Having had the year to settle into Toronto, it’s time to finally get back to some summer adventures while I still can. At least get out of the city a bit more. Some camping trips to the north will be in order, but I’ve yet to setup plans for those. I have, however, set some up for south of the border, back in the United States later this summer.

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Elaborating on a future in wine leading to an academic lifestyle last night, it got me reminiscing for the simple things I’ve love to do as hobbies or a retirement/alternative lifestyle. Brew beer. Brew wine. Roast my own coffee. I even got to dreaming about the fancy chocolate at Soma and how I’d love to recreate some of my own amazing concoctions. It was an interesting reminder of my tastes: so much in life, I love things dark, rich, and complex.

Rich, spicy, and fruity wines; thick & complex Imperials, porters, and Belgian beers; dark roasted & spicy or complex coffee roasts; anything less than 60% cocoa chocolate is just sweet!

I love my decor and clothing dark as well. Bold colors (red, violet, blue, dark green) erring on the darker shades. Charcoal greys. Cocobolo & bocote wood. Purple heart & rosewoods. Just so many ways to mix all the dark colors!

I thought I had a goal in mind with this post. Maybe not so much. I’ll blame that on the delicious hot chocolate I made earlier.

    Hot Chili Cocoa

  • 16 oz (2 cups) milk (ideally whole/3.25% fat)
  • 2.5 tbsp Belgian-style cocoa powder (or some other rich, dark variety)
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dark vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • Bring to just under a simmer over medium heat in a non-reactive sauce pot while mixing continuously (I prefer to slowly stir with a whisk for this). It should be steaming copiously, but not yet bubbling. Dispense & enjoy!

“…because you can’t vote here yet.”

That was the (inadvertent?) kicker I was told earlier this week that got me thinking about considerations of settling in Toronto. I have already had this notion creeping around in the back of my head, but more in the context of settling in Canada, not specifically Toronto. Toronto originally struck me as too metropolitan in scope & scale, but living here has changed that misconception.

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I have pretty much been an open book regarding usage of drugs and alcohol, even since my high school days. My parents never pressured me directly or inquired as to my usage of either of the substances, despite being exposed to them before graduating high school. My exposure to marijuana was extremely limited; only in my later years did I realize what some of those people had been smoking. However, at more than a few parties, a friend or two of mine would frequently have access to/would be drinking beer. This was not an unusual phenomenon, but despite being offered, I never felt an urge to have any.

Reaching my undergraduate years, upon some inquiry into my state of alcohol consumption, I was encouraged to ‘get drunk’ one night with some friends at the fraternity they were pledging to. This was the first time I finally decided I was going to go forward with the endeavor to consume some alcohol. I consumed a liter’s worth of Mothers’ Peppermint Schnapps before I got a buzz; my friend was a bit shocked by this endeavor, and felt the urge to continue the imbibing until he was sufficiently satisfied with my degree of drunkenness. What soon followed was my first (and worst) foray into the realm of beer: ‘The Beast’.

*BLEAGH!*

I had had some noxious beverages in my youth…V8 happened to be the worst thing in my recorded history of beverages in my mouth. This ‘beer’ now took the cake. I was ruined on beer for years! For the next three years until I came of legal drinking age, I stuck to solely mixed hard alcohol drinks.

After turning 21, my friend Anneli helped me back into the realm of beers with some resistance on my own behalf. Thankfully, she shared a similar taste for some of the darker beers I now have come to greatly appreciate. After many a night of Long Island iced teas, I finally came around and tried some Amberbock. It was much more palatable than ‘The Beast’ had been, and so I began warming back up to beer again.

Shortly thereafter came Killian’s, followed by Leinenkugel’s even heavier beers, and an ever expanding array. Coming to Buffalo, a coworker exposed me to the bliss that is Spaten, and shortly thereafter to the realization that eisbocks existed and were equally delicious! After discovering much of the local brewing scene in combination with other regional breweries to the Northeast (especially those producing Belgian-style beers), I have essentially been in a beer heaven of sorts ever since!

The only other drug outside of alcohol that I’ve even experimented with was marijuana. It took me until I was nearly 30 to do so. My present roommate smokes it on a semi-regular basis, and left a standing offer of joining her any time I wished. One dejected and stressful afternoon, I was royally pissed and cranky with life, so I said fuck it, let’s see what this is all about! Fifteen minutes of attempts to smoke some cheap weed later, I really wasn’t that far off from where I started. This killed any and all notion that smoking it was beneficial in any sense of the word. That happened roughly a year ago; I have had no urge to try it again since.


My drinking habits varied throughout life since the college years. College was primarily social drinking; my sources were connected to the social circles at first, and once I was of age, I drank infrequently on my own at home.

After getting married, the beer consumption dropped off significantly. Holly didn’t drink beer, and I didn’t have a regular group of people that I could go out and drink with; it was an infrequent event saved for the just as infrequent social parties.

