We dined in domes, tents, and old Victorian houses. We had five dinners but we only left two tips (and we don’t suck). In between, we walked, we wined, we saw some art.
Blog title courtesy of Jean, who was determined to have some time off after not getting any at Christmas time (beyond the statutory days). We didn’t venture too far from home—Beamsville, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Toronto, Kleinburg, which are all within a two hours’ drive. And it wasn’t, per se, designed as a culinary tour. But it did turn out that way!
Because, you see, I’m still making some efforts to avoid catching Covid. And when it came to selecting restaurants, well, it wasn’t your Mom and Pop fish’n’chips places that offered space. And clean air. Those only came packaged as “dining experiences”. Covid safe(r), it turns out, is kind of delicious.
We left home mid-morning, headed to an appointment at Commisso Estate Winery in Beamsville. Their website promised wine tastings in a “fun, safe, private” environment. I didn’t necessarily trust the promise—so many places just didn’t bother to remove their Covid protocols page once they stopped following it—but I figured a smaller winery in February wouldn’t be that crowded. I optimistically (and pragmatically, given that dinner wasn’t til 7) also ordered a charcuterie board.
It worked out. We ended up being their only customers at this time. Not only that, but their tastings are conducted in a tent that was plenty warm, thanks to gas heaters. After we were seated, we got the history of the place, and overview of the wines.
In the way of the introvert, Zo was never the showiest of cats, but she made up for it in resilience. A few months shy of 19, she’s outlived four other cats, two of which were younger than she.
Jean was at the Pet Valu getting cat supplies (I assume) when he called home about the cat available for adoption there.
“So she’s a little black calico?” I asked.
“You’ve seen her?” replied Jean, confused.
But I had not. I just suspected Jean would find it hard to resist a cat who resembled our recently lost Bob.
I agreed to the adoption of the two year old. It was our introduction to Pet Patrol, from whom we’ve acquired all our cats since. We didn’t then know the advice that you shouldn’t get a cat that reminds you a lot of the one you’ve lost. I don’t think Zoë suffered from the comparison. For one thing, she actually was somewhat similar to Bob.
Zoë’s backstory was that she had been owned by a bit of a cat hoarder and hadn’t been fed the best quality food. A lifetime behaviour of hers, that I assume harkens back to that time, is that whenever she got an especially good treat, she would carry it off into a corner to eat it. That way no other cat would steal it, you see. (Though in this house, I never saw another cat steal a treat away from her.)
Zoë joined a household of two older males, Romey and Sandy, whom we seem to have very few photos of. (It was a different time!) There wasn’t much drama in integrating her. I noted at the time that she seemed much livelier than they.
Zoë, of course, outlived both these guys. We lost Sandy first, to complications of diabetes, Romey later, to mega-colon. I recall trying to tempt Romey with various treat foods when he was ill, and Zoë sweeping in to finish after he did his bit of nibbling. The only time of her life that she got a little pudgy.
Zoë was then a lone cat for while, til we adopted McSteamy and Mocha. Those two took to each other instantly, leaving Zoë the odd woman out—which I think suited her just fine. She was a bit miffed at having them join the household, and never really cottoned to Mocha; they’d sort of natter at each other on a semi-regular basis. McSteamy, though, she appeared to get along fine with. He knew well enough to never attempt to cuddle with her, though he did constantly with Mocha.
She outlived them as well. Mocha we lost to throat cancer, McSteamy later, to lymphatic cancer. As lone cat, Zoë would often choose to sleep underneath the guest bed, which I found a bit odd; who was she hiding from? It’s only occurred to me recently that McSteamy spent his last weeks encamped under that bed. Perhaps she was revisiting his scent.
Jean and I got very close with Zoë during this period of her lone cat-ness, building up rituals: TV time on the couch, morning visits, joining us for meals. Though she was never a cuddle-bunny, we learned to appreciate the more subtle ways in which she showed affection.
After a time, though, I wanted to adopt more cats. But I was very worried about how Zoë would react.
With cause, as it turns out! Though she took to Mac very easily, and indeed seemed to find him a great deal of fun at first…
She took an instant dislike to the shy Gus, leading to months of angst (on my part, and probably Gus’ too) as she bullied him and really slowed down the process of integrating him into the family.
