Point & Shoot: Flash Freeze

flash freeze in Ontario, Canada

flash freeze in Ontario, Canada


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’m starting to think I should get my own map and ten minute slot as everything I post recently revolves around the weather, but it’s unavoidably the big story here in Canada right now. After a couple of years of unseasonably warm winters, this ‘mutha’ has left us reeling. First the icestorm, which left over a quarter of a million people without power in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) many of whom didn’t get it back until after Christmas, then the big freeze that ushered in the New Year with windchill temperatures in the minus thirties.

After a brief respite that saw temperatures climb to minus one (OMG!!! break out the tshirts!) the Christmas holidays ended with a generous dumping of snow followed by freezing rain (think an army of peashooters in the sky) and a flash freeze to make the Monday morning walk to school feel like your first time on roller-skates.

As temperatures plunge swiftly and the perishing windchill returns, all the snow and moisture from yesterday is solidifying into jagged blocks of ice preserving everything, from the raccoon tracks fringing our house this morning to the tread-prints of heavy duty trucks left in the slush, with the speed and precision of quick-drying cement. Snow flurries are expected all day and into the night as temperatures sink to double digit minuses again.

With real-feel readings back in the minus thirties/forties Extreme Windchill Warnings are in place – exposed skin is liable to freeze in less than five minutes. We’re advised to turn on the lowest tap in the house and let it run in a pencil-thin stream to help prevent pipes freezing, and to keep indoor temperatures a little higher than normal during the night.

I’ve learnt to walk with ‘knees soft’, as my yoga teacher would say, but I nearly up-ended twice this morning. “Happy New Year, mind your rear!” should be the refrain for today. You can see the spiderlike veins of ice-crystals spreading across windows into complex, cryptic grids of feathery alien beauty. A little further north in Ontario, this is what happens if you fire a water pistol…

What will the weather throw at us next?


While weather like this makes many miserable, I have to confess I LOVE it – after all most of us live in well-heated homes and have plenty of the clothing needed to move around comfortably in these conditions. This wasn’t always the case for us though. When we first came to Canada four years ago life was very different from the one we left behind in England – a steep learning curve! I’ll never forget how the school principal (now sadly retired), a British immigrant himself, laughed when I told him we used to switch the heating off overnight in winter before we realised it just wasn’t viable. “That’s something you DON’T do” he chuckled. Now we leave it at around 17 ℃ when we go to bed.

Back in those early days money was tight and we had to get through winter without a car, or any of the clothing most Canadians take for granted. Stop by to read more about that ‘character-building’ experience in my upcoming post ‘We Hunkered Down & Pressed On…’, in the meantime here are a few pictures taken over the Christmas holidays that give you an idea of what it’s like to live in the Great White North…



Linking up with snowingindoors.com for Point&Shoot



By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Wonderful photos, but oh my, how cold? I don’t think I have any cause to complain about the recent wind and rain we’ve endured compared to the temperatures you are experiencing. Yikes!

  2. Gosh I really feel for you guys at the moment, cold doesn’t even come close. We visited Canada several years ago and I was freezing but it’s much colder at the moment. Thank goodness for heating indoors, I hope you’re all ok. Love your photos though, just beautiful 🙂

    1. D’you it’s funny but you really do acclimatise to the temperatures. i was never a fan of the cold back in the UK so you’d think Canada would have been miserable for me but I love it! And just like everyone else I’m peeling off the layers once the temps get above zero… ten degrees is a lovely day for a walk in just a thick cardie here 🙂

  3. So interesting to hear how you cope with the cold – I do always wonder about it, as various family members have spoken about moving to canada. Once we went to New York at new years and found it soo cold over there compared to uk that I couldn’t imagine what canada is like. I suppose with the all the proper cold weather gear you will be alright!

    1. The children all learn early on how to get their gear on and off – teachers help the younger ones and talk through the process as part of kindergarten learning. Break, or recess as it’s called here, is only restricted to indoors if the windchill falls to -28 centigrade or below. Otherwise it’s business as usual. The kids all had indoor recess today and you should’ve heard the moaning at school pick-up, they’d much rather be outside!

