Monthly Archives: October 2009

Seeking: Girl Riding Shark

The sheer magnitude of analytics available on the interweb is astounding. I guess that could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. Figuring out which words or phrases for which people are searching is important if your goal is to increase your readership and eventually get paid ads on your site, for example.  Or, you can do what I do: blog about the mundane things that happen in your life and hope that someone other than the people your parents paid good money to read your site1 actually read it. Ahem. 🙂

I follow a motherload of blogs and the majority of them reference their blog stats at one point or another. Until recently, I could have cared less about my stats. I knew WordPress tracked them, but I was not the girl who rushed home every day to check her stats, or even worse, refreshed my stats page on an hourly basis to find out how many more fools around the world wasted their time reading my drivel. Until recently, that is. When I finally checked things out, I had a slight moment of shock and awe. Some of the phrases for which people search are pretty effin’ hilarious, such as “snidely whiplash bondage” or “how about texas? that’s a random state”. Or, my personal favourite, and therefore post title, “girl riding shark”. I mean, seriously, if there’s some girl out there riding a shark, she is someone I am going to be required to meet. Also, let me just add that there seems to be an abnormal number of people — a plethora, I’ll say — out there searching for Dudley Do-Right. At least 15 hits per day come searching for my very brief reference to the great do-gooding Canadian mountie. Forget Google analytics and listen to what I’m telling you: blog about Dudley Do-Right and you’ll be a paid ad millionaire in no time.

Now, take a gander at some of the other phrases, and places, for which people have searched, and from whence people have come, to feast their eyes on the goodness that is A Texas Girl’s Adventures in Canada. I’d say judging from the search terms, it has been an adventure, indeed…and whoever had the “nude thai girl date” sure didn’t invite moi.

The last 25 searches that brought people to my blog:
dudley do right
snidely whiplash bondage
canadian things that start with “i”
sorting mail
funny iphone
film semi server
montreal hispanic buildings
india garbage girl
dudley doright
things that failed
poutine roll
dudley do right
au pied du cochon
dudley do right villain
texas girl’s adventures
how about texas? that’s a random state
girl riding shark
best way to soup up a f350 [snicker]
nude thai girl date
garbage monkey
dew blue
david ninjas po po
toronto outdoor adenture show photos
traditional culture in vietnam
apparently
reuters board times square
people walking down in a street and thin
garbage streets montreal
full garbage
naked bike riders
crazy people walking
tim hortons in texas [ed: uh, no]
rated pg13
texas girl canada carmen
  
The last 25 cities from whence my blog readers came:
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Atlanta, Georgia
Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Ottawa, Ontario
Woodbridge, Ontario
Pierrefonds, Quebec
Etobicoke, Ontario
Houston, Texas
Grande Prairie, Alberta
Oxford, Ohio
Göteborg, Vastra Gotaland, Sweden
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Kiev, Kyyivs’ka Oblast’, Ukraine
Toronto, Ontario
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Mountain View, California
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Annapolis, Maryland
Amsterdam, Noord-holland, Netherlands
Los Angeles, California (by googling “restylane”, not surprisingly)
Teller, Alaska
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Dublin, Ireland
Bucharest, Bucuresti, Romania

And lastly, some good old-fashioned geek stats for the monstrous nerd in you!
2009 blog postings: 64, because I believe quality is more important than quantity (read: someone injected me with lazy)
2009 blog postings still in draft form: 46 (ditto above)
Number of blog visits to date in 2009: 16, 457
Average number of hits per day: 55
Most popular blog post: Reason #7,482 Why I Love My Province
Busiest day on my blog: Sunday, June 21, when I posted The Day I Joined the iCult
Number of blogs I follow on Google Reader: 49 (two of which are my own because I really am that narcissistic)
Number of blogs that are currently unread on my Google Reader: 367. Clearly I have some work to do.

1 I jest, of course. I have only paid one person never paid anyone to read this blog. People just seem to show up on their own. Suckas.

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Trees, They Are A Changin’

There’s something seriously special about Fall. Growing up in Texas pretty much guarantees that you’ll never see real fall foliage, since the trees there stay green nearly year-round. Something about living on the face of the sun. Anyway. I have very fond memories of being a rosy-cheeked, pigtailed little girl chillin’ out with my Highlights magazine and exhibiting my wicked colouring skills by shading in the trees of the Goofus and Gallant section in bright oranges, reds, and yellows. 

