Friday, May 29, 2015

Letchworth State Park pt. 1

Gabe, Peter and I went down to Letchworth State Park in Upstate New York to go camping over the Victoria Day long weekend. We were going to test out some of the stuff we bought for our June Banff trip. Emily was supposed to come too, but her workplace messed up her schedule and she had to back out last minute.

We met at Gabe's condo shortly after 8:30 on Saturday morning. I parked my car there and we took Peter's. He has a Thule roof-top cargo box that can carry a lot.

Our first stop was to pick up Vietnamese sandwiches at a place around Wilson and Jane or something. Well, we kind of got lost. It took us quite a bit longer than we planned to get the sandwiches and hit the road again. C'est la vie.

The drive towards Niagara Falls (where we were going to cross the border) wasn't too bad. There were some slow downs on the QEW past Hamilton, but it wasn't terrible.

After seeing some road information signs we decided to cross at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. We were hoping it would be the quickest way over. We ended up waiting about 15 minutes which was great for a holiday long weekend.

Though, we had to make our way back up to the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge because we were going to the store near there where Peter has his post office box to pick up some stuff people bought and had shipped there.

After that we went to the nearby Walmart for "supplies". We bought beer and chips and a whole BBQ chicken for dinner that evening. Just so we didn't eat only junk food, we bought some pre-cut veggies (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower), fruits (bananas, oranges and pears) and a half dozen eggs too. We also bought a bag of ice for the cooler to keep the perishables fresh.

The park is about 1-1/2 hours from the border. After all our stops we didn't arrive until late afternoon. We had hoped to get in some hiking after checking in and setting up our tents, but it was a bit late for that.

Instead we drove the length of the park and stopped at different outlook points and took photos. That's all we really had time for.

Dinner was good. We ate the whole chicken along with some boiled veggies. We drank beer and ate chips by the campfire. We bought the wood at a stand just outside the park where you pay on the honour system. There's a box for the money depending on how many bundles you take (1 for $4; or 3 for $10).

I tried to take some star shots at night, but I couldn't find a wide open space. And the clouds started to move in too.

Overall it was a great day. The weather forecasters had predicted rain and we received nary a drop. As well, since it was still relatively early in the season... there were no bugs! Wonderful.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tony's 60th Birthday Party

Iris and her mom and a few others organized a party for Tony's 60th birthday at their house on Saturday. They did a great job.

Andrew manned the barbecue outside. Iris had gone through some of Tony's photo albums and posted a number of pictures of him taken over the years.

Pi-Yu told some stories about Tony from back in the day. Barbara hosted a quiz about Tony with mini Kit Kats as prizes. And Ferdinand, Kelly and Sarah sang some songs.

It was a chance to reconnect with a few familiar faces I hadn't seen in awhile. Since the last time Tony hosted a birthday at their home perhaps.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Back at Amaya

After first going to Amaya the Indian Room back in March I've returned twice, the second time being this past Saturday. This time I went with Taku and Gabe. It had recently been both my and Taku's birthdays. So it was another excuse to get together, eat some great food and catch up.

I really like this restaurant. The food is absolutely delicious. For me, it's a bit on the pricey side. But the $40 Groupon I purchased softened the blow.

My favourites include the Lasooni cauliflower starter (I know, it sounds weird, but it's great), the curried coastal fish and the organic butter chicken. We had all those plus the Laal Maas (spicy lamb curry) with a basket of naan and side of Basmati rice.

It was good to meet up with Taku again. It seems I only see him once a year on our birthdays. Other than that we keep up-to-date by following each others Facebook feeds. That's how it goes in this technological age I suppose.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The New Rancho Relaxo/Cantina

After volunteering at the Scott Mission I went to dinner with Will, Steve and Lawrence. It was sort of a late birthday dinner for me. I suggested going to the nearby Rancho Relaxo which I really liked.

When we got there it looked totally different. They had renovated the restaurant to look more upscale. As well, the menu was revised to reflect the new decor. It was slicker and slightly pricer with less choice. Boo.

Gone were a lot of the traditional Mexican dishes such as fajitas, the pescado de Corona (grouper with avocado mousse) or my favourite steak enchiladas with refried beans. They were replaced with trendy, decidedly non-Mexican fare such as Ratatouille, Gnocchi, Seafood Ravioli and New York Strip Steak.

William and I had the hybrid Enfrijoladas which was sort of like steak enchilada, only with mushrooms instead of steak; Lawrence had the soup of the day and a couple of rather small tacos; and Steve had a variety of four small tacos too (at a rather exorbitant price of $4 each). It was pretty food, but not so filling.

I miss the old Rancho Relaxo with the tacky decor, friendly staff, yummy food and generous portions. And all a very reasonable prices.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cherry Blossoms @ High Park

I made my annual pilgrimage to High Park to see the cherry blossoms last Friday. According to their website peak bloom this year was supposed to be Wednesday, May 6th.

With a week of above average temperatures they pushed the date ahead three days from their original prediction. For me, I used the cherry blossoms at Mount Pleasant Cemetery as a gauge to when the ones at High Park might be ready.

I have to say, the blossoms at Mount Pleasant Cemetery are much nicer. They're a lovely pink hue, while the ones at High Park are plain white. It makes a huge difference when taking pictures. Really.

Still, I went down to High Park to see the ones there. Mostly because I had made such a big deal about pushing others to go, so I sort of felt obligated. I couldn't really hype it up and not show now, right?

