Category Archives: my humble opinion

beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy

Rumour has it that is a misquote and Ben Franklin was really talking about wine. I’ve also seen it attributed to Mark Twain. Whatever.

Over the course of the last year, Mr. and I have developed a heartfelt appreciation for beer. Not like “let’s get drunk on Molson” but like “I love the hoppiness in west coast microbrews.” We’re like less pretentious versions of wine lovers, and we don’t spit. Admittedly, we have become snobbier with every glass of craft brew – but I’ll still crack a can of Coors Light when the situation calls for it.

Our mutual interest in beer grew from a very serious debate: Mr. felt that Canada (Ontario specifically) has the best microbrews – I disagreed. I maintain that the west coast has the best microbrews and a superior beer culture: lovers of beer acheive the delicate balance between hipster and yuppie and appreciate not only the flavour of the beer but the story behind it. There’s also more selection: just look at this map for example – Oregon (my home state) and Montana (my University state) are leaders. I’ll admit that Beau’s All Natural and Mill Street are fantastic – but on the whole, Oregon dominates.

The debate went on for months and we even drug some friends into it, demanding they choose sides. Said friends, being Canadian, chose patriotically. Mr. and I decided to settle it on our trip to Oregon last summer. Per my request, my mom stocked a cooler full of the best of the best from Rogue, Widmer, Deschutes, and BridgePort. We threw in Blue Moon because Colorado is west coast too, and of course my favourite North American beer: Summer Honey from Big Sky Brewing Co. in Montana. The ice in the cooler hadn’t even melted before Mr. conceded that the west coast beers prevailed (although he’d never admit that this side of the border). To celebrate the victory, I took him to one of my favourite places: Terminal Gravity Brew Pub in a nearby town. From a picnic table outside a place where regulars have customized glasses made by a local artisan and they serve nachos on a plate so loaded with awesomeness you can barely lift it, we started dreaming of one day opening our own brew pub.

I bought Mr. a complete home brewing system for his birthday last year. We were rather proud of our first attempt: we called it “Not Bad Nut Brown” because we thought it was, well, not bad. We were like parents who call their child’s scribbles art. When we debuted our creation to friends, all but one faked a smile and said “mmmmm, tasty.” The one honest person we know, however, described it as tasting “like flat Diet Coke.” It was hard to disagree. We bought a library of books on home brewing and tried it again. We called our second batch “Lascelles Lager.” We called on the one honest person we know who said, very convincingly, that this one was actually good. Success.

We’ve found a couple of great places here in Toronto with a good selection of beers, local and international. Smokeless Joe is my favourite because the girls who work there know everything about beer and they’re girls, which is extra cool. The Only Café has a great selection (even a few Oregon beers) it is the ultimate contrived “dive bar.” The girls look like pin-up models and the boys roll cigarettes into their white t-shirt sleeves. I secretly wish I could be a hipster but I don’t look good with bangs. Bar Volo is excellent if you’re looking for a classy place with too many beer choices to count, good food, and knowledgeable servers. It was at the latter that we met a couple of fellow enthusiasts who described their recent vacation to Belgium – visiting Trappist breweries and tasting some of the world’s best.

The “Best of North America” was a debate, but there was no question that Belgium is unrivaled. So we raised a glass to Belgium and decided to go there and check it out for ourselves.

what is wrong with 20-somethings today?

There is much buzz in the blogosphere this week about the New York Times article: “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” published in Sunday’s edition. The author, in a well written and articulate piece, asks: “Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?” Surprise, surprise: this 20-something disagrees with her views.

Apparently, “adults” are concerned about today’s youth because they are

  • “remain[ing] un­tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes,
  • going back to school for lack of better options,
  • traveling,
  • avoiding commitments,
  • competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs”

She backs it up with some pretty solid statistics:

  • “One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year.
  • Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once.
  • They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch.
  • Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever.”

Okay, fair enough.  I agree with all of the above – in fact I am guilty of half of those awful behaviours. So what exactly am I supposed to be doing differently?

Henig explains there is an “expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids.”  What do the stages of this “orderly progression” have in common? Well from what I can see, they benefit the generations of adults who have already completed them. They keep things on track; they keep society on the same path it has been. Question: how’s that been going?

According to Henig’s research, over half of the population is still heading that direction. So what is the problem, an increase in those who aren’t? A “trend” so to speak? Imagine what would happen if nothing ever changed…imagine the things we could accomplish with all the time we currently spend talking about how things were. Oh, the possibilities. If only…

Guilty as charged

I recently introduced my boyfriend to my family and friends. Among several entertaining (but anticipated) reactions to meeting him (the only serious relationship I’ve introduced to them and a foreigner no less), my favourite was an offering of congratulations to my mother on her daughter finally having found success. It is nice to know that I’m on the right track after years of misguided and selfish attempts to better myself.