Fast forward 30 years and I’m living in Canada. No longer do I have to use my crayons to colour between the lines; rather, driving around all the live-long day allows me to feast my eyes on the stunningly coloured trees that make Toronto even more beautiful than it already is. 

Now, lucky for my fair readers, I get to use all the tools in the nerd kingdom to show you the stunning colours of my favourite season. All hail the monstrous photo nerd! 

Unionville 018

Unionville, Ontario

Unionville 047

Unionville, Ontario

Scenic Caves 006

Georgian Bay in Collingwood, Ontario

Helicopter Ride 041

The Don Valley

Restylane 012

Part of my drive to work

Unionville 039

Moi, frolicking in the leaves

The only downfall of Fall is that it means Toronto is preparing to turn into the vast, frozen wasteland into which it turns six months a year. Which also means that I need to get off my laptop and get myself outside so I can soak in the last remaining non-snow-on-the-ground-rays. Enough of this online nonsense — now if you’ll excuse me, I have a maple tree to cuddle.

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Fingerprints, Fingerprints, We All Love Fingerprints

I’ve lived in Canada for a little more than two years and have been working, playing, and paying exorbitant taxes in two countries the entire time. So when I was told I had to submit fingerprints to le government du Canada, I sat back and giggled.Fingerprint 2 

Of course, who am I to argue with Canadian immigration officials? For fear of being taken to Canada jail*, I did my civic duty, waited in the very lengthy queue (who knew so many people had to be fingerprinted?), and had my digits inked. I felt so Hollywood; so glamorous! Except, of course, no one was taking my mug shot while I was having my prints done. And, I had to pay a hefty fee to get fingerprinted, whereas I’m sure Hugh Grant, for example, did not.  My prints and requisite money orders in USD (a fun thing to try and get in, oh, I don’t know, CANADA), were sent off to both the FBI and the great state of Texas, and the waiting began.

I thought to myself “this must be what it’s like to have to wait for the test results you don’t want to see — like whether the sign is a “+” or a “-“. Waiting is always the hardest part. I thought “Maybe I’ve done something and don’t remember having done it? Like that time I accidentally opened someone else’s mail or took the KitKat from the grocery store when I was four after my dad told me I couldn’t have it**”.

Excitingly, my records came back this week. The good news? You can all rest assured that I am not, in fact, a criminal in the eyes of either the government of the United States of America or the state of Texas. What a relief! 🙂 The bad news? I still have to pay the taxes.                                                           

 

* my little term of endearment for the good men and women of Canada Immigration who I fear will take me away to Kingston at a moment’s notice. That, or just simply escort me to the US/Canada border kicking and screaming. 😉
** And who, after showing it to him in the car, promptly turned me around, marched me back inside, and made me tell the store clerk I’d taken it. Because nothing says “convict” like a four  year-old in the clink. 😉

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A Day of Thanks, Canadian Style

Canadian Thanksgiving 006“You might want to get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars you’re in Texas”, goes the saying. I don’t disagree with its authors, whoever they are, but I’m pretty thankful I’m in Canada, too. Of course, I had yet to experience a true Canadian Thanksgiving, so I couldn’t yet fully comment on all-things Canadian. I was working away recently, when an IM popped up from my friend Chris (also known as my Official Canadian Tour Guide*). “What are you doing on Monday?”, he asked. I thought for a second and then replied, “Um, filing my nails and doing laundry. You know, all the exciting things I normally do on a holiday Monday”. (You know you are so jealous.) “Nope”, he said, “you’re coming to our house for Thanksgiving”. I practically danced out of my chair. I was so psyched! I couldn’t wait to compare a real Canadian Thanksgiving to the large, austral, Southern Thanksgivings to which I was accustomed. Would we have back bacon casserole? Maple syrup sugar pie? Poutine-stuffed turkey? Do they even have turkey at Canadian Thanksgiving? These are the things to which I was seeking answers. Answers which I would be happily gleaning via my eyes and, more importantly, my stomach.

