Toronto Christmas Market, Distillery District

This evening, I went off to the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District.  It was a nice little walk around to finish off the weekend.  It didn’t leave me feeling particularly festive or magical, but it was a nice stroll.  I think the grumpy staff at the market had a big impact on me not feeling particularly infused with festive cheer.  They all seemed a bit fed up and not how Canadians have generally been so far.  Normally, I cant pass anywhere near a working Canadian without a big cheerful “Hey, how are you?”.  These just grunted or gave a forced “Hi”.  There were lots of different stalls selling all sorts of Christmas gifts and foods, but nothing under $10 that really  grabbed me and I wasnt there for big spending. 

 The lights were pretty and there were lovely snow flakes projected on to the walls.  There was a gingerbread house, lots of big plastic snowmen and festive music. Oh, and of course, there was Santa with lots of children queuing to meet him. 

 

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Avenue Q 

Friday night this week brought a Brit adventure downtown to the Lower Ossington Theatre to see a musical called Avenue Q.

Before the show, we went to The Bristol and Bombay, a nice friendly British bar for some food.  I had a macaroni cheese pie with mash and mushy peas.  It was one of the nicest meals I have eaten since being in Canada. 

Off to the show.  I wanted to see this show in England as they were in Torquay last year.  I didnt realise they were Canadian and expected it to be all English folk.  I watched the youtube clips which were hilarious, but it was even funnier in real life.  It is basically a puppet show where the puppets sing comedy songs, many of which are hilariously un-pc.  I find myself typing this on the streetcar trying not to sing “everyones a little bit racist” or “the internet is for porn”, such catchy tunes, but here is not the time to be singing out loud. 

I watched the puppeteers carefully, and they were moving their bodies and faces in perfect time with their voices and the puppets.  At times, they were switching between different puppets with different voices and mannerisms.  The singing was great and it was just an overall fantastic show!  The cast seemed to be genuinely really happy and enjoying it throughout. Hilariously inappropriate, laugh out loud funny, and the only place I have seen such comedy x-rated behaviour from puppets.   

 

Where is the rice?

In my early days in Canada, I thought it is a shame that despite having such lovely places to sit and walk and visit, people here seem to have a less time to enjoy it as they are always working.  I promised myself that I would continue to spend lots of time on the beach, after all, thats why I picked The Beaches to settle.  I realised this week that it has been four weeks since I was on the beach.  I used to go down whilst doing laundry, and for a hot chocolate, to read a book, for a walk or a run.  I know it is colder now and dark in the evenings, but I miss how much time I spent there in the summer.  Today I went for a walk with a Canadian girlfriend (note the Canandianism) from the bar. We walked down through the ravine and all along the boardwalk.   

The trees have mostly lost their leaves and the air is cold.  It is still not cold enough for my lovely winter coat I bought weeks and weeks ago.  There is still no sign of the promised famous Canadian snow. 

 It was cold enough to make us appreciate a nice chilli in the warm bar after walking.  Bit weird though, Canadians dont eat their chilli with rice?! They eat it with garlic bread and tacos and seemed confused when I enquired about the rice. 


 

3 nice things to come home to

I came home to these exciting things…

  • A Christmas display
  • A poinsettia – I just love them
  • A parcel from England

I have been given permission to open the parcel.  I reeeeeeally want to, but for now, self control has won and it is sitting under the poinsettia.  I didnt even open the card, saving it for the 1st December.

 

Mostly about hamsters and Nandos

A couple of random observations about the locals… they call “Flakes”, “Flakeeees”. They seem to all be planting cabbages like plants in their gardens, they are everywhere. 

