Where everybody knows your name

Pilot House Kingston

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

After work on Friday night, Clare and I stumbled across the street from my work to catch a quick bite to eat at the Pilot House before her evening volleyball tournament downtown.

It had been another long brutal week at work. I was cold, tired and hungry and knew we wouldn’t be getting home until late, and up early the next morning for more volleyball and hockey.

As soon as we walked into the bar, the stress of a long week started to melt away like the cheezy melt on the menu as the hum of laughter and conversation, and the warm, cozy atmosphere of the bar washed over us.

The Pilot House is your quintessential neighbourhood bar. Regulars perch on stools or mill about, slapping each other on the back as they share jokes and stories from the day. The beer flows freely, and the smell of fish and chips and vinegar permeates the air.
If they have menus, I’ve never seen one. The menu, which most of us know by heart anyway, is written in chalk on a blackboard. The only reason you look at it is to see what the day’s specials are.

In marine navigation, a pilot refers to anyone who steers a ship, and the little pub is awash in photos and memorabilia from the days when off-duty pilots of ships would meet there. In the old days, the building housed maps and charts for navigation. The pilots would take the charts and report for duty on their ship on the waterfront down the street.

It was the perfect tonic after a long week.

This week’s #HappyAct is to visit your local watering hole and enjoy a pint and cozy atmosphere to escape a cold winter’s night.

What’s your favourite local watering hole? Leave a comment!

Pilot House signClare at the stained glass door to the bar

Trivial pursuits

Ryerson alumni at trivia night

Are you smarter than a Ryerson grad? If you’re a university alumni living in the Kingston area, come out Monday night and find out.

For the past four years, my Ryerson alumni group has been running an alumni challenge trivia night at our home pub, Tir Nan Og. Each year the event has grown. At first it was just Ryerson versus Queen’s (boo…) but now McGill and Royal Military College participate, and others are welcome too.

I suck at trivia but my friend and fellow Ryerson alum Michael Onesi, who works for Queen’s by the way (traitor) is our ace in the hole. He’s actually won HQ Trivia three times. He is a trivia god.

Trivia is as Canadian as butter tarts, hockey and double doubles at Tim Hortons. One of the greatest trivia games of all time, Trivial Pursuit was created by two Canadians, a photo editor for the Montreal Gazette and a sports editor for The Canadian Press. And of course Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy is Canadian!

 

To get you in the spirit, see if you can answer these trivia questions about trivia:

 

  1. Which big company turned down the rights to Trivial Pursuit (and are probably kicking themselves to this day?)
  2. How much did the friends sell the rights of the game to Parker Brothers for in 1988?
    a) $10 million
    b) $40 million
    c) $80 million
  3. What were the shapes of the pieces in Trivial Pursuit?
  4. What is the singular form of the word trivia?
  5. Why is trivia sometimes associated with scandal?
  6. Who holds the record for most wins on the show Jeopardy?
  7. How many wins in a row did he have?
  8. If you’ve competed on Jeopardy before, what other game show are you ineligible for?

In the trivial pursuit spirit yet? This week’s #HappyAct is to join your local pub’s trivia night, or come out to ours. The action goes down at 7. See you there!

  

Trivia about trivia answers:

1. Virgin Group

2 c)   $80 million

3) Triangles or cheese wedges

4) Trivium

5) In the 1950s, trivia became popular on American television, but it was discovered the producers of shows like the $64,000 Question and Twenty One were feeding the answers to contestants. This became known as the Quiz Show Scandals

6) Ken Jennings

7) 74 consecutive wins

8) Wheel of Fortune because they are sister shows

 

 

 

Harvest the grape

Me in the vineyard

Yesterday, my friend Annie from Montreal and I spent the most amazing day picking grapes as part of a community harvest at Scheuermann Vineyard in Westport.

The owners Allison and Francois couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. As the first rays of the sun crested the hills over the rows of their picturesque vineyard, carload after carload arrived to help with the harvest.

Overlooking the vineyard

We first rolled up black netting that had been protecting the vines from birds, clipping it to the metal wires so snow wouldn’t build up in the months ahead. Then it was time to start the harvest.

The French have a word for harvesting grapes: la vendage. It has such a wonderful sound to it, and rolls off the tongue as sweetly as the delicious juice of the grapes we snipped from vines.

