Pros and Cons of Using a Travel Agent

Travel agent - pros and cons
Is it still wise to use a travel agent?

Traveling is so different than it once was; to book much of anything you really needed to use a travel agent. However, now that almost everything is online, you probably book a lot of travel yourself. So is there are reason to use a travel agent anymore? In reality, there are the pros and cons of using a travel agent—and also to booking online on your own:

Advice and Insight into the Industry

Pro: Agents often know the best days and times to travel, how early you should book to save the most, and which attractions and resorts are the most inviting. They are also more adept with warning you about advisories and risks, not to mention obscure must-sees that you otherwise might miss.

Con: Travel websites put most of their resources into accessing many different deals and travel options. For this reason you may be able to find all kinds of choices yourself just by searching effectively.Read more

Great Ways to Stay Cool With Your Kids

Make this summer the best one yet for you and your kids
Make this summer the best one yet for you and your kids

Already planning on ways to beat the heat this summer? There are so many awesome things you can do with your kids to stay busy and keep cool. Check out these fun ideas:

Join the Club

Check for kids' clubs at your local library, community center, or college. You'll be surprised at how many opportunities are out there, especially in urban and suburban areas. Why not stay cool with your kids while getting into fun new hobbies?

Get Away

If the summer equivalent of “cabin fever” has you down, improve your outlook and your kids' dispositions by taking a quick weekend trip. You don't have to break the bank or take time off of work to have a really special weekend together. Head out to camp for a night or two or take in the local culture in another town, exploring just for fun as you stay cool with your kids.Read more

Why You Need To Travel Solo At Least Once In Your Life

solo traveler
Traveling alone is good for the soul.

Traveling is wonderful no matter how you do it, but there's something really special about traveling solo. The first time I did it I was much younger, and although I was excited I was nervous, too. I didn't need to be, and you don't either; in fact, I can assure you without reservation that everyone needs to travel alone, regularly if possible, but at least once. Here's why.

It's All About You

We should all be ourselves all of the time, but most of us fail at this at least some of the time when surrounded by other people who want or need things from us. Traveling solo, especially far from home, you can be yourself, and you don't care who knows it. Being able to act, eat, dress, and say whatever you feel like replenishes your reserves.Read more

Best Spring Break Trips Right Now

If you can't be here with us, do the next best thing.
If you can't be here with us, do the next best thing.

Although most of us aren't in school anymore, Spring Break is still a fantastic time to travel. By traveling during Spring Break you take advantage of the beautiful, temperate weather in most places, and avoid the summer travel crush. Check out our list of best Spring Break trips right now--aside from the obvious, Penticton Lakeside Resort!--for different ways to spend your week.

Best Spring Break Trips On A Shoestring

Who doesn't need to save a buck here and there? You can enjoy a fabulous Spring Break trip without blowing your budget. Our pick? Sanibel Island, Florida. Spring Break falls within the high season for the area, but you can save money by avoiding the resorts and instead renting a condo for the week or finding a basic hotel. And one of the best ways to enjoy the island is also the cheapest: on a rented bike.Read more

What Should We Do About Kim-Jong-un?

Youth often times proves a torrent of wind and wild fire.  Like a geyser spouting unpredictable fits of brilliance, its strength and weakness no doubt lies in its reckless abandon.  Without mindfulness or fear of consequence, youth can manifest like a runaway freight train, consuming everything in its path.  If history is anything to go by, we know that youthful fervour has the potential to destroy as much as it does to inspire.  Caligula and Nero taught us that, paving the way for the likes of Alexander III of Macedon and King Henry VIII, who are just a few among a long list of despotic youths that blot the human saga.  Without want of another cliché, we reluctantly usher a new era of youth by the ascension of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader and the world’s youngest head of state.  Since assuming leadership, the 29-year son of the late Kim Jong-il has already threatened to attack Washington with nuclear weapons, declared a state of war with neighbouring South Korea and warned diplomats to evacuate the peninsula.  We ask, why? We say how?  After all, this isn’t Rome 40 AD.  Yet notwithstanding all 21st conveniences, technologies and rhetoric, our instincts seem to be the same as they were 2000 years ago - only now they are charged by nuclear power.

