Monday, January 30, 2012

The Cheese Mystery - SOLVED!

If you know me in real life (or if you've read the bit at the side of my blog) you will know that my favourite food is.... CHEESE!

If you have read my posts so far or even my facebook statuses (statii?) you may remember my horror at the orangeness of American and Canadian cheese.

But a visit from my friend Mindy, and also some recent conversations with some Canadians has helped me to realise that the problem with cheese is not actually cheese problem... but a colour-vision-optics-reception problem!

Ok. I will illustrate this with pictures:

This is the colour of cheese here.
(This is actually a cheddar-mozerella mix...cheddar is the carrot coloured one)
Now, I have brought up with several people the fact that the cheddar here is orange, only to be met by quizzical looks and defensive 'that's not orange' remarks...

( is this not orange?)

It wasn't until I showed Mindy some normal coloured cheese that it all made sense!
Me: See. This is yellow cheese.
Mindy: No, that is white cheese.

This same statement has been verified by other Canadians... cheese this colour is 'white cheese' here.

Dear people,This cheese is yellow.
It is also the normal colour for cheese.
                                  from Kaye.

See! It all makes sense now!
My findings are conclusive: all Canadians and Americans have trouble seeing colours!
Especially orange and yellow!
This is why their cheese is a weird colour!

PS This next cheese is actually white cheese.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Got the Shirt!

As you may or may not know, one of the reasons I wanted to go to Toronto was to get an “I Love Toronto” t-shirt. And guess what! I had success! (It’s bright yellow even! See!)

Incase you don’t know me in real life or get why I wanted this shirt... I work right next to Toronto, Australia. Let’s just say the Australian version is not as big and glamorous as its Canadian cousin, and also they don’t see Toronto t-shirts... hence the need for me to travel 15000km! Ha!
I can’t wait to wear my new t-shirt to work next year J

While I was in Toronto, I decided to make the most of my 5 days, since the shirt buying actually didn’t take that long.

I went on two tours of the city – a walking one with a guide named Dave and a bus one with a tour guide with the flu... but she still managed to sound enthusiastic so it was all good!
Fun things I learnt about Toronto I learnt from the tours: (I feel a list coming on....)
-          - Toronto has a castle. Casa Loma I think it’s called. It’s pretty fancy and was used in a whole bunch of movies including X-men & the Pacifier (they are the only 2 I remember). It was designed by EJ Lennox. Let’s get to him in a minute.
-         -  The Eaton Centre (a shopping centre) has an artistic installation of Canadian geese (sorry no photo, I forgot to charge my camera) & this one Christmas the centre decided to put a red ribbon on each goose for Christmas. The artist saw what they had done and they ended up in court over it. The artist won. So his geese have been ribbon-less ever since.
-         - The street called Front Street used to be at the waterfront, but then the city reclaimed a whole bunch of swampy land so now Front Street is 800m from the shore in some places & it’s waterviews are blocked by a whole bunch of buildings and a highway.
-        -  When the developers were excavating for the Fairmont hotel they discovered the skeleton of a blue whale (this is weird because it’s not near an ocean). They found out that there used to be a zoo on that site and the owner had a blue whale brought in.... it didn’t live more than 1 week in captivity, but the zoo still sold tickets for the next 2 weeks until the smell became so overpowering that they had to bury it.
EJ Lennox designed a whole bunch of buildings in Toronto, including ‘Old City Hall’ (and the castle I mentioned before). With City Hall he was way over budget and over time so the councillors were mad at him... so in retaliation he sculpted caricatures of some of them into the building. He also wasn’t allowed to put a plaque on the building to say it was built by him... so instead he sculpted the letters of his name into the ornamental eaves of the building. Haha this guy is funny.

I went up the CN tower. It was the highest building in the world until a few years ago.

That day was nice and clear so it was cool to be able to see the city!  (this picture is not the city... it's just a cool display of the CN tower in the CN tower)
They have a glass floor, 327metres above the ground, which doesn’t look scary at all until you go to step onto it. It’s such a weird feeling.

I spent one day on a trip to Niagara Falls. It wasn’t frozen over (dad). The water was moving so fast! It was amazing!

I must say that Canada’s Horseshoe Falls were significantly more impressive than the American falls... sorry America.
The best thing about going to Niagara in the winter was that the mist from the falls had frozen on all sorts of things – posts, fences, statues and such, creating some amazing natural artworks!

SOoooo beautiful!
The strangest thing was being able to see the US. Yep, just on the other side of the river. Funny.
The sad thing was that the Maid of the Mist boats don’t run during winter... it’s a tad dangerous! Apparently sometimes ice chunks 10 storeys high float down the river (at crazy speeds) and crash over the falls... probably not a good idea to be under them then hey.

