Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

FebWall

Someone recently asked me, “what’s the best thing about February, what most inspires you about this month?’ Strange question, I agree. Well, it got me thinking as I gazed out the window at the snow-covered streets. The best thing about February in Toronto?  The thing that keeps me going? It’s only 28 days! (At least ¾ of the time)

I’m not a big fan of winter. I’ve never embraced the great outdoors. I guess there are some things I should love about February. It’s bookended by two of my favorite television viewing events, The Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. But in general, unless you’re fascinated by weather prognosticating rodents or caught up in Valentine’s Day hoopla, February is just another drab winter month.

February Drive

A typical drive on a February day in Toronto.

Growing up in Canada, I always envied my American relatives at this time of year. I’m referring mostly to New Yorkers and certainly not the third of the US where winter is a season in name only. All my cousins had actual “snow days”.  Imagine waking up and learning you had no school that day. You had the whole day to just stay home and do whatever you pleased. In all my years of living in Toronto, and there were some really dark, cold, snowy ones, the schools were never closed. I never had a snow day. Plus, the third Monday of February is Presidents Day in the USA and the start of another week off school. Those kids just came back from Christmas holidays about six weeks ago and they get another week off school. Sure a few years ago they created something called “Family Day”,  but what’s one day compared to a whole week off. That’s something to make February inspiring. What do we tell the kids here in Toronto, many of whom trudged the storm last week because they didn’t have a ‘snow day’? “Wait to March kid, that’s when you’ll get a break”

March, now there’s a month to get excited about; March Break ,March Madness, Daylight Savings Time, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of spring, the return of all those who wintered in Florida. I guess that’s what inspires me about February. It’s that short month that serves as a bridge between the darkness of winter and light of spring.  Hey, it’s the 15; February is more than half way over. The Valentine’s candy will be marked down. Things are looking up already.

How do you feel about February? Take the poll below and leave me a comment if you feel inspired.

Read Full Post »

While visiting New York last fall, my relatives gave me a little gift to take back with me. Every year in October, hoards of people eagerly await the arrival of a certain product, sold in familiar yellow packaging, that only appears as the leaves start to fall and disappears as soon as spring rolls around. I’m talking about Mallomars.

box of mallomars

Mallomars are cookies, consisting of a graham cracker with a marshmallow on top covered in dark chocolate. While I like them, I’ve never felt the obsession other people have with these treats. People have been known to stock up on them to secure themselves a supply long after they have disappeared off of store shelves. People from other parts of the country become upset they can’t find them in local stores as they are usually only found in the New York and North East region. In fact, 70% of buyers are from the New York area according to the Mallomars box. The reason for this exclusiveness? The makers of Mallomars claim that the chocolate quality will not stand up in the warmth of summer or in warm climates. I guess they’ve never heard of refrigeration. It’s no coincidence Mallomars are known as the cookie that plays hard to get.

And where does this cookie quality control originate? Where are these seasonal and regional cookies manufactured? Right here in Toronto, Canada. That’s right, these fall and winter wonders are made right where I live. Does that mean I can buy them here in Toronto? Of course not, although there are similar cookies sold here such as Dream Puffs and Whippets, which come from Montreal. Both by the way available year round. Don’t they know the havoc chocolate covered cookies can cause once the temperatures rise above freezing?

box showing Mallomars are Made in Canada

This box of Mallomars cleary shows they are Made in Canada

I don’t know if I can really embrace a cookie that wields such control, dictating when and where it is sold. I’m not into snack food manipulation. But if someone gives me a box as a gift I will gladly accept it.

Read Full Post »

What a rough couple of weeks. Hurricane Sandy which became known as Super Storm Sandy which became Super Pain Sandy hit the New York and surrounding areas on October 29, 2012 like a punch in the gut. Watching the devastation was heartbreaking. Entire neighborhoods flooded. Lives lost. Houses and lifelong belongings and memories swept away within minutes.  While I was safe and warm here in Toronto, my family is all back there so it was a very worrisome time for me. The most difficult part of all this for me?  Not being able to get in touch with any one in my family. With power and phone service out and cell and internet spotty at best, it was days before I could get an update from anyone down there. It was such a strange and unsettling feeling. In these days of social media, with everything being tweeted before it seems it even happened, the idea of no communication at all can be a startling sensation.