Dog in vineyard

 

We picked Vidal, a beautiful, light green grape. When picking grapes, you work in pairs facing each other through the vines. The buddy system ensures that no grapes are missed and left on the vine. The term picking grapes isn’t quite accurate either. You snip the stems from the vines.

Harvesting grapes can be back breaking work so each person sits on a stool. You “pick” with your partner, placing the large bunches of grapes in bins, working down the rows from post to post.

Woman with stool
The owners Mom, Francine won the prize for most innovative stool–tied to her bum!

The fruit was magnificent, large green bunches hanging off the vines—Francois later told us it was one of their best years yet.

bin of grapes

The day was spectacular. We took a short break to drink coffee from mason jars and have some homemade cookies, then it was back to the vines. By early afternoon, as our mouths were starting to get parched, they delivered cold beer and homemade pizza to us in the fields.

Pickers leaving the field
Francois’ son photo bombed this picture of us leaving the fields at end of the day

We worked hard, but it was so worth it. By 4:15 all the Vidal had been picked. It was time to celebrate.

We ran into our friends Tim and Susie and had a great day and dinner with them

Our gracious hosts uncorked Vidal and Cabernet Franc, which we sipped in big Adirondack chairs overlooking Wolfe Lake. Then dinner was served, a delicious harvest meal of garlic potatoes, cauliflower, roasted carrots and beef, topped off with the piece de resistance, homemade apple pie and pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce that bubbled on the pot in front of the open fire.

Destemming machine
Scraping all the stems away from the destemming machine

We dined al fresco as Francois and his hard working crew poured container after container of grapes into the destemmer (which removes the stems), then into the press to extract the juice.

Bins of grapes being emptied into pressers
Emptying the grapes into the presser

We picked 10 tons of grapes, about enough to make 10,000 bottles of wine. I was in heaven.

Bottle of wine

This week’s #HappyAct is to join a community harvest. Vive la vendage. And special thanks to my camera shy amie Annie for making the trip and being my picking partner for the day. Same time next year–a la prochaine!

Working wonders together

Author and her co-workers at United Way kick-off
On my morning drive this week, I saw this sign on a local church: “Not one person can do everything, but every person can do something.”

In a few days, my company will kick off our annual United Way campaign. Our theme this year is #WorkingWondersTogether.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of United Way, but this year, the campaign has touched me on a deeper level than ever before.

It started in June when Dave and I spent a week in Vancouver. We hit all the normal touristy places–Stanley Park, Granville Island, and the seashore parks. One day as we were walking around Chinatown, we ventured into an area bordering Gastown that had the highest concentration of homeless people I’ve ever seen. It was devastating.

In Vancouver, the services for people “sleeping in the rough” and who are struggling with addictions are all within a city block, causing people in need to congregate close to where the services are provided. While the need is just as real in other cities, services are spread out, so the stark reality of the plight of homeless people can be more hidden.

I couldn’t fathom how a city so rich in wealth, dripping with million dollar homes on every street corner, could allow such poverty to exist.

A few months later, my friends Jill and David, who lives in Australia visited and stayed overnight. After a sumptuous dinner, over a glass of wine in my comfortable home, we were talking about homelessness. David has some knowledge in this area. I asked him questions about people he knew, how they came to be homeless and the burning question, what can we do to give people a hand up and help them on a healthy path?

His insights helped me better understand the terrible cycle of addiction, mental health, and poverty. He shared with me this article, How I went from corporate lawyer to sleeping rough. Read it.

I now look at people “sleeping in the rough” differently. Now, when I see someone outside a grocery store in need, I ask them if I can buy them some food. While I still feel helpless to change their situation, I’m compelled to do something.

This week’s #HappyAct is to #WorkWondersTogether. Every one of us can do something to effect change. For every day of our campaign, I am going to do one small thing to make this world a more wonderful place. Join me, and give what you can.

Ed. note: This picture is of me and my amazing friends and Empire Life co-workers Dale Mainville and Jessica Schonewille who do so much to make the world a more wonderful place at our United Way BBQ on Friday. And no, I haven’t gained weight, it was so cold we had three layers on!

