Culture

October is the best month of the year

It’s almost the end of October and it’s time to kiss the best month of the year goodbye.

I’m in love with October, and I know I’m not the only one. From Anne of Green Gables to your favourite Instagram influencer, October is a much-favourited month.

I know what you’re thinking. “NOT ANOTHER PIECE OF CONTENT ABOUT OCTOBER AND PUMPKINS AND FALL!!!!”

But I’m okay with that, because October is spectacular, and it deserves to have a huge deal made about it, over and over and over again.

October is an interesting month. It’s when so many things come to a close yet so many things begin.

It’s the end of the warm weather in northern countries, yet the beginning of it in the south.

October means there’s only three months left of the year, and people start counting down to things. There’s this many days until American Thanksgiving…. There’s this many days until Christmas… Now there’s this many days until the end of the year…

I don’t do that. I savour each day of this amazing month. The years go by fast enough as it is. Even if it’s been a crappy year, I always seem to feel better in October. Like there’s a chance for new beginnings.

I’m not sure why, since that is usually a sentiment associated with January.

Maybe because, where I grew up, October is the second month of spring. It’s already hot enough to go to the beach and signals the beginning of another long Australian summer.

(It’s also a month of wildly unpredictable weather, and to this day I still don’t get why Australian brides plan their weddings for October, because you never know what you’re going to get. Risking a thunderstorm on your wedding day is no bride’s dream.)

In fact, August is the best month to have a wedding in Australia, specifically in Sydney, because the days are usually sunny and quite warm for “winter”.

You’re welcome.

But back to Canada.

In Canada, October means many things, such as:

Pumpkin everything

Yes, unlike in Australia, pumpkins, squash and all those other related gifts from Mother Nature are only available in fall, and most abundantly October.

Perfect timing too, because the temperatures start to stay in the one digit range, and you want to get into that warming, soup-making groove.

And if you’re a food or beverage brand, you capitalize on that pumpkin-mania like there’s no tomorrow. You name it, there’s a pumpkin version

Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin spice cereal, oatmeal, ice cream, crackers, BEER. The list goes on and on.

Pumpkin carving

I know for a fact you can’t really do this in Australia because you can’t get these types of pumpkins there.

Apples galore

The thing about Canada is that its climate doesn’t lend itself to the production of many varieties of fresh produce. Apart from the very short summer where you suddenly can’t get away from summer squash, asparagus and corn, most of the food you will eat here for at least half the year is unfortunately imported.

Except for apples. Canada is absolutely lousy with apples. In fact, there are too many, and most of them end up in landfill. There are apple trees all over the GTA whose fruits just drop and decay without anyone paying any attention. It’s unfortunate since organic, unwaxed apples cost a fortune, and I have no idea why it’s like this.

At least you can enjoy an apple cider why you contemplate this conundrum.

Chestnuts

You sing about them, but have you eaten them? Not only are they delicious, they are also so fun to make. Roasting them on an open fire is ideal, but cooking them on the stove or in the oven also works. It’s a great way to keep warm when it’s super chilly outside, because you do have to stand there and watch them so you definitely get warm.

Make sure you look up how to prepare them first though, so you don’t end up with them exploding all over your oven like I did.

True story.

Indian corn

Colourful but inedible, it makes a great fall decoration

The leaves omg

Well duh.

But remember, I grew up on the east coast of Australia, where Autumn can often be just as hot and sunny as summer. I know other parts of Australia experience something closer to a northern hemisphere fall, but I certainly never went to those places. Plus, it’s a different time of year. So it’s not the same.

Therefore, I get to be overly excited every October and take 500 pictures that look something like this and not have you judge me for how basic I am.

Fall walks and bike rides

Fall is a spectacular time of year to learn that Toronto is a lot bigger than you think! Don’t listen to those snobs that scoff at the idea of going north of Bloor or east of the Don Valley Parkway. Because there are so many amazing walking and biking trails to discover and doing it in the fall just takes your breath away.

Halloween!

And it actually feels like Halloween here because they’ve been doing it for years. Australia is still divided over whether Halloween is to be acknowledged.

Some of the Halloween stuff here is really cool. Seeing people’s houses decorated is my favourite.

It’s also really fun to walk through certain neighbourhoods and be around all the kids trick-or-treating (since us adult Aussies missed out on that experience when we were kids).