The belligerence of North Korea induces a clear take-home message: nuclear war remains a serious threat.  Despite decades of extensive humanitarianism, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts on both sides of the hemisphere, it seems the Cold War never really thawed.  While North Korea’s antagonisms continue, a feverish Asian arms race has begun, which collectively, (for the first time), exceeds military spending in Europe.  However amidst all this jostling for power, a pageant of east-meets-west sees an unlikely alliance between the United States and China.  In tandem with the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the two superpowers have come together on strategy and deliberation, recognizing North Korea’s lack of experience with certain technologies, lack of nuclear and missile capacity, UN sanctions, and strained global diplomatic relations.  However, despite this, Kim Jong-un remains, an unshakable youth.

So who is this Kim Jong-un anyway?  Of all the political and military positions young Kim has assumed over the years, (which altogether seem quasi comedic), the latest title of Supreme Leader of North Korea is by far, the most disconcerting.  After all, the title assumes power over an ultra-nationalistic government that not only occupies a hot seat with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but also seeks to join the nuclear power club via fear and exhibition. The lack of biographical information available on Kim Jong-un however, provokes a greater unease within the international community.  What little we do know about the mysterious youth is a silhouetted profile that casts a much bigger shadow than the man himself.

Having attended a western education in Switzerland under the alias, Un Pak, Kim Jong-un went on to complete two degrees from both Kim Il-sung University and Kim Il-sung Military University, (albeit with reportedly poor attendance and grades).  Coveting a love for Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes, Johnnie Walker whiskey, and Eric Clapton’s music, the Mercedes-Benz-driving, twenty-something has been described by former classmates as being, “obsessed with basketball and computer games.” Recent reports testify to a rise in luxury goods creeping into North Korea, which reveal an expensive taste in French couture.  Of course, it is no secret that Kim Jong-un favors a luxurious lifestyle of heavy drinking and partying, attested by former personal chef, Kenji Fujimoto.  Having disclosed certain details about their relationship, Fujimoto has been quoted saying, “he has superb physical gifts, is a big drinker and never admits defeat.”

Now you may think Johnnie Walker, Eric Clapton and Michael Jordan have little to do with nuclear threat, but in fact, they tell us a lot about the kind of person the world might be dealing with.  The excessive dualistic depiction of Kim Jong-un evokes a cruel irony. Much like a nymphomaniac sworn to celibacy, Kim Jong-un appears to be of two minds – a split personality, riven by his commitment to North Korea’s internal juche ideology and his love for external superfluities.  This hypocrisy sheds light on North Korea’s latest provocations.  They appear as Kim Jong-un – without substance, without mindfulness and without truth.  So the world should take care.  While Washington and Beijing attempt to engage Pyongyang in diplomatic talks, (engaging in critical thinking to get to the root of the problem), critics argue that it may not be enough.  The tricky thing about an eye for an eye is that both parties end up losing their eye and when it comes to nuclear power, that’s one big eye.

Despite the downplay of North Korea’s military grandiloquence in recent weeks, the country continues to stand strong on preconditions for resuming talks with the West, and has publicly refused to abandon its nuclear program.  Indeed if any diplomatic resolution is to be met, it appears it will have a great deal to do with the resolve of one such fiery and albeit unpredictable youth.  North Korea’s internal state structure allows for little upward flow when it comes to information and options, making a myopic gamut of Kim Jong-un’s decision-making process.  So while hope lingers for a nuclear-free world, it may very well be the Kim’s of today, concealed in all their western finery, who will determine what future we share tomorrow.  Whiskey, World of War Craft and a whole lot of Basketball.  Doesn’t sound too bad… Oh yeah and did we mention nuclear power?  Long range missiles?   We shouldn’t get too cozy while youth has its finger on the trigger.  After all, superior physical gifts, heavy drinking and an unwillingness to ever admit defeat might just the perfect formula for a global nuclear meltdown.


So What's All This Fuss About Christmas Anyway?