With time and age, Zoë became less enamoured of Mac’s energy, particularly when it was directed at her. And she grew more appreciative of Gus’ more easy-going ways. But their addition enriched her life, as the house became filled with new cat toys, cat trees, cat sleeping spaces, and we added on an outdoor enclosure (initially used by Zoë only!).
For years we used a catsitter named Mike, whom Zoë was very fond of. Upon Mike’s retirement, we used a series of others, none of whom she grew very close to. Some never saw her at all during visits, finding our claims of owning a black calico fanciful.
In general, she didn’t appreciate visitors. Any knock on the door or doorbell ring would send her scurrying for cover. If it turned out to be a repairman or such-like who was going to stay a while, she would stay under cover, sometimes for hours—especially if they were noise-producing visitors.
I’m not sure where she got this extreme fear of strangers, but possibly from the time we were using a home vet? She was the only cat who seemed to respond more poorly to his visits than to going out to see the vet.
The cleaners we used to have come in regularly might not have helped, either, particularly once our regular cleaning person retired and we started using a service. They didn’t physically bother her the way the vet did, but they were noisy, and poking into all the corners of the house, no doubt including getting close to some of her hiding places.
Yet, she’d end up OK with some of the visitors we had: she was fine with my parents, and with some friends who came over more regularly. She’d actually come out and hang. (At a bit of a distance, of course.)
At one point when she was a lone cat for the second time, I got the idea of having someone actually house-sit while we were away, instead of just coming by once or twice a day. Why I thought this was a good idea for a cat who hates strangers…?
The first night, the housesitter reported, Zoë went under our bed and just “cried and cried”. We’d never known her to do that when we were home. We were a bit startled to realize how attached she was to us. The next day, reports said, she crept out a bit more. Finally she stayed out. (At a bit of distance, of course.)
As we added cats, we decided to continue with the house-sitting, though we never knew what we were going to get with Zoë. One time she was pretty good most of the days, then at the end decided to hide in a wall and refuse to come out, even for food. (She was out instantly when we got home. Then we barricaded the wall.)
She’d seem quite accepting of the housesitter for one trip (and it was always the same one, I would note!), then revert to hiding under the bed for days for the next. She’d join the boys for eating one time, then decided she needed food delivery service the next. In what was described as a “miracle”, she actually jumped on the housesitter’s lap once, and stayed there a while. But even that didn’t prove a permanent breakthrough.
But with us, her loyalty never wavered, even if we sometimes had to give her medication, or take her to the vet, or invite noisy people into her room.
We were her people. And that was that.
Zoë really didn’t have too many health problems in her life. She was one of those cats with generally good teeth, though at one point she did have to get one extracted. At times, possibly partly related to boredom the food options at the time, she got a little too thin. She once had some mysterious injury that made it very difficult for her to swallow food. She managed on a liquid diet for a couple days, and it seemed to resolved itself without need of veterinary intervention.
As an older cat, a blood test revealed some issue with her liver. We tried supplements for a while, but they didn’t make much difference, and she got increasingly cranky about having to take them. From then on the liver issue was merely monitored, not ever treated.
In 2020 she was diagnosed with kidney disease. A fairly common cat disease, there’s no cure, but it can be managed to some degree, and some cats live with it for years. Zoë was to fall in this camp, even though our treatment plan was pretty light.
There are special foods you can give cats with kidney disease—but they’re not the tastiest, and tend to a little low in protein. I tried a can on Zoë and she didn’t show much enthusiasm. Another approach was simply to feed them high-quality can or raw food. That is the route we took. Zoë liked variety in her food, and seemed more important that she keep eating a good amount than having a particular nutrient balance in what she took in.
We also put water bowls all over. That girl drank her weight in water daily, it seemed.
And that approach worked, until it didn’t. Until recent months, she largely hung onto her weight. She almost never vomited. Tests showed kidney deterioration, but only at a slow pace.
But then it caught up with her, as it does. She started losing weight. She grew weaker and less able to do things (arthritis also contributed to that). Blood tests showed high potassium levels, so we added a supplement to her food to block absorption, and she was fine with taking that. She also got injections that helped with pain management and mobility.
