31 October 2010

Moose Jaw Minute #12: Happy Halloween, er, Holidays...

Happy Halloween, everyone!  It's been a grand week in Moose Jaw with pumpkins, our first snowfall, lots of cooking, Halloween, and, yes, even holiday decorations making their appearance downtown on Main Street!  Happy Holidays in October!  

We started the week off in Regina...I HAD to get my hair cut.  Friends of ours, Jaclyn, Blake and their little one, met us in Wascana Park for a fall picnic of cheese, bread, and cous cous salad.  The day was gorgeous with blue skies and crunchy leaves underfoot.  We sat and chatted for a bit and enjoyed each other's company.  It was good we got outside when we did as Father Winter was about to pay us a visit.

The first snow came on Monday with wind, grey skies, and colder temperatures.  While I was running in shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt the week before, we were now hit with snow that blew sideways, across the road, and sent frozen, icy shards into your face.  I sat in the comfort of the home office watching sideways gusts of wind tear at the last few shreds of fall that still clung to the trees.  Needless to say, while some were dismayed to find the roads covered and frosty windowpanes, I was in heaven.  I love fall and winter and when I get the two combined in one week, it just makes my day!  As a result of the snow and icy roads, Dave and I were confined to the base gym for our workouts and I am discovering that I am going to have to find some way to combat cabin fever once winter really gets into full gear.  Moving from indoor space to indoor space is not a normal mode of operation for me and I will need to discover a way to get outdoors when it gets nasty out...personal heated bubble of warmth anyone?

In addition to celebrating the snow, I also celebrated my birthday.  Throughout the day, I enjoyed phone calls and good wishes from friends and family.  Dave brought a little of Chicago home to me Thursday evening with a recreation of one of my favo(u)rite meals from Hopleaf.  We picked out the mussels by hand, grabbed some good wheat beer, added our own flourishes, and voila!  An amazing meal with crusty bread and even their aioli sauce for dipping our homemade sweet potato fries in.  To top everything off, we made a Pumpkin Bread Pudding...oh my goodness.  SO good.  Such a perfect topper to the saltiness of our seafood.  It was the perfect way to spend a chilly October 28.

Moose Jaw (also in celebration of my birthday, ahem) decided this would be the week they put up their holiday decorations.  No, I'm not kidding.  "Christmas in October" is a big deal here and Jack the Pumpkin King literally goes head to head with Santa on Main Street as they duke it out in store windows and advertisements for super sales.  It did make the snowfall on Monday and Tuesday that much more magical, but even I, a self-proclaimed lover-of-all-things-holiday was taken aback!  Here, they don't have Thanksgiving in November to look forward to...it's a long haul from Halloween to the holidays, so why not  get a jump-start?  And, where in Canada is there a better place to kick off the festive season than Moose Jaw?

While we love the merriment of Moose Jaw, Regina was calling our name for a dinner out on Friday.  We stopped in at Selam's, a dive-y little place that serves up great Ethiopian coffee and tea alongside their traditional dishes.  It had been a while since we went on a real date and Dave and I were happy to get out of town for bit, eat some good food, have good conversation, and hit up Chapters.  If you are ever in the Regina area, check Selam's out...it's good stuff.  The vegetarian platter had some of the best gomeh I've ever tried!

On All Hallow's Eve, Dave and I spent the day prepping for our Halloween Potluck.  Friends were coming over to share their ghoulish grub.  We cooked and scrubbed and cleaned the place making Creepy Cornbread and Bloody Finger Surprise pasta to share.  Friends came and went and we spent the evening chatting, eating everything from black and orange jellybeans to homemade sushi (YUM!).  It was the perfect way to spend a fall evening...


Happy Birthday to me...

Happy Holidays, from Moose Jaw.

Yummy Ethiopian in Regina

Happy Halloween!

24 October 2010

Moose Jaw Minute #11: Permanent Residency!

