Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cycling at Niagara-on-the-Lake part 2

As I mentioned from the previous entry Peter and Fiona set off a bit earlier than the rest of us because Fiona had other plans she had to keep.

Gilbert and Rachel wanted to go back next door to the Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery to take a few shots. After that we headed back on the road to our next stop Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery. Justin took the lead while I brought up the rear.

The route we chose on the way back was different from the one we took in. It was supposed to be a bit shorter. I guess everyone was getting tire from all the riding. Especially since some people hadn't done it in a long time.

We only got a few hundred metres from the restaurant when Rachel took a bit of a spill. The road was on a slight decline at that point and had a shallow curve. Combine that with some gravel on the shoulder and the passing road traffic which may have spooked her. It all added up to her taking a tumble.

She wasn't seriously hurt. There were just some superficial scrapes on her knee, elbow and hands. Coincidentally enough she had fallen in front of a veterinary clinic and ambulance transfer station.

We walked over to the front of the building where a young man and lady were standing and told them our friend had fallen and asked if they had any supplies that she could use. The young fellow went into the building to look for some. While we were waiting the lady went into her car and brought out some bandaids which we put on Rachel's arm and hand. The fellow found some gauze which they taped to her knee. With that we were on our way again.

With the long delay everyone had rejoined our group except for Justin. For some reason he continued on by himself to the next stop. I guess he never thought to turn around and look for everyone else. Anyway, we found him a half hour or so later at the Sunnybrook winery tasting wines by himself.

A few minutes after we arrived Peter came in his car. He had ridden part way on his bike before changing his mind and going back for his vehicle. Good move. We got him to put Rachel's rental bike in the back and give her a lift back to the rental place. It wasn't much further away, but she needed a break.

After returning to Toronto the remaining six of us went out to dinner. Summerlicious was still on so we picked one of the participating restaurants, Wine Bar. It's located down on Church Street south of Front. It was within 20 minute's walk of Martin and Edna's place where we all met up.

Dinner was fine. Though the $25 Summerlicious deal was only a few buck less than their normal prices. I think I saved a grand total of $2. A few people thought the portions were skimpy. I kind of had to agree. Even though my entrée, the braised Moroccan beef was pretty good, it was fairly small. My appetizer the watermelon and feta salad was tasty. As was the dessert I chose the vanilla crème brulée. It was a good way to end off the meal and the day.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cycling at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Gabe's foodie group invited me on their ride at Niagara-on-the-Lake last Saturday. Our plan was to ride along the Niagara Parkway (following the Niagara River) and stop at various wineries along the way and taste some wine and grab lunch somewhere.

In all there were ten of us - Peter, Martin and Edna, Gabe, his brother Gilbert, his brother's girlfriend, Rachel, Justin, Fiona, Cora and me. You would have thought we could have taken two or three cars but, in the end, we took five.

Originally we had planned on me taking four bikes in my car while the rest would rent. That would have left nine people in two cars. Peter could have taken Cora, Fiona and Martin and Edna. Gabe would have taken his brother, his brother's girlfriend and Justin. But, Justin and Fiona and Gabe and his posse had other plans in the evening so everyone drove instead.

We arrived at the bike rental place in Niagara-on-the-Lake at around 11:30 a.m. Most of the others had met earlier for breakfast in the Distillery District near where Martin and Edna live. Me... I slept in, had a quick bite of cereal and drove straight there.

I brought Martin and Edna's bikes for them (which I picked up a day earlier). And I brought my ex-brother-in-law, Bernie's, bike for Cora. As it turned out she was really nervous about cycling. I saw photos of her that she recently posted where she was riding a rented bike in Chicago, so I thought she was fine with it. But, she mentioned she had taken a spill and wasn't confident about it at all. She almost backed out, but with enough prodding by the rest of us she caved.

We set off.

The bike rental shop was along the road into town from the QEW. We continued along that road for a few minutes until we got to the main drag, Queen Street, then someone decided we should park our bikes and walk around because some people hadn't been to the touristy part of Niagara-on-the-Lake before. I think it's called the "Old Town".

After walking for 20-30 minutes we remounted our steeds and continued our journey.