But none of that was a cure. Gradually her world became smaller. First she stopped going outside. Then she went from jumping on our bed in the morning, to just hiding under it. Then the downstairs visits became less frequent, til they stopped. For quite some time she insisted on jumping up on her kitchen chair, until that just didn’t work anymore and she finally accepted us lifting her on to it.
Heat retention became an issue for her, and she grew increasingly fond of a stereo cabinet that we left on all the time as her personal heater. She could sleep on top of or behind it. Finally the upstairs, her previous refuge, seemed too much work, and stayed mainly on the main floor.
Her fondness for food continued nearly to the end, but as that started to go, we knew she wouldn’t last much longer.
Essence of Zoë
At some point Zoë got spooked about workouts, somehow, and ended up afraid of yoga mats. She would scurry from the room as soon as I picked one up. She was quite dubious of me if I was in workout gear.
When we were eating something she thought smelled particularly good, she’d request a taste by patting me with a paw. If the morsel was to her liking, she’d take it delicately with her teeth (and, as already, reported, jump down to eat in a corner, if it was special good).
She despised getting her nails cut. To be fair, we only started cutting her nails later in her life, when her nails started to in thick and curly, to the point where they grew into her nail bed a couple times. So there was some association between nail cutting and pain there. But man, so angry! You’d think we were torturing her.
Zoë was always extremely well-behaved at the vet, likely as a fear response. Always, that is, except for one time when they cut her nails. “She got so angry!” the vet reported.
She loved playing with string-adorned wand toys.
She adored high places: tops of cabinets, tall chairs, cat trees, table tops.
She could be a pretty good hunter, even into her old age (we’d get the occasional mouse in the house, and she did have her enclosure…)
She required a “blanket barrier” before she would lie down or walk on you.
She had a phase where she was extremely protective of the house against outdoor cats. Seeing one outside, she would fly into rage at the window, making the most godawful noise.
She preferred carpet to sisal scratching posts.
Cranky though we sometimes made her, she was unfailingly gentle with people. She never scratched or bit us, or anyone.
She had great markings, including three orange toes that I never tired of looking at.
She would sneak around on kitchen counters at time, on the hunt for treats.
She sometimes showed affection by licking—faces or hands. Her tongue was pretty rough, but it was still pretty cute.
Now that I think of it, maybe she wasn’t that much like Bob.
I’ll blame Gus the cat for my slowness in getting into any kind of Christmas spirit this year. A few weeks after his pretty speed recovery from the injury above his eye, he suddenly come down with something… He stopped eating, grooming, or doing anything other than shuffling uncomfortably from one sleeping spot to another. It was a weekend, and the vet was open only for supplies, not medical appointments. They suggested taking Gus to the emergency veterinary hospital.
There he got tested for everything imaginable. He had some neurological symptoms—asymmetrical eye pupils, inconsistent results on the “knuckling” test—and few slightly abnormal results on the blood test. Could be infection, could be tumors… He was admitted and hydrated, appetite stimulated, given pain killers, and started on antibiotics. I went home to fret.
Gus responded quite well to the various ministrations, though, and we were able to take him home the next day. He seemed pretty good from that point, though lower energy, and with the uneven pupils persisting a while. We continued the antibiotics for seven days, and a few days later, the eyes improved, the energy back. I brought him in for a final check from our vet, who found that all seemed good, except for the eye on the injured side looking a little irritated.
So she suggested a week of twice daily eye drops. Gus was much better about letting us give him those than we expected. What seemed much more upsetting to him was if we had to chase him down first; he’d sometimes hide for hours afterwards. So we took to surprising him with eye drops. Those done, he continued to seem quite fine.
Jean’s Mom, who’d never been quite the same after a stroke in February, passed away in late August. The family decided to have a small memorial service. The date selected was Saturday, November 5.
We left around 10:15 AM, intending to stop over in Sudbury on the way to Timmins. The drive started uneventfully enough; we were diverted by the audiobook of State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny.
But after an hour and a half or so, Jean noted that the car seemed to be losing power periodically, during which it was quite reluctant to accelerate. Maybe just gas quality? he suggested. As we Googled to find the nearest gas station, I suggested options. We still had time before we really had to be anywhere. Maybe we could get the car looked at. Maybe we could rent a car for this trip.