Other times its just brands throwing some orange and black colors on things and calling it Halloween (cough Tim Horton’s cough)

Nuit Blanche

This one is only in Toronto and it means White Night. It’s an interesting annual event where art (and that term is used very broadly) is displayed all around the city. It goes all night, so energetic night owls can roam the streets until dawn enjoying the extravaganza.

Please enjoy these terrible photos I took at Nuit Blanche in 2013.

Those are some of the things I love about October and that’s why I think it’s the best month of the year.

It’s also the best month to enjoy all that fall has to offer, in my opinion.

Because of how quickly it gets cold here, by mid-November , it’s already lot colder than October, most of the leaves and the colours are gone, and there’s nothing really fun to do (even Canadian Thanksgiving is in October.)

So it’s a rush to enjoy it all in October, before Christmas and New Years fly by and then the long winter sets in.

That means, if you hate winter, fall is actually really depressing because of what comes after it. But it sure is pretty.

Maybe I should make it all one hashtag: #octoberthebestmonthoftheyear

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Food and drink

Canada’s most famous cocktail (Plus, the one drink you shouldn’t order in North America)

Canadians sure love their alcoholic beverages. Whether it’s a summer cider on a patio, a pumpkin ale in fall or a Christmas eggnog if you’re so inclined, there’s a drink for every time of year.

While their neighbours to the south are famous for their dirt cheap and widely available liquor, alcohol in Canada is still quite inexpensive when compared to Australia.

And just like Australia, Canada has many breweries, distilleries and wineries that make amazing craft beers, liquors and wines, including some limited-edition, small batch brews.

Everyone in North America: “Wait, WHAT? I thought Australians only drank Fosters beer!”

Sorry to crush your dreams (likely inspired by that one episode of The Simpsons where they go to Australia), but no, they don’t.

And don’t even get me started on knifey-spoony.

Now, back to what I was saying about CANADA.

You will never run out of options for alcoholic beverages here and you can look forward to different varieties at different times of the year.

But for a truly Canadian experience, you have to try Canada’s drink, the almighty Caesar.

If you’ve ever been to North America, or flown through there, you’ll have noticed that tomato juice is a staple beverage available everywhere.

So, it’s not surprising that tomato-juice based cocktails, like the Bloody Mary, are also a staple on a drinks menu.

The Caesar takes it a step further. A uniquely Canadian drink, it’s close to a Bloody Mary, but it has a lot more kick. Its salty, spicy flavour is super satisfying and even filling.

The recipe is vodka, tomato juice mixed with clam broth, lime, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

Clam broth? WHAT?

Okay, it sounds a little out there (and maybe a little gross to some) but it’s actually really good.

But don’t worry, you won’t see a bartender straining the juice from a pile of clams into your drink. There is a pre-mixed beverage used in most Caesar’s called Clamato, and it’s made by Mott’s.

Caesars are served in a glass rimmed with celery salt and usually garnished with one or more savoury toppings, like a pickled bean, a celery stick or some olives.

Adventurous bartenders are known to dress them up with all kinds of pickles and meats, and some of them are served towering with what looks like a vertical charcuterie spread.

I’ve even seen some that have an entire meal perched on top of them, including a full-sized hamburger!

The art of the Caesar garnish is almost a sport. Mott’s even held a Canada-wide competition to find the best Caesar in the country.

According to my sources, the Caesar is one of the most commonly-craved and sought after drinks by Canadians living abroad (especially in Australia), but since it isn’t really sold anywhere in Australia (except maybe Canadian-themed bars) Canadians make their own at home.

If that’s not your thing, no worries! There are plenty of options to suit your fancy.

But here is a tip for ordering drinks in North America.

If you order anything with lemonade, you will literally get lemonade

As in, freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with sugar. In Canada (and the USA) that’s what people will give you if you say lemonade.

But most likely, they won’t have it and they will look at you funny because they don’t realise you mean the soft drink, not something kids on TV sell on the sidewalk for pocket money.

If you want the soda, you have to ask for Sprite or 7-Up.

And don’t forget to tip! It’s the North American way.

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Advice

The top things to pack when you move from Australia to Canada

When Aussies are preparing to move over here, a question that is commonly asked is “What are some absolute essentials to bring from Australia when you move to Canada?”

