Friday, February 27, 2015

What I'll Miss

Today is our last day in Mexico. Tomorrow we head home. In some ways I'm ready to get back into routine and in other ways there are things I am going to miss about being here.
Fresh mangoes (especially) and yummy oatmeal for breakfast.
Jogging/Walking alongside the ocean.
 The crashing of the waves.
I just LOVE the water.
(To look at, not so much to be in!)
 Lazy afternoons hanging out and reading by the pool.
 The gorgeous flowers which are everywhere.
 Amazing palm trees against a bluer than blue sky.
 Happy hour!
More reading, this time with a Coke.
(Okay, I'll get to do this at home, but not with this kind of scenery.)
Hanging out laundry!
(I only have to wait about another month before I can do this at home.)
Nightly story time with Opa.

And a few things which can't be captured in photos which I'll also miss: the warmth and all the hanging out time with my parents.

Thanks for everything Mexico! It's been amazing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Traversing Canada Tuesdays Thursdays: Ontario

image from here
highlighting added by me 

Today you get a special edition of "Traversing Canada Tuesdays." It's on a Thursday! Whoo hoo! I mostly decided to publish this post today because I was too busy relaxing to get it done for Tuesday. #mylifeissohard And with that explanation, let's get on with the show :)

Even though I live in Ontario, and have for almost half my life, I have to admit, it's not my favourite province. I think it's because it is very urban without a lot of wide open spaces, especially the area I live in. I like having the feeling of space and largeness around me, and I just don't get that same feeling in Ontario. Ontario is a huge province (over one million square kilometres (more than 621,000 square miles)) but it is also home to over thirteen million people. Considering I grew up in a province that just recently hit one million people, that could explain some of the lack of space I feel here :)

"Ontario" means "shining waters" in Iroquois and it's a great name for this province as four of the five Great Lakes make up parts of its borders. There are also over 250,000 lakes in Ontario and that doesn't include streams and rivers. In fact 19% of Ontario's surface is water, which is about one-third of the world's fresh water supply.
Me in Lake Superior in 2007
 
Given the importance of water, it's not surprising that the original transportation routes were all waterways. (The city I live in has two major streets which cross four times and the reason they are so twisty and complicated is because they were based on some of the major streams in the area.) The Great Lakes-St Lawrence Seaway system allows ships to travel along the St Lawrence River through the Great Lakes. This systems extends 3700 kilometres into the heart of North America.
Niagara Falls, more of Ontario's water!

The northern part of Ontario is defined by the Canadian Shield. It is a large horseshoe region of rock. It extends into five provinces and two territories. It includes forests and thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams. It is incredibly scenic to drive through but also so large that, after three days, it becomes quite boring :) This is how Dave and I drove to Edmonton in 2007, and we also made the trek a few times with my family when I was younger.
The forests consist of trees like spruce, pine, and cedar. It is home to animals like moose, bears, and wolves. One of my greatest disappointments during our drive across Northern Ontario is that we never saw a moose, despite various signs warning us of their presence.
There are also forests in Southern Ontario but they consist of trees like maples, which makes fall an absolutely beautiful time to live here.

Like the rest of Canada, Ontario's first residents were Native Americans. The Algonkian speaking people were Cree, Ojibwa, Algonquin, and Mississauga. They lived in the north and the east. The Iroquoian people were the Huron, Erie, Tobacco, and Iroquois. They lived in the north, east, and south. They fished, hunted, and farmed. About 190,000 descendants of these peoples still live in Ontario, many on reserves.

In 1610, the first European explorer arrived in Ontario. He was French, and shortly after, the British followed. Again, there were battles for control over the land and the fur trade for many years. Ontario had many names during this period. It was known as Upper Canada, Canada West, and finally named "Ontario" at Confederation in 1867. Many Loyalists from the American Revolution, and slaves escaping during the Civil War settled in Ontario.

By 1812 there were about 80,000 people living in Upper Canada. Britain and France were at war, and the British kept American ships from trading with France. The Americans became angry and there were several invasions into Canada. The British army fought off these invasions, and in the end, Canada was safe.

In 1837 there was an internal rebellion when farmers and business people rebelled against a nepotistic government. A rebellion at the same time in Lower Canada (now Quebec) led the British to unite the two into the province of Canda: Canada West (now Ontario) and Canada East (now Quebec). Manufacturing became a major industry in Canada West and by the time of Confederation, Ontario was a strong economic force in the country. By 1900, more people were living in cities than on farms. And new industries were forming -- steel, mining, and making cars. Many immigrants came to work in the factories, and settled in the cities, creating lively multicultural centres.

Eighty-five percent of Ontario's population lives in the south (No wonder I feel so crowded!), close to the Great Lakes and the American border, so the north becomes the getaway. Many people have cottages "up north" and the highways heading to these places are very crowded on weekends. Most of these cottages are on lakes. There are five national parks and 327 provincial parks in Ontario. I've been fortunate enough to spend some weekends at some of these cottages and they are indeed in beautiful territory.

Ontario's cities also offer many attractions, including festivals. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is famous and I love going to see plays there. The largest museum in Canada -- the Royal Ontario Museum (or ROM) -- is located in Toronto, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, also in Toronto, is one of the largest art museums in North America.

Ottawa, Canada's capital, is also located in Ontario. In winter, skating on the Rideau Canal is a favourite pastime. I can't wait until Sam and Rachel are a little older and we'll take them to the parliament buildings in Ottawa.

