Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers – The Sipping Society

For a good part of my childhood I had the privilege of living in Jordan Station. One of the things that I loved the most about the area when I was growing up was the amount of fruit trees that were present in the area. We always had fresh fruit, from local farms, except of coarse in the winter time. However as I grew up there was a time when, many of those same trees were being pulled out, to make way for subdivisions and other uses. It was very sad to see.

Dillon’s Sipping Society Fall Shipment.

So fast forward to 2018. Thanks to my wife, she knows that her husband, is somewhat of the adventurous sort, she put me on to a small local business that I see big things for in the coming years. While she was checking her social media feeds as well as looking for a potential Christmas gift for me, she stumbled across Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers. She thought I should check them out, and as they say, the rest is history.

Dillons Bitters

Dillon’s Bitters

So going out on a limb, and at the encouragement of my wife, I decided to go heavy and jump right in and become a member of the Dillon’s Distillers Sipping Society. Up until this point, I have had a total of Zero experience with any of Dillon’s products, so I was taking a chance. I Liked the fact that the distillery is local and conveniently situated between Vineland and Beamsville Ontario. I really liked the fact that they use locally sourced fruits and products for their wide array of adult beverages. One of the products that caught my eye was the Pear in Bottle Eau De Vie. That was one of the clinchers for signing up for their Sipping Society, it had the appearance of something that had to be tried. As part of membership there are perks that are well worth the price, like quality locally produced products shipped right to your door four times per year. The promise of members only events, advance notice of new products and the chance to be the first to try new items. The personalized journal and Sipping Society T-shirt are also great additions as well. . The price for a yearly membership is 500.00 for the first year, and 400.00 for follow on years. To me when you include a great quality product with a group of people, that clearly love what they do, then the price is well worth being paid.

Speaking of great people, I also had the opportunity to visit Dillon’s Distillery, my wife and I thought we would take a road trip out to my old stomping grounds and see what all the hype was about. I got the opportunity to me some of the staff, as well as Natalie, who is the Sipping Society contact, or Concierge would be a better term to describe the position that she holds. By all accounts they were great, friendly and answered all of my questions. I got a bit of a crash course on “Bitters” and their uses. To be honest I have never used bitters, so my knowledge of them was absolutely zero. However my lack of knowledge was not a problem, because of the attentive staff. At our visit we sampled and purchased some Cherry Gin, tried out some Peach Schnapps, as well as some Lemon Chelo, and while there I took the opportunity to purchase a book about the creation, history and uses of Bitters.

I believe this is the first year that Dillon’s has had its Sipping Society, but I don’t think its going to be the last.

 

Facer Street European Festival 2018

Facer Street European Festival 2018

Today I had the opportunity to visit the area, during the annual Facer Street European Festival. It was a hot day, but my wife and I, with hats and sun screen, braved the temperature and ventured out to the historic community. We weren’t sure what to expect, as we had never been to this festival before. We were pleasantly surprised.

The festival was a mixture of Polish, Ukrainian and Italian heritage and this was reflected in the music, food and festivities that ran the length of Facer street. Everything from Pirogies to Pizza and Ice Cream to Sour Kraut Soup could be found. There was an abundance of good food that left an abundance of full stomachs and broad smiles.

There were two stages set up for various forms of entertainment. There were a couple of venues that were licensed for the sale of alcohol, The event was well attended even in the stifling heat, nothing can prevent a great party.

For my wife it was a little walk down memory lane, it had been quite some time since she had walked the streets that she had lived on as a little girl. She showed me the “swear” corner, the place at the corner of a church no less, where as a child she got into trouble by her mother for using less than savoury language. She is still not really sure how her mother found out about it though. We strolled past where she used to live and she pointed out where here friends used to live, and then passed her old school. She showed me how she and some of her friends used to walk to school. It was a little look back into her past.

A place like Facer Street is a community unto itself. Even thought it is part of a larger city, it is the parts that make the whole. It is the small places that contain the stories and creat the memories that make the reality of the place.