#FridaysforFuture and lessons from Frome

Sign that says Electile dysfunction: The inability to be aroused by any of the political parties

On Friday, more than four million people in cities and towns across the globe marched in the streets for climate change. The #FridaysforFuture movement was started by 15-year old Greta Thunberg who sat in the Swedish parliament demanding action on climate change in 2018 using the revolutionary rally cry, “This is an emergency. Our house is on fire”.

Here in Kingston, the turnout was meagre—only a few hundred people turned out in the bright warm September sunshine to protest despite the global awakening and awareness on the devastating impacts of climate change.

In October, Canadians will go to the polls yet again in our next federal election. We are at a crossroads in history and yet, no one seems to be offering real change.

It’s time to we take a lesson from Frome. Situated on the banks of the Frome river in Somerset, England, a few years ago, the residents of Frome said enough. They met in a local pub and decided to run as independents in their next election. They won 10 seats on the 17-seat council. In 2015, they swept all 17 seats.

Adopting the philosophy of community and climate first, they’ve been able to transform their village. Their Share shop allows residents to borrow tools and gears at low rates. They started a community fridge, where people can donate food and garden produce, and they’ve opened shops dedicated to selling locally made goods that are environmentally friendly. The town recently raised $300,000 pounds to install solar panels on roofs.

In a powerful statement, the town residents have recently petitioned the British government to grant the River Frome the status of a person so it has rights.

Some are calling it the #MeToo Movement for Mother Nature. The goal is to ensure we respect and protect the natural world around us.

So what does all of this mean for us here in Canada? It means we are not doing enough to make real change.

Every day, fertile farmland is being developed for cookie cutter subdivisions. On Saturdays, we drive in our big cars to shop at Costco, the land of excess packaging and food shipped from thousands of miles. Those of us who are driving electric vehicles can’t find enough charging stations. We dump raw sewage into rivers and streams (unthinkable in 2019).

This week’s #HappyAct is not a happy act at all. It is a call to action. It’s time we make real change. If our politicians won’t be brave or strong enough to do it, it’s up to us.

Watch a movie under a starry sky

 

Movies in the squareOne of my favourite things to do in the summer is to watch a movie outside under the stars in downtown Kingston as part of their Movies in the Square series.

It’s such a great vibe. People start arriving, armchairs and blankets in hand. The air cools as the sun sets. The sky turns a royal blue, providing a stunning backdrop for the magnificent dome of City Hall and the lights surrounding market square.

Children run back and forth from the popcorn vendor, getting their final bursts of energy out before the big screen roars to life and the first of the big images are projected on the big screen. You look up and the stars begin to reveal themselves, providing a sparkling backdrop to a beautiful night.

I missed the movie I really wanted to catch this summer on Thursday—La La Land. I bet it was magical under the stars.

This week’s #HappyAct is to watch a movie under a starry sky before summer is out. Many communities offer open air movie nights. Check out the schedule in your area. Here is the rest of the line-up for Kingston this year.

Movies in the square line up Kingston 2019 

Just don’t call me late for dinner

Family eating at potluckCall it a potluck, call it a smorgasborg, call it what you will, just don’t call me late for dinner.

Last weekend, our Frontenac Fury Girls Hockey Association held our annual hockey banquet and potluck.

It’s always a nice way to mark the end of the hockey season, recognize the girls’ achievements and share some laughs before all the hockey families hang up our sticks for the season.

But just like our girls would have going into any big game, it’s important to have a strategy when the pot drops at a potluck. Here are a few tips from a seasoned veteran in the line-up.

  • Always get in line before the biggest guy in the room
  • Scan the venue and your competition to scope out the best grub
  • Don’t fill your plate with too many salads or bread—save room for the main event
  • Enjoy the small talk during the intermissions between refills
  • Never take the last meatball or you may wind up in the penalty box
  • Unlike hockey, icing is a good thing at a potluck
  • When it comes to dessert, go for a hat trick
  • And make sure you give thanks for the big, warm extended family you’re breaking bread with

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan a potluck or smorgasborg and enjoy! And congratulations and thanks to all the Frontenac Fury teams and families for another fun, successful year. We’ll see you in the fall!Plate full of food

Potluck kitchen

Hockey families at banquet