So what’s all the fuss about Christmas anyway?  For some, the holidays simply mean an over-indulgence in decadent foods, the giving and receiving of presents, and a twinkling of lights red and green. To others it connotes a laborious session of cooking and cleanup, maxed out credit cards and several blown fuses.  But whether you empathize a Cratchit or plot cynically as a Scrooge, one thing is certain: the kind of Christmas Dickens’ would doth protest, is not in fact a kind of Christmas at all!  It is rather a carnal reuse, or in other words, a joke that invokes gluttony and/or involves toil - a prank we have shamelessly played on ourselves all these years passed.

Truth be told, true Noel escaped the perils of industrial capitalism and the cynicisms of our modern making long ago.  Having taken refuge in the intangible realm of spirited thought, transcendental surrender, unconditional benevolence and love, Christmas remains beyond the grip of our social anxieties.  Yonder commercial hills, it is made whole by the images we loved as children: the kitsch and the common, the festive display of garland and the twinkling merriment of homespun goodies, a moonlit melee upon the snow, the warm glow of an open fire, and the majesty of Madonna with child.  In this regard, Christmas isn’t the thing or the display; it’s the festiveness itself, just as Christmas is the twinkle, the sparkle, the glow and the holy revelation of all that is joyful and true.

Despite having drifted so far from the thrust of its original intent and purpose, the spirit of the season continues to reside within us all, churning our charities, tweaking our philanthropic twinges, and breathing benevolence into our angers and annoyances.  Tis’ a gift we should truly be grateful for! Have you not wondered why the sight of a cold wintery landscape can invoke a swell of amorousness? Or why the ringing of silver bells and the sound of holiday hymns fills you with a desire for hugs and kisses and handholding and shoulder squeezing?  These are the incorporeal deities of the Christmas spirit, a movement that moves through us all, bounding like a westerly wind, to remind us of what and who we are.

So this year, let us take pause to reflect on what makes Christmas, Christmas.  Admit the movement of the season to refurbish our thoughts and replenish our spirits by way of winter walks, wafts of spices, chimes and rhymes and hymns and hums, merriment making and buttery baking.  In the words of Charles Dickens, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

-Elizabeth Cucnik



The Scourge of Getting Old

Aging, though a marked process of accumulative change, is as overwhelmingly abstract and impossible as our own mortality and the measurement of time itself.  There is no denying that aging and time are a union of one profound reality, forming the foundational fundamentals of human experience - a reality we don’t quite understand.  It is true that most of us do not look forward to getting old, and dealing with many of the associated ailments of old age.  Sure we can increase or maintain physical activity, eat a healthy diet, manage stress, stop smoking, get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, avoid substance abuse, and stay mentally active, however the reality of aging is not something we can wholly circumvent by any means.  It is rather a constant in the cycle that is life.  Nevertheless many of us tend to overlook aging and its vital, necessary and even joyful affects on all human societies.

Throughout history, many traditional, non-literate and restricted societies respected and cherished the elderly, whose accumulative wealth of knowledge, skills, wisdom and mastery of the local technologies were renowned for their necessitating factors in subsistence.  In this respect, the death of a prominent elder meant the loss of resource and access to education.  However modern society presents an inversion to the traditional structure.  No longer bound by the limited accessibility of knowledge, application and technologies, our youth now possess, in many cases, a greater skill set and knowledge base than their parents and grandparents.  This is partly due to the increased cultural importance on cognitive function associated with the information age of computers and global communications.  Modern society, in many respects, has made old age irrelevant, compounded by the contemporary emphasis on autonomy, self-control, beauty and the ability to be productive and reproductive.  Aging is thus viewed as a redundancy that must be obscured - something less valuable, less meaningful and ultimately undesirable.  If we take a look at the mechanisms of our modern culture, such as journalism, advertisement, the internet, education, commercialism, politics and social media, we see a trend in the idolization of youth, whereby each of these factions labor to serve an 18-54 demographic.  So what happens when you reach the outskirts of this exclusive youth club?  Society tells us - nothing, because you no longer matter.  However interestingly enough, most of the prominent players in society are those actually over 54.  But let’s face it: aging is unpopular in North America and in most other industrialized countries.

