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!

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

Walk through a sky with a thousand suns

Sunflower

I have found a very special place here on earth.

A few weeks ago, when I asked the kids what they wanted to do during their final week of summer, Grace said, “I want to go to the sunflower fields.”

So after spending the day at Sandbanks Provincial Park, we stopped at Sunflower Fields ice cream shop, just outside Picton. We filled up on Kawartha Dairy ice cream, then spent an hour wandering through acres of sunflower fields.

Sunflower fields ice cream shop

Our trip to heaven on earth was about two weeks too late. Most of the stalks had already lost their flowers, but it was still spectacular.

The fields of gold and green shimmered in the late day sun. Bees buzzed brimming with nectar and pollen and cicadas hummed their pleasure. The warm rays of the sun bent down to kiss the regal remaining stems that turned their round faces upward.

Author Corina Abdulahm-Negura once said, “A sunflower field is like a sky with a thousand suns.”  This week’s #HappyAct is to find and visit a little piece of heaven on earth. It’s corn maze season. Why not get lost in one?

Here were some of my favourite photos we took that day.

Girl and sunflower

 

 

Girl and sunflowers

 

gangly sunflowerFunny signCricket on sunflower

Sunflower fields

Sunflower

Watch the world awaken

Darkness out a car window

5 a.m.

Pour the coffee

Pack the car

Hit the road jack

 

The car headlights cut through the fog

Blurred darkness

 

6 a.m.

The world begins to lighten

We pass through sleepy towns with quirky names like Tichborne and Wemyss

 

Signs never seen before

The Battle River Bison Company

10 acre hobby farm for sale

Even the wildlife sleep, save for a lone bat startled by the car headlights

 

The blanket of mist slowly lifts

Revealing silhouettes of Jack pines

Standing guard, protecting the quiet, still dark lakes

 

7 a.m.

Movement.

A few drowsy cows graze outside my car window

A light flickers in a farmhouse

Round hay bales sit forlornly in the fields

Saluted by the stands of corn

 

Daylight.

The fog persists

But another day has dawned

 

Ed.note: I wrote this poem in my head early Sunday morning driving to Ottawa for Clare’s provincial kayaking championships. I’m not a morning person, so you won’t see many “enjoy an early morning happy acts!”, but there is something special about watching the world awaken. Try it (if only once!) The trip was definitely worth it. Clare got a gold, silver and bronze medal.

Fireflies at night

Firefly

A couple of weeks ago the Ottawa Citizen ran a story, Fireflies are flooding Ottawa with light this summer.

It seems the wet spring has provided lots of food for these fascinating insects, and the woods and riverbanks along the Ottawa River are alight with lightning bugs.

I’ve always found fireflies magical. I remember one time in Vermont when we rented a 100-year old cabin in the woods. It sat on 25 acres, and there was a huge field that sloped down from the large wraparound porch into the woods. The kids were quite little and I  had to get up in the middle of the night with one of them. I looked out the upstairs window, and the entire field was filled with glowing tiny lights sparkling in the night. It was magic.

Fireflies aren’t flies, they’re actually beetles. They go through four stages: egg, larvae, pupae, to beetle. Their glow comes from a chemical reaction that produces light without heat.

One night, Clare and I were walking and we found a whole bunch of tiny bugs which we found out after were firefly larvae (some people call them glowworms). They looked like tiny worms with scales, but you could see they glowed. If you ever see a firefly up close, it’s really cool too. They are bright green—you often can see them on window screens. We’ve even rescued some in the house.

They say the best time to view fireflies are in May and June around dusk, but we still have some on the property, so it’s not too late to get out and watch nature’s light show.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the fireflies at night. Happy summer!

firefly larvae
Firefly larvae