During the 5 days I was there the weather fluctuated by 24 degrees -from minus 12 with wind chill (still had nothing on that Edmonton day) to a balmy 12 above!   Crazy! So there was snow, clear but very cold, rain & overcast moments. Funny weather.

One other thing I managed to fit in in Toronto was see two movies  - Sherlock & Tin Tin. There was a cinema right near my hostel where movies were only $5 on Tuesdays... and I think $6.50 the other day. Good movies! I’m just sad I missed the Muppets L. There will be a dvd I’m sure...

Anyway, that was my trip to Toronto. It was a fun city!

Oh wait! I forgot the potatoes! The hostel I was staying in had a cheap-ish cafe. So I had dinner there this one night & there was a choice of salad or mashed potatoes on the side... those mashed potatoes were so yum! I even facebooked about them! Needless to say I had to eat there again the next night. Mmmm.
So right now I am back in Vancouver... In 40 minutes I will be checking out of the hostel and making my way to Langley to meet the family I will be living with this year! So excited and nervous all at the same time!
Next time we meet I will be at my home for the next 11 months! Eeeek!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why are you going to Edmonton?

I spent the last 4 days in a little place called Edmonton.
It's actually the capital of Alberta, the province (like state) next to British Columbia (the province where Vancouver is). It took about 1.5 hrs to fly from Vancouver. It is north and east (which in Australia would take you warmer and actually into the ocean... but here it takes you inland and much colder.

I'm not really sure why I decided to go to Edmonton, it's not a very popular tourist destination for Aussies & most people I talked about it to were dubious about anything interesting actually being there.

But I loved it!

Edmonton has a lot of character. I was staying right near Whyte Ave, which is a street of historical and cultural significance. there are some historical buildings there, and also lots of cute shops! They were like Newtown type shops - interesting and cute things - shoes, vintage clothes, quirky nik naks and such. It was really nice to wander along!

Day 1 actually tricked me. I think the weather was about 2 degrees, so 2 shirt layers, a jacket, snow boots and a beanie and I was sweating! It was quite pleasant.

Day 2... was the coldest day of my life.
I dressed the same as the day before except for snow boots, because my feet got so hot the day before. The hostel was recarpeting, so once I left at 10am, I wasn't allowed back in my room till 6pm.
I have never experienced cold that cold. It was only minus 6... but the wind was horrible. According to the website the wind chill made it minus 19ish.
I wasn't actually outside for more than 10 minutes at a time, just enough time to wait for a bus or walk to the next place, but even in that time my clothes turned to ice, my legs & face began to sting and it was tricky to find the air that you breathe. It took about 2 hours to thaw. ha. oh dear. Needless to say, I took extra extra layers with me the next day and wore my snow boots :-)

Apart from the ridiculous cold I actually had a really good day! I was planning on doing the Science museum and art gallery, but I accidentally spent 6 hours at the Science museum and was there until closing.
The Science museum was really interesting! (obviously)
I wish they had science museums this good in Newcastle! Everything was interactive and broke complex things down really well for kids! The best bit of the museum is the Margaret Zielder dome. It's like one of those sky domes you lay under at the observatory and look at the stars...but ALOT bigger and digital and in colour! I think there was about 300 reclining, swivelling chairs under the dome. I watched two exhibitions in there - it was sort of like watching a movie in reverse-3D - with depth instead of coming-towards you 3D. Amazing! I could talk about it for ages, but I won't bore you.
There was also a Titanic Exhibition on display at the moment. At the start you get a boarding pass with the story of one of the passengers who was actually on the Titanic. My passenger was originally booked on the Olympic, but got nervous about it needing to go in for repairs so swapped to the Titanic.
It was so interesting to see artefacts from the ship and listen to eye-witness accounts (recorded I mean). It was a sort of unnerving experience to "travel" through the designing and construction and looking at the decadence of things created for the ship, when you already know how the story is going to end.
At the end of the exhibition is a list of names of people who survived and people who didn't. I nearly cried when I found the name on my boarding pass on the survivors list. I think it's easy to forget the personal aspect of things that have happened in history. hmm

Day 3
I went to West Edmonton Mall. It used to be the biggest mall in the world. I don't think it is anymore, but it's still pretty big... there is a water park, a theme park, ice skating rink, bowling, seal shows, an aquarium and putt putt golf within the centre.
I went on a rollercoaster, mostly just so I could say "I went on a rollercoaster in a shopping centre". It was a weird sort of one, the cart spins as you're going round the track, so sometimes you go down the hills backwards or sideways. ha funny.

