Carol Nelson is attributed with saying, "Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home." Of course, spending Christmas away from friends and family makes the homesickness even more tangible. At the best of times, it is difficult to deal with the distance, but it is even more difficult when it comes to the holidays.
Thanks to some folks in Alberta, homesick expats such as myself can bid on "The Great Canadian Mystery Box" which promises to contain a "trip to Canada in a box". According to the seller's eBay listing:
My husband and I were reminiscing today on growing up in Canada.
Namely what it meant to us, prominent things we remember enjoying, laughing about, munching on, stereotype Canadian memorabilia, etc. We thought that it would be amazing to offer someone a 'trip to Canada' in a box.
Stuffed to the brim with things you couldn't possibly get anywhere else. We have gone all over town to find things that remind us of and Canada and our hometown of Edmonton, Alberta.
We are one of the locations that Brad Pitt was recently filming 'The Assignation of Jesse James', he and Angelina Jolie also visited our West Edmonton Mall with the kids as we have a giant indoor theme park in the mall, among many other things. Wonder what was stuffed in from there.... We are also the hometown of Wayne Gretzky who made his name with the Edmonton Oilers, we are known as 'The City of Champions'. You may encounter coins you have or haven't seen before and many other pieces; to wear, to show off to your friends, to taste...
Those hints provide a fairly good idea of what the box may contain. Its contents seem to be a little more promising than those in the "Medical Mystery Box of Canadian Delight" that had been up for bidding last March.
Again, if anyone bids on this item and wins, please share with us what the box contains!
"Canada will cease to exist, if they lose Olympic hockey," the television announcer explained in his southern drawl. "That is just how favoured this team is going to be!"
My husband's eyes met my eyes. It was game on.
It has been nearly four years since the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City completely jeopardized our relationship. Everything came down to that final hockey game between Team Canada and Team USA. For Team Canada, a return to the top of the podium after a fifty year absence hung in the balance; for us, four years of extreme bragging rights were at stake.
We cheered for our respective teams from our respective countries. Two thousand, two hundred and ninety-five miles separated us, but the rivalry was fierce. A final score of 5-2 sealed the deal. The enduring legacy has been a cardboard cut-out of a Mountie taped to the inside of my husband's closet door - a gentle reminder of who brought home the gold.
One can only imagine what the rivalry will be like now that we are under the same roof. All that is certain, is that both Canada's pride and my bragging rights will cease to exist if the 'Nuks lose Olympic hockey. I have also been warned that if the USA takes home the gold, I will be looking at a cardboard cut-out of Mr. George W. Bush for the next four years. It just can't happen.
For years, the candy's packaging has claimed, "Did you know? Four billion Smarties can go around the world 350 times. That is the number of Smarties eaten in Canada each year." The students took that claim to task and did the arithmetic. The results of their math wizardry revealed that either Nestlé believed the earth to be 114 kilometres in circumference or that a single Smartie had a diameter of three and a half meters - neither of which holds true.
When asked about the fun fact faux pas, a Nestlé spokesman said that the packaging would be changed next year.
Much to the dismay of Prime Minister Paul Martin, there was no word on whether the accuracy of his party's official decision making process had been put to the test.
Chilled Vancouver commuters faced their second day of winter hell today, as an additional 1/4 centimeter of the peculiar white stuff fell, bringing the lower mainland to its knees and causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the marijuana crops. Scientists suspect that the substance is some form of frozen water particles and experts from Saskatchewan are being flown in. With temperatures dipping to the almost but not quite near zero mark, Vancouverites were warned to double insulate their lattes before venturing out.
Vancouver police recommended that people stay inside except for emergencies, such as running out of espresso or biscotti to see them through Vancouver's most terrible storm to date. The local Canadian Tire reported that they had completely sold out of fur-lined sandals.
Drivers were cautioned to put their convertible tops up, and several have been shocked to learn that their SUV's actually have four wheel drive, although most have no idea how to use it.
Weary commuters faced soggy sushi, and the threat of frozen breast implants. Although Dr. John Blatherwick, of the Coastal Health Authority reassured everyone that most breast implants were perfectly safe to 25 below, down-filled bras are flying off the shelves at Mountain Equipment Co-op.
"The government has to do something," snarled an angry Trevor Warburton. "I didn't pay $540,000 for my one bedroom condo so I could sit around and be treated like someone from Toronto."
City officials in Manhattan are baffled by the sweet smell of maple syrup that has been wafting over the city in recent months. Reports to the city's 311 help line and to the fire department spurred New York's Department of Environmental Protection to send out its hazardous materials team to take readings from the neighbourhoods where the reports originated. While the air has been deemed safe, city officials still do not know what has been causing the smell.
Fortunately for Canadians, the sweet scent of maple syrup has distracted New Yorkers from Canada's final battle plans in Operation: Annexation. According to a source, who wished to be identified as Mr.Big, "Maple syrup is not just a sugary treat; it's also a weapon. In fact, it's standard issue for Canadian soldiers! The maple syrup has a dual purpose: for energy in times of low food supply and it can render the most resilient military hardware completely ineffective by permanently gumming up any operating mechanical mechanisms." Mr.Big went on to quote the movie Canadian Bacon,"Like maple syrup, Canada's evil oozes over the United States".
