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Spring may have officially arrived on March 20, but it’s not felt too spring-like here until this week. Now the last stubborn patches of snow have vanished, most of the ice has melted on the lakes, and it looks like warmer temperatures are finally here! So it’s time to start working though the springtime checklist. Always more fun than prepping for winter, here’s a quick run-down of some of the things to consider.

Hopefully you put winter tires on your vehicle. Once the daytime temperature is consistently seven degrees or more, it’s time to switch them out  for summer tires. This is also a good opportunity to book a service and oil change on your vehicle. After negotiating all the new pot holes that appear each spring in Sudbury, our car always needs a bit of TLC. Not sure if your tires are still roadworthy? Canadian Tire has a helpful guide.

It’s time to bring out the lawnmower and put away the snow blower. Follow any recommended maintenance tasks, and if your mower has a battery it’ll need a charge after being stored all winter.

If you have vehicles you use just during summer, you’ll need to add collision coverage back on your insurance policy and check that the batteries are in working order. The May long weekend is traditionally the time to get your “summer toys” back on the road. But we were always impatient to get out in our Corvette or camper van as early as possible! Here we were camping at Killarney Park in March 2010.

Camping at Killarney Park in March 2010

Snow plows can leave your yard looking the worse for wear. Now is the time to remove all the sand off your lawn, or hire someone else to do it if you can. If you have a gravel driveway or yard like I do, the worst spring task is clearing all that gravel that’s  been thrown up onto the grass . Well, maybe not the worst…. I’m a former dog owner after all :-)

You may want to start planning your garden. It’s a little early here for planting, although the temporary garden centres at the grocery stores are almost ready to open up for business. If this is your first year in Canada, it’s a good time to take stock of your new yard and landscape. I’m not much of a gardener, but I like to have a few hanging baskets and pots around the place. If you’re a newbie Canadian gardener, Canadian Gardening is a helpful resource.

Be prepared for the bugs. I’ve already heard our annual frog chorus late at night, so I know the bugs won’t be too long in arriving. Check your supplies of repellent and anti-bite. Deet repellents are the only ones I’ve found to be effective around here, although there’s a wide range of alternatives to try.

Bug free!

If you’re thinking of putting up a gazebo or temporary screen room, now is a good time to work on that. We had a permanent screen room built last year, and I have to say I’m so happy we made that decision. Once the warm temperatures hit, dust down that patio furniture and barbecue (I still don’t have one!), set up your deck for the season, and treat yourself to a well-earned drink.

Cheers!

Unusually for Canada, we’ve been much in the international news over the last couple of weeks. Justin Trudeau with those pandas, then his visit to the US. Not to mention the huge spike in “Move to Canada” searches from Americans scared at the impending prospect of a Trump presidency. (I’m with you on that one!)

Here at home, there were plenty of splashy headlines about the Liberals’ new changes to immigration. More immigrants to be welcomed this year and a more open, more pro-immigration attitude. This is reflected in the ministry name change from “Citizenship and Immigration Canada” to “Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.” But how does this impact on economic immigrants, on those of you stuck in the Express Entry pool. Will any of these changes have a positive effect for you?

For 2016, the government is planning to bring in up to around 300,000 new permanent residents. This would be a 7.4% increase on 2015 levels.  However, the emphasis is firmly on family reunification. So less than half of that number are expected to be economic immigrants. Targets are set at 58,400 for skilled worker categories (Federal skilled worked, Skilled trades, and Canadian Experience), plus 26,200 via the Quebec skilled worker stream. And 47,800 via provincial nominee programs.

A couple of measures that will be of interest. If you’ve applied through Express Entry and have a brother or sister already in Canada, you’ll now qualify for extra points. The new rules also help if you have older children as the maximum age for dependent children is now 22 instead of 19.

So it seems that now more than ever, Express Entry applicants will need plenty of patience and persistence, not to mention that all-important job offer. You can find full details of all the changes at the CIC site (which hasn’t caught up to their name change yet) as well as a breakdown of 2016 targets for each immigration stream.

To finish on a more cheerful note, have a look at the stunning site that’s been put together by radio announcer, Rob Calabrese. (Story here.) And be warned: if you weren’t already thinking of moving to Nova Scotia, after watching this video you might just change your mind!

Cabot-Trail

 

 

I’m usually fairly organised when it comes to planning for birthdays and other special days. But Mother’s Day–or Mothering Sunday if you prefer–is the one that always seems to sneak up on me. While Father’s Day in June falls on the same date whether you’re in the UK or Canada, the UK Mother’s Day (March 6th this year) is usually a good 2 months ahead of the Canadian one (May 8th in 2016). And unsurprisingly you won’t find it marked on any North American calendars, or see any coverage in the Canadian media.

