Monday, December 28, 2015

Lunch at Hilkka's

Pastor Hilkka invited a few of us over to her and Misa's place for lunch last Sunday. They share an apartment on Bayview, not far from Tyndale University. After church I went up with her, while Willy drove Tony and Iris after dropping his son Wilson off at home.

Upon arrival I met their big, orange cat, Sammy. After checking me out he promptly went into the closet in one of the bedrooms to hide. Really, Sammy... really? He wouldn't even come out for a treat.

While waiting for the others to arrive I had a look through Hilkka and Misa's Shutterfly creations. Like me, they also like to make books with Shutterfly. While I usually make books of my travels, Hilkka concentrates on her many nature shots. She shoots all year round which is great.

Lunch was wonderful. Misa spent a lot of time preparing her version of different Indian dishes. She starts with a traditional dish and adds a signature twist to her particular taste.

After lunch we had tea and dessert and chatted about various topics around the table. We had an interesting talk about drawing trees which Tony started. He says you can find out a lot about a person from how they draw them.

Thanks to Misa and Hilkka for a lovely afternoon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Potluck at Tom and Florianne's

Tom and Florianne had a Christmas potluck dinner at their place on Saturday. I think the last time I was at their place was for another holiday potluck dinner three years ago.

That was probably the last time I saw some of their other invited guests. Other than cursory contact through Facebook, I hadn't met up with many of them in person in quite awhile.

Of course there were new people too. Tom invited some of his other hockey friends over from a mixed league that plays on Saturday night. They were the second wave of people who showed up... after their game of course (since it was Saturday).

I know Tom from hockey on Fridays. We've played with the same group of friends for many years. I met Florianne dragon boating in the summer a few years back. It's nice that they've opened up their home to different gatherings over the years. Tom's a great cook. There's always a lot of wonderful food. And it's great to catch up with people after such a long time apart.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Animorphia - Colouring Book

I know... it's weird isn't it? I bought my first colouring book in probably over 40 years.

It seems like adult colouring books are all the rage now (for now). I went to my local Indigo bookstore and there was a large, two-table display with many different books. There were floral themes, tattoos, and movie and TV show themed books among others.

There were two I was interested in at first. One was Fantastic Cities of the world; the other a fantasy one called, Animorphia.

While the black and white line drawings of the cities looked amazing, I decided against that book because I thought buildings would end up being mostly flat, mundane colours. On the other hand, the flora and fauna in Animorphia were more organic and could be brightly coloured. So I chose that one.

My mom found my old Prismacolor 60-pencil set at home. I bought it over 25 years ago when I was taking graphic design at George Brown College. I had been looking at coloured pencil sets and they were pretty expensive. A similar set nowadays would probably run around $40-$50.

I was considering a $5 12-pencil set, but that definitely wouldn't have sufficed. To do a good job colouring you really need an extensive number of pencils.

One thing I didn't consider was the amount of time that would be involved in colouring each double-page spread. My first one took at least six hours in total. My second will probably end up taking longer. I'm only half way through it and it's really dragging.

It's not as relaxing as I hoped it would be. It's actually quite intensive. But the finished product makes me happy. I'm really pleased with how they turned out. It's another outlet for my creativity.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Potluck at Mike and Carol's

My friends, Mike and Carol, invited me over to their house for Christmas potluck dinner on Saturday. I used to work with them at Trader for many years (many years ago). I last saw them two or three years ago when they last had another get-together.

After I went to the dentist I bought a pie and a dozen croissants from the Superstore at Don Mills and Eglinton. I have to buy food for potluck dinners since I can't cook. Don't want to inadvertently poison anyone trying, you know.

There was a lot of food at the party. A lot. My croissants were put on a side table and sat there lonely and ignored for most of the night. After eating some other things I thought I'd start on them to get the ball rolling. I ate one first, then a second when I dropped it on the floor while moving the box trying to fit more food on the table.

My pie sat untouched amongst a sea of other delicious desserts too. By the time people were digging into them I was pretty full and needed a break. I had to leave a bit early to meet up with Gabe and Justin to watch UFC 194 Aldo vs. McGregor. So I don't actually know if anyone had any of the pie either. I sure hope they did.

It was great seeing a few old faces again. Besides Mike and the Taylor clan (mom, dad and the sisters), I saw Iuliana and Alex and their kids and Sue and Robin and their son, Christian, too. So that was really good.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Barnabas Sings at St. Paul's L'Amoreaux Centre

A few of my friends from Barnabas Fellowship at RHCCC (Richmond Hill Christian Community Church) and I got together to sing Christmas carols at St. Paul's L'Amoreaux Centre at Finch and Warden last Friday.

St. Paul's L'Amoreaux Centre is a not-for-profit organization that provides programs and services for older adults. For more than 35 years they’ve provided affordable housing and have been actively involved in supporting their independence.

A week before we went we were given the list of songs we were going to sing. The day before, we went to RHCCC to run through them. Our program was to include 10 songs performed by everyone, plus one performed by Glen alone (that he wrote) and another by Rebecca alone. In the middle we'd take a break to chat with the residents.

Here's the list of what we sang - Imagine (re-worded by Rebecca), Feliz Navidad/Stand By Me, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Little Drummer Boy, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Good Christians All Rejoice, Away in a Manger, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Hope has Come (by Glen, solo), and Joy to the World.

We met at St. Paul's at 7:00 p.m.. I was a bit late due to the rush hour traffic and the fact that there was absolutely no parking at the place. Along with a number of the others I parked across the street at Bridlewood Mall.

Besides Rob (who came in from Mississauga or Milton and was really late), Sandra and I were the last two to arrive at around quarter after. Linda was waiting for us at the main entrance to show us where to go. After putting our coats away in a back room we gathered in front of the audience of about three dozen.

One of the staff members killed some time with games as we waited for Rob, the guitarist, to show up. When we couldn't wait any longer we began without him.

I have to admit I was feeling a bit nervous at the beginning. Though, I thought to myself, I really shouldn't worry. I doubt anyone in the audience would be very critical of us.

Still, I think we started off tentatively. I think everyone felt how I did at first, a little overwhelmed. Our slightly shaky practice hadn't given us so much confindense.

Though we were no Mormon Tabernacle Choir I'm sure the seniors enjoyed our performance. Rebecca and Alan lightened the mood with their enthusiastic attitudes.

After we finished we were even invited back for the following year. So, I suppose, we were at least moderately entertaining.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Jatujak Thai Restaurant

My friends and I went to Jatujak Thai Restaurant on Victoria Park south of Lawrence Avenue on Saturday. My sister had taken our family there for lunch a week earlier and I really liked it. So I made the suggestion of going again.

It's a relatively small place that's simply decorated with warm-coloured wooden tables and chalk boards on the walls with drawings of the available cuisine.

We ordered my favourite Gaeng Karee (yellow curry with potatoes and onions) with Fish - $11.95; Jatujak Pad Thai with Chicken - $10.95; Jatujak Fried Rice with Shrimp - $11.95; and washed it down with Singha Thai Beer - $5.75/bottle.

If you live in the area, drop on by. You won't regret it. If you don't live in the area, still drop on by. It's well worth the trip. Gaeng Karee with Fish... that's the one dish you have to get.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dinner at Fune

After going to the Toronto Marlies game we headed over to Japanese restaurant, Fune, on Simcoe Street south of Adelaide. It's sister restaurant to Yamato in Yorkville (both of whom we deliver hot towels to).

I have to say, I wish I had brought my camera, but I didn't. The best I could do was use Will's wife, Carolyn's, iPhone to take a few shots.

It's a nice looking place for sure. A bit more upscale a restaurant than I'd normally go to. But with that upscale interior came an upscale price. While not outrageous, my 8-piece sushi combo with California roll came in at $27.

Quality-wise, it was better than what I'd typically have at an All-You-Can-Eat joint. But, to me, just. For the same dinero I could have gone to local favourite, Echo, and ate until I couldn't move. Just saying...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My First Toronto Marlies Game

For his 50th birthday my friend, Will, invited me and a few other friends out to a Toronto Marlies hockey game. They're the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL (American Hockey League) affiliate and play out of the Ricoh Coliseum on the C.N.E. grounds.

We met at the arena just before the game where Will gave us our tickets. He had bought front row seats for everyone along the glass in section 112 (near the end of the rink at the corner).

The seats gave us nose-to-nose views of the players while they were our end. But views were distorted by the glass when play was in the far end of the rink. Then we had to watch the video screen above centre ice to see the action.

