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This May was hot and incredulously I ended up going to a couple of hockey games, which is a great way to beat the heat. I also started reading again, thanks to the fact that I bought a Kobo Touch. I also saw my first movie in almost a year, and built another Android app

Over the long weekend, we didn’t do much. We went to Buffalo on the Saturday, and to the Islands on the Sunday (the picture is the Toronto skyline through the island airport). The trip to Buffalo ended up being pretty smooth, we hardly had to wait at the border on the way there or back, and didn’t have to pay tax on the $400+ purchases we made. However, it was quite hot on that trip, even though the high was supposed to only be the high 20s. Even if it wasn’t, it certainly felt like the start of summer.

We also started our language course at Seneca this month. We’re learning Korean, which seems a bit weird, but we have some interest because:

  1. We live in an area with a lot of Korean people
  2. The language is logical so (seems like it) is easy to pick up

Although I’m not sure how successful we will be – it seems like a lot of memorization still.

On Friday night, I was watching the Maple Leafs/Sabres preseason game and learned that it was a home-and-home, with the second game on Saturday night. I asked Pauline if she wanted to go on Saturday night and she said yes. Great! but the only problem is that we didn’t have tickets…

I ended up using StubHub for the first time, which is a website where people can resell tickets to events. We got a pair of 3rd row 300s for $31 each, which is over a 100% increase of the face value ($15). That’s not too expensive because I had looked at preseason tickets at the ACC and they were $35 for obstructed-view tickets! What pissed me off is that StubHub is the same garbage as Ticketmaster. I had to pay a 10% fee (so $6.20) for using the service, and then a $4.95 fee for “getting my tickets over email”.

Having a game in Buffalo also gave us an excuse to do some cross-border shopping, which we did, and then drove through some unfamiliar and ghetto parts of Buffalo before arriving at the stadium. The event parking was only $10 which was nice as I was expecting $20 as per Toronto. There were A LOT of Buffalo jerseys (the more recent gold and blue ones, not the old black and red ones) and not as many Leaf jerseys as I thought there would be. Although I did find a pair of Leaf fans wearing jerseys with the name Miller (and numbers 1 and 35) – so they had Ryan Miller on the wrong team AND wrong number! Speaking of wrong team, I also saw full poster advertisements for Tim Connolley who is now on the Maple Leafs!

(I saw Elliot Friedman as he talked on HNIC)

We sat above the Leafs goal in the first and third, so I saw a lot of #51 (Jake Gardiner’s) impressive skating and first pass skills. Unfortunately, Toronto played most of their regular lineup on Friday so we only saw ⅔ of the second and third lines, ⅓ of the defense. Here was the starting lineup for Toronto (Buffalo iced a much stronger team, although they were missing Miller, Roy and Pominville from their regular lineup).

(Grabovski just got thrown out so Kulemin is taking the faceoff)

The game ended up being Buffalo PP 3, Mikhail Grabrovski Crosbovski 2. Grabovski scored a couple of nifty goals, deflecting the first one off his skate and then leaping to tap in a rebound. Our PK looked shakey (couldn’t clear the puck and gave up all 3 goals) and Gustavsson did not look confident in net. Buffalo has a very strong team this year, and they played a stronger lineup so it’s not too surprisingly we lost; but hopefully we’ll get our act together and be more competitive by the regular season.

Over the Easter long weekend, we embarked on a mission to improve our health & longevity. Although perhaps they didn’t take into account sitting in a car for several hours in their study.

Our goal was to stay in the US over 48 hours so that we could get the $400 personal exemption, and we accomplished that by staying over for about 48 hours and 30 minutes! We started out on Thursday night and crossed at Fort Erie at about 9PM. There weren’t many cars at the border at that time so it was smooth sailing. We headed all the way to the Erie to stay at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront because I got a good deal with SPG cash+points.

Although the Bayfront is only a 3 star property, it was quite nice. The decor is modern with lots of wallpaper, but feels very warm. It’s also on the lake and lit up at night, but unfortunately it was raining a lot so that was not conducive to going outside to take pictures.

We spent the next day shopping at Grove City (0% tax on clothes) before heading back to Buffalo for…more shopping. In the end we were limited to what we could buy because we ran out of trunk space, but the good news was that we were all under the $400 exemption limit still!