Locating Mother’s Day cards this early (especially in Northern Ontario) is a challenge. Thankfully my local Hallmark store has always come to the rescue so far, and choosing between the 4 or 5 different designs never takes very long :-) Postage has become so expensive here that I’ve recently started researching ecards too. Blue Mountain has some fun designs. They offer a free trial and inexpensive membership.

If you’re looking for a reliable florist for the big day, I’ve used Flying Flowers and Clare Florist for years and always had good reports on the quality of the flowers.

Whether you’re with your Mum this Mother’s Day, or celebrating across the miles, hope it’s a special day.

ETA

Are you planning to fly into Canada this year? If so, don’t forget to check whether you’ll need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). These come into force from March 25th and will affect you if you’re traveling from a visa-exempt country.

Canadian and UK passports

Express Entry a year old

Did you submit an Express Entry profile in 2015? If a year has gone by since you sent it in, you have 60 days in which to re-submit your application. Any longer than that and you’ll have to send in a completely new application. The number of ITAs (invitations to apply) seems to have stayed fairly static at around 3000 per month. However, the good news is that the points requirement seems to have been steadily dropping over recent months and is now down to 453 points as of the last round of invitations on January 13th.

Home down payments

If you’re close to finalising your move (congratulations on getting this far!), you’ll want to be aware of upcoming changes in house down payment rules. Up until now, it’s been possible to buy a house in Canada with as little as a 5% down payment, but from February 15th, anyone buying a home costing over $500k will be required to place a 10% down payment on the portion of the purchase above $500k. The remainder will still require only 5%.

So what does this mean if you’re a new immigrant trying to get established in the Canadian housing market? The good news is that most prospective buyers won’t be affected. However, if you’re trying to get on the housing ladder in Toronto or Vancouver, it will have an impact. In these over-heated markets the average price for a detached house is hitting $1 million, compared to $455,000 for the rest of Canada. Here’s a currently listed million dollar house in Vancouver. Hard to believe, I know…

Million dollar house in VancouverOr maybe some million dollar condo living in Toronto is more your style?

condo

As usual I got distracted looking at house listings :) Hopefully when it comes to buying your new Canadian home, you won’t be having to look in the million dollar bracket.

With the new Liberal government now getting into its stride, and big challenges for the economy, it could be an interesting year in Canada. Look out for more changes ahead in 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like to sneak in a food post now and again, as it seems that food is my main obsession in life :) I’ve written before about the delicious pies my husband makes at Christmas. For Thanksgiving, I tried out Dreena Burton’s Festive chickpea tart, complete with traditional cranberry sauce. I loved this so much I’ll be making more to serve up again at Christmas, this time with my favourite, easy gravy from Robin Robertson’s Vegetarian meat & potatoes book.

Festive Chickpea Tart

Festive Chickpea Tart

For snacks and gifts, I’ve made up a big batch of Dreena Burton’s softly spiced nuts recipe (from Eat, drink and be vegan). I’ve always had good comments about these and make them every year – usually several times as they never last very long. And as an alternative to cookies, I tried out Angela Liddon’s famous “Glo Bars”, included in her Oh She Glows cookbook. These were definitely a success. I’m also thinking of trying to make a tunis cake. Tunis cake was always (and still is) part of my family’s Christmas, but I’ve never been able to find them here. So it’ll be fun to try and recreate it.

Glo bars

Glo bars

 

Of course not everyone will be into my plan for a veggie Christmas dinner :) A typical Christmas meal in Canada would be turkey with all the trimmings. Canadian Living has a guide to cooking a classic Canadian Christmas menu. Or you could try a menu with more of a French-Canadian flavour, courtesy of Chatelaine magazine. And if you’ve ever watched Christmas Vacation (a Christmas Eve tradition in our house!) and wondered what eggnog is, find out here or here for a egg/dairy-free version.

Eggnog

Eggnog

However you’re celebrating, and whatever you’re eating over the holidays– Happy Christmas!

 

I can’t believe it’s already September. And with the new college semester just underway, family arriving for a visit in less than two weeks, plus negotiating the installation of a new well pipe, it’s definitely a busy time!

The arrival of fall is always a mixed bag: that “back to school” feeling, cooler temperatures, and starting to think ahead to winter prep. jobs. But it’s also the beginning of Canada’s most beautiful season: time to plan some fall drives or hikes and pick the best places to view those spectacular fall colours.

