Powdery SNOW

After a couple of false starts with a few flakes of snow over the last couple of months, it finally happened.  Last night the snow came, and kept on coming, and settled.   

 I went into the fitness studio and the ground was clear, an hour later when I came out, everywhere was beautifully white.  I rush home and got wrapped up ready to go and play in the snow.  I ran to the beach because the snow wasnt wet and cold like home.  The air wasnt too cold in the early evening and I ran on the boardwalk, wrote my name in the snow and watched the huge waves. The winds were strong and blowing snow accross the boardwalk – luckily blowing west, so I could walk without much drama.  I tried to gather snow with thoughts of building some sort or snow man, but the snow was soft and powdery and wouldnt stick together.  

 I walked through Kew Gardens and saw the Christmas Tree and the pavilion surrounded by snow.  The ice rink was covered in snow.  I had a cup of tea in Tim Hortons and met someone in there who I went for a walk and a chat on the boardwalk with.  We had to walk backwards as the wind was blowing hard gritty cold snow by this point and we couldnt keep our eyes open walking forwards.  The Canadians called it ice rain or frozen rain, is this not just hail?  

  
When I got home, I was excited to find after being out of the snow for a good half an hour, as I had been warned about, my hair had got wet where it was snowed on and was crunchy where the ice in my hair was frozen.   

 The walk to the bus stop for work this morning was somewhat interesting.  The roads were not cleared as the Canadians led me to believe they would be.  The small areas of pavement (sidewalk) that people had cleared had refrozen creating mini ice rinks.  A crunchy adventure to start this short week. 

  

 

Christmas Day

Well, after all the build up, the day is done.  What did I do for Christmas?  It was a nice quiet one.  I had a slow start with a bit of a lie in, not a lie in in terms of my standard efforts, but compared to work days, a lie in.  Turkey in, after a short drama over the amount of blood, the neck that I managed to retrieve and the search for giblets. This search involved a torch – I couldnt see them and assumed not there.  10 hours later during the final turkey dismemberment we discovered them in there, in a bag.

Now, I felt like I should make some sort of fitness effort, so I did 50 push ups.  Nice token effort to start the day.  

A friend came over for the day from Downtown.  The Brit from Brighton that I think has previously featured.  A new friend that feels like an old friend.  We both wanted a quiet Christmas, so spent the day chatting, cooking eating a roast dinner, consuming lots of chocolate and cheese and crackers, listening to the Wurzels Christmas album and watching Eastenders.  Mavis joined us in the living room for the day, and had some broccoli and crackers for Christmas Dinner.

I spoke to family in the morning and opened presents.  I was lucky to get lots of chocolate from home – selection boxes, galaxy, mint options and kinder – soooo good.  Also some Belgian white chocolate that looks and smells amazing.  I had some really cute and thoughtful gifts that meant a lot and a whole pile of exciting red tissue paper wrapped bits from the sibling.  I have some new gym kit to be wearing when I get back there tomorrow and during the fight for machines during the January resolution rush. 

 We went for a walk along the boardwalk after turkey.  It was really busy with dogs and children all over the shop.  We spotted people with coffee cups and, after some enquiries, headed to Starbucks for some sugar based warm beverages.  Now, I say warm, but dont be under any illusion this was because it was cold.  I would have swum in the lake, I really would!  We fed the squirrels cashew nuts in the park.  And then popped briefly into a pub to wish a friend Happy Birthday and Christmas.  

I was amazed to see that Shoppers (kind of like Boots) was open.  On Christmas Day.  The pubs close at 3/4pm on Christmas Eve, but Shoppers is open on Christmas Day.  Come on Canada, even you must admit this is weird?

After our venture into the outside world, there was more chocolate, more turkey, more cheese and crackers and more Eastenders.  I loved that in true Christmas Day style I had to explain it all, just like when watching with the parents.  I know its just a soap, but it has always been a Christmas Day must watch and I was glad I got to keep this tradition.

