School, Day 0, in which I thank a lot of people

How to explain how I felt yesterday as I sat in a classroom for orientation, listening to people talk about the program I spent so much time and effort getting into. I think giddy covers it best.

(We’re going to gloss right over the nerves, anxiety, self-doubt and near-crippling panic that I experienced in the preceding 48 hours. The less said about that the better.)



Yes. We drank beer during the orientation info session. I can safely say we were the only program that did. They had 5 styles, but I felt that trying all five with no breakfast might be a mistake so I settled for samples of the NC Teaching Brewery saison and Septemberfest. Both made me wish I’d had breakfast.

I met most of my classmates. It appears that I am the only estrogen-based life form, which should make the next 16 months interesting. As well as from Ontario, there are two guys from the US, one from Calgary and another from Fredericton. I was as chatty as a nervous former teacher could be, so I’m pretty sure they know more about me at this point than I know about them. Note to self: sshhhhh.

Today is the first day of classes, and a fairly light one at that; an hour of Math of Finance at 11:30 followed by two hours of Computer Applications, which seems to be basically a self-learning software to guide one through the basics of MS Office. As someone who has taught it for the last 12 years, I am really hoping I can fast track through it.

I should go and have breakfast then shower and get dressed. But I can’t help but linger here over my coffee and think about how fortunate I am.

First and foremost, I have to hand it to my beloved. He was the one that planted this little seed in my mind by replying “Brewmaster Goodale has a nice ring to it” when asked what I should be when I grow up. He has been nothing but supportive and wonderful throughout the last year while I was recovering from having the rugged pulled out from under me and then planning and working toward this next stage. He is quietly sacrificing much. He is shouldering a larger financial burden while I’m a student, has seen his vacation cut short from 2 weeks as planned to 5 days to accommodate some work that came up for me, and is keeping the home fires burning solo while I’m at my mid-week home across the lake. He is, in a word, wonderful, and I am quite lucky to have him in my life.

While Keith keeps telling me I made it this far due to hard work, I could not have done it without a lot of help in one form or another from just about everyone I know.

  • my brothers Brian and Doug, and my sister-in-law Linda. They have been my cheerleaders in unexpected ways and have offered much needed moral support and offers of financial assistance (which I hope I don’t need). I am grateful for how they have my back.
  • The Moose, our friend who is graciously renting me a room in his house in Winona. I hope he still wants to be my pal after being my mid-week landlord for the next while!
  • The “beer girls” – Erica at Black Oak, Jen Murphy at Beerlicious and Jen Shute. I met them at the Prud’homme beer course and they have been invaluable sources of information and assistance whether it be a letter for my Second Career application or connecting me to beer folks so I can make some extra money doing LCBO tastings. You guys rock!
  • Bella Dodswell of The Career Foundation, who helped me navigate the paperwork minefield that is a Second Career application. My application would not have been successful without her cheerful advice.
  • Juliette, who is still willing and able to pick up the phone and talk me off a ledge, even though we live on opposite sides of the world from each other and are separated by a half a day’s worth of time zones. The woman has mad skills and I am proud to call her friend.
  • Lori is another friend from far away who is kind and generous with her time and herself. I appreciate her more than I can ever say.
  • Caroline, aka the Hoppy Beer Witch, who is funny and interesting, and who has been instrumental in whetting my interest in the BJCP.
  • Robin Le Blanc, the Thirsty Wench. I have only spoken with her a few times, but we have many common thoughts on social justice and equality. She has given me much to think on in terms of working to expand the diversity of brewing, while introducing me to people in the industry.
  • Toronto brewers, who helped my application by taking time to complete my survey: Steve at Liberty Village, Tomas from Spearhead, Jeff from Indie Alehouse, Mary Beth at Granite, Mandie at Left Field, Dave at Kensington and Doug at Junction Craft. Shout outs to Tina from Junction Craft and Paul from Flying Monkeys in Barrie who has allowed me to ask incessant questions about the business on several occasions.
  • Nate Ferguson and Alan Brown of Niagara College, for giving me a tour of the college and patiently and promptly answering all of my email questions, no matter how big or small.
  • The women at the Admissions department of Niagara College. They gave me invaluable advice during the application process and their emails were always fun and friendly.
  • my derby pals, my former colleagues, former students, friends and friends-of-friends, and perfect strangers, all of whom said “wow cool” when I told them of my plan to become a brewmaster. No one said I was too old, too female, too unexperienced or too anything; everyone has been amazingly supportive and interested.

