Many of you love to drink wine, but do you know what it takes to make it? There are many different recipes for making wine, and plenty of different processes, as well as opinions. A big factor in wine making is harvest time. It really does make all the difference when it comes to making specific wines. The ripeness of the grape will determine such things as acidity, sweetness, and alcohol level. Before the wine is even made, the viticulturist chooses the moment of ripeness when the grapes will be harvested. Harvest is considered the most crucial part of the wine making process. Pick your grapes too early and you have higher acidity, lower alcohol levels, and greener flavors and aromas. It's not an easy task to undertake when you have to take into consideration the difference in climates, where the vineyard is located, and the variety of grape that is being grown.

It's not just a matter of tasting the grapes to see if they're ripe. Such things as pH are tested as well, making the viticulturist something of a scientist. The more mature the grape is, the sweeter. During the fermentation process, the more sugar the greater the alcohol content will be. That's not to say that early grapes are a bad source for wine. Varying levels of ripeness make for different kinds of wine. The style of wine made is dictated by the level of sugars and acids within the grapes. To a winemaker, however, you don't simply make wine, you create it. Each winemaker has their own methods, theories, and recipes that are kept closely guarded.

Wine Making Maceration

Let's move on to maceration time and cold soaking. Maceration time or "skin contact" is how long the grape skins remain in the juice as it turns into wine. Whatever the length of time, this is called maceration time. The concept of cold soaking is when the grapes are kept cold while soaking to help pull out more color and flavor. The idea, here, is to keep the yeast from forming for a period of time so that it doesn't begin to ferment quickly and begin to become alcohol before the desired color and flavor is attained. This process also helps in avoiding an abundance of bitter tannin from being pulled from the skin.

When it comes to aging the wine, some winemakers prefer to use traditional oak barrels and some prefer to use steel tanks. The biggest difference between the two methods is oxygen exposure. When wine is aged in oak, the wine is exposed to more oxygen. Oxygen decreases tannin and decreased tannin allows for a fruitier wine. Wine, that's been aged in oak, over many years, also develops a nutty flavor. Oak definitely adds more than just the vanilla flavor that you may have heard about. Steel tanks are another matter. These allow less oxygen to get to the aging wine and also keeps it fresher. The tanks allow for zestier and juicier wines such as Pinot Gris.

Wine predates the Romans and has been around for thousands of years, and it will continue to be made for thousands more. It has found its way through the ages from country to country and has leaped across the seas. Wine is written about in every religion and has left its mark in history forevermore.

"The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learnt to cultivate the olive and the vine." - Thucydides, Greek Historian 460B.C.

This article is sponsored in part by Elegant Wines West Island.

Photo credit: michaelvito via / CC BY-NC-SA

Learn how to score higher in your bowling game.
Learn how to score higher in your bowling game.

It’s true that when you toss your bowling ball you can throw caution to the wind and pray for the best. But there are some surefire tips to help you improve your results when you are bowling. All this is done without having to invest hundreds on products that promise to boost your score, or to take an overly complicated approach to the game.

Understand your Alignment

First, is to understand your alignment. When you toss your ball at an ally, you’ll notice the oil on the lane will affect the ball. You can use the natural draw and help it to better align the direction of your ball. You’ll want to adjust your technique for the individual lane so you boost your number of strikes and to better manage the ball when you are going for a spare. When you spin the ball into the oil pattern on a lane, you’ll see the ball skid and this is a useful technique when you are looking to boost speed. In turn, working it away with an opposite spin causes friction and allows for more gain. When you learn to master this area of the lane, you can see a sudden increase in your score.

Consistency is important

Consistency is also important when bowling. When you master technique, it is important to maintain the same skid and control each time. That means working on delivering the ball at the same point behind the foul line, and ensuring that you repeat the cycle of success. This will deliver better results and is one of the things that professional bowlers have been using for decades to achieve perfect scores.

The Critical Spare

When you don’t manage a strike, the spare is a critical part of the equation. You need to ensure you are hitting the pocket and capturing the difficult spares. The best way to do this is to practice different techniques and see what works best for you in each situation. When you have a surefire approach done with corner spares, and splits, you can work on improving your efforts and your underlying score should continue to increase.

Tossing the ball

When tossing the ball, straighten your wrist. You’ll want to hold your hand straight and swing the back from out and back. Then rotate your wrist, hand and fingers on the arm toward the opposite side of the body as you push the ball forward. When your hand reaches the point of your ankle, release it like a handshake.

Patience when learning to bowling

Above all, don’t expect to have the results you’re looking for overnight. Bowling isn’t something you’ll master in a matter of minutes. Instead, it takes time and a great deal of practice to work with. You’ll need to learn how to test lanes and to gain a better understanding of the lanes you are playing in. As you do that, you can throw the ball with ease and achieve better results.

Blog post sponsored by Bowling Pincourt

Photo credit: hherbzilla via / CC BY-NC

Let the kids go candlepin bowling in the West Island
Let the kids go candlepin bowling in the West Island

Small ball bowling or candlepin bowling is different from traditional bowling in several ways. The origins of candlepin bowling stems back to 1880 when Justin White developed the sport in Massachusetts 15 years before the invention of duckpin bowling.

Both variations of the game have a similar framework. Players roll their ball down a wooden lane and the goal is to knock down as many pins as possible. In candlepin bowling, players have three balls per frame to accomplish this task, compared to the two balls per frame found in the traditional game.

Ball size in Candlepin Bowling

The size of these balls are also vastly different. In candlepin bowling, the ball is 11.43 cm and weighs as much as a candlepin. In traditional bowling, the ball is 27” and can weigh no more than 16 pounds. Because of the size difference in balls, it is much harder for the player to knock down the pins. This is one of the reasons why the highest official score for candlepin bowling is only 245 points out of a possible 300 points, as set by Ralph Semb in 1984. Since that time, only one other player has officially matched it and that was Chris Sargent in 2011.

Traditional Bowling

In traditional bowling, a player who has mastered the art of tossing the ball can easily score regular 300 games. It deals more with the spin and the speed, rather than accuracy and positioning in terms of striking the pins at the end of the lane.

This means that candlepin is thus a more difficult game to play than traditional bowling. While ball control is important above all. In candlepin, the nature of the ball means it doesn’t matter how hard or fast it is thrown, but the angle and the precision you exact your roll with that will have a greater determination on how successful you are when you are bowling.

Because of their very nature, both candlepin and regular bowling also have different levels of noise. Because of the deadwood pins in a traditional bowling tournament and the size of the balls, there is a louder sound when they strike them. This fills the room, where candlepin bowling tends to be a more subtle and peaceful experience.

That doesn’t mean that either type of game is better or worse than the other. Ultimately, it comes down to the preference of the bowler which game they prefer. Some players will prefer the traditional game and take pride in playing one style over the other. As you can certainly see, there are several differences that are associated with this game and each contributes to the unique style of the way they are both played at the lanes.

This post is sponsored by Bowling Pincourt

Photo credit: mawkymawk via / CC BY-NC

Don't settle for the history of Bowling. Go bowling near the West Island
Don't settle for the history of Bowling. Go bowling near the West Island

Bowling as we know it today is also referred to as tenpins. In this game, a heavy ball with three holes in it, is tossed down a long, narrow lane towards pins. The goal is to knock down the greatest number of pins. Across the globe, you’ll find different variatios of this game. They include candlepins, fivepins, duckpins, skittles, and ninepins.

Where Did Bowling Begin

There is often debate as to where the origins of bowling are found. The first possibility is found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians. A tomb of a child from 3200 BC reflected nine stone pins and a stone ball. Some have speculated that this was our modern views interpreting what was actually found in the tomb.

The other possibility is the sport originated in Germany as part of a religious ceremony. In this case, a Kegel was used to represent a Heide. If the German participant was able to successfully roll a stone and topple over the Heide, they were forgiven of their sins. If you’ve heard someone at the bowling lane call themselves keglers, that is where the origin of that term comes from.

Several historical references to the game have also appeared over the centuries. In the 16th Century, Martin Luther reportedly built a bowling lane for his kids and would often visit it with them. In the 1300s and 1400s, there are references to people gambling on the game of bowling, where winners could win an ox based on the results of a single throw of the ball. This would be followed by a feast of venison and an actual game of bowling.

North American Variation of Bowling

The North American variation of bowling is often incorrectly associated with lawn bowling. This game was popular in Britain and while the games have some similarities, Dutch Explorer Henry Hudson actually introduced the game to the country.

In the European variation of the game, thin wooden planks that ranged between 12” and 18” wide, by 60’ to 90’ long were used. The game would have a set of nine pins that are smaller than traditional 10 pins placed at the end. Also known as duckpin, the ball wouldn’t have finger holes and the tiny ball fits in the palm of the hand. The goal is to use the ball to knock down the pins. A variation of this game is also played in The Netherlands and is known as plank. In this version the large ball only had a thumbhole in it. The player then rolls the ball down a long plank towards a set of nine pins.

In the 1800s, bowling was gaining popularity in North America and across the globe. The problem was believed to be more of a nuisance, rather than recreational fun because of the gambling that was being associated with the sport. Connecticut and New York both introduced bans on the game, while places like Germany were cracking down on the sport also. The bans all dealt with nine pins or less used in the game. To combat the regulations, tenpins were introduced by bowling clubs. These clubs would use 10 oddly shaped pins in order to circumvent the rule about uniformed shaped pins also. The lack of uniformity made it difficult to create further regulations for the sport and eventually, the bans and restrictions on the sport began to ease up.

While the sport was evolving, there was still a lack of concise rules associated with the game. It wasn’t until September 9, 1895 that rules and equipment standards for the game were released and began to be recognized. This created a fair situation for all players, regardless of where they came from and ensured that the uniformity made the gameplay seamless from one location to the next. Tropical woods were introduced for the pins and this allowed them to become more durable, however they would begin to break down faster and had to be replaced. In 1950, the automatic pin machine was introduced to help speed up the bowling process and to make the sport more enjoyable for people.

At this time, the balls of the game also began to evolve. They would soon be made from polyester, urethane, and even hard rubber. The changes in the ball, also resulted in the change of the type of material that was used for the pins.

Today, you can find a variation of bowling in most countries of the world. This includes Europe where Sweden helped to popularize the modern version of the game in 1909, Great Britain adopted the new tenpins during World War II, and even Australia and Mexico introduced their variations such as skittles at this time. In the 1970s, Japan had a craze with the sport and it blew up into television events and everything else with women bowlers still being a common sight in the area. This then spread to Korea, Indonesia, and even Singapore. This increase in popularity led bowling to become one of the summer games at the Olympics when it was introduced in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

Standardized Specifications for the Modern Game

Today, the game has more standardized variations of the equipment being used. The wooden lanes are now 62’ 10 11/16” long and 42” wide with a lacquer surface that is smooth and free of grooves, while being precisely level. The foul line must be no more than 60’ from the headpin and the length should be at least 15’.

Each pin must be 15” tall and placed in a perfect triangle formation. Pin number one should always face the bowler when placed and the pins should be approximentally 12” apart. All pins are laminated wood core with a plastic coating and must weigh between 3.5 and 3.7 pounds each.

Balls are to weigh no more than 16 pounds, but no minimum weight is in place. They can only be polyester, hard rubber, or urethane and they must be 27” in size.

Just like any sport out there, you’ll find that there is still a chance the game can experience an evolution of some kind. Since the past is full of other variations of the game, it only seems natural to assume that new variations of the game will continue to emerge as the game continues to evolve in popularity.

This post is sponsored by Bowling Pincourt.

Photo credit: MTSOfan via / CC BY-NC-SA

Now that the snow has finally melted away, we see what our front steps are looking like. Yikes! They’re crumbling away – even more than last year. The salt and shovelling really do a number on the cement over the winter. We’ve managed to do patchwork over the last few years, but this year may call for more drastic measures.

concrete home improvements on the front steps

In our case, it’s just the step up into the house that needs to be replaced (and obviously the stucco just above it). It doesn’t look like too big of a job, but it does involve some physical labour. Breaking up the old concrete step, building the form for the new step, and mixing and pouring the concrete. There is some metal labour as well, with the mathematical calculations. Here is what we plan to do.

  1. The dimension of the step needs to be calculated first. The dimensions consist of a riser (the vertical face) and the tread (the horizontal face). Since we are replacing an existing step, we can simply measure it before breaking it up. If we were replacing a series of steps from the ground up, we would need to include a foundation as well. Thankfully that is not part of this year’s job.
  2. The next part of the job is to build the form for the concrete. We have some scrap lumber to use for this. We need to cut the side forms according to our riser and tread calculations. We also need to make sure that our form is adhered to the side of the house. We don’t want any movement when we pour the concrete, so we will also brace the form with some wooden stakes along the outside. Finally, we make doubly sure that everything is plumb and level.
  3. Since we are only building one step, we won’t need to rent a portable cement mixer. Our wheelbarrow should do the job well enough. I think that we will also go for the ready-mixed cement that only requires adding water.
  4. Pouring the concrete is the fun part. We pour it slowly and evenly into the form to minimize bubbles. Then, we use a spade to remove any trapped air bubbles.
  5. We have a steel trowel that we will use to get the excess concrete off the tread. That way our step will have a smooth, even surface.
  6. Finally, we want to make sure that our step will be strong and last. We need to keep the concrete damp for up to a week while it cures, as well as spray the step with a curing compound. We are not planning to stain the step, so after the week of curing, our step is done. Tah dah!

Our front step is not a huge concrete home improvement job. If we had to redo the entire front entrance (steps and platform), we probably wouldn’t have the time or tools to tackle it ourselves. Fortunately, there are specialists out there who make the work look easy and can get it done in a day.

Spring Break 2016
Relax during your spring break

Spring Break is just around the corner. It’s been a busy winter, and I am really looking forward to a little vacation – nothing too exotic this year, but a “pick-me-up” nonetheless.