Home Alone 2 came with a change of pace, a dimming of lights and difficulty staying awake!  After my chum left, I popped into the pub for half an hour for a malibu and a natter and then headed home.  Here I am.  I have had so many heaters on in anticipation of cold, I almost dont miss the log fire at home as I have managed to create the same overheating effect we manage with the fire every year.

So thats it for Christmas Day this year.  Tomorrow hopefully brings Boxing Day sales  and some fitness.   Next year, who knows?  I dont even know what country I will be in, but as an alternative Christmas, I am happy with today.   

  

Christmas the old way

This is the year that changes everything about how we have done Christmas in our family.  This is not just with me being in Canada – if I was at home, things would still be very different.  Before traditions and Christmas change for the good, I wanted to remember all the things I loved most about the old ones.  

1.  Our stockings.  Me and the sibling have always had the same ones, put out on the landing every year until this one.  Always opened in our parents bedroom, with the time changing throughout the years, and in latter years, with a cup of tea.  When they were around, the grandparents would sit in the corner and watch the opening.  Occasional switching of presents by mum if they had got in the wrong stocking, dad saying ‘what’ve you got there then?’ and being handed anything requiring opening or assembling.  Chocolate coins, selection boxes, socks and underwear, face wipes, hair bands and post its.  Staple items that I have never before needed to purchase myself! 

2.  Roast dinner.  Well, there will always be a roast dinner.  Where possible, followed by Langage Ice Cream.

3.  Outdoors on the farm.  This has always varied, but usually involves some sort of walk/ feeding of cows/ petting pony.  Other pet based entertainment involves dressing them in Christmas collars or tinsel.

4.  Christmas TV.  Eastenders.  Dad says, oh not this rubbish again.  Throughout the show, mum and dad ask questions answered by me and sibling with encyclopaedic knowledge.  Mum has somehow picked up some random knowledge throughout the year.  Dads last big update was last Christmas.  A film? Perhaps, depends what is on and which DVDs have been received for Christmas. One year, we watched The Inbetweeners film.  It was not really family viewing on reflection.

5.  Cheese, coco pops, nuts, chocolate, ice cream, roast dinner, mum actually roasting chestnuts on an open fire, dad producing some nice chocolates later in the day that he had stashed.

6.  In past years, visits to other grandparents and every year a phone call to Auntie Ruth.  Hello Auntie Ruth!! 

7.  Board games.  Usually at some point over the festive period.  Who doesnt love Cluedo?

8.  Playing with presents.  Feeling the ones under the tree and trying to guess.  Arranging them under the tree.  Rearranging them under the tree.  Feeling them again.  Handing them out so we each have one to open at the same time.  

9.  The log fire. And everything about it.

10.  The search for the perfect present box or basket.  I smile writing this one.

I suppose this year, I may not be making new traditions, I wont know until next year.  Sibling will be having her first Christmas in her new house and flying through the new traditions, buying decorations and entertaining.  I like to see the pictures and updates and am look forward to when I visit home next year and see it all for myself.

Not all of these things have to change, next year maybe some will return. Some may have to wait until there are little people to begin them all over again.

Christmas Eve

The week leading up to Christmas has been a tiring one (too tiring to even go to the gym) and I have been desperately looking forward to a few days off work.  I have found myself exhausted, unable to sleep at night during the week and sleeping from 7 or 8pm on Saturday nights until 11am on Sundays.

Since my last post, I have spoken with a few people about how I was feeling.   It meant a lot to hear I wasnt the only person feeling this way and that others struggle as well.  I have resolved to be proactive in moving forward in January.

So, Christmas Eve arrived.  I worked this morning and arrived at the office to hear the Pentatonix Christmas album blaring out.  I love this album and we have overplayed it, but still not got sick of it at work.  This CD and the song Feliz Navidad that is played everywhere will always remind me of my first Christmas in Canada.

