A Visit to Beau’s Brewery and Vankleek Hill, Ontario

beau's brewery, vankleek hill, ontario

As referenced in my I-am-not-a-teenager post, I mentioned I visited a small town in eastern Ontario. Vankleek Hill is located approximately one hour west of Montreal. Although I will quite frankly never turn down an [affordable] excursion outside of the island (which I refrain from grumpily and dramatically referring to as Gotham), my main reason for accepting an invitation to Vankleek Hill was because I was interested in visiting Beau’s Brewery. Beau’s is a family-owned, organic brewery, offering tours, tastings, and a delightful rustically charming gift stop.

beau's brewery tour

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

Enter into the show room/shop area. There, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff members. Inquire about tours, which are offered every hour except during lunch. Tours are available in both English and French. I know, I know, I should have gone for French to practice, but I was with other people and didn’t have the heart to force them into a French tour simply so that I could practice.

The tour starts with an explanation of the ingredients. Sniffs are encouraged.

beau's brewery ingredients

After sufficiently sniffing ingredients, you’ll put on your oh-so-trendy safety glasses. If you’re like me and rotate between glasses and contacts, this might be a day for your glasses. Those with actual glasses can skip the safety glasses requirement. Everyone can skip the gleefully silly look I displayed, however.

safety glasses

You’ll receive explanations for all machinery, pass by the bottling station, and learn about how the brewery reuses water and ingredients whenever possible. Their leftover materials are often shared with local farmers to decrease the amount of waste, and thus the carbon footprint, the brewery produces. Because you ought to visit yourself, I’ll keep my details limited. And yep, it’s been a few weeks since I visited, so details are fuzzier than before!

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

I’d love to visit with better photography skills. I think playing with shutter speed at the bottling station would have resulted in delightful photos. But alas, my skills (and lenses) are lacking.

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

After the tour/description of the facilities, you’ll head back to the showroom/shop for the fun part: the tasting.

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

After you’ve sampled a bit, decide on your take-home purchases. There are plenty of t-shirts, glasses, steins, and beers to choose from.

On your way out, take a minute to appreciate the idyllic surroundings. And the sunflowers. Being awkward in front of the camera is optional.

beau's brewery


Vankleek Hill is a small town of about 2,000. The other city-raised folk with me really felt the quaintness of the town. I found their reactions a little funny, but it was also funny that I, a girl from a town of what used to have a population of 485, felt that 2,000 is tiny.

After touring the brewery, we looked for a place to eat. We stopped at Sam’s Kitchen on Main Street. The name of the cafe is the honest-to-God truth: it really is Sam’s kitchen. Well, technically, I’m no longer sure if Sam is the name of the woman operating it, or of one of her children. But the cafe is attached to the home, and the owner offers the public the same food she offers to her family.

vankleek hill

vankleek hill, sam's kitchen

She didn’t have any pre-made veggie sandwiches made, but was more than happy to prepare something for me when I asked. The owner also explained that one of her specialties is her homemade frozen dinners. They looked much, much more enticing than the likes of a Lean Cuisine, and I can only imagine that if I lived in this town, I’d stop by on busy days to grab an easy, reheat-able meal.

vankleek hill, sam's kitchen

There is a variety of local artisan products offered on a shelf inside the store. Well, all products are local, except for the African art, of course. The eclectic choice of all local–except African art–was intriguing.

vankleek hill, sam's kitchen

When heading into Vankleek Hill, you’ll notice the “Gingerbread Capital” sign that welcomes you into town. After noting this, we were delighted that Sam’s Kitchen offers homemade gingerbread cookies. However, we learned that the title of Gingerbread Capital is actually related to a type of architecture, not the cookies. The sign is a bit misleading….but the cookies were delicious.

Here’s an example of the architecture.

vankleek hill, gingerbread architecture

Look for it on over 100 houses in the area.

