Category Archives: Gastronomy

RIP Summer

One of the added bonuses of autumn - the wee fuzzball insists on increases in both snuggle frequency and snuggle duration.
One of the added bonuses of autumn – the wee fuzzball insists on increases in both snuggle frequency and snuggle duration.

I realize that autumn doesn’t officially begin for another week or so, but I think someone needs to state the obvious – summer has passed on. Let’s take a moment to remember summer for what it was. Oh summer – we hardly knew ye!

While summer is my favourite season, spring and autumn also hold a special place in my heart. The difference between the two is that autumn – despite the crisp air, smell of freshly made pies, preserves, beautiful colours, and the like – reminds me that winter is coming. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know my feelings about winter. If you’re new here, I’m not a fan. Sure, winter comes with its own charms – skiing, sledding, and skating with friends, hot chocolate, newly fallen snow, scotch by the fireplace, stouts, baked goods, mulled cider, and everything spiced – but I just can’t embrace it like the others. Perhaps, like the Grinch, my heart is just two sizes too small. Or perhaps I just suck at maintaining a body temperature that exceeds popsicle status.

Regardless, it seems that autumn has come early to Guelph. Some of the trees have started their transition from green to yellow or red, extra layers are required, and the sun is setting earlier every day. There’s also a different smell in the air – that spicy autumn crispness – sort of a mix between damp earth, decaying leaves, and I’m not sure what. And of course, the truest sign of the season, I feel more compelled to curl up on the couch with the wee fuzzball and a scotch instead of heading outside.

While I’m looking forward to some of the things that autumn brings (did I mention scotch by the fireplace?), I can’t help but feel somewhat sad that summer is over, and that winter isn’t far off. So welcome autumn. May your stay be long, and may you be full of good food (e.g. cherry pies, peach pies, blueberry pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, … ) and good friends.

And for the love of all things holy, stick around a little longer than summer. I’m really not ready for winter yet.

China By The Numbers

Although only one thumb is shown here (as the other was working the camera), this trip gets two thumbs up.
Although only one thumb is shown here (as the other was working the camera), this trip gets two thumbs up.

On my travels throughout China I was constantly reminded by people I met about the luck of certain numbers. This first came to light in Dalian where several weddings were being performed on the 6th of July. More recently I learned that the Forbidden City of Beijing contains 9999 rooms – 9 being a rather lucky number1, 2.

Being a numbers person (although a different kind of numbers person), this got me thinking, how did my trip stack up numerically?

So here goes:

  • Distance travelled (by plane or train): 25404.64 km – or approximately 63% the circumference of earth.
  • Travel time (by plane or train): about 40 hours.
  • Distance travelled by foot: no clue.
  • Distance travelled by bicycle: about 14km around the old city walls of Xi’an.
  • Days away: 33 – June 29 through July 31 (a little more than 9% of the year).
  • Cities visited: 5 – Dalian, Xi’an, Hua Shan, Shanghai, and Beijing.
  • Total population of those cities: approximately 60 million, with Shanghai and Beijing being home to about 45 million people combined.
  • Spur of the moment travel decisions: at least 3 – extended stay in Xi’an with Peter so we could climb Huashan, extended stay in Shanghai after Sass and Andrew returned to the hostel from their canceled flight, and cancellation of my flights from Beijing to Dalian due to delays at the airport.
  • Mountains climbed: 2 – Hua Shan and the Black Mountain of Dalian.
  • Temples explored: Too many to count.
  • Photos knowingly taken with strangers: Too many to count.
  • Instagram photos/videos posted (so far): about 440 – or approximately 14 per day.
  • Blog posts (to date, including this one, but excluding those about China that were written prior to leaving on the 29th): 21 – although there will be a few more because I have a few other things I need to write about.
  • Warmest temperature: 39 Celsius (not including humidity).
  • Coolest temperature: 25 Celsius (not including humidity).
  • Countries represented during the trip: 8 – Britain, Ireland, United States, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Canada, and China.
  • Local dishes sampled: at least 4 (not including the oddities listed below) – Peking duck, hot-pot, dumplings, and noodles.
  • Silkworm pupae eaten: 4
  • Snakes eaten: 2
  • Scorpions eaten: 1
  • Starfish eaten: 1
  • Spiders eaten: 1

While I don’t necessarily believe that any of these numbers are lucky – because we all know that only pi has that characteristic – I do know that I am very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to explore China for these past 30+ days. I’ve had an amazing time here, and I’ve met so many amazing people. It really has been an incredible and unique experience.

