March 13, 2013

No Country For American Cheese

Dear Girl At the Grocery Store Cheese Counter in Mississauga, Ontario,

When I asked you for American cheese and you handed me blue cheese made in Wisconsin, I had to chuckle at your confusion. When I explained that I needed the kind of American cheese you melt on a grilled cheese sandwich and you showed me havarti made in California, I assumed that we were suffering from miscommunication. 

But when I explained that it wasn't about being made in an American city - that 'American cheese' is a kind of deli cheese - and you said you'd never heard of it, I died a little inside. Please educate yourself on the smooth, melty wonder that is yellow American cheese.

Sincerely, Jaime 

P.S. Got Kraft singles at Walmart. Delish.

March 7, 2013

local love: bulk barn

I mentioned earlier that Canada is full of the good, the bad and the utterly mind-boggling. A prime example of all 3 of these qualities rolled into one is Bulk Barn.

This place is basically every type of spice, seasoning, drink powder, cake mix and gummy candy you can imagine piled high in clear, plastic bins. You serve yourself using conveniently located bags, twistie ties and scales.

Check-out runs according to the honor system. The cashiers don't know if you're buying a pound of hot cocoa powder or gluten-free brownie mix {they look identical but one costs 3 times more than the other}, so they look to you to tell them what you've got.

This was my first trip to Bulk Barn as an actual customer {and not just some creeper ogling the candy bins} so I decided to be honest... but something tells me I was the only person in line concerned with my karma.

That lady with the clearance-priced lemonade powder looked suspiciously like the one I saw filling a bag with low-fat banana muffin mix. Hmm.

The good: everything is in bulk. And who wouldn't love seeing how many Raisinets they can squeeze into one bag? A movie theater-size box isn't enough for you? Come on down to Bulk Barn and don't get just one, but two pounds of sugary shame. No one will judge you because they're all guilty of the same thing. That's the beauty of Bulk Barn. It's a fantastic premise. 

The bad: some of the bins kind of look like trash cans with their plastic liners and there's a certain thrift store feel to Bulk Barn with its fluorescent lights and employees breaking down boxes in the middle of the aisles. But it's kind of bad in a good way. Awesomely bad. 

The mind-boggling: beyond the cereals & soup mixes there's a whole world of bulk oddities for sale. There's a refrigerated case with bulk grated Parmesan cheese; a honey-dispensing machine complete with take-home tubs; vats of shortening and buttercreme icing; and soap made from emu oil? There's even a bin full of bully sticks for your canine friends (yes, those bully sticks).

All in all, there's something completely awesome about Bulk Barn. Maybe it's the cloying smell of sugar in the air or the unnaturally colorful aisles full of pinatas and gumballs {I forgot to mention, Bulk Barn has a thing for pinatas}.

Or maybe it's the fact that a lot of Bulk Barns are inside of malls so you can effectively carry your baggie of breadcrumbs into Coach while you shop for a trendy tote. I don't know what it is that excites me so much when I see one of these stores, but it's a Canadian institution that's weaseled its way into my commercial-sized, price-club loving, bulk-buying American heart. Bully sticks and all.

{Editor's note: Several gummy sharks were harmed during the making of this blog.}

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March 5, 2013

the bygone days of pizza & menorahs

I've been photographing our apartment for Bobby's mom, Nancy. She lives in Montreal, a half-day's journey across the country, and frequently asks for pictures. She likes to see the progress we're making from week-to-week and it's a great excuse to compile a scrapbook of our first home here in Mississauga.

I took a photo of the kitchen on the night that our boxes arrived from the moving company. Looking at it still gives me agita. Yes, that's a pizza box sitting next to an electric menorah.

We were sleeping on an air mattress and pocketing plastic ware from coffee shops {sorry Tim Horton's}. It was one of those life moments that totally sucked at the time but we laugh about now that it's behind us.

About 2 weeks after the first photo was taken, I took another from the same angle. The tools on the knife rack say everything about our state of mind at the time. We lived like this for a good 3 weeks.

Today, one month after the last photo was taken, I emailed another to Nancy. It's the first one taken in the daytime and I can't get over how different it looks from the first one! The pizza box is long gone and the electric menorah now enjoys a happy life on a closet shelf. 

March 4, 2013

to swedish, or not to swedish, that is the question

Bobby and I are renting a loft space in the downtown part of the city. The apartment had a decidedly modern vibe before we moved any of our things in:  floor-to-ceiling windows, a galley kitchen, and a winding staircase that leads to the bedroom loft that hangs over the living space below. We're trying to balance the modernity with rustic, farmhouse-style decor for an 'urban cabin' kind of look. So far that's been a challenge, as most of the rustic/vintage pieces we've looked at are out of our price range or are just too big to fit into such a small space.

Making matters worse, my vision for my writing desk has been really specific, as I've had nothing but disappointing desks in the past {read: $25 IKEA child's desk with a plastic chair}. I want it to be solid wood with chippy paint, a large, expansive top and thin, spindle-y legs. One thin drawer in the center, maybe some feminine carvings down the legs. Antique brass hardware. Moral of the story: this desk ain't happening overnight. The stars will have to align and the furniture gods will have to bless me to come across such a treasure. It'll happen, just not today.

So this morning I bit the bullet and schlepped myself to that Swedish warehouse in the sky. I have nothing against IKEA {75% of our furniture and 100% of our Allen wrenches were procured there}. I just always have a disconcerting feeling that 85 different people are purchasing the exact same thing as me. Nevertheless I found a happy compromise today - a desk that's a little bit modern and a little bit cozy, with a metal leg supporting one side and a bookcase supporting the other. And it was less than $100. And it came with 2 Allen wrenches. Winning.

After many hours {and too many episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives}, I successfully assembled the desk {and worked up an appetite}. It's not my dream but {here comes the motif} it's my reality right now. And it's not too shabby!

So far everything is white. Next project: add some color!

Our happy little courtyard view. Can't wait to see what it looks like in the spring.

March 3, 2013

the january pilgrim

I landed in Canada a little over a month ago and this is my first time sitting down to write. You'd think that moving to another country would be pure gold for an aspiring writer - hitting the journalistic jackpot so to speak. But reality is certain to be different than fantasy.

I envisioned writing a post each day full of interesting photos of an exciting, enigmatic country, perched at an antique desk once belonging to a Russian seamstress, a charming treasure happened upon in a northern Ontario barn while on a treasure-hunting/home-decorating expedition. With a mug of Chai tea simmering on a carefully-placed coaster, I'd watch the snow peacefully fall outside my floor-to-ceiling windows while writing these witty & earnest blogs.

The inevitably altered reality is that I'm typing this with frozen fingers, the smell of homemade curry lingering from our neighbors' apartment as I listen to a pack of children scream in a foreign tongue from the elevator bank down the hall. There are still boxes left to be unpacked. My imaginary dream desk is nowhere to be found - my flannel-covered lap has been my desk for the past 45 days.

Flannel pajama pants have become my #1 tool for  winter survival.

I didn't know what to expect beyond the stereotypes - that Canadians are a bunch of overly polite, hockey-obsessed, beer-guzzling lumberjacks.

There have been a few people I've come across who fit the stereotype, but for the most part I'm surprised by how different Canada is than what I imagined. There's some good, some bad, and some downright mind-boggling stuff that I've come across, and I'm eager to record it and create a diary of my journey living in another country.

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