Leafs top prospect William Nylander (#8 pick overall from the 2014 draft) was one of the players in action for the Marlies. In 16 games played this season he has 9 goals and 21 assists.

All the players are fast and highly skilled. You can really appreciate it watching close up. It's incredible to see.

Toronto opened the scoring against their rivals from Binghamton, the Senators, less than a minute in. I thought it was going to be a rout for us, but I was wrong. By the end of the period the Senators had mounted a comeback and led 2-1.

The second period was all Marlies. We scored 3 unanswered goals to take the lead at 4-2.

In the third both teams traded goals to keep it close. First the Senators scored to close the score to 4-3. Then the Marlies struck to restore their two goal lead, 5-3.

But, with less than a minute remaining, Binghamton scored after pulling their goalie. It was madness. Could we hold them off?

The answer is, yes. With time expiring we potted an empty-netter to win a nail biter, 6-4. How thrilling!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Good-Bye A&W Man

After returning from the exercise room at my condo last Monday I found roommate #2 sitting on the sofa listening to classical music with puffy, red eyes.

He told me he had just returned from going to the bank machine at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton. While there he saw a note taped to the side of the building with a number of bouquets of flowers.

The note told of the recent passing of Mark Henderson, a fixture at that corner who stood passing out coupons for the local A&W restaurant. It was posted by the Toronto Running Club of which Mark was a member.

While neither of us knew Mark well, my roommate often took coupons from him because he thought it would help him earn more money. He had no intention of using them. Instead he brought them to work to hand out to customers who came in there.

He was struck by the briefness of life and how it could be snatched away at any time with little or no warning. It's especially true in light of recent tragic events in Paris, Beirut and Mali.

It was a shock to me as well, since I had only seen Mark the day before he passed away on my way to the library. Of course it was at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton. We were both walking across the street.

Mark, I hope you're in a better place.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I Like Phil

First I liked Anthony Bourdain, now I like Phil Rosenthal. They're both foodies on TV. Bourdain is smart and sexy, Rosenthal, funny and charming.

I only recently discovered Phil Rosenthal of I'll Have What Phil's Having while watching PBS on WNED. I was immediately drawn to his affable demeanour, not to mention all the amazing food he was eating on the show (this one in Barcelona, Spain).

Like Bourdain on CNN's Parts Unknown, Rosenthal, travels the world trying incredible culinary delights. I think Parts Unknown is a bit more of a travel show in that not only do you get to see the food, but immerse yourself the places Bourdain visits. One of my favourite episodes was his visit to Tokyo.

I'll Have What Phil's Having is more light-hearted with more emphasis paid to the food. Rosenthal really enjoys the food he eats and openly shows it. I like that.

After watching the first episode I wondered who this Phil person was. I got my answer the next show which was filmed in Hollywood. He hobnobbed with his friends while enjoying the local cuisine - friends that included Martin Short, Norman Lear and Paul Reiser among others.

Phil Rosenthal is the creator of hit TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond. Now everything makes sense. His keen sense of humour and good-natured disposition. I love this guy.

If you get the chance, take in an episode. You won't regret it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tragedy in Paris

Again. It's happened again. This is the new normal. What a sorry state our world has settled into. Where hate and fear creep evermore into our daily lives. How sad it's turned to this.

Multiple attacks by ISIS on Friday left over 100 people dead and twice as many injured. The two major sites of assault were the Stade de France where an international soccer match was being played and the Bataclan, a concert hall in the centre of Paris.

After being denied entry into the stadium two or three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside. French President François Hollande who was watching inside was evacutated to safety.

Attendees of the death-metal concert at the Bataclan weren't so fortunate. Masked gunmen with AK-47s entered and fired indiscriminately into the crowd killing and injuring many. The death toll will rise. Not only here and now, but in the future... in future conflicts.

It's more than just disillusioned young men that create this chaos, but sociopaths who twist the minds of wayward youth looking for a strong father figure in their lives. They are willing to do whatever it takes to be looked upon favourably by someone, often with dire consequences.

This has nothing to do with religion, only greed and power. The power to control others and to gain profit from it. They are immoral and without honour.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Family Dinner at The Keg

I joined my family for dinner at The Keg on Leslie last Monday. We were celebrating three birthdays - my mom and dad's and nephew's. It was my first time at that location. Though I have to say, I can't remember where the other one was (that I went to before).

I was surprised at how busy it was. After all, it was a weekday evening. And a Monday at that. It's not like there was a line up to get in. But it was pretty full when we arrived at 7:30 p.m.

The atmosphere is nice. A little on the dark side which is romantic if you're a couple. Not so much of a big deal if you're eating with your mom and dad and nephews though.

We had a variety of selections to eat. And, like many Asians, we shared them. My mother had the Sesame Tuna - Seared rare on a bed of fresh cabbage slaw topped with a soy and sesame dressing. It was almost like eating sashimi. I have to say, I enjoyed it.

My father had the Black Cod - Served on a fresh chilled quinoa salad and steamed asparagus, topped with tomato cucumber salsa. It was good too. My sister and I had the Top Sirloin. I ordered it medium. In retrospect I should have had it medium-rare. My eldest nephew had the Filet Mignon, a great choice. The youngest had something from the kids' menu.

Since we were celebrating three birthdays, the waiter threw in three desserts on the house. That was nice. He served us a Brownie Sundae - A chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, caramel and whipped cream; Billy Miner Pie - Mocha ice cream on a chocolate crust with hot fudge, caramel and almonds; and his homemade Crème Brûlée - Topped with a caramelized sugar crust (he's also a chef there).

Of the desserts I liked the ice cream cake and Crème Brûlée the best. Of the entrées it would have to be the Tuna and Filet Mignon. Delish.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dinner at Bamiyan Kabob

After watching James Bond - Spectre at Fairview Mall, my friends and I drove up to Markham to grab dinner at Bamiyan Kabob on Highway 7 and East Beaver Creek. I've had take out from there before, but it was awhile ago. So I had a hankering for it again.

I have to say, Saturday night is one of the worst times to go. Not because the restaurant itself was overly crowded, but just the area in general. There are a lot of restaurants there and the place is packed worse than a mall on Boxing Day. Along with many other vehicles we spent a lot of time circling the lot looking for a space to park. It was pretty crazy.

Bamiyan is a decent-sized place. There are quite a few tables to sit at so seating isn't a problem. You order your food and they give you a number. When it's ready they yell out your number and you go back up to the counter and grab it.

Between the three of us we ordered the Choppan Kabob - Lamb chops mildly marinated in different spices, $12.99; Half Chicken Kabob - Half chicken marinated in seasoning, $11.99; Tikka Kabob - Chunks of beef tenderloin marinated in our seasoning, $8.99; and Kabilee Rice - Brown basmati rice topped with raisins, carrots and almonds, $4.99. The first two meals included rice, salad and naan.

I have to say, all the food was good. Though, I particularly liked the chicken and Kabilee rice. It's different from most rice I've had the chance to have in the past. The raisins and carrots add a certain sweetness to it. It's a nice variation.

I'd definitely go back in the future. But probably not on a Friday or Saturday night.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Yonge Sushi

I went to Yonge Sushi with Lawrence on Saturday. It's just over 3 kilometres from my place up Yonge in between Lawrence and York Mills. A 40-minute walk.

Though I've driven it many, many times, it was the first time I've walked that stretch. There are actually a lot of nice restaurants and other establishments in the area. I had no idea.

I picked this particular all-you-can-eat restaurant because it's a little less expensive than Echo Sushi which is much closer to me. Yonge Sushi is $21.99 for dinner while Echo is $24.99 (including a $2.00 surcharge for Friday-Sundays & holidays).

Yonge Sushi isn't very big. They have, perhaps, seating for 40. As usual, I got there earlier than Lawrence. He's coming from Etobicoke though. But I walked. So it should have evened out.

Like last time I ordered ahead of time. I wanted to order a selection of rolls, sushi and sashimi that would look nice for photos. Lawrence usually orders a hodge-podge of things that aren't particularly aesthetically pleasing.

The servers were nice. Quite attentive until it got busier. Then they were running from table to table taking and filling orders.

The food was good. Normally you can't go wrong with raw fish. My first order consisted of the usual salmon and tuna sashimi; salmon, tuna, egg, shrimp and eel sushi; and a caterpillar and rainbow roll. It was followed by more of the same with a different selection of rolls thrown in for good measure.

