Category Archives: Canada

Luck Be A Lady

Je suis gagnant! Yes, you read that correctly — I played my very first Ontario Lottery ticket and (spoiler alert) I won! And get to add yet *another* Canadian adventure to my list. Sweet.

I’ve never really been a gambler, even on the lotto, primarily because in the States, you give up about 50% of your winnings to Uncle Sam should you beat the odds^ and win. I mean, we’ve gotta pay for healthcare somehow^^. Also, because I don’t like taking my hard earned dollars and literally tear them up into pieces for no reason. But I digress. In Canada (or maybe just Ontario?), you get to keep 100% of your winnings, the very opposite of what you’d expect from this exorbitantly taxed, but especially awesome, nation. So when I was ambling along on a recent weekend excursion and found not one, but two loonies* on two separate occasions, I figured it was my lucky day. I marched straight into PetroCanada and bought $5** on LottoMax, a ticket that would have netted me a cool $42 million. Let me just pause here to say that I can think of about forty-two million things I could do with $42 million and none of them include the words a)work or b) 9-5. Ahem. 

As it turns out, it was my lucky day, but only $5 lucky, because I won a free play. Still, free is free, so I have my fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes crossed that tomorrow night will be my big night! And if it is, I’ll take each and every one of you — my tens of readers — out for a lovely, lovely time. You can bet on it. 😉
 [Ed.Note: the $5 quick pick I won yielded four of the seven LottoMax numbers, so I won $20! I was so close to hitting five numbers, I could taste it — the fifth number I needed was 32 on my ticket and 33 on the draw. So. Close.]
^ Odds that favour you getting struck by lightning over winning the lottery. Still, I remain undeterred!
^^ Wait a minute…….  😉
* That’s a $1 coin for the Americans.
** Each ticket is $5 here, though, so I only got one row of numbers. Bogus.


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May These Gates Never Be Closed

Canada, like the rest of the world, is in the midst of serious Olympic fever. I’ve personally contributed to that fever by watching so much Olympics coverage that I now know the minutiae about things that never occurred to me to matter before now, such as the proper landing positions for the triple axel and the triple lutz, and the difference between the skeleton and the luge. Really, Canada has every right to be uncharacteristically* Canadian during the 16 days that Vancouver is hosting the Olympics; they have every right to be filled with glowing hearts. They are doing a fabulous job of managing the expectations of the world, even without snow…at the WINTER Olympics, to be sure.

There has been article after article, show after show, and video after video about the Games, but it wasn’t until I saw^ the video Tom Brokaw produced for NBC that I really took notice. The video apparently aired in British Columbia just prior to the start of the Games as an “education” piece about Canada for Americans. God knows we need it, too. Watching this video made my heart well up with pride and my eyes with tears for *both* of my countries — the one in which I was born and the one in which I choose to live. A better piece of journalism has never been produced, imho!

Now do you see why I love Canada? Swoon!
* By which I mean allowed to go crazy and show their passionate pride for their country, something that actually took urging from their Prime Minister! Those crazy Canucks.

^ I actually found it because it was trending on Twitter.


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The Queen Is In; Healthcare Is Out (Day 15)

The book has officially been rewritten. Literally. And a most important, and historic, rewrite it was. Canada’s 47-page  immigration guide, currently called A Look at Canada, but newly named Discover Canada, and given annually to 250,000 new immigrants, has received a major facelift. Last updated in 19950 when the Liberals were in power, the new guide has apparently taken a less progressive position, which probably isn’t surprising given the current party in power. No longer will new immigrants learn that various cultural and ethnic groups live and work together in harmony, even though Toronto is the multicultural capitals of the world. No longer will newcomers be taught that all Canadians are free to maintain and share their cultural heritage and to participate fully and equally in the national Canadian life. They won’t understand the difference between what’s known fondly in Canada as the “cultural mosaic” and the opposite ideology that is the “melting pot” of the United States. Say goodbye to aving an understanding of Canada’s role on environmental issues, its land and, shockingly, health care1

Instead, say hi to more information than you could ever want about the (British) monarchy’s role in the government of Canada, as well as the history of the Canadian military. I knew Canada had an army, but I thought he died last year2?  All kidding aside, the new guide references the Canadian military’s role in Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, as well as the significance of the poppy, which I always wondered about before moving to Canada. New immigrants will learn about the role of the aboriginal3 people, who Terry Fox was, the Exclusion Act and, that, in order of importance, you should have a complete and thorough understanding of hockey, Canadian football, and curling4. 😉

One of the coolest things I saw in relation to the announcement of Discover Canada was a wordle highlighting the featured words from the new guide (the top cloud) compared to the words emphasized in the old guide (the bottom cloud). Wicked cool for a word nerd like moi! 