There’s nothing new in the idea of taking a vacation to relax and de-stress, but vacations offer so much more than just relaxation.

A vacation promotes Creativity:

Every time I go on a vacation, I come home with a list of wonderful things I want to do make. I feel creatively rejuvenated. The things I see around me when I am away from home inspire all kinds of new ideas.

A vacation can stave off Burnout:

For some of us, when we work hard every day, it becomes our routine. And, sometimes this comes at the expense of our health. We become more and more tired, then exhausted, and no longer as productive. We need to make sure to take regular time away from work.

A vacation can keep you Healthy:

We need to take regular time off to recharge our batteries. Going away somewhere gets us out of our regular environment and routine, thereby changing our pace of life. I, for one, need a nice sleep on the beach.

A vacation promotes overall Wellbeing:

My vacations don’t just include lazing around. I like to explore where I am, so I end up doing quite a bit of walking. I also tend to eat better. I return home feeling refreshed.

A vacation can Strengthen Bonds:

Whether it’s a family vacation, or a vacation for just the two of us, or a vacation with friends, we’re spending time relaxing and having new experiences together.

A vacation can help with your Job Performance:

Vacations lead to an increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.

A vacation can have a lasting effect in Relieving Stress:

Did you know that a good vacation could lead to the experience of fewer stressful days for several weeks later? Vacations are a gift to yourself that keep on giving.

Give yourself a gift!





There are many abilities that you child needs in order to succeed in school. Good vision is definitely one of them. Much of a child’s learning is occurs through his or her eyes. Reading, writing, chalkboard / whiteboard / smart board work, and using computers are among a student’s daily visual tasks. Children are constantly using their eyes in the classroom and at play. When their vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports can suffer.

As children progress through school, the demand on their visual abilities increases. The amount of time spent reading and studying increases, but the size of print in schoolbooks decreases. This places a significant demand on the child's eyes. Unfortunately, the visual abilities of some students aren't performing up to the task.

When certain visual skills have not developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and children will typically:

  • Avoid reading and other near visual work as much as possible.
  • Attempt to do the work anyway, but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency.
  • Experience discomfort, fatigue and a short attention span.

It is important to have your child’s vision checked regularly during their school years, as vision may change frequently at this time.

Eyeglasses or contact lenses will correct many vision problems. If your child, however, continues to exhibit learning problems, a program of vision therapy may also be needed to help develop or enhance vision skills.

* Adapted from the American Optometric Association


It is mid January. The days are still short and cold. The ground is still frozen and covered in a blanket of snow, and there is still lots of winter ahead. With the warmth of the Christmas holidays now well behind us, some of you may already be starting to look forward to spring.

Enter the Amaryllis. Why the Amaryllis you ask?

It is Amaryllis blooming time and this plant, with its big showy flowers, is just the thing to help get you through to spring. The Amaryllis grows slowly – providing that excitement of anticipation. Then, it doesn’t disappoint when it blooms. Its brilliant tropical flowers brighten any home during the cold winter months.

The Amaryllis is fairly easy to grow and it will flower in the first year. Many Amaryllis plants are also sold preplanted in a gift pot, or sold as a bulb with a prepared pot. It really doesn’t get much easier than that.hing to help get you through to spring. The Amaryllis grows slowly – providing that excitement of anticipation. Then, it doesn’t disappoint when it blooms. Its brilliant tropical flowers brighten any home during the cold winter months.


We’re off to get our Amaryllis today.



So it’s October 31st everybody! That awesome day where everyone can dress up and not care who is looking! Where the candy flows like wine and kids are happy and jumping.

Here are 10 fun facts that you may not know about Halloween.

  1. Halloween is believed to have began over 2000 years ago in Ireland.
  2. The owl is a popular Halloween image. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches, and to hear an owl’s call meant someone was about to die.
  3. Trick-or-treating harks back to the Middle Ages and All Souls’ Day, when poor people in Britain would beg for soul cakes, a sweet-bread treat, and pray for dead relatives in return.
  4. Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.
  5. Samhain was a festival ofthe ancient Celts, held around November 1 to celebrate the beginning of winter.
  6. The custom of wearing costumes or masks comes from the Celtic tradition of young men impersonating evil spirits by dressing up in white costumes with masks in attempt to placate these spirits.
  7. The carved pumpkin with a light inside was supposed to ward off evil spirits. The celts however, not having pumpkins, had to use their smaller, less tasty cousin, the turnip.
  8. To meet a witch, put your clothes on inside out and walk backwards on Halloween night.
  9. Black cats were originally believed to protect witches’ powers from negative forces.
  10. It is thought that the colours orange and black became Halloween colours because orange is associated with harvests (Halloween marks the end of harvest) and black is associated with death.