The dessert selection was limited at ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream. One flavour they had that not many places have is ginger. I believe I've only gone to one other Japanese restaurant with ginger flavoured ice cream. So, of course, I ordered a scoop of that along with red bean.

A nice surprise was the fact they give you a 10% discount if you pay cash. So our bill was around $20 each plus tax and tip ($26.00). Not bad. Not bad at all.

Note: I went back to here for lunch on a Friday. It's a dollar more Friday through Sunday at $14.99. And there's no 10% cash discount at lunchtime for some reason. The lunch menu is much smaller with way less selection. For these reasons I'd only suggest going for dinner if you're looking for a good deal.

Friday, October 30, 2015

I Don't Like Unions

I was listening to CBC Radio1 this afternoon and there was a documentary about the 22-month long strike by workers at Crown Metal Packaging LP (ending summer, 2015). They were upset because the company wanted to introduce a two-tier wage scale among other things. New hires would only make $16.00 per hour. Not enough, they said. How can anyone survive on such low wages? So they went on strike. For 22 months!

A month later the company resumed production using management and scab workers. They’re taking my job, one worker complained. It’s not your job, lady. You’re out on the sidewalk holding picket signs while someone is hard at work getting paid the amount you weren't willing to take. It’s now their job and I’m sure they’re plenty happy to have it.

I’m tired of all these whiners who think they’re entitled to this, that and the other thing. There are people who would kill for your job and all you can think is, It’s not enough. Give me more.

In each successive round of bargaining the company offered the workers less and less and less. Finally, when most of them were nearly broke, they caved and accepted. Too bad, so sad. You got what you deserved.

You’re lucky to have a job. In this global economy many jobs are shipped overseas to more competitive markets. Bottom line is, your company isn’t going to going to do business here if they can’t make money. And they’re not going to make money if they have to pay you four or five times as much as someone else is willing to take. That's reality, like it or not.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hockley Valley Fall Hike

Gabe and I went hiking at Hockey Valley last Saturday. The parking lot is located just north of Orangeville on Hockley Road by 2nd Line East (close to Hockley Valley Resort). It's about an hour northwest of Toronto.

Our plan for the day was to get some fresh air and see the fall colours. Unfortunately I think we were about a week past peak for the region we were in. What can you do?

The previous weekend was perfect for hiking. Besides the colours being great, the weather was amazing. It was 20+ C with clear, blue skies.

This Saturday wasn't so hot (both literally and figuratively speaking). The predicted high was 5C with scattered snow flurries. Not great. Not great at all.

The skies weren't too bad when we started driving towards the park. But as we neared it the clouds filled in. Things didn't look promising.

When we actually arrived and got out of Gabe's new Mazda 3 the snow was coming down quite a bit. Undeterred we headed up the trail determined to get a decent hike in.

Even though it was annoying to walk through, the accumulating snow that dusted the ground coupled with the orange leaves that still lingered on the trees made for unique shots.

We were out for a bit over 4 hours covering around 10 kilometres. Throughout that time the weather changed a fair amount. From grey, overcast, flurry-producing clouds to bright, blue almost completely clear skies and everything in between.

Overall the hike was good. The scenery and rolling hills were really nice. The only problem I had was with me. The previous night was our first night at hockey. My already sore back was made much worse. That added to my bum right knee really slowed me down. Especially on the last third of our outing. Old age. Sigh.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Last Ride

Our friend, Eric, is heading to Calgary for work. To send him off we thought we'd take him out to eat. He had other ideas. Instead he wanted to round up the old gang and head up to Hardwood Hills for one last ride like we used to do back in the early 2000s.

When we were younger we used to go somewhere to mountain bike nearly every weekend in the summer. Hardwood Hills (just north of Barrie) was one of our favourite places to go. It's a bit out of the way, but they have a lot of great trails there.

Not everyone was available to ride that day. I went up with Jim, while Eric took his son and picked up Kathleen along the way. Peter took his niece and nephew out.

I have to say this was my first ride of the year. It's a bit embarrassing I know, but age has started to catch up with me. Over the past few years my right knee has been giving me problems if I overdo it. So I really have to be careful.

The drive up the 400 was slow, slow, slow. We headed up on Saturday of the Thanksgiving Day long weekend. The same time most cottagers were leaving town for possibly the last outing of the year.

It wasn't overly busy when we arrived at Hardwood. The parking lot was less than half full. We got a group rate from the girl selling the day passes (normally around $13 per person) and soon were off.

We rode the 8-km Fun Trail first. It was relatively easy. A good way to warm up.

Next was the 11-km Serious Trail. It was enjoyable. Though, by the end, most of the guys were drained. I don't think any of us had done much riding this year. I was most concerned about my butt. Normally if you haven't ridden much that's the part of the body that hurts the most after your first ride.

My rear end actually didn't cause me any problems but, once again, it was my right knee. I was beginning to feel it near the end of our second run. Still I felt fairly fresh and after taking a short breather decided to go out again.

Everyone else was too tired to ride except for Eric. He decided to join me on the 8-km Crank'd Trail while the others rested.

I have to say, when we first started up the gradual incline at the beginning neither of us had as much energy as we thought we did. It was a slow ascent. Still we rode through the trails until I noticed my Cannondale HeadShok fade to nothing. Fearing I might damage my frame we stopped riding the trail and took the gradual hill back to the start/finish area. That was that.

In the evening we met the others for dinner at Frankie Tomatto's (on Woodbine north of Steeles) to pack on all the calories we had ridden off during the day. Marilyn, Jan, Rob and Lester joined us there. And Dennis made a surprise appearance with his girlfriend having already made plans beforehand.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

House of Gourmet, Chinatown

After the Jays game Gabe and I walked up to Chinatown to grab a bite. We decided to go to House of Gourmet on Dundas, just east of Spadina. It's been a fixture in the area for many years.

Before my last venture in, I hadn't been there in quite a long time. They actually fixed it up quite nicely. You might not call it upscale, but it's a step up from most other restaurants nearby.

They have most of the traditional Cantonese dishes there. From seafood chow mein to BBQ duck on rice. On this particular evening Gabe had a hankering for roast pork on rice and I ordered my usual standby beef and tomato on rice.

As well, we order a small plate of BBQ Pork Cheung Foon (rice roll) which I thought was a bit bland. Normally I get the beef cheung foon, but Gabe suggested the other kind, which I now regret.

Still, like most of the food in Chinatown, the bill ended up being quite reasonable. We ended up paying around $20.00 plus tax and tip. That's the great thing about Chinese food. It's tasty, filling and priced right.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nuit Blanche 2015 - My Night

After shooting Xi and Jun's wedding at church I had a bit of time to kill before Nuit Blanche started. I walked over to the Eaton Centre and loitered at the Indigo until starting time.

The first project I saw (106) was right outside in Trinity Square. It was called Where am I from? There was a tent set up that you could write where you were from on with a marker. Since I was the second or third person there only two of us had written on the tent. Not much to see there at all.

After that I walked across the street to Nathan Philips Square. The first project I came across was: 114 - There Is No Away. The artist placed huge bales of actual garbage and recyclables along the east part of City Hall to illustrate how much waste we generate as a society. I'm glad I wasn't a volunteer there. It was pretty, pretty stinky.

As well, a mysterious artist who goes by the moniker, JR, had a number of projects set up at City Hall as well as other places around the city. His main project, 13 - Inside Out, was having posters made of people who could paste them in a huge circle in the middle of Nathan Philips Square.

Other projects I saw at City Hall were in the Council Chambers: 15 - Nuit Talks: Putting the extra-in-ordinary and; 20 - Park Here in the underground parking lot. In all I spent about two hours in the City Hall area.

Next I headed towards Bay Street. There were a number of projects set up going south until the lake front. At Queen and Bay there was a group of older gentlemen doing some sort of traditional European dancing on the street. I don't know who they were because they weren't a stationary project so I couldn't look them up on the event map.

I have to mention, this was the first year I didn't actually look up any of the projects on-line ahead of time. I guess I was a bit lazy. All I did was take a look at the map and plot a course around the city depending on the grouping of where the most projects were.

My route would start behind the Eaton Centre, head over to City Hall, go south on Bay to King then continue on to Union Station. From there I'd continue south to the Harbourfront before heading up Lower Simcoe to David Pecaut Square and TIFF Bell Lightbox and up to Queen and McCaul to OCAD and AGO.