While it may seem like Canadian Thanksgiving is simply an attempt to add to an already-bloated list of statutory holidays, in reality, Canada celebrated their “day of thanks” well before the Americans did — 43 years before, to be exact. Surely it doesn’t matter who celebrated first and really, who could have known? I mean, Canadian Thanksgiving 013did the French and the Brits in Canada send down a fax to the pilgrims in America saying “hey, we got here about 40 years ago and when we did, we had this big day of thanks complete with cornucopias, turkeys, parades and pumpkin pie!”?  Doubtful. As I understand it, the only real difference between the American holiday and the Canadian holiday (incidentally celebrated in October**) is that for which each respective country is giving thanks:  Americans celebrating the arrival of the pilgrims to the new land (and subsequent plundering of it), with Canadians giving thanks for a successful harvest. And no, not an ice harvest

Thanksgiving Day turned out to be blustery and cool this year, and I listened to my boyfriend, Ira Glass, on This American Life, as I prepared my contribution to the day — sweet potato casserole, complete with marshmellows on top. Delish! By the time I arrived for dinner, things were in full swing. The house smelled of roasted turkey (I guess they have turkey at Canadian Thanksgiving, after all), brussels sprouts, cinnamon, and, most importantly, fresh pumpkin martinis. Yes, please! The party was small, with eight adults and two adorable children, but perfect, nonetheless. You know how holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas bring out what I like to call the “extended family crazies”? Like crazy Uncle Al who wants to show you the wart that he removed himeslf or loopy Aunt Edna whose wig looks like it may actually still be alive? Well, there was none of that at Chris’s — just good conversation***, amazingly delicious food, and lots and lots of thanks. We had Canadian-raised turkey with stuffing, roasted carrots, brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole (natch), salad, and fresh Ontario beets. Dessert was fresh pumpkin pie, apple pie, and a homemade Austrian dessert into which I could have put my face. Combined, it was all like a big party in my mouth.

Canadian Thanksgiving 012After the “adults” left, Chris, his wife, and I cracked open a few bottles of wine, continued the intelligent chatter and exhaustedly wrapped up what was, in my opinion, the perfect Canadian Thanksgiving. The best part, though? I finally broke away from having to sit at the “kids’ table”. 🙂

As years go, this has been a more challenging one for me. Still, I have so much gratitude for what I have and so little concern for what I don’t, that I don’t feel like I have any right to waste any time wallowing. You’ll still find me on my knees thanking my lucky stars I’m from Texas, but, while I’m down there, I’m also thanking the universe that I got to experience a true Canadian Thanksgiving. 

 

 

 

* Chris is a walking encyclopedia of all-things Canadian. His brain is basically like Frommers Canada, so luckily, I’ve never actually had to buy it.
** It’s celebrated in October because that’s when the seasonal harvest is, yo.
*** Talk briefly turned, of course, to the topic that has become the bane of my existence as an American in Canada — Universal Healthcare. Can someone please end this saga already, so I can go on about my life?! 😉

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Toronto Chinatown Festival

Chinatown Festival 150Smoke billowed from gangs of barbeques lined up as far as the eye could see. Bunches of Hello Kitty balloons neatly tied together gently waved in the afternoon breeze. Tourists clicked their cameras incessantly and nearly tripped over each other with excitement. Traditional arts and costumes from the eight Chinese provinces were featured on stage and performers under intricately embroidered red-silked dragons danced through the streets at the Toronto Chinatown Festival.Chinatown Festival 051

My nose led me to open-air street vendors selling skewers of pork and beef, fried rice, lotus paste sandwiches and steamed breads; at times smelling putrid, rotten, rancid and sour and at other times sweet, aromatic, and occasionally perfumed like a newly-planted taro bush on the Hawaiian coast. Fused together, their fragrant flavours transported me to the Orient with a single inhale.

I sauntered through the colourful displays and couldn’t help but bite into Takoyaki and curried fish balls, while double fisting a strawberry bubble tea and a fresh coconut sliced open specifically for my consumption. I sipped Chinatown Festival 126the last bit of coconut water, and spied both boiled white radishes and chocolate wasabi ice cream. Something told me I was required to make a detour, as the streets of Chinatown invited me to indulge, again.

