Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The big recital

It's been more than a week since Erin played her big local recital. It went very well. She was amazing.

The community hall was full: maybe 150 people? Not bad for a community of under a thousand! The concert was a fund-raiser for the Valhalla Fine Arts Society, the organization which among other things backs the Suzuki Valhalla Institute, so near and dear to Erin's heart. I still haven't heard back about the "take" in donations at the door but it looked very generous.

She played beautifully. Unbeknownst to either of us until the recital was underway, the organizer had done away with the intermission. We had asked that they do the three minutes of announcements about the Society between the Bach and the Saint-Saens, to give Erin a few moments to regroup after all the austere intensity playing unaccompanied for almost half an hour straight. I guess the organizer misinterpreted this as being instead of the intermission which was supposed to occur between the Saint-Saens and the Mendelssohn. The absence of the intermission was announced when Erin was about to walk back out for the Saint-Saens, too late to do anything about. So she ended up playing all this incredibly challenging music for about 78 minutes straight, with only a 3-minute break after the Bach.

The audience was incredibly enthusiastic and appreciative. Erin is very much a darling of the local arts and music scene and has so many amazing fans. In the audience were people who have sung in the local choir with her in the past or who sing in the choir now and enjoy her accompanying, folk who have been part of the Suzuki community over the years, people who have heard her play in the past at many recitals, orchestra concerts and summer chamber music performances, the teachers and the principal of the local school, artists, retirees and electricians who frequent the café where she works part-time, high school students, current and past members of the community orchestra, friends of the family ... lots of people. Many of them remembered her from her first years playing on a sixteenth or tenth-sized violin. Very few of them had heard her in violin solo performance within the past couple of years, so they were blown away by her technical and musical progress.

In many ways it had the feel of a graduation event. In our small town, where high school graduation classes range in size from four to a dozen or so at most, every graduate is celebrated by the community. Even at the big combined ceremony there are speeches and reminiscences and childhood photos shared for each student. Grad here is a way for the community to mark a rite of passage into adulthood, to perhaps say goodbye for now to the students, to remember the role each of them played in the community as they grew up, and the role the community played in shaping each of them as they grew up. Erin's recital had that kind of feel for me.

Of course she's not graduating. She's not moving on. She's not leaving. Not yet. Which begs the question: what next? Montreal beckons but even if that happens a year early it's still a long way off. The time since the recital has felt pretty aimless and empty. I guess we knew it would feel like this. Some other stuff is on the horizon, but it does all feel like a bit of a let-down. Not surprisingly. The recital was a big high after months of hard work.

You can reconstruct the recital for yourself via YouTube. I didn't record the Bach again, so for that you're stuck with the lovely exerpts from the Kelowna recital. But the rest is here:

Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto 1st movement, 2nd movement, 3rd movement
The encore!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Outside at our place

From daylight to dusk and through into the night. Ridiculous games, obstacle courses, conversation and laughter. Friends over, various combinations of siblings. And the smell of baking bread, to boot.

Early Math Nostalgia

A week or so Fiona started Singapore Primary Math Grade 5 work and I realized that our "early math" days are gone forever in this family. These days the kids are busy with obtuse angles, polynomials and  repeating decimals. Gone are the days of "different ways to make 7" and "constructing and deconstructing tens." Today I pulled together our K-3 math materials in preparation for adding them to the library of local home-learning resources that is being amassed this year courtesy of the local public school. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I have loved watching my kids' early mathematical thinking grow through great leaps and fallow plateaus as they discover, integrate and apply all those basic concepts. But at the same time I am proud and amazed at how far they've all come.

In the hand-me-down pile I've amassed:

Cuisenaire rods. My favourite manipulative ever. My kids weren't big on actually using manipulatives, especially Erin and Noah, but having familiarity with the cuisenaires, even if they didn't actually shuffle them around on the table to solve problems, gave them a visual-spatial reference for thinking about numbers and relationships.

A base-ten set to match the cuisenaire rods. We bought a few extra 10-rods, a dozen hundred flats and a single thousand cube. We didn't use these much, but they were invaluable at times for giving the kids a visual model of place value relationships. We augmented these last spring when introducing Fiona to decimals.

