February 28, 2009

Canada Reads

CBC radio has a great program on the called Canada Reads. For our reader friends and family out there -- we thought you might be interested in what Canada is reading. Plus, for us it's a great way to learn more about this country and culture. The books are all written by Canadian authors and set in Canada. If you can access the radio program on the Internet -- the discussion are great. Sort of like a radio book club. While the books are in English (some may have been translated from French) it's always interesting to read books with different spelling of the language we share. One of our favourite things -- although it's making spelling difficult for Louis at times!

Canada Reads
Five great Canadian books. Five celebrity panelists. One week of passionate debate about CanLit, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. Canada Reads 2009 is officially underway. The debates start Monday and run till Friday (March 2-6) on CBC Radio One at 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. (2 and 8 p.m. NT).

The Book of Negroes
by Lawrence Hill
defended by Avi Lewis

Lawrence Hill’s gripping novel features a woman on an amazing journey in the 1700s and 1800s. Although her life is shaped by slavery, Aminata Diallo survives and even transcends adversity.

The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant
by Michel Tremblay
defended by Anne-Marie Withenshaw

Michel Tremblay’s heart-warming
novel is a tribute to the neighbourhood he grew up in, Plateau Mont-Royal. Over the course of a single spring day in 1942, an entire world comes to life.

by Brian Francis
defended by Jen Sookfong Lee
Peter Paddington isn’t having a good time. The Sarnia teenager has too few friends and too many oddball family members. He’s also carrying way too many pounds. Luckily, he has a great sense of humour.

Mercy Among the Children
by David Adams Richards
defended by Sarah Slean
David Adams Richards’ brilliant examination of good and evil is set in his beloved Miramichi region of New Brunwswick. A boy makes a pact with God to always turn the other cheek, and his whole family pays the price.

The Outlander
by Gil Adamson
defended by Nicholas Campbell
The Outlander is a suspenseful, picaresque tale of survival in early 20th-century Canada. A desperate young woman flees alone across the west after she becomes a widow “by her own hand.”

Happy Reading!

February 19, 2009

Does he need a passport?

There's lots of talk about tightening border security between Canada and U.S. It amazes us when we hear about people coming to Canada illegally to take advantage of the "free" services. We didn't find it easy at all. Prior to having our Canadian medicare we had to pay out of pocket for medical services. And despite what you may have heard, you can't come to Canada with a U.S. medicine prescription and have it filled at a reduced cost. Not true. There are things available over the counter here (like Allegra D) and things not available (like Alleve).  There's no limit on Sudafed either -- hopefully this is a good thing. And, Kish still has to navigate through an aggravating system to get a Quebec driver's license. We're quite certain that when it comes to writing a check for what we owe for Canadian income tax, it will be easy.

In light of President Obama's first international trip and his five hour tour to Ottawa (Canada's Washington, D.C.), we're wondering, does he have to bring a passport? Does he get all those cool stamps?

And speaking of the news. It's interesting talking to Canadians about the U.S. news stations. Several people have asked me how the heck Americans can make informed decisions from watching the news because it's so one-sided, depending on what side of the political spectrum you are on and what network you watch. Kish has now found the best source for U.S. news is CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company). Here's the link...


Meanwhile, Obama has rockstar status in Canada. We'll see how much they like him after the meeting today. From what we hear, Stephan Harper and Barrack Obama are very different people. One radio commentator on CBC said Harper is the type of guy who would enjoy talking about insurance premiums in his free time and Obama is a guy who would like to discuss sports.

February 17, 2009

Things not seen in the US #3

This is brilliant. Why didn’t we think of it? This handy wine in a box gives a whole new meaning to the traditional, large “buzz in a box” and another version of “Mommy Juice.” It’s wine in a JUICE BOX. Perfect for skiing, outdoor concerts, ball games, swim meets – all the places where breaking out a bottle of wine and a corkscrew might not be a good idea – but a sip or two of red wine is necessary. And the nice 1 litre box (on the right) is just as handy when the little box isn’t enough. Traditional juice, like apple, grape and orange, comes in these 1 litre boxes as well. We figure we’re saving on those corks and avoiding glass injuries. Don’t worry, there’s a separate wine shelf in the fridge so the kids know what not to touch. And the bonus – the wine isn’t half bad.

February 16, 2009

Deal...or No Deal?

Louis loves the show Deal or No Deal. So you can imagine his excitement when we found it on our Canadian television. Not just Deal or No Deal….but Deal or No Deal CANADA. What a deal! We still get almost all U.S. television programming, in fact, more television options than we’ve ever had. We can watch the news from Seattle, Calgary, Toronto and even New Brunswick. Granted, we pay almost twice as much for television, Internet and phone here, especially when you add in the sales tax. Basically, it’s not much of a deal. But at least we get a detailed weather report from Winnipeg.