I’ve also realized that 30+ days is too short a time to really capture China, which means I’m just going to have to return. Perhaps next year. Perhaps for 60+ days. And perhaps including some of the neighbouring countries. Because let’s be honest, a trip that ends without further wanderlusting just wouldn’t be a successful trip in my books.

1 The number of rooms in the imperial palace is also in reverence to god whose home was believed to contain 10000 rooms. Apparently the emperor didn’t want to piss off god by presuming to have the same number of rooms in his house. Probably a wise move.

2 According to Wiki, the exact number of rooms might not actually be 9999. Whatever.

Beijing – A Litte Bit Different

Street dinner with Till.
Street dinner with Till.

Beijing has been a little bit different from the previous cities in China I’ve visited, but that doesn’t mean it has been any less amazing.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I opted to stay at a hotel while in Beijing, mainly because the hostel I wanted wasn’t available, but also because the hotel deal was too good to pass up. The problem, however, with staying in a hotel versus a hostel is the type of people who share accommodations with me.

Hostels are mostly filled with travellers and backpackers; people who don’t mind getting dirty, sharing bathrooms, sleeping in bunk beds in 6 or 8 person dorms with complete strangers, and randomly striking up conversations that begin with Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going? These conversations always seem to develop into some sort of instant friendship, and before long, you and your fellow traveller are out experiencing the city together, writing crazy new adventure stories to tell at the next hostel.

No admittance? Pfft. Whatever.
No admittance? Pfft. Whatever.

Hotels are mostly filled with business folks and tourists; people who expect a certain level of pampering and sophistication, room service, and guided tours. Any conversations are limited and short, and have rarely led to adventures (at least in my experience).

Why is this problematic for me? Well, tourists and business folks aren’t likely to strike up a conversation with a random dude travelling on his own. And as has been my experience, they don’t necessarily open themselves up to a random dude striking up a conversation with them. Don’t get me wrong – they talk back – but it’s usually limited to casual chatting and small talk. Backpackers and travellers ignore the small talk and get to the stories. That’s how I met so many great people in Xi’an and Shanghai.

However, this doesn’t mean that I’ve not met some amazing people while in Beijing. I randomly met Brian – the second person from Nashville I’ve met while in China – while touring the parks next to the Forbidden City. He was almost caught in a selfie that I was taking, and that of course led to hello, some laughter, and before long lunch, beer, dinner, and wandering the city at night. We also managed to explore Tiananmen Square, spending part of our time getting photos with locals, and the rest of our time trying to figure out where Tank Man was last photographed as he stood defiantly in front of a line of tanks in 1989.

Photos with Brian and a troupe of Chinese students in Tiananmen Square.
Photos with Brian and a troupe of Chinese students in Tiananmen Square.

And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I spent a few days on a gastronomic adventure with Till. From Peking Duck to silk worm, scorpions, and spiders, we tried pretty much anything we could. We enjoyed beers while chatting about travel, education, and other random things. We compared cities, and the people of China to our expectations and experiences at home. And we talked about Munich – where he’s from.

When I explored the Great Wall I met Arneau and Rihanna – travellers who had the exact same idea as me when we saw a sign that informed us that the public were not allowed beyond said signage. Clearly this was meant to be ignored. And so the three of us trekked on and found ourselves probably 1km or more beyond the no-admittance declaration, along a section of the wall that hasn’t been repaired as of yet. It also afforded us some amazing views of the wall as it ascended and descended the various mountains we could see. Breaking the rules – always the best decision (that’s a rule – you should write it down – ha, see what I did there).

The Great Wall is really great.
The Great Wall is really great.

Last night I had dinner with a Brazilian that I met who’s in Beijing for only 2 days on business. Having been to the city numerous times, he knew of some great restaurants. We ended up eating at La Pizza, where I had western food for the first time on my trip – seafood pizza if you’re curious. While eating, the sky decided to open up and pour for the first time since I’ve been travelling. The rain brought with it thunder and lightning, and apparently sent all of the cabbies into hiding. After eating we did our best to stay dry, but I ended up soaked and having to walk about 3 km before I was finally able to hail a cabbie to get me back to my hotel. Fortunately it was a warm rain and ultimately refreshing given how hot and smoggy it had been that day.

Anyway, while the people I’ve met here have been no less amazing than those I’ve met elsewhere, the ways in which we met have been vastly different. Regardless of how we met, Beijing has been an amazing experience and I’m definitely going to miss it.

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Deep Fried

Starfishy fish. Deep fried please.
Starfishy fish. Deep fried please.