The trip down Bay Street was below par I thought. There wasn't too much going on and what was there was below average. At Adelaide and York Streets I saw: 83 - The Face of Toronto (a video collage of exhibit attendees) and: 39 - Light Cave (a colourful inflated sculpture you could walk through/under).

Union Station was about the same. One project: 111 - Pattern Study was just stuff hanging from the ceiling near the entrance to the trains and the other: 117 - Domestic Motion had a line I deemed too long, so I skipped it.

Next was Queens Quay and the Harbourfront. Again it was extremely windy down there and the lines to go in to see things were 30-40 minutes long. I wasn't about to wait that long to see anything so I continued on.

The project: 68 - Tri-Monic - Shape, Sound, Sight at David Pecaut Square was a bit silly. Just some instruments set up and a microphone that you could play/sing into that made funny sounds.

I spent a bit more time at Bell TIFF Lightbox. They had a number of projects there. Some of them had long lines, others weren't too bad. I caught: 38 - Light Upon Light! (boring light sculpture hanging from the ceiling) and: 103 - Spacebro Justice Rocket which was a fun life sized video game.

I was in the home stretch now heading towards OCAD and the AGO. On my way up John Street I passed by the Much Music building on Queen. They had their own unofficial Nuit Blanche set up: On Tilt- 30 Air Dancers In A Parking Lot where they had a bunch of "air dancers" (like you see in used car parking lots) going with dance music/videos blasting in the background. It was actually pretty cool.

Even at 2:00 a.m. the line up to get into OCAD was too long for me. Pass. I headed over to the Art Gallery and waited two minutes to get in there. They had a couple of projects in there. As well they opened up part of the gallery for people to go through. I spent about 45 minutes there and by ten minutes to 3:00 was done for the night.

Au revoir, Nuit Blanche.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays - Game 1 - ALDS

For the first time in 22 years the Toronto Blue Jays made it to the post-season winning the American League East pennant. The local fans were ecstatic. To say playoff tickets were in huge demand would be a grand understatement.

Many people tried in vain to get their hands on them. First dibs went to season ticket holders. The remaining few were up for up grabs. Many people tried in vain to buy them first thing when they went on sale on the Jays' website, but left disappointed. A few people I know tried without luck.

On Wednesday my friend, Gabe, contacted me. One of his friends had bought a number of tickets during the regular season and was offered a chance to buy post-season tickets. He jumped at the chance before he knew what day and time the games would be held.

As it turned out he was unable to make the first and second games here in Toronto (on Thursday, October 8th and Friday, October 9th), so he offered the tickets up to his friends. Gabe quickly snapped up a pair and asked me if I'd like to join him. Of course I said, yes.

Game 1 on Thursday started at a very unusual time - 3:37 p.m. (first pitch). Major League Baseball was catering to the U.S. market and gave us the crummiest time slot they could find. No matter. I asked Sid if I could have the day off. He suggested we split my Thursday route so I could leave early to see the game. So that's what we did.

Jays ace and hired gun, David Price, would be pitching. Since arriving in Toronto just before the trade deadline he has pitched unbelievably well. Though his previous playoff record with Tampa Bay Rays was less than stellar at 0-5. I was sure the results would be different this time. After all, the Jays had one of most potent offences in all of Major League Baseball.

Gabe joined me after finishing early at work. He suggested we meet at the Rogers Centre at Gate 13. There was no line there because, as it turns out, that gate was reserved for suite attendees or something like that. We had to go to Gate 14 with the rest of the heathens and wait to get in.

The tickets he got from his friend were pretty good. We were in Section 239L, Row 1, Seats 105-106 (right along the railing on the 200 level along the 3rd base line).

After the unfurling of the Jays' 2015 American League East Champions banner and the singing of the national anthem, Jays' World Series winning manager, Cito Gaston, was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Game on!

David Price was a bit shaky at the beginning of the game letting a couple of base runners on in the first. Texas starter, Yovani Gallardo, was a bit more steady retiring the first nine Blue Jays in order.

In the top of the 3rd inning Texas struck first scoring two runs with RBIs by Delino DeShields and Adrian Beltre. We scratched back a run in the bottom of the 4th when Ben Revere scored on a soft single by Edwin Encarnacion.

The Rangers returned fire in the top of the 5th scoring two more after Price hit #8 batter, Rougned Odor, for the second time in the game. This proved costly because catcher and #9 hitter, Robinson Chirinos, followed with a home run.

Jose Bautista knocked one out of the park in the bottom of the 6th. But Texas, once again, countered with a line drive home run by Rougned Odor in the top of the 7th. Normally a two run deficit would be nothing for the 2015 Jays to overcome, but the Texas closers shut us down in the 8th and 9th. Sadly we lost 5-3.

Still it was nice to attend the first playoff game in 22 years. With Texas winning the second game in the best of 5 series the next day (Friday). It may be the last post-season game the fans here get to see until next year at the earliest.

And, unfortunately for Gabe's friend, he may not get to use his Game 5 playoff tickets if the Jays don't sweep two games down in Texas. How sad for him.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nuit Blanche 2015 - Introduction to My Night

This was the 10th anniversary of Nuit Blanche here in Toronto. And it very well may be the last. I've gone every year since the beginning and, in recent years, it's gotten smaller and smaller.

As well, after the event, it was reported that Scotiabank is pulling their title sponsorship saying, "the event no longer lines up with its priorities."

I have to say I've enjoyed going over the years. In its heyday it was a really fun experience. It took over the whole city with hundreds of thousands of people coming out to enjoy the spectacle.

Stretches of Yonge Street, Queen Street, Spadina or others were closed off to traffic. Open spaces such as Liberty Village, the Distillery District, Fort York, Ryerson University and Yonge-Dundas Square were used.

This time I believe the only large space holdouts from previous years that were utilized were Nathan Philips Square, OCAD/AGO and Queen West. They added a number of projects in a new area along the Harbourfront though.

I have to say, thanks, to Mother Nature as well. In all the years I've gone it's been relatively dry. I think the first year had a bit of rain and I'm sure some others in between did too. But not enough to make me want to stay home and miss it.

This year when I checked the forecast a day ahead of the event there was a 30%-40% probability of precipitation up until 10:00 p.m. After that it went up to 70% for most of the overnight. Not good.

When I checked the day of it was reduced to 30%-40% chance of rain through the whole night. But when I actually walked around it was dry for the most part, thank goodness.

One thing that was really annoying was the wind though. It was incredibly windy. At certain times it was hard to stay on your feet. It really made it difficult to get decent shots at slower shutter speeds.

I finished this year a bit earlier than some in the past. For a few years in the middle I managed to stay out the whole night (around 12 hours). This time I packed it in around 3:00 a.m. Eight hours out was enough for me. I'm not as young as I used to be.

If this is the last year for Nuit Blanche I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. A big thanks goes out to Scotiabank for sponsoring it and the City of Toronto for allowing it to happen.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

California Roll on Bayview

Lawrence and I went to California Roll AYCE sushi on Bayview last Friday. If you know me, you know I really like sushi. Especially All-You-Can-Eat. It's one of my favourites. So much so it was actually the second time I went in a week. The previous Friday I was at Gallery Sushi at Village by the Grange with Gabe before we saw Black Mass at TIFF.

Before going to California Roll I had checked a few places on-line. There were two things that I considered in choosing a place - the price and proximity to my place.

Echo Sushi was the closest at only 10 minutes south on Yonge. I thought they were a little pricey at $22.99 for dinner plus a $2.00 surcharge Friday through Sunday and holidays, but they turned out to be the same as the other two places I looked up.

I found Yonge Sushi on-line. It's prices seemed all right at $22.99 and their menu selection was okay. But they were a bit further up Yonge north of Lawrence for a 40-minute walk.

California Rolls on Bayview south of Eglinton was supposed to be the same price as the others. It's menu selection seemed a bit better than Yonge Sushi and it was only 25 minutes away. So I suggested that one.

Lawrence called them and made reservations for us at 8:00 p.m. Of course I arrived at 8:00. And, of course, he ran late blaming traffic. No biggie. I ordered a plate of sushi ahead of time just for myself.

When the menu came I noticed they raised the price to $23.50 (plus $2.00 weekend surcharge). What can you do? I ordered a number of my favourites - Rainbow Roll, Eel and Avocado Roll and a variety of nigiri and sashimi. I have to say the White Tuna sushi was amazing. So fresh and tasty.

