Seattle’s narrow escape from the icy grip of winter

Seattle’s narrow escape from the icy grip of winter

Seattle cold weather - HouseWhew! That was that a close call. There was a point earlier this week when I thought I might never see my kids again. Worse yet, I feared that my final blog post might be last week’s lame rant about Sarah Palin. How humiliating. I live in Seattle, and for the past ten days, the entire city has been hunkered down in the grips of an arctic blast so bone-chillingly cold that most of us wondered if we’d ever again be able to venture outdoors in December in flip flops and shorts.

You see, normally the high temperature in Seattle is required by law never to dip below 45 degrees any day from November through May. That’s because of the nearly permanent cloud cover that acts like a thermal blanket to keep us from ever needing to put on gloves or a scarf – which we still do anyway because we Seattleites are extremely fashion-conscious. Oh sure, we might have the occasional fleeting cold front that dips the high temp to 43. But we are a hardy stock. We’ve been known to weather conditions as low as 41 with only mild bouts of panic.

All of that changed last week when suddenly, freakishly, the clouds mysteriously parted. Temperatures plummeted to the low 30s by day and – I kid you not – into the teens at night. It was excruciating. It was chaos. And the only way to survive the brutal blast of frigid air was to put on, say, a Burberry overcoat and matching scarf, and perhaps a pair of J. Crew cashmere-lined suede leather gloves, accented by some Uggs. Now that I think of it, staying indoors might have worked too.

Continue reading “Seattle’s narrow escape from the icy grip of winter” »

So you think you know Canada, eh? Seven myths about our neighbors to the north

So you think you know Canada, eh? Seven myths about our neighbors to the north

The United States shares a border with its neighbor to the north, Canada, that’s 5,525 miles long – or if you happen to be Canadian, that’s 8,891 kilometers – not that anybody really uses kilometers, mind you.  Did you know that our border with Canada is the longest unprotected border in the world? I’ll bet there are a lot of things you don’t know about our friendly neighbor to the north.

As someone who has been married to a Canadian for 25 years, I am an expert on appreciating the subtle cultural differences between our two nations. I continue to be surprised by how little most Americans know about the great nation of Canada. When asked, What’s the capital of Canada?, 55% of Americans guessed Toronto. Another 25% chose Montreal. And 15% responded, Could you repeat the question? The correct answer, of course, is Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Many Americans think of Canadians as beer-swilling, hockey-playing, toque-headed, parka-wearing moose-hunters, whose favorite food is a beaver tail pastry, covered in maple syrup. In reality, only a small minority of Canadians are moose hunters. Most prefer to hunt caribou. The true picture of Canada is much more nuanced and includes Royal Canadian Mounties officiating curling matches on floating pack ice.

The sad truth is that most Americans know next to nothing about our next-door neighbors to the north. Time to set the record straight. Here are seven widespread myths (only two of which I’ve been spreading) about Canada and Canadians.

Continue reading “So you think you know Canada, eh? Seven myths about our neighbors to the north” »

My close brush with death: Seattle’s Snow-mageddon

My close brush with death: Seattle’s Snow-mageddon

It is a miracle I am alive right now. I could have been a statistic but thankfully, my life was spared. I live in Seattle, which recently experienced a devastating snow storm that shut the city down for five days.  The powerful storm became the top story on national newscasts until another nasty storm front with heavy wind(bag)s blew into South Carolina in the form of a Presidential Debate.

Forecasters, predicting the worst storm in four decades, called for 12 to 18 inches of snow in the Puget Sound region. When the last flakes finally stopped, almost six inches of snow covered some areas, proving once again that it is impossible to forecast the weather in the Pacific Northwest. What made it treacherous, however, was that the snow turned to freezing rain, coating roads, trees and power lines with a half inch of ice. This caused hundreds of cars (including mine) to get stuck and thousands of tree branches and hundreds of power lines to collapse. That’s when my terrifying near-death experience began.

At about 5am on Day 1 of Seattle’s Snow-mageddon, our house lost power – lights, heat, phone and internet. Venturing out by car into the blizzard was a foolhardy suicide mission. According to my best estimates, Seattle has exactly three snow plows – four if you count my neighbor Fred’s snow blower. There we were – without power, without heat, without hope, and barely a month’s supply of non-perishable food and beverages. Someone had to venture out for food. That someone would be me.

Continue reading “My close brush with death: Seattle’s Snow-mageddon” »