Quinte: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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There were some good Canadian Q words/things.  Quebec and Queen came to mind.  Then someone suggested Quinte and I had to write about it.

 

Do you have that place that you always remember as a place that represents youth and adulthood at the same time?  The Bay of Quinte Region is that place for me.

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Growing up in Kingston, Ontario, The Bay of Quinte was about 45 minutes away from our hometown.  The bay itself is a zig-zaggy bay and the region hosts great Walleye fishing, wineries, golfing and sand beaches.  In Canada, having sand beaches nearby is something not to be taken advantage of.  Basically it was our version of living by the sea!  So where would we go on weekends, or on Fridays during the last couple of weeks of high-school (Shhhhh)?  Specifically – Picton Beach! And the best way to go was along the lake, taking the ferry over.  What an experience!

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Picton Beach is actually Sandbanks Provincial Park, but we call it Picton Beach.  The park hosts the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation – 10,000 years in the making – created when the massive Lake Iroquois receded, at the end of the last ice age leaving the puddle called Lake Ontario. The sand from the larger lake blew up, creating the dunes that rise almost 200 feet from the lake and stretch for 12 kilometres!

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Poutine: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

WPhat!?!?  What is this crazy word you speak of?

Poutine is definitely a Canadian food.  I know what you’re thinking.  There’s no such thing as Canadian food.  Even U.S. National Security Advisor Stu Smiley (played by Kevin Pollock) in the movie Canadian Bacon said “First of all, there is no Canadian culture. I’ve never read any Canadian literature. And when have you ever heard anyone say, “Honey, lets stay in and order Canadian food”?”

Poutine is so Canadian, I’ve seen attempts at recreating it here in the U.S. and they have all failed.

Poutine is a French Canadian dish consisting of french fries, cheese curds (squeaky cheese) and gravy. Few dispute the fact that poutine came from Quebec, however many communities in Quebec believe that theirs is the birthplace of the dish.

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Source: Papa Mario’s, Halifax NS

Here in the states, I’ve seen poutine made with shredded mozzarella, and every Canadian I know would tell you that is simply blasphemous.  It has to be curds.  And it has to be brown gravy.

Personally, the best poutine can be found in Kingston, Ontario at a place called Bubba’s Poutine and Pizzeria. Kingston is a college town, with St. Lawrence College, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College giving the downtown core constant attendance. Day and night.  Bubba’s is known as a late night drunk snack stop.  People travel past Bubba’s on their way home from the Ontario Street clubs.  And they pick up what – at three o’clock in the morning – seems like the most amazing food in the world!

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Here’s a recipe if you want to make it yourself:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/79300/real-poutine/.

In Newfoundland, there is another dish that is equally as delicious, but has its own twist:  Fries, dressing and gravy.  Instead of cheese curds, they use savoury turkey stuffing!  So delicious!

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Source: Stuffed at the Gill’s Food Blog: http://stuffedatthegills.blogspot.com

O Canada: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Our national anthem!!!!  Of course!!

‘O Canada’ came about in 1880 as a song for Saint-Jean-Baptiste day celebrations.  In French!!!  The English version wasn’t created until 1906.  I honestly thought the English version came first!  I’m learning stuff about my own country doing this challenge! We have sung ‘O Canada’ as our national anthem since 1939 but not officially until 1980 by an Act of Parliament and Royal Assent.

Today we sing it almost always as a combination of French and English.  Here are the lyrics:

O Canada! Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,

Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Of course though, the lyrics aren’t always so clear.  Most of my American colleagues only know the first two words and tune of the anthem, and also take it upon themselves to sing said two words to Canadians whenever they see us Canadians.  So now, I continue the song for them!  They sing “O Canada….”  and I sing back “something, something, something!”

Because I love creativity, here’s the song as sung in English by four…. of the same guy.  It slightly creeps me out that he’s looking and smiling at himself while he sings, but it’s a great rendition!