Well, let’s just try gas first, Jean suggested.
And indeed, filling it up did make it run smoother.
For another couple hours, anyway. But then it started doing the losing power thing again. Hills were a problem.
The weather gods were smiling on us during our recent trip to Montréal, Québec, which made for a very pleasant five days and four nights (October 2 to 6, 2022). Though we’ve visited many times, we still found new things to do, along with revisiting favourites.
I’ve learned how to do anchor links in WordPress, in case you want to jump to a particular part…
Covid precautions: Got my bivalent vaccine 10 days before leaving, which also happened to be six months since my fourth dose, so that worked out well. Also purchased 3M Aura masks, Enovid anti-viral nasal spray, Salinex Protect nasal spray, and a portable charger.
While it’s a hot, sticky day today again, there are hints of autumn on the way in the cooler nights, the changing leaf colours here and there, the shorter days. And while some outdoor activities hold an appeal in winter, not quite as many, and not for as long.
So we tried to rack up a few more outdoor events in the later part of August. And by “events”, I mostly mean eating and drinking outdoors. But with some travel and pretty locations involved.
I was mainly motivated by the thought of going somewhere that I hadn’t visited recently. Jean, who’d been going semi-regularly, but only for canoeing purposes, was dubious there’d be enough non-canoeing activities on tap to avoid boredom.
But, we only had a couple days off, and were not looking to fly anywhere, so options were limited. Goderich, Ontario, a small town on Lake Huron, came up the winner as our destination.
In researching, I was pleased to discovered that a number of wineries had sprung up in the area, and that’s where we headed first, for lunch at Dark Horse Estate Winery—which is actually closer to Grand Bend than Goderich. (Grand Bend is not on the above map, but it’s located between Sarnia and Bayfield.)
We knew their patio was covered, meaning we’d be fine rain or shine (although not near-tornado, which they’d experienced the day prior), but it was at any rate a beautiful day. It was also a lovely setting.
Jean selected a glass of their Baco Noir, while I went with a glass of Marquette, and we were both convinced we’d made the best choice—which of course means we each did. Surprisingly for Jean and less so for me, we both ordered their wood-burning oven pizza.
We both agreed—this was one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had. The crust… My goodness.
After paying for lunch and purchasing a couple bottles of wine, we drove further up the road to the little town of Zurich, for a stop in at Schatz Winery. There’s also an Inn and Restaurant on the site, and having arrived, Jean recalled that he’d attended a work function here years before, predating the winery’s existence.
We opted to do the tasting in the vineyard instead of indoors, and while between the two of us, we had the option of tasting almost every wine they have, Jean thought tasting 8 was a bit much, so we shared a tasting of 4. I was also intrigued by this beer / coffee blend they had on offer that day, so I got that as well.
We liked all of the wines, actually (keeping in mind that we prefer food-friendly wines that don’t necessarily have the big fruit “wow” factor). But based partly on price, we purchased a bottle of 1984 Frontenac Blanc, and the Rusty Petit Pearle (a red wine).
As for the beer, it was terrific! Even Jean enjoyed his sip, and he’s really not a beer guy. It was by a local brewery, and their idea was to create a beer that was reminiscent of a latte. They came darn close! I also got a couple cans of that. Thanks Ale Latte. Heh.
We then drove on and checked into our accommodation, the Dreamz Inn, just outside Goderich. It proved a perfectly serviceable place, offering good size rooms, an adequate continental breakfast, and few nice touches like fluffy bathrobes and free bottled water and chocolates. The only issue was the last morning, when a plumbing problem meant no hot water for showering! But they did give us a $50 credit for that, without us asking.
But that afternoon, we finally headed into Goderich proper before dinner time, and did some walking around the beach and downtown area. It is a pretty little town, and nicely rebuilt from the devastating tornado in 2011.
We had dinner on the patio at Part II Bistro, the best-rated restaurant in Goderich. It was quite good. I started with the pear salad, and followed with mushroom-infused sacchiette pasta. Jean had an arancini-type appetizer (a special that day) followed by the pork and broccollini ravioli. Their wine list featured wines from local wineries (not exclusively, but mainly). I had an Alton Farms rose while Jean fell in love with the Dark Horse Sinful Red.