Every year in the summer, work gives us a couple of floater days around the long weekends. Usually that means I just take one less day when I go off on a summer vacation, but this year we weren’t travelling so it is just an odd day where everyone else has to go to work but I don’t.

We used this to our advantage on Tuesday to head down to the US for some shopping. Normally the trek down to the US is torturous as the QEW is busy with both cross border shoppers and construction. This time, there was only construction which meant smooth sailing to the border. We crossed at Rainbow Bridge and (still) had to wait about 20 mins to get across at 10AM. We headed to the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls and Walden Galleria. I wouldn’t say that they were bare, as there were still people around (and you could tell they were from Canada) but it was definitely much more comfortable. It’s kind of like going to a town vs going to a city.

For dinner we went to the Cheesecake Factory. Usually this involves a 2 hour wait unless you do some reservation acrobatics. On this random Tuesday, the hostess still quoted us 20 minutes for an inside table at 7:30PM! But we were able to sit outside without much wait. Here’s an obligatory cheesecake shot (this one is the pineapple upside down cheesecake):

We headed back across the border around 9 at Fort Erie. They had a total of 2 custom guards open! But we still didn’t have to wait (just one car ahead of us). Best of all, even though we bought more than $100 worth of stuff, they border guard didn’t ask us to go in and pay taxes (although he did ask to look in our trunk). Going cross border shopping on an off day is definitely an easier experience.

On Sunday, we went down to Buffalo with Joe and Ida to go The Melting Pot. This was the first time I went across the border for something other than shopping or tourism; ok that’s not true, we went shopping this time too, but it was for our stomachs.

The Melting Pot’s specialty is fondue, and we had three courses of fondue. We started with a Swiss cheese fondue with white wine, nutmeg, lemon and Kirschwasser. We had bread, green apple bits and vegetables to dip with. I’m not a big fan of cheese, but it was not bad.

We shared a couple of dishes for our main course, The French Quarter (Andouille sausage with shrimp, chicken and tenderloin), the Seafood Trio (shrimp, scallop and fillets), and Teriyaki sirloin. Everything came raw, so we cooked it in a Court Bouillon broth. It was kind of like hot pot, except not AYCE.

Each entree came with a salad, and we tried the California salad, a house salad and the mushroom salad I believe. The mushroom salad was good, the house salad was weird and the California salad sucked. For dessert we had a dark chocolate fondue spiked with Grand Marnier. We were given a plate of mini desserts (like brownies and rice krispies) to dip, along with some strawberries.

The Melting Pot was an interesting experience and wasn’t too expensive. It ended up costing about $30 USD per person, which is about how much you would spend for dinner at *-licious.

For Pauline’s Birthday, I took her a Leafs game. Ok, so it was in Buffalo, and it was only pre-season; but on the plus side, we didn’t have to spend the downpayment for our home on it! Actually it was really awesome, because I got rinkside tickets, which meant that when someone came down the wing and shot at the net (especially the prospects), it was an OH SHIT DUCK moment. Here’s our view:

The bad part of the view was that any time the play was down at the other end, we couldn’t really tell what was happening. Other than that, it was an exciting game. The score was 0-0 through two periods, before the Leafs went out to a 2-0 lead. Only to have Buffalo score a goal at 2:21 left, another goal with 5 seconds left in regulation time. And finally the winner at 1:03 in overtime. We were surrounded by Buffalo fans, so everyone around us erupted during the comeback. Even though the Leafs didn’t win, it was very exciting, especially when someone got checked.

This game was also a special event because Buffalo rolled out the red carpet for the Leafs. I thought this meant that the Leafs would walk down the red carpet, but it was only the Sabre players. We were lucky to have loud kids in front of us so the players would come over and sign their shirts/jerseys. I couldn’t recognize any of them but here is I think Jochen Hecht and Rick Jeanneret (play-by-play announcer).

We stayed overnight at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo. Surprisingly (until you get there) there are no 4 or 5 star hotels in Buffalo, and the Hyatt was a three star. Although, for some reason it’s only the 18th ranked hotel in Buffalo on Trip Advisor. After reading the reviews, I was prepared to be disappointed by their rooms, but it wasn’t that bad. I have a new rating system for hotel room size, and our room rolled in at 3 Japanese-Hotel-Rooms size. Here’s what it looked like: