May Smiles

Tulips

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in my blog space for a coffee or tea. It’s the last day of May and a Sunday so I hope we can linger and catch up on what’s been happening. Let me share with you what brings me smiles in May.

Pink tulips

Spring continues to transform the scenery in my neighbourhood. Every week what I see is like one of many acts in a theatre play, where each act brings on new props. Tulips, trilliums, and dandelions have reached their blooms while lilacs and other flowers are getting to their prime.

Health

Lake view on a sunny day

I’m thankful that the lockdown started in the spring, as opposed to winter. Spring is the ideal time to visit local parks and gardens to see the beautiful trees and blooming flowers. They brighten my day and keep me in good spirits. I’m also thankful to have Lake Ontario nearby so I can go and soak in the ever-changing views and watch active bird life.

I’m committed to stay fit and have fun in May. I do a combination of meditation, strengthening exercises, walking, and yoga to keep me calm and strong. By adding Chloe Bent’s 20-minute dance cardio workout to my Friday fitness routine, I have something fun to look forward to on Fridays.

Home

White trillium flower

Grocery shopping continues to be interesting. Some products are still on short supplies or unavailable when I’m at the store. Fortunately, brand substitutions have brought satisfying results. One of the three supermarkets in my neighbourhood requires shoppers to wear masks. Bars and restaurants are still closed. Take-outs, delivery, drive-through, or curbside pickups only.

I used Jean Paré’s Muffins and More recipe book to bake my first Coconut Bread. It was easy to make and turned out very good. It would go well with coffee or tea. I’m learning to bake one new recipe per month just for fun. I’ve progressed from no baking to five successes!

Leisure

Pink tulips

Blogs: May 31 marks a full year that I’ve been using WordPress for my blog. I’m happy with WordPress and still enjoy blogging. Several ideas are floating in my mind so stay tuned for the next post 🙂

Hot Docs 2020 Festival: I enjoyed viewing some of the thought-provoking documentaries from the Hot Docs 2020 festival, one of the biggest documentary film festivals in the world, from the comfort of my home.

Languages: I learn French and Spanish lessons daily on Duolingo.

Movies: These movies are all about love and relationships. I gave them 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5. Their locations made my travel heart happy.

  • Ma Ma starring Penélope Cruz (Spain).
  • Boy starring James Rollestone & Taika Wahiti (New Zealand).
  • Girl on a Bicycle starring Louise Monot (France).
  • This Beautiful Fantastic starring Jessica Brown Findlay and Tom Wilkinson (England).
  • Take Me Home starring Sam Jaeger and Amber Jaeger (USA).
Pink trillium flowers

Music: I listened to a lot of pop music in May plus 2020 Jazz concert at Lincoln Center Gala, and classical concerts at Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall.

Readings: To shake up my reading routine and since May is Short Story month, I paused my book reading and started reading 73 Canadian short stories available free online. I also listened to actors’ readings of Harry Potter’s The Philosopher’s Stone or The Sorcerer’s Stone, chapters 1 to 7.

Shows and Theatre Plays: In May, I watched MacBeth, The Tempest, A Streetcar Named Desire (with Gillian Anderson), and the Cirque du Soleil special One Night for One Drop.

Walks

With a little planning, each of my walks outdoors is interesting. It’s getting warmer as we move into summer so I leave home earlier in the morning and add sun protection to make my walks more comfortable.

A wild bunny
A wild bunny

Two nice wildlife surprises made me smile this week. I saw a bunny, maybe the same Easter bunny that I spotted in April, and three new Trumpeter swans with tags X01, X02, X03 in the harbour. They are not the Trumpeter swans P24 and T63 that I saw before. The Trumpeter swan was near extinction about forty years ago so I was pleased to see five of them in two months.

Three Trumpeter swans X01, X02 and X03
Three Trumpeter swans X01, X02, X03

Conclusion

The end of May marks 22 weeks into 2020 and 11 of those weeks were under heavy COVID-19 impact. I anticipate that it’s a long haul even as restrictions ease up. In my own small world, May is a good month. I’m grateful that everyone in my circle of family and friends is safe and well.