Millions were left without power, some even weeks later. Gas shortages caused tempers to flare in long line-ups. No electricity, no lights, no hot water, no heat- I don’t know how my family and all those others did it. Would I be able to take it that long? I applaud their strength and determination and only hope I would have that courage.

Below is a video shot and edited by my cousin, Scott Meyer, a professional film editor. It shows the damage and devastation Hurricane Sandy did in Howard Beach, New York, an area hit particularly hard.

Living here in Toronto, I have experienced my share of weather. I think we only have two seasons here. Every year it seems we skip fall and spring and have extended summers and winters. Yes, I have felt cold. I have experienced snow, often more than I can deal with. I have also sweated through hot, humid summers. But, I have never been caught in a weather event that devastating or destroying. I lose my power for more than an hour and I’m a basket case. I remember the great blackout of 2003. My power was out for 25 hours. It was terrible. I remember following the radio coverage as neighborhood by neighborhood got power back while I was still in the dark. Nothing is more irritating than hearing ‘with the exception of small pockets, power has been restored to 95% of Toronto’ when you’re residing in one of “those small pockets” But that was only one day and it was in the summer. I can’t imagine going without power for over a week, in November when the days are short and temperatures drop near freezing at night.

Would you be able to hold up under those trying circumstances? Have you ever experienced anything like that and how did you cope? Let me know by leaving me a comment.

Read Full Post »

If you missed Part One,  and the exciting details of my outgoing trip, click here.

As promised, here is the account of my trip back to Toronto

 July 26

8:00 AM- Leave relative’s house for train station to take railroad to the city. Looks like it will rain.

8:30- Arrive at Huntington train station on Long Island. Buy ticket to Penn Station.

8:55- Board train to Penn Station. Take up more than one seat with luggage.

9:30- Mid-point of train trip. It is raining very hard right now. Train is getting crowded. Getting stares from wet passengers for taking up more than one seat.

10:10- Arrive at Penn Station. Have to walk about 8 blocks to Megabus stop. Still raining out. Have to navigate crowded city with luggage and umbrella.

10:45- Find bus stop. It is outside and uncovered. Glad it has stopped raining. There is already a line of people.

12:00- Estimated Departure time. We have yet to board the bus.

12:15-  Start to board the bus. Again faced with decision of whether to go upstairs or downstairs. Family with several children heads upstairs. Decide to sit downstairs.

12:30- Pull out to begin return trip to Toronto

3:00- Make rest stop. Decide not to buy any food at this time, but get off bus to stretch legs and use bathroom.

5:00- Make scheduled stop in Syracuse. Buy sandwich from Subway.

6:00- Enjoying my turkey Sub. Bus driver suddenly pulls off thruway and announces we have forgotten a passenger and are returning to Syracuse, 38 miles away. Talk with angry passengers about inconsiderate passenger.

7:30- Arrive in Syracuse, again. The forgotten passenger is nowhere to be found.

7:45- Forgotten passenger found inside terminal, an older, confused woman. We forgive her. Passenger anger now turned towards driver.

8:00 – Leave Syracuse for the second time.

10:00- Arrive at border crossing-customs and immigration. Once again, gather my belongings and pass through quickly. Canadian border agents not as happy to see me as American agents.

10:30- Two mysterious pieces of unclaimed luggage noticed. Turn out to belong to the forgotten passenger from Syracuse. Crisis averted.

11:00-Two passengers delaying us from leaving. Remaining passengers leave overheated bus to wait outside and yell at bus driver.

11:45- Leave border: Final destination Toronto.

1:15- Finally arrive at downtown Toronto bus terminal. Wait for luggage to be unloaded from bus. Grab taxi for home.

1:40- Arrive home almost 18 hours after leaving Long Island. Take anti nausea pill to help me fall asleep. (See first leg of trip)

Well that’s my trip. Would I do it again? I don’t know. It was a very long, yet interesting trip. It was extremely tiring but was a lot cheaper.
Are there any other bus travellers out there? Is there anyone who actually prefers this mode of travel to flying?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

 

Read Full Post »

I try to get back home to the United States at least once a year. Recently, I took a bus round trip from Toronto to New York. I had once promised myself I would never take such a long bus trip again. But with rising airfares, I decided to give the Megabus (www.megabus.com) a try.

How did it go?