The following day was lovely weather again, and we struck out for a beach walk to start the day, after breakfast.
We then ventured to walk part of the recommended Tiger Dunlop Trail, including over the Menesetung Bridge. Jean had low expectations going in, but this turned out to be a beautiful walk with great views. We weren’t able to do as much of it as we would have liked, so something for next time.
Though we considered a few other options for lunch, they were found wanting, so we did a part two at Part II Bistro. It didn’t disappoint. I had the vegetarian risotto, and Jean went with two appetizers, the escargot and the gnudi (along with his beloved red wine).
We had been planning to visit Maelstrom Winery in the afternoon, as a few people had recommended it, but it proved farther away that we thought. (I mean, 20 minutes, but that still seemed too far at the time.) So we instead visited the nearer-by 2nd Streetlight Estate Winery, whose Sauvignon Blanc I had enjoyed at lunch.
Again we were able to do outdoor seating, and this time Jean was up for trying all eight wines (sharing, so 1 oz of each per person). This was the only place where we got the personal description of each wine as it was poured, which is always a nice touch. And maybe we were just in a good mood (quite possible), but we pretty much liked everything. We didn’t buy everything, though. We were both quite impressed with the rose, Jean quite liked the sparkling Kin, and I thought the cleverly named Good Red was, indeed, a good red.
Then we had to figure out dinner. When first researching Goderich, we considered staying at the Benmiller Inn, a historic spot with a once-great reputation. But my email inquiries to them went unanswered, and the more recent online reviews were a mixed bag, so we shied away from it. Still, their posted dinner menu looked quite good—and we didn’t really want to eat at Part II Bistro a third time!
So we gave them a call, and after some debate among the staff, they agreed they could accommodate us if we arrived for an earlier dinner, like 5:30. We were amenable to that and realized, when we got there, that it was because they were also hosting a large wedding party (rehearsal dinner, not the wedding itself).
We sat outside in their really gorgeous garden setting. And you know… The food and service was just primo. Jean had an amazing bouillabaisse to start. My yellow fin tuna entree was smoky and perfectly cooked, with great sides. Jean said his roast duck was one of the best he’d had in ages. And the chocolate mousse dessert we shared… Lovely.
The Benmiller might be having its troubles and needing to rebuild, but on this night, at least, the kitchen was firing on all cylinders.
On our last day—the no hot shower day—we started with a walk originating in Point Farms Provincial Park, mainly known for its waterfall. Jean canoes these waters in spring, when the levels are really high. He was struck by how low they were in July.
The rest of the walk didn’t prove as interesting, though, and with the sky threatening, we decided to turn around early. We did experience some rainfall on the walk back, but it was blunted by trees. Having emerged, we decided to head home at that point, foregoing tentative plans to have lunch at Maelstrom Winery.
So that remains on the list for a future visit, along with doing more of the Tiger Dunlop Trail and its offshoots, and potentially:
A brewery tour (or two)
Visit to the Huron Historic Gaol, which is supposed to be pretty interesting
Hanging out on the beach (not just walking by it), maybe even swimming!
I promise this won’t turn into a big politic rant, but it’s just a fact that the Ontario government no longer cares if I (or anyone in Ontario) gets Covid—as long as not too many of us end up in hospital with it. (And even there, they keep mumbling about how they have some spare hospitals beds now.)
Happily for privileged me (and here I could do a rant about how the government has abandoned the less-privileged and the more-vulnerable, but I won’t), I do have considerable ability to, well, just stay home and avoid people. And the temperament to not mind it all that much.
But it is nice to leave the house once in a while. And I do have vacation days to take. We’d really enjoyed our time in Niagara-on-the-Lake in November, so earlier in the year, we planned to spend a few nights there in late March.
Then the government dismantled everything that had made that fall trip feel comfortable: Capacity limits—lifted. Vaccine passports—gone. Mask mandates—history. Meanwhile, the Omicron BA.2 variant, the most contagious one yet, makes its inexorable rise.