In keeping with our need to stay young, the crusade for the Holy Grail of longevity has yielded some incredible scientific discoveries to include the successful rejuvenation and extending lifespan of model animals.  For those of us who wish to live longer looking younger, this is good news.  There are several drugs and food supplements on the market, which have been shown to retard or reverse the biological effects of aging in some animals, such as resveratrol, (a chemical found in red grapes), acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid, the drug, MK-677 and rapamycin.  Studies based on and around these external factors are the first convincing evidence that the aging process can be slowed and that lifespan can be extended through drug therapy.  During this past year, longevity political parties have cropped up in Russia, the USA, Israel and the Netherlands, with the aim at providing political support to anti-aging and radical life extension research and technologies.  The general consensus within these lobbyist groups, political organizations and scientific communities, is to provide necessary funding and research that will make radical life extension and life without aging accessible to currently living people.

Despite recent scientific discovery and research into the fountain of youth, the cumbersome idea of aging continues to burden the youth psychology of today.  Contrary to popular belief however, aging is not necessarily an ultimate demise; rather it is, in many ways, delayed gratification.  In fact, studies have shown that people grow happier not grumpier, as they get older and tend to be more optimistic rather than cynical.  Ironically cynicism, is this respect, is reserved for the younger generations, who tend to dwell more on the negative aspects and associations of daily life as a result of a lack in coping mechanisms that accumulate with age.  Research shows that older people, for the most part, accept life as it is with less expectation than their younger counterparts. Psychologically speaking, the less we expect from life, the happier we will be, albeit by mitigating disappointment.  Despite the decline of the physical quality of life after middle age, brain-scanning and psychological studies have proved an increase in mental satisfaction among aging demographics, as well as identified internal mechanisms that allow the elderly to better cope with hardship or negative circumstances.  This research simply reveals that our elderly experience greater positivity and optimism, which may be related to the way the brain processes emotional contents.  Still not convinced aging is the thing for you?  Well, here are a few other things you can look forward to in the coming years: more awake time, the benefits of grandchildren and being grandparents, accumulative knowledge or wisdom, and surprisingly, a rewarding sex life.  Aging is indeed a hallmark of biology and albeit, a true reflection of the cultural and societal conventions of the industrialized world.  Notwithstanding great skepticism and cynicism, aging continues as a momentous procession of the human experience - a true privilege.  In the words of Robert Browning, “Grow old along with me!  The best is yet to be.”

-Elizabeth Cucnik






So What's This About October 24th...?

October 24 is United Nations Day, a day that is meant to celebrate the achievement and ongoing success of the United Nations.  This year’s celebrated theme echoes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s most recent statement: “Let us unite, seven billion strong, in the name of the global common good.”  Yet one can’t help but wonder, what is the “global common good” and how does an organization like the United Nations help to unite our seven billion strong?  What does the United Nations actually do? 

Well, just like its name, the United Nations is in fact, a union between nations worldwide.  An international organization whose stated purpose is to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, social progress, economic development, human rights, and achievement of world peace, the UN acts as a global governing advisory assembly.  The six principal organs of the United Nations are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Trusteeship Council (which is currently inactive). Other prolific UN System agencies include the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children's Fund  (UNICEF).  Each branch of the organization labors to implement its missions.  For example, the Security Council is charged with upholding peace and security worldwide by facilitating binding decisions that member states must adhere to under the terms of the Charter.  Although the Security Council is made up of 15 member states, only 5 are in fact permanent.  These include China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.  The International Criminal Court on the other hand, is charged with trying those who commit the most serious crimes under international law, such as war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.  The Economic and Social Council however, assists in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development, and whose chief finance ministers also head central committees like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  Financed solely from assessed and voluntary contribution from its member states, the United Nations remains a global cooperative, seemingly forged from the needs of humanity.