When the separation came around, I didn’t think I would change much in my drinking habits. Boy, was I wrong. Rob encouraged a regular, weekly meeting for beers and dinner, and on more than one occasion we’d turn a regular night out into a near binge-drinking night. I started having a couple beers with dinner once or twice a week. Every now and then I’d imbibe into drunkenness on the stressful, depressing days. I wallowed a little bit, and alcohol sometimes eased the pain. Often, it did not. I never got to what I thought was an alcoholic stage, but I had glancing worries that I was using alcohol as a crutch to escape the pain and rejection I was subjecting myself to during that first year of separation.

Fast-forward a year later to having a roommate. I figured I’d have to control my drinking more then. I really didn’t; I still had my depressed episodes, and indulged far more than I should have. I learned quickly (and repeatedly, ugh) that I can’t handle two 750-mL bottles of wine on an empty stomach. Another eight months of finally ripping myself out of that depression into something more like a normal life, the ‘depressed nights’ of drinking were now gone.

Since righting myself back upright, the beer still comes out occasionally on non-social affair nights, but usually they’re ‘shitty day in the lab’ types of nights, or celebratory in nature. I don’t keep beer as frequently stocked in the fridge (partly because my roommate has an unnatural ability to consume random tasties in there), but I’ll keep some around when I get the hankering for a delicious beer or two.

Wine? I love the stuff…but if I don’t consume it within a week, my roommate’s into it. Must. Hide. The tasties!

I started my lease for my new apartment back on July 15th, so I could at least start moving some stuff into my place prior to my trip to the Midwest to visit friends and family. Unfortunately, I think I only got four or five car loads of packed materials over there prior to making the long drive back to North Dakota. It was probably not the ideal way to do things, but compared to how much more stuff I moved after coming back from the Midwest, I’m a bit glad that I did start my lease two weeks earlier (although it bit me for an additional half-month’s rent). I only just turned in our keys to the old place Wednesday of this week, which was cutting things far closer than I would have anticipated. Granted, our lease was up to expire on the 15th, but being that we both Holly and I had at least two weeks overlap between our old and new leases, there wasn’t any good reason to be out of the apartment early’ish. Oh well.

Elmwood living has been a nice and fairly interesting change in my lifestyle since I have moved down there. The apartment is situated on a rather busy corner of Lexington and Ashland, just a block or so off of Elmwood Avenue itself. I’m not even a 50′ walk across the intersection to a nice lil’ pub/bar called The Place, which inadvertently disappointed upon my first visit there, Wednesday of last week. They had just had their draft feed lines cleaned that day and the keg pressures were all out of whack; you couldn’t get a decent glass of beer out of any of them! Just a tall glass of head…unless that’s the part of a draft you appreciate. Then that would have been your night to make a killing there. Instead, I then ended up having a couple bottles instead and a club for some dinner. I probably could have done without the beers with the size of that sandwich! I ate about half of it before I was too full to finish. I definitely need to stop in there again (and more often), but as of yet haven’t quite gotten back over there.

My dear friend Rob casually tossed out the thought of hitting another bar that night (as The Place closes at 10pm during the summer season when many of the locals like to visit outside of town for beaches and such, so it was explained), so we walked a mere two blocks from my place where we ran into the Thirsty Buffalo. To be honest, I don’t remember a terrible lot of the our excursion there. We promptly took ourselves a couple of seats at the bar, both ordered a tall glass of what I personally thought was some foul beer (Brooklyn Lager, but it tasted to me like it was soaked in birch chips or something), and after that continued the night with mixed beverages to err on the safe side (we couldn’t see drafts from our seats, and I wasn’t about to keep asking between glasses what they had to try out). Lordy, I was expecting them to come out in the typical lowball (or similarly sized) glass that I’ve come to expect from every other bar; goodness no, they came out in a solid 12oz glass, and they came out strong. Our bartender must have been pushing those drinks at least 1/3 to 1/2 Crown in my whiskey 7’s. Tasted wonderful, but they took me out in an awful hurry. Between four of those and a free round of shots with the bartender, she pretty well did us under for the night. I’m definitely tempted to go back there to give the food a try (on a night when I could use a bite), and guaranteed to go back to get some more of those lovely-strong whiskey 7’s.

Both bar visits left me in rough shape Thursday. Very rough shape. I had to hold off on any more alcoholic excursions until after finishing moving the rest of my items from the old apartment and getting it cleaned out and turned back over to the landlord. So to celebrate that occurrence, I figured I’d treat myself out to Nektar just last night, a bit further down Elmwood from my place. They have a lovely riesling that was just dry enough to my liking (too many of the rieslings I try are on the slightly too sweet side) so I indulged in a few glasses of that with an appetizer and just enjoy the atmosphere. The restaurant apparently does not really pick up until around 9 or so, so coming in at 7 I was able to enjoy the atmosphere a little more and chat it up with the bartenders there. Brian apparently is a seasoned veteran in the establishment and lives nearby, so he was able to recommend a couple choices for places to shoot some pool at. Four glasses of wine and an order of stuffed peppers later, I was set to relax for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately, the banana peppers lost so much of their kick during the making I imagine, so the stuffed peppers weren’t nearly as hot as I would have liked. They were very good regardless of that situation, however. Again, I’ll likely be returning there in the future to try out some more of their food menu…they’ve got calamari and octopus on their menu!