Honestly, the answer is nothing. Canada will have pretty much anything you need, but it will be different brands or look different. But there’s hardly anything you can get in Australia that you can’t get here. You could technically come here with just the clothes you’re wearing and your passport, then head straight to the mall (or even order online) anything and everything you can think of to get you started – from furniture to underwear!

Prices here for a lot of things are really similar. Some things are more expensive, but some are cheaper, so overall, it ends up being similar.

But you might find that you don’t like the Canadian version of some of your personal favourites, so take advantage of the generous North America luggage allowance and load up on them!

Even though a lot of the things you will need are available here, unless you’re coming with endless amounts of money, it’s a good idea to bring as much as you can to get started (and not spend your fun money on things you already own but left in Australia). On flights from Australia to North America, your luggage allowance is two bags at 23kg each. That’s almost 50kg of stuff you can move over, included in the price of your ticket. Take advantage of it.

Aside from that, there are some Aussie goodies you’ll want to bring with you because you won’t be able to find them here (or if you do, they’ll be really expensive).

1. Vegemite

Vegemite on toast

I’m aware not every single Australian citizen enjoys Vegemite. But in both the Aussies in Toronto and Aussies in Canada Facebook groups I am a member of, it is one of the most frequently asked questions. Previously fairly easy to find, it was recently pulled off the shelves and now people are clamouring for it.

It’s bad out there, guys.

But please do yourself a favour and pack the ones in the plastic containers. Unless you are a packing wizard, it’s likely the glass jars won’t hold up in your luggage. I’ve seen quite a few tragic stories of Vegemite jars travelling across the Pacific only to arrive as a gunky heap of broken glass. R.I.P.

2. A cell phone

Because buying one one on a plan is expensive here. You’re obviously going to come here with your own cell phone from home anyway, but make sure it’s a good one that you’ll want to keep during your time here. Don’t be planning to buy a better phone when you get here thinking it will be cheaper. It’s obviously a lot cheaper to go on a “bring your own device plan” especially for iPhones.

3. Lucas Paw Paw ointment

Lucas paw paw ointment

If you’re a devoted paw paw user, like a lot of Aussies are, be aware that it’s not available here (and is a god send for those chapped winter lips!) If you’re already here and you’re sans paw paw and desperate, you can order it on Amazon for a hefty mark-up.

4. Snow/Winter gear

But only if you already own it

If you are someone who goes to “the snow” in Australia and has your own collection of proper winter gear, and you are planning to continue doing winter sports when you arrive in Canada, bring it with you. Otherwise buy it when you get here. Not only is it much more affordable here, you also won’t be taking up precious space in your luggage on the trip over.

5. Aussie foods you love.

While some things are starting to appear on Canadian shelves, there are other things you’ll start craving that you won’t be able to get here- think Milo, Allen’s Lollies, Twisties, Cherry Ripes, Picnics, Shapes, etc. (Note: you will see tins of Milo on supermarket shelves but it’s imposter Milo.)

some Australian snack foods

6. A voltage converter

Not just an adapter, but a converter, unless you want to blow up your single voltage devices. The voltage in North America is only 120 volts versus the 240 volts in Australia. I did not know this and upon arrival I immediately destroyed my $300 Parlux hair dryer (and my not so expensive Babyliss curling iron). Oops. Thankfully my laptop survived.

Even then, voltage converters are generally better for short-term use. If you use your hairdryer several times a week and you stay here for 2 years, you’re not going to want to rely on a voltage converter. I’ve heard stories about devices not operating as well as they used to while using them through a converter. It’s better if you purchase appliances that are dual voltage (this way you can take them back home and use them there with just an adapter) or purchase new appliances that are rated for the North America voltage . Thankfully, compared to Australia, many of these appliances are reasonably priced for decent brands.

7. For the ladies – Bonds undies.

Okay, this is a weird, very specific one, but it’s really hard to find 100% cotton women’s underwear here for some reason! I have seen a lot of men’s underwear that is 100% cotton in many places though. But for women, it’s a lot of microfibre, or lycra, or 96% cotton/4% spandex, or something else. Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places, and feel free to correct me, but I’ve been here for 7 years and I still haven’t found them – not in La Senza, Victoria Secret, La Vie En Rose, Walmart – anywhere. I gave up looking after a few years. Maybe that’s why. Anyway – if you love your Bonds undies, bring several!

So there you have it. Seven things you definitely need to include in your “I’m moving to Canada” packing list!

What else would be on your list? Let me know in the comments!

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