While the U.S. has specific rules regarding the playing and singing of their national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner‘, there are no specific rules regarding how the ‘O Canada’ should be performed. Unofficial etiquette is to start or end any ceremonies with the song, men remove their hats and military members come to attention and salute the flag.

Both countries are obviously extremely proud of their national anthems.  And we know how important they are to each other.  In November 2014, the microphone cut out during the singing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ during a Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Nashville Predators hockey game, prompting the entire crowd to complete the song, Canadians and Americans alike. Not long after, to repay the favour, Nashville Predators fans sang the Canadian National anthem at a home game in the U.S.A.!

 

Nickel: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Canada is famous for a number of “World’s Largest” attractions. They can be found everywhere from coast to coast, and some are rather impressive!  In Colborne, Ontario, there is a Big Apple you can see from the highway; Vegreville, Alberta hosts the second largest pysanka (Ukrainian Easter Egg) in the world; the winner of the Guinness Book of World Records for largest hockey stick is in Duncan, British Columbia; and the world’s largest fiddle at the Port of Sydney, Nova Scotia. These are only a few of these gigantic monuments in Canada!

I don’t know why we like to build big stuff. I suspect it has to do with the fact that there are is a lot of rural space between large Canadian cities and most have been built along major roadways (mostly The TransCanada Highway) as ways to bring tourist dollars into these small towns.

Heck, even the capital has an enormous spider. But in this case, I believe it’s “art”.

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When I was younger I went to Sudbury and got to visit the Big Nickel. The main attraction is a 30 foot-tall replica of a Canadian five cent coin.

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There was also a nickel mine tour, which we got to experience by travelling underground in a cage elevator and learn about mining. We could even send a postcard to ourselves from inside the mine.

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So, all this time (almost 30 years) I thought I visited a real nickel mine.  Imagine my disappointment when I read about the Big Nickel today for this blog post! Apparently, the Big Nickel was conceived by a fireman named Ted Szilva in 1963, who proposed a giant nickel, a mine and a mining centre to commemorate Canada’s Centennial in response to a public contest.

His idea was shot down, but Szilva decided he was going to do it anyway.  He bought land, fought city councillors, sold mail-order coins, and persisted with his dream.  Finally, the Big Nickel was unveiled in July of 1964, followed by the model mine in 1965.  The mine saw 100,000 visitors a year, and combined a roadside attraction with an educational experience.  I was twelve when I visited the mine, and the experience is one of those that I still remember.

Maple: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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This is an easy one.  Because everyone thinks Canada just consists of a country full of maple trees and we douse everything in maple syrup! Vermont wanted it, but we branded ourselves first! (Take that Vermont).

My American colleagues always ask for two things whenever I travel back to Canada.

These:                                                        And these:

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The Americans call the cookies “Canadian Crack”. They absolutely love them.  The thing I find so funny about the hard maple candies is that it’s not something we buy or eat in Canada.  You can pretty much only find them in souvenir shops and in airports. Because of that, they’re DRASTICALLY overpriced.

But… it’s true, we do love our maple syrup.  Maple syrup is not just for pancakes.  It is a healthier alternative for sweeteners as well. I’m not a dietician or nutritionist, so I’ll let you google and make your own determination. There are some conflicting points out there regarding replacing other sweeteners with maple syrup, especially for diabetics. The consensus seems to be that if you are a generally healthy person, maple syrup can be a better (and tastier)choice.

So. I’d like to share a little story about the Sugar Bush.  Every eastern Canadian kid went to the Sugar Bush for a school field trip when they were growing up. This is where we learned where maple syrup comes from, and then, of course, we get to roll the syrup on a stick in the snow. And eat it.

The sap is tapped out of the maple tree usually from about March to April and then boiled down and evaporated in a Sugar Shack, creating syrup! Here’s a little video explaining the process 😉

Loonie: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Are Canadians crazy?  Or “loonie”? Why would they call a piece of currency, the “Loonie”?  or the “toonie” for that matter?