 Last weekend I went to the pet shop to visit the babies.  I was delighted to see they were all still alive and well.  They haven’t grown as much as I thought they would have, but getting bigger.  The pet shop let me have a play with them and I also got to play with the ferret they had there.  I loved this.  I would love a pet ferret if they didn’t smell so much.  It reminded me of Dartmoor days – good old Ronnie and Reggie.  I want to work in a pet shop.  I also got a new house for Mavis, she initially preferred sitting on top of it, but after a few hours decided, it is easier to sleep inside. 
 Nandos  – I have been meaning to get to Nandos for some time and haven’t quite gotten around to it until after The Santa Claus Parade.  The tradition/ obsession with Nandos at Warner Village is something that I miss doing with friends at home (I will definitely be taking my visiting Brit to Nandos when she arrives next year).  Me and the Manchester folks are all keen fans and headed there for a spot of lunch.  Funny story, stood in queue and said excuse me to the person in front waiting to be seated so I could grab a menu, then looked at her face and it was one of the other Brits (Welsh one, one of the hosts of the Halloween party).  Love that I am randomly bumping into people when I know so few in such a big place!  Forces joined and good times had by all.  Lets cut to the nitty gritty though, how did it taste? It was Nandos, it was delicious.  Was it as good as home? I have to be honest and say no, but it was close.  The peri peri sauce seemed the same and the sweet potato wedges were delicious, but the chicken wasn’t quite as good and the peri tamer sauce was very bizarre indeed.  No loyalty points card scheme, so I wont be claiming a free meal anytime soon, but I will be returning. 

 In other food news, I have also been to The Keg.  It was delicious and they put green beans on my plate! So happy to have a meal in a restaurant with green vegetables instead of salad with everything. 

I have been trying to make some Christmas cards.  I gathered and pressed Maple Leaves and it turns out that they just aren’t that easy to use as a craft material.  It turned out to be too time consuming to make each one – I just don’t have as much time on my hands in Canada.  Being a tourist, a holiday maker, a wannabe local and a worker pretty much covers most of my spare time.  This will be the first year in many many years that I haven’t made my Christmas cards which I feel a little sad about, but I hope that sending Canadian themed Hallmark cards will suffice.

Flyers – for the past two Saturdays, I have delivered flyers around the area.  Four hours last week and 1,700 flyers delivered between two of us.  Writing this makes me think I could have used this time to make cards! 

In other news, I have purchased some Christmas earrings, have been eating lots of chicken (and too much chocolate, Its getting out of control), been gymming lots and lots, signed up for a Boot Camp Instructor course in two weeks and started the sunbeds as my amazing summer tan has deserted me. 

 

The Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

This weekend, Toronto provided me with entertainment in the form of The Santa Claus Parade.  I must say I woke up feeling a little “meh” about the whole thing and spent the morning convincing myself to go.I am glad I did. I met a couple of the Brits (well, folks from Manchester) and we stood waiting patiently for it to get to us. Luckily, it was a warm (ish) and sunny day, with blue skies. The streets were lined with people sat in chairs they had brought with them for the occasion.

This is the 111th year of the parade which has continued to run in all weathers. I was excited to read that Santa has arrived in sleighs pulled by real reindeer – this year it was somewhat more modern and he was on a truck with plastic reindeer.

The parade itself lasted for an hour and forty five minutes. If I am honest, I would have enjoyed it more if it was a little shorter with smaller gaps between floats. There were clowns, and police displays, lots of people dressed as different and random animals, A LOT of marching bands, cartoon characters, kids dressed as flowers (?!), gymnastic type troups and horses. Oh, and Mrs Claus with her own float followed closely by Santa himself!

 The marching bands were fantastic. There were a lot of them, but no other floats seemed to provide music which caused quite a few silent gaps when some random kids just wandered by occasionally shouting Merry Christmas into the crowds standing in the sunshine. The marching bands made the whole thing festive and there was a great tinkly rendition of jingle bells near the end.

  I didnt get the relevance of some of the animals and the countless flowers… I would have liked a bit more Christmas music and santa costumes and hats! I did get to see pom poms – it went a little way towards making up for the lack of pom poms at the raptors game. There were also gingerbread floats, festive Tim Hortons, Ronald McDonald on a segway, Blue Jays, Raptors and Maple Leafs.

 With aching feet, I make my way home ready for bed and a good sleep. Far too much excitement (look, look!), anticipation (wheres Santa?), standing and drama (whats that? Is it a rabbit? Why are people dressed as rabbits? Where is the Christmas stuff? Apparently they were Sasquatches?!) for a Sunday afternoon.

  

Christmas at Hudsons Bay

When Dad visited, I made the exciting discovery of Hudsons Bay all year round Christmas department. This week, things got even more exciting and I took a stroll past their windows. There are amazing Christmas scenes and little stories at each window with geese above the windows. Now that Halloween is over, Christmas has hit Toronto hard and the decorations and festivities seem to be rapidly taking the city by storm. The wind has picked up the last couple of days and the air is getting cooler again. Although, if the past few months is anything to go by it could be warm again next week.    

  

Basketball: Toronto Raptors vs New York Knicks

In this evenings sporting news, I went to a Knicks game.  Basketball.  It was Toronto Raptors vs New York Knicks.  I fancied a basketball game to see what it was like, but didnt know what team to see…. The only team I have heard of the the Knicks from watching shows such as Sex and the city, so a Knicks game it was.  Obviously supporting Toronto though.  Although, may need to rethink this! 

 I was excited about seeing the cheerleaders and had high hopes for  some pom poms, cheerleader pyramids and maybe some flaming baton twirling.  It was not to be and the cheerleaders just danced in formation.  The music was catchy and cheesy.  Despite my disappointment at the lack of Bring it on style party tricks, I felt strangely jealous and feel it may have ignited some deep seated aspirations to be a Cheerleader.  A few more sit ups and its game on!   

 The basketball itself was good to watch.  It didnt draw me in the same as hockey and baseball though.  Baseball is still my number 1.  The game was a little slow and, whilst I enjoyed the evening and would go again, I wont be rushing to buy season tickets.  I have come away with a good basic understanding and short term disappointment at the Raptors losing.  The thing I have discovered about basketball is that they can have a million time outs throughout the game.   This caused the last 25 seconds to last about 15 mins!! The last time out was at 3 seconds and I amazed that the Raptors did score in this remaining time when play resumed.  The last five mins of play time was exciting and incredibly close.  For the final quarter, I was invested in the game and eager for a win. The fans had absolute faith in their team to win it back right up until the last 1.7 seconds of play.

The game started with the national anthem, sung by man which was a nice change.  There was no sport specific song such as “The good old hockey song” or “OK Blue Jays”.  I did enjoy the music and a small amount of pyrotechnics at the start.    With it being November 11th tomorrow, it was nice that there were a number of War Veterans attending and a silence at the beginning to commemorate their service and Rememberance Day. 

 

The Hamster Journey

Well, the hamster journey is over. It was sad to say good bye and drop the 7 that I was unable to home off at the pet shop on Saturday. Mavis seems much happier now and is playing in her cage again and not trying to get away. It has been exciting, but also stressful! A fun surprise, but not one I have plans to repeat – the constant worry about whether she would eat her babies was unnecessary stress. Mavis is growing more and more every day and seeing the size of her siblings that were still in the pet shop, it looks like she might resemble a small guinea pig when she stops growing!    

 Birth to 8 days old. The babies looked like little aliens. They squeaked towards the end of the week. Eyes were closed. The internet told me Mavis might be aggressive and protective, but she didnt mind me petting her or exposing the nest to take pics. Towards the end of the week they started to get a light coating of hair.

  Days 9 to 20. Somewhere around day 12, the babies started pooing. Their fur got some colour and they began to look miniature versions of their mum. Day 14 was like Christmas. I woke up excited as this was finally the day I could touch them. Mavis didnt mind and seemed happy to let me take them out to play. By the point the babies were starting to roam out of the nest, Mavis was angrily picking them up and putting them back in the nest each time they escaped. By the time she barricaded them in with bedding, another would have escaped out of another spot. I spent a lot of hours watching this rigamarole. Their eyes started opening around day 15 and one baby was considerably bigger than the rest (see day 20). I bought a second cage around two weeks so Mavis could have some time away from the babies – she was chewing the bars and trying to get away when it all became too much. During this week, lots went on – the babies started drinking from the water bottle and their eyes were opening. I read online that feeding them cucumber keeps them hydrated if they arent drinking enough – they loved it and I went through a lot of cucumber. At day 19, I put Mavis and the smaller 5 in the new bigger cage and the fatter 4 babies in a cage on their own. They were eating and drinking on their own and she was starting to push them away.

My room mate and I spent some time trying to figure out which were boys and which were girls. After much time examining and comparing to pictures, we still have no idea! 

In the third week, the first of the babies went to live with my room mate. I love this as I get to see him still. A lovely lady I found through Facebook had another one for her children and it is nice to know that it will get lots of attention and love.  

  They were still wasting time as I spent many more hours watching them. They were running in the wheel, fighting over cucumber and making a lot of noise. Such fun! One of my favourite times was watching them trying to run in opposite directions in the wheel. They eventually mastered it and managed to run together.  

 The pet shop gave me a new toy for Mavis and she has been enjoying playing in it and on it, eating lots of treats and getting all the attention again.