Now it may seem that a political liaison among the world’s super powers and their allies is either counterintuitive or rather avant-garde, and yet, the UN is not the beacon of our postmodern era.  In fact, the United Nations was founded in 1945 following the Second World War, a historical concept born about by historical events.  A replacement for the League of Nations, the UN was initially designed to be both a global goodwill ambassador, and an intergovernmental policing platform, to stop armed war between countries and provide an arena for open debate and discussion.  Since it’s beginning, membership has significantly grown to presently include 193 member states, with the joining of South Sudan in 2011.  Today, the UN is more commonly known for its peacekeeping initiatives.  While the UN does not maintain it’s own military, peacekeeping forces are therefore voluntarily provided by its member states.  Commonly referred to as the “Blue Helmets,” the UN’s peacekeeping force is recognized worldwide by the UN’s renowned blue and white insignia, and boasts many accolades to boot, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.

So, one might ask, what is the relevance of an organization like the UN, if conflict between countries persists?  One might also consider the moral caboose of the UN - whether or not a central governing body should in fact be responsible for the well being of individual states. Despite the apparent successes of the UN, criticism and conflict continue to plague the organization for its perceived failures.  Many argue that due to the UN’s intergovernmental nature, member states demonstrate reluctance to achieve or enforce Security Council resolutions, and that disagreements in the Security Council about military action have failed to prevent many of the atrocities of the 20th century, including the Cold War, the Rwandan Genocide, the Second Congo War, starvation in Somalia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the continuing conflict in Darfur.  In addition to these professed shortcomings, critics have also accused the UN peacekeeping force of sexual crimes starting in 2003, in the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Burundi and Cote d'Ivoire.

Apart from controversy over the UN’s actions, the very structure of the United Nations has been called into question.  Critics challenge the democratic nature of the UN, stating it serves only the interests of the governments of the nations who form it, rather than the individuals within those nations.  Other concerns are aimed directly at the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.  Some contemporaries are quick to criticize their veto power, while others point out their heavy investment in arms exportation and exclusive rights to nuclear power.  In this respect, the UNSC is viewed as a platform for the strategic interests and political motives of its permanent members.  Critics argue that examples can be taken from the UN’s protection over the oil-rich Kuwaitis in 1991 and its dithering with the resource-poor Rwandans in 1994, as well as its quick military action through NATO against Libya in 2011, but its present-day indecision over whether to take military action against Syria.

Whether or not one agrees with the political or moral aspects of the United Nations, or whether one even agrees with its relevancy to date, the United Nations is inarguably still a vital force for globalization, which sees the cooperation of many different states, societies, cultures and histories under the incentive of world peace.  Too good to be true?  Perhaps.  But where it fails, it may also succeed, and while the world is becoming smaller through mico and macro technologies, organizations like the UN seem to be where our future is headed.  So all hail on October 24!

-Elizabeth Cucnik






TEDx At The Penticton Lakeside Resort, October 27!

TEDx At The Penticton Lakeside ResortThis month the most talked about event of the year is happening right here at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, Saturday October 27th!  TEDx is more than just an event; it is a movement. Based on the incentive of global integration, TEDx strives to integrate local community within a global perspective from which the world is constantly evolving.  This year’s theme, Where Do We Go From Here, echoes the reality of change whereby we are constantly on the precipice.   TEDxPenticton is indeed a movement based on creation and change in real time, a revolution that we are all inherently apart of.

A nonprofit initiative, born from the TED enterprise, (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and fashioned by the spirit of its mission: Ideas Worth Spreading.  The scope of TED has exponentially grown since its beginnings in 1984, reaching communities all around the world with TEDGlobal, the award-winning TEDtalks video site, the Open Translation Project and the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs.  The TED initiative continues to attract millions of subscribers worldwide, partaking in free, accessible knowledge lead by the world’s leading, front-line thinkers and doers.  Past TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  Over the years the TED initiative has helped to create an international platform from which positive change in people and their societies is made real.  In this sense, the movement of TED is quite literally the movement of humanity. TEDx photo