Dave and I are happy to announce that through our blood (paper cuts), sweat (packing a U-Haul is hard work!), and tears (leaving friends and being together), I have achieved that ever-coveted status of "Permanent Resident."  That's right, I, Heather, have made a commitment to a place.  That place is Canada, and, judging from the paperwork and the shiny new seal in my passport, they are happy to have me.  Hey, thanks Canada!  I'm happy to be here!

We received the news in the mail this week, the self-addressed pre-paid Canada Post mailer resting comfortably in the mailbox on Wednesday, 20 October.  I picked it up after a run through Wakamow Valley, my face still red from the wind that whipped around me that day.  I got inside, tore open the envelope and there it was...my passport (I should note that Dave and I had sent my passport off in another Canada Post mailer about two weeks prior at the request of immigration officials).  You have no idea how glad I was to see my passport again...that dark blue little leaflet containing bits and pieces of my travel history.  My stamps from previous trips to Canada, Australia, Mexico, Ireland, and the Czech Republic all there, intact.  Little reminders of my journeyed past.  All of these little lines, images, and dates were now joined by another passenger, the multi-colored Visa from Canada that indicates my status as a permanent resident of this country.

It's a big deal.

This now means I can work and go to school in country if I so choose.  It means I can get in a different line when re-entering Canada as I go through Customs.  It means I have chosen...ahem...permanence somewhere. 

Like I said, it's a big deal.

The only thing left to do is cross the border in November when we return to New Jersey for our U.S. Thanksgiving holiday with my parents and then chat with customs agents on our way back to get the last signatures and sign-offs.  Amazingly enough, it seems as though my ability to gain permanent resident status in Canada is shorter than the time it is taking for me to obtain a cell phone or driver's license here.  Go figure. 

I had a lot of help along the journey to becoming a permanent resident and it couldn't have happened without the support of a few folks that I need to say thanks to.  Among them:
  • Dave, thanks for agreeing to sponsor me as your wife.  If you hadn't, things might have been a bit awkward between us as we started our marriage together.  Your patience as we made phone calls to immigration, filled out paperwork, and stood in line at the FedEx as we prepared to mail off our application package has been phenomenal.  Thanks for being my rock through all of this.  I appreciate you and everything you do.
  • Melissa and Phill (friends of ours who went through the same process about a year earlier).  You have been tremendously supportive in terms of sharing your experience with us.  You have served as guides and sounding boards and I know I will forever be grateful.  The two of you rock!
  • My family for just being there when I was stressed and not knowing what would happen next.  Thanks for listening and loving me and cheering me on when things got tough.
  • My friends here in Moose Jaw and back in Chicago.  Thanks for caring and asking about how things were going as Dave and I worked through the process.  You cared enough to ask and some days, that meant everything to me.
The next step means staying in country for the next three years and then applying for citizenship.  I hear there is a test that involves knowing your hockey stars, the words to the Canadian National Anthem, and how to not hit prairie dogs with your car.  I think I'd better start studying now.

Cheers, and, again...thanks Canada for having me.  I'm having a heck of a time.

Image courtesy of http://www.swanparadise.com/Immigration-to-Canada.html

20 October 2010

Moose Jaw Minute #10: The "ehs" and "oots" of Moose Jaw

Okay...I vowed...VOWED...that I was not going to write about accents.  Enough has been written in other places, the subtle differences in cadence noted, the slight lilt of, oh, something, that makes the U.S. neighbors to the north speak just a smidge differently. 

But...is it remiss NOT to mention it?  Is it wrong to avoid the topic?  It IS a difference and IS something I've noticed since arriving in Saskatchewan.  I'm no stranger to accents.  I grew up an Army brat and as we made our way from New Jersey to Massachusetts, from Texas to Germany, I became bound and determined that I would NOT adopt an accent of any kind.  I would live my life accent-less and free from the trappings of having others identifiy me as coming from... well, SOMEWHERE, just by the way my voice sounds.