The end is nigh! I fly home tomorrow. I honestly can’t believe that a month has flown by so quickly. I guess that’s what happens when you explore a country where you don’t speak the language, but somehow manage to find yourself in crazy adventures. From climbing mountains and dangling on the side of a vertical rock face, to exploring temples, side streets, and mysterious – possibly questionable looking clubs, China has been an incredible adventure.

Of course, the food has been an adventure all onto itself. I tried the recommended staples – Peking Duck (enjoyed several nights ago with a german student named Till), dumplings, noodles, and hot-pot. I’ve enjoyed various soups and rice dishes, both spicy and non. And I’ve also tried some of the local desserts, because dessert, naturally. But nothing in the world could really prepare me for the smorgasbord of gastronomic treats that were available in some of the various markets in the various cities I travelled.

So several nights ago, Till and I continued our gastronomic exploration of Beijing. Specifically, we found ourselves at the Donghuamen Street Market which was very conveniently located within walking distance of our respective hotels.

Scorpions on a stick. Because China!
Scorpions on a stick. Because China!

As we walked the length of the market we were greeted with various aromas, not necessarily matching the images we were seeing. There were standard things such as chicken and beef skewers, but mixed within these there were also skewers of crickets and beetles, snake, frog, fish, scorpions, sea urchin, starfish, unidentifiable animals, unidentifiable insects, and of course, spiders. Creepy, crawly, and heebie-jeebie inducing even in their skewered death-form.

We started our culinary exploration with a skewer of grilled silkworm pupae. To be honest, they look like cockroaches. As for the flavour – they were actually pretty good. They were seasoned with some sort of magic seasoning that pretty much makes everything taste amazing. The inside of the pupae had the consistency of cheese. It actually reminded me of cheese that one would have in a lasagna after it has been baked. The shell – is that the proper term – was crunchy, but not to the point of being offensive or intrusive. It wasn’t so thick that it made for difficult chewing, nor was it so thin that it had no textural impact.

Till sampling some snake.
Till sampling some snake.

Next we tried grilled snake. The outer flesh was a bit tough to bite through, but the inside had the consistency of egg white. It was actually, in my opinion, quite delicious. We also sampled deep-fried snake – but it was pretty much like eating anything that was super deep-fried. Crunchy, salty, and really devoid of most flavour.

Scorpions were added to our menu. They also were deep-fried, but I think since we had them before the deep-fried snake I enjoyed them more. Also, scorpions seem to be a bit more out there than snake, so there might have been a thrill factor involved with my liking them more.

I also managed to sample some deep-fried starfish – although it was huge so I couldn’t eat it all. It had the toughest/crunchiest of exteriors. The interior was like nothing I have ever tried. It had a weird crumbly wet texture, with a bit of a seafood (but not fishy) flavour.

Creepy crawly deep fried treats.
Creepy crawly deep-fried treats.

There was also some sort of bat/lizard thing that I tried. The vendor claimed it to be a bat, but the tail on it suggested to me it was something else. The head and tail combined made me think it was a lizard prior to its untimely skewering. That is, unless bats have long tails and I’m just not as informed on bat knowledge as I should be. Regardless, it was super deep-fried so I’m sure whatever it was lost its original flavour in place of salty deep-fried crunchy deliciousness.

But the showstopper for me was the spider. For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time, you’ll know that I suffered from arachnophobia since I was a little kid. I grew up with a recurring nightmare about tarantulas killing my family. I’d wake up sweating and unable to breathe, fearful that the nightmare were real and if I moved they’d know and get me too. I won’t lie, walking by the platter of skewered spiders invoked both the heebie-jeebies and a sense of joy that they were actually dead. That didn’t stop my brain from jumping into old patterns of what if they aren’t really dead? Don’t get too close, they’ll get you.


When I came to China I knew that the possibility existed of eating a spider. The thought creeped me out. I remember telling someone who I’d be able to eat pretty much anything, but I didn’t think I’d be able to eat a spider.

Well, now here I was, staring at a small tarantula on a stick. Was I truly over my fear of spiders? My mind repeated – I don’t think I can do this. Internally the monologue went on for an eternity, but I know it was short-lived. I looked at the spider, reminding myself that I try to live with a goal of not letting my fears stop me from experiencing everything I possible can. And I thought to myself – what’s the worst that could happen? 

The vendor passed me my spider and I contemplated it for a moment. Then I ate a leg. It was crunchy. Almost like an over cooked and super crunchy french fry. I ate another. Till joined in. Before long it was just me, Till, and the spider’s body on a stick. Go big or go home, right? One big gulp and it was gone.