I had just about demolished the whole plate when Lawrence arrived. He was hungry so I reluctantly allowed him to eat the last piece of sushi on the plate. Of course we ordered more. A lot more.

I tried a few more rolls - the Spider Roll (soft shell crab) and Volcano Roll (avocado, cucumber, tobiko, chopped grilled scallop and "crab" meat). Lawrence ordered some sashimi (surf clam, red snapper, mackerel and white tuna).

For the next round I ordered more nigiri and I tried a couple more rolls - the Crystal Roll (white tuna, avocado, crab meat and "crispy") and the Salmon Dragon Roll (shrimp tempura, tobiko, cucumber with salmon on top).

I finished off dinner with a scoop of red bean ice cream and their deep fried ice cream (mango flavour). I didn't think it was that good. Still, overall, the food was quite good as was the service.

The price was a bit more than expected. Plus, on the bill, I noticed we were charged an extra $1.00 each for green tea. Who charges for tea? So, instead of a total of $30.00 each, it ended up being about $35.00 each after tax and tip. For that price I might just go back to Echo Sushi.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Justin's Cottage - Day 3

We didn't spend too much time at the cottage on our final day. After breakfast we cleaned up and packed then headed out. I went with Keith so he wouldn't have to drive alone. But, in doing so, left Justin to travel by himself.

The first leg of our trip wouldn't be too far. We were only traveling an hour south to the Bonnechere Caves, a bit east of Eganville.

We arrived at the caves around noon. It was a hot, sticky day. Luckily the caves, at around 13C, would provide a cool respite.

Admission is $17 for adults. You have to go on a guided tour of the caves. Ours was a lanky, shaggy haired teenager who sounded less than enthused at having to repeat his spiel yet again to another group of tourists.

He gave a bit of history of the fossils that were found in the area. And he spoke about the gentleman, Tom Woodward, who first explored the caves in 1955. The talk lasted about 20 minutes before we were taken into the actual caves.

The caves themselves are mostly long and narrow. Sometimes the ceiling is high, other times not so much. It never opens up into a large cavern or anything like that. Overall it's pretty tight inside. I wouldn't say it's very spectacular at all. But it was still kind of interesting seeing that it was the first cave system I've had the chance to explore.

We were finished our tour in little over an hour. Back on the road in search of late lunch/early dinner.

Keith was pretty sleepy on the next leg of the journey. He had a bit of trouble trying to keep awake. I know how he felt. I'm sure we've all felt like that a times. I tried to keep him alert by talking and playing games. I guess it worked somewhat. We're both still here.

We were thinking about grabbing a bite at The Spud Box. It's a burger and fish and chips joint in Kaladar at the intersection of Highway 7 and 41. But, like I mentioned before, it was really hot and humid outside and they didn't have any inside seating so we drove on.

Our next option was Kelly's, a family owned restaurant 20 minutes away, just north of Tweed. We went there for lunch last year on our way home from Justin's cottage. Unfortunately for us, this year they were closed. We continued on.

We ended up at Paulo's Italian Trattoria in Belleville. It was almost 5:00 by now and we hadn't eaten since the morning so we were all pretty hungry.

After ordering our food we inhaled it quickly before hitting the road again. Traffic back into the city along the 401 was pretty slow. It was the Labour Day long weekend after all. All the cottagers were returning home at the same time. As well we had to contend with stupid drivers who further clogged the arteries by running into one another. Booo!

I don't believe we got back into the city until after 10:00. A long day to say the least. Still it was nice to get away. It's just the drive out and back that I can do without.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Justin's Cottage - Day 2

Day two began with breakfast at the restaurant at Fort William. It's a 35 kilometre drive from Justin's cottage through Chapeau. Though, if you had a boat, you could take the direct route 10-12 kilometres up the Ottawa River door-to-door.

I don't remember what time we arrived last year, but this year we were a bit late. We made it in time for breakfast, but they ran out of home fries as a side so they substituted French fries for them. It just wasn't the same.

Also, like last year, we visited Parc Des Chutes Coulonge (52 kilometres straight east of the restaurant). Last year we just paid the $8 entrance fee and walked through the park. This year Peter wanted to try the zip-lining and "rock climbing".

Keith is deathly afraid of heights. He probably wouldn't even stand on top of a kid's wagon. I don't think Justin was that enthused about it either. In my case it was the $97 cost that scared me. That just left Emily, Ken and Peter to try it. They were joined by a mother and her teenage son.

Their first stop was the long zip-line over the Coulonge River. It took a while for everyone to cross. Justin and I were there with our DSLRs trying to get decent shots of them.

After they crossed the river we lost sight of them. Justin and I decided to head to the next point we thought they'd reappear (which would be the observation deck for one of the falls). Keith hung back. He was a bit too nervous of the height.

While we waited I set my camera on the wide deck railing and took a 1/4 second exposure of the falls there. It was overcast enough that I could take a fairly long exposure without a neutral density filter.

The overcast skies quickly turned into rainy skies. At first the rain was relatively light and I took shelter under a tree. But then it got heavier and didn't look like it was going to stop anytime soon.

When it seemed to break, I ran for cover to of one of the buildings near the park entrance to wait it out. Emily, Ken and Peter weren't so lucky. They waited out the rain clinging to the side of a cliff for over half an hour.

Two hours after they started they were done. After returning their harnesses and helmets we drove the 52 kilometres back to Justin's cottage where they quickly changed out of their soaking wet clothes.

The sun had returned by then and we cooked some of our dinner over the campfire. Justin did the rest on his gas barbeque.

After eating Peter and I convinced Justin to come out to the beach to try some more star shots. We started earlier this time to avoid having the bright moon light up the skies.

Peter and I were out there just over an hour. Justin left about half way through. Just before he left we saw a bright shooting star over the north horizon. Just before it went out it broke in two. That was pretty incredible. I've never seen anything like that before.

Back inside the cabin we played Saboteur for a few hours before hitting the sack. For the second night in a row it was warm. Ken and Emily joined Peter and I outside in the tents. They had been bothered by a fly buzzing around inside while they slept. Imagine that... going outside to sleep to avoid insects.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Justin's Cottage - Day 1

Since we stayed up so late the night before, we got a late start on Saturday "morning". I'm not even sure what time we woke up.

Peter and Emily made breakfast. Peter bought yummy Japanese bread from J-Town in Markham for French toast. And Emily fried up the special bacon Justin got from the corner store in Chapeau. After adding fresh tomatoes, they made sandwiches with them.

Our plans for the day were hiking at Barron Canyon in Algonquin Park then grabbing dinner at the White Water Brewing Company in Foresters Falls (40 minutes east of Pembroke; 2 hours east of the park).

After driving 1-1/2 hours we arrived at the trailhead going through the northeast entrance of the park. It was already 5:00 by the time we started hiking. Luckily the trail was short, so it wasn't much of a problem to finish it.

The view from the top of the canyon was fine. But, compared to what we saw of the Rockies out west, the bar had been set extremely high.

We finished hiking and taking photos within an hour. By then it was around 6:00. Time to hit the road to seek out dinner. I hopped in Justin's convertible and the others loaded into Keith's car and we headed out.

Being a local and a much faster driver, Justin took the lead. Still he relied on his vehicle GPS to show him the fastest route.

Now I have to say, the quickest way might not necessarily be the best way. Because we ended up on what didn't amount to much more than a winding dirt path just outside the park. Justin thought it was fun, but Keith wasn't so enthused. It was the first time I've ever seen a speed limit sign nailed to a tree. Yes, really.

We arrived at the restaurant/brewery just after 7:30, but saw no sign of the pig roast Justin had called about earlier in the day. When we inquired about it the waitress told us there wasn't one. Puzzled we took a seat inside and ordered from the menu.

After ordering I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. When I returned our table was empty. Everyone had gone outside to the patio.

I later found out that they were told there was a pig roast, but it was canceled because of low interest. They brought the pig inside and if you wanted something from the roast like sausages or pulled pork you couldn't eat inside. That got the group fed up and Justin posted a nasty note on their Facebook page which they quickly deleted.

We drove back to the River Club Restaurant near the cottage and had dinner there instead.

After eating we relaxed around another campfire at the cottage. This time there were no games or star photography afterwards. We were too tired for that.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Justin's Cottage - Day 0.5

For the second year in a row, Justin invited a few of us up to his family cottage on L'Isle-aux-Allumettes in Quebec (opposite Pembroke, Ontario) for the Labour Day long weekend.