 

 

 

 

P.S. Take a gander at the rest of my too-good-to-be-true Chinatown Festival photos here. 😉

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The Fun Theory

I rarely take the stairs anymore. I live on the 22nd floor of a high rise, so unless there’s a giant fire or a super hot guy waiting in the stairwell, I’m usually on the elevator. I work on the second floor of my office building and unfortunately, it isn’t connected to any of the other floors (I think TSN used to broadcast from this building and kept this floor separated for security purposes), so I have to take the elevator even when I’m at work.  I occasionally take the stairs when I ride the subway, but as any of you who have ever visited Toronto know, the subway here is sort of a fake subway, that is to say that it doesn’t really take you far, so I usually end up driving (read: I’m lazy). 

I’d *definitely* take the stairs, though, if I ever happened across piano stairs like the ones the clever, clever Swedes — with support from Volkswagen — recently installed at one of their subway stations. The project, called “the Fun Theory”, was created to change people’s behaviour for the better by making a previously “unfun” task more fun to do. I think it’s simply genius. I mean, who doesn’t want to pretend they’re Tom Hanks in “Big” and hear sounds coming from underneath your feet as you climb a bunch of stairs?

What do you think of the “Fun Theory” and this type of social engineering?

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Feast Your Eyes (And Your Stomach)

Risotto 007As some of you^ may know, Fall is upon us. Fall happens to be my favourite season of the year, for several reasons: trees that begin turning hues of bright orange, yellow and red; weather that begins to cool down*; days that begin to shorten**; and, since my birthday is close to Christmas, the beginning of Fall means I’m closer to finally getting some presents! 🙂 Fall also means that I get to break out my stylish winter garb without risking a quick death from heat stroke, as would likely happen if you tried to pair cashmere and Ugg boots in the nearly year-round tropical climate that is Houston. Although some of you may argue ;-), I personally believe I look far better in jeans, cashmere sweaters, and 4″ black leather boots than I do in Daisy Dukes, sleeveless tops and flip flops. A “summer body”, God did not give me.

Fall is the time of year that, most importantly, marks the beginning of the winter food season and all of its deliciousness. Chilis, soups, stews, braised meats, paellas, and my personal favourite, risottos, are the hearty, “stick to your ribs” kinds of foods that make -30C weather bearable. That, and wearing seventy-two layers of Patagonia. Anyway. The overnight lows in Toronto last week hit 4C/37F, so I happily spent two hours making my first risotto of the season! It turned out fabulously, if I do say so myself’ and, as a matter of fact, my description of it on Facebook was apparently so appealing that it garnered scores of requests*** from far and wide to post it.  Since my motto is “ask and you shall receive”, you can now enjoy the recipe**** for Shrimp, Asparagus and Dill Risotto!

Shrimp, Asparagus and Dill Risotto

Asparagus:
1 lb. asparagus
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper

Risotto:
1 L chicken stock (I used the low-sodium boxed kind)
3 tbsp butter
1 small onion, minced
1 shallot, minced (optional) 
1 cup risotto
1/2 cup dry white wine
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup grated Parmesean cheese (I prefer to use real Parmesean cheese rather than Kraft shredded…it makes a big difference, but can be expensive)

1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced

Asparagus:
1. Use a sauté pan other than the one you’ll use to cook the risotto. Cut off the asparagus tops and reserve. Snap off the woody ends from asparagus and discard. Cut the remaining stems into 1-inch pieces. Heat the oil and butter in a sauté pan. Add the stem pieces and cook five minutes. Add the garlic and the asparagus tips. Pour the water over the asparagus, season with salt and pepper (I also used Tony Cachere’s), and cook until tender, 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the asparagus. (If you like, you can add a sprig of rosemary to the dish with the garlic and tips, then remove it at the end).

Risotto:
1. Bring the stock to a simmer and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan and cook the onion and shallot until soft, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the rice and stir until translucent, about four minutes. Stir in the wine and reduce until almost dry. Add a ladle of stock and cook, stirring, until it disappears. Continue, one ladle at a time, until the rice is tender and creamy, about half an hour.

2. Stir the shrimp and asparagus into risotto, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, lemon zest, and cheese; cover and reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring once, for approximately ten minutes. Stir in dill. 

Spoon into bowls, serve, and enjoy!

 

 

^ By which I mean not my Texas readers
* In a normal year; Toronto had a cooler-than-normal summer, so we’ve basically had winter for the last 18 months 😉
** Which I love because I am a complete night owl, so the longer it is darker, the happier I am
*** By which I mean four
**** I actually blended two recipes together to make this dish, because I like to pretend I’m crafty that way

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