I have wonderful friends here in Canada. And we have great traditions. I'm sure most of you think that we're snowed in all year long and that we may even live in igloos. But I promise, it's not really that way.
Yes, it snowed for three days straight this past weekend. And yes, it's still really windy and not remotely warm. However, there are perks to this place that you just don't get in Florida. Or Georgia. Or anywhere else in most of the US states.
For my friends, the annual trip to the maple sugar shack is normal. They've grown up going every year. Sometimes they go as a school field trip, but mostly it is with their families. Since I've been in Canada we've formed a small pack of us that goes every year as a group.
Over the years we have gone as couples and friends, then we've gone with babies, and now we go with toddlers. It's crazy, I tell you. I don't know how time is moving so fast, but I'm going to need someone to slow it down.
Like I said, we got a serious spring snow storm last weekend. Big snowflakes fell for three days but since the ground has thawed most of it didn't stick. The trees, however, were different. The snow stuck beautifully to the branches. It was rainy/snowy and cold, but our surroundings were beautiful.
Because it is technically spring, I wanted to wear just a light fleece jacket. The chilly wind got the best of me and I ended up in my winter coat but left my hat and gloves behind. Yup, I was going to stick it to mother nature and show her who was boss. It's spring, dammit. I don't need gloves!
I was wrong and fortunately Carla had an extra pair of mittens in her car. She's a good Canadian.
We meandered down the path and passed a few different family owned sugar shacks. Each family has a different way of collecting sap from the maple trees.
Some collect their sap in buckets, which they then manually pour into larger vats on the back of a tractor.
Other families string blue tubing through the trees and let gravity steer the sap down to the barrels.
It all ends up in a giant tub that is heated until nothing is left but delicious maple syrup.
This is where the magic happens. Of course, bottles of syrup are for sale. But the real fun is in buying a popsicle stick and then making your own maple lollipop. It's a refillable stick, so it is definitely worth the three dollar price tag.
It's simple. The nice man comes out with a hot cup of maple taffy. He pours it in small strips across fresh snow that is in a trough.
You take your stick and roll it from the top to the bottom, forming your own personal lollipop.
(Please ignore my purple hand. I took off my mitten and it was really cold.)
The snow hardens the warm taffy until it's just the perfect temperature for ooey-gooey eating.
There is a small group of our closest friends that have been making this pilgrimage for a few years now. We've been trying for the past few weeks to make the hike, but kept having conflicts. See, there is only a few precious weeks out of the year that the maple sap flows. It's all about getting there when the days are warmer and the nights are cooler. That's when the maple syrup magic happens.
We barely made it this year. In fact, it was the last day of the maple season. Come to think of it, we went on the last day last year too. This, people, is why my middle name is "flexibility."
It's one of the best times of the year - one of the few times that living as a Canadian transplant is really special.
So, fine, I admit it. I'm having a rough time not wearing my flip-flops right now. BUT! How many of you made pancakes this weekend and topped them with real maple syrup AND saw the actual trees that it came from?
I win. Flip-flops ain't got nothin' on that.