Last year I drove up with Peter and Fiona. We got a relatively late start because we had to wait for Fiona to get off work. Combine that with the long weekend rush hour traffic and the typical 5 hour drive there turns into something horrendous.

This year we tried to avoid it by leaving earlier. Each one of us either had the day off or had taken it off. We met at Justin's place at Yonge and Sheppard and by 1:30 had departed.

I went with Justin in his red, Lexus convertible. Emily and Ken joined Peter in his white M3. Keith would come later (much, much later) after he finished work.

Unlike last year when we traveled east along the 401, we took the 400 north and cut through Algonquin Park. According to Google Maps that route is an hour longer, so I'm not sure why Justin chose it. I suppose the traffic heading east along the 401 to cottage country is just that bad you should avoid it at all costs.

We stopped for lunch at A&W around the Huntsville area and then again in Pembroke to pick up pizza and chicken for dinner at Nick's in Pembroke. We didn't end up getting to Justin's cottage until it was dark at just after 9:00 p.m. So much for leaving early (to try to arrive early).

Since we hadn't eaten much during the day we dug into the food before doing anything else. After eating we set up our tents and the built a fire to sit around. That's what you do at a cottage; drink beer and relax by the fire.

It was after 10:30 by now and we hung out by the fire for about an hour before Peter and I decided to head over to the beach to take some night shots. The skies were pretty clear and you could see the Milky Way and quite a few stars. The only problem was the moon was rising over the horizon and it was quite bright.

Before 1:00 Justin came by to see how we were doing. Around the time he left to go back to the cottage we saw a large shooting star low in the north sky. It was brightest I've ever seen. And right before it faded it spectacularly split apart. How cool was that?

Back in the cottage we brought out Saboteur. Justin had the extended version, but since we hadn't played in awhile we decided to stick to the original game. It was quite late, but we were waiting for Keith to arrive, so we needed something to do to pass the time.

Keith came around 4:00 in the morning. We saved some pizza and chicken for him to eat. After hanging out briefly we all hit the sack. Peter and I went to our own tents out in the yard while the rest stayed inside. It was an unusually chilly night, but we brought enough gear to keep us warm.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Buskerfest Day 2 - Bonus

Here are the pictures Peter took of me and my friends at Buskerfest. Coincidently I bumped into a number of them at or near the intersection of Yonge and Gerrard within minutes of each other. It was kind of weird, but cool.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Buskerfest Day 2

After attending Buskerfest for the second half of Friday, Peter and I decided to go back during the daytime on Saturday. Again we met at College and Yonge. This time in the early afternoon.

The first act I saw was Yo-Yo Guy, John Higby. He has performed his comedy yo-yo show around the world in 26 countries and holds 4 Guinness World Records and a World Yo-Yo Champion title.

Like many of the other buskers he gets kids to participate. Sometimes you can find a real gem as he did this time picking out a young, Asian girl to do the hula hoop which she did remarkably well.

His Yo-Yo tricks were decent and he was pretty funny. An entertaining show to be sure.

After Yo-Yo Guy, Peter and I continued south on Yonge Street. We passed a young fellow, Jack Miron, who couldn't have been much older than seventeen. He was juggling various items on the side of the street.

We weren't actually sure if he was an official participant because he looked so young and he kept dropping items he was juggling every now and then. Good effort though.

Next we stopped by the Family Fun Zone (Stage 9). Aussie duo Sophie and Jacob McGrath of Dream State Circus were performing there. They did a number of acrobatic strength feats as well as juggling and any combination of both. Pretty impressive.

We kept walking south on Yonge passing a number of acts. Still north of Gerrard Street I bumped into a couple of friends, siblings Phyllis and Andy Chong. They used to go to the same church as me. I ran into Phyllis a few years ago at Allen Gardens, but I hadn't seen Andy in, I'm guessing, 10-15 years.

Shortly after bumping into Phyllis and Andy, I ran into Georgette a Flickr friend at the intersection of Yonge and Gerrard. She was at Buskerfest taking photos with one of her friends. I bumped into her a year ago in Tobermory when we went camping there (at Cyprus Lake). I had Peter take a photo of us.

As we were taking photos another friend, Jenn, who volunteers at the Knox Out of the Cold program with me came by. I asked Peter to take another shot.

And, as we were taking that photo, another couple, Jeff and Rosa, who I used to work with at Trader walked up. I ran into Rosa a few years ago at a photo show. I hadn't seen Jeff in 4-5 years. It was nice seeing them again. More photos of course.

Peter and I never caught anymore full performances. Most of the time we showed up part way through.

In front of the new Ryerson Student Centre Human Beatbox, Scott Jackson, was performing. MaracaTALL a troupe of stilt-walkers were at Yonge-Dundas Square. And The Bearded Gypsy Band were playing in front of the Eaton Centre.

After that we headed back north to Salad King for dinner. Peter had spicy Street Noodle Soup. I had yummy Siam Noodle. And we split a so-so Beef Panang Curry dish.

It was pretty dark after eating. We headed north where we saw bassoon and theremin performer, Jeff Burke. It was the first time I've seen a theremin live. Peter didn't even know what it was. Here's a description from the dictionary - a musical instrument with electronic tone generation, the pitch and tone volume being controlled by the distance between the player's hands and two metal rods serving as antennas. Quite unique.

Lastly we snapped a few pictures of Silver Elvis (creation of Toronto performance artist Peter Jarvis) who was making his Silver Elvis moves on the north side of Gerrard and Yonge. There's really not much to his act except for that he looks a big, silver Elvis.

Of all the Toronto street festivals this has to be one of the better ones. Most of the others are food-based. You walk around and eat not doing much more. The Beaches International Jazz Festival has music, but this has much more. If you choose to go to only one, I'd suggest you make it this one.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Buskerfest Day 1

I met up with Peter to go to Buskerfest on Friday night a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time I've actually shot it extensively. In past years I've gone for an hour or two shooting only two or three acts.

Since I have Fridays off work I got a head start. I walked down a bit earlier arriving a little before 5:00. Yonge Street was closed off from College to Queen with a number of stages for the performers set up in between.

The first performer I came upon was Bence Sarkadi with his marionettes on Stage 9 (on the east side of Yonge south of College). He was almost finished when I arrived so I didn't actually see much.

A bit further south Catana Chetwynd from Saratoga Springs, New York was creating a piece of Chalk Art on the sidewalk. I believe it was inspired by the TV show Game of Thrones.

I was snapping a few shots of her working when I noticed a young, art-student type, come up and start sketching her. He had a long sheet of paper with sketches of other people he had done. With his big green headphones and backpack adorned with colourful buttons he became my new subject.

Next, on Stage 8, was Hercinia Arts Collective. The trio of acrobats performed a show called The Flying Machine. One girl, the inventor, walked around on stilts and narrated the show while two others performed on the trapeze suspended in the air above Yonge Street. They weren't too bad.

Peter arrived around 7:00 p.m. just after the trapeze artists performed. I walked back up to College Street to meet him.

We walked back down to just south of College Park and took a few shots of the guys playing chess on the large plastic set there before moving on to catch Nathaniel Rankin and his show Borderline Madness. He had replaced the girls of Hercinia Arts Collective on Stage 8. Nathaniel's act was a combination of magic, juggling and comedy. It was all right.

Continuing south to Stage 7, we caught the last part of Bex In Motion's Fire Show. We saw her Hula-hooping a number of hoops. Then she did the same thing with some hoops that she lit on fire. Since it was dark by this time anything on fire looked kind of cool.

We also caught the last 10 minutes of Zap Circus' Purple People Show at Stage 4 tucked away on Edward Street. They're an Australian duo of acrobats. They too had a fire component to their show spinning lit batons while the girl stood upon the guy's shoulders.

Though I understand the need to ask for donations, these guys dragged it too far. The girl droned on and on and on about it. Have a bit of dignity. You only need to prod a little. The audience understands what's going on.

After their performance we took a break for late dinner. We split a medium pepperoni Pizza Pizza for $4.99 plus tax (for walk-in orders). Freshly made, it was pretty tasty.

The last performance of the day that we caught fully was the best. It was the unicycling duo Witty Look from Japan. They consist of unicycle world champion Daiki and an acrobatic clown Cheeky! Cheeky is over-the-top hilarious. So funny. It was more than just tricks on unicycles. That's what made it one of the better shows.