Books and Brews: Chapter One

A good time was had by all …

Museum Chat

Book Club PicksThe first meeting of our new “Books and Brews” book club was held this past Tuesday, July 19. Not only was this our inaugural session, but also my first foray into the world of book clubs, so I thought I’d share my experience and impressions here for those of you who are book club pros and those who might be thinking of joining in! For our first session, we discussed Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road.

It’s not as intimidating as you think.

Full disclosure, I’ve shied away from book clubs in the past because I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, but discovered that fear was unfounded – the other participants and our moderator created an environment where everyone’s opinions, no matter how varied, were welcomed. Our moderator, Museum Curator Kathleen Powell, had a good mix of discussion questions addressing “big picture” themes and connections to our…

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Night at the Museum – Books and Brews

My wife went out on a limb and purchased tickets for the Books and Brews Book Club event as a Father’s Day gift.  As it turns out it was a perfect gift as I like to read and drink beer. I had never been part of a book club before so I didn’t know what to expect, I have to say that I was very pleased with my first experience.

As the name of the event suggests it was a combination of  some beer, wine and light snacks provided by Mahtay Cafe and Lounge located here in St Catharines , and books that have a consistent theme. This was the first event of this type that was put on by the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Center and from my limited knowledge of book clubs, this event  appeared to be a wonderful success.

The first reading selection for this club was a great book written by Joseph Boyden called the Three Day Road. It is a story of war, tragedy, and in the end some redemption. It is a story of diversity and of the hardships faced by indigenous peoples of Northern Ontario in the early part of the last century.  Mr. Boyden does an excellent job in drawing the reader into the lives of the main characters Xavier and Elijah  as they enlist and head off to the First World War to fight fight as warriors for King and country.

Our first meeting took place on July 19th 2016 and the chosen location for this meeting couldn’t have been better.   The setting for this meeting, of our freshly minted book club, was in the museums exhibit entitled “Doing Our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front”.  For me, discussing this book surrounded by artifacts of the era in which this story takes place served to reinforce the enormity of the conflict and the hardship the main characters had to face. I have to thank the Museum Curator Kathleen Powell for an informative curators tour of the exhibit  prior to our book discussion, accompanied with some wonderful tasting craft beers. The exhibit itself gives a good cross-section of what life was like for those Canadians that went off to fight an empires war. If you haven’t seen this exhibit yet I highly recommend that you do so.

I found, as I’m  sure most in attendance did, the question and answer discussion very insightful specifically with the answers that were given by participants. I found that discussing this book was for some, a window into a history they had never known or knew even existed. I am not speaking of the history of the war itself but of the treatment of indigenous peoples, while in the service of Canada.

I am looking forward to the two follow on meetings in August and September where we will be discussing Emancipation Day written by Wayne Grady and The Danger Tree written by David Macfarlan. I think a book club in the museum is a great idea and whoever came up with the idea should get a pat on the back for a job well done.

Foot steps into the Wind: what we are all about!

To me traveling, or a better term to use would be “the traveling spirit” is more than just about going to see different places. Having the spirit of a traveler or adventurer, is about many different things rolled into a single package.

Being an adventurer does not always mean that you have to climb the tallest mountain, or swim to the bottom of the deepest ocean. The spirit that I speak of can be found right outside your front door.

Foot Steps int the Wind is about fostering that adventurous spirit. It about traveling for sure, however it is also about history, good food, its about people, art and culture. Its about enjoying life, learning a thing or two and staying safe while doing so.

My vision of a traveler is someone that is well rounded and conscientious of how and where they are traveling. It is of a person that is knowledgeable, about the current facts of where they are going as well as the historical context and why that is important. Foot Steps into the Wind is about enriching and enjoying life.

Why is Understanding History Important?

One of my passions is history. I love reading about it and learning about it. I love those old dusty things that are taken for granted in the modern world. I am always drawn to the old stories, I love speaking with people who have a different experiences than my own.