And just like that, revenge was mine. Take that spiders everywhere.

Good-Bye Shanghai

On my way to Beijing!
On my way to Beijing!

Today I said goodbye to Shanghai and the various people I’d met there over the past 8 days. I’m very much going to miss the city, especially the part where I ate street food almost every night after enjoying a tipple or three with the folks I was fortunate to call friends during my stay. Originally I had planned to leave Shanghai Tuesday, but those plans were thrown out the window on Monday eve. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Monday afternoon I said farewell to three of the people I had spent the last few days hanging out with. There was Ben, the other professor in our merry band of misfits, and Andrew and Sass, two 20 year-old students from Australia who have been dating for the past two years or so. After I said goodbye, I relaxed in the lobby of the hostel looking forward to a quiet night. I had a beer, got somewhat caught up on email and world events, and was fully expecting to head to bed early.

And then in walked Andrew and Sass, both looking a little rough around the edges.

So deliciously delicious.
So deliciously delicious.

I clearly had a very confused look on my face because they immediately started laughing and then began recounting a rather harrowing adventure that began with a police ticket for the cab driver, and ended with their flight being canceled. In between they were involved in a car accident on the highway that wrote-off the car they were in (fortunately all were okay save for some stiff necks). If that weren’t bad enough, the substitute cab had a faulty door which was only discovered while careening down the highway at speeds in excess of 120 kph. Apparently it’s not normal for the door of a vehicle to just swing open. Who knew? Fortunately Ben – who was travelling to the airport with Andrew and Sass – got things under control (and I think managed to make his flight home). From this point, however, things went from bad to worse for Andrew and Sass.

At the airport, Andrew and Sass were initially faced with flight delay, after flight delay. Eventually they were told the Military were conducting operations, the airport was essentially closed, and they should return to the hostel. They were given a slip of paper saying they’d be able to get a flight on Wednesday around noon.

The gift for the friend who has everything?
The gift for the friend who has everything?

Despite the day they had, they walked into the hostel with very few gripes and a lot of smiles. After listening to them recount their adventure, I started thinking that my time in Shanghai wasn’t quite finished. We chatted about plans for the next morning (technically check-out was at noon, and I had the entire day to get to Beijing) and decided to head out for food and some drinks. We had a great night chatting and exploring several dishes at a nearby restaurant, laughing at some of the Chinese to English translations. Dinner led to drinks at a local bar which was fortunately stocked with some deliciously delicious scotches. I already knew Andrew was a fellow scotch drinker so it didn’t take much for us to sample a few drams. After several drinks we returned to the hostel, but not before a feast of street food. Scallions wrapped in some sort of gluten/soy blanket, bacon wrapped something-or-others, fish-on-a-stick, mushrooms, and a bowl of spicy crawdads – or whatever the Chinese equivalent might be. All of this was washed down with a half litre of beer for the outrageously low price of 5 yuan (less than a dollar Canadian).

On Tuesday morning I awoke early to extend my stay an extra day in Shanghai, and modify my booking in Beijing. It took all of 5 minutes.

Golden Buddha.
Golden Buddha.

After some coffee, the three of us jumped in a cab and made our way to the art district known as M50. I was expecting a market with local artisans showing off trinkets and such. It was nothing like that. The area reminded me of the Distillery District in Toronto, but larger, and filled with various different artists. The works ranged from absolutely amazing – we all seriously considered buying some prints by the artist Sanzi – to downright creepy (hello naked baby painting). Some were quite practical, such as the handcrafted tea sets, to completely outrageous. Why would someone want a 7 foot purple corn-on-the-cob? Or for that matter, a giant angry silver baby riding a tank? Perhaps I just don’t get art.

We had lunch in the area then walked to a nearby temple to see a beautiful jade Buddha. The temple – appropriately called the Jade Buddha Temple – was stunning. We wandered the temple for about an hour, snapping photos and taking in as much of it as we could, before we grabbed a cab and returned to the hostel for a nap.

Deliciousness and tasty beverages can be found here.
Deliciousness and tasty beverages can be found here.