When Prime Minister Paul Martin was contacted for comment from Winnipeg, where he was busy applauding a group of women entrepreneurs, he said, "......."
Unable to hear the Prime Minister's remark above the applause, our reporter asked him to repeat himself. "Maple syrup," Martin repeated, "I think that you had better ask the Pancake Breakfast King about that!"
Initially, King Harper refused to comment on any questions regarding syrup - maple, corn, golden, or otherwise. "You are definitely late on the wagon," said Mr.Harper. "All of the breakfast jokes died out back in mid-August." Before walking away in disgust, Harper asked "What is next? A Photoshop contest based on me dressed as a cowboy?"
It was then that Canadian Expatriates learned of Harper's plans to announce that, if elected, the new Conservative government will significantly increase spending on defence. According to a high level Harper aide, the purpose of this "Canada First" strategy is to enhance Canadian sovereignty by acquiring strategic lift aircraft, creating a new airborne battalion, and doubling the size of Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). A leaked document also suggests that the proposed budget for the program includes wholesale volumes of maple syrup.
Wanting to present balanced coverage of this story at election time, BQ leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton were both asked to comment on Harper's "Canada First" strategy. When asked specifically about Harper's proposed expenditures on maple syrup, Duceppe answered, "Referendum". When asked about the Bush administration's recent rebuke of Paul Martin, Duceppe also answered, "Referendum". When asked for directions to the closest Tim Hortons, Duceppe again answered, "Referendum". Our frustrated reporter gave up on the one-issue leader and caught up with Layton on the campaign trail. Amid cries of "Ice cold beer!" and "Get your popcorn!", Layton was found sitting at a table and selling Bingo cards in a senior citizen's centre in Regina. Asked about Harper's plans, Layton responded, "Give 'em all the boot!"
It has not quite been a full week, and the Dude is still beaming over the blanket of snow outside.
"This is the most snow that I have ever seen in my life!" he proclaims every time that we step into the great outdoors. His childish delight is adorable, but in the back of my mind I am giggling that in his near thirty-year life, the largest quantity of snow that he has ever seen is this six-inch thick blanket.
Passing the golf course on our way home from Christmas shopping, we saw two long lines of tracks imprinted into the snow. Inspired by the tracks, I declared, "We should go cross-country skiing!”
"Is that what those tracks are from? I was just about to ask you," answered the Dude.
It was then that I realized just how different our childhoods really were. While my fourth grade class was going snowshoeing, tobogganing, skating, cross country skiing, and building quincies and snowmen, my husband's class was... well... I really don't know what they would be doing in Small Town, Arkansas. Perhaps going on a field trip to the local paper mill, I guess? 1
Suddenly, I was struck by a divine epiphany: I was my husband's cold weather steward, my task was to devise an itinerary of winter fun. The responsibility of my position weighed heavily upon my shoulders, as did my thick wool sweater and my three-in-one jacket. I looked at the dashboard of the car. The digital thermometer said that it was 21°F outside. Doing the conversion in my head, I realized that I have become a weather wimp. It was only -6°C outside and I was cold. I hung my head in shame and worried that my Canadian blood was no longer thick enough to sustain me during our afternoon of outdoor activities.
First on our list of winter fun was tobogganing. We went to the local sporting goods store in search of the Krazy Karpets of my youth. Every Canuck child of the eighties knows that nothing slides better than a thin piece of blue plastic. I was surprised to see the new-fangled toboggans and was even more surprised to see their prices. They had all manner of snow scooters, snow tubes, sleds and toboggans, but no Krazy Karpets. Not wanting to bother with the frustration of going to Wal-Mart or Target on a weekend so close to Christmas, we went home.
At the homestead, the Dude embraced the first snowy activity of his life - shoveling the snow from the driveway and the front walk. Just as he got into the zone with this new task, he was struck by another winter first - a cold, wet snowball.
1 This has since been confirmed. All field trips were to the paper mill.
A squadron of Canadian troops were marching north of Khandahar when they came upon a Taliban insurgent badly injured and unconscious. Nearby, on the opposite side of the road, was a Canadian soldier in a similar but less serious state.
The soldier was conscious and alert. As first aid was given to both men, the soldier was asked what had happened. The soldier reported:
"I was heavily armed and moving north along this highway and coming south was that heavily armed Taliban insurgent. Seeing each other we both took cover. I called to him that Osama bin Laden was a miserable low-life, scumbag, and he yelled back that Paul Martin is a rich, good-for-nothing, lying, windbag."
"We were standing there shaking hands when a truck hit us."
This morning, The National Weather Service forecast that we would receive between two and four inches of snow by evening. The headline in the local newspaper declared "Beware: Snow" and reported this as "the first snowstorm of the season". It is now mid-afternoon and about three inches of the white stuff has fallen. By Saskatchewan standards, this is not a great deal of snow, but this is considered to be a substantial amount for our region. In fact, those three inches of snow have set the city on its ear.