I’m a picture of all the things wrong with today’s youth. Since leaving home I have lived in four cities in three countries. I thought I was gaining perspective and becoming a global citizen – in fact I was essentially stealing from America by not purchasing a home and contributing to a local community. I’m not married and I don’t have children. I didn’t know who I was at age 21, but I probably should have committed to raising a family and nurturing a marriage while I figured it out. And worst of all: I travel. Where to even begin? It is wrong on so many levels.

Luckily I do have one redeeming quality: I’ve worked for the same company in a highly profitable industry since I graduated with a business degree. Thankfully I have not sacrificed a comfortable lifestyle and financial independence to help others. Lord knows those Not for Profit Organizations are a selfish bunch who take advantage of naïve and idealistic youth who are willing to work for nothing. I’m glad I didn’t join all the other lazy hippies who pursued their passions – that would have been just dreadful.

Let’s move forward

According to Henig, “we’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls ‘the changing timetable for adulthood.’” She suggests we should “[rethink] our definition of normal development and… create systems of education, health care and social supports that take the new stage into account.”

To slightly contradict myself and momentarily ditch the sarcastic tone – I completely disagree (again). I think we can go too far in embracing change.

For almost every young person who “avoids commitment” and rejects the traditional path, one follows it because it is the “grown up” thing to do – that’s why it works. Both are difficult journeys, and they should be. By choosing we are growing, we are asserting our independence and learning about ourselves. If we eliminate the struggles that come with one option, no one will choose the other; and these fears about the future of society will come true.

“Every generation needs a new revolution.” — Thomas Jefferson

Bottom line: if my generation can offend my mother’s generation as much as hers offended the one before, I will be proud.

just eyeball it

You’re gonna love this new teen trend: pouring vodka directly onto your eyeball. The Daily Mail reported on the phenomenon a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s catching on in America, according to a scary report on CBS2. But why? CBS2 doesn’t actually have any attributable quotes in their segment, but they watched a lot of the YouTube videos and report that “the pain gives way to an instant high and then a deeper state of drunkenness.” [via gothamist]

Vodka Eyeballing (I stole this photo, but so did Gothamist)SERIOUSLY? Where did this come from? Well, Britain…but more specifically – what inspired someone to put vodka IN HIS EYE? Possible answers:

  1. A man promises his wife: “I will go to the pub, but I won’t drink.”
  2. A woman asks, “how much Vodka should I put in my tea?” Her friend replies, “I don’t bloody know, just eyeball it.”

Once in a while the headlines are dominated by concerns about binge drinking – new studies will come out that conveniently support the sponsoring organization’s message and we’ll search high and low for someone other than Johnny to blame for his [insert negative experience here]. Here we go again.

I should point out that “binge drinking” in the US refers to underage drinking (adults don’t binge, we network). American culture celebrates the pastime as if it were the new millennium’s answer to roller disco. Wait…it’s not new? The movie Animal House came out in 1978 (which happens to be six years before the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984).

Don’t waste your time reading scientific research on the matter, grab a cold one and turn on the TV. Channel surf until you land on a picture of Snooki getting punched in the face, but keep flipping past Intervention. Open a magazine to pictures of hot mess Lindsay Lohan or jam out to LMFAO’s song “Shots”on your iPod.

If you ain’t getting drunk get the $%&@ out the club / If you ain’t taking shots get the $%&@ out the club / If you ain’t come to party get the $%&@ out the club / Now where my alcoholics let me see yo hands up / What you drinkin on? / Jaeger bombs, lemon drops / Buttery nipples, jello shots / Kamikaze, three wise men / $%&@ed on that $%&@, get me some gin Shots

Side note – I hate Lil’ Wayne. YEEEEE-AH.

Yes, underage/binge drinking is a problem. Unfortunately it’s impossible to tell whether pop culture is the chicken or the egg.

Americans (especially the under-21 set) love to proclaim, “If you’re old enough to vote and to die for your country you are old enough to enjoy a beer.” So is lowering the age from 21 to 18 going to reduce the ratio of keg stands to football parties? The logic never quite made sense. But in case you were on the bandwagon, consider this: in the UK children age 5 and over may legally consume alcohol in their own or someone else’s home as long as they have permission from an adult.

And then they put Vodka in their eyeballs.

I’ve been an underage drinker, a fake ID carrier, a hide-in-the-bathroom-until-the-cops-leave-the-bar aficionado, and an expert at flirting with bouncers who questioned whether I was a 30 year old 5’2″ blond named Crystal (I’m not).  I’ve complained about the drinking age over many an illegally purchased beverage and begrudgingly paid a fine when I got caught. I’ve binged on more than one occasion and made some bad decisions.  I take responsibility for all of them and I can say with absolute certainty that a change in the law would not have meant a change in my behaviour (for the better, at least).  But hey, at least I never put Vodka in my eyeball.