The day led us to the French Colonial section of town. From the street I’d never have known this place existed, but down a particular alleyway pointed out by our cabbie, we were presented with pedestrian walkway after pedestrian walkway, each filled with pubs and eateries. Given our success of the previous day, we opted to repeat history. Several drams of scotch were ordered for Andrew and me, while Sass opted for some rather beautiful and delicious cocktails. We chatted about travel and school, life in general, and even statistics. At one point I found myself explaining degrees of freedom and multicollinearity. It was weird and wonderful and completely unexpected. Feeling a bit wobbly from all of the scotch, we returned to the hostel and the same street vendors. We couldn’t have our last night in Shanghai not include more spicy crawdads and fish-on-a-stick.

It tastes way better than it looks.
It tastes way better than it looks.

I’m glad I decided to stay an extra day. Andrew and Sass are exactly the type of people I like meeting when I travel. Adventurous, open to new things, and willing to laugh at the weird things that happen instead of getting upset. What could have been the death-blow to their vacation, they turned into a grand adventure. Instead of pouting and whining, they decided to give Shanghai one last hurrah. How could I not have stayed?

As we hugged farewell today I knew that I wanted to keep in touch with them. I’m really excited to know where their adventure-filled life will take them.

Eating My Way Through The Muslim District

Dinner in the Muslim District with Peter
Dinner in the Muslim District with Peter. (Photo credit – Peter H.)

Since I arrived in Xi’an, I’ve made a point of visiting the Muslim District every day. There’s just too much going on there not to go. And every visit seems to offer something new – something that I either missed on previous visits, or something new and amazing that was added to the mix. It really is a feast for all of the senses.

The District is approximately 15 minutes from my hostel – assuming I’m moving at a very leisurely pace – and is situated right next to the Drum Tower. In the early morning hours it’s filled with vendors who are busy setting up for the day. Any time after 10am and it ranges from busy to crazy busy. The hustle and bustle is part of its charm. Of course, if you aren’t one for crowds this is probably not the place for you.

At night the area is truly hopping. Hundreds, if not thousands of people stream in and out of the area, sampling the many culinary treats they have to offer. It’s also particularly entertaining to watch each of the various dishes being prepared, in the open, on the street.

Saturday evening was the first time I actually decided to sit down on the street to eat. Previously I had bought food and continued to wander, enjoying dinner and a show – as it were. I sat with Peter as we ate noodles and watched the crowds go by. Everyone was smiling, laughing, snapping photos, and truly enjoying the marvel that is the District. Peter and I happily posed for many photos as we sat there and ate. We waved at little kids who stared at us wide-eyed, sending them into fits of giggles. The experience was truly fantastic and definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far.

The food in the area really is fantastic. So far I’ve sampled various mushrooms, tofu, noodles, pastries, sugary drinks, quail (I think) eggs, and more. This doesn’t even begin to cover the variety of food available, which of course means I have a lot of work to do if I really want to eat my way through the Muslim District.

Challenge happily accepted Muslim District. Challenge happily accepted.

A Pi-Day Weekend

Mmmm, pie on Pi-Day
Mmmm, pie on Pi-Day

Happy belated Pi-Day all y’all.

For those unaware, Pi-Day (March 14th) is the mathiest of math days; unless you also observe Tau-Day (June 28th) – which I do. Since tau is equal to 2 pi, Tau-Day must be equal to 2 Pi-Days, and 2 Pi-Days is better than 1 Pi-Day, so by definition Tau-Day would have to be the mathier of the two. Math!

I digress.

To celebrate Pi-Day I opted to spend my day enjoying as much pie as I possibly could. This meant that I attempted to have pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m all about healthy choices.

Sadly my breakfast pie was not to be as The Joint Cafe was out of their oh-so-delicious banana coconut cream pie. I settled for a bagel and apple juice – which is about as far from banana coconut cream pie as one can get.

To make up for my breakfast pie failure, I sauntered over to the Woolwich Arrow for lunch-pie. I had learned the night before that they were serving pie from The Williamsford Pie Company. And it was oh so delicious.

To round out my Pi-Day, I enjoyed a delicious peach-raspberry-blueberry pie with friends. I made a point of having just enough pie to be able to say that I ate half a pie on Pi-Day. Why would I eat that much pie? Because half a pie is equivalent to pi radians worth of pie, that’s why.

Pi radians worth of pie on Pi-Day. Yup – I’m just that nerdy.

Bonbons And Regret

RunKeeper - better than bonbons and regret.
RunKeeper – better than bonbons and regret.

Last night when I was walking home after what seemed a long day of work, I spent the bulk of my time having an internal discussion with myself.

I’m too tired to run.

No, you aren’t. You’re just being a big bag of suck.

Am I?

Yes, you are. I think.

See, maybe I’m not being a big bag of suck. I am rather tired.