Miquon Math. The first "curriculum" I introduced the kids to. They all ended up in Singapore Primary Math by Grade 3, but I think the early time spent with Miquon was the best possible curricular foundation for them. The First Grade Diary, while I never followed anything in there as outlined, gave me a great sense of what "discovery-oriented learning" meant in the context of a cuisenaire-rod math lab. The Lab Annotations book was essential. The heart of the program is in the activities more than the actual workbooks, but we also used the workbooks.

Pattern blocks. A lovely large wooden set. For free play with shapes, patterns, symmetry, angles, pictures. Two unbreakable locker mirrors, hinged together with duct tape, allowed for nifty mandala-like reflections.

The Cuisenaire Discovery Book and cards. I made this years ago for Sophie. Fiona loved it too as a pre-Miquon playful approach to getting familiar with the cuisenaire rods and many of the concepts and relationships they illustrate. You can print and download your own via the links in this post.

A Touch 'n Tell Me depression board for multiplication facts. We just lucked into this as a freebie on an eBay purchase of used kids' clothes I made once, but it turned out to be a wonderful low-tech tool for my older kids. You push down the button of the multiplication fact you're interested in and through the translucent plastic of the depressed button you can see (or almost see, anyway ... perhaps opacity of the buttons is increasing as this unit ages into its fourth decade of use) the answer. My older kids did not memorize their facts naturally in concert with their precocious conceptual mastery, so there was a period of time when it was handy to have this as a reference tool. As they gradually learned the facts, we put little Avery dot stickers on the buttons they no longer needed to use. It was fun to watch the dots gradually take over the board as they mastered more and more.

And so there it is. Sniff, sniff. I'll never again witness a kid delightedly notice that 9x6 and 6x9 are the same thing! Or that 7+9 is the same as the in-between number doubled! Sure, I am still witness to nifty epiphanies, like discovering that the repeating digits in the decimal equivalent of 11ths correspond to the numbers from the nine timestable. But it's not quite the same. It's more abstract, and less likely to be accompanied by shrieks and giggles. Ah, passages...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Backyard Skating

I got three floods in before dusk and then had to deal with dinner and group class. When I got home it had started to snow a bit. Sophie and I went to check the rink out and decided that with it already pretty smooth in most places we didn't want to flood and ruin the surface by having snow stick to it as it froze.

We got ready to go back inside and try again later. But then I took a look at what we already had: most of a rink, and pretty solid and smooth in the middle. So I called it: "Let's skate!" What the heck. The surface wasn't perfect but why wait another day?

So there was a mad scrambling for skates. Fiona had already skated at the arena in Nakusp with some friends once this year, so she was good to go. Sophie had tried on a pair of Erin's hand-me-downs earlier in the day. Erin had a good dig around for her skates and Noah found some that seemed to fit (probably an old pair of his dad's). Mine showed up. Then it was onto the gloves, snow pants, hats and such.

When we had cruddy carpet in our living room and dining room it was easy to get dressed with skates on in the living room and then walk to the front door and outside to the rink. But with cork in the dining area and hardwood in the living room we can't do that any more. Today we crawled across the floor, all five of us, out the front door, across the deck and down the ramp, across the patch of concrete next to the deck. There has got to be a better way! Perhaps we'll invest in some skate guards. Or brave the nasty cold on fingers and toes and lace up rinkside.

But we made it to the rink. And it was bliss. Cold wild bliss with shrieks and giggles. Noah traded skates with me; he got the better part of that deal! The dog did the Bambi thing on the ice, freaked out and ran away scared, satisfying herself for the rest of the evening by gnawing on chunks of ice on the lawn. Fiona got more confidence. Sophie got crazy. Erin lost the feeling in her fingers.

And now it's hot drink time. London Fogs and Coco Chai Rooibos.

It's stopped snowing, so I suppose I'll have to go out and flood again. After my tea.

The unprecedented November rink

We're not skating quite yet. There are still a few wrinkles and bumps in the corners and along the edges at the far end of the lawn where the ground is a bit higher. But I think another three or four floods will give us a passable surface on which to start skating.

