10 Observations About Canada You’ll Find Interesting

  1. Lots of ketchup flavored food items

    Can someone explain to me why there are Ketchup Lays and Pringles? That just sounds nasty, but hey: To each their own.

  2. Only 1 brand of pretzel in the small towns we visited (Banff & Jasper)

    In light of the numerous ketchup flavored foods, this one surprised us. Shout out to the Old Dutch brand for fueling our pretzel cravings while in Canada.

  3. But the honey flavored Oikos that’s in Canada is DELISH!

    There are only a few brands of greek yogurt in the Canadian groceries we visited. And yet, what Canada lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. The Oikos honey flavored greek yogurt was so good! It’s a shame it’s not available here in the U.S!

  4. No police officers, like anywhere! I think we saw two  officers the entire 12 days!

    Working Theory: Most Canadians are too kind to flagrantly break laws, and the police force is too kind to set speed traps and write unnecessary tickets. You rock, Canadian Mounties!

  5. Kraft Peanut Butter?

    One of my favorite foods is greek yogurt. One of my other favorites is peanut butter. I was surprised to find only three brands of the delicious delicacy. The stores had a natural organic brand, a local brand and Kraft. Now, I know that large companies are a conglomerate of businesses, but I still think its odd that the people who made mac n’cheese famous, also make nut butter. It was good, nontheless.

  6. Everything is in Kilometers

    This one is a no brainer, but interesting nonetheless. But driving the unpopulated road from Calgary to Banff to Jasper, we realized that the speed limit is pretty relative. Some cars go 40kmh, taking in the scenery, and some go 140kmh. I would recommend somewhere in the middle.

  7. It’s true: Canadians are super nice!

    Seriously! In America we have signs like: “No smoking” and “Customers Only.” In Canada, they add a “please” and “thank you” on to every sign and instruction. Thank you, Canada. I feel treasured and I feel respected.

  8. Canada still has the Guide Channel

    Remember that channel that scrolled all the television programming? Remember when something distracted you and you missed your favorite channel, so you had to wait for it to scroll all the way through again? Well Canadians still enjoy that pleasure. And to be honest: On the rare occasions that we did turn on the T.V., that Guide Channel was an awesome reference. Can we resurrect that in the U.S.?

  9. Bathrooms are called Washrooms

    Canadians are all about their good manners and cleanliness, which is why they call bathrooms “washrooms.” It sounds polite and it implies you disinfect after doing your business. It’s a win win!

  10. Telephone booths everywhere!

    I’ve heard the same is true in Europe, and it makes sense because what if you lose your phone or didn’t purchase international cell service? With tourists everywhere, a phone booth is a nice reassurance. Plus, it harkens back to the good ole’ days when technology wasn’t intrusive and you could make eye contact with people on the street.


There you have it: Ten awesome things I noticed about the Canadian way of life while traveling to Banff and Jasper National Parks. And what didn’t make the list? Well, the nature, for starters. But I’ve covered that in some other posts, so get started with my Day 1 account of Banff National Park. And if the Canadian Rockies aren’t on your bucket list: Get your butt up north, pronto!


Banff Day 1: C-Level Cirque and Johnston

Oh Canada. I still don’t know your national anthem, but I’m head over heels for your country. And I can’t believe it’s been a month since I reveled in your majestic landscape. There’s far too much to share in one blog post, so I’m breaking it down into multiple posts so I can give you all the good stuff in hopes that you’ll add Banff and Jasper to your travel list.

We took off on July 22. Matt, my mom and I. After a quick layover in Toronto, we flew Air Canada to Calgary. Let me tell you: Air Canada is the best! Let’s put it this way: I had a bunch of writing to get done on the flight. Instead, I played interactive games with Matt on the seat back entertainment system (Whoever was in seat 22A was rockin’ those trivia questions!). Then I watched an incredible Spanish T.V. show that is brand new. So if you’re into Spanish shows (or not), check out “Sé Quien Eres.” It’s intense!

fullsizeoutput_df7From Calgary, we took a short drive to Banff National Park. Despite my 3:15 a.m. alarm clock, I didn’t feel tired yet. We checked into the “humble” Red Carpet Inn– strangely devoid of red carpet– and wandered around the small town. Downtown Banff is so cute! It’s a little like Aspen in the sense that it has luxury brands and expensive restaurants. While it dazzles the high-end traveler, it also pleased us. There were neat little shops and restaurants, and parks everywhere.