  4. You guys are so brave, I love the idea of being trapped in the warmth with huge snow banks to play in outside but i’m not sure if I’m built for it. Visiting Canada is one of my top 5 places to visit, and my husband is always trying to get us to move there 🙂 I hope it climbs back into the -1 degrees soon x

    1. I wouldn’t have thought I was before I moved here – I suffer from Reynauds Syndrome which leaves my extremities bloodless and numb, then painful pins and needles as they come back to life. If I can do it, anyone can 🙂

  5. Crazy weather on both sides of the pond right now with the Jet Stream throwing a hissy fit and chucking storm surges at the west coast with unseasonally high spring tides. Who knew spring tides started in December? Stay safe.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard tales of people being swept out to sea in the UK and seen pictures of crazy parents with their little ones at the sea wall… what the hell’s going on???

  6. Brilliant, love your photos. We have had a few winters recently with 6ft snow drifts, temps dropping to -17C, lasting weeks (we did keep the heating on all night). As long as your properly dressed and the roads are cleared, it’s fun and stunning. Hopefully any snow we get this year woun’t be quiet as extreme!!! Enjoy the snow 🙂

  7. Oh my gosh – and we think we have probs when it snows in England. Here everything just comes to a halt. Looks like you are not only dealing with the weather beautifully, but having tonnes of fun too. Stunning pics – thank you for sharing x

  8. I’m glad you’re all coping but living with that sort of weather doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’m terrified of slipping on the ice and even have winter tyres on my car which is practically unheard of in the UK!

    1. LOL! Yes that is a little extreme for Blighty! On the upside though, they must last well – the UK doesn’t spend more than a few days at a time below seven degrees which is the temperature at which winter tires become a safer option.
      I was walking on the snowy verges today instead of the pavement because I could feel pelvic shifts and that spooked me – memories of painful SPD in my last two pregnancies…

  9. ‘Happy new year, mind your rear’ made me giggle as it reminded me of the times I have often almost fallen! But seriously our snow ahs never been as bad as your’s……minus 30’s?! Woah!

    Stay safe x

  10. Hi Aisha,
    I had to laugh when you replied to the ‘warm pants’ comment above. Did she really mean ‘underwear’ or did she mean warm pants, as in trousers? Although, if the weather continues the way it has, you might want to invest in some long underwear! I left Halifax just before the storm hit last week that dumped 2 feet of snow on the Maritimes. I was happy to spend some cozy days inside with my mom, watching the beautiful white stuff fall, but after living in the warmth for so long I really mind the cold now even though I grew up in it! Stay warm and have fun!
    ‘Warm’ regards, Anne 🙂

    1. Oh Annie’s a dyed-in-the-wool Brit with a penchant for outrageous expression so I know without a shadow of a doubt she was referring to undies! You probably missed her evocative comment on a previous post regarding nipples!
      I imagine Halifax is something of a shock to the system after Thailand, nice timing there on your part though… 😉 and it goes without saying, as ever, thanks for stopping by, always great to hear from you.

  11. Lovely photos, I know that it is freezing there (as all of my friends and family keep telling me) but seeing all that beautiful snow does make me a bit homesick 🙂

    1. You’re looking through heated spectacles! Bet you’d be shivering like I am if you were here – the house was freezing when we got up this morning even though I let the heating run at twenty degrees all night.

    1. Awful is a strong word. The weather conditions can be uncomfortable, but if you handle them with the sense and respect they deserve they’re not unpleasant. You just need to be prepared and vigilant and you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty too.

  12. MINUS 30…… Good God, and I sometimes put the heating on when I am “cold” only to then hear on the radio that it is 5 degrees outside (not even minus)… How on Earth do you do it? Wow that “right clothing” must be good stuff. I will come back to this post and click on the link to the clothing to investigate (and educate myself). Those people who were without electricity till after Xmas though 🙁 – I wonder did they have frozen food that went off and how they managed. We had a region here in the UK who were without electricity for days also over Xmas – I think it was due to flooding, but the energy company got in big trouble for it. Your photos are fab as usual. Great to get a different perspective on life from a totally different part of the world.
    Liska xx

    1. “Wow that “right clothing” must be good stuff” This made me smile Liska, it’s impregnated with Class A drugs so you no longer notice the cold! 😉 Layering is important – I have lots of thin tops that I can comfortably wear over over another, and a thick fleece that goes underneath my coat. It’s my legs that get the coldest: think chilled chicken thighs!
      Losing frozen food wasn’t much of an issue when the power was down. It was so cold stuff took a long time to thaw out so you could eat it gradually as it defrosted.
      Your comment about the energy company was interesting. Were they remiss somehow in their response to the flooding?

  13. The snow looks so beautiful but I cannot imagine how cold it must be day in day out. At least it looks like you’re making the most of it 🙂

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