Day 4 - the day of fun!
Well the day of fun started with getting a cute new camera, because it seems my other one didn't like the cold of Tuesday (neither did I actually). Then I went to the Art Gallery (which I could take a picture of because I had a camera... See!)

After a bit of looking, I walked to the Legislative Building on the other side of town. I got to do the free guided tour, which was actually really interesting (I do realise that I am a nerd), the guide took us to the 'magic spot' where the fountain, 5 levels below, sounds like it is pouring on your head, weird accoustic trick. She also showed us the first mace, which was made in a hurry (it seems it was a bit of an afterthought) from some plumbing pipe, bedknobs and a toilet float and painted gold. It was meant to be an interim mace, but they ended up using it for 50 years! haha funny Canadians.
Random fact: women weren't considered people in Canada until 1929, that's crazy!

Our tour ended abruptly when a Chinese gong sounded and some dragons started dancing. I stayed for the ceremony (I'm not sure if I was allowed to... but I did, mostly because there were Nanaimo Bars - not that I actually got to have one). It seems they were celebrating a 30 sister-city relationship with a province in China.
After the ceremony we all went outside and they lit up the ice sculptures with coloured lights. The sculptures were amazing! The opening of the Ice on Whyte was meant to happen simultaneously, but unfortunately alot of the sculptures there had melted because of the hot weather... I think it may have reached 2 degrees. So some other artists were going to be sculpting new sculptures ready to open today.
Anyway back at the Legislature they had free Chinese art workshops! So fun! I learnt a few new skills, drank some hot chocolate and was an extra in the CTV news report on the Ice Festival! Such a fun vibe!

After the art lessons I headed back to Whyte Ave on a free, newly refurbished, 1912s streetcar, with a live saxophonist! The streetcar usually only runs in summer, but the government put it on especially for the festival! So cool!

So all in all Edmonton was definitely worth the visit! I had so much fun! (And I'm very glad they were having unseasonably warm weather... I'm told it often gets to minus 40 there in winter...eek!)

Now I am in Toronto, which I will tell you all about next week! ha! It's funny being 15 minutes up the road from home, but not.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Whistling at Whistler...

This week I went to Whistler. Ha. I love that I can just go to Whistler.
Oh it's so pretty there!
I stayed at the HI Hostel which was accommodation for the athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was probably the nicest hostel I've ever stayed at. And my roomie actually happened to be a Senior School teacher from a Christian School in Sydney. Small world hey! It was great to have someone to hang with on the ski slopes.

The town was so pretty, especially at night! So many pretty lights! It looks a bit like the North Pole! There was even an outdoor ice-skating rink! Oh so fun! If only skating was something I was good at! With the granny frames we were pretty amazing though! haha.

Skiing. I skiied for 3 days, and it took me 3 days to actually remember how to ski. I could not co-ordinate my legs! So it made for some interesting runs. On day two I skiied all the way down from the top of the Whistler gondola... on the green runs of course. It was a looooong way! And there were parts where I couldn't see 10m in front of me because of the clouds, but it was absolutely  gorgeous, the whole 2 hours of it! (oh I forgot to flip the picture... just pretend ok)

Highlights from Whistler include (sorry, I'm in a list mood):
- SNOW! Of course! I've come to the conclusion that snow makes everything pretty - fire hydrants, stop signs, yep! prettier!

- Also the fact that it snows in places that are not just the mountain that you ski on... when we walked out of our hostel to catch the bus it was snowing massive flakes of snow! Ahh so magical! Annnnd! When we were ice skating, it was also snowing! Oh with the lights of Whistler in the background, it was like a scene from a romantic movie (except that I was skating with a granny frame...and there was no actual romance...oh funny).

- Beavertails - this is a delicious food. Don't panic, it's not actually a beaver's tail... it's more like a giant flat doughnut, covered in some sort of topping - I had maple syrup butter with a drizzle of chocolate. mmm.

- That I only had one proper stack! (the other 3 aren't worth writing about... especially since one of them I was just walking) The proper 'Kaye-stack' occurred at the bottom of the two hour mountain. Like within metres of the flat where you take your skis off. I think I was just a bit over zealous in my "ha! I made it the whole way down!" and somehow got caught in the powder and landed face first sprawled all over the place. oh dear! haha

- Making new friends! It was fun to have my hostel buddy to hang with on the mountain! and then on the bus back to Vancouver I met Amy Adams' (the girl off the movie Enchanted) identical twin... well not really, but she did look a lot like her & likes cheese (and I also like cheese). Actually I don't know if I like Canadian cheese. I'm still a bit nervous about the orangeness of it. I think I will need to like it, because I think my need for cheese will overpower my fear of orange soon.