And for no other reason that libraries are adorable (and, okay, that whole eight-years-working-in-libraries thing), here’s a photo of the town library.

vankleek hill

If you’re interested in the architecture, the beer, or simply a visit to a small town, it’s worth the hour trip. We have it on good authority that there is also a small local art museum in town.

Since Jordan wasn’t able to join us for the outing, I purchased a couple bottles to bring home for him. We sipped them on the balcony. (Glasses were used, I assure you, but no photographs exist to prove this).

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

beau's brewery

After parking woes with my parents (who visited this week), I certainly am happy/relieved that we no longer have a vehicle in Montreal, but I miss day trips!  I was extremely grateful for the trip to the countryside. Little excursions of this nature are so perfect. Especially when I just hop along for the ride and don’t have to do any of the planning.

Thanks, dudes, for letting me join (even if you made me feel old[er than you]…)

Review of Verb Tenses


Verb tenses are only one part of grammar, but when I ask students what grammar points they think they need to review, they almost always say verb tenses. I have looked for “the perfect” verb chart, with construction, usage, examples, and key words all included, but did not find a free, available version online.

My verb chart is not 100% complete, but am sharing it as a review tool for any ESL learners who are interested. I did say this was review week, after all! Teachers and educators, feel free to use for any educational purposes. I am still working on it and looking for feedback. Specifically, if you know of any helpful key words/signal words, please let me know.

Please click the link below to access the file (you can save it once the PDF is open):


I’m extremely curious to know what you think. I welcome all suggestions and comments about the chart.

Happy verb review for ESL learners!

Getting into the “Swing of Things” | ESL Expressions

swing of things esl expression

Happy Monday!

Because we have started or will soon be starting our regular routines (end of summer), I wanted to share an expression about habits and routine.

Swing can be a noun, the type of playground equipment used in the picture above. Swing is also a verb, or the action or moving back and forth on the swing.

When we get into the swing of things, this means we are adjusting or adapting to a routine. You could also say that you are getting used to a routine (check out the post on used to). The action or the routine is becoming a habit.

If this is an old routine (back to school), you can say you are “getting back into the swing of things.”

This week’s post will be about reviewing, or getting back into the swing of things when studying English. Have a great week!


From the New Kitchen to the New Balcony

zucchini lasagna and beer

A while back, my sister told me she had been missing my food posts on my blogs. Well, on a reduced budget, eating out is more limited than our double full-time income days in Knoxville, and the Montreal food blogger scene seems to have reached the point of saturation. Also, my ambition to post my recipes had waned, mainly because of our living situation. Today, I take a step to remedy this. Shannon, I blog for you.

Sure, we had a kitchen and a balcony in our last apartment. That was never the problem. But everything was simply too Polly Pocket-sized to be functional. We broke more glasses in one year than we did it the other four years of our marriage. It seemed as though every which way we turned, we bumped into something else, accidentally dunked our sleeves into sauce, or were in the other’s way. Frustrating, especially since we so enjoy cooking (and eating!) together. Only one person could be in the tiny closed off 4x5ft area at a time, so we didn’t have many joint cooking efforts throughout the last 12 months. And as any Cassie Knoxvillian or Pearl Project lingerers know, I very much enjoyed taking photos of our creations. With no table, all coffee table space occupied, and the inaccessible balcony standing in as makeshift and eyesore storage, it never seemed worth to be worth the hassle.

Don’t get me wrong, our new kitchen just barely has enough cupboard space and niches to stash all of our coffee mugs, Eurotrip pint glasses (how have more of these not broken?), and wedding gifts that have stood the test of utility. But we can eat at a table, chop vegetables at the same time, or see one another while the other is watching the pot. Neat-o! And our balcony is much more accessible, so that I can lug my plates out to the natural light for a quick (no real, intense Pearl Project-like food photo shoots have yet taken place, I assure you).

All this to say we have been taking advantage of the late summer, early fall weather on the balcony and breakfasting, lunching, or dining outside.