Still, most of our planned activities seemed relatively low risk. The outdoor hiking is obviously not a problem. Wineries offered private tastings. We could mask in the common areas of the Inn we were staying. But what about dinner???
Spring has not really sprung in these parts yet, so patios weren’t an option. And sure, you can do takeout. But we didn’t want to. Niagara-on-the-Lake has some terrific restaurants. And we love the whole multi-course, wine-matched, lingering indoor dining experience. But Covid-wise, there’s so little you can control when in a restaurant: you can’t mask, you can’t know in advance how well-ventilated the restaurant is, you can’t prevent other people from being seated near you.
There are Big Things going on in the world that I am certainly reading about, am in some cases being affected by, and likely have some sort of opinion on. But here, as is often the case, I’d rather write about those times when I’m distracting myself from the news.
Like hey, you still gotta eat. Might as well enjoy it.
During the last round of restaurant closures in January, I took S&V Uptown up on their offer to deliver me a surprise pack of three wines with matching recipes. I ended up with an Ontario Riesling, an Italian Pinot Grigio, and a California Cabernet Sauvignon. That one came with what looked like the most interesting recipe: Bison burgers.
People are always thinking burgers with beers but you are not most people. You bougie. Sniff and swirl that Cab and pair this with Beyoncé on loud.
S&V Uptown recipe notes
I mean, after reading that, how could I not make the burgers? Me am bougie! I adapted the recipe slightly, the main difference being using only ground bison, no ground beef (not bougie enough!). I also simplified the already simple instructions (bougie and lazy). Resulting in:
1 pound ground bison
1/2 cup minced onion (I used frozen minced onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley
1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 Tablespoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide into four patties. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil. Cook patties roughly four minutes per side.
Lordy, it was delicious. (Now I get why so many people order burgers.) And the Cab Sauv, not always my favourite wine, was just lovely!
Winter interferes with Winter House
Langdon Hall, meanwhile, coped with the closure by offering to feed people outdoors, in what admittedly looked like a pretty awesome setting:
A couple friends agreed to meet us there, weather depending. And honestly, the weather much of that planned day wasn’t great. Started off quite blowy and snowy. But we were planning to go only later in the day, anyway, and by then, it was sunny and calmer.
Jean and I decided to stop in and see the Ronnie Wood Art Exhibition first (yes, that would be The Rolling Stones bassist). When we got there, however, the museum was actually closed due to weather (even though, to be clear, the art is exhibited indoors), so we thought, huh. Better call Langdon Hall to make sure their Winter House is still in operation. Yep, they said, it’s open! No reservation required.
So we coordinated with our friends to meet there—it’s about a half hour drive. Only to be told on arrival that, oops, sorry. Closed after all, due to wind.
I mean. The closure was understandable. But they had decided to close it at 1:00 pm that day, and we called them around 4:30 pm. So…
We grumbled, but moved on. Upon discussion, this became a meal of takeout Indian at our friend’s house (courtesy: Vijay’s). And you know? By this point of the pandemic, it was actually much more exotic to be eating indoors at someone else’s house than be at a restaurant’s cool patio. The food was good, the beer was great; their house has many cool features; it was a fine evening.
And we got to the Ronnie Wood Art Exhibition the following weekend. He’s a talented guy!
Breathing easy at Loloan
Restaurants are back at full capacity now (if they want), and as of Tuesday, won’t have to ask for vaccination proof anymore (unless they want to). We decided to take the vax pass for one more spin at a day and time we thought wouldn’t be full capacity: Thursday at 5:30 pm. And we selected Loloan Lobby Bar both because we like their food, and because they’d made the point that they’ve worked to improve their ventilation.
Ventilation is key to indoor spaces being safer, especially those places where you can’t mask, but how to know what public places are well-ventilated? I decided to a buy a portable CO2 monitor to give me an idea. Outdoors is about 400 ppm, and levels above 1000 ppm are considered hazardous to health. You’re looking for indoor space to be under 800; under 600 for places like gyms, with a lot of exhaling going on.
I haven’t been to too many places since I got the monitor, but these are the results to date (rounded measurements, since the levels bounce around):
Also, the food at Loloan was delicious! (But we forgot the camera…)
I’m actually a bit appalled that my house doesn’t have better ventilation than my grocery store, but whatever the reason, it’s not because of a natural gas cooktop. Those, I’ve learned, are really bad for indoor air, as well as contributing fairly significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. So the use of induction cooktops is encouraged as an alternative.