The first winery we stopped at was The Ice House Winery at 14778 Niagara Parkway. Of course, they're known for their icewine. We were a bit parched so instead of tasting icewine we all opted for small icewine slushies at $5 a pop. They were nice, but small.

Our next stop was Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery at 1366 York Road in St. Davids. It was a fairly long trek from The Ice House, so some people were tired and hungry. We were planning on having lunch and sampling some wines there. But, they had a wedding going on so were couldn't eat there. They pointed us literally down their drive to an adjacent restaurant, The Old Firehall Restaurant, that we happily went to.

After lunch Fiona had to go. So Peter rode quickly with her back to the bike rental place (where her car was parked) while the rest of us started off at a more leisurely pace.

Shortly after we had our first and, thankfully, only mishap...

... To be continued ...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summerlicious at Bodega

I went to Bodega for lunch for Summerlicious this past Sunday. It's been awhile since I've gone to either Summer or Winterlicious. Mostly because you can find some really good deals through coupon groups like Groupon or Wagjag for restaurants or whatever else you're interested in.

Bodega is a French restaurant on Baldwin Street that happens to be situated right across the street from my church. That was one reason my friend and I picked it because of it's close proximity. The other reason was because our first choice Biff's Bistro on Front Street at Yonge was fully booked for lunch on Sunday.

The $20 Lunch menu for Bodega -

Appetizer - Chilled Gazpacho; 
Salad of sweet and bitter Greens, 
heirloom tomato, cucumber, carrot, diakon, cider and pommery vinaigrette
; or 
Crab Cake Provençale
 with tarragon cream
; or Baked Goat’s Cheese Tart 
with tomato onion niçoise and black olives


Entrée - Grilled Rainbow Trout filet - 
quinoa, pesto, heirloom carrots, mango watermelon relish
; or Duck Leg Confit 
with lentilles du puy and a fig and tomato relish; 
or Grilled Lamb Chops 
with hummus, tabbouleh, and toasted flat bread; 
 Roasted Vegetable Cannelloni - 
zucchini, eggplant, mushroom, spinach, and asiago, with tomato basil sauce.

Dessert - 

Fresh Strawberries with Cream
; or
 Lemon curd 
with Strawberry Coulis; 
or Cherry Clafoutis

My friend and I shared the appetizers. We chose the Chilled Gazpacho and 
Crab Cake Provençale. For our entrées I had the Grilled Rainbow Trout and she had the Duck Leg Confit. We both had our own Cherry Clafoutis. Don't ask me what it was. It tasted fine.

Overall the whole meal was decent. I can't say I was wowed or anything like that. You never know what you're going to get. Sometimes it's great. Other times it's so-so. This fell somewhere in between.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Record-Breaking Rainfall of 2013

Last Monday, July 8th started out like any other Monday in July for most of people in Toronto. But, by the end of the day it was a different story to say the least.

From the late afternoon (perhaps around 5:00 p.m.) onwards the skies opened up and a deluge of water fell. So much, in fact, that it broke a single day record for rainfall that had lasted nearly 60 years (since October, 1954). That was when Hurricane Hazel dumped 121 mm of rain on the city in one day. More rain actually fell in a few hours than during the whole day during a hurricane if you can believe it.

After all was said and done 126 mm of rain was recorded at Pearson International Airport. According to a report on TheStar.com (Toronto Star online) a mind-boggling 90 mm of rain fell in a two hour period. 90 mm!! Statistics on TheWeatherNetwork.com say the average rainfall for Toronto in the month of July is 67 mm. We nearly doubled that in one day.

Before the rain had started I had just finished my deliveries and was back at the office. My co-worker Steven was there too finishing some stuff up. We didn't notice the rain at first since we were inside and there aren't any windows. But we have security cameras hooked up and happened to glance at them at one point. That's when we saw the downpour. At first I thought it was hail, it was coming down so hard.

After sitting in the office a while longer I thought I'd take a stab at going home. My car was parked less than 10 feet away from our front door, but the rain was coming down so heavily I dared not step outside. I waited for a bit then Steven came out to go home. After seeing how much it was raining he too retreated inside to wait it out.