Our first balcony meal was my “birthday” breakfast a couple weeks ago. Jordan picked up some pastries from a Gascogne* patîsserie and made us some at-home lattés, which probably more closely cappuccinos, but Chez Graesser, they are lattés.

gascogne patisserie breakfast latte

gascogne patisserie breakfast latte

Since turning 28, I have started on a new list of before 30 goals–because I love lists and goal setting. One of my goals was to make a pizza from scratch. This means make the pizza sauce myself, make and kneed the dough myself, etc. Okay, you got me, I did not make the mozzarella. Okay, my goal was to make 80 percent of the pizza from scratch, how’s that?

Anyhow, I’d call it a success. Making your own dough is really quite easy, I’m not sure why it took my so long to try!

homemade pizza

homemade pizza

homemade pizza

I also have done quite a bit of baking lately. Breads, muffins, and cookies. Anything that allows me to substitute a banana in place of oil and use some of the wheat bran we have in stock. I made a batch of [purposefully flat, I promise] oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies. Recently, we stamped our Indie Coffee Passports at Arts Café in Mile End (adorable, and I hope to return for a real meal at some point). They used some chili powder and sea salt with their cookies, and I followed suit. We had an afternoon balcony snack combining cookies with some figs. Oh, fig season.

cookies, figs, and tea

cookie and figs

And my final food mention for the day, garden fresh zucchini lasagna. It’s simple and perfect for those of you still experiencing summer temperatures and who are up to your [corn] ears in zucchini this time of year. The ingredients are nothing more than what you see: zucchini, tomato, ricotta, olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Simple, but was powerful enough to convert Jordan from a zucchini-wary soul.

zucchini lasagna

And with that, I bid you adieu. You can probably expect to see a few more food shots on the blog now and again. I still plan on blogging about some restaurant outings, when they occur and are noteworthy on a personal level. My food posts are in no way meant to be construed as seeking to be avant-garde our giving food critic-type recommendations, but simply sharing my experiences with friends, family, or anyone interested in what we’re up to in Montreal.

Like many of you, I’m obviously very excited to start adding pumpkin and apples into everything I bake, as well as finding plenty of squash recipes.

What have you been eating? What should I be eating/trying?


Footnote: For anyone not aware, Gascogne, or Gascony in English, is an area in the Southwest of France. I am currently making a valiant attempt at reading Les Trois Mousquetaires in the original French and learned that our dear Monsieur d’Artagnan is indeed a gascon.

Also, we have a good friend with the last name Gascoigne, and couldn’t help but think of him! Hey, Ben!

Summer/Fall Cusp Sunday Stroll

parc la fontaine

Hello, Packer fans. I know, after tonight’s loss, you’re strolling the interwebs in hopes of something slightly more cheerful. I’ve got you covered with some of our Sunday afternoon stroll photos (yeah, you know how we pre-game in this household!).

There are several reasons I am happy that we moved into a new apartment last month. Oodles of blog posts coming your way on those subjects shortly. However, one of the main things we were looking for when we moved was proximity to green space.* Jordan and I managed to spend a year in Montreal without stepping foot in Parc La Fontaine. While this park is still a tiny jaunt from our new place, it is now within easy walking distance. Today’s weather was perfect for strolling (briskly or leisurely), so we decided to finally see what this fountain park was all about.

parc la fontaine

Even though I had seen the size of the park on the map several times and ridden by it in the winter, it felt a bit bigger than I had imagined. It’s nice for a walk, but runners will not find any gravel trails to nurse the knees. It seems like a wonderful read-a-book-in-the-park choice, though, as Mont Royal seems to require a bit too much effort to reach an agreeable reading spot.