And for this, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I quite honestly could not have done this without you and I am grateful.

Let me buy you a beer next time I see you.


Remembrance Day

My dad fought in World War II, as did my uncle. He did not talk about it, he did not glorify it or commemorate it on November 11th. When asked, all he would say was he did what he had to do.

So Dad, this is for you and everyone else who did what they had to do. I thank you for all that you have done and all that you have gone through on our behalf.




Unplugged in July

Draft clean-up day part 2: I started writing this July 18th. The photos are Ryan’s, and have not been edited.

I’ve got a couple of trips to my nephew’s cabin planned this summer, a family one in July (now passed), and another in August with a friend.

The family get together was beyond perfect . The weather was flawless except for the one black cloud that rained buckets on me as I was leaving (I think it was trying to tell me to stay!). I got to spend time with nephew Ryan who lives in Halifax, and his fiancee Jenny. I swam with my great-niece and -nephew, went kayaking, boated, watched sunsets, drank good beer, waved sparklers and watched fireworks launched from the end of the dock, and laughed with my family over Uno (with the kids) and Cards Against Humanity (after kids went to bed).

I think the second funniest moment of the weekend was during the CAH game, when Ryan realized that he would have to read “an icy handjob from an Edmonton hooker” in front of his rather staid mother. The funniest moment was when we all realized that she was the one that played it to him!

There other standout moments. Matt, the nephew who owns the cottage, had arranged for a float plane to come to lake and give us rides. He had won the rides in a raffle the year before, and arranged it for the weekend we were all there by happy accident. He gave no indication of it until that morning; this is good as no doubt the anxiety that still lives in the back of my head would have been much more prevalent if I’d had time to think about all that could go wrong. There were a few white knuckle moments, but only a few. Excitement and delight drowned out the anxiety pretty effectively, so effectively that I went up a second time. I remember looking at the expanse of lakes and trees, at Silver Peak bumping up from the Canadian Shield, at the jagged coast of Georgian Bay, and thinking how incredibly lucky I am to live so close to this rugged beauty. I know many people who are passionate about their corner of the planet, but I couldn’t help but think how that would change if they ever experienced Northern Ontario.





Saw some wildlife too – on the way back from Killarney for fish & chips and ice cream, a black bear loped into the road a ways in front of us. Matt slowed down when he saw her stop in the middle of the road and turn her head back the way she had from and bellow. Very quickly, two cubs bounded out of the brush at the side of the road and ran across the road toward her. She ushered them into the bush and we got a glimpse of all three of them looking at us as we passed.

I did have one hiccup…while I was unplugged, I wasn’t technology free. I’d brought my iPhone and put it on airplane mode, to take pictures and video of the weekend and make another little movie like the one  made when we were there for a weekend in February. On the last night of my visit, were all sitting on the dock, chatting and watching a truly spectacular sunset. Ryan, my brother Doug and I would occasionally get up and take a picture or two. I was sitting at the end of the dock to get a shot using the Slow Shutter app when my phone decided that it wanted to see what it was like at the bottom of the lake.


Yes. I dropped my phone off the dock. Insert a few expletives here. don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am particularly attached to it, and all of the data is backed up, which is the important part. Well, most of the data. Because there is no technology or cell service, the photos of the plane trip, the family playing and the sunsets were not backed up.