I decided not to take so many macro shots as I normally would. Just because those were the kind of pics I took at the cemetery. Instead I used my wide angle lens to capture as much of the scenery as possible. To show the throngs of people enjoying the blossoms more than just shooting the blossoms themselves.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Knox OOTC Volunteer Dinner

Another year has come and gone at the Out of the Cold program at Knox. I'm proud to say this is my 9th year volunteering. I believe I started in the 2005/6 season (the same time Melinda started). Besides the organizers, Vicki and Bill, I think Pat is one of the only guys who's served longer than us.

Returning again this year was Joe. He's been a tremendous help scrubbing the pots and pans for the past three or four years. Young Wha didn't come as often this year. I brought my nephew, Avery, out to fill her role putting the clean dishes away. He did a great job.

Sam came a couple of times. He's almost finished law school. Ken was pretty regular. He normally helps with food prep, but comes by to drop off dinner (which is greatly appreciated).

Paul and Tomoko brought their kids out again too. Jack (aka Chopper) helped Avery put the dishes away and Midori helped me load the dishwasher.

It seems like the faces change a little each year. Next year Young Wha will be gone. She's going to work in the U.S. I believe. We'll miss her.

The volunteer dinner was slightly smaller than in past years. Most of the core group was there. Though I was the only person from the dishwashing crew to show up. Joe had to attend some sort of function with his wife (I can't remember what). Avery was too shy to come because no one else his age went.

... Until next year.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cherry Blossoms @ Mount Pleasant Cemetery

The cherry blossoms are here! I've been following the progress reports on the High Park website. They predicted peak bloom for the first week in May.

On my way home from church in early May I walked through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. They have two cherry trees there just off Yonge. They usually blossom a few days ahead of the ones at High Park. So they're a good barometer to use to gauge when the ones there will be ready.

I believe the trees at the cemetery are supposed to be nicer than the ones at High Park. I'm not sure why, but that's what I heard.

The colour of the blossoms at Mount Pleasant Cemetery are a lovely pink. I think the ones at High Park are less pink in colour.

Anyway, the ones blooming here were beautiful. At the time I walked by I think they were about 60% full bloom. There were some blossoms that were still unopened.

Still I think it was an ideal time to go. Gorgeous!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hike @ Rattlesnake Point

Peter, Emily and I went to Rattlesnake Point to hike on Saturday. It was a hike we planned on going on the previous weekend, but due to time constraints, and the fact that Gabe and Peter wanted to go shopping for camping stuff, we postponed.

I drove to Peter's at 10:30 and we met Emily who walked over from her place. After a stop to pick up Vietnamese sandwiches at a place on Finch and Weston Road we were on our way.

The conservation area is in Milton off the 401 and Highway 25. It cost $6.75 per adult to get in. It was quite busy by the time we got there.

For me, this was time to test out my backpack nearly fully loaded. I packed my tent, sleeping bag, Thermarest sleeping pad, tripod, extra shoes and water in it. I believe it weighed in at around 25-30 pounds.

Our planned route would have taken us 16 kilometres. We were hoping to do it in less than five hours because Emily had to be back in town to catch a movie with Janice.

Well, due to some wrong turns, we ended up hiking 18 kilometres. And, because Peter and I were taking pictures, as well as us all walking slowly we didn't finish for 6-1/2 hours at 7:00. No movie for Emily.

The hike was quite nice. It was sunny outside and the temperature was in the low 20s (C). Being early spring, the trees were barely budding. So a lot of sunlight passed through the canopy and onto the trail.

As well there were no bugs! Amazing. That's another great thing about hiking early in the season.

The hike was pretty tough. My backpack really weighed heavily on my shoulders. They were killing me afterwards. It was a long trudge through rocky, hilly terrain. Now I have an idea of what to expect while hiking in the back country for our summer trip. So that's good.

Peter and Emily balked at the idea of hiking with loaded packs. They just brought daypacks. Emily put a few light weights in hers. Peter just had water in his.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Yes, 186

We had another outing this past Sunday at Kennedy Bowl with the church group. We've started going there semi-regularly because they have a great deal on Sundays after 4:00 for $2.00 a game.

Unfortunately it seems to be quite popular. Sid tried to book a couple of lanes for 4:00, but was told the earliest we could get was for 5:30. It wasn't a big deal for me. I was coming from my boarding home visit.

To kill a bit of time beforehand I had my hair cut at the $6.00 place at Victoria Park and Lawrence.

The time wasn't so convenient for some of the others. It pushed into dinnertime so they weren't able to come. In the end it was just me, Sid, Willy, Steve Chong and Ed.

Ed and Steve joined the black bowling shoe club each buying a pair from Rodney's Pro Shop before the game. Now six of us (Ray, Sid, Willy, Steve, Ed and I) have the same pair of bowling shoes.

Steve came a bit late because he had to take his son to his hockey lessons I believe. The rest of us started first.

I found the same ugly, green 14 pound bowling ball that Willy and I used last time. I like the spacing between the thumb and fingers. Ed found a slightly lighter ball which he and Willy shared.

It was nice bowling two people per lane. The game went much faster. You could stay in rhythm much more easily.

Steve joined us after we all finished our first game. To catch up he bowled on both lanes.

I did quite well in my second game scoring a total of 161. That's my highest score since we started a few months ago.

On our next game Willy bowled a stellar 166 to beat my previous high. The pressure was on.

Normally we only bowl three games. But we decided to go once more. That's when I really got into a groove. In my first four frames I scored a spare, strike, strike, spare before bowling a clunker of 7 and 2.

I got back on my horse and bowled another strike, spare, strike, before the wheels fell off again and I bowled a 5 and 2.

Luckily I finished off with two strikes and a 7 for 186. Not too bad. I think I was fairly consistent throughout the evening bowling in the 120s, 130s, 161 and 186.

I sure hope I can keep it up.