You’ll notice the young men making duck videos and the old man feeding the gulls. Okay, sure, I’ll take some park “wildlife” photos now and then, too. But the interactions between people and city animals never ceases to amaze me. I cannot decide if I am more intrigued at how people think these animal are clean and tame or how they seem to feel that seeing these animals is an impressive thing. I think too many years of seeing deer on a weekly basis has desensitized me. Stop feeding feral pigeons. FOR.THE.LOVE.OF.URBAN.AREAS.

parc la fontaine

parc la fontaine

parc la fontaine

parc la fontaine

parc la fontaine

I spy fall leaves!

Although we’ve got fourteen days of summer left, the blogosphere (and pinosphere?) keep mentioning that summer is “officially” over. Today, I may not be guilty of saying summer is officially over, but with tens of thousands of students descending on Montreal and the crispness of the air settling in,** it’s hard to deny that summer is over in practice. At least here in Montreal.***

Fall is my favorite season, and I am cheerfully wrapping myself in scarves, wearing turtleneck sweaters, and bringing out the boots. It’s glorious. Because I am addicted to list-making, I am creating a list of fall activities to make the most of the season. Since it UNofficially ends on Black Friday, meaning that all of December is usurped by winter, it’s justifiable that fall usurps the rest of September.

How about you? Are you holding onto summer or fully embracing fall?



*I’m always amazed at how Parisians (and other French quite familiar with Paris) say that Montreal is such a green, park-filled city. While living downtown last year, I failed to see it and decided I think living long-term in the massive expanse of buildings known as Paris would be very difficult for me if indeed Montreal is considered much, much greener in comparison. However, now that we have easier access to three parks, I am starting to come around to consider Montreal a green-space-ish city.

**AND the fall season is hard to fight/deny/resist when the NFL starts taking over your television and FB news feed!

***I’ve heard that my peeps in South Dakota and Wisconsin are having a bit of an Indian summer with sweltering temps. Here, we’ve got none of that. How’s the weather in Tennessee?

Back to School | An ESL Article

Good morning, ESL learners!

After Labor Day* weekend, it is officially time to go back to school*, work, or your usual routines. Summer is over, and fall (or autumn) is here!

Before going to school for the new year, parents go “school shopping” with their children to make sure they have clothing and school supplies* for the school year. There are many shopping bargains* for families during this time.

At work, I teach ESL to adults, who are working and studying English at the same time. They are not in school, but our schedule is similar, because parents want to spend time with family in the summer. Because of this, I am soon preparing to go “back to school” as well.

When I begin a new ESL session after a break, I usually ask the students what they did during their break and then ask them to set goals for the new session of class. This allows us to practice the past tense and the present tense. You may not be one of my students, but I hope you will still join us and leave your answers in the comments. My answers are included!


1. What did you do during the summer? What was your favorite activity? Did you practice your English?

2. What fun things will you do this session (or school year)? What are your goals for your English this session (school year)? How will you achieve them?

My Answers

1. I taught two summer ESL courses in June and early July. I also participated in a Teacher’s Portfolio Workshop through work. I camped and hiked in the Charlevoix region of Quebec (for more information view Camping, Hiking, and Road Trip posts), spent a long weekend at a friend’s house in New Hampshire, and visited an organic brewery in Ontario. I did not my English, but my French! I started taking an online course and continued meeting with conversation partners. Finally, I moved into a new apartment. My favorite activity was the road trip to Charlevoix 😀

2. This session, I plan to spend a week with my parents when they visit, carve pumpkins, dress up for Halloween, and host a few friends in our new apartment. My French goals for the session are to improve my listening comprehension of all accents, complete the B2 grammar instruction, and to improve my spoken French. I will be taking a conversation class at the library for the session, continuing my online grammar class, and meeting twice a week to practice my French. For listening comprehension, I plan on watching television shows, the news, and movies in French for at least 30 minutes per day.

Now I want to know your answers!