After finishing work, I headed downtown and met up with some Brits.  Annoyingly the easy to find centrally located British pub that we arranged to meet at closed as we arrived!  I feel that this is not a British pub if it closes at 3pm on Christmas Eve.  It seems that this is normal in Canada and everything was closing down around us.  Luckily we found another place to congregate and spent a lovely few hours in a place called ‘Warehouse’.  I have walked past many times and seen the line along the street to get in and always fancied it.  Luckily, no queue and we got to try it. Cheap food – all meals $4.95 (£2.50).  Very hipster, everyone was wearing beanies indoors (toques as the Canadians call them) and looking super cool.  They played Greenday and Foofighters which pleased me.  It was a really lovely afternoon chatting with some of my favourite Brits and one Canadian boyfriend along for the ride. 

 After this, I headed back to The Beaches and went for a run.  It is so strange seeing everywhere closed before 9pm. I had a lovely three mile run along the road, through Kew Gardens and along the boardwalk by the beach.  Yes, thats right, 8.30pm in Canada, on Christmas Eve, and warm enough for a trot along by the water. When will I stop going on about the lack of snow? When it snows.  Then I shall moan that I am cold.

Tomorrow brings a Brit for Christmas dinner and an unexpected pile of parcels to open. I feel, well, I think warm and fuzzy would be the best way to describe it when I see the cards and presents sent, and think of the invites I had from people to spend bits of Christmas with them here.  Mum said I could open one envelope last night, another soap magazine (love my updates) and some Bertie Bassetts.  I havent had them for years – I always used to take the Berties from Mums boxes of sweets when I was little.  

For now though, it is time to have a hot chocolate in my Tim Hortons Christmas mug that I simply had to have, whilst trying to locate last nights Eastenders. 

 

A difficult weekend

This weekend has probably been the hardest one since I have been in Canada.  It is the first time that I have considered not making this country my forever country.  I am not sure if it is the time of year – I have plans for Christmas and am looking forward to them, so I dont think it is, however,  if someone had given me a plane ticket home and said there was a cab outside yesterday, I probably would have headed back to England.

7 months in and I have made many friends and acquaintances.  I have got a good job and a nice apartment to live in, in a great location.  I am mostly used to the ways of the country, the money and the Canadianisms.  I have accepted the fact that I must pay an extortionate amount for Bisto and certain English essentials.  Things are going well.  I have thrown myself into looking at residency and have a good idea of what I need to do to work towards it.  Then yesterday came and I found myself with no plans.  I have always been pretty good at self entertaining, but I thought about what I would have done if I was in England – I would probably have gone to Sparkwell to hang out with parents and/ or pets or gone to the gym with friends.  I couldnt do either of these things.  Contact with some friends from home is rare and I guess I miss some of the people I thought I would stay in touch with more frequently.  I started thinking about the friendships I have made here.  It occurred to me that a lot of the things people do are drinking based events…. I dont really drink much and would often rather plan some fun day trips and random activities.  Most of the time things are easy with new friends, but there are those days that I feel like I am back in school and trying to fit in. 

I have also been considering selling my car.  If I sell my car that is in England, it will enable me to do some more fun stuff in Canada and see more places that are a little out of reach right now.  If I sell it, I will be going backwards if I do go home.  At the moment, my life in England is just paused and I can walk pretty much back into things the way they were when I left.  Granted, there would be a few changes, but I havent yet given anything up or really made any big sacrifices to come here.

Despite all of the above feelings flying around, I am not unhappy.  I guess, there had to come a time to start questioning everything and this weekend has been that time.

I spent today with two of the Brits.  Two of the ones that I find it easiest to get on with.  I can be completely myself and chatter away easily.  The problem is that one is leaving in January and the other is a definite flight risk.  It was nice to all discuss our different plans and gave me a good chance to chat through different options and think about next year.  I think I feel better for this.  We had a Tim Hortons (because every good day here starts with a Tims), we went for a pub lunch (because who doesnt love a pub lunch on a Sunday), we walked down through Glen Manor Ravine towards the boardwalk and got there just in time for the sunset.  We had a drink in the pub, a cup of tea at mine and after I had waved them off at different times on to street cars, I had a coke in the pub with some of my Canadian buddies.  It was a perfect girly day. 

Some pictures from home that made me smile. 

