Monthly Archives: November 2012

Church Bazaar: Christmas is Coming

I was busy baking last week to get my contribution ready for the Christmas Market at St. John’s Anglican Church in the old township of Nelson in Burlington. The Church is over 180 years old–and this is old by Canadian standard–starting out as a pioneer church. Some descendants of the pioneers still come to this church. It is a small church, but comes church fair, everybody comes out to help. Every year, the bazaar is held on the last Saturday in November and this signals that Christmas is only four weeks away; time to get some Christmas shopping done.

There was a long line up to get inside. There were good bargains at the bake table, the knitting and crafts table, the lightly used items (called Granny Attic), jewellery corner, tombola and the Sunday Schools’s Christmas table. There was also a silent auction and a tea/lunch area. We shopped and we helped out. At the end of the day, we brought home our delicious purchases of baked goods, jams and preserves, and my daughter also found some beautiful decorations for her apartment. Another year of fun!

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A Hike to Hilton Fall

This was my first hike since my long End to End hikes four weeks ago. I was admiring Fall colours  on my hikes back then, and now, the trees were all bare as they displayed a sense of ethereal beauty on this foggy morning.

My hiking group set off from the Hilton Fall Conservation Centre and our goal was to explore some of the overlapping trail loops in the conservation area before reaching the Hilton Fall. (For any visitor who just wishes to visit the Fall, there is a trail of about 1 Km in distance that leads directly to it.) For us, we first entered the Philip Gosling Side Trail and after a short walk, I was attracted by the moss-covered rocks which jutted from the brown fallen leaves. Middle Earth, anyone?

We joined a short section of the Bruce Trail Main Trail and turned into Red Oak Trail, which also was a Bruce Trail side trail. This was probably the most beautiful and challenging section of the hike. It rose above the Hilton Fall Reservoir, that we caught a glimpse of it occasionally from among the trees. All around us was moss-covered landscape. There were caves and cliffs and rocks, but photography was impossible, because with this terrain, it was easier to keep going than to attempt to balance and focus into a camera. In fact, I possessed neither the balance nor the photographic skills to even attempt.

Next we joined the Hilton Fall Trail, towards the direction of Beaver Dam Trail on the right of the fork; the left trail should lead directly to HIlton Fall.

The ground cover on the trail was a mottled brown and silvery grey.

One of the hikers who knew about forestry explained to us that the trees were planted in “military formation”, as they were straight and orderly.

We crossed the Beaver Dam, from which the trail was named, but there was a dam no more, because what used to be a beaver dam had blocked the flow of the water. Instead, we walked over a structure which served the purpose of a bridge and at the same time should prevent beavers from building a dam here.

The stream here is one of the feeders of the Sixteen Mile Creek.

We took a rocky side trail following the Bruce Trail blue blazers and arrived at the picnic area of Hilton Fall!

As a result of the persistent rain the previous month, water was rushing down the cliff edge of the Fall.

I was finally able to take a picture of the Hilton Fall in clear weather.

Just beside the Fall was was remains of a sawmill which dated back to the 19th century.

Besides heritage remains, another landmark revealing the history of the area was the pothole formed by the glacial swirl millions years ago.

We broke for lunch and then made our descent back to the conservation center.

I paid attention for the first time to the tamarack (larch). I always learned something when I hiked with this group of experienced hikers. In spite of its coniferous shape and needle-like leaves, the tamarack is a deciduous tree which shed their leaves in autumn. Its wood is used by the Algonquian natives to make snow shoes. Its golden glow transported me to a sense of satisfaction and peace as we concluded this hike.

Flora in the Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Garden

When I went out for my walk this morning, I could not but notice that the deciduous trees were already bare, and the leaves were piled up along the gutter waiting to be picked up.The sky was grey and foggy too, and I began to miss the flowers that I saw in the Hong Kong Botanical Garden every morning when I did my power walk around the path that encircled the fountain. I launched into a foray of photography on the flowers before I left Hong Kong and going through these shots now helped bring back some colours to this autumnal day in Canada.

(This is my first tiles gallery display. My thanks go out to fellow bloggers Pat and Shelley for their support.)

Qianlong’s Secret Garden (Hong Kong Museum of Art 1)

I had a free afternoon after lunching with a friend in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong and I was within walking distance from the Hong Kong Museum of Art. It had been a long time since I last visited the museum and from afar, I could see two banners on the wall of the museum advertising an exhibition of the treasures of Emperor Qianlong and an art exhibition of modern Chinese artist Feng Zikai.

Emperor Qinalong of the Qing Dynasty enjoyed a long reign of over 60 years. The country was prosperous in his times and QianLong was reputed for his love for fine arts. The title of the exhibition was A Lofty Retreat from the Red Dust: The Secret Garden of Emperor Quanlong. (Red Dust is a literal translation in Chinese. It means the noisy secular world.) This title was taken from part of a poem written by the emperor himself.