Here in Northern Ontario, I’m spoilt for choice – it’s just a short drive to Killarney Park, French River, Manitoulin Island, AY Jackson Falls, Muskoka… In Ontario, Algonquin Park is probably the most renowned–and the busiest!–spot to see the colours, and is one of the places highlighted by The Weather Network for prime fall colour viewing. Outside of Ontario, their recommendations include Gros Morne National Park and the Cabot Trail, both of which appear on my Top Ten Places I’d like to visit list. Maybe next fall!

In the upcoming weeks I’ll be sharing some of our “staycation” experiences with our British visitors. But in the meantime, here are a few of my favourite photos from autumns past.
One of our favourite walking routes

One of our favourite walking routes

 

Fall colours at Killarney Park

Fall colours at Killarney Park on the Granite Ridge Trail

 

Lake of the Woods trail - the newest trail at Killarney Park

Lake of the Woods trail – the newest trail at Killarney Park

 

Mono Cliffs Park

Mono Cliffs Park

 

Fall cruising in Muskoka

Fall cruising in Muskoka

 

Lake Superior Park

Lake Superior Park

Starting from March 25, 2016, visitors flying into Canada from a visa-exempt country, will need an ETA – Electronic Travel Authorization. Thankfully there’s an easy way to check if you need an ETA by going to http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp and selecting your country.

You can already apply for the ETA online, so if you’re planning to travel to Canada next year it makes sense to be organized well in advance. The application process doesn’t seem too arduous. You’ll need your passport details, credit card and email address and will have to enter the amount of money you expect to take with you into Canada. There’s a minimal processing charge of $7.00. The ETA is valid for 5 years, or until your passport expires and will be electronically linked to your passport.

The application form is available in both English and French, and help information is available in other languages at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp

In most cases it should only take a few minutes for your application to be authorized, but if you need to, you can check your application status at https://onlineservices-servicesenligne.cic.gc.ca/eta/applicationQuery?lang=en&_ga=1.151351353.1236358645.1406818214

There are a few exemptions from the ETA: 

*US citizens,
*anyone with an existing valid visa,
*people arriving in Canada by sea or land where the usual travel requirements apply.

So all in all, nothing too much to worry about here, but definitely something to be aware of if you’re planning a research trip or vacation to Canada in the near future.

***Update***
The 6-month leniency period, due to end on September 29th, has now been extended to November 9th. Full details are available here.

 

This was really difficult. How could I possibly narrow this down to ten? But after much agonizing, here’s the list.

Cabot Trail
Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail is one of the classic Canadian road trips. Cabottrail.com   has a great video to give you a flavour of the experience, or you can read an article in National Geographic for a overview of a clockwise trip around the trail.

Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy on Canada’s east coast really is one of the country’s natural wonder’s. The 270km stretch of bay between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is bursting with UNESCO sites, national and provincial parks, and historic sites. It has the highest tides in the world, over 12 species of whale, and you can also walk on the ocean floor. If those aren’t enough reasons enough to visit, the Bay of Fundy tourism site lists another 49.

Pelee Island
I decided this had to be on my list. A 90-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Ontario’s southernmost point is known for its great beaches, warm climate, and its wine. The Pelee Island Winery is the oldest and largest estate winery in Canada. And it produces my favourite red wine, Monarch!

Port Perry
Years ago on a discussion forum I remember a prospective immigrant who had his heart set on living in Port Perry, just north of Oshawa in Ontario. I always wonder what happened to him and whether he made to Port Perry. Since then, I’ve traveled through this scenic town, with its beautiful Victorian architecture, but didn’t have time to stop. I hope to go back next year for the annual Brits on the Lake car show (love vintage cars) and perhaps stay at the Piano Inn.

Algonquin Park
This is cheating a little as I’ve already been to Algonquin Park. But I don’t really count a brief visit as a crazy tourist in a snowstorm. I want to really discover Algonquin by tackling some hiking trails and perhaps camping there one day too. Fall is the classic time to visit, but the busiest too. So perhaps a spring visit one year before the blackflies make their appearance.

Churchill
Churchill, Manitoba, on the shore of Hudson Bay, is often referred to as the “Polar bear capital” of the world. It’s one of a handful of places where you can observe these beautiful animals in the wild, in this case from the inside of a tundra buggy. It’s also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately the best time to see the polar bears–October/November– doesn’t coincide with the best time for Northern Lights viewing, which is January to March, so it’s the perfect excuse to visit twice!