- That the whole of Whistler looks like Narnia

- The Peak to Peak Gondola! Oh it's so high, and the trees look like snowflake shapes from above. There is even 2 gondolas that have a transparent bottom so you can look straight down. The fun bit was that the snow got in the window at the top so it was snowing inside the gondola!

- Oh yeh, 'Cows' the ice-creamery. It was a cute shop! They had cow everythings! And also yummy ice cream

- The good deals you get when you stay at hostels, including cheap ski hire! (but not cheap lift tickets, unless I stayed a few more nights)

hmm maybe that's all I can think of.

The only thing I didn't like about Whistler is the thing I don't like about Canada - the sneaky tax that they put on everything (except ice skates). For instance:
"Can I please have $10 of phone credit?"
"Sure, that will be $11.20" pfft!
I am getting better at my 12 times tables though!

Anyway, I need to get some laundry done and my bag packed, off to Edmonton tomorrow! woohoo! There's even an ice festival later this week! I can't wait!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sleepless in Seattle... sort of.

Last time we spoke I was on a ferry to Anacortes. Our story continues 3 bus trips, $3 and 3 hours later. (buses seem to be really cheap in Northern Washington, just incase you were wondering)

I had the privilege of staying with a friend I’d never met, Mindy, just north of Seattle. I seriously think Mindy could get a second job as a tour guide. In the three days I spent with her we travelled everywhere!

Day 1 started with SNOW! White New Years are the new White Christmases.

We spent the day seeing the sights of Seattle (I like that alliteration). I think I saw everything!
The Space Needle,

 the original Starbucks,

a place where they make cheese in big tubs,

Pike Place Markets (where they throw fish and get really excited about tips),

Gasworks Park and other locations from 10 Things I Hate About You (I may need to watch this again...),

A giant troll under a bridge...(of course)

We also watched some boats go through the locks. It’s a really cool process to watch. There were no salmon climbing the ladder that day.
We finished the day with frozen custard... which sounds very weird, but tastes a lot like ice-cream.

Also the cups were made of corn.

Because it was New Years Eve, we watched the movie New Years Eve. Ha. We went home and re-watched the New York, Times Square ball drop. People there were even wearing the same blue hats as the movie! Weird.

Day 2 was an adventure over the mountains. We drove (ok, only Mindy drove... but stay tuned) through Narnia to get to a German town called Leavenworth. The drive was probably the prettiest drive I’ve ever been on.
Leavenworth was also lovely, it looked a bit like a German North Pole. It was fun to see snow & look in cute shops. The funniest shop was the ‘Australian Shop’... there was a distinct lack of Australian things in there.  There were so many lovely  things to look at, and I even found the inspiration for the next ‘twin wall project’ (except I forgot to take a photo of it, because I was too busy planning where it will go in my house).
When we got back to town we had Mexican & saw another movie, We Bought a Zoo, with Mindy’s sister. The burritos at Baja (is that what it was called?) are massive... I don’t know that it is humanly possible to eat that much burrito... or maybe it’s because I had waffles for lunch.

Day 3 we went to the coast. It was windy.
Really really pretty.

But windy! Haha.

We drove down an island from the Deception Pass Bridge

To the Ferry.

And this time I actually did drive... but only straight. I think I’ll save turning for another day. Eek!

On the way we stopped for Krispy Kremes. Yum! And we walked across most of the bridge (it was very windy). And we also stopped at Fort Casey. You can actually climb all over the fort, except for the doors that are locked. There was a great view of the ocean.

As we walked along the beach a storm rolled in. With the wind the rain felt like needles poking us in the face. It made for some good photos... half squinting type ones. Haha.

The ferry took us back to the mainland, it was fun to be in a car on a boat. I’ve ticked that one off my “things I’ve never done before” (I’m up to thing #16 now). We finished the day with a dinner of breakfast and dessert then watched a long but lovely movie.

It was the funnest New Years weekend I can remember having. Thanks so much Mindy! It’s fun to have a friend in this time zone, I’m looking forward to catching up again sometime!

Oh yeh, and the title... well I think I am stuck between two time zones... or maybe I am just in holiday mode. It is really hard to go to sleep and get up at a normal hour here... I think I should be in Hawaii or Samoa or something. Then I would be fine.

OH! Something else I learnt in Seattle – America has dollar coins. They just don’t use them. I got 10 from a machine this one time. It’s fun paying for things with them, because the cashiers do a bit of a double-take, and sometimes they give you a chocolate coin. Ha.

PS If you want to see more pictures of my adventures, they are on facebook.