 

Winter in The Beaches

You will hate the snow when it comes, they said.  Just wait until November, they said.  November came… Just wait until December, they said.  Well, the great snow that other parts of the world are led to believe Canada has is still not here.  I am still hoping it is coming soon, though losing hope for a white Christmas. Maybe January?

Despite the lack of white, the trees have lost their leaves, the air is getting colder (though hasnt beaten England yet) and smoke is coming out of peoples chimney pots.  The houses have pretty trees in the windows and the outdoor trees are all covered with lights.  

We put our tree up in the apartment, a real one of course.   It has a good random mish mash of decorations we have collected from places with a story behind most of them.  There is a Canadian flag, Belgian flag and, in lieu of an English flag, a PG Tips tin!  

  This weekend began with a late lunch with the day job crew, followed by tasty treats and festive socialising at the studio for the fitness Christmas do.  I taught a Body Blast class yesterday, had a lovely walk along my favourite route through Glen Manor ravine and met a friend downtown for a hot chocolate and a wander around the Eaton Center.  After a bath with a Lush bath bomb and a much appreciated Soaplife magazine from home to catch up on the TV news, I was asleep by 7! 

 This afternoon I grabbed my ice skates and headed to the ice rink at Kew Gardens near me.  I went down on Thursday and there was a sign saying it wasnt cold enough for the ice to stay frozen, but luckily it was open today.  There was a lot of water on the surface, so I was glad I stayed upright!  I havent been able to get to the place I have to go to get my OHIP (Canadian Healthcare – eligible after 3 months employment) yet, so a fall would have been a drama.  Having not been on skates for more than fifteen years, I learnt that it is not something that is easy to pick straight back up again!  I wobbled my way around staying close to the edge with words of encouragement from parents watching their kids zooming around!  I had great fun though and cant wait to go again! What better winter entertainment than skating at a free outdoor rink in Canada. 

 

The Dentist

Whilst we all think of Canadians as terribly friendly (true) and helpful (so true) people who say “sorry” (yes), “eh” (all the time) and hang out in the snow (what snow?) eating maple based products (no evidence at this point), it seems they think of us as tea drinkers (correct) with bad teeth (what?!).  It is a strange myth that people on this side of the world seem to think English dentists are few and far between and we all have rotten teeth.

Yesterday (Thursday) I made my first trip to a Canadian dentist.  I usually go to the dentist with my Dad, so not entirely comfortable with this whole foreign dentist business, and on my own.  I was told not to worry about my previous dental records if they were from England.  I had all sorts of weird and wonderful xrays that I havent had done before and got asked an array of questions that I was not expecting to be asked.  My throat and cheeks were checked – Im not sure what for.  Some concerned noises were made when my jaw clicked and I was asked to recall details on my brace that I had nearly 20 years ago.  They cleaned and polished half of my teeth – the other half have to be done next time .  The lady said that I should take out my wisdom tooth, I suggested it would be better if she did it rather than me.  She replied very seriously that I could keep I didnt have to have it out if I didnt want to.  Wasted humour.  The overall experience wasnt too horrific as dental visits go as there was no drilling or ginormous needles in my gums, there were still squeaking metal pokey things.  At one point she actually grabbed my tongue and moved it around to inspect.  This has never happened to me before.

I was shown how to clean my teeth.  I was baffled as this is definitely not how I have ever been told to clean my teeth.  She did a great job though!  I came home and checked with room mate and today with colleagues and we have all been doing it wrong.  I couldnt believe it until I checked and Oral B and Colgate both agree.  Circles and side to side are out, 45 degree angled gum to tooth flicks are in.   Craziness.

Aside from all strange new experiences that I am fairly indifferent about, there was one bit that has made me more concerned about the dentist…. this need to be so nice and explain everything.  I asked the lady to just get on with it and get the uncomfortable job done as quickly as possible – she said that we needed to work as a team to look after my teeth and kept explaining stuff and trying to put me at ease which drew the whole process out making it longer, me more stressed and increasingly annoyed that I wasnt at the gym instead.  Canadian niceness at the dentist is not welcome.