With the temperature remaining below -9ºC (sometimes well below!) we can spend 45 minutes flooding, wait a mere hour for it to freeze hard, and go out with the hose again. We may be skating by tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The gazinta bar

Ah, the family lexicon. Ours is bizarre and extensive, including such neologisms as "threehead," "agilitous," "wobbits" and "clape." We come by it honestly. My dad referred to the white residue left on one's toothbrush as "spinge." We carry that one forward in homage.

For the most part we remember where the words came from and we're all careful to keep these words within the privacy of our weird family conversation at home. But occasionally a word becomes so much a part of our lives that one or another of us is no longer aware that it's not universally understood. Such was the case with the gazinta bar.

Fiona knows that there are two ways to think about division. You can think of it according to the fractionalization model: you are splitting a larger number into so many equal smaller pieces. Or you can think of it according to the measurement model: you are figuring out how many pieces of a particular size fit into the larger number. Twenty divided by four is a quarter of twenty (i.e. 5) or else it is the fact that five fours fit into twenty.

And when it comes to long division, we use the measurement model. We draw this symbol: it's a right parenthesis with a horizontal bar attached to the top of it, extending to the right. It's a gazinta bar, because we use it when we're figuring out how many times 9 gazinta 28.9. I coined the word back when Erin was working in Singapore 4B I think. I thought it was pretty clever. It was a reminder of which conceptual model of division we needed to use when doing larger problems or those involving remainders or decimals.

Except that I realized today, after months of working with Fiona on various forms of division, that I had never explained to her the derivation of the word, nor that it was a family neologism. She was just matter-of-fact calling it a gazinta bar, as easily as she might have called it a widget or a scuzzlewhit. When I explained that our liaison teacher wouldn't have a clue what we were talking about if we used the term, and in fact that no one in the world outside our family would have any idea, she started laughing her head off. We googled it to be sure. Indeed, no relevent hits. This term is ours and ours alone.

Except that now we've both gone and blogged about it. So now all of you know.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seasons turning on a dime

A week ago I put the snow tires on only because I was driving a bunch of kids up and over the Monashee Pass, where I thought there might be snow. It's been a warm wet fall and if we hadn't been going over the pass I would have left the all-season tires on for another while yet: snow did not seem imminent.

But it finally did snow a couple of days ago, just a dusting, really. A little more up at our house, since we're 250 metres above the village. But nothing to get too excited about. We figured it was the normal sputtering start to wintry weather: a few days of flakes, then a couple of weeks of mud and more rain, then some more flakes and back and forth for a while. Typically by mid-December the snow settles on the ground for good. Sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later.

But Sophie alerted me to the 14-day extended weather forecast this morning:

The yellow line denotes zero, the freezing point. The normal daily highs and lows for the next two weeks are shown as two white horizontal lines at the top of the graph. You can see that they normally straddle the freezing point. The predicted daily highs and lows for the next two weeks are shown as the meandering pink and blue lines at the bottom of the graph. Way, way, way below normal over the next five days, and then remaining below normal for the full two weeks, not straying above the freezing point at all.

So we put the trampoline away today and got out the rink liner. We've never started on a rink until late December with skating following sometime in January, but this spate of arctic weather seems just too good to miss. We have a new tarp, purchased last fall but never used due to the spuriously warm winter we got in 2009-10. It's more than large enough, so we set up the contours of the rink to take advantage of the most level part of the yard. We'll see if we can actually manage a few days of skating in November.

The down side: I'm not at all sure about running barefoot at minus 22!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Piggies play in the snow

I recently joined the Barefoot Runner's Society's Canadian chapter. There are a handful of us there, most of us recent converts to this "less is more" approach to running, most of us trying to figure out how we're going to get through the winter without losing what conditioning our feet and legs have acquired.

The few more experienced runners have suggested that it is more than possible to run barefoot in below-freezing temperatures. Cleared dry pavement or asphalt, they say, is possible down to -10ºC or a little below. With slush and snow on the ground it can be tougher, but with a proper warmup still possible to a few degrees below freezing. And so today, with the first snowfall of the year on the ground and temperatures hovering just below the freezing point, I gave it a try.

I ran in shoes for the first kilometer, trying to get properly warmed up, increasing the circulation to my feet. I was doing an out-and-back route, so I kicked my shoes off at the side of the highway at the 1.0 km mark and carried on. I figured I'd run another kilometre (less if it was truly too awful to endure), turn around and head back to my shoes.

It was certainly a challenge to run that kilometre. I wasn't running in actual snow. I was on the highway which was wet with occasional bits of slush and slushy puddles. I worried about how much the return kilometre would hurt. But I made it through the full outbound kilometer, and right as it was ending things got a fair bit easier. I decided to carry on another 500 metres to my normal turnaround, which would bring my barefoot distance to a full 3 km by the time I got back to my shoes. After the turnaround the numbness on the bottoms of my feet disappeared. The water began to feel almost pleasantly cold on my now-fairly-warm feet.

By the time I reached my shoes the only thing that was bothering me was the gravel that the highway maintenance crew had spread on the curves in the road. It had an annoying habit of hiding in the slush. But I ran slower through those patches. And it just didn't seem worth stopping to put my shoes on, so I picked them up and carried on home.

Right now my feet feel like they've just enjoyed some sort of Finnish sauna and snow spa treatment with a bonus exfoliation treatment. They're happy and tingly. I never would have thought this was possible!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First recital

Erin went to Kelowna last weekend and performed her recital for a small appreciative audience in the wonderful century-old Anglican cathedral there. The acoustics were so live and lovely for the unaccompanied Bach I just had to record it.

I am in awe of this girl's playing. She has come so far in the past few months. And just look at her -- how much she loves what she is doing, how much she plays right into the music, clearly caring deeply about both the music and what she is giving to the audience.

The local recital takes place later this week. I think there might be a lot of people there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Washer TV

It's taken several long years to rationalize this purchase. I wanted an energy-efficient front-loader, but I just couldn't make my peace with the extravagance. We have an exceptionally low pressure low flow water supply. We can barely have a shower -- the flow through even the "pulse" setting on the showerhead is scarcely more than a dribble at the best of times. And this meant that when the old top-load washer was running, just about all other water-related activities in the house had to stop. And since it took up to half an hour to fill the tub in the top-loader for each wash or rinse, that was a lot of time not to wash dishes, hair or bodies, especially with more pre-teen and teen showering going on here.

In addition since we hang-dry almost all our laundry, the idea of having wet clothes go onto the drying rack much less wet than usual was very appealing. That would mean they would be dry in less than a day, maybe even in as little as 12 hours if the wood stove was beneath them.

And so when this unit came on sale recently we decided to finally taken the plunge. We squeaked it into the tiny laundry room this afternoon, set it to run a first load, and then hunkered down in front of the viewing window to watch the show. It was fabulous! Unfortunately I missed the final spin, because I had a meeting, so I'm running another load (of dog bedding, no less) in order to catch the finale.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The magic oven

The new thermometer is making easy work of the bread oven. In the past I have over-fired the oven. I've burned it too long and with too much wood, so that is has got too hot. This has meant that pizzas are done in 5 minutes and over-done in 5 minutes and 28 seconds. Which is a fairly critical difference since it takes at least 28 seconds for me to get the door off and fish out the pan.

Today I tried out the thermometer for the first time. I fired the oven with some kindling, a few two-inch diameter small logs and two average sized pieces of birch firewood, burning for a total of about an hour and three-quarters. Then I raked out any of the bigger coals and pushed the small ones to the edge of the oven (thanks for the tip, Jacinda!) and threw in the first pizza.

The first pizza went in at 350ºC (650ºF) and took about 8 minutes.
The next pizza went in at 270ºC (520ºF) and took about 11 minutes.
The bread went in at around 230ºC (450ºF) and took about 25 minutes.
The lentil dal bake went in at around 180ºC (350ºF) and I'll leave it for three or four hours.

Today's breads are a whole wheat and khorasan blended yogourt bread on the right and a honey-garlic wheat bread on the left. I'm getting very adventurous with my bread-making recipes these days, just winging things with a rough formula of:

1 cup liquid
1 Tbsp. oil or butter
1 Tbsp. sugary stuff
1 tsp. salt, and
1 tsp. yeast

per loaf of bread, plus some combination of flours to make a dough that feels right when kneaded. I supplement with a bit of gluten flour if I'm using predominantly low-gluten flours (i.e. spelt, corn meal, oats or khorasan). And I make other adjustments, too, sometimes adding an egg or two, or using cottage cheese as a liquid and bumping up the volume, or increasing the sweetener, or adding seeds or herbs or nuts or dried fruit. I'm either developing some skill at this, or have been lucky recently, or else (more than likely) the oven enacts some sort of magic, because my loaves have been turning out beautifully almost no matter what oddities I throw into the mixing bowl.