Here is an account of my trip:

July 14th

8:00 PM- Leave my house by public transit to arrive at the bus terminal with plenty of time to line-up early and board the bus to select my seat. Fall over my luggage and bruise knee.

8:45- Arrive at the Toronto bus terminal. Look around at the clientele. Nobody looks too suspicious. Sit and relax while waiting to line up for my bus.

9:15- Realize there is already a long line for the New York bus. Hurry to get in line.

9:45- Board bus and faced with decision whether to sit upstairs or downstairs on the Double Decker bus. Bus is very dark inside. I can’t see where I am going. Decide to sit downstairs so I don’t have to navigate stairs in darkness.

10:00- Bus departs. My plan is to tire myself until the border crossing in order to sleep better. Wi-fi not working on my iPod. Use music and Angry Birds to keep myself awake for the next two hours.

12:00- Arrive at Border for customs and Immigration. Gather all my belongings as instructed and cross over problem free. I’m American, they’re happy to see me and welcome me back. Return to the bus and hope that other passengers don’t delay the process.

1:00- Other passengers are delaying the process. Decide to call it a night. Eat a cookie and take an anti-nausea pill in order to fall asleep.

2:00- Pull out of customs to continue trip to New York. Feel myself getting tired and try drifting asleep. Bus is very quiet as other passengers also trying to sleep.

4:30- Jolted awake by bus driver loudly announcing rest stop. Make my way out of the bus bleary eyed to use public bathroom with other female passengers from bus. Get back on bus try to fall back asleep.

4:30-6:30- Sleep on and off, waking constantly due to uncomfortable seats.

7:00- See that it’s light out and consider myself awake. Eat breakfast bar.

8:15- Time of arrival in New York City. Realize we are nowhere near New York City.

10:00- Finally arrive in New York. Walk 5 blocks to Penn Station to catch 10:15 train to Long Island.

10:15- Arrive at Penn Station. Watch 10:15 train leave. Buy ticket for later train from surly agent.

10:25- Board train to Long Island.

11:25- Arrive in Huntington, New York. Look for relative picking me up at train station.

11:30- Find relative. Decline welcoming hug until teeth can be brushed and clothes can be changed.

12:00- Arrive at relatives. Brush teeth.

12:30- More than 16 hours after I left my house back in Toronto, finally ready to begin my visit with relatives.

To be continued…

For my return trip, click here

Read Full Post »

As you may know, there are many foods I miss living here in Canada. However, New York pizza is the one I long for the most. In fact, it is the one food where I have just given up on finding a reasonable alternative. As far as pizza in Toronto goes, just throw some sauce and cheese on the box and serve that to me. It will taste about the same as far as I am concerned.

I can’t understand why they can not make a decent pizza here. It worries me even more that people living here actually think it tastes good. I owe it to the people of Toronto to make them aware what they are eating is not what ‘good pizza’ should taste like. I don’t know exactly why the pizza tastes so much better in New York. Maybe it’s the sauce, maybe it’s the cheese, or maybe, as they always say, it’s the water. The crust of the pizza in Toronto is way too doughy. Hand tossed and baked in a brick oven, New York pizza is just the right thickness, thin, but not crispy. You have to be able to fold it without the crust breaking. The perfect slice of pizza should develop a layer of grease when you fold it that drips down your arm when you start to eat. It’s usually sold by the ‘slice’ or by the ‘pie’. Most people I know eat it ‘au natural’ just plain sauce and cheese, but toppings are available. I think one has to load on the toppings in Toronto to mask the fact the pizza itself has no taste. For the same reason, dipping sauce is not usually required in New York and you will never be offered fries with your pie.

Do yourself a favor when you’re in New York and grab yourself a slice. Just don’t go into one of the chains and think you are having New York pizza just because you are in the Big Apple. Get yourself to a local pizzeria. Some are better than others. One of my favorites is Gino’s Pizzeria in Howard Beach, New York. But even the worst New York pizza will make you want to swear off pizza in Toronto. When I get to New York the first thing I want to do is eat some pizza. If I could, I think I would eat it everyday. And all these years my family thought it was them I looked forward to seeing. I’m just kidding. My family knows it’s the pizza.

A Piece of New York Pizza

New York Pizza has lots of cheese

A New York Pizza Pie

Does anyone out there have a favorite place to grab a slice? Let me know by leaving me a comment.

Read Full Post »