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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?

Hard to believe that a month and a half ago there was still ice on the lakes. Here’s a shot of Ramsey Lake taken from Moonlight Beach near Sudbury on April 24th.

Ice on Ramsay Lake

Ice on Ramsay Lake

Since then we’ve already had temperatures in the low 20s giving us a very welcome taste of summer. So it was very timely to see some tips on sun protection in the current (June 2015) edition of Canadian Living. It helpfully answered some of the questions that have always confused me:

Exactly how much sunscreen should you use per application?
Answer: 2 tablespoons, including 1 teaspoon for the face.

Which comes first? Sunscreen or bug spray?
Answer: sunscreen, followed 15-30 minutes later by bug spray.

Thank you, Canadian Living! And speaking of canadian living, what could be more Canadian than lounging on your deck all summer long with a beer or two?

I’ve posted before about our screen room adventures. For this year we’d decided to try and resurrect our temporary gazebo, crossing our fingers that we still had all the bits we needed and that everything would still fit together after not using it for several years. But then we got to thinking… what if we bit the bullet and saved ourselves all that work… what if we went back to the idea of having a permanent screen room and hiring someone to build it for us?

And… here it is! Proudly presenting the Kelly family permanent screen room! Thank you to Mike Huzij of Aries Construction, who did a fantastic job for us. Bring on summer!

Bug free!

Bug free!

How has your summer been so far?

I visited the wolves

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre

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Hiked to the top of a mountain

Top of Willisville Mountain

Top of Willisville Mountain


Took in some track time

Canadian Motorsports Park near Bowmanville

Canadian Motorsports Park near Bowmanville


Sampled some culture

Girl Crazy at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.

Girl Crazy at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.


And enjoyed some cottage time and lots of hiking!

Wawanaisa Resort near Parry Sound

Wawanaisa Resort near Parry Sound

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Killarney Provincial Park

Hiking at Killarney Provincial Park

Here’s to a long, warm fall before winter sets in!

Picture the scene… It’s a Friday night in the middle of summer, time to collapse on the deck with a beer and a huge bowl of chips. You’ve just settled down in one of your comfortable patio chairs, reached for your drink, then you hear it–the noise you dread. The mosquitos are out….again… So you grab everything and retreat into the dark, cool basement leaving the bugs– and the sunshine–behind.

This was the weekly scenario at my house for several years. We just couldn’t sit outside at all because of the bugs. As for all those new, “innovative” anti-bug products, we must have tested them all and they just didn’t live up to their claims. It was time to tackle the situation and properly reclaim our deck.

Our first purchase was an 8 x 12 canvas-topped screen room bought from Sears.ca. This attached to the side of our house and allowed us to walk from the kitchen straight into the screen room. As usual, the installation instructions were terrible, but my husband and a friend nonetheless managed to set everything up within a day. Then we just had to buy some outdoor carpet for the deck, to stop the bugs coming up between the planks of wood.

This solution worked really well for several years and allowed us to sit out late into the night bug free. However, we couldn’t leave the screen room up over winter because the canvas roof wouldn’t cope with the snow load. Plus, every year the frame deteriorated a little more and we’d find ourselves with more and more little gaps that needing stuffing with foam. We decided that what we really wanted was something we could install and just forget about, something which would cope with winter conditions and which was going to last.

After some research on the web, we came across this option at Costco. With a polycarbonate roof and PVC panels, it could function as a 3-season room plus we could leave it up over winter. I talked with a work colleague who owned a free-standing model in the same range. She was really pleased with hers. I also read a great detailed review from someone in London, Ontario who was similarly happy.

However, I also came across some very mixed reviews on the Costo.com site. Comments referred to terrible installation instructions (“Took 4 of us 6 hours to assemble and a case of beer. ..trust me , your gonna need beer….”), leaking roof, damage from hail stones and the possibility of having to clear snow from the roof–which was something we definitely didn’t want. I was also concerned that it might get too hot inside the screenroom to be able to use it in summer. That side of our deck is a real sun trap.

We then went to talk to a local company that manufactures sun rooms and gazebos. They suggested the idea of a custom screen room with a permanent insulated roof. This would be a structure we could leave up in winter with no worries, but having screens instead of panels would keep the area cooler and more usable in summer. We could also get a skylight fitted which would help to let in more light to the adjoining kitchen in the winter. Plus if we ever changed our minds and wanted to go for the three-season option, it would be straightforward to switch out the screen for panels.

So someone came to take some measurements and said they would get back to us with a quote. I was really excited and all ready to sign up for this option if the price came back at a reasonable level. However… when we finally heard from them over a month later, the rough in-store estimate had magically doubled in price. I guess they really didn’t want our business. So we’re now considering building something ourselves. And for now, it’s back to the basement!

After such a long, cold winter, the blackflies and mosquitos arrived later in Northern Ontario this year. But they’ve certainly been making up for lost time. If you’re in an urban area, beating the bugs won’t be too much of a concern. However, if you’re heading to the country or the lake, you’ll want to try and protect yourself.

Various brands of repellent are available in all the stores. Look for those which carry a government-assigned PCP number as they offer the best protection. Chemical repellents are–unfortunately–the most effective. Check the instructions carefully and make sure you apply only to clothes, not your skin. My product of choice is OFF! Deep Woods for Sportsmen and I always carry some with me when I’m out hiking.

If you prefer something more gentle (and less smelly!), you can buy natural remedies made of essential oils, or make your own. I can’t vouch for their success, but they’re got to be worth trying, especially for children, or if you suffer from any skin allergies.  They will need reapplying more frequently than the chemical repellents. Lightweight bug jackets are also a good alternative. I wear one when cutting my grass, although it does make me feel a bit like a pest exterminator.

If you’re relaxing on your deck in the evening, you definitely don’t want to be pestered by bugs. You can burn citronella candles or try some of the clip-on repellents. These claim to repel bugs for “up to 11 hours,” although they were no match for the bugs around my house. If you’re willing to go up in budget, you could invest in some of the heavy-duty “mosquito control” products available at stores like Canadian Tire, although they often receive mixed reviews.

Other tips for when you’re out and about in the summer: Avoid strongly scented shampoos and body lotions and  opt for light -coloured clothing. Believe it or not, mosquitoes are more likely to hone in on dark clothing. They apparently also prefer nervous and fidgety people, so stay calm and you’ll be less of a target. Try and avoid heading outside during dawn and dusk. These are likely to be the worst times for mosquitoes. Blackflies strike during early morning and late afternoon. And watch our for full moons! One study found that mosquito flight activity increased by as much as 500% during a full moon.

Make sure you stock up on supplies of the anti-itch solution, After-Bite (my lifesaver), or make your own with a paste of baking soda and water. The good news is that the longer you’re in Canada, the more immunity you’ll build up and bites won’t affect you so badly. But what if you’ve tried all of these suggestions but you still can’t sit outside in comfort in the summer? In part 2, I’ll be looking at more permanent solutions for beating the bugs and ways to enjoy your deck time completely bug-free!