After their performance we walked a bit further south on Yonge past Dundas. It was getting late by then so we headed home not long after.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Shiso Tree Restaurant

A day following the disappointing meal at h bar, Gabe, Daphne and I went to Shiso Tree in J-Town on Steeles, east of the 404. I have to say the meal there was much better.

It was my first time there and I had no idea what to expect. I believe I was expecting traditional Japanese fare like sashimi or sushi, but they served pasta with a Japanese twist.

The restaurant itself is quite utilitarian. It's rather plain-looking with simple tables and chairs and empty walls (save the Daily Specials menus). It's the food that's the star of the show.

Gabe had the Shrimp Okonomiyaki - Spaghetti sautéed with bacon, onions and garlic dressed with shrimp, homemade steak sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and Bonito fish flakes - $14.00.

Daphne had the daily special. It was homemade bow tie pasta dyed black with squid ink. It was served with a tomato-based sauce, with a piece of dried ham (I believe) - $22.00.

I had Unagi-Don - Cream teriyaki sauce and Shimeji mushrooms with Japanese barbecued eel and garnished with nori and shiso - $17.00. It was very good.

We followed the meal up with dessert. Gabe and I got a couple of pieces of cake which they got from the bakery across the way (Bakery Nakamura) - $6.00/ea. Daphne had the Matcha Azuki Crepe - Homemade crepe with Japanese red bean and green tea creme sauce, topped with vanilla ice dream and fresh whipped cream - $9.00. All quite tasty.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

h bar Restaurant

My friends and I went down to h bar restaurant on Queen West not far from Trinity Bellwoods Park a few weeks ago. Gabe had a voucher for the place and we decided to try it out.

We made reservations for 6:00 p.m. on a Friday night. They weren't needed. The place was pretty much empty when we got there.

The restaurant isn't very big. There's some seating on the main floor and a bar upstairs with a few more seats (which is where I found my friends) after waiting downstairs for them for a bit. My fault for not checking.

The menu looked decent, but I have to say the food was just so-so. After grabbing a beer we shared two orders of the sliders (3-mini burgers per order) - $12.40. Next I had the Roasted Chicken Sandwich - Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Lettuce, Smoked Goat Cheddar, Maple Aioli & Grilled Red Onion - $10.95. It was all right.

Peter and Janice shared the Steak Frites - Flat Iron Steak cooked Medium Rare & served with Frites or Gaufrette - $17.70; and Fried Chicken (daily special). Gabe had the Daily Catch - Pan Seared Fish in an Apple Sage Butter served on a bed of Seasonal Vegetables & Potatoes - $14.75. I don't remember what Justin had. He doesn't like waiting for food pics to be taken before digging in, so nothing from him.

Dessert there was pretty bad. We tried three different things. There was the Ice Cream - House made with Natural Ingredients. Ask your server for the flavour of the month - $4.42. We had three small scoops. All of them were icy, not creamy. They were supposed to be different flavours. but all tasted like vanilla.

The Home made Donuts were the best of the bunch - Deep Fried Vanilla Batter tossed in Cinnamon Sugar - $5.31. You got a small bowl of 5 or 6 Timbit-sized dough balls; The Deep Fried Pie was the worst - Light crispy pastry wrapped around a delicious seasonal filling. Ask your server for our pie of the moment - $5.31. I believe ours had apple filling. It was tiny. You could pop the whole thing in your mouth in one bite. Ridiculous.

I'd rate the décor - 2.5/5; the entrées - 2.5/5; and the desserts - 1/5.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Visit to the C.N.E.

For the first time in years I went to the C.N.E. My friend, Peter, asked a few of us to go along with him.

It opened Friday, August 21st. Since I have Fridays off I decided to go earlier and meet them there.

I have to say, I didn't go as early as I thought I might. I arrived around 5:00 in the afternoon.

Admission was $8.00. It was an opening day special. Normally general admission is a steep $18.00. Though, if you go after 5:00 p.m. from Monday-Thursday you can get in for $6.00.

I took the T.T.C. down. From my place I headed south on the subway to Union Station and caught the 509 Streetcar the rest of the way. Normally they'd drop you off right at Strachan Avenue, but, this year, for some reason, they dropped people off the stop before (or right in the grounds).

Since I wanted to enter at the Princes' Gates (to take pictures there), I got off at the stop before and walked the extra five minutes.

The last time I went to the C.N.E. may have been when I was in my early teens. I don't believe the Direct Energy Centre was there when I last went to the C.N.E. And the Automotive Building was open to the public (now it isn't).

I remember arcades with video games and a lot of free samples at the Food Building back then. As well they had the Canada Fitness Test where you could earn Bronze, Silver, Gold or the much coveted Award of Excellence badges by participating in a number of physical activity tests. I believe the best I ever did was the Gold.

Now it seems so clean and polished. The rides look safe. What's the fun in that? Of course I did go on opening day, so, perhaps, after a week or so the grime will set in.

They still have the Polar Express and Zipper rides. And the hawkers who try to get you to spend your money on next to impossible games trying to win ginormous stuffed animals that you end up donating to Goodwill after they sit in plastic bags in your basement for 15-years.

This time I went to document the carnage. Just to take pictures of the experience, so, in 20-years, when I next go again, I can look back and visually see what things used to be like instead of trying to conjure up images in my now foggy memory.

After 2-hours of walking around my friends called saying they'd arrived. I walked back to near the entrance to meet them. It was now around 7:00 p.m. and the sky was starting to darken. I was lucky to get some photos earlier.

We walked through the Midway again. But at a faster pace. I had already taken my daytime shots so I was okay. Peter got his camera out and took some photos of his own. Janice and Heidi had no interest in shooting anything. No problem.

After going through the Midway we hit the Food Building. Coming straight from work they were pretty hungry.

The Food Building was packed. I guess a lot of other people had the same idea (of getting a bite to eat). We walked around taking a look at all the different offerings.

I joined Peter at the Bacon Nation booth while the girls went off to grab something different. We'd meet after to share the spoils.

At the Bacon Nation booth we ordered a Pig Mac - a hamburger topped with strips of maple bacon. cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and BBQ sauce on a bacon studded bung - $9.75; and the Bacon Wrapped Grilled Cheese - a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar and mozzarella cheese wrapped with a weave of maple bacon - $10.50 (or so).

The girls came back with a pulled pork sandwich and fries topped with pulled pork. Mmm... grease, grease and more delicious grease.

We were pretty full after that, but still weren't done with food. Heidi wanted to try the Chicken Waffle on a Stick - which is a piece of chicken wrapped with a waffle on a stick - $8 at Mr. Mike. It was all right. Chicken was a little dry.

Janice had to leave early. Before she went she convinced us to play a game. We looked for something that didn't cost too much and that wasn't impossible to win.

We found the Kentucky Derby game at 3 bucks a pop it wasn't too hard to master. All you had to do was roll a golf ball into certain holes to move your horsey along a track. First horse to the end wins a small stuffed superhero. Win twice and you could trade your superheroes up to a Minion.

The guy who ran the game said all we needed was two players. So, instead of all of us playing at the same time and coming out with one small prize, we split into two groups of two.

Peter played Janice first and won a small "Batman". Heidi and I played next and she beat me. We traded in the two small prizes for a larger evil Minion with shaggy purple hair.

Janice had to go after that. Peter and I walked around the Midway taking night pictures while Heidi waited for us. She must have been a little bored. We stayed 1-1/2 hours longer before ending her torture.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Murphy's Point Provincial Park

On the first weekend of August we went camping at Murphy's Point Provincial Park. It's located about 4 hours east-north-east of Toronto not far from Perth.

On Friday night I slept over at Peter's. Emily and Ken and Ken's two friends came by on Saturday morning. Our first stop would be breakfast at Stockyards on St. Clair, west of Bathurst.

We got there right around the time they were supposed to open, but they were a bit short on staff so they asked us along with the other few customers that were there to wait a bit longer before letting us in.

Once inside the place is pretty nice looking. The kitchen is open so the guests facing it can watch as their food is being prepared.

We ordered a variety of items from their breakfast menu. Emily had their Stockyard Sandwich. It's a deep fried poached egg w/stockyards bacon or county sage sausage, and aged cheddar on a buttermilk biscuit - $8.

I had the Biscuits W/Sausage Gravy. It's a couple of house baked buttermilk biscuits, smothered with house sage sausage, black pepper pan gravy, soft scrambled eggs. - $11. I thought it was so-so. The sage sausage was ground up with sauce that seemed a bit thin/runny.