When the rain finally let up a bit we ran outside. It was still coming down quite heavily, but we didn't want to wait any longer. Only a few feet from the door the water in the parking lot had rising dramatically. It was something we hadn't noticed before. I couldn't even walk around the back of my car without stepping into fairly deep water. I was so happy I didn't park on the opposite side of the parking lot this day or I'd have to swim there.

On the way to my parents' place I noticed surface flooding in many places along the roads. It was pretty crazy. There were mini rivers all over the place.

As it turned out the southern end of the Don Valley Parkway flooded again (the same thing happened a few weeks ago during another heavy rainstorm). Several vehicle were stranded in what now was an extension of the Don River. The same thing happened with a GO Train bound for Richmond Hill. Some passengers were stranded onboard for 11 hours while waiting to be rescued by boat.

Of course there were the power outages. The worst hit area was Etobicoke. It is supplied power by the Richview and Manby transmission stations both of which were flooded. I heard one of them had to pump out the equivalent of 15 swimming pools worth of water (not sure how large a pool that would have been).

My friends Lawrence and Taku (who live close together in the affected area) were without power for around 40 hours I believe. That means no air conditioning in the stifling heat and humidity and no power for your refrigerator. The city had a special, extra garbage day for the citizens in that area to throw out spoiled food.

The TTC was also messed up due to flooding and lack of power. It took many people hours upon hours to get home because of that. Since the subways weren't running people either had to hoof it or call a friend for a lift. But, of course, the streets were completely chaotic because of the water and power outages. So driving was extremely trying.

Most of the subways were up and running the following day. All but the west end (Etobicoke again). 70 shuttle buses transported passengers from Jane to Kipling stations along the Bloor/Danforth line for much of Tuesday because of flooding.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Upset at UFC 162

My friend Gabe and I went to our usual haunt The Right Wing to watch the live UFC 162 PPV event on TV. The main event pitted champion, Anderson "The Spider" Silva, against challenger, Chris Weidman, for the UFC Middleweight (185 lbs) belt.

Silva is considered by many to be the best pound for pound MMA fighter in the world. He's been totally dominant since winning the belt over Rich "Ace" Franklin in 2006 and subsequently defending it a UFC record 10 consecutive times. It seems certain it was this overconfidence built up over the years that led to his shocking downfall.

Over his last few fights he's taunted his opponents; treated them with disdain; disrespected them. He's danced around the Octagon like a clown with his hands at his sides goading his opponents to try and hit him. Well, tonight, it happened.

Early in the second round Weidman brushed Silva with a few wild swings. None of them connected flush. Silva feigned injury wobbling on his feet, hands still at his side. That was when Weidman threw a left catching Silva on the chin sending him crashing to the canvas where he, in short order, finished the former champ.

Referee Herb Dean stepped in stopping the fight at 1:18 of the second round saving Silva further damage. It was a stunning KO finish. The bar I was in went completely nuts and I, I have to admit, was in a state of shock. Un-be-liev-able.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Toronto Pride Parade 2013

I went to the Pride Parade again last Sunday. This is probably the fourth time (or so) that I've gone. I pretty much know what to expect now. You have to get there fairly early to get a good spot if you want to take pictures; you have to keep your eyes out for squirt guns if you don't want your camera to get wet; and people are always going to squeeze in tight beside you. So it helps if you're fairly tall if you want to get reasonably decent shots.

This was the 33rd year they've held the parade here in Toronto. This year they extended the route slightly. In the past it would start on Yonge at Bloor and go down to College Street. This year they extended the route down to Dundas. Most of the time I'd find a spot on the west side of Yonge a bit north of College. This was because you get the sun on the faces of the participants when you're on the west side and because I'd always arrive kind of late after coming from church service. So I'd always find a spot near the end of the route.

This year I got to the parade by around 1:00 p.m. An hour before it officially started. I found a nice spot south of College. There were some trees along the median in front of College Park where I thought it would be nice to sit because it was shaded. But there was no space. So I staked out a spot along the barricade just south of there.

Since the parade probably wouldn't get down to me for another hour and a half I took out my umbrella, sat down against the fence and had a siesta in the shade. Unfortunately, by the time the parade participants got down to where I was standing, the shadow from the new condo at Yonge and Gerrard was right over top of me. So the photos I took at the beginning had a blue cast to them (until the shadows passed).