Well let’s start this one by reminding you  about the common loon, which is very common in Canada. Loons are freshwater aquatic birds (also called ‘Divers’ in Europe – probably because they dive for their food) and are very distinct with their black and white patterns. The common loon is the official bird of the Canadian province of Ontario. Their call is unmistakable.

So, since the loon is so common in Canada, it’s not surprising that Canadians would decorate their money with one! Back in 1987, we decided to do away with the one-dollar bill and replace it with a gold-coloured coin. The dollar disappeared from circulation two years after the coin was introduced.

So, aside from the obvious (a coin with a loon on it), how did the Canadian one-dollar coin become known as the “loonie”? The Royal Canadian Mint says that the coin was “instantly dubbed the ‘loonie’ after the solitary coin that graces the coin’s reverse side”, but does anyone know who gets credited for first calling it the loonie?

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I looked into this. But had some difficulty finding a firm answer.  At the beginning, it was called “Mulroney’s loonie” after the serving Prime Minister at the time, or the “Mul-loonie”.  I couldn’t find anything directing me to the exact source of the name, however whoever it was came up with an idea that spread like wildfire, without the help of social media!

But!  The Canadian one-dollar coin almost never became the ‘loonie’!  Originally, the coin was to have the same design as a previous 1956 dollar coin – two voyageurs in a canoe. The master dies for this coin were lost in transit on their way from Ottawa to Winnipeg in 1986 (what’s interesting is that the Royal Canadian Mint sent the dies via letter-carrier instead of an armoured service in order to save about $44 on the shipment!). Fearing counterfeiting, the Canadian Government quickly authorized a new design, the loon by Robert-Ralph Carmichael.

To this day, the original dies have never been located.

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Ketchup Chips: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

KYes!  Of course!  How could I not??

Ketchup Chips, although available sporadically through the U.S. as a less flavourful version made by Herr’s, are known as a quintessential Canadian snack. You would think, since Americans put ketchup on EVERYTHING, that Ketchup Chips would be a thing down here in the states.  But for some unexplained reason, Ketchup Chips are not only scarce here, Americans seem to detest them! Buzzfeed asked some of their American staff to taste Canadian snacks, and it seems that Ketchup Chips “taste like a mistake”.

A glorious, dreamy, delicious mistake!

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I will throw out clothes so I can fit bags of Ketchup Chips in my luggage when I’m travelling back home. I will pay $30 for a taxi to take me to where I can get Ketchup Chips. Of all the things that I miss about Canada – Ketchup Chips ranks up there right after my family and friends!

But the trick is this.  Forget those Lay’s Ketchup Chips.  There are only two kinds even worth buying.  The first is the classic Old Dutch Ketchup Chip (not the baked kind – the real chips) and then the President’s Choice Loads of Ketchup Rippled Potato Chips.

These:

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There is so much ketchup flavouring on these chips, it’s almost questionable whether you even need the potato. #sogood.

I still wonder why the stark difference between Canadian and American tastes when it comes to potato chips? We are a lot alike on a lot of things.  So why not Ketchup Chips?

Maybe Canadians actually don’t really know they hate Ketchup Chips because they are so set on loving something Americans don’t.

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought:

American Friend: “Because your tastebuds have frozen off your tongue?”

Canadian Friend: “We’re being patriotic: they’re red like our flag.”

Canadian Friend: “Canadians prefer salty, while Americans prefer sweet.”

American Friend: “Ketchup Chipes are reason number 5751 to be suspicious of Canadians.”

Canadian Friend: “Ew, I don’t like Ketchup Chips. Maybe I’m secretly American.”

So…. what do you think?  Have you tried Ketchup Chips? Would you?  If you’ve tried them, yay or nay? Why do you think there’s such a difference in preference between our two countries?

 

 

Jasper: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Out of all the places in Canada, you would think that Jasper, Alberta would be a rather random place for me to highlight – but not after I show it to you!  When people think of the Canadian Rockies, they often think of British Columbia.  But how many people consider the eastern slope of the range? Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, Jasper are all stunning Canadian destinations in the Alberta rockies!