One of the best things that a traveler can do to improve their trip, is to educate themselves on the place that they are going to. I think this is especially important if it is a place that they have never been to before. When traveling I think that it is important to be a conscientious traveler when it comes to understanding the place that you’re going to see. Looking at historical items prior to your trip will give you insights into why things are the way they are in the places that you are going to visit. It will help you understand local customs, attitudes and points of view on various topics that may be different from your own.  After all when we travel it is to experience the place, the people, the life and customs of the location we are going to.

I believe, just like people, places have a soul and a spirit that is hidden from view and only the adept and knowledgeable traveler will be able to see it. The soul of a place becomes bare when we look beneath the surface of what is presented to us. Also like people, places change over time, and the historical context of a place or thing can be lost to the point where it is no longer relevant. To me, because a place or thing is old, doesn’t mean it has less value, or that it has diminished. In fact to me it holds more value because some time in the past someone gave the place or thing value by creating it in the first place. I have the same opinion of historical events.

Another item that I think travelers should keep in mind is that not knowing your history, could make the difference between a great holiday and a really bad holiday. For example if you find people being rude to you and you’re not sure why that is, it may be your attitude or your ignorance of local laws and costumes. Laws and local customs usually arise from events or conditions that existed in the past. To not understand societal norms in the place you’re traveling to is, to me, very disrespectful.

So my little piece of advice for the day is, if you are going to travel to some far away location, do yourself a favor and do a little bit of reading into the history of the place you are going to. Go to your local library and crack a book or two.

 

Making Changes

image (24)I have undergone a few changes in my life in the past couple of months that leave me reflecting on what the next steps will be for me in my adventure of life. I have left the army after nearly 30 years. Although it was part time career, if one can call it that, it still took up a great deal of my life. Couple this with having a full time job, being a father and husband, and add to all of this another nearly full time job of being a Union activist, my plate was nearly full. I have also relegated to the past my activities with respect to the union to the younger and more energetic crowd. My children for the most part are now grown up and for the most part are making all of their own decisions. So needless to say I am faced with a dilemma that all parents, and people of my generation face, what the hell am I going to do now.

Well with any situation like this I suppose that people in my position reflect on the time that is in the past and the time that is left in the future. What I find myself saying is, what’s next, what is around the next corner, where do I go from here? Well I find myself in my office, looking at the numerous maps and wondering about my roots and where it is that it all started. The faraway places nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, to the tiny country in Europe where the people where the wooden shoes.   I have come to realization that the story of me really does span the entire globe. I find myself thinking more and more about the place my mother considered home, and often spoke of, even to the point of returning to one day. There was a constant pull upon her heart to return.

I also hear that call. Don’t get me wrong, I love Canada the country where I live and where I was raised, but I feel that much of the context of my life is somewhere else. My wife and I have often discussed moving to Europe and what the ramifications of that decision would be. How would we do it, how would we live, and what would our quality of life be? I guess the big question is, where do we start?  These are just some of the questions that we asked ourselves. I am not saying that this is going to happen, but it is something that I would like to consider as a possibility for our future.

image (23)My military mind tells me that (as well as my wife) with any successful operation, it starts with a good solid plan. So I guess we need to at least start creating a plan, if what I’m thinking about is going to have any chance of success. With anything like this there is a lot of apprehension a lot of things will have to happen, like the liquidation of assets, to generating capital to make any of this even possible is also a big question. In reality any journey starts with a first step. My first step in even making this idea a reality will be to regain my Dutch citizenship. Even if I never return to Holland our Europe for that matter, regaining my Dutch citizenship is also a personal goal that I have wanted for quite some time. The Dutch rules on citizenship have changed considerably over the last couple of years, so this option may not even be possible any longer.

In the short term there will be a considerable amount of research that needs to be done to compile the information that is needed to fully understand this kind of undertaking. For me personally the hunt for information has begun. My ability to collect and correlate data will now finally be used for my own gain and for my own purposes.  Maybe  it will happen maybe it won’t, however we will never know unless we take the first step to making the change.

