Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas at Home Thanks to Ford Canada

Christmas is undoubtedly my favourite time of year. I love the feeling that surrounds it. People are friendlier, extended family makes themselves more available, friends host parties and of course children light up at the thought of Christmas morning.

A present under the tree
To tackle all my Christmas shopping and to make it home to celebrate with my girlfriend’s and my family, the fine folks at Ford Canada supplied us with a Ford Explorer Platinum to #GoFurther for the holiday break. The Explorer came in handy quite a few times over the holidays as we were able to load up all of our gifts, our Siberian Husky and a friend (her gifts too) with plenty room to spare. We were all quite comfortable in the roomy cabin, but my girlfriend and I were pampered with massaging seats in the cockpit.

Ford Explorer parked at my girlfriends parent's house.

I was excited to have the Explorer which made it possible for me to make it up to my parents’ house this year for Christmas Eve. I love seeing how my mom has decorated the house, she is quite the artist when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree. This year was no exception as she used bronze, copper and brown ornaments on a white tree (the only thing white about this Christmas this year!). I woke up a little bit earlier than everyone and quickly filmed it in all its glory. Check that out below:

My dad ended up gifting me and my girlfriend engineered hardwood flooring to spruce up our kitchen floor. Thank the stars we actually had the Explorer or we never would’ve got that home with the sub compact car I would’ve rented to save money. Unfortunately though I now have a project to complete on my next day off…thanks Dad!

Hardwood flooring, padding and laundry. It all fits in the Explorer!
The holidays are spent with family, so we didn't just visit mine. In the morning of Christmad Day we loaded up the gifts into the Explorer and drove over to my girlfriends parents' house. My girlfriends mom is a great cook and baker, so we had an amazing spread of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams, turnip and veggies. Afterwords we had some home made treats and a cheesecake so delicious words wouldn't do it justice. What I love about her family is that similarly to mine they also give it all they've got to decorate the house. After a gift exchange we unfortunately had to hit the road, pick up our pooch and head back to the big city.

My girlfriends family's living room all decked out in Christmas decor!

Between both parents' homes and back and forth to the city for dreaded boxing day shopping, we put this truck through it's paces. One thing I noticed was how smooth and quiet the ride was, unless of course we were blasting Christmas Carols and singing along. The other little perks available in this model actually saved our butts a few times, particularly the park assist feature. Parallel parking with any vehicle in Toronto can be a pain, let alone a big SUV. The parking assist made it a piece of cake by doing it for me! All I had to do was hit one button and apply or let go of the brakes. While this terrified my girlfriend the first time we tried it, there was no denying it was incredible.

The controls of the cockpit, and a heated steering wheel!

As hard as it was to get in the spirit with it being a green Christmas, I am extremely glad I was able to make it home to see family and friends thanks to the good folks at Ford Canada. I hope you all were also able to get home and see your friends and family. If you have any interesting stories from your holidays please share below in the comments, I'd love to hear them!

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

5 Winter Themed Beers to Try This Holiday Season

With the cold weather looming, snow threatening to fall at any given moment and fireplaces begging to be used, it is the perfect time of year to consume winter themed beers. In no particular order of awesomeness, here are 5 brews to check out!

*Please note all of these may not be available outside of Ontario*

Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout (2015 batch)Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Winter Beard Cranberry Stout Bottle

$14 CDN

750mL Bottle

ABV: 8.0%

Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout looks dark brown almost black, opaque and has a light brown head. The aromas match the flavours you taste with dark chocolate notes and a slight hint of the tartness of cranberries. The mouth feel on this brew is lighter than I anticipated, but is smooth going down. You have two choices with what to do with this bottle. The easy decision is to drink it all up right away. The harder decision is to let it age for another 2 years. I’d recommend buying two and seeing what happens from a fresh batch to an aged one.

Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Ale Wychwood Brewery, Witney, Oxfordshire, England

Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Bottle
$3.50 CDN

500mL Bottle

ABV: 5.0%

Bah Humbug! If you’re feeling grumpy about the season, have a glass of Christmas Cheer. Wychwood has produced a Christmas brew with a translucent, dark copper colouring. They have jammed in many flavours and aromas to remind you it is the Christmas season. Cinnamon, darker fruits, brown sugars, vanilla and more come out in this beer with each sniff and sip. The mouth feel is thin with little carbonation. Overall this is a great beer in small doses. Maybe one or two to get you into the Christmas mood.

Lions Winter Ale – Granville Island Brewing, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Lions Winter Ale Can
$3 CDN

473mL Can

ABV: 5.5%

I'm not too sure how a lion would fair in a Canadian winter, but I know us humans can use this Lions Winter Ale to warm up around a fire. The beer pours a nice burnt copper colour with a foamy, creamy looking head. The aromas on this one are vanilla and cocoa. The taste however takes on more of a chocolate, malty, caramel flavour. While that may sound like a disaster of sweetness, it is all fairly balanced to be quite enjoyable. The feel is exactly like the pour, smooth and creamy. Bring a few of these to your next Christmas party and pass them off to those who normally avoid beer like the plague. It will surprise them!

Great Lakes Winter Ale Great Lakes Brewery, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

Great Lakes Winter Ale Bottle
$7 CDN

750mL Bottle

ABV: 6.2%

It gets cold around the Great Lakes, so why not warm up with some Winter Ale from a company who gets it! The ale pours a chestnut brown with a head that dissipates fairly quickly. I pick up strong scents of cinnamon and gingerbread with some butterscotch. The taste is that of winter spices: cinnamon, cloves and ginger but also has a dark bready taste with a hint of citrus. This one has a medium to low carbonation with a dry finish. I found splitting this bottle with my girlfriend while watching the fireplace channel (yea I do that from time to time) had some weird enhancing feature. I suppose atmosphere does have a major impact on your senses!

Winter Welcome AleSamuel Smith’s Old Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England

Winter Welcome Ale Bottle
$4 CDN

550mL Bottle

ABV: 6.0%

Winter is coming and you either run from it or you welcome it. I always like a reason to drink to a few brews, so I will welcome it with open arms and this Ale. The beer pours a rusted bronze with an off white head which leaves that mouth-watering lacing on the glass. I pulled out light spices with caramel, bread and warm applesauce as its aroma. For the taste I was getting more of a toasted nut, malty bready taste with a hint of the cinnamon. I craved the warm applesauce that I picked up from the aroma, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite there in the taste. This is still a solid brew to try, especially for those looking to practice picking out aromas and tastes.

There you go! 5 new beers to try out on your next day off, next weekend off or even to bring to a Christmas Party. If you end up loving one, two or all of them then I’m glad I could help. If you hate them all, well I apologize, but be sure to check them in on the Untappd app and you’ll at least earn a Winter Badge!

Remember to consume all of these adult beverages responsibly and have a safe and happy holidays!

Photos of each brand were pulled from the LCBO website.  

Friday, 4 December 2015

Toronto Christmas Market - 2015 Update

December is finally here, which means Toronto is in full swing with Christmas. Shops have their decorations up and carols playing. People are running around trying to find the perfect gift with winter themed coffee cups in their hands. Office and work party season is in full gear and there is a general niceness towards everyone that only exists this time of year.

Main Road in Christmas Market
The main road/vendor section of the Christmas Market
One major draw for the Toronto scene this time of year is the Christmas Market in the beautiful Distillery District. The Distillery District is a historical site that is rich with Victorian industrial buildings, just steps away from the Downtown Core. The 47 buildings that make up the Distillery District were once owned by Gooderham and Worts (formerly the largest distillery company in Canada) and were deemed to be a historical site in 1976. Cityscape Holdings purchased the site in 2001 and imagined it to be a place where a blend of artisans and entrepreneurs could have a space to showcase their creativity. In 2003, the Distillery District was opened to the public and since then has been an area famous for its cobblestone streets, clothing and craft shops, creative businesses, Mill Street Brewery and of course the Christmas Market.

Christmas Market Tree
The huge tree in the Christmas Market
The Toronto Christmas Market pulls from historic European traditions and offers the people of Toronto and surrounding areas a romantic celebration of everything Christmas. There are local vendors who occupy quaint huts and sell their artisan crafts, clothing and food. There is a large "Wintergarten" where everyone can meet and socialize outside with cups of cheer by one of many fire pits. While this Christmas tradition has been modernized and is essentially another business to gain money, you can't help but get wrapped up in the feeling of the cheerful people, old buildings, twinkling lights and Christmas decor. The Christmas Market is intended to romanticize the feeling of Christmas, and it does just that. Visit here and you will fall in love with Christmas again!

The market runs from November 20th through December 20th. To combat overcrowding the market is now $5 per person on Saturday and Sunday and free Tuesday through Friday. More information can be found at the Toronto Christmas Market website. Below are some pictures from my visit earlier this week!

Naughty or Nice Sign
Are you Naughty or Nice? Find out in the Wintergarten!

Alternate view of Christmas Tree
Alternate view of the beautiful tree

Girls and Snowman
The girls getting cozy with one of  many statues to pose with at the Christmas Market

Christmas Market Ferris Wheel
Get a view of the entire Christmas Market on the Ferris Wheel!

Sleeman Dark Chocolate Lager
Indulge in some spirits and brews! Sleeman Dark Chocolate Lager readily available for all those of age.

Vendors huts after hours.

Ed Eating a Turkey Leg
Me crushing a Vanilla Porter from Mill Street Brewery and a massive turkey leg (totally worth the $13 price tag)!

Main Street After Hours
The main street after hours.