Luckily, Matt was far more quick-thinking than I was and ran to the shed to get goggles and had dove in after it before I had even remembered that I was still in my bathing suit. It was still on, which I took as a good sign, and immediately turned it off and put it in a container of rice. It was at about 5% battery when it went into the lake, so I wasn’t too panicky when it didn’t turn on the next morning. And while it did turn on when I got it home and plugged it in to my computer, it was stuck in a reboot cycle. It was easily replaced, and while I regret losing the pictures, I am very grateful that Ryan and Doug are sharing their’s with me.

best of 2012

Yes, I know we’re already almost a week into 2013 – it took me a few days to go through the few hundred photos I took last year and then another day or so to re-surface back into this year. 2012 was a very good year and holy FSM, I did a lot of stuff for am old broad. Here’s to more fun times to come!



Apres-holiday stress was dealt with by heading to our favourite get-away spot, Pine Vista Resort. Favourite moments: going for hikes then warming up in the outdoor hot tub or by the fire.



It’s no secret that I love Niagara Falls. I love it even more in the winter.





The theme of February’s road trip was What do a summer beaches look like in winter?

Frickin’ cold is what they look like.


February was when I got my first pair of roller skates. Ten months later, and they’re still not really broken in.





March was too awesome for words. We spent three weeks in Australia, seeing friends we don’t see nearly often enough and to experience a place unlike anything I imagined.



I could have spent another few days exploring Uluru and area…watching the colours change as the sun set was one of the best memories of the trip.





Home and broke; luckily watching Spring happen is free.




April’s road trip took us to Niagara; we finished the day by hanging out around our friend Moose’s fire pit, drinking his beer.





Finally, a road trip on the bike. Felt so good to be on it after missing so much of last summer thanks to the rehab on the knee.



First skating injury – was talking while I was putting on my gear and forgot to put on elbow pads. Of course, as soon as I realized I’d forgotten them, I fell on my right elbow. Sigh.




I went on a writing retreat at a cottage on Lake Simcoe. It was grey and bleak, a perfect contract to the warmth and laughter inside.



Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. We were riding through Coboconk and stopped to take in their summer festival which included a travelling reptile show. The woman who ran it was happy to let me hold this 2m long albino Burmse python. I really don’t understand why most people are afraid of snakes…but then I guess most people don’t understand being afraid of bridges.


July saw many small trips rather than a big one since we were still light on cash after Australia. We headed to Manitoulin Island for some camping, then to my newphew’s cottage on Tyson Lake, where we had nothing more pressing to do than go swimming or kayaking then watch some spectacular sunsets at day’s end.


We also headed to a friend’s cottage for a few days. this was my favourite view.





Headed to Oklahoma for Okie-Vegas and drank Keystone Light to stay hydrated (insert canoe joke here). It was so great hanging out and playing drunken silly poker. I was introduced to apple pie moonshine, which I liked a little too much.


I’ve been to Niagara Falls at least fifty times but have never done the touristy things. We went on the Maid of the Mist and Journey Behind the Falls, and I voluntarily went on the Sky Wheel. I almost chickened out, and the first orbit was a bit…tense, but I was able to smile and enjoy it by the third orbit. So glad I did the CBT!



We made one final bike trip before school started, riding along Lakes Huron and Erie. Good way to end the summer.



School kept me busy, because of course I did no prep over the summer. I made it out one night to meet an old friend for dinner, little knowing when we booked it that it was Nuit Blanche. the odd art installations, like this programmed Space Invaders added a nice bit of surrealism to the night.



It’s official!




The definite highlight of October was the weekend spent in Greenville, SC at Mastodon Weekend. Too many highlights to list, but being able to belatedly cross something off my summer list thanks to the efforts of the Fire God was one of the main ones.




Made it back to Pine Vista Resort for a weekend. We explored waterfalls, climbed over rocks, fed apples to horses and found Buddha in the woods.








This was the first year in 6 years that I could not go to the annual blogger bacchanalia in Vegas. I was in danger of becoming very depressed about having to be all adult when Heather decided to come visit Toronto for a weekend. We ate, we drank, we did touristy things including going up the CN Tower. It only took one martini to get me to stand on the glass floor. Now that’s progress!

