, with Bowey coming out on top.

The period’s lone marker came from the Rebels’ Brooks Maxwell, who took the puck down the right side and potted his own rebound off of the initial save.

Red Deer cut Kelowna’s lead to two early in the third, before team scoring leader Tyson Baillie beat a Rebels defender feeding a beautiful pass to Carter Rigby for his first goal of the season.

"I thought that was the turning point of the game for us," said Huska. "When we gave up that second goal, we wondered which way the team was going to go, and I was pleased with how they responded. We scored fairly quickly after that."

Bowey had another scoring opportunity when he rang a shot off of the post at the midway point in the third on a two-man advantage. Seconds later in the same shift, Zach Franko scored to secure Kelowna’s victory.

Kelowna outshot their opponent by a margin of 26 shots, and netminder Jordan Cooke - who has yet to register a loss in regulation - earned his 10th win of the season.

Nick Schmaltz has taken a familiar path to the World Junior A Challenge
by Tieja MacLaughlin for Hockey Canada

Nick Schmaltz remembers sitting next to his mother and father at the Consol Energy Centre in Pittsburgh, Penn. It was the summer of 2012 and older brother Jordan was projected as a high end draft pick at the NHL Entry Draft.

“I had some butterflies in my stomach,” said Nick, before hearing Jordan’s name selected by St. Louis with the 25th pick. “It was getting late into the first round and we didn’t know if he was going to go or not – he was kind of a borderline guy. We waited about two to three hours until he got selected.”

As Nick enters into his draft year he finds himself in a similar situation, as a top-ranked prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft. The 17-year old is one of only three A-rated prospects on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary list of players to watch from the United States Hockey League (USHL).

Nick is a second-year forward with the Green Bay Gamblers – the same team his brother, a defenceman, won a Clark Cup with in 2012. Both Schmaltz’s also played for the under-16 Chicago Mission, and Nick is committed to the University of North Dakota, where Jordan is in his sophomore year.

“He’s been a pretty big influence,” said Nick, when asked about the brothers’ nearly identical hockey careers. “I’ve looked up to him and been proud of what he’s done so far. I try to follow him and I’m working hard to be half as successful as he has been.”

North Dakota was an obvious choice for Nick, who was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team last season with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 64 games. Nick is native of Verona, Wis., but his parents were raised in Bismarck, N.D., and his father and two uncles played college football at North Dakota.

“There was a pretty obvious family influence there,” said Jordan. “We also talked about having the chance to play together one day, and I think that had a big impact on his decision as well.”

Nick and Jordan suited up together on one other occasion – Jordan’s final season with the Gamblers, when Nick was recalled from minor midget. The brothers played 10 games together at Green Bay, which was the first time they saw their names on the same roster outside of summer hockey or pick-up games on the outdoor rink.

“That was pretty special,” said Nick, who was 15 at the time. “I was a little nervous at first with some of the older guys, but it was really fun and [Jordan] was a good leader for me. He showed me the way and made the transition easy; I hope I get to play with him again next year.”

This year Nick will once again follow in his brother’s footsteps as he suits up for the U.S. at the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, N.S.

Jordan made two appearances at the tournament, winning a gold medal in 2010 and bronze in 2011. This year’s tournament will mark Nick’s third international appearance. He recorded nine points and won a silver medal at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in addition to representing the United States at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Austria.

“It’s an honour every time I get to put on the jersey,” said Nick. “Not many kids get to do that, so I take pride and make sure I make the most of it.”

Nick will have some familiar faces joining him in Yarmouth; Green Bay head coach Derek Lalonde will serve as bench boss for the U.S. squad, while two fellow Gamblers – Matthew Weis and Jordan Gross – will don the red, white and blue, and a former teammate from midget – Seamus Malone – has also been named to the roster.

“I’m excited to play with a bunch of great players from the USHL,” said Nick, who will be making his first visit to Eastern Canada. “I’ve been told [Yarmouth] is a small town and people are hockey crazy, so it should be fun. I think it will be a good experience to see other Junior A teams from around the world and hopefully we can bring home the gold.”

The United States has captured gold four of the past five years at the tournament. Nick hopes to do the same this year, with a little advice from his older brother.

“I just tell him to control what you can control and play hard,” said Jordan. “It’s all about the simple things. I don’t try and put too much on him – he’s a mature kid and he knows what he has to do.”

…and what it taught me about failed relationships and the glamourous world of sports

by Tieja MacLaughlin

I haven’t blogged in years…so long in fact, that I can’t actually remember the last time I collected my thoughts in writing. Life has a way of keeping us preoccupied and how often we overlook the basics – those little things that inspire us and give us a true sense of satisfaction.

But today I heard a story that resinated with me, and I feel compelled to share it.

I was given the opportunity to co-host a show this morning from a soup kitchen in Kelowna. My co-host and I helped to prepare a daily lunch and prep for upcoming Thanksgiving Dinner. This location feeds on average, 150 homeless or in-need individuals daily.

As I spoke to one of the kitchen coordinators off camera, he shared a personal story with me.

Prior to working at the soup kitchen, this gentleman had owned his own restaurant. As it turned out, a well-to-do tradesmen that had done work on his establishment ended up injuring himself on the job. Details aside, the tradesman could not afford the costs of his health care and slowly had his property seized. In time he also became depressed.

These two men that had previously done business at the restaurant ended up crossing paths again – as all things in life eventually come full circle – this time though, they connected at the soup kitchen when the one-time tradesman came in for a meal served by the ex-restaurant owner. A man that had once earned nearly three figures annually, through a turn of fate, could now not afford to feed himself.

I listened to this story of highs and lows and bit my lip to keep from tearing up. On my drive home, I still couldn’t shake the emotions I felt not only from this story, but from the entire experience and my interaction with others at the kitchen.

Just yesterday I was sulking over my own “hardships” – my rusted truck, the half furnished suite I just moved into, and the fact I couldn’t afford the brand name boots I wanted. I shook my fist at the universe when my feelings were hurt by a thoughtless boy and I took pity on myself.

We always think “our” problems are the worst, but this shit pales in comparison to what I saw today. How fortunate am I to have my health, a roof over my head, and enough food to keep my belly full. How selfish of me to pout over my lack of enviable materialistic possessions, or an incompatible mate.

I felt the need to share this simple, yet heartfelt story, because I know I’m not the only one who sometimes takes things for granted. Working in the world of sports I am exposed to people who make more money in one year than I’ll ever see in my lifetime. It’s glamourous, and of course we all want to reap the rewards when our hard work pays off, but it is easy to get tied up in it all.

Today was a reality check – in life and in love – to not take anything for granted.