But are you really that tired?

Well, I’m definitely tired, but maybe I’m not that tired…

See, I knew it!

And it went on like this for the 22 minutes or so that it took to saunter home. As I was closing in on my destination I had the following thought:

How about when you get home you at least put on your running gear, then decide if you’re going to run or wuss out.

My logic was simple – the act of getting dressed, as trivial as it was, might prove to be the extra boost I needed to actually get off my lazy butt and run. Worst case scenario – I would have wasted my time getting dressed up only to spend the eve on the couch eating bonbons and regret.

And so immediately on entering my condo I dropped my work bag, and headed upstairs to change. Before long I was in my running gear with my hat and gloves on, laces tied, and RunKeeper set and primed to go. And not too long after that I found myself back home having knocked out 5 more kilometres on my quest to 1000.

They say the clothes make the man. I think in this case the clothes made the runner. They were just the catalyst I needed to realize that I wasn’t really that tired – I was just being a big bag of suck.

Sometimes being tired is just an excuse; a way to avoid doing something I know I should do because the alternative seems far simpler. Sometimes being tired is truly that; a signal that my body is truly exhausted and needs rest. Knowing the difference isn’t always easy. I just hope that the next time I’m feeling tired, I’m able to distinguish which kind of tired I am.

Now if you don’t mind, I have a box of bonbons that aren’t going to eat themselves.

Final Thoughts

Happy New Year all y'all
Happy New Year all y’all

So 2014 is nigh. I’ve just finished cleaning up the house, organizing some platters of food, chilling some champagne1, and am about to go shuck some oysters as I await the arrival of some friends who will be ringing in the new year with me. All told, not a bad way to spend the last day of 2013.

Looking back, 2013 has been a crazy amazing year. Despite setbacks with my exercise goals, I’ve had an adventure filled 12 months. Crushing the Goofy Challenge with Mark, wandering New York City twice, learning the true meaning of What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas2, exploring the beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador with Danny, Lee-Jay, and Corey, celebrating the 2nd Annual Big Mountain Challenge with Rick and my brother3, and various other adventures with friends in Ottawa, Toronto, and London; all have reminded me that I am one lucky bastard.

And even though work was as crazy as it was, I have to say that I love my job and had so much fun this year. I was beyond fortunate to work with several amazing students – people who have reminded me again and again that if you give students something real to work on, they can do amazingly awesome things. Their hard work led to, and all of the subsequent and well-deserved attention that it brought. I’ve been spoiled because of their talent, drive, and passion. Because of them, I was invited to speak at several conferences and seminar series. Because of them the Farm To Fork project raised and continues to raise money because so many people understand its importance. Because of them I feel that I have something significant to contribute to the world beyond academic papers. And that dear readers is an amazing feeling.

Beyond all of this, I’ve just been lucky to spend the year with some amazing people. Family and friends who look out for me, take care of me, feed me, and spoil me on a seemingly continuous basis. To all of you, thank you for making this another fantastic year. Thank you for telling me I need to sleep more or eat more or get out more, or that I need to learn to say no. I can’t promise I’ll do any of that in the new year, but it makes me smile to know that you’ll still be worried enough to tell me so.

So raise your glass and toast the year that was. To the ups and downs, the good and the bad. Here’s wishing that 2014 brings with it all the things that make you smile.

Happy New Year everyone.

1 Okay, not Champagne so much as sparkling wine.

2 Curious, aren’t you?

3 I’ve decided this must be an annual event. However, I’ve also decided that we don’t necessarily have to climb a mountain at this point in time, so long as we are doing something adventurous.

A Christmas Alphabet

Cookie Monster – cookie afficionado

Dearest readers, I was originally going to write a post describing the awesome time I just had with Rick and Dr. Beth in Toronto (and it was awesome), but I decided to pour myself a scotch instead.

After pouring said scotch (and against my better judgement), I decided that I needed to sample some of the various Christmas wares1 I have around the house. I did this knowing full well that I had no need for the extra Calories, nor did I have a need for the extra sugar and fat right before bed. But I did it anyway because indulging in this manner is somehow acceptable during the Christmas holidays.

As I enjoyed my scotch and cookies, I couldn’t help but form a mental image of Cookie Monster singing C is for Cookie. Shortly after forming said image, I found myself humming and singing along to the song I remember so fondly from childhood.

Munch, munch, munch, C is for cookie, munch, munch, munch, that’s good enough for me, munch, munch, munch, Oh cookie, cookie, cookie, munch, munch, munch, cookie starts with c.