In an effort to convert the dialogue of modern day into a comprehensive thought-think, TEDxPenticton draws upon the communities of the South Okanagan, to share in a TED-like know-how, by engaging societal and individual appreciations on all levels.  This year, an inspiring program orchestrated by world-class speakers and stirring musical performances touching on a wide-range of subjects, will leave you wanting more.  Streaming live from the Penticton Lakeside Resort, TEDxPenitcton 2012 will be made accessible to the world through the renowned TEDx website, a ground-breaking affair you won’t want to miss!  Following the event, an exclusive dinner at the Bufflehead Pasta and Tapas Room, hosted by Executive chef, Chris Remington, will feature a set menu of mixed greens, a choice of salmon, chicken parmigiana, or an 8oz New York steak, served with seasonal vegetables and potatoes with a tiramisu dessert for only $25++.  Seating is limited at both events, so to reserve your table today, go to or call 250-493-9768, and to book your TEDxPenticton experience and for information, please visit:

- Elizabeth Cucnik





Preserving The Season...

Living as we do in rural bliss near an abundant harvest, Penticton-ites have the luxury of indulging in the delights of farmer’s markets, fall fairs, and field-to-table produce. The earthly labor of love that yields all this natural, whole, unprocessed food compels us to put every last tomato and apple to good use.  Indeed the terra firma of humanity is our intrinsic connection to the earth and its soils, nostalgia if you will, that compounds the harvest season and fills us with an indiscriminate sense of plentiful contentment. Heralded as a fall tradition, the once vital historical understanding of food preservation, (which facilitated our survival through the dearth of winter), has bestowed upon us a diverse culinary repertoire of jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys, smoking, salting, drying, canning or bottling.  While food preservation is no longer necessary for subsistence, it nevertheless remains imperative to the conjoint nature of our relationship with the natural world, as well as our role within the food web. So why not exploit this cornucopia of historic medleys this autumn, to revisit the roots of food conception and explore a myriad of sensational flavours, tastes and smells?

Food preservation has long been used as the process of treating and handling food to halt or slow down food spoilage, edibility, and loss of quality and nutritional value.  There are several methods of food preservation, each of which helps to preserve and store the food in different ways.  Many vegetables for instance, keep well frozen, retaining nutrients as well as texture, flavor and color.  Canning is a superior method for preserving fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and peaches.  The most ancient food preservation technique however is drying or dehydration and often goes hand-in-hand with fermentation and smoking, as well as the burying of food in the earth’s soil.  Pickling fruits and veggies such as peppers, cauliflower, onions, beetroot, fish, apples and pears, make excellent relishes and sauces.  They also lend themselves well to jelly, jam, chutney, and ketchup, like apple thyme jelly, fresh fig preserves or pear and butternut squash preserve.

Recipes for culinary fall favorites characteristically involve some type of food preservation technique, be it canning, pickling, drying or smoking.  Now is the perfect time to take full advantage of the abundant harvest from our local farmers.  Simple or decadent applesauce recipes can be made sweetened or unsweetened, chunky or smooth, dried apple chips are the perfect healthy grab-it-and-go snack, apple pie, apple cider, and with nothing going to waste, leftover apple cores and peels can be used to make homemade apple pectin for jams, jellies and marmalade.  Freezing our tomatoes is a surefire way to create the most flavorful pasta; pizza sauces and soups, while freezing leafy greens and herbs make for excellent dips, casseroles, soups, stews, smoothies and sauces.   By taking full advantage of the widely prolific summer squash for instance, one can enjoy a plentiful supply of breads, muffins, soups and purées.

Contrary to popular belief, capitalizing on the abundance of fall does not require much added effort, and the benefits of conserving nutrient-rich bounty are outstanding.  With each new harvest season comes new options and possibilities in which we can branch out and expand our culinary repertoire. Preserving our food cannot only free up time in the busy season, but also allows for the enjoyment of a diverse menu throughout the winter months.  The food revolution of today proclaims a newfound independence from the corporate food industry along with greater insight and knowledge of our foodstuff.   Food preservation crafts the pulse of the season and gives back to ourselves the love of real food, not only rooted in our history, but from our history, our future.

-Elizabeth Cucnik