Downtown Banff, featuring a beautiful double rainbow after a 15 minute downpour. This was the only time it rained during the whole trip!

The next morning, we popped out of bed and headed to C-Level Cirque. around 9 a.m. I’d advise hikers get going by 9:30 or so. We saw so many people coming up, on our way back down. To beat the rush: Start your hike by 9 a.m. C-Level Cirque was a modest first hike, and a pretty one at that. Since July is bear season, we were armed with bear spray and plenty of conversation topics. The key is to make noise so you don’t surprise a bear. As we unpacked the car, I looked at the girl parked next to us. With a kayak atop her car and dirt on her boots, I knew she was an experienced hiker. It turns out, Jackie is a Math teacher who spends her summers traveling all over the world. We all began chatting and — much to my delight– Jackie decided to hike with us. “I want to be like Jackie,” I raved to my mom. “She’s everything I want to be…. just take out the Math.”

fullsizeoutput_e1cTogether, we hiked up through the wooded portion of the trail, dotted with abandoned mine shafts and the occasional stream. After about 45 minutes, we emerged from the woods and the trail turned to rock. This was the steepest part of the hike– often requiring a hands and knees approach. We climbed right past a beautiful blue lake,missing it completely on the way up. But we soon were high enough to see the lake, and a lot more! There was an impeccable view of the Bow River and multiple lakes. By this point, we were higher up than snow, but the temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees or so– not cold, as long as we kept moving.”

After roughly two hours, we crested the ridge and reached the end of the trail. Now Jackie, in all her awesomeness, scrambled up the scree to get an even better view, but that was about as high as you could go. No matter, it was gorgeous! Like I said: We had a view of the river, some lakes, and the mountain range ambling off to our left.


We completed the hike in about 3:45 minutes and exchanged contact info with Jackie before setting off to see Johnston Canyon. Me, oblivious to that fact that I had just lost my mom’s GoPro in the parking lot, took a much needed nap. One longhorn sheep sighting later, we pulled into the parking lot at Johnston Canyon. We structured our days in Canada so that our big hike was in the morning and in the afternoon, we visited the more “touristy” spots or, if you’re Matt: Napped.



Johnston Canyon was crazy! There were so many cars buzzing in and out of that parking lot. That being said, I was really pleased with the signage, facilities and information. Plus, this hike was totally handicap accessible. While hikers like myself tend to gripe about paved trails, I’m really glad that Canada’s National Parks Service has made some of the key destinations more accessible. Wheelchairs and strollers could easily traverse the path, and it was pretty short too (about in hour if you do the full thing).

By the time we traded our parking spot with an ever-grateful group of tourists, we made the short drive back to town. We ended the day with a short jaunt around town and a strategy planning session for the next day. I’m pretty sure I was asleep by 9. Given the two hour time difference, we all turned in early.

The second day began with a quick run and breakfast, followed by one of my favorite hikes of the trip! But Day 1 was pretty incredible in its own right!

Day 2 Blog Post: COMING SOON

Unforgettable Runs: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, Hilton Head, South Carolina

*This post was originally published on my initial blog on August 2, 2013.  I am in the process of migrating my content from Blogger and appreciate your patience as I do so!

After a few days in Hilton Head for vacation, I realized that my options for running routes were limited to either the beach or the limitless bike paths around the island.  The bike paths were good for a few days, until I got bored.  I either ran left out of our neighborhood, or I ran right.  Pretty awful when I’m doing long runs and the paths are straight as an arrow after a couple of miles in either direction.  For my long run of the week, I was determined to scour the internet to find somewhere I could do the 12.5 miles I was hoping to get in during the 90 minutes (RELATED: Unforgettable Runs: Handies Peak, Colorado).