We've just received the first half of our grain CSA order, so I am inspired on all fronts these days. The khorasan (a.k.a. Kamut®) is new to the CSA this year, our bin of hard spring wheat has been replenished, and I'm looking forward to getting more spelt and some heritage Canadian Red Fife wheat when the second half of our share rolls in in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cursive in a day

I've gotten used to "graphomotor delays" in my kids. Erin was 8 when she first managed more than a kindergarten-style scrawl. She had been reading proper novels for four years and was playing the Bach Double on the violin but still printed in mostly upper-case tilted, squashed letters. I remember Noah agonizing for an hour over signing his name on his passport application at age 11. Even Sophie, who was considerably less asynchronous, has only developed a legible cursive script in the past couple of years.

It hasn't mattered much. We don't need to use written work as a form of evaluation of the kids' learning. It is always clear, from their enthusiasm, their questions, their conversation, their observations and their honest self-assessment, what they have learned. For the most part it's been fine to wait. Erin now writes easily and well. Noah can write neatly but his dysgraphic tendencies make it a heck of a lot of hard work for him, so he much prefers to type. Sophie does fine and while writing is still a bit slower for her than it would be for most 12-year-olds, I'm sure that whenever she starts doing lots of writing her speed and fluidity will quickly catch up.

Then there's Fiona, the surprise at the end. She hasn't inherited her siblings' lags in the realm of written text.  She hasn't done much printing compared to schoolchildren her age, but what little she does is neat and easy for her. And so last evening when she said "I want to learn to write my name in cursive" I figured why not? The Portland (Getty-Dubay) Italic font we've tended to use around her makes for a pretty quick transition from printed to cursive.

It took about 30 minutes of practice for her to learn the "joins" necessary to write her name in cursive. Not bad, I think! Now that she can do it neatly, she plans to work on a messy version, so that she has an artistic grown-up looking signature.

She's using a nifty notebook and pen set we found a few weeks ago. The paper is treated with invisible dyes which are revealed by the oxidizing ink in the pen. Naturally this led to all sorts of experiments to figure out the patterns and the processes of the chemicals. And it has also led to more interest in handwriting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The drive to learn

"Help me understand about unschooling. I know kids learn to talk and walk with no overt teaching but they learn by example, I think these are more of a biological drive in the human being. I am not sure learning Pi falls under the same category."

If you want to look at it from a "biological imperative" standpoint, I think you can definitely lump learning about pi into it. I think human beings are programmed to learn to walk and talk, but I think another thing that sets us apart from most of the rest of the animal kingdom is that we are programmed to learn from others. Humans have memes as well as genes: bodies of knowledge that are passed along by the culture that surrounds us. And I'm not talking about school-ish learning here. I'm talking about the sort of learning that in the distant past let hunter-gatherer kids know which plants near where they lived were safe to eat, how to fashion a weapon, how to build a shelter. We are hard-wired for learning. These days the things children are driven to learn are less of the "building a shelter" type and more of the "swapping graphics cards" or "calculating interest charges on a loan" type. We are hard-wired to learn whatever is necessary in our particular environment for becoming a productive, capable member of our society.

Unschooling doesn't mean no formal learning: it just means no uninvited teaching. Much of an unschooler's learning may be informal, but if they want formal structure to their learning that's totally cool. My unschooled 11-year-old is currently getting up every morning to sit down with a high school math textbook and do work with pencil and paper to master it. She has decided that higher math is likely to be useful to her, so she wants to learn it. My 14-year-old son who until recently had nothing you could call handwriting gradually discovered that there were a few occasions in real life when it was helpful to be able to write neatly and efficiently with a pen. Since real life wasn't giving him enough practice to get good at it, he set to work making himself practice on a daily basis, and now has a neat legible written script.