And yet, here I sit, a mere month and a half from my arrival in country, with "eh's" and "oots" emerging from my mouth. 

Case in point...Dave and I went grocery shopping the other evening and as we were grabbing our recyclable bags out of the trunk, I stated something along the lines of "What a crazy day, eh?"

Dave smiled.
I looked at him wondering what he was smiling about.
And then...BOOM!  It hit me.

Eh?  Eh?!?!  I noted that it had been creeping in more and more often, but he was there to offer lovely anti-accent support in phrases like, "You don't have an accent...don't worry about it...other people are just super-sensitive to it."  Sure.  I just found out from my sister that she and her husband, John, laugh about my newfound inflections every time they log off of Skype post-chat (payback for making fun of her southern accent since she moved to her beloved Georgia) and acknowledge that friends of mine at work like to gently joke with me about it when we are on calls from Moose Jaw to Chicago.  Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the accent, but after thirty-one years of having avoided one and being quite smug about said avoidance, I am beginning to wonder what is happening to my imaginary language barrier defense shield.  Dave and I have taken to coaching one another about "out" versus "oot," "yeah?" versus "eh?" and other fun approaches to saying various words.  It's not just about the accent, however, some other subtle differences I've semi-adopted since coming here include: 
  • Tuque (or touque) for a wooley winter hat.
  • Loonie for the dollar coin.
  • Toonie for the two-dollar coin.
  • Zed for "Z"
  • "Bunny hug" for a hoodie/sweatshirt
I should note that all of this being stated with the complete and utter understanding that while different regions of the U.S. have their accents, so does Canada (you can find out more about Canadian English here).  I do not claim to be an expert in all things Canada...least of all the accent!

So, I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to mention it, I didn't want to give the differences any mind...until I was standing the parking lot of the grocery.

I guess it was time to come to terms with it is and what it is becoming, eh?


*Photo via http://badluckcity.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/eh_quest.jpg

14 October 2010

Moose Jaw Minute #9: Connections and a Very Happy Thanksgiving

It's been a busy week, full of old friends and new, seasonal shifts and holidays, cooking and hiking.  For the first time since I arrived in Moose Jaw, I felt a bit like my old self...busy, but content. 

I connected with my friend Amanda and Sarah on a Skype call...trading recipes and updating each other on our lives.  They are part of the feminist posse from Chicago and now that Sarah is in Portland, Oregon and Amanda is in Chicago, it was high time we caught up.  A year ago, my friend (and former roommate) Sarah decided it was time to head west across the States.  She loaded her stuff into a truck and drove herself across the country to land in Portland.  She has become a touchstone on my journey as we share the experience of being in new places with few connections...re-paving our way and finding our places in new communities.  Amanda is one piece of my inspiration to re-prioritize.  A year ago, my good friend opted to choose balance and sanity over our crazy-hectic schedules.  I admire her so much for the work she does and for her approach to life.  Not only do I admire her approach to life, she is also a good part of my inspiration in the kitchen.  Amanda is a fantastic cook and she has shared a couple of recipes with me to try out (note:  I was a microwave and granola bar eater before a few tastes of Amanda's cooking and a read of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver...I am a convert to local food, cooking in the kitchen, and feeding myself right!).  Our conversation was lovely and we'll have to make the Skype conference call happen again soon. 

In addition to Amanda and Sarah, I also had the chance to catch up with my best friends, Katie and Mariah.  We've started a book club of sorts and our first read was Farmer Jane by Temra Costa. You'd think we would have spent the call debating the good and bad of the book.  Not a chance.  We talked about love, birthdays (happy birthday, Mariah!), and dabbled about the various ways to start a family.  Mariah and Katie are phenomenal women and I count myself incredibly lucky to have them in my life.  I met Mariah in undergrad (we got in trouble during a lecture -- we were both Resident Assistants -- and became immediate fast friends) and we have been inseparable since.  Katie and met at one of my first jobs in Chicago...Katie introduced me to the finer points of coffee and has been an inspiration as she worked on her grad degree and continues to excel both personally and professionally.