Naturally, Canadian Immigration practice tests were part of the articles accompanying the announcement of the new guide. Of course, priding  myself on the fact that I have soaked up every bit of information about Canada that my already over-taxed brain can possibly manage, I elatedly took the test. and I think you’ll be pleased to know that I scored a 90% (!!).  


Actually the only question I answered incorrectly was a question that was British Columbia specific — something about naming three city councillors in Vancouver — as the test was published by the Richmond Public Library. As if — I live in Toronto, for the sake of Pete! Scratch that question, though, and I would have scored 100%! And with that score, shouldn’t I automatically be granted citizenship? Seriously.

0 Disclaimer: I saw two dates for the current publication while researching — 1995 and 1997. Since I didn’t even know Canada existed then (kidding!!), I can’t say for certain which it really is. Let’s just agree on “late 90’s”, k?
1 Isn’t this sort of a Canadian hallmark and/or signature? How can this possibly be left out? To save trees?
2 A Canadian told me that quip, I swear! 
3 Or what Americans call “Indians” or “Native Americans”.
4 I still have yet to see a curling match, but it’s my list of things to do. I better get crackin’ if I ever want to pass the immigration test!

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Would You? (Day 13)

The idea of moving countries is probably not one people contemplate very often. Growing up, I remember people saying things like “omg, living in New York City would so rock” or “like, my total dream is to live in Pittsburgh” ;-), but I don’t recall people ever saying “wow, I’d love to move to Canada” or “gee, wouldn’t it be amazing to live in Mexico?”. Although I’m somewhat well-traveled, I probably wouldn’t have seriously considered moving to another country either had I not worked for an organization who supported that kind of effort, and to whom I am forever indebted1.

I don’t really consider myself an arrogant American — I try to soak up as much of the culture of wherever I happen to be without be loud and boisterous about it, but I’m still an American — and especially a Texas girl — through and through.  As much as I love Canada — and I seriously love Canada — I was seriously surprised when I saw the results of a poll conducted this week by the Globe and Mail asking the question “would you leave Canada if offered a good job in the United States?”.

Globe and mail

I mean, doesn’t everyone aspire to live in the land of affordableness, Target, and The Cheesecake Factory? ;-)I smugly assumed the “yes” responses would be off the charts (see above: Target), because, really, what’s not to love about the States2?! In fact, though, the “yes’s” and the “no’s” ran almost neck and neck. Sure, you have to consider the respondents, by which I mean the people who would actually spend their valuable time taking newspaper polls (wait a minute….), and sure, you have to consider that I personally choose to live in a lovely country where I pay exorbitant taxes for things like snow removal, but nevertheless, I must admit that I was seriously surprised by these results. 

Maybe I’m just an eclectic nomad who would live almost anywhere no matter the cost, but I’m wondering: would you move to another country if you could?

1 Or, at least indebted until July 10, 2010 when my work visa expires.
2 Don’t answer that.

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Dear Winter: Please Come (Day 7)


Photo courtesy of Hermés on Flickr

For those of you just joining the ATGAIC party, let me give you a quick history. Two years ago, I packed up and moved 1,600 miles from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Ontario. What this should have meant was that I’d never be hot again. Houston, as I’ve said previously, is hot. Not “bringin’ sexy back” hot, but “living-on-the-face-of-the-sun” hot. Toronto, on the other hand, is in Canada where everyone lives in igloos it’s supposed to be cold 9.5 months a year. What this should mean is that I should always be required to wear a coat and have on my heater, which is pure awesomeness because I always “run warm” as they say here. However, can someone please explain to me why it’s 74F in my condo when it’s 41F outside? Can someone please explain to me why I’m sweating more in my condo in Canada than I ever did in my condo in Houston?! It’s inexplicable, really. Global warming, indeed.

