Pull it together, Ontario

True to form (which is to say, consistently formless and unpredictable) the Ontario government on Friday announced restaurants and bars could open their patios. With no warning.

First of all, in my opinion, we shouldn’t be opening up anything right now. There were 1,791 new COVID-19 cases in Ontario yesterday, and 18 people died. There’s a “growing consensus among medical experts that the province has entered a third wave of COVID-19 cases” in Ontario. (source) I get that businesses, especially small businesses, want to re-open. But re-opening early just prolongs the pain of this half-measure. Is it really worth it?

Second, if you’re going to make this decision, you don’t drop it on all these beleaguered business owners with less than 24 hours notice.

I don’t know why I expected anything else from this clown car of a government who is clearly prioritizing the economy over lives — as if the economy doesn’t count on alive-ish people.

Meanwhile, in Canada’s New Zealand:

Source: https://twitter.com/gmbutts/status/1372496677769207808

Cover photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

A sniff of Spring

Wednesday night we went for a walk around the neighbourhood. When we got home I made us an Old Fashioned each and we drank them on the back deck. We were so delirious from getting that much fresh air that we fell asleep early. Alas, the warm weather didn’t last long, and the coming days will dip well below zero, but it feels like spring is around the corner.

In the meantime, we’ve no end of great TV to watch while we wait it out. Last Week Tonight (imdb) is back. We’re nearly through all three seasons of Easy (imdb) which has been excellent — when a show can bring things as complicated as relationships to life by showing you and not telling you, you know it’s very well done indeed. We’re also about to wrap up WandaVision (imdb) which has been catnip for a nerd like me. Speaking of nerdery, I’ve been catching up on Clone Wars (imdb), a part of the Star Wars universe I’d never bothered to consume until now.


Cover photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

Cover photo by Ray Muzyka, used under Creative Commons license


Yesterday was a bit of an exercise in staying still. Sleeping in ’til 9. Staying in bed until noon, save grabbing coffee from downstairs. Walking across the hall to the guest bedroom to start season three of Line Of Duty (imdb), eat too much food delivered from Yum Croissant, and drink a bottle of Raventos i Blanc 2017 “Blanc de Nit” cava rosé. Finally walking downstairs to watch an episode of Think You Know Wine whilst cracking a magnum of Tiny Batch Wine Blaufrankisch. Making pork chops & salad for dinner and finishing the mag. Heading back to the bed to finish (!) season three while Kramer slept hard at his end of the bed.

Today will be busier. But yesterday we accomplished so little that, frankly, it felt like quite the achievement.


Cover photo by Ray Muzyka, used under Creative Commons license

Jules Bistro

At least once each weekend we try to set aside an evening as date night — fancy delivery, dinner table, proper place settings, music, etc. — and our go-to dinner spot lately has been classic French: Jules Bistro. Twice we’ve ordered the Cote de Boeuf for two, and last night we got the Magret de Canard. It’s hard to find places that can deliver high-quality food in a car in the winter (see also: Terroni) so, as long as the pandemic continues, they’ll probably be a mainstay for us. Because let me tell you: damn, the food is good.

Also: these dinners provide an excuse to pull a pretty exciting wine out of the fridge. So far it’s been a 2012 Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Cabernet Franc (steak), a 2013 El Enemigo Gran Enemigo Gualtallary Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc (steak), and a 2011 Bodegas Raul Perez Bierzo Ultreia Valtuille (duck).


Cover photo from the Jules Bistro site

Cover photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash

Fun with screens

While normally we find it exhausting to look at screens, yesterday they were the underpinnings of a pretty good day.

Somehow yesterday I became aware that Bar Volo, and its College Street sibling Birreria Volo carry Gueuze Tilquin, one of my all-time favourite beers but heretofore extremely hard to find in Ontario. I jumped on the laptop, ordered a bunch from Volo (including the new-to-me wild blueberry Tilquin, and a bottle of the Rullquin stout, and a bottle of Cantillon for good measure), followed by an order from the Birreria of 6 (!) bottles of their standard gueuze and 2 bottles of the cassis. Turns out they can’t deliver it without food, so we grabbed some sausage, manchego, and a baguette too.

After that was all put away, and as I cleaned up the kitchen, we watched two episodes (one from last week, the other live) of Think You Know Wine, the virtual blind tasting by four of the WineAlign wine critics. It was Lindsay’s first time watching, and she could barely stand the humbling the critics took these last few episodes, but I loved it. Made me feel better about my own tasting endeavours. We finished them up as we sat down to dinner.

Not long after said dinner we jumped on a Jitsi call with some friends, and ended up chatting the night away for four hours. I kept the TV on in the background, and watched the Habs blast the Canucks for the second straight night. We finished some wine and tackled some of the excellent new beer. Kramer saw some raccoons walking through the backyard and freaked out. By the time we went to bed we’d been drinking and eating for about 8 hours, so we woke up this morning feeling a little overindulged, but nothing a lie-in, some coffee, and some greasy breakfast couldn’t fix.


Cover photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash

Cover photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Comparing my discretionary spending pre- and post-COVID

[Cross-posted from LinkedIn, with some revisions]

Prompted by my colleague Kat’s post “How COVID-19 changed my spending habits“, I decided to piggyback on her idea. Here’s what I found.

[But first, the mechanics: I analyzed my spending by week, and the dividing line I chose for pre/post-COVID was the end of week 12 — March 21. I worked my last day in the office earlier that week, and that’s pretty much when my spending habits changed. Also, I have to acknowledge how lucky I am that my income was unaffected by COVID-19, so I had the luxury of keeping my spending the same if I wanted to.]