Across the bottom of the television screen, a public service announcement flashes. A list of businesses that will be closing early today is displayed, along with a list of schools which are currently sending children home for the day, churches which have cancelled their evening services, and miscellaneous clubs and sports teams that will no longer be meeting tonight. I am amazed that a few inches of snow has caused such disruption.
Thinking back to my life in Canada, I don't ever remember leaving work early because of the snow, or ever having a day off from school simply because we would have to trudge through a snowbank to get there. In fact, I distinctly remember many a morning where I would shovel my car out of the driveway, throw the shovel into the backseat of my car, and then shovel my way out of a few more snowbanks on my way to work, stopping to push other driver's who were in need of a hand along the way. If life in Canada came to an abrupt stop every time that it snowed (as it does here), Canadians might as well just hibernate from the first of November until the first of April.
Bill Miner, a notorious American outlaw, was responsible for Canada's first train robbery, in which he plundered $6,000 in gold dust, $1,000 cash, and $300,000 in securities and bonds from a CPR express car in 1904. He was later captured after a bungled train robbery near Kamloops, BC and was sentenced to life in prison - a sentence he never completed due to his August 8, 1907 escape.
For years there has been speculation over Miner's prison break, particularly as the warden's account of the escape was not plausible. The Beaver's feature article, Secret Deal, explores Miner's criminal career and infamous prison escape, including recent evidence that suggests that Miner had inside help from prison management, government officials, and even the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Surfing through the channels late one night, I paused on PBS.
A lone man walking onto a stage in a darkened auditorium had caught my eye. Behind the man, a waving flag was projected onto a giant screen. As the man approached the microphone, his footsteps where amplified and the microphone squealed and reverberated. Initially the man's speech was slow and nervous, but as his confidence in himself and in what he was saying grew, his speech emerged into a crescendo, much to the delight of the audience who applauded and cheered while images were projected onto the giant screen.
Close. Only in this case, it was an American flag that was projected onto the screen, the man's name was Bob, the images behind him were American icons, and his speech was about sponsoring PBS through donations. The rant ended with, "I am Bob and when I give to PBS, I give to America."
Last year I was surprised to find that I resided in a nation that just did not care about curling. In fact, a good deal of my American friends don't know the basics of curling, while others have never even heard of the sport. Growing up in a community that had ample curling clubs, school programs dedicated to grooming the next generation of world class curlers, and was home to the incredible Sandra Schmirler, it had never occurred to me that some folks just did not have an interest in the sport.
It has been a difficult adjustment to switch gears and watch the NFL, the NBA, and college football. The most difficult part of this transition has been going cold turkey on curling as the television networks here do not seem to cover the sport. I am thrilled at the prospect of watching Olympic curling but it will be interesting to see just how much coverage the event will receive on NBC, and even then it will understandably be the American teams that are featured.
In the meantime, expats who are in desperate need of a curling fix with a Canadian twist can drop by CBC Sports' website which is currently dedicated to the Olympic curling trials. The site also has links to a curling themed game called Ringo and a championship curling game where the virtual you can hurl a few rocks.
I learned how to cook by watching James Barber's "The Urban Peasant" on CBC. Recently, I came across Barber's website, The Urban Hub, and its recipe bank. It is necessary to register with his site in order to use the recipe directory, but it is well worth the hassle as the directory can be searched by ingredients or by recipe name.
Below is a great recipe off of The Urban Hub for Agasajos which will be sure to impress your holiday company!
Agasajos (Mexican Hot Chocolate)
* 4 cups milk * 1 tsp rosewater * pinch of saffron threads * 1 stick cinnamon * 1 dried arbol, or pequin chili * a splash of vanilla * 4 oz semisweet chocolate, grated or chopped * 1/4 cup sugar, optional * zest of half an orange
Combine all of the ingredients except the chocolate in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low. Remove chili and cinnamon. Let it simmer for a few minutes, then add the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is combined, strain and serve.
Prior to going out for the evening, the Yank and I debated which car to take.
"Should we take the Nukmobile?" he asked.
Having just trod over the 60,000 km mark yesterday, I was hesitant. I was still smarting from my baby rolling over a landmark number.
"Nah, the roads are clear and it does not look like it is going to snow, " I replied.
I was wrong.
Stepping out of the mall and into the cold December air, we discovered two inches of snow. For most vehicles, this would not pose a problem, but for a rear-wheel drive sports car with racing tires, this was more than a challenge. The drive home took over 45 minutes and the car slid and fish-tailed the entire way. Finally we arrived.
"There! How do you like that?" my husband was standing out on the snowy driveway talking to a snowbank. "Just you wait," he continued, "I am coming after you with a good car next!"
I paused for a moment, unsure if I heard him correctly. It was not so much the fact that he was talking to a snowbank that caught me off-guard as much as me second guessing what I had heard. Did he just say that the Nukmobile was a "good" car? Better than his car (A.K.A. "the other woman")? Why, I believe that he did!
"Good car, eh? Can you repeat that? This time using the good car's name?"