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) trio loafing, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Polar bears in Churchill. Image: National Geographic.

Vancouver Island and Vancouver Island
Vancouver, and–just a short ferry ride away–Vancouver Island, are always rated at, or near, the top in best places to live or best quality of life surveys. With their laid-back lifestyle, dramatic scenery, and fabulous climate, it’s not hard to see why. I need to go there – soon!

The Rockies
I know… “The Rockies” is a bit vague. But how do you pick which parts to visit when everything looks so picture perfect? If I ever have the opportunity to head west, I’d be doing lots of research beforehand. Or if I win the lottery I might take the Rocky Mountaineer :)

Okanagan
B.C. again! I’ve seen the Okanagan region described as the California of Canada. Lakes, hills, wineries, and lots of sunshine makes for a very appealing destination. Many immigrants–not surprisingly- have been attracted to this area. Its largest city, Kelowna, about 400km from Vancouver, is one of Canada’s fastest growing towns.

Gros Morne
I always picture Gros Morne National Park, as magical and misty and it’s apparently the case that rain and fog are fairly common conditions for summer visitors.  That doesn’t put me off visiting though. This UNESCO world heritage site on the west coast of Newfoundland is known for its dramatic landscape of fjords and mountains and the hiking opportunities look amazing.

Do I have your favourites on this list? If you’ve visited, or are living in, any of these places, do they live up to expectations?

This is the last of my “top ten” posts for now. It’s been a fun month with great weather, and lots to celebrate–ten years in Canada and the launch of “Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide.” My husband is also getting in on the act with the launch of his short story collection today! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer will bring.

Today’s the day… ten years since I first became a Canadian immigrant and permanent resident! So in honour of that momentous day, I thought I’d share some of the most memorable moments of my life in Canada to date.

Welcome to Canada!
I became a Canadian permanent resident in July 2005. My husband and I landed at Pearson airport and were amazed at how quickly all the formalities were dispensed with. The immigration officials were more interested in the fact that we were moving to Sudbury rather than anything else!

My first glimpse of Canadian wildlife
If only I’d had my camera with me… not long after we moved into our Canadian house we took a walk up the bank behind the house that leads to a rocky ridge. From there we watched transfixed as we saw a bear lumbering around  in the bush below. Then just when we thought the show was over, a pair of moose galloped by. On a smaller scale, here’s Charles the chipmunk, a constant visitor during our first Canadian summer.

Sir Charles

Sir Charles

Corvette fun
We’ve had some fantastic road trips in our Corvette and met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. But the moment that will always remain with me is seeing the look on my husband’s face when he took finally possession of his dream car in the winter of 2007. Yes, that’s right… winter…

1991 ZR-1 Corvette

My wedding!
My  husband and I were married in a gazebo overlooking Ramsey Lake in Sudbury. It had been a really wet September that year, but amazingly the sun came out to make it the perfect day. My Dad, bridesmaids, and I were driven to the park in a 1960s Chevy Impala, and our own classic car had to get in on the action too. Once we’d said “I do,” the nerves disappeared and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

Wedding day in Bell Park

Camping in March!
2010 was the only year since I’ve been here that we’ve ever been able to camp so early. Killarney Provincial Park was taken by surprise too. The shower block wasn’t even open when we first arrived, but due to popular demand they opened it up earlier than normal.  Being able to enjoy breakfast by George Lake in complete peace and quiet was a magical experience and definitely one of my best camping memories.

George Lake, Killarney Park

George Lake, Killarney Park

 

Some Superior moments…

Introducing three generations of the Kelly family to camping at Lake Superior Park
At various times we’ve camped at Rabbit Blanket campground with my husband’s siblings, nieces, and his Mum.  Superior was my Mum-in-law’s first ever camping holiday and she was a bit apprehensive about the bears, so she was given the luxury berth in the camper van. It was really special to be able to share the Superior experience with them.

Swimming in Lake Superior for Thanksgiving…
When I returned to work after the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2011, people couldn’t believe I’d swum in Superior in October! It was a really warm fall that year following a very hot summer, so the water temperature really wasn’t too bad. The six-foot waves were an added bonus!

…and getting drenched on the Towab Trail
On one of our May camping trips to Superior, we hiked part of the Towab Trail as far as Burnt Rock Pool. We heard the thunder before we arrived there, but didn’t want to turn back. Burnt Rock Pool is a really picturesque spot on the Agawa River surrounded by towering cliffs. Sitting there on the rocks while the storm broke around us was an amazing experience. After that, it was a very long, wet walk back!