Key Vocabulary and Expressions

  • Labor Day (or Labour Day): a National holiday in Canada and the United States on the first Monday in September. It unofficially represents the end of summer.
  • back to school: the phrase that represents the period when students return to school and university; the end of summer vacation
  • school supplies: the tools students need for the new school year; typically includes pencils, pens, rulers, notebooks, glue, etc.
  • bargain: something that is bought or sold for a price which is lower than the actual value : something bought or sold at a good price


When You Can No Longer Fight the Fact that You Are Too Old to Be Cool

Sometimes I have moments in life when I know I need to take 15 minutes to write and get it all out of my head and into technology for safekeeping. I can barely remember the days where I actually wrote my thoughts by hand into my book-fair purchase, closely-guarded diaries. Today, I am having one of those must-write moments. Is it serious? No, no, it something that happens to everyone. It’s inevitable. It is, nonetheless, still very traumatizing.

Today, I declare that I am officially old. Or rather…no longer young. There is no young, hip, still cool-enough-that-I-s-should-aim-to-pull-off-trends time left for me. (I am quite certain that anyone using the word hip is either in the medical field or has long since distanced herself from the meaning of the word). I know, those of you who are older than me are vehemently shaking your heads at my quarter-aged proclamation of aging. But keep reading.

****Those of you who are younger than me–STOP! This post is not for you. I don’t want to hear it! Go make your hilarious cultural references about [insert something off my cultural radar here!]****

Today, I took an ever-so-short road trip to a 2,000-person city in Ontario (more information on the whys in a forthcoming post). I went with a friend who is in his 30s and two recent university graduates (later referred to as RUG1 and RUG2). Perfect, my freshly-minted 28 seems to place me safely around the middle. On the way there, we discussed some cultural issues, food, our backgrounds, etc. Okay, sure, the conversation may have been bespeckled with gossip salient and hilarious tidbits about common acquaintances.  The conversation, at least as I perceived it, came easily, and I enjoyed it.

In this small town, we stopped for lunch. We heard a ringtone and thought nothing of it, until a local man pulled out and checked his beeper. Yes, slightly hilarious considering he is not an on-call doctor in the early 90s. After eating, we headed to the vehicle and piled in, and I lead the conversation into a discussion of the “old technology” display that was created by some co-workers for Teen Tech Week at the public library. I mentioned a record player (which Montreal university students actually find relatively ubiquitous in their natural habitats), a beeper, and old cell phones among other things. Here is where things take a turn for the old-lady-Cassie worst.

RUG1: Haha, so you had a Motorola RAZR in there?

In my head: Ha, that’s a funny joke about how quickly technology changes. Wait…wait just a minute. I think he actually meant that a RAZR is a really old cell phone. Yes, indeed, it looks like he actually thinks that’s old. But, but I had one of those three years ago! Calm down, I think his comment was a mix between the “technology changing quickly” aspect and the fact that he probably just couldn’t think of a different model off the top of his head.

I thought Zack Morris was immortal.
I thought Zack Morris was immortal.

What I actually say: Haha, no, a cell phone that was actually old. Like a Zack Morris phone.

RUG1 and RUG 2 at the same time: [No audible noise. Exchanging sideways glances.]

RUG 2: A what?

Me again: You don’t know who Zack Morris is? From Saved by the Bell?

RUG1: Oh, yeah, that’s the show with Topenga, right?

Me: How old are you?

At this point, I don’t even know whether my question is rhetorical. I don’t really want to know that a typical 22-year-old no longer identifies with my cultural references. In my head, I hope that I can keep pretending that they were geniuses that graduated three years earlier than the average person. I want to pretend that the average university student is making Zack Morris cell phone references (I’m not even hoping for them to remember the Ms. Bliss years, okay?!), knows that Topenga was on Boy Meets World, and knows about the world of snap bracelets because they had them, not because VH1 featured them on the I Love the 90s. I’m still trying to figure out how these RUGs are dropping Orson Welles and Woody Allen references without missing a beat, while not being able to share any memories of the early 90s.