The Travel Writers Bag

The Travel Writers Bag

By Jack Profijt

The writers bag

The Writers Bag of Tricks

There are tons of articles on the net about travelling and where to go and what to see. There are plenty of different things to read about different travels, and how to get to where we want to go. But have you ever given thought as to how travel writers, or writers in general get what they see and experience onto the written page? All people that write can call themselves writers or authors, however they all have their own style of how they get the things they see or experience on paper or the electronic screen.  I have been asked in the past what I carry in my satchel (Man Purse) that I find to be indispensable as far as getting the ideas right.  So here is what I carry.

First you need a good bag to carry all of your writer junk in. One that is compact yet sturdy, however it doesn’t have to be expensive, but keep in mind you get what you pay for. The one I use has plenty of pockets and a place for everything, including a water bottle and a snack.

A good camera is also a good investment if you plan on doing any of your own content creation. I am currently using a Nikon DSLR3100. I think this camera provides a good balance between portability and quality. It has a crazy amount of options and shooting configurations, and can be mounted on a tri pod. I also carry a cell phone camera as well, this is also a cheaper option. Some of these modern devices have exceptional photo quality as well.

My choice for a note pad is quality over quantity. After all pen and paper are the tools of our trade, so I chose to work with the good quality notebooks bound in an Italian leather case (thanks to my wife). At the very least, I would also look for a refillable book cover, for obvious reasons. Along with this I use good quality pens. Parker Pens are my weapons of choice, if you asked my wife she would tell you that I am a little fanatical about my pens and note books but that is another post. It also doesn’t hurt to have a pencil packed into your writer’s bag of tricks.

One thing that I think is overlooked in the modern age is the good old fashioned voice recorder. You never know when those thoughts are going to strike or if you come up with an interview idea on the spot. Voice recorders can be picked up cheap from any electronic store. However in my case my wife found mine in a puddle, put it in a bowl of rice.. presto chango .. Good as new.

This may seem over the top but a good knife/blade is always useful. It harkens back to my Army and Boy Scout days. It’s better to have one and not need it than to need it and not have one. Besides you never know when you will need to slice into piece of French bread and butter or uncork a bottle of wine or trim a cigar.

Last but not least on my list of items in my writer’s bag of tricks are my watch, wallet, cell phone and of course my glasses. My watch is a Tissot with date and illuminated hands. My phone is an iPhone 4s on which I have an app called Commander Compass. It acts as a GPS and compass. With this app I can find points on a map using several different coordinate systems and then set way points with those coordinates. It is a useful app with too many features to list here. Also the phone carrier that I have has great overseas coverage so I am never out of contact.

So now ya know what’s in my writer’s bag of tricks

An Adventure Can Start In Your Own Home Town

One of the things that I often hear from friends and acquaintances is that traveling to faraway places is too expensive to the point where it is cost prohibitive.  So they don’t go anywhere or do anything that they would consider “traveling”. I think this view is very wrong or a the very least a bad attitude when it comes to what I call the Vagabond Spirit.  What I mean is that the spirit of travel should start with the person, and at home, where they already live.

An adventuring spirit can start right in your very own home. You don’t really need any expensive equipment, just a will to explore. I usually start with a good old fashioned book. Yes I said book. The kind that has numbered pages and crazy stuff like that. The book can be about anything really but they are usually what give me my ideas on what to write, or about places I would like to go. Once the seed is planted the rest just kind of happens. One thing leads to an other and the next thing I know I am out the door.Fountain Montebello Park

To illustrate the point, on the last occasion where I needed to quell the Vagabond Spirit, I took a walk and found myself in a park in my area. Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario for those of you that care to look. I had been in this place a hundred times before but on this occasion I found that I was looking at it through different eyes. It was a place of beauty and quiet, in an otherwise  busy little city. I snapped a few photos and and just sat in the park and watched the world go by. For those that have never tried this I highly recommend this because it is such a simple pleasure.