Of course, I did what any smart girl in the city does and told the superintendent, Sergeiy. I filled out the required forms in triplicate (old skool), turned it in, and got the requisite security call that they were entering my suite. I knew they’d probably come back and tell me that there was nothing wrong, even though the temperature inside literally never changes no matter what the temp outside, and sure enough, I was right. I don’t even think they walked into the suite, to tell you the truth. When I got home, there was a postcard flung on the floor near my front door. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if they had actually walked into the suite, they wouldn’t have just dropped the card on the floor, but would  have probably left it on the counter. But maybe they do things differently in Canada. Anyway, the card read:

Dear Resident, We wish to inform you that during your absence, a representative of [redacted] entered your suite to [handwriting begins] there is not any problem found in your termostat. the all building is on heat (the system). [end handwriting] Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact the management office.

Gee, thanks. The nightly sweating has ensued.  

Oh, how I wish everyone in Canada really did live in igloos because, believe me, I’d be doing some serious igloo squatting. And forget rain dances — I’m down on my knees doing a serious “Dancing With the Stars” snow dance. I really think I was meant to be born in the North Pole…after all, I think I’d look great in an elf outfit. 😉

P.S. Yes, that’s an ad for Hermés, but how cool would it be to live in that?! If I was going to live in an igloo, I’d totally want it to be covered with brightly coloured Hermés scarves, fo sho.

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Not Your Momma’s Bagels (Day 6)

Montreal bagelSomehow the apparent phenomena known as the Montréal-style bagel has heretofore completely passed me by. Wikipedia has kindly informed me that a large portion of Montréal’s Jewish community  — from which the bagels originated — gradually left for other North American locations, including one Houston, Texas. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and I can say with 100% certainty that I’ve never, ever seen a Montréal -style bagel shop in the city. Lucky for me, I moved from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Ontario two years ago, a city which I know with 100% certainty has actual Montréal-style bagel shops, being that we’re approximately 5.2 minutes1 from Québec.

I was in the lunchroom at work making my morning Maple & Brown Sugar oatmeal today when my colleague said “hey Carmen, we brought in Montréal-style bagels”. I smiled and thanked him, but though “ew”, mostly because I’m just not a bagel girl. I never have been. I’m really not a “bread” girl at all, unless it’s mixed with chocolate and sugar and called cake. 😉 However, always one to try new things, I thought “what they hey, I’ll try it”. Upon asking what “Montréal-style bagel” actually meant, I was told that it’s sweeter and more dense than a regular bagel. Hmm, sweet and dense? This might be something I could get used to. I bebopped my way in, picked up my bagel and schmear, and proceeded to drop said bagel and schmear face down on the floor on my way to my desk as I tried to poorly manage two coffee cups, said bowl of oatmeal, and the bagel. In honour of the “five second rule”, though, I snapped it up, stared at the seeds strewn across the floor, dusted it off, and went on my merry little way. For a brief moment, I considered not eating it at all. Then I considered eating just the bottom since it plopped down on its top. I finally concluded that I would likely not die from the pig flu, nor from any other overly-hyped disease, just from it sitting face down for three seconds. In I bit.

Sweet and dense, indeed! The bread had a sweet scent on the nose, and was completely flavourful, while almost donut-like. It was flaky and not nearly as thick as the bagels I’ve had. Montréal-style bagels apparently don’t have egg or salt, unlike regular bready bagels; honey is added to the water prior to the bagels being boiled (or poached, to be more specific); and they are baked in wood-fired ovens, unlike regular bready bagels.

I only managed to eat about half of it, though, because I’d gotten to work slightly later than normal2 and didn’t want to spoil my lunch3. But the bottom line is that I *loved* it and may or may not have found a new favourite food. Had Montréal-style bagels been on Mount Sinai when Moses lost his temper, I have a feeling he could have calmed himself down with a little bagel and schmear, and those cursed broken tablets may just have been spared.

1Well, more like 5.2 hours.
2I’m not a morning person, which may be why I don’t like bagels. I’m never up early enough to finish them. As a matter of fact, my colleagues like to tease me by saying I work the “afternoon shift”. I really loathe getting up early. Really. And lately, the traffic has seriously sucked because apparently, the good citizens of Toronto can’t drive in the dark.
3Lunch that I usually eat around Noon, even though I’ve only been at work for 2.5 hours at that point. Why are you looking at me like that?

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Was It Something I Said? (Day 4)

Apparently, the RCMP enjoys reading my blog. For nine minutes and eight seconds. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but apparently my recent post about going to Canada jail turned some heads in Ottawa. 😉




Also, Internet Explorer 6? Seriously?


Filed under Canada, NaBloPoMo