Proving learning to an overseeing body hasn't been a problem for us. My kids are learning like crazy, and progress is well-nigh inevitable. It isn't necessarily linear and steady, but over the long term, like a school term or two, there's always stuff I can point to as evidence.

I've also not found that my kids need much if any prodding to challenge themselves. Occasionally (rarely) they have needed some substantial support from me in following through on their desire to challenge themselves. But for the most part when they know that they are fully in charge of their own learning their ambition and motivation rises up and propel them forward. In fact they often challenge themselves far more than I would ever have thought of expecting of them. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Sophie got a set of Buckyballs for her birthday. She had seen them on-line and fallen in love with them. I didn't understand what she saw in them. They're just a bunch of rare earth magnets, 216 of them to be precise. They look like small ball bearings, but each one has a magnetic north and a south pole.

I'm a convert now. They're addictive. They're lovely to handle and they're pretty. A string three balls wide makes a lovely choker. They'll align themselves in particular shapes happily. A random amoeba of buckyballs will peel away from itself in a lovely string of metal pearls. They don't like to lie in two-dimensional arrays unless they're coaxed, but once coaxed they achieve a tenuous stability.

The magnets are strong: strong enough to function as jewelry, strong enough to scare each other off when like poles approach, strong enough to feel like they have a life of their own.

Sophie is quickly mastering the various techniques: using chains of 18 to make hex units by wrapping a dozen around a circle of six, pinching 9-ball circles to create reluctant but stable triangles, turning curved shapes inside-out if they don't want to connect with complementary shapes to reverse the poles, doing all that nifty coaxing to form flat perfectly aligned rectangles and squares.

I think these will continue to be enjoyed over the long term. They're cute. They have personality. They have tactile appeal. They're unpredictable, but less so as you get to know them.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Creativity and writing

We're part of a new program at the local school, a Distributed Learning (i.e. government-funded home-based education) program. It's a bunch of well-meaning people within the school system trying to figure out not only the government regulations and expectations but also what homeschooling is actually like.

So far it feels considerably more intrusive than the SelfDesign program we left. But for us this year the intrusiveness is tolerable. Why? Because Fiona loves sharing her learning with a "teacher," and is proud and excited to provide evidence of learning to an interested adult outside the family. And because Noah and Sophie are both looking for more accountability and structure than we've been able to consistently create at home. Even if they don't relish every bit of work, they're interested in accomplishing some course-like work and projects in math, science, infotech and digital media.

But then there's the other stuff. Like history. And of course writing. Our liaison teacher has not been pressuring us to provide evidence of Noah's and Sophie's writing ability, but it's clear that his job, which he's muddling through for the first time ever, would be made considerably easier if they would produce even just a couple of little scraps of written work.

So last week I explained to the middle two kids that reporting would be easier, both for him and for me, if they could write something this term. And I put together a list of writing prompts of various sorts and asked if they would pick a couple and create something. Then I went away for the weekend.

Sophie's creative side rose to the challenge, but not exactly in the way I had intended. She took the page of writing prompts and scrumpled it up in a ball. I don't think she did this in anger or frustration -- perhaps just to be silly, just to prove that she didn't need to respect this "assignment" and that if she did it she would do it by choice? For whatever reason she wadded it up to wrinkle it, flattened it out, put it through the laser printer as a blank page to "iron" it out, folded it repeatedly, soaked it in black tea and dried it, then put it through the laser-printer iron again and finished up by tearing and burning the edges. Beautiful, isn't it? Can we count that a history project?

(She did eventually write a lovely poem and a short research report which I duly submitted as Evidence of Learning. But I think the assignment page treatment was even more creative.)

The cheese, at last

Finally the Day of the Unwaxing of the Cheese arrived. Sophie suggested that her birthday would be an auspicious occasion, marking about three months of aging. We missed her birthday. I had spent the weekend driving Erin first west for a rehearsal and then all the way east to Calgary for a lesson and arrived home at 10 pm after 21 hours of driving over the previous couple of days. We had decided to hold the natal celebration a day late.

And so The Unwaxing proceeded. The cheese was a lovely texture: just slightly on the dry side for farmer's cheese, but holding together nicely in slender slices. I would have liked it a little sweeter, but it had a nice aged bite to it and goes very nicely with crackers.