Overall, my spending stayed mostly flat. Week over week my spending was only 2.2% higher post-COVID. I actually expected it to be more than that; not sure why. Maybe it’s all the boxes showing up at my house.

A few expenses, unsurprisingly, stopped dead. I’ve not been to the office since March, so my transit expense ended abruptly. Working from home also meant no more dry cleaning bills – you don’t need to dry clean t-shirts, right? – and I stopped buying lunches around the office. I’d also used a house cleaning service prior to COVID, but in a pandemic that’s a no-go, so apart from a one-time clean I had them do on the new house before I moved in, that expense also went to $0.

My Uber spending dropped more than I would have thought. That’s Uber ride share, mind you, not Uber Eats. Very, very different story there. Anyway, I guess I just had nowhere to go, so this (relatively small) expense line dropped 72%.

Oh, hello Peloton. I am charging, I can charge, I will charge, I do charge. Monthly, since May, when I got my bike.

The main event: food & drink. All told, this top-levelcategory was up ~12.5%, but there were several puts and takes in there:

  • Dining out at restaurants dropped by 92%, and I’m pretty sure all that’s left in that category is the odd visit to a coffee shop.
  • Ordering in / picking up food jumped plenty though, up 109%.
  • My weekly spending on groceries (including Goodfood boxes) doubled. Like, exactly doubled.
  • Spending on alcohol tripled post-COVID. *cough cough* Sorry mom. Now, I should qualify this: in raw numbers, alcohol spending increased just less than my combined dining (restaurants + ordering in) expense decreased. So I’m probably drinking more wine, but paying less restaurant markup.

Cash is effectively dead to me. Since mid-March I have used ATMs exactly twice, both times to withdraw cash in scenarios where I knew I’d need to tip people on the spot. Otherwise I’d be perfectly happy never to visit another ATM. (Again, I have that luxury. A cashless existence is, at the moment, more available to affluent segments than lower-income; in a world where we’re suddenly very aware of how germ-ridden physical cash is, we need accessible alternatives.)

And now for the completely obvious: I did not travel. Since writing this for LinkedIn I realized I missed one major category, largely because I budget for it separately: travel. That expense went down 89% in 2020. The only trip I took was to Madrid & Cairo in January. Other than that we had a single weekend away in Elora this summer. C’est tout. Pretty safe to say all that money went straight into the new house, as the back yard is as exotic a locale as I’ll see for the foreseeable future.


Cover photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

The switch to repose

Now, a week after I posted about starting vacation, it feels like we’re probably able to relax. On Sunday of this week we drove out to Oshawa to pick up my niece, as she can’t fly home to NS. The early part of the week was filled with errands and Christmas prep (and a bit of work) but also some games, like Pandemic and crib and Snakes & Ladders / Climb to Emotional Maturity.

On Christmas Eve we made sugar cookies from XO Bisous, then roasted a duck & sides that came in a kit from Avling Brewing. I didn’t get the duck quite right, but the Bouchard Père & Fils 2011 Premier Cru Pinot Noir almost made up for it.

On Christmas Day (a white Christmas, for the first time in recent memory) we baked scones, opened gifts, chatted with our families, played Mario Kart on the niece’s new Nintendo Switch, and roasted up a pretty damn good chicken.

Today we did…nothing. Pretty much, anyway.


Let the final phase of this bullshit year begin

I’m on vacation now, more or less. While I might work a bit more between now and 2021, I’m pretty much shut down.

We obviously couldn’t go home to NS this year, but we have a bit of NS here — my niece is staying with us for a couple of weeks. We picked her up from school today, and have hunkered down. There’ll probably be some Pandemic tonight.

I’ve set up our new Samsung QLED TV. I’d made Lindsay watch Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, so now we’re watching Jedi. I plan to binge season 2 of The Mandalorian as soon as possible. That is all the planning I, uh, plan to do in 2020.

Cover photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

In the house

Hey, we’re in the new house! Moved in Friday, and have fumbled our way through a sea of boxes since then.

Kramer is here too, after a few days alone in the loft, a tough (but not as tough as it could have been) extraction followed by a 4-day hunger strike. But he seems to be adjusting well, and is back to accepting our pets and scratches.

We’re still living out of too many boxes and ordering every meal, but we’re here. We’re working more effectively. We’re meeting neighbours. We’re enjoying the backyard due to an unexpected spate of warm weather.

It feels weird to have a house. But it’s starting to feel really good too.

By the way, I’m sure I’ll have something to say about the presidential vote at some point, but for now I’m still electorally hung over.


Cover photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

The Lower Don

Three years after it re-opened (and us living practically next door to it) we finally walked part of the Lower Don River trail today. We Uber’d to the Brickworks, mistakenly thinking the trail was accessible from there, then walked the ~15 mins to the access point. What was meant to be a ~0:50 walk turned into ~1:20, but it was really nice. Even with the cars grinding down the DVP just out of sight, it felt nice to be surrounded by trees and water and scurrying wildlife.

We walked south under the Bayview exit, then under the Bloor viaduct, under Gerrard, and under Dundas, before climbing up the stairs to Queen Street. It immediately felt super-weird to be back in that kind of density.

It probably felt the least like Toronto of any place in Toronto I’ve been, but also made me feel more connected to the city than I have in months. I’m glad we snuck this in the week before we move to more than a stone’s throw from the Don.

lower don river trail
Image from BlogTO


Cover photo from the City of Toronto site