We all spend a good 15 years of our life at least partially basing our identities on the fact that we are young. People older than me didn’t understand me because they were old, and I was young (of course, I realized that there were often other reasons as well, but this would suffice if I considered their points invalid). I dyed my hair pink once. Why? Because I was young and I could. It’s a blessing and a curse. You can do what you want, and people chalk it up to your youth. There’s a bit of give for you in society, but it’s frustrating not to be taken seriously.

A few years ago, when I landed my first real, full-time library position in Tennessee, I  tried to put that “young” business behind me, at least while at work. Nope, not then. I knew that some (of course, not all) were skeptical of my youth. I felt it so much that I actually hung 1 Tim 4:12 on my bulletin board behind my desk so that anyone who was doubting me because of my youth would instantly look up and feel the guilt and conviction God justly placed upon them (er, I mean, a gentle reminder that youth doesn’t mean unwise and rash).

I’ve known for years that it was happening. Hell, (I am still scared, of course, of my mother seeing that I typed that instead of opting for heck), I have loved things that are traditionally meant for “old” people for the past ten years. Bring on the tea, coffee, baking, seated concerts, knitting and crochet needles. Even though I’ve seen this coming since the time Jordan’s youngest sister told me, “Gap is where older people, like you and Jordan, shop,” it still comes as a shock. (That happened over five years ago, by the way).

I am beginning to reach the point where I must completely separate my identity from the idea of youth. It sounds ridiculous and dramatic. And, on one hand, it is. Especially for someone who is still occasionally mistaken for an 18-year-old. On the other hand, it’s real. At least for me. It’s strange that we talk about middle school and high school as a “coming-of-age” time. Are you kidding me? Coming-of-age is what happens when your forced to abandon youth as a part of your identity. In the past, that may have been high school. For those of you who had children before me, I am guessing that served as a catalyst in your coming-of-age process. But, for those of us in my generation without children, we have been given four years of university and a handful of figuring-it-out years to hold onto our youth. For my generation, “coming-of-age” is precisely that wasteland that occurs after college (university to non-U.S. readers) and the socially-appropriate amount of figure-it-out-leeway.

I, myself, have been weaseling out of my youth and slowing approaching a semblance of adulthood.  It’s awkward. One day I am mourning my squandered youth, the next I am trying to telepathically tell the first-year university student how much better life is ten years later. The Strange Case of Librarian/ESL Teacher/Happy Wife Cassie Jekyll and Ms. 18-year-old, my-hair-looks-better-black Cassie Hyde. I know I’m not alone in this.

One might even argue that this is why we seem to see a rise in the popularity of post-college movies and television shows, such as Girls, The New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, and Friends. Wait, what?! Friends isn’t new? It started when I was how old?! Are you sure I was only 9?! You mean, this phenomenon of wandering helplessly after the college-age years has been normal for a while now?! This isn’t a new at all? Oh, that’s right. Other people before me were young once.

**We do indeed need to add a few characters with heaping amounts of student debt to make Friends more realistic.**

And although on days like today, when Zack Morris is officially dead, I have a temporary freak-out about how quickly time has passed, I do know for certain that I would rather be 28 than 18. I like being calmer, more respectful of others, more sure of who I am and who I want to be. I am smarter than ten years ago, and love my family and friends more deeply than ten years ago (albeit from a greater distance). I still don’t have my journey planned. I can honestly tell you that I have no idea what I will be doing ten years from now. But I am happy to haul around my 28 years of experience into the next ten years with me.

Part of my youth is dead. It’s true. But this is the natural order of things. I no longer have my youth to lean upon as my crutch, my excuse, my rationale. I no longer have the youth that permits me to dye my hair pink, enjoys a mosh pit, and gives my unsolicited opinions to annoyed strangers. That part of my youth has served me well. But it had to go.

I still have that part of youth that really matters. The youth that you can choose to hold onto. I’ve got my anchors of faith and family, my enthusiasm, a bit of wanderlust, and an ever-present desire to keep learning. If we keep that, you and I will age well.