The parade was fine. It always starts off with the folks on their motorcycles. It make sense because they're the fastest parade goers. Then a variety of colourful floats and walking groups go by usually accompanied by lively dance music. That's always fun.

I've always maintained that this parade is much better organized than the Caribbean Carnival (formerly Caribana). They always have huge gaps between their floats while this one is pretty steady. I guess I'm just getting used to it, so there are no real surprises (even the wrinkly, old, naked guys). Even though there are new entrants, I've noticed a lot of returnees. It's cool to see them again, though some of them do need to get new costumes.

This year some of the notable participants were Ontario premier, Kathleen Wynne (the first sitting premier to participate in the parade); Justin Trudeau, the newly elected federal Liberal leader; Andrea Horwath, the leader of the provincial NDP; and leader of the official opposition in Ottawa, NDP leader, Tom Mulcair.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Blue Jay Sighting

I know, I know... it doesn't sound like such a momentous event, but it's been such a long time since I've seen an actual, live Blue Jay. Especially in my midtown Toronto area where the only feathered friends one seems to see are either pigeons or the odd sparrow or two. Not very interesting at all.

If my memory serves me correctly I used to see Blue Jays on a semi-regular basis when I was living at my parents' place. Now, given, that was a long time ago, I was still surprised at the significant decline of the Blue Jay population over the years.

Recently I was at High Park and happened into a conversation with a gentleman who said he enjoyed bird watching. He mentioned that the West Nile virus had negatively affected the Blue Jay and crow populations. He explained they were a related species.

So, while I've seen robins, cardinals, various species of woodpecker, the odd hawk or two, a couple of American Goldfinch (around Toronto City Hall) and even a Northern Flicker (in my sister's backyard that was injured I believe and eventually died), it's been a long time since I've seen a Blue Jay.

That was until a week or two ago when I saw one from inside my parents' house. It landed briefly on the railing of the small deck on the side of their house before flying off. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to take a picture. That will be my next mission. As well, I'd like to see a Kingfisher. My sister said she once saw one in the Rouge River conservation area.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rogers Digital Television Adapter

I've been a subscriber to Rogers for cable television service for years. From the time I moved into my first home in Scarborough (in 1992) to my current location at my condo in midtown Toronto (since 2001).

When I first moved into my condo Rogers offered me all their channels for the price of basic cable. I had CNN, Spike TV, Discovery Channel, History Channel, HGTV, The Food Network, etc. I supposed they wanted me to get hooked on these channels so I'd subscribe to them once the free trial period was over. Well, that didn't work.

Soon enough the channels were cut and I made do with basic cable which went up to Fox on channel 28. I still had SportsNet on channel 22, but there was no TSN on 30 or any of the other channels above. Borrrinnng...

... Until, one day, the channels magically reappeared.

Now, I don't know how or why it happened, but I didn't care. I had the channels back and that was fine with me. Rogers started charging me a few extra dollars for using an extra outlet (for the second and third TVs), but I didn't care. It was still less than paying for the extra channels I was getting. All was good until just recently.

Roger started upgrading their channels from analog to digital. Soon the analog channels started disappearing a few at a time. First it was the Food Network. Disappointing, but I could handle it. Then MTV Canada and Peachtree TV. Next it was Teletoon, HGTV and History Channel. Painful! Now The Score (soon to be SportsNet 360 showing the UFC) was gone! Enough was enough!

Now Rogers began offering free digital TV adapters to their customers quite awhile ago. But, me being the lazy person I am didn't order one. Now I was suffering. So one Friday afternoon I made short the walk down Yonge to their Davisville store and picked up three.

They gave them to me and I brought them home and struggled a wee bit to set them up. Actually, hooking everything up wasn't much of a problem. It was trying to program the remote control. The instructions from Rogers didn't work. So I followed the ones from the manufacturer Cisco and, finally, success. Until...

... I turned the TV on and, lo and behold, my channels were not only not any clearer (with digital), but I had even less!! I was back to my original basic cable channels (2 through 28, while missing 29 to 42). So, after all that work, I unplugged the digital adapter and am back to my analog service. Good grief!