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 😉

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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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Flag: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

Let’s talk Fabout the Canadian Flag, eh? What a unique design – and it’s perfectly symmetrical – looks the same no matter which way it’s flying!

I’d like to think it’s widely recognized around the world.  So much, in fact that people from (ahem) other countries sew Canadian Flags to their backpacks so people think they’re Canadian!

So can anyone guess how long Canada has had the flag you see today?

The 50-star version of the Star Spangled Banner is 56 years old. The Maple Leaf we use today was adopted 51 years ago.  Before that, well, let’s just say that Canadians aren’t always as agreeable as some might think.

Before 1965, our flag looked like this:

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It was called the Canadian Red Ensign, and it paid homage to our British roots in the top left corner (where we came from) and the Canadian Coat of Arms in the centre-right (who we became).

Many Canadians wanted a flag that depicted our own identity as a free country, away from our colonial roots, but many others wanted an original flag that still contained the Union Jack. And over the years, Canadians debated what that depiction might look like.  In 1964, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson presented the plan to change the flag and Canadians argued for over six months on what the final product would look like, causing much tension and conflict within parliament during the process. In fact, according to reports, it got downright nasty between people at Parliament Hill for a while.

To see some of the proposed flags and the controversy, check out this video:


Eventually, today’s design of the Maple Leaf was approved. It contained red and white (already the official colours of Canada, by King’s decree), and a centred maple leaf (a symbol used to represent Canada since the 1700’s). Finally, in 1964, the Canadian government voted to adopt the Maple Leaf as the new national flag.

Ta da! (in case you didn’t know what it looked like):

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So I’ll conclude with some interesting national flag facts:

  • The majority of flag suggestions depicted a maple leaf, followed by a union jack, and followed by a beaver.  We could have had a rodent on our flag!
  • February 15th is “National Flag Day” in Canada, the day of the official inauguration ceremony in 1965.
  • People might still see the original Red Ensign around Canada – mostly at Veterans organizations and legions.  Most of the people who rejected the Maple Leaf were veterans, who had fought for Canada under a much different flag.
  • There is no official law saying how you should treat or fly the Canadian Flag, but the Department of Canadian Heritage have published some rules and guidelines that people should follow.
  • The Canadian flag is twice as long as it is wide.
  • It is not illegal to burn the Canadian Flag as it would violate citizens’ freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, it is suggested that the dignified way to destroy a worn or tattered flag is to burn it privately.

Canadians are very proud of their flag. They will wave it at the top of mountains. wear it on their shirts, or wrap a Canadian Flag towel around them on the ski hills (no names)! If you see someone with a Canadian Flag, say “Hello Canada!”  Apparently, the world thinks we’re pretty friendly people (for the most part)!

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Donair: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

DYou’re probably wondering what crazy Canadian thing could a “Donair” be? An animal? A Canadian term for a kite?

Well, picture this:  a gyro or a Turkish Döner kebab but wayyyyy more awesomer!!!!

Donairs came to be in Halifax, Nova Scotia back in the early 1970’s, and have since become a nationwide premier choice for late night, drunk delicacies!  Donairs started off made with beef on a vertical rotisserie, and were then wrapped with diced onion and tomato in a flatbread.

But that’s not all!  There’s no tzatziki sauce on these addictive treats!  Donairs come with a special sweet white sauce.

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Source: The National Post

Donairs now have expanded across Canada, but they are truly still an east coast delicacy.  Halifax’s King of Donair claims to be the first restaurant to sell Donairs and is usually the first place Canadians go if they’re visiting the coastal city.

Donairs are so engrained in east coast life, that Halifax city councillor put forward a notion last October to make the Donair the official food of Halifax!

So, if you’re not in eastern Canada, or have never tried a Donair, here’s a recipe on Allrecipes.com that may give you the experience without visiting! I make sure I have one every time I’m back home!

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Celsius: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

CThis is a fun one!  I call it “Canadian Degrees” to my American friends down here.  I also use it to make it seem colder than it is.

For example:  “Wow, it’s really mild today, it’s only -5° out!”

The look on their faces is priceless.  Especially since they actually believe that Canadians think -5° is warm!

Now how is it that two countries so close together, use completely different measures of temperature?

Forty-one years ago, the weather was the first to go in Canada’s efforts to shift to metric measurements and coincidentally, the switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius happened on April 1, 1975.  What an April Fools joke!

The people of the United States on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with this crazy method of measuring temperature.  Congress passed an act allowing the voluntary conversion to the metric system. Voluntary. It seems when faced with change, people are content to stick with what they know.

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Here in the states, I have difficulty knowing what the temperature will “feel like” when I hear it announced in Fahrenheit.  I often have to switch my weather apps back and forth when checking the weather and when talking with friends about the weather.

In Canada, we usually discuss weather in Celsius, however for some strange reason, we mix between the two when cooking and baking. Many Canadian ovens either either display Fahrenheit only, or both.  This is a side effect from the metrification of Canada and varies among generations.

My weird metrification quirk is referring to the temperature in Fahrenheit when it’s above 80°F and Celsius when it’s 26°C or lower!  I do appreciate having 0°C represent the freezing point and 100°C representing the boiling point. That makes  a lot of sense to me.

Oh, and when it gets to be -40°C, it’s also -40°F.  Which, essentially means it’s so ridiculously cold that you shouldn’t bother even going outside unless you want instant frostbite.

The art of packing….

Packing when traveling is something I have never mastered!  I ALWAYS bring way more than I need, and usually come back from a trip with only half of what I packed actually used.  Now, I get that you have to be prepared for various weather situations, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t being as efficient as I could be.

My trip to Africa was my first foray into ‘thoughtful packing’. I had a friend assist me in packing up one 60L backpack to last me two weeks.  Not only that, but said pack also needed to hold my mountain climbing clothing, altitude layers, sleeping bag and resort wear for the last two days in Zanzibar.

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Not too long ago, I discovered the freedom of flying without checking luggage.  I flew to Toronto from Denver for a wedding and only brought a small roller carry-on.  It was exhilarating!  I was able to walk in, get on the plane, and walk off!

So a month later, I tried it again – flying from Denver to Bangor, Maine. This time, I was a bridesmaid.  I carried my dress in a garment bag and laid it on top of the overhead luggage. On the way back I just crammed everything into my carry-on suitcase.  It worked so well!

I started learning how to come up with coordinating garments that would allow me to make multiple outfits out of a few pieces of clothing without anyone really knowing.  One pair of jeans, a couple of blouses and jackets.

Then I started rolling my clothes to make more room.  And I came up with this on my most recent ‘checked-bag-free’ trip from Denver to Washington, D.C.:

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This was actually a business trip.  I had dress slacks, jackets and blouses in there, along with workout clothes, a laptop, and toiletries!!

What are some of your light packing tips?