On a serious note: everyone has been negatively affected by alcohol in some way, be it us personally or our loved ones- be it alcoholism, drunk driving, or just plain bad decisions.  I don’t mean to minimize the issue.

I highly recommend the memoir, “Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood” by Koren Zailckas.  Most everyone will relate to some aspect of her story.  I admire the courage and honesty with which she tells her story of becoming addicted to alcohol as a young girl and her struggles thereafter.

thank you, Sandra.

It seems there is a new celebrity cheating scandal emerging daily. As if being betrayed weren’t bad enough, these women are being publicly humiliated by extensive press coverage.

You can read Tiger Woods’s dirty text messages to one of his 14 (or more) mistresses, watch David Letterman’s public apology to his wife, check out photos of Jude Law and Sienna Miller’s appearance at the Met Gala, or do a quick Google search for an actor you’ve probably never heard of, David Boreanaz – the latest to “come clean” about his womanizing ways.

Michelle “Bombshell” McGee has become a household name, overshadowing Sandra’s Oscar win and recent adoption.  She should be celebrating; instead she’s the subject of headline puns about being “Blind Sided” while she navigates what will likely be a very messy divorce and avoids the media.

Thank you, Sandra Bullock, for going through with your divorce. Thank you for setting an example, thank you for standing up for yourself. Thank you for deciding not to “work on your marriage” or accepting Jesse’s lame attempt to redeem himself by entering sex addiction rehab (don’t even get me started on that cop-out).

Would it have been different if Sandra had not been the more successful spouse? Jesse James is a has-been D-list celebrity. What if he had been named the world’s top golfer, hosted a top late night comedy show, nominated for a Tony award, or – well – whatever David Boreanaz does?

The psychology behind it doesn’t matter to me, the real world implications do.  I applaud you, Sandra Bullock, for the example you’re setting for jilted women (and men) everywhere.


Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is by far the best book I’ve ever read.  With over 900 pages it’s heavier than most books I travel with but because I was so mesmerized by the first few chapters it accompanied me on a 10 day trip to Spain.  In Madrid I skipped the Plaza de Oriente and Teatro Real in favour of an afternoon in Retiro Park with Roberts’s melodic voice and fascinating characters.  I pored over his words like a university student cramming for a test.  I underlined passages and folded corners, scribbled notes in the margins.
shantaramHis website offers a seemingly feigned caveat that Shantaram is a novel.  I don’t buy it.  His accounts of the events are too lyrical, too vivid to be fiction.  Suppose I’m wrong…the artist who inspires me most is even more a hero.  Roberts has flaws, a past and a sense of adventure.  He’s not an academically trained writer or philosopher.  He is a man with a story.  I wonder how many will share their stories for having read his – I know of at least one.

The reader grows to love all aspects of his characters’ humanity.  We come to understand Lin through his relationships and adventures – quickly realizing his modesty and humility.  To hear Roberts speak is to confirm the impression that he is a man of true character and pure heart.

In daydreams I plan a trip to Mumbai and an afternoon at Leopold’s before meeting Prabu for a ride around the city, perhaps a stroll through the slums.  These people are real and I want to know them.  I cried (sobbed actually) as I read and again in November of 2008 when terrorists attacked the café, killing at least 10 people.

Someone from my past, perhaps the only person I’d spared from excited and prolonged raving about the book gave me a copy for my birthday.  I was so touched by his thoughtfulness that I began to fantasize about the possibility of soulmates.  Soulmates we most definitely were not.  But in this lifetime the book again strengthened a connection when Mr. bought and read it just so we could talk about it together.

Shantaram has touched me, ignited passion.  Roberts has inspired me as a writer and a traveler and a person.  Please, please read this book.

Five Doors North

5dnFive Doors North at 2088 Yonge St. has become our go-to spot for a nice but casual meal.  It’s got all the requisites for a perfect night out: amazing service, funky décor, and excellent food.  We usually order a few tapas plates to start – the Prosciutto rolls with arugula, goat cheese & figs should not be missed.  But the highlight is always the gnocchi – a different selection each day.  In addition to the standard menu choices there is always a special and it’s hard to go wrong.

Did I mention the wine list? There is a diverse selection and they proudly serve a number of bottles under $40 in a coffee can wrapped in vintage magazine ads.  Perhaps not enough to satisfy a true connoisseur but enough to keep this amateur oenophile happy.

The name has a story you don’t need to know because the funky décor implies it was just a crazy idea scribbled on a napkin by an aspiring chef.  The service and prices leave no question: these people love what they do.  The place is anything but pretentious, has something for everyone, and is guaranteed to impress anyone.

You’ll feel like a regular as soon as you come in and decide to become one before you leave.