Peter had the Fried Chicken & Waffles. It's simply fried chicken over Belgian waffles w/chili maple molasses citrus glaze - 4-pieces $16. I thought the sauce was a little spicy. I never really understood the appeal of the chicken and waffle combination. Not my cup of tea.

As usual we made a stop at the Big Apple on our way east along the 401. It was the first time there for Ken's friends. It's become old hat for the rest of us.

We got to the park a bit before 3:00. After checking in we got organized, set our tents up, bought some firewood for later that evening then headed out for a hike.

The bugs weren't too bad. Maybe a 1 or 2 out of 5. I wore my bug jacket just in case though. In certain areas you needed it.

What we needed more was our raincoats though. The skies had been threatening rain ever since we got there.

The first trail, the Sylvan Trail, we tried was a short one at 2.5 kilometres. We completed it in under an hour.

We then tried to find the Point Trail. Like the Sylvan Trail it's a loop trail. But this one was longer at 5.5 kilometres.

During both our hikes we heard huge thunderclaps. It was like the storm was right upon us. We were lucky enough not to get rained on until part way through the Point Trail. It wasn't overly heavy so we trudged on.

By the time we finished the hike and returned to our campsite it had, thankfully, stopped. This afforded us the luxury of not having to cook in the rain.

Dinner was good. Peter had marinated lamb the night before. It was really tasty. Along with the lamb, we tossed some corn on the cob and sweet potatoes wrapped in tinfoil into the fire to cook. As well we boiled some water on our camp stoves for cup noodles.

We finished the meal off with S'mores (though I just toasted some marshmallows for myself) and then hit the sack.

Peter and I left at around 10:00 the next morning. I had to go to the boarding home in the afternoon. We made one stop at the Narrows Lock along the Rideau Canal to take some shots along the way.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Prince Edward County Pig Out

Shortly after returning from out west we took Lewis on a day-trip to Prince Edward County. Our mission - To eat until we couldn't eat anymore. (Well that's what it seemed like anyway).

Ken and Emily came to pick me up while Peter hit the road straight from home with Lewis. We headed east along the 401 and made plans to meet up at a rest stop along the way.

After meeting at the first rest stop we decided to stop once again at The Big Apple at Colborne. It's become a tradition of ours to stop there whenever heading east along the highway (exit 497).

Since we've gone to The Big Apple a number of times I didn't take any pictures. We had some apple desserts and continued on our way.

In Prince Edward County we stopped at a number of shops that sold anything from cheese to farm fresh veggies.

Our next food stop was at the County Cider Company in Waupoos. Established in 1995 they're the oldest cider-producing company in Ontario (according to a sign there). They have a variety of ciders made with fermented apple juice.

Their tasting room and retail store welcomes visitors from May to November. They also serve lunch there where you can dine on their back patio which overlooks their vineyards and the northern shores of Lake Ontario.

For lunch I had a BBQ Burger with bacon, Black River cheddar, caramelized onions and cider ketchup for $16.75. It was really good.

Emily and Ken shared a Lamb Burger fresh local lamb, chevre, arugula, pickled red onion, roasted red pepper jelly and lemon garlic mayo also $16.75. Both burgers were served with house-made kale, apple and cabbage slaw. Peter and Lewis shared a Artichoke & Asiago Dip with grilled flatbread for $13.50.

We toured the area a bit more before getting dessert. Ice cream of course. This time at Slickers County Ice Cream Limited on Main Street in Bloomfield.

The store is pretty small so, naturally, there was a line up outside. Of course it could be because their ice cream is hand made and uses fresh local ingredients and natural flavours too. That's a distinct possibility.

So, now what? After all that eating what should we do? Why, dinner, of course. Cue our next stop at our favourite Prince Edward Country eating establishment, Pomodoro.

My first time there was last year with most of the same group of friends. Coincidentally we were seated at the same table as before. Perhaps that's why the waitress there actually recognized us. That and the fact I started snapping away with my camera again.

Like last year we shared our appetizers, mains and dessert. This time we had fried Polenta, Pizza Cinghiale, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Roast Chicken, Veal Parmagana and Lasagna. For dessert we had Carrot Cake-Cheesecake and Fresh-made Doughnuts. Delicious!

And, like last year, after dinner we raced to Sandbanks Provincial Park to try to catch the sunset. And, also like last year, we just missed it. Again. You think we would have learned.

This year we decided to try to catch the sunset behind the dunes. When we arrived the sun was just above the dunes. So we decided to make a run for it. At first we were close together, but I couldn't wait... so I headed out on my own. I wanted to get to the end of the dunes so I could get a clear shot of the sunset. So I ran like I had never run before.

The sand was soft and the dunes towering. Running was hard. Very, very hard. I ran and ran and ran. And ran and ran and ran. And ran. And ran. I never got to the end of the dunes. All I got was hot and sweaty and tired.

In the end I had to turn back defeated. In the dark. Out in the dunes. By myself.

When I got home I checked Google Maps. The dunes continue on over 7 kilometres nearly all the way back to the mainland. I never would have gotten there. Why didn't anyone tell me? At least I burned off some of the calories I put on the rest of the day. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grand Prix Kartways with Gabe and Lewis

Another activity I did after returning from Alberta was going go-karting with Gabe and Lewis. Lewis has now returned home to Hong Kong, but while he was still here Peter was trying to think of things he might like to do, so Gabe made the suggestion.

On Friday, July 10th we went to Grand Prix Kartways in Downview Park. Gabe found out about while there for Doors Open Toronto one year. It's an indoor venue which is fine because the carts are electric powered not gas.

When we first got there we watched a few races before actually trying it out. It looked pretty neat, but it's a bit expensive if you pay full price.

We decided to go for the 2-race package. I believe it cost about $40 plus tax. One race might have cost about $25 plus tax. There's also an unlimited 6-hour package available. It's around $60 plus tax. Though, on Groupon, you can purchase the 6-hour package for $29.99.

After signing up and purchasing our race tickets we got a short introduction by the staff to the carts. Lewis was a bit nervous because he's never driven anything before (since he's only 14). After that we grabbed our helmets and hopped in our carts.

Each race has six racers. In our first race I started in 4th position while Lewis and Gabe started 5th and 6th. We were told not to bump into the other racers, but one girl who wasn't with our group didn't quite get the idea.

The organizers (who are able to stop all the cars remotely) stopped everyone a number of times in order to issue her multiple warnings. I was one of her victims which was pretty annoying. Eventually I left her in the dust ending up second. In this race I believe Lewis might have come third while Gabe came last.

In our second race I was lucky enough to start in pole position (1st). It thought I was a guaranteed lock to win and was able to hold the lead for 13 of 18 laps before getting bumped and passed by a more experienced racer (who I believe had a faster car).

In the end I came second nearly getting caught by Gabe who started in 3rd. He maintained his starting position, while Lewis dropped from 2nd to either 5th or 6th. I think Lewis and I had slower cars this race while Gabe's was a quicker one.

Anyway, it was really fun. I enjoyed it. If anyone is interested in going again I'd suggest buying a voucher from Groupon.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 Pan Am Games - Badminton

After my trip to Alberta I went to watch badminton with my sister and nephews. The Pan Am Games were on here in Toronto and my sister had bought tickets. Actually, she had three sets of tickets. The two extra ones came from her friends who, I suppose, couldn't go.

The event venue was up in Markham. As well as badminton they had table tennis and water polo there. Event venues were actually scattered all over the place. Some were as far north as Barrie, as far east as Oshawa and as far west as Hamilton, Milton and Welland.

The first set of tickets my sister had for badminton were for Sunday morning, July 12th, two days after the opening ceremony. We saw a number of preliminary matches including men's doubles, women's doubles and women's singles.

It was the first time I've ever seen badminton live. The skill level of the players was quite high. I'm guessing they would have ranked between the top 15-50 in the world maybe? It was fun to watch.

The players were quick and very flexible. They bent like pretzels arching to return the shuttlecocks on their backhands. Very impressive.

I was able to bring my dSLR in with 24-105 mm lens. I heard later that they were allowing lenses of up to 300 mm in.

I enjoyed myself and could have stayed longer. But my nephews got bored after 3-1/2 hours so we took off after watching Canadian, Michelle Li, win her singles match over Fatima Centeno Fuentes from El Salvador (21-4, 21-10).

Michelle would eventually claim gold in Women's Singles over fellow Canadian, Rachel Honderich, 21-15/21-9 the following Thursday. Yay, Canada!