Ontario produces more than half of the goods which are manufactured in Canada. It exports about 90% of those goods to The States. After Michigan, Ontario is the largest producer of cars in North America. And the things that Ontario doesn't make, it grows. Corn, wheat, soybeans, tomatoes, apples, peaches, grapes, and cherries are all grown in Ontario.

Interesting Facts:

Insulin was developed in Toronto in 1923.

Canada likes having BIG monuments. Here are the big nickel at Sudbury (a world leading producer in nickel) and the big goose at Wawa.
The first long distance call was made from Brantford to Mount Pleasant, ON by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. It was a six kilometre (a little over three mile) distance!
Canada's southernmost piece of land is Point Pelee, which is on the same latitude as northern California. This is a friend of mine from university and me at Point Pelee one January!

The longest street in the world is Yonge Street which runs 1896 kilometres (1178 miles) from downtown Toronto to Rainy River on the Ontario-Minnesota border.

Reference book: Canada Close Up: Ontario, by Adrianna Morganelli. Published 2009 by Scholastic.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Creatures Of The Night

Mexico has sure allowed me to get up close and personal with some creatures I might otherwise have stayed far away from. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, some of these pictures will be familiar, but for others of you, allow me to share.

First of all, on Friday night as were eating supper, some geckos decided to provide us with some... entertainment... shall we say.
Sam was especially intrigued by the fact that their tails were forming an "O" in the picture on the upper left. I was glad that that was his main takeaway from their antics!
Then as we were sitting outside enjoying some of my dad's storytelling, a friendly tarantula decided to come and listen too. Gah! My dad took this picture (as I mentioned on Instagram) because there was no way I was getting this close and personal with a spider.
This isn't a creature of the night, per say, but it sure did freak my mom out when she just about stepped on this rather large iguana which decided to sun itself right outside our patio door! She was heading outside with Sam to cut his nails, and was already in the process of stepping out, when she looked down and saw this...
I was playing with the settings on my camera, trying to capture the palm tree in silhouette with the moon when I noticed that I was practically being dive bombed by bats. Fun times!
Okay, the bats weren't really dive bombing me, but they weren't that far above my head. Gah.

And then I heard noises coming from the pool and discovered these two munchkins hanging out.
They were splashing and laughing and generally raising a hullabaloo. And they've made noises about returning so I will likely run into them again at some point.
However, I didn't find them near as scary as the tarantula. Or the bats.
And those are just some of the creatures of the night I've had the unfortunate circumstances pleasure of meeting.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Island Explorers

Yesterday we went on a little field trip to Isla Ixtapa (Ixtapa Island). We took a bus (which was an old school bus and the entire interior was purple -- the seats, the roof, the curtains -- it was quite the sight!). Then we had to get past the crocodiles. Yerghks :()
We waited in line for a water taxi to the island. I was amazed and awed by what salt water does to a metal railing. It was beautiful and dangerous at the same time.
A view of Isla Ixtapa from the water taxi.
We spent some time on one side of the island, where the beach was quite rocky but we could stand in the water and watch all sorts of fish swimming around. We didn't take pictures, since we don't have an underwater camera, but Dave said he wished he had a picture of my face when an entire school of fish swam by me, about two feet away. It was surreal.
The kids were hungry so we had some quesadillas on the beach. Then we had to get pictures in the ocean. This was on the side of the island where the water was calmer, the beach was nicer, and we did some swimming.
Then we caught a water taxi back to the mainland.
A view of mainland Mexico from the water.
Of course, I had to take a picture of my beloved Saskatchewan Roughrider gear -- Mexican style. I was so tempted to buy this. As my dad said, they know their audience!
We had to get past the crocodiles to get back to our bus. This one was HUGE!
Rachel wasn't so sure about the bus on the way home, because it wasn't purple! Ha ha ha!
And before we began the walk from the bus stop to our house, we fortified ourselves with some really delicious gelato.
Most days we just hang around in the backyard, reading under the shade of the palapas and swimming in the pool, and after the excitement of yesterday's adventures, I'm more than ready to relax again. After all, there aren't any fish or crocodiles in our backyard!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Just Like Home. (Sort Of.)

In some ways, being in Mexico is just like being at home.
Dave still enjoys a late night snack of nachos and salsa.
(Except the salsa is homemade and fresh 
and "nachos" are the most amazing tostadas I've ever tasted!)
I enjoy a cafe mocha every morning, Mexican style.
(It's an espresso mixed with Hershey's syrup and warm milk. Yum!)
The kids enjoy playing.
(Except their "playroom" is the coffee table in the living room!)
I still do laundry.
(And I get to hang it on the line!!! Yay!)
I still do dishes!
(But I don't have to cook because Mom and Dad are doing it all.
For which I say "Thank you!" about a million times a day.)
Dave still reads Franklin books to Rachel.
(Except they read out by the pool in their bathing suits.)
Sam enjoys tuna.
(He just eats it on tostadas instead of rice crackers.)
I'm still trying to keep up with my daily Bible readings.
(I just read under a palm tree in the backyard instead of at our dining room table.)
 I enjoy my afternoon reading down time.
(I just get more of it, read in the hammock, 
and the bartender brings me a drink every afternoon.
"Bartender"=my dad!)
I try to get some blogging in.
(Just not as much as I do at home.)

See, being in Mexico, is just like being at home. Sort of!