Becoming a Canadian citizen
Oh Canada! It was a really proud and emotional moment back in the summer of 2010 when my husband and I took the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Sudbury.  We’d had to wait for this for several months after passing the citizenship test; apparently the citizenship judges don’t like coming up north too often :)

Summer in the screen room
I posted recently about our wonderful new screen room. Let’s just say the novelty hasn’t yet worn off and I’ll be spending as much time as I can in there this summer. And it’s fairly safe to say that tonight I’ll be sitting in there, raising a glass to the last ten years–and to the next ten. Here’s hoping they’re even better!

Bug free!

Bug free!

 

How was your Canada Day? Mine was mostly spent relaxing at home with a good book. I also walked on the trails at our local park. Even though the temperature only made it to 18, there were still plenty of families having fun on the beach, and even a few brave people in the water. With my ten-year Canadian anniversary coming up  on Friday, it seems like the ideal time to reflect on my top ten best things about living in Canada.

Long weekends
Long weekends are hardly unique to Canada, but somehow they always seem extra special here. The May holidays signal the beginning of the summer season and are the traditional time to open up your cottage/camp. By Labour Day weekend in September the good weather is coming to an end and it’s time to close everything up and put away the toys. Thanksgiving in October (earlier than the U.S. version) is all about the food and is almost like a practice run for the Christmas season. Don’t always count on getting a long weekend out of Canada Day as it’s always celebrated on July 1st regardless of what day of the week it falls on. Wednesday this year, but next year it’ll be a Friday-I already checked :)

Cottages/camps/cabins
Cottages, camps, or cabins (whether it’s “camp” or “cabin” depends on where you live :) ) seem woven into the Canadian experience.  So many people have good memories of “going to the cottage” as a child and often look to replicate that with their own children. We’re not necessarily talking cottage ownership here. Numerous properties are available to rent, or you might just know a family member or friend with a cottage…

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort, Georgian Bay

Provincial and national parks
Canada has a whole network of national and provincial parks just waiting to be explored for the cost of a day pass. Or if you’re a regular visitor, season passes are available. Canada’s parks are a great place to camp, offering spacious RV and tent sites, and an increasing number of roofed accommodation options.

Lakes
I love being so close to the water. Here in Sudbury, there are over 300 freshwater lakes within city limits, one of which is just a 10-minute drive away for me. Travel a few hours further and I can reach Georgian Bay or the most majestic of the Great Lakes, my beloved Lake Superior.

Sunset over Superior

Sunset over Lake Superior

The Space
England was so crowded; it often felt like everyone was living on top of each other. There’s a lot more space in Canada, not exactly surprising as it has half the population of the UK and is the second largest country in the world. Here I can roam freely on crown land if I choose. There aren’t so many private/keep-out signs and many people don’t bother fencing their properties. I love the feeling of freedom here.

Distinct seasons
If you like some variation in your climate, Canada is the place to be. For sure, the long, cold winters common to many parts of the country can be tough to cope with. But the pay off for this is (usually) a guaranteed beautiful summer giving way to a relatively warm fall with its stunning display of fall colours.

Wanapitei River,

Wanapitei River, close to home

 

The people
Typically, Canadians are tolerant, friendly, and live and let live (apart from when it’s a case of supporting opposing hockey teams perhaps :) ). They also seem to have an unfailingly positive attitude towards life and take pleasure in other people’s successes.

Cost of living
Although there’s not too much difference in day-to-day expenses, I’ve found that some of the big-ticket items–houses, cars (and gas), furnishings, appliances–are considerably cheaper in Canada than in the UK. And although, in relative terms, I still earn less than before I moved here, the money seems to go much further. Here is “Betty,” my summer toy, and I know I’d never have been to afford to buy or insure her back in England.

Betty on a spacious campsite at Killarney.

Betty on a spacious campsite at Killarney.

Driving
Compared to driving in England, driving in Canada–at least in the summer– is a breeze (we’ll leave the topic of winter driving for another day…). Big wide open roads, no roundabouts (or very few), mostly trouble-free commutes–where I live at least. If you live in Toronto, feel free to disagree :) And summer road trips are so much fun.

The wildlife
So long as it doesn’t get too close. Since I’ve been here I’ve seen moose, bears, wolves, turtles, snakes, and our very own groundhog. Okay, perhaps he’s not such a welcome visitor… :)

If you’re already living in Canada, what are your favourite things? Or if you’re planning on moving here, what are you most looking forward to?