In addition to catching up with old friends, it was time to meet some new folks as well...at our Canadian Thanksgiving Bonanza!  So, what was Thanksgiving like?  Nothing short of lovely.  There was fantastic food and fantastic company.  On Saturday, we were hosted at a friend's home and walked in toting the Evans family pie and cloned-Bandera cornbread (see previous post).  There was turkey, gravy, stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, two pies, bread, salad, and wine.  I had the opportunity to meet new people and try my hand at the DJ game on Wii.  We ate, drank, and were merry...slipping in and out of our food comas depending on whether or not our stomachs decided if we'd had enough.  The next day, I had work to do as Dave puttered around the house, but we made time to go for a hike through the west side of Wakamow Valley, talking along the way about our careers and debating the topic of cougars (women, not the big cats).  Weird hiking topic you say?  Um, yeah...I agree...


Leftover apples make...

...fantastic Day-After Applesauce!

The Trans-Canada Hiking Trail

Who needs IKEA when you can just go for a hike?  Chair?  Overturned tub from the 1940s?  All yours for the taking!

05 October 2010

Moose Jaw Minute #8: Happy Thanksgiving! No, seriously...

The sun is rising later and descending slower.  We had about two weeks of yellow bursts on the trees here in Moose Jaw and now, thanks to gusty winds, those bursts have dropped to the ground leaving me with a barren vision outside my home office window.  Yes, friends, fall is upon us! 

Fall is my favorite time of the year...I love the crunch of the leaves on the ground, trail running in the cold, football (go Steelers!), pumpkins in front of the stores, pulling out warm sweaters, and darker days.  While we haven't had much of a fall in Moose Jaw yet (it was colder when I arrived at the end of August than it is now), I have been assured that the string of warm days we are experiencing will not last much longer.  I sincerely hope not.  I'm a sucker for cider, cozy blankets, carving pumpkins, stews, and...well, general fall-i-ness.

Along with October in Canada comes Thanksgiving...Canadian Thanksgiving.  This year, Thanksgiving falls on October 11 and we are planning on celebrating the day before with friends and food.  I will be baking a traditional apple pie (an Evans family recipe) and Dave will be making quite possibly the best cornbread I've ever eaten...a dupe of the cornbread you can snag at Bandera in Chicago.  YUM!  Canadian Thanksgiving really revolves around giving thanks for the closing of the harvest.  Martin Frobisher is the gentleman responsible for getting the whole celebration thing off the ground in this country in 1578 after a safe return to Newfoundland following a failed attempt to find the Northwest Passage.  While the First Nations people of Canada have been celebrating the close of the harvest for many years, Frobisher's return was cause for a party, and party they did...like it was 1599.  Did their party come with football?  I think not, but now it does with the Canadian Football League hosting a double-header known as the "Thanksgving Classic."

Evans Apple Pie (recipe not for sale)

And now, for your eating pleasure...

Cloned Bandera Cornbread Recipe (supposedly makes 16 servings...I say it makes one...for me).


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn (or make your own)
2 ounces green chili peppers
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
4 eggs


Prep:  10 mins
Total Time:  50 mins
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees (if you have a skillet, you'll want to cook it in that, otherwise, we use a pie pan)
  2. Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.  Melt butter and combine with sugar, creamed corn, and chilis.  Mix to combine.  Add eggs one by one and mix until well blended.  Add cheese.  Fold in flour mixture until mixed well (clumps are okay!).
  3. Carefully remove cast iron skillet from oven (if you have one), and coat top and sides with vegetable oil.  Pour in cornbread batter.
  4. Bake 30-45 minutes or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Recipe adapted from Food.com (http://www.food.com/recipe/Bandera-Cornbread-Clone-291454)


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!