.....or a Canada update.
Life here is pretty awesomely good right now. The man and I have gotten in some travels, some freelance work, a lot of lovely days and evenings with family and friends and I feel like the more I see of this part of Canada, the more I'm falling for it.
AND I've been goofily ticking a few more seminal Canadian experiences off my list (not to mention very much enjoying myself in the process).
I've now seen a real live hockey game (not actually my first as we used to go and watch them when I lived in Scotland as a kid but it's been a long time and I'd forgotten how it all went down.) It was pretty damn exciting and it's always all kinds of fun for me to see virtually any sport played live and soak in the atmosphere.
I've been curling, something I had never tried before, or really thought to do. And I loved it! I can totally see the appeal - as a beginner, once you get over the frustration of trying to throw at the right angle and speed (something which more the more experienced people around you can make look so easy!) every throw gets better and better. I ended up the same as I get when I go ten pin bowling: getting so into it I was trying to somehow steer every rock psychically with my eyes after I'd released it. Sad but true!!
I have eaten -
poutine: a Quebecois merge of fries, squeaky cheese curds and gravy (mine also had pulled pork on top of it) ~
Nanaimo bars: a sweet non-baked bar thing with three layers, from the bottom up: 1. coconut, graham crackers and cocoa powder all held together with a bit of butter or marge 2. custard or vanilla puddingy layer 3. dark chocolatey layer
very good little pastries filled with butter-y-ness, a few raisins and some pecans
and...a beavertail: like a long, flat doughnut covered with sugar and cinnamon and other yummy stuffs
I gained some Canadian tire money, ate a super ice cream sundae at Dairy Queen and also find myself saying things like "trunk" rather than "boot" and "hood" rather than "bonnet" whenever the man and I are talking about the car.
I've made it up the CN Tower, seen a whole lot of art by the Group of Seven and feel like I've seen three seasons in Toronto in the same number of weeks.
The view out from the Tower was pretty glorious and we were lucky it was such a clear day but I was not having anything to do with the glass floor area where you could see, straight down, right underneath where you were standing.
And I have now visited many, many museums - of civilization and the Cold War, of natural history and anthropology, of war and of (in the case of the Royal Ontario Museum) a whole other bunch of stuff besides. Best part of visiting the ROM? I got to wear a tail in the kids' room!!!
I also got in some of the best snowboarding, ever. Which is weird because this winter (which, dear readers, has FOR SURE ended already in the Toronto area at least) was short, warm virtually snow-less. I did not need the winter boots I had so thoughtfully researched and found before we arrived here and I had nothing like as many layers on through December - February as wore when I lived up in northern Japan. Still, for whatever reason, I gained so much confidence this season and I'm feeling better than ever about riding over the white stuff with only a dodgy old (free!!) board strapped to my legs.
I have also (and I have to say this ranks somewhere high up in my list of favourite things so far) made maple syrup. Now how many people can say that?! We headed out into a friend's forest, collected litres and litres of sap by hand from just some of the 500 or so trees he had already tapped, and then boiled it all down, stoking the fire and adding more liquid every 10 mins or so. The actual sap (to which nothing gets added at all) starts at about 99% water and 1% sugar so the boiling process lasted something like 10-12 hours until there was nothing but sugar and mapley sweetness remaining. After multiple filtrations, I was able (thanks to the kindness of our syrup-making friends) to take home my own wee bottle of the first batch of the year, which we'd helped to make. I took away 100ml, which was all that remained of what would have been 5 litres of raw sap.
I met my Canadian family for the first time ever! Rather like discovering a great uncle living in Tokyo who I had never met before moving to Japan the first time, I was thrilled to find that I had an aunt and cousins based right here, in Ontario. And I'm even more thrilled to be gearing up to spending a family Easter with them.
I've now visited three different provinces (I'm working on getting in another couple before I leave here in early June) and will shortly be heading for my first foray, this trip, to the States. NEW YORK CITY of all places.
There will be more on my many travels around Canada on here itself - I'm going to do something on each big place I've visited in more detail - but for now, that's my wee update...with exciting photos to supplement.
Last but certainly not least - me plus Inukshuk.