In a magical moment, I found it: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The website said that there was a long 7.5 mile loop, and plenty of off shoots that I could run for some more mileage.  Perfect!  My dad agreed to drive me there early Saturday morning, but I was nervous for the 90 minute run all by myself, when I usually run it with friends.  The week before, my long run had gone well, but with my mileage going up, my legs were beginning to feel the increase.  My dad and I prayed that the run would go well and I would see God through the nature and the ability he gives my body– because he cares about the big things and the little things!

Photo by: http://www.panoramio.com

The beginning of the path was out in the sun and looked like a dirt road with beautiful marshland directly on either side.  I was caught up in the beauty, but relieved when I hit shade after about half a mile.  The rest of the run was 90% in the shade, which I was very grateful for!  I breathed in the sweet sea air as I passed the gorgeous Ibis Pond on my right side, which just so happened to be teeming with large white birds… like: they were everywhere!  I ran really fast to get away from the birds, and soon came to the point where the path bent as I’d seen in the map.  I needed to go left.  Well, I couldn’t go left.  Bummer: they’d closed the path.  It seemed I had to go straight, so I continued on for a good mile before the path ended at White Point.  The view was breathtaking, and there was no one but me and the water.  Running back, I realized I would just have to take lots of little paths and make my own route to get my distance in.  I was disappointed that the minimal visitor information– consisting of just a giant map in the parking lot– hadn’t informed me that the main path was closed.  In hindsight though, I really enjoyed running out to a lot of other points on the islands.

(READ ABOUT MY OTHER ADVENTURES! Like, Ziplining in the El Yunque National Rainforest)


It was so weird though because I kept thinking that there were birds rustling in the bushes.  After I’d settled into my run though, I realized that the noise I heard was a million tiny little crabs scrambling to escape my footsteps running through their little crab towns.  They were literally everywhere where sand was, but as long as I kept moving, I was good.  Even that was awesome though, because I don’t usually encounter crabs when running in Ohio.  I weaved in and out of the main trail, going on a lot of the routes out to points and separate islands.  Some were flooded with water, since I was so deep in the marshland, but most were passable with minimal mud.  I even passed a few cyclists who were out searching for birds (which is cool with me since they stood as markers for me on where the birds were).

I enjoyed how the run was on soft terrain.  Sometimes it was grass– with few ruts– and at other times, it was fresh forest floor, in the woods.  I run at a hilly, wooded park at home all the time.  The difference?  This one was impeccably serene, the paths were more interesting, it was FLAT, and it was right by the ocean, surrounding me with tall and wispy Palm Trees.  Most of the paths connected to each other, so instead of going out to many points and just turning around, I was able to explore and find my way around the refuge.  No problem: 12.5 miles leaves plenty of time to explore (and yes: I got my 12.5 miles in.  I would recommend bug spray though.  Every time I stopped to tie a shoe or “relieve myself,” I was swarmed with giant biting flies and mosquitos- even at 7 a.m. 

I was so impressed with the wildlife refuge and envious of people that can run there more often.  I am a total beach girl, and having the beach right by my side as I passed from one tiny island to the next, was the coolest thing.  I will never forget the fresh ocean breeze that blew from behind while I softly crushed palm branches underfoot.  If your in the Hilton Head area: this run is a must!

St. John 2014 Photos

*This post was originally published on my initial blog on July 22, 2014.  I am in the process of migrating my content from Blogger and appreciate the patience as I do so!

 We went to St. Thomas last Tuesday to experience the island and take a trip to Blackbeard’s Castle.  Here’s a view from the castle grounds.

 These were the kayaks we used for our EcoTour on St. John.  It was an awesome experience that involved kayaking, snorkeling and hiking.  Stay tuned to hear all about it in my next blog post!

 One of my favorite memories of the trip was hiking up Ram’s Head, a favorite trail of my late uncle who passed away from cancer a couple years ago.  It was an awesome opportunity and a chance to remember and honor Him.
 This was me, on the last full day. Me and my tan little feet did not want to budge from the beach!
I had an amazing time bonding, laughing and exploring St. John with my awesome family.   They are truly a blessing and I loved every bit of the past week with them!