The exhibits were on loan from the Palace Museum for the first time outside of China. Little was known about this Garden that Qianlong built for himself at the northeastern corner of the Forbidden City.

In the pamphlet handed out and display in the entrance hall of the exhibition, there was a map of the “Secret Garden”. There were photos of individual buildings in the garden. A digital portrait of Qianlong continuously display the morphing of the emperor from a young person to his senior years.

I was disappointed that there was not a model of the Garden. However, this was compensated by graphic displays of the various architectural styles of the roofs, the arches, doorways and some floor plans. I liked the paintings depicting the family life of the emperor and his children. His collection of artifacts, ranging from his tea set, his pencil cases, carved screens, furniture to a clock manufactured in Europe were also part of the exhibits. His taste apparently was eclectic. The exhibition succeeded in presenting Qianlong as a family man and an avid art collector of all kinds of curios.

Furthermore, his affinity for the Han culture was reflected by his dressing up his Han costumes in many paintings.

The exhibition provided a good audio-visual presentation on the life of Qianlong in general, and how specifically the artifacts were reproduced or restored by the present government. Although it sounded remarkable, for example, how a search team went out to look for embroiders in Suzhou and some 200 of them were recruited to reproduce the embroidery for the cushions on the Emperor’s chair, I could not help feeling sad that a lot of China’s national treasures had been lost or destroyed in a recent page of the country’s history under the same government. If now, why then? I asked myself.  I wonder if there is an answer.

Chiu Chow Fanfare in Hong Kong

Chiu Chow is a region of the eastern Guangdong province in southern China. It has its unique culture recognized as part of the world heritage. Chiu Chow cuisine uses the most expensive and the most mundane ingredients to create dishes that one can never forget.

I was invited to a banquet at the Chiu Chow Garden, which catered to the more high-end of Chiu Chow cuisine in Hong Kong on my recent visit. We were chatting over some tea and Chiu Chow pickles–tofu, pickled vegetables, peanuts and beans.

Then how I wished I had fasted for at least two days before this dinner when the dishes were brought in front of me one by one.

First of the roast pig. This is not exactly Chiu Chowese, but it speaks for the generosity of my hosts. Only the crackling and the tender layer of meat are served, and they are eaten on a thin piece of bread with hoi sin sauce. As if the pig is not extravagant enough, it is decorated with a tiny dots of edible gold leaves.

The four hors oeuvres are brought in with the carrot carving of a bird for decoration. It can sing! (This is food plating at its ultimate,)  My plate consists of jelly fish with sesame oil, crab ball with plum sauce, goose breast, and stir fry beef. Each bite is a delicacy.

The legendary Chiu Chow shark fin soup is next. (At this point, I do have to apologize to any supporter of endangered species that this may not be a politically correct item on the menu. I would not order this item for myself, but in Hong Kong, it would also be outright impudence to decline what your hosts offer you.) This is an expensive soup.  It is thicker and darker than the Cantonese shark fin soup and has a distinct flavour. One can add coriander and vinegar for extra taste. It is a very rich soup, and kung fu tea is called for to clean the palate before the next dish.

The star coral is a big fish. Its fillet is cooked in two ways: stir fried with broccoli and deep-fried with hot pepper and salt. Both dishes are delicious.

One of my favorite dishes is omelette with baby oysters. It is a traditional Chiu Chow dish because Chiu Chow is by the sea where seafood is plenty. The soft oyster meat is so tasty wrapped in egg. Since most dinner menus include a chicken dish, the steamed free range chicken is served.

Rice and noodles are served towards the end, in case the guests are not full when they finish the main menu. The rice came with roasted nuts, diced yam and chicken. All these are mixed into the rice before the rice is served into individual bowls.

The fried noodles Chiu Chow style is also my favorite. The noodles are soaked in a broth before they are fried in a very hot pan on both sides. The end product is a crunchy outside and a soft inside. My slice is served with sugar and dark vinegar. So tasty!.

Desserts are absolutely indulgent!

My platter includes:(from top left clockwise): thousand-layered cake, date cake, yam ball in puff pastry, yam stick dusted with sugar and egg crunch. Kung Fu tea is served again with the fruits.  This is a meal that I shall talk about, blog about and continue to savor the memories of for a long time.

Chiu Chow Garden, Hutchinson House, Central, Hong Kong.

From Grimsby to Dundas: End to End with the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club (Day 4)

This was the fourth and final day of the hike. We woke up with a mixed feeling of excitement and wariness.We had come a long way and we should be completing our first End to End hike of the Bruce Trail. At the same time, we did not want a repeat of yesterday’s soaking wet hike. To our relief, it was not raining when we drove to Mountain Brow Blvd. in Hamilton, near the arena to park our cars.

