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!

Autumn ablaze–a photo essay

creek with fall colours

This year the fall colours have been particularly spectacular. I tried reading up on why, but got lost in words like chlorophyll and carotenoids. I don’t care about the science. I’m just grateful for the beauty of the area we live in.

Here is a photo essay from my Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy the colours while they last, and Happy Thanksgiving!

yellow and red treesseagulls on a dock in the fall

porch with fall decorations

clouds over water

high cranberry bush

fall trees and sky

deer in woods

 

Girl walking in fall leaves

sunburst through trees

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!

Plan a red hot date night

Last of the red hot lovers theatre playbill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a hot date on Friday night, and it wasn’t with my husband.

The man I went out with is witty, charming, and loves to laugh. He has a way with the ladies and knows how to carry a conversation.

We chose a romantic restaurant in west Burlington, the West Plains Bistro. I ordered a glass of French merlot and let the full-bodied red scintillate my taste buds as our server lit our candle, creating an intimate warmth and ambiance.

We shared a delicious beet and goat cheese salad, eating off of the same plate, European style. The warm, crusted goat cheese on greens was adorned with capers and roasted chick peas, creating a delightful rich mix of textures and flavours.

My date ordered the grilled pickerel with wild rice. I chose a seafood pasta brimming with lobster, crab, mussels and shrimp. We shared a coconut cream pie with raspberry sauce. Our forks entwined as we devoured the heavenly creamy filling.

Dinner was a delicious prelude to the main event: a live production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Theatre Burlington.

The three act play takes place in an apartment in New York’s dirty thirties. Barney Cashman decides he wants to have an affair to spice up his love life and invites three different women to his apartment for a mid-day tryst. I warned my date not to get any ideas.

It was steamy, passionate and dripping with sexual innuendo. It was also very funny and in the end, Barney discovers he is a decent, gentle and loving human being after all and can’t go through with it.

At the end of the night, I thanked my date for a lovely evening and drove him home to his apartment. I went upstairs, beat him at cards, then kissed him goodnight.

He was the perfect date, which shouldn’t be a surprise since it was 27 years ago this week I married his son.

I love my father-in-law very much. Here’s to you John, and thanks for being my date Friday night (but I think this week, I better plan a date with your son instead…)

me and my date at dinner

#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.

Funny country signs

Sign that says, "If you can't feed em, don't breed 'em. The government isn't your baby daddy"

It’s taken about 20 years, but I’m now proud to admit I’m a redneck, hillbilly, field and stream-lovin’ country gal now. One of the things I love about living in the country are the signs.

My local hardware store one day in August had a sign that said,

Annuals 45% off 

I thought, really? It would have killed them to go 50%? And god help the kid at the cash who would have to calculate what 45% was off the order instead of just cutting the price in half. I didn’t stop to take a picture of that sign that day, but thought I’d share some pictures of other funny signs I’ve come across or friends have shared online in the past few months.

Above: Someone at baseball practice had this one on the back of their pickup. Country livin’ at its best.

Sign that says Cobblestone Coroner

My friend Kaye shared this one. She was pretty sure it should have said “Cobblestone Corner”, but who knows, maybe the guy was a coroner

Sign where the 7:30 time slot looks like a swear word!

 

Sign at a senior residence. The line up for the 7:30 activity was apparently out the door. Thanks to my friend Jill for sharing this one.

Sign with a typo that should have said spayed instead of sprayed

In Westport, I guess they spray their animals instead of spaying them!

Rhyming parking sign

 

Dave’s cousin in BC shared this one, a creative parking tribute to Dr. SeussSign that says used bushogs for sale

And finally, I’m not sure what a bushhog is, but I sure to heck hope it’s a piece of farm equipment!

 

300 Happy Acts

flower petal

Last week, my little blog hit a milestone. I posted my 300th happy act.

Six years ago, when I decided to start this blog, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. The idea was simple: post one insight or one little act of happiness each week, and challenge my readers to join me.

I was inspired by many things, but mainly from watching people I care about struggle with happiness.

Sadly, I think my blog is more relevant today than it was six years ago. I believe mental health issues in young people especially are reaching epidemic proportions in this country. When social platforms like Facebook talk about removing likes to protect people from feelings of envy and negative self-worth, it’s a sign of a major societal problem.

I’ve learned many things from this blog. I’ve learned the importance of living in the moment, and being grateful for what I have. In going back through some of my old drafts, I found this post I had written but never shared for my 100th happy act written on Thanksgiving weekend. I’d like to share it with you now.

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This is my 100th blog post. I’m happy I reached this milestone on Thanksgiving weekend because it reminds me of everything in my life to be thankful for.

It also reminds me the things that make me most happy are life’s everyday moments. So for my one hundredth #HappyAct, I thought I’d recite happy moments from just one day this weekend.

  • Swilling German beer at my friend Karen’s Oktoberfest party
  • Meeting someone new
  • Feeling the breeze and warm sun on my face
  • Watching the sun shimmer on Bella and Clare in the boat
  • Petting my big dopey mutts
  • Making a Halloween scarecrow
  • Curling up and watching a movie with Clare
  • Reading the newspapers
  • Sitting with a glass of wine on the back deck
  • Buying $30 worth of candy at Bulk Barn that will last only a week
  • Eating caramels at 10 o’clock in the morning
  • Biting into a fresh, crunchy apple
  • Having a hot tub
  • Watching a red leaf dance in the air as it gently floats to the ground
  • Picking fresh flowers

This week’s #HappyAct is to celebrate the little moments that make life wonderful and be grateful for each and every day. Thanks for continuing on this journey with me.