Jasper can refer to Jasper National Park or the Town of Jasper. People often say “Jasper” when they’re referring to that whole area in the Athabasca River Valley. The Town of Jasper was originally an outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company (hey! My “H” #AtoZ!) and then was formally established as a town as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Canadian Northern Railway developed their lines through the region.

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Jasper was also used as an internment camp for six months in 1916, holding Ukranian men (and some women and children) under the terms of the Canadian War Measures act while Canada was at war with Austria-Hungary. This internment across Canada of about 4,000 people left a scar on the Canadian Ukrainian community – which I’ll likely talk more about when I talk about Ukrainian culture in Canada on the #AtoZ “U” day.

Today, Jasper is a Canadian mountain town known for its recreational tourism.  People come from all over the world to visit Jasper National Park and to experience the nature and wildlife in the region.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Canada.

Enjoy some of my photos from my time in Jasper!

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IMAX: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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This is a fun one because I didn’t know IMAX was invented in Canada! I learned something new!  IMAX (Image MAXimum) came to be as filmmakers searched for ways to make the visual experience even better for movie-goers.

During Expo ’67 in Montreal, some movies were tested in a multi-camera/projector configuration, but it didn’t quite work the way they had hoped. As a result, four men who worked on the Expo project collaborated to form a company called Multi-Screen Corporation, and three years later, debuted the first ever IMAX film called Tiger Child at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.

The first IMAX theatre was built at Ontario Place in Toronto, called Cinesphere.  I remember the dome when I was a child and used to go to Ontario Place, but I can’t remember if I ever watched a movie there. It was probably too expensive!

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Today, there are 1,061 IMAX theatres around the world that show specialty films.  You can also watch IMAX 3D films in many regular theatres. It’s no longer just a theatre. It is digital video at its finest. It’s advanced film development.  It’s specialty cameras that give the viewer the most outstanding point of view. The Soarin’ ride at Disney’s Epcot integrates IMAX technology with a ride.  I went back twice to experience that one!

Check out this video showing the different IMAX 3D Cameras which are used for capturing various types of video for IMAX films! Which are some of your favourite IMAX movies?

 

Hudson & Hudson’s Bay: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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I was going to choose “hockey” today – but that’s just so obvious, not to mention Canada’s official sport is actually Lacrosse!! So after some deliberation, I decided it would be Hudson Bay, a large body of saltwater in the north and also an overpriced Canadian department store!

Did you know that Hudson Bay is the second largest bay in the world?  Despite being more than 1.2 million square kilometres, it is actually rather shallow, with an average depth of about 330 feet.

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Hudson Bay was discovered by explorers in the early 1600’s and named after Sir Henry Hudson who, with his ship Discovery, mapped much of the eastern coast of the bay before running into some trouble. The ship was stuck in ice for most of the winter, but the crew managed to survive until spring. At that point, Sir Hudson wanted to continue exploring, but the crew would have none of it, calling a mutiny and leaving Hudson and a few others to fend for themselves on a dory while they returned to England.

Later, other explorers in the area began trading with locals for pelt and building a British monopoly on the fur trade in the area and creating The Hudson’s Bay Company, founded in England and eventually evolved into a Canadian department store that still exists today and is recognizable by its traditional green, red, yellow and blue stripes that appear on blankets, clothing and other items that they sell.

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Source: The Hudson’s Bay Company

If you grew up in Canada, you grew up with an HBC Point Blanket in your house.  Guaranteed. And today, they run a ridiculous $300-500 a piece!

The Hudson’s Bay Company has been a proud Canadian company and seems to attempt to hang on to our roots as much as possible, being the official outfitter for the Canadian Olympic Team for nine Olympic games and contracted to continue through to 2020.

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Source: The Hudson’s Bay Company

Although the Hudson’s Bay Company now has American ownership – which happens a lot to Canadian companies to keep them afloat (ahem, Tim Hortons), it remains an iconic symbol of Canada and our roots in the north through trade. In Canada, we refer to the store as just “The Bay”, but everyone knows what it is and how long it’s been around.