While many people at school werre spending their winter holiday somewhere south, I went to Calgary. Where it was cold. And snowy. I hadn’t seen my brother & nieces in almost two years, and five days of hanging out with my family and seeing Joanada & Buddy Dank flew past too quickly.


Written Friday, November 16…am catching up on my NaBloPoMo after my weekend away and a crazy start to the work week.


Before I was obsessed with boys, I was obsessed with music. And when I was in high school, I think grade 10 or so, I wanted to learn how to make music.

And I mean really wanted it.

The object of my affection was the guitar. I'm not sure what triggered it, if it was a classmate or crush that knew how to play it, or if it was something I'd heard at a party, but I craved it enough to ask my father for lessons.

This story is not going to make my dad look good. It paints him as stubborn, autocratic in a very man-of-the-household-what-I-say-goes way, maybe uncaring or unloving. He was none of those things. Well except stubborn. He had enough of that to pass a big chunk to me and still have plenty left over.

This story does not make me look good either. I come across as passive yet stubborn, nervous, painfully uncomfortable with confrontation, and willing to abandon a passion at the first roadblock. I was all of those things.

Not sure how I worded my request, but I do remember it was after dinner and we were in the rec room. My hand were shaking and I was scared. Not scared of my dad per se, but sometimes his reactions could be unpredictable. He worked hard at the phone companyand at home, was the only wage earner and the only driver. I knew that I was asking him to not only to find something extra in the budget but give up some of his limited free time to take me to and from lessons. I still wanted it even if it meant balogna sandwiches and inconveniencing a tired man. I screwed up my courage and asked.

And he looked at me and said that learning music was a good idea. His grandmother, his mother and sisters had all learned to play the piano and he was all for it. Oh what joy!

Until the next sentence – he'd look for piano lessons in town.

I reiterated that I wanted to play the guitar.

No, piano was good enough for his mother, it would be good enough for me.


Piano, or nothing.

We stared at each other for one of those moments that feels like an eternity but is really about 2 seconds. I saw his jaw clench and het got that look in his eye, the one I was afraid of. He did not like to be defied (well, who does, really). I broke first.

Fine, I said. Nothing.

And turned back to the tv as if I was ok with it. Conversation over.

Being a teenage girl, I blamed my dad for my anger, hurt and disappointment. But as I grew up, I knew where the fault lay. I wasn't smart or quick enough at the time to say, sure Dad, let's try it, and later manoever to the more reasonable priced, portable and lovely guitar. I was too fearful to defy my father even in something as small as this. I was too stubborn to pursue another avenue, to get a friend to teach me, to work more hours part time and save up for one of my own.

I'd said nothing, and nothing it would be. My stubbornness said a big ole fuck you, cutting of my nose to spite my face.

The guitar changed from an object of desire to a symbol of my own failings. I began to hate it, asking people not to bring it out at parties, sneering at it's kumbaya campfire reputation, deriding acoustic singer/songwriters as being insufferable shoe-gazers.

The only insufferable one was me.

An opportunity came up a few years ago to learn a string instument at school with the younger grades; I chose cello. While I liked the instrument and the sound, I was never really drawn to it. After an epiphany, I gave it back and went out and bought a guitar, a tawny Yamaha acoustic that makes me smile and think “that's MINE” with a bit of wonder everytime I see it.

I was doing well with it, learning by video and practicing every other day. But then I broke my knee and the momentum stopped. I've had Keith and Chuck both offer to help me learn, but a degree of stubborn pride wouldn't let me accept their help. And yet, I can sit in with the grade 7's, having no problem at all watching 12-year-olds quickly pass me and then watch me fumbling with slightly smug looks.

Someday I'll understand myself better. But at least I'll know how to play the guitar when I do.