Being the inquisitive type, my mind soon formulated the following question: If C is for cookie, what is D for?

Diabetes! my mind immediately responded. I may have chuckled to myself as I popped another cookie in my gob. Ha! Gillis – you are hilarious. 

What about E? I asked myself half expecting a similarly witty if not slightly inappropriate response.

Expanding waistline! Engorged belly! Extra pounds!

I was almost afraid to ask And F? 

Fatty Fat Fat Fat!

Some of you may know that Fatty Fat Fat Fat was one of my nicknames as a kid. Clearly my brain was not-so-subtly hinting at something. It was at this point that I stopped thinking about my Christmas alphabet, because my brain was being a cruel jerk. It was also at this point that I decided to have one more cookie, because screw you brain, I’m in charge here.

And with that I called it a night.

Okay – full disclosure – I may have had another cookie for good measure. And by another I may mean two.

Fine. Three.

I regret nothing!

1 Read cookies, cakes, candies, etc.

Buyer’s Remorse? Not Yet

The wee fuzzball, enjoying a quiet Christmas night

Today is a comfy-pants kind of day.

Like many of you, I spent yesterday celebrating the Christmas holiday the way it was intended to be celebrated: with lots and lots of food. And booze. And more food. And coffee. Also scotch. And pie.

And because I’m a spoiled bastard, I did all of this while barely contributing much more than my presence to the Christmas celebrations. Personally, I think the Christmas day hosts got the short end of the stick. They prepped and cooked and cleaned and served and served some more; I was chauffeured around, delivered to and fro, stuffed full of treats and coffee, and I was fed and then fed some more.

Today my waistline feels as if it has expanded into territory it hasn’t seen since a hasty retreat several years ago. While the food was definitely worth it, I’m sure a case of buyer’s remorse is going to kick in soon enough. But that’s something to worry about another day. For now, I’m going to enjoy the quiet comfort of my home, and the wee fuzzball snoozing next to me.

I’m also going to spend the day with the very comforting knowledge that I have an amazing group of friends; people who invited me into their homes, treated me as family, and shared their holiday traditions with me. So thanks again Bang, Lindsay, and Henry for an awesome Christmas brunch. And thanks Mark and Julie for a fantastic Christmas feast. I’m so very fortunate that I have you nerds in my life.

Merry Christmas all.


So This Is 38

Apparently I’ve survived another year on this, our wee blue-green spaceship


Three Eight.



I’m trying to decide if thirty-eight has a nice ring to it or not. There’s nothing particularly wrong with thirty-eight. It’s a perfectly cromulent number, composed of two rather curvy digits (and who doesn’t like curvy digits?). But it’s also not entirely notable. It doesn’t represent any of the standard milestones – sweet 16, legal drinking age in Canada, legal drinking age in the States, 25, or dirty 30 – and it’s just shy of the four decade flag. It’s not prime. It’s not a perfect square. It’s just plain ole thirty-eight.

And yet, as I sit here thinking about how plain thirty-eight appears to be, I just can’t seem to accept it. I can’t seem to shake the feeling that 38 could be awesome.

I mean, the years that came before 38 have been pretty great. I’ve been fortunate enough to land myself a job that I love, and that permits me the opportunity to explore (both theoretically and in application) the world around us. I’m surrounded by a rather weird yet incredibly wonderful assortment of family and friends who, despite the crazy ideas that pop into my head, never cease to offer their support and love (and sometimes pie, or date squares1, or chocolate). And I’ve been able to travel – not nearly as much as I’d like, because let’s be honest, I’d be travelling and exploring and adventuring every day if I were independently wealthy.

My life is pretty awesome. I don’t write that to brag. I write it because it’s good to take stock and remind myself just how lucky I am; to remember that even on those days where I’m not feeling like things are going my way, that the overall trend has been positive and getting better every day.

And this is why I get the sense that 38 is going to be anything but plain.

So here’s to another year of adventure, another year filled with shenanigans, and family, and friends; a year full of highs and lows – but mostly highs; a year full of laughter, and more laughter, and laughing so hard I cry just a little; here’s to 38.

1 I’m not saying that date squares would be a pretty stellar birthday gift, but, actually, wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

What The What Is That?

Help us raise $15000 for the Farm To Fork project

So those of you out there with a keen eye – and let’s be serious, that’s probably all of you – may have noticed a new addition to the blog you have come to know and love1 as Consumed By Wanderlust. Of course, I’m speaking about that fancy new button over there to the right. The one that looks like an unembiggened2 version of this picture to the left.