Day 4

The bus took us  to Grimsby to enter the starting point of Bruce Trail that was managed by the Iroquoia club. It was relatively dark still. We heard the leaves shuffling under our feet and the sound of the water rushing down Forty Mile Creek as we climbed up Grimsby Mountain. It was quite an incline, but once we were on top, and dawn had broken through, the hike became more relaxing. The first check point at Fifty Road emerged after an uneventful 9 Km hike.

We heard occasionally the sound of traffic and trains passing, which suggested that we were close to the rail track and the main road. The narrow trail surface was very muddy,  and often slippery. It started to rain too, although not as relentlessly as the day before.  It demanded full concentration on where we landed our feet with each step.

The check point at New Mountain Road was right beside the rail track. We quickly devoured our sandwiches with their water and hot cider. We only had one-third of the day’s journey to go–move on!

As if nature (or the hike planners) wanted to reward us for our effort, a waterfall came in sight. We did not have any sign to tell us what its name was.

When we went further downstream and captured a better view of the landscape, this was very well the Devil’s Punch Bowl, another punch bowl waterfall like the Borer’s Fall we saw on Day 3.  I was hiking near here in the summer but it was dry then.

Since this section of the trail was very popular with visitors who would come only to look at the falls, the surface was paved, and there were railings keeping people away from the precipice. Felkers Falls came into view next.

We made another turn to go around the gorge.

This creek further down probably fed into the Red Hill Creek,

which we crossed over a big metal bridge. These were the views upstream and downstream. The water level was high with all the rain in the past week.

We turned into the Red Hill Creek Side Trail uphill (left side of photo above). We came down here on Day 3 and hiked towards Dundas in the opposite direction on the Main Trail. Now we were finally out of the woods on Mountain Brow Boulevard. We climbed over the guard rails to cross the road to report to the finish check- point. We forgot that we were soaked through and proudly received our hard-earned badge that was awarded for the completion of the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club End to End—a four-day hike of almost 130 Km.

Reference:  The Bruce Trail REference Maps and Trail Guide Edition 27 (2012). Maps 5, 6 and 7.

From Hamilton to Dundas: End to End with the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club (Day 3)

We had five days to rest after Day 2. Came Saturday the following week, we were up again to meet outside Dundas Golf Club at 6:30 a.m. for Day 3. It had been raining the past few days, and it was still raining when we headed out. We had to wear our ponchos, which despite keeping us somewhat drier, also made climbing uphill more dangerous.

We had done almost 70 Km so far walking from north to south on the Bruce Trail. The organizers planned it such that the hike was in a south to north direction this weekend.

Day 3

The bus took us to Mountain Brow Blvd. on Hamilton Mountain. We entered the trail by the Red Hill Creek Side Trail (following blue blazers) and joined the Main Bruce Trail (following white blazers) at the bottom of the hill. The hike today was to walk across Hamilton Mountain, enter Dundas Valley Conservation Area to return to the golf club. We were hiking on the same elevation in the beginning, but because of the rain, footing was slippery, and we had to be extremely careful not to  step on the moss.

We hiked through King’s Forest and soon found ourselves on the Escarpment Rail Trail. The rail line was below us and Sherman Access, a thoroughfare, was above us. We heard the sound of trains and traffic, and this was a different experience from just hearing the sound of wind and rain splashing in the forest. On a day like this, I much preferred the feeling that I was close to civilization. The first check-point was at Beckett Drive.

The next lag was on the Chedoke Radial Trail and the paved surface was a reprieve in the rainy weather. Soon after passing the car park of the Chedoke Golf Course, we saw water rushing down from the mountain above. The rain had brought the waterways and waterfalls to life. However, it had also caused flooding. There was an area where we had to wade through a rushing torrent and our shoes and socks were all soaked. Fortunately, we had hiked on this section of the trail before, and the knowledge that after crossing the bridge over Hwy 403 we should be arriving at the second check point at Filman Road motivated us on.

The next section of the trail should also the most scenic. First we passed Tiffany Fall and its bridge.

Then there was Sherman Fall and we had entered the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.

Canterbury Falls soon appeared.

Then we crossed the Sulphur Creek.

Had it been a sunnier day, the Dundas Conservation Area would have been ideal for photography. Meanwhile, we focused on our hike and what a wonderful feeling it was to arrive at the third check-point at the Dundas Valley Trail Centre, where bagels with cream cheese were waiting for us.

We had less than 5 Km to go, and we knew that the end would soon be in sight when we were hiking along the perimeter of the Dundas Golf Club.

We were very wet and soaked at the end of the hike. It was a relief nevertheless that we had completed almost 30 Km on this third day. The feeling was more of anticipation than fatigue, because we only had one more day to go. We must rest well this night.

Reference: The Bruce Trail Reference Maps and Trail Guide, Edition 27 (2010). Maps 7 and 8.