After my little visit to the park, I recalled that someone had once told me that this park was designed by a famous landscaping architect. So I thought I would take a look and see if there was any truth to the story. Well after a quick google search I found that the story I was told is in fact true. The park was originally designed and created by Frederick Law Olmsted. I found that our little park has lineage with places like Central Park in New York City, the Grounds of the US Capitol Buildings and Mount Royal Park in Montreal.

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

This little piece of quiet in the city has 25 varieties of roses in a well-kept rose garden, and peaceful fountain in the center. It’s a great place to spend a few hours with a good book, on one of the many benches or to listen to music at the many festivals that are held throughout the year.

This little story just serves to show that you don’t need crazy amounts of money or an expansive budget to have a little fun and adventure. It can start with a simple step out your front door.

Names Etched in Stone

More than a couple of years ago I had the honour of going to a place that I consider to be sacred ground. I’m not sure how well known this place is in other countries, but for us Canadians it is a place that holds special significance. The place is now called the Canadian Vimy Ridge War Memorial. However 100 years ago it was called Hill 145. Some would argue that this is the place that Canada really became a country.

The opportunity to go to Vimy came up quit unexpectedly. it was a mater of 5 days from the time I received the call to having my butt parked on an aircraft bound for France.  I happened to have a passport already to go and the cash in hand so it was like the fates smiled upon me. I was amazed that I could get ten days off work on such short notice. The purpose for our visit to Europe was for my reserve Unit to take part in repatriations service for a pair of fallen comrades from the Second World War that had recently been recovered in Holland. While in Europe we were tasked with a number of parades and services. The Remembrance day service at Vimy on Remembrance Day was one of those tasks.

On the drive to the ridge the monument could be seen in the distance and it was a quite a site. The day was kind of cloudy, with sporadic drops of rain, however the temperature was climbing and I remember that I was surprised at the mild temperatures that we were experiencing considering it was early November.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier Vimy Ridge allrights reserved

Tomb of the unknown soldier Vimy Ridge

When we arrived, the first thing that struck me was the size of this grand and amazing structure. The second thing that struck me was the terrain and lay of the ground. The ground still bears the scars of that long ago conflict. The ground also still contains the dead from both sides, they are buried together under these rolling green hills.

We all formed up and conducted the service. The service was more poignant because just two months before to the day, the World Trade Center in New York had been destroyed by an act of war. We stood at attention while the piper and bugler played, remembering those that had gone on to fight before, while we thought about those that would soon be fighting in the war that came after. It was a very strange moment for me remembering those that gave their lives in a war that was meant to end war, and our nation was about to march off to war again.  Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be at Vimy Ridge on Remembrance Day, listening to last Post and a single Highland Piper play the lament. I would turn out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

After the service we were met by a guide that took us on a tour of the tunnels that run underneath the ridge. The tunnels that housed the 4 Canadian Divisions before they went into the line. It was amazing seeing the remnants of all of the left over items, tables, chairs and old damaged rifles.

There is an interpretive center at the ridge a short distance away from the monument itself. Small items like souvenirs can be purchased here, there is also the ability to read about the battle and how it was fought and by whom. I had an opportunity to walk around the monument on my own to read the names of those that had fought and died in this place so far from home. You cant help but think about who belonged to those names and what they may have done had they not gone off to war for King and country.

Vimy Ridge Memorial

Canadian First World War Vimy Ridge War Memorial

I spent some time just reading the names and running my hands over them, and standing before the tomb of the unknown soldier. To me it is a solemn place that has seen its share of sorrow, yet it has the ability to inspire thought and a feeling of pride. If you are Canadian and you ever have a chance to go see this place  strongly suggest that you go. You will be sad but your heart will also stir with pride, you will shed a tear for the fallen but you will also never forget them.  I do not believe that there is another place that I know of that has the ability to stir so many different emotions all at one time.