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Express Entry update

3687 Invitations To Apply were issued in yesterday’s Express Entry draw, with the minimum Comprehensive Ranking System points standing at 415. As with the April 19th draw, this is the lowest number of points required by applicants since Express Entry started. So your chances of receiving an ITA are looking better than ever! And for the most part, applications are being processed within the promised 6 months.

Atlantic provinces

If you’re still undecided about where to settle in Canada, it’s certainly worth considering the eastern provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and PEI. With huge labour shortages looming there over the next decade, these provinces are now being much more proactive in their efforts to attract immigrants. This is reflected in the introduction of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program. And recently New Brunswick has been holding job fairs in the US, seeking to capitalise on the understandable uncertainty that many Americans are feeling right now.

Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

Ontario house prices

For people choosing to move to Ontario, southern and southwest Ontario remain popular destinations. So it’s disappointing to see that the crazy Toronto house market is driving up prices in those areas. Places like Hamilton, Windsor, London, and the Waterloo-Kitchener area have seen house prices increase by between 20-30% within the last year. Even somewhat less built-up areas like Peterborough, Barrie, and the Niagara Region are seeing the same effect. The average house price in Canada is now almost $550,000, although if you take Toronto and Vancouver out of the equation, this would drop to around $390,000.

Hopefully the recent measures brought in to calm the Toronto market will have an impact. And it’s good to know that the new 15% “non-resident speculation tax” won’t affect new immigrants. Rebates will be available for temporary foreign workers, international students, and people who later become permanent residents or Canadian citizens.

Niagara River

Manitoba

Heading further west, Manitoba has announced a renewed commitment to its Provincial Nominee Program. After clearing a massive backlog, it’s now promising 6-month completions for new applications and additional pathways to permanent residency for international students. It predicts that immigrants will be needed to fill 25% of its likely 170,000 job openings between now and 2022. And with news that seniors now outnumber children in Canada, it’s a safe bet we’re going to see some serious competition between the provinces for skilled immigrants in the years ahead.

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort

Playtime

It’s finally here! After the long winter, we’ve reached the Victoria Day long weekend. This is the unofficial start of summer when Canadians open up their cottages, dust down classic cars, RVs, and boats, and barbecue/beer/deck time starts in earnest. I’m looking forward to getting our Corvette on the road and doing some hiking. I’m also finishing up a revised version of Moving To Canada. More details coming soon!

 

 

Here in Northern Ontario, we’ve had record temperatures for November! In past years there would usually have been snow on the ground by now and we’d be settling into the long winter. But last weekend I was on the road with my husband in our Corvette, for our final trip of the year.

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We took one of our favourite scenic routes via Field, stopping off for a quick peek inside Marten River Provincial Park. Sadly it’s all closed up for the season now, so we parked by the gate and had a quick stroll down to the water.

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Then it was on to one of our regular eating spots – Average Joe’s, overlooking Trout Lake in North Bay. It was beautiful looking out onto the water with the sun streaming in. I had delicious flatbread with roasted veggies (with enough to take home for Monday’s lunch!) followed up by a “Peppermint Patty”–peppermint schnapps with hot chocolate. Mmm!

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The next day we managed to fit in a final car wash before putting the vette away for the winter. So this year for once I’m actually fairly organised and have most of my winter prep jobs done before the snow and freezing temperatures arrive! There’s nothing worse than fumbling with numb fingers to finish outdoor jobs in below zero. Sadly I’m less organised with Christmas gifts as I’ve missed the surface mail deadline for Europe by a long way.

Now Hallowe’en is over and the clocks have gone back, we’re full swing into the Christmas season. Sudbury has its annual Santa Claus parade coming up–always held in November to avoid the worst of the weather. Plus there’s the Festival of Lights at Science North. I hope to get to at least one of these events this year. We also have many local craft fairs, ideal for gift hunting.

As an immigrant, it can definitely take a while to adjust to the shifting seasons and the change in routine this brings. But I’ve found that learning about and participating in those seasonal rituals and traditions is part of what makes you start to feel really at home here. More than ever, I feel very lucky to be living in Canada. If you’re reading this and interested in moving here, but have no idea where to start, please get in touch. I’m happy to try and help point you in the right direction.

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.

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!

 

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?

I was reminded of the British pie obsession just recently when the CBC As is Happens radio show ran a piece about the World Pie Eating Championship in Wigan, England. There was all sorts of chaos as the contestants were forced to tackle non-regulation size pies. The shame of it!

When people talk about pies here in Northern Ontario, they are usually referring to freshly baked sweet pies– apple, blueberry, lemon, coconut… mmm! I remember stopping off for lunch at a Mennonite bakery last year in the Waterloo area. The shelves were overflowing with freshly baked fruit pies, and not surprisingly the line-ups were huge.

Sweet pies are big business here, but savoury pies or pasties not so much.  My local Superstore (one of the big grocery chains in Canada) has various pies in the freezer section, but it’s not quite the same as picking up a fresh pie or pasty from a bakery. They stocked proper pork pies for a while and every time they appeared I bought them up in huge quantities for my husband. He really misses his pies!

During holiday season, however, it’s a different story. For Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, enter the tourtière! Tourtière is a meat pie with a shortcrust pastry case, French-Canadian in origin.  Typical fillings would be beef or pork, often combined with potato, cinnamon and cloves, but the recipe has lots of regional variations.

My husband’s usual pie-making activities have been curtailed this season (more to come on that), so when I heard that tourtières were available to order from the student centre at the college where I work, I gratefully ordered one, sliced it up and stored it in the freezer ready for Christmas and New Year celebrations. I also prepared my veggie version: veggie ground round (mince), chickpeas and kidney beans mixed with gravy and veggies.

Happy New Year!

Festive Pie

Festive Pie