I’ve recently acquired one of these. Mine replaces an electric cooktop, so shouldn’t make much difference to my indoor air quality, and only a minor improvement to my greenhouse gas emissions, as it uses less electricity. But I’ve grown quite fond of it, enjoying these benefits:
Speed of heating pots and pans: Water boils so fast. Pans are ready to fry foods so quickly.
Fine temperature control: This took some getting used to, but you can really quite finely set the controls for the level of simmering, boiling, or grilling you want to achieve.
Easier to clean. The element itself doesn’t get hot, so items don’t burn on it as much. Everything is flat, so no knobs to clean around.
Safer. The elements don’t heat unless a metal pot is on it. They will not burn cat paws. They won’t start a fire.
Downsides are that induction cooktops cost more, and they only work with magnetic pots—stainless steel, iron, and so on. Some of our previous stock of cookware worked, but we did have to replace a number of items. For me, though, the investment has been worth it.
This is the second year in a row we didn’t travel north for Christmas. We made the decision pre-Omicron, so it wasn’t because of that. It was related to work; namely, Jean’s inability to get time off—company policy for everyone at Christmas, at least for this year.
I was fine with it, basically. It was early enough that I had a lot of time to get used to the idea. And it is always kind of stressful travelling north at Christmas, given the crowds and the weather and the scramble to get a catsitter. We figured we’d visit family a little later.
But I definitely lacked in Christmas spirit. Last year, when we were all under health advisories to stay home in our family units, as compensation I really wanted to do all the things: Send out the Christmas cards and letter. Put up the lights and decorations. Play the Christmas songs. Watch the Christmas concerts and movies. Prepare the fruitcake, make soup out of the chicken bones, heat up the Christmas morning croissant.
This year, I felt no compulsion to do much of any of that. Now, I did do some of the cooking—we gotta eat anyway and I like tourtière, and cabbage rolls, and roast chicken, and chicken pot pie. And we did watch one (mediocre) new Christmas movie. And sure I played a few Christmas songs on the key days. Zoom family gift opening and game night were fun. And we did put up a tree, but then one cat ate a sharp piece and got an upset tummy, so then it was, bye tree.
Though Jean had no time off, I still took some. I had no big ambitions for what to do with the near two weeks, but no concerns that I’d be bored, either. There are enough chores, books, TV shows, cute cats, fitness breaks, and doom-scrolling sessions to fill days at home.
But we also got out a bit—most notably to the Rolling Stones: Unzipped exhibit at The Museum. It was really quite something to see, even if you’re not especially into the Rolling Stones.
So it’s really too bad that it’s about to be shut down for three weeks as a public health measure. (This was not a cheap show to bring to town!) I mean, it’s safer than the malls that have been left open—to get into this exhibit, you had to be be vaccinated.
Otherwise, we did outdoors stuff, like trying out the ebikes we got each other for Christmas. Yep, it’s winter, but it’s been a pretty mild and not terribly snowy one so far. And the ebikes are “fat tire” mountain-bike style. Jean has really taken to it, getting out on longish rides on roughish trails. I’ve been more tentative (you’re shocked, I know), but kind of surprised I’ve done it at all. More than once, even.
We had been indoor dining through the Fall, which has been lovely, and originally hoped to go out for a nice dinner on New Year’s Eve. But by mid-December, that just didn’t seem smart. (And a few of our favourite places proactively closed anyway.) So we went for the New Year’s Eve takeout, courtesy of Sole Restaurant and Wine Bar. (And we also got a lovely pastry box from Loloan Lobby Bar.)
So I don’t particularly have the new year’s “spirit”, either. Not inclined to think back on the year that was, nor motivated to set many aspirations for the year ahead. Except maybe this idea, which I like:
Things have changed since March 2020, and they’re not all going to go back to how they were. And that’s OK—the pandemic has only amplified the fact that a lot of things were terrible. So there’s no point in just longing for the past. We gotta go forward. We gotta make the best of it now, then do what we can to make it better later.