But Deal or No Deal Canada is a highlight of Louis’ television experience, after the Canadian version of Sportscentre of course. We were very intrigued by the difference between the Canadian version of Deal and the U.S. version. First, Howie Mandel slips into more of a Canadian accent in the show, which is taped in his hometown of Toronto. The “ladies” are all from Canada of course, from places like Labrador, New Brunswick, Ottawa and Edmonton. They look the same as they do in the U.S. This is still North America after all. Another difference -- instead of a dollar or two at the bottom of the board, it says Loonie and Toonie. A Loonie is the $1 coin and the Toonie is the $2. Speaking of these coins….they are such a nuisance. Just when you think you’re plowing through the cash and need another trip to the ATM (no drive in ATM here remember), you dig through pockets and corners and find lots of cash…well not cash as in bills….but cash as in coins. They add up.

But the biggest difference between Deal in Canada and the U.S. is that often Howie has to remind the contestants that the million dollars is tax FREE. Nothing is tax free in Canada, so we’re assuming that means the million is around two million. Canadians don’t mess around with taxes.

February 10, 2009

Stimulus response

Canada has it’s own economic stimulus program, which we think is okay. Instead of passing out checks, the government is encouraging people to put money into the economy by doing home renovations. Anyone undertaking a renovation project can get a 20% tax credit on the project, up to $2,500 (Canadian) back at the end of 2009. Quebec announced a tax credit plan prior to the Federal government so we're hoping both will apply for us. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it stimulates the economy in different ways. Considering the fact it’s a federal program, everyone will need to turn in receipts and this ensures we’re not using contractors “under the table” and that we are purchasing supplies and thus contributing to the 13% on average sales tax. Brilliant on their part. As you can imagine, this plan has met with some negative response. But, the plan also keeps the Pisani’s from running to New York to get supplies since we’re quite certain those receipts won’t count. Also, they are encouraging projects like new windows, insulation, doors, etc. and things that make a home more energy efficient, thus reducing the “carbon footprint.” Decorative elements like paint or curtains aren't eligible. Regardless, the Pisani family is in need of two bathroom renovations so this stimulus program works well for us. For once, our procrastination paid off and we didn't undertake these projects in 2008. So demolition started this week and the two workers have quickly become part of the family. 

We find this a lot in Canada -- repair people becoming part of the family. The day we moved in we ate lunch with the moving guys standing around the kitchen. The next day, the cable installer was here for 8 hours and spent his lunchtime driving to get pizza for all of us (we paid). We sat down and had lunch with the cable guy and talked politics as it was November 4 and Kish was anxious to get the TV going even though she fell asleep before Obama was official. Hey, we're on Eastern time. The refrigerator repairman came a few weeks later and spent three hours in the kitchen discussing the politics of Canadian hockey in between replacing freon and whatever else. The point is, these guys like to hang out and talk to the silly Americans with the Blackhawks flag (if we had a Boston or Toronto flag they wouldn't be so nice. Although, now that the Blackhawks are doing well they might think differently). We're learning a lot from all of these guys about the ins and outs of living in Canada. Plus, they’re all nice people and have taught us to SLOW DOWN and have a discussion from time to time rather than rush through the day. This is a foreign concept for many of us from the U.S.

Now the bathroom reno guys have quickly become dog trainers, hunting consultants and holistic medicine experts. First the dog training. Those of you who have met Duke know he’s…shall we say…high-strung? He’s six going on two. And if you count that he’s a Lab, that’s lots of energy. So one of the guys, quickly nicknamed “Little Caesar” after Caesar Milan, has been giving Kish great dog training tips in between cutting tile. It’s working too. Then there’s the hunting part. As you may or may not know, guns are not really welcome in Canada. So when Stephan the contractor walked in with a Ducks Unlimited cap, Kish had to do a double take. After hearing that there are hunters in Canada and that we happen to live in a “tree hugging” neighborhood, there are places to hunt in Canada once guns are registered. Unfortunately, Paul left his hunting things in the States because bringing them across the border amounts to more paperwork than we need. Duke accounted for too much paperwork as it was. So the home reno guys, both hunters, have enjoyed talking to the Americans who are okay with hunting. Plus, they think Kish’s dad’s African stuff in the house is cool. As they said, if our accent doesn't give away the fact that we're not Canadian, the stuff in the house certainly does.  Now the holistic medicine. After telling the guys that Kish was going to need to skip skiing on Wednesday to nurse a nasty cold/cough, one of them provided a sure cure. He says to warm up a shot or two of gin or rum – gin works best. Squeeze in some fresh lemon and some honey and drink it in one big gulp before bed. He swears you can sweat out a cold and it’s what ice fisherman use. And he said something about giving it to horses when they are out in the cold too long. Hey, it’s worth a shot. Of gin that is.
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