When in Chicago, Don’t Forget to Get Lost

I first visited Chicago as a wide-eyed six year old, intent on visiting the American Girl store and dining at the Rainforest Café.  But Kit Kittredge is packed away in a box, and animal-themed dining didn’t seem as appealing when I set off for Chicago last weekend.  I boarded the Megabus with anticipation of the Latino Film Festival as well plans for what I could do with my free time.  This was the first time I’d voyaged to the windy city without my family in tow, and it was somewhat liberating to set my own agenda.

While I loved previous visits to Shedd Aquarium and boat tours along the lakeside, I had more inexpensive activities in mind….namely: I would explore the city at random.

Given my type-A nature, this was both invigorating and terrifying, but here’s what happened:

1. I learned my way around!
Here’s the fantastic thing: When you get lost enough times, you eventually map out your surroundings.  Even better, you get to see so many different places then you would if you just followed Google Maps like every other tourist.  I can’t say I didn’t sheepishly peer at street signs, but I can say that I gained confidence as a navigator and adventurer.  Long live spontaneous exploration!

2. I found an awesome tea store and book store
I’m a bit quirky- no qualms with that- so while my classmates were ogling at Armani bags and $500 tank tops, I wandered into Adagio teas and fell in love.  The shelves were lined with loose leaf teas, and the saleslady encouraged me to pick up the jars of tea and smell them.  “If there are any that catch your eye, I’ll make a sample for you!”  I suppressed my inner tea nerd and merely nodded, all while trying to contain my excitement.  All the prices were listed by the jars and no one pressured me to buy anything.  They were genuinely friendly and their tea was incredible.  I walked out with a sample of verbena green tea and some almond mocha oolong tea.

As if that wasn’t good enough, I then made my way down to a bookstore.  I’d had enough stimulation for one day and couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather spend my time than a used bookstore calledAfter-Words, with a basement boasting 70,000 books.  The shop owner was just as quirky as I’d hoped and the books just as eclectic.  I was overwhelmed at my option, but prudently made a selection and handed over my $4 with elation.  “This place is awesome,” I raved to the shop owner.  He made some corny joke about Butler and I made some awkward smile and walked out.

3. The Latino Film Festival was amazing!
I was wary of a few of the films that we were scheduled to see.  One in particular seemed a bit more “adult” than I cared for.  Sure enough, I spent most of the movie carefully inspecting the hem of my shorts.  But the second movie more than made up for the first.   “Espejuelos Oscuros/Dark Glasses” was a thought provoking and disturbing portrayal of the secret stories we all carry.

4. I stepped out of my comfort zone
Besides literally stepping out of my comfort zone by meandering around the city, I also faced the challenge of traveling without any real friend/family member.  That brought the added testing of sitting on the bus and eating meals out at restaurants with these people– both of which are a strong source of anxiety due as I recovery from an eating disorder.  While the weekend was not without its blunders, I was encouraged at my ability to handle the situations.  I know I would not have been able to do so at this time last year, and for that I praise God.  As my dad gingerly reminded me, these challenges are good because they help me embrace my freedom and break out of my little “safe box” of recovery.  And as difficult as aspects of the trip were, I know that the next time I come across those same struggles, it will be just a little bit easier.  That makes the effort absolutely worth it.

The greenhouse at Nay Pier
Tapas at Café Iberico! A challenging, new
experience for me!
Adagio Tea.  Basically Heaven.

Much like my blog, my weekend in Chicago was a series of spontaneous adventures, augmented by familiar comforts and the constant presence of the Lord’s grace.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So then next time you’re in Chicago, run along the lakeside and take in the views at Navy Pier (RELATED: Girls’ Weekend in Chicago). Stop by Adagio Tea and The Chicago Tribune and Café Iberico, and- seriously- don’t forget to get lost in the wonder of it all.


To read about more suggestions for your next Chicago adventure, click HERE and HERE.