A long story about a small object

I come by it naturally, my sense of thrift. My dad grew up on a farm in Southern Ontario during the Depression, and experienced shortages during the war. He lived the adage, use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without. He was able to see the possibilities in objects, even objects that other people thought had outlived their usefulness. One of his favourite phrases was, I could use that someday. He taught my brothers and I to see beyond surfaces, to what quality may lie underneath,  to understand that new was not necessarily better, to think beyond an item’s intended purpose. I’ll admit, this philosophy was hard growing up; when you’re a kid in the 70’s you want to be like everyone else with new bikes and skates and store-bought Halloween costumes. Being called a rag-picker was something to be avoided, although it now amuses me that the behaviour that people looked down on then is made nobler by the modern label of recycling.

I’m sure that most of the people I know, especially the younger ones born into a consumer culture or those with money, may be a bit disgusted by this but I like looking though what other people discard/donate to thrift and charity stores. Call it an inheritance from my father with a side holdover from my punk rock days. I usually find things I can use, perfectly good things that with a little imagination and/or kludging can be revitalized and useful. More often than not I find nearly-new, good quality merchandise for a fraction of the price. And I often find myself saying the things my dad would say; there’s nothing wrong with this or I need something like this for (insert project here), I wonder if I can make it work, or I think I can use this someday.

Keith has weaned me off that last one to a certain extent. Unlike my dad, we don’t have 2.5 acres in the country and 3 outbuildings to store stuff that might be useful someday.

I hit my local Goodwill store every few weeks or so. The prices are ridiculous, it’s near a fairly well-to-do neighbourhood so many of the donations are good quality, and every once in a while they have a 50% off sale to make room for the new donation backlog in the storeroom. A few months ago, I found a very gently used black wool pea coat in my size. Even after the immediate dry cleaning, it still cost me less than $20. It satisfied two needs… I needed a new coat, and I love the rush that a perfect thrift store score gives me.

I drifted into the Goodwill on Wednesday, one of their 50% off days. I only bought one thing, a small metal cup. I put it down and picked it back it up a few times in indecision before taking it to the counter. It was quite honestly a bit gross. It was varying shades of green and orange and black, and christ only knows what the substance was that had been left to dry and oxidize in the bottom half inch. But I’d just come from Mastodon Weekend where I’d been introduced to the wonder that is a properly made Moscow Mule and needed a copper cup to replicate the experience properly at home. I had no idea if this was copper or not, but I didn’t want to wait to order something from Amazon. I am impatient. My final thought before going to the cash register was, oh why the fuck not. If it’s not copper and/or can’t be cleaned, all I’ve lost is $1.26.

That’s right. One dollar and twenty six cents for this bad boy:

Before – I spared you the view of the bottom of the cup.

Twenty minutes later, I was home and Googling how to clean copper before I even had my coat off. I trusted the folks at WikiHow and immersed it in a boiling pot of water, salt and vinegar.

And that’s when Keith, who had been on the road for two weeks, walked in the door of his home and was greeted by the smell of vinegar and copper. I think many/most/all men would be perturbed by that, but he just made a joke and helped the process once I explained. He gets it. He comes from the same background as I do, with parents familiar with making do and doing without.

I was ready to pitch the whole mess as a bad experiment a few times. The cup was lacquer coated, which cracked and peeled off in long translucent grey-white strips the exact shade of the belly of a dead fish. The grunge at the bottom of the cup was lifting slowly and unevenly. It wasn’t until I lifted the pot lid at the one hour mark that the metal underneath was finally revealed to be a lovely sunrise shade of pinky-orange. It took a quarter of a bottle of metal polish, a session with a wire brush and some fine steel wool (man, that grunge was stubborn) and a going-over on Keith’s buffer (I love a man with power tools) to reveal this loveliness:

After – look how prettily it shines!

A final wash and sterilize, and I made my first Moscow Mule. It was delicious.

I really quite like this copper cup. It satisfies more needs than just being a suitable receptacle for the cocktail that all the cool kids are drinking. It pleased me to watch this disreputable-looking object be transformed back into something shining and lovely through my labours. I love the fact that it was pre-owned and imperfect; there are a few dings and scratches that give it character and tickle my imagination into creating increasingly wild back stories for it. And I got the rush of a great thrift store find.

Not bad for a dollar and twenty-six cents.