Fancy, no?

Well that button is going to be here for a while.

Of course, you’re probably wondering what purpose it might serve. Wonder no more. That button is your link to a massive fundraising campaign that I’m involved in with my friend Danny Williamson, two amazing senior undergraduate students Lee-Jay Cluskey-Belanger and Beni Katznelson, and a team of 30 amazingly dedicated third year Computer Science students at the University of Guelph. The goal is to raise $15000 to help fund the Farm To Fork project – a website designed to improve the quantity and quality of food that makes it to the local food banks and food pantries.

While this isn’t your typical fund-raising campaign associated with a food bank, the end result is the same. With your help, Farm To Fork will be able to improve the quality and quantity of the food that makes its way to families in need. More than just that, Farm To Fork will help maintain a constant flow of quality food; something that is desperately needed between annual food drives.

If you’re interested in donating – please click on the button to the right, or click here. The campaign runs from now until May 19th. Every dollar counts. If you aren’t able to donate, please consider passing this campaign on to as many people as you can.

For more information about Farm To Fork, follow our blog, find us on Twitter, or Like us on Facebook.

1 I hope.

2 A perfectly cromulent word.


Excelling In Slackitudity

This is my mantra; it’s time to crush the slacker. Crush him real good.

Happy Easter all y’all.

So apparently I’ve been slacking in so many ways. To start, let me begin by apologizing for not having written anything in so very long. I could use the excuse that I’ve been swamped with a million different things, which is true, but that never seemed to stop me from writing in the past. I blame the fact that I’m a lazy slacking bastard.

Interestingly1, I’ve also slacked – at least it seems to me – in pretty much every other aspect of my life2. Writing? Slacked. Repairs to my condo? Slacked. Running? Slacked. Yoga? Slacked. It seems the only area of my life that hasn’t involved a substantial amount of slacking has been eating and slacking. In fact, I’ve excelled in those areas. You could say that I’m a connoisseur of slackitudity. Okay, you might not say that, but I might.

Anyway, I guess this post is my attempt to get my lazy ass back on track; in terms of writing, in terms of running, in terms of yoga, in terms of everything.

In that sense, let it be known that the slacker-who-is is about to become the slacker-who-was, because there are too many things I need and want to do, and being a slacker isn’t going to get me to where I want to be.

Be warned slacker-who-is; things are about to change.

1 I’m sure that’s debatable.

2 Except for work.


I May Have Broken The Law

Yes, I do dress up from time to time.

So just over a week ago I made my way once again to the airport for fun and adventure – this time in the form of a wedding1. In Vegas2.

Having never been to Vegas I really didn’t know what to expect, but this trip wasn’t so much about Vegas itself as it was about celebrating my friends Danny and Erin getting married. And what a celebration. Given the law of the land, I can tell you that a good time was had by all. The food was fantastic, and I may or may not have had a bottle of Laphroaig to toast the newly married couple with3. We also had an amazing room for the reception that overlooked the city.

The day after the night before, some of the party-goers and the happy couple headed off to tour the strip. I won’t say I was feeling perfect, but walking around for several hours, enjoying the blue sky and the fresh air certainly didn’t hurt.

Sadly, the well established law of the land – What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – didn’t seem to hold true for me. I don’t know if it was a result of the cigarette smoke in the casinos4, the jet lag, the time change, the handling of money, the casinos, the slots, the time spent on the plane, or a lovely combination of these, but I brought home some nasty bug. I tried to fight it all week, but by yesterday I was down for the count. Fortunately my friend Danny – the groom component of the happy couple previously mentioned – insisted that I stay home and get better. And so I did. Because he knows things about things.

Fortunately I’m feeling much better today. Whatever evil possessed my body seems to be leaving.

Sadly, I’m left with the unfortunate realization that I broke the cardinal rule of Vegas. I’m going to assume whatever punishment the universe sees fit to dole out will be reduced or eliminated as a result of Friday’s time already served.

1 Not my wedding. Don’t be silly.

2 Which means I can cross off Vegas from my list of travel destinations on my Not-So-Bucket-List list. And given my trip to Florida in January, my trip to New York in February, and this trip to Vegas, I’m 3 cities down on my goal to travel to 12 cities outside of Ontario in 20135.

3 Note: it wasn’t so much a formal toast as it was I drank some scotch in their honour.

4 Ew.

5 Hmmm, I’ve just realized that I haven’t updated my Not-So-Bucket-List list in a while. There are a few other things I can cross off – like travelling to New York city for example.