Anyway, it is all over until next week for the second half of the cleaning.   Dad always usually buys a mint aero for us to share after the dentist – this time I had to buy my own.

 

New York in summary

So, New York overall…. 

Things I did:

  • Empire state building
  • Statue of liberty
  • Staten island ferry
  • Central park
  • Bethesda fountain
  • Waldorf astoria
  • World trade center
  • Rockefeller center
  • Bloomingdales
  • Macys
  • Serendipity
  • McGees (How I met your mother pub)
  • Times square
  • Bryant park

I think I did pretty well to squeeze all of the above in, and go to a wedding in New Jersey with about 55 hours in the city.

The wedding was one of the Brits marrying his American fiance in New Jersey.  It was a great reception, nice venue, amazing food.  I loved how they announced the bridal party who came in in pairs to Walking on Sunshine. 

 Bryant park – I stumbled across this park by accident.  It was a magical little park with an ice rink and some old music playing over the speakers.  Little permanent shops in huts around the edge and a calm and quaint atmosphere made it a lovely place to visit on a sunny Sunday morning. I bought a snowflake necklace and a pretty ring. 

 McGees pub – not really like the How I met your Mother pub at all!  I had a nice meal and chatted to some random people I was sat at the bar with.

The Hostel – I stayed at the Chelsea International Hostel.  I was nervous about staying in a hostel but had little choice.  I imagined noise, drink, teenagers and grubbiness.  The room was clean (I had a private room) and breakfast was provided.  The staff were amazingly helpful throughout my stay and I would recommend it to anybody in need of somewhere to stay in New York.  Airbnb continued to be amazing after the debacle, checking in with me.  My intended host messaged a couple more times apologising, but she never did seem to grasp that what appears to her to be a bit of an inconvenience is very different to the person who is on their own in a strange country with no idea what to do or where to go.  Also, a late check in is not okay in a city where you cant take your luggage anywhere with you in case you are a terrorist.

Christmas trees – there were Christmas tree shops on the corners of many streets.  It smelt lovely walking past and I enjoyed seeing all different trees and stands, reindeer and decorations made from trees and wood. 

 I did everything I wanted to do and all the stuff on my ‘if I have time’ list.  I got lost a few times, took cabs, subways and eventually figured out that Downtown in Manhattan is away from busy bit (the opposite Toronto where Downtown is the busy bit).  I found that, as they say, the city does not sleep.  I found that most of the New Yorkers I met were rude and unhelpful, in particular if they were in a customer service role.  I did love the way they say coffee though… “cworfee” – great accents.  I also enjoyed the amount of street music everywhere.  Dancers, singers and entertainment in all different forms.  It was great to watch and I think every city should have more of this.

I missed Toronto and Canadians, and Tim Hortons.  I wasnt expecting to miss Toronto so much after being away for a day!! I enjoyed the touristy things I did, I enjoyed my shopping and I did some fun things.  I didnt think there was a city I would like to live in less than London, but this is it!  I know my trip was a little tainted with a lot of bad luck, but would I go back to New York? At this moment, I will politely decline and, as I am back in Canada, say “Sorry”.  

Its good to be home.

 

Central Park

Central Park was lovely, as expected.  The leaves were still falling and the air was crisp, yet sunny with a blue sky.  A couple of hours strolling around the park was the last thing I did before heading for the hostel to get my bags and get to the airport.  I walked past parks, a lot of bridges, water, volleyball courts, rocks and lots of crowds of people.  I saw the Bethesda Fountain where films such as 27 Dresses and Enchanted did some filming, and also the Cherry Hill Fountain which is on all the tourist maps at the fountain from Friends, but actually isnt?!  I saw the ice rink featured on many films.  How does Central Park compare?  It is definitely the nicest park I have been in scenery wise, the kind of place that I could sit and read a book or have a picnic, if not for all the crowds of people. 

 One corner of Central Park had a cute Christmas market with red and white striped stalls and lots of crafty and Christmassy items for sale.  

There were horses all down the side of the park for carriage rides around the park.