Lake view with water taxi and ferry

June usually brings good weather here and Toronto Public Library starts curbside book pick-ups in early June. I look forward to being outdoors as much as possible and reading more books in the coming weeks. After all, the lake view and a good book are irresistible.

How did May go for you? What good things happened? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Life with Moments of Beauty

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in my blog space for a coffee or tea and let’s catch up on our news since last week when we chatted about staying fit and having fun.

Life This Week

Lake view with white clouds
The essentials of life: Air, light, water

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the Government of Ontario allowed more businesses to re-open starting May 19. All public schools in Ontario remain closed for the remainder of the current school year and online learning continues until the end of June.

The business re-openings have made no difference to my daily routine. We still need to maintain physical and social distancing. Canada’s public health officials now say Canadians should wear a mask whenever physical distancing is not possible.

I continue to stay home most of the time, except going out for short walks to exercise or to buy groceries. During the day I’m active and in the evening I have plenty of digital media to keep me entertained. I go for walks 5 or 6 times per week. While out in nature, I experience many moments of beauty that make me feel positive and grateful.

Moments of Beauty

If we were having coffee, I’d share the moments of beauty that came from the fresh spring flower blossoms on one of my walks. Every day new flowers appear and the trees become more lush with green leaves. The variety and individuality of the flowers are ideal for my virtual bouquet. Let’s see how many of them are familiar to you.

Trillium flowers
White trillium flowers
White trillium flower is the official provincial emblem of Ontario, Canada and is featured on the province’s official flag. The name itself derives from the fact that nearly all parts of the plant come in threes – three leaves, three flower petals, three blooming characteristics (upright, nodding, or drooping) and three-sectioned seedpods.

Pasque flowers
Pasque flowers
Pasque is the Old French word for Easter. The lavender colour of the flowers fits right into an Easter colour scheme. But happily, the Easter bunny will leave them alone because rabbits dislike leaves that are fuzzy. 

Little Beauty tulips
Mystery pretty flowers
These Little Beauty tulips (tulipa humilis) are lovely tulips that make a striking impact. I was excited to find out their name after some searching. Initially I called them Mystery pretty flowers.

Cushion spurge flowers
Cushion spurge flowers
Cushion spurge grows in an attractive dome (cushion) and the combination of neon yellow flowers on green leaves is eye-catchy when you see them in real life.

Grape hyacinths
Grape hyacinths
These grape hyacinths have clustered flowers hang from sturdy stalks, resembling bundles of grapes. They look luscious in the sunshine.

I’ll pause here since my virtual bouquet is getting big with all the flowers. There are more to see. Maybe in a future post. For now, another enjoyable walk done in my book. I come home with a smile and feel positive.

I call these flower blooms “moments of beauty” because the time period when they look their best is brief. I feel grateful to be around to witness these moments. Thank you for coming along with me. I hope my virtual bouquet brings you a smile.

If you’d like to extend the virtual walk, continue to my blogger friend Erica/ Erika’s Behind The Scenery Photo blog for stunning tulips and more.

How did your week go? What are the common spring flowers where you live? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Committing to Stay Fit and Have Fun

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope you’re doing well. Today is time for the 5th monthly Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020. The optional prompt is Commitment.

In this post, I’m sharing how I keep my commitment to stay fit and have fun before and during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. Yes, the Fun factor keeps the commitment alive. Let’s start with what Commitment means.

The Definition of Commitment

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Commitment means:

  • a promise or firm decision to do something.
  • willingness to give your time and energy to a job, activity, or something that you believe in.
  • something that you must do or deal with that takes your time.

Committing to a Wellness Journey

Hiking trail

I make a commitment to carry out a balanced wellness routine for my mind and body because I believe good health is essential to enjoy life. I have many ideas to live an enriched explorer’s life. I want to realize as many of them as possible.

I adjust my wellness routine whenever it is necessary such as when I travel, or as I age, or during the current physical/ social distancing situation. All along, I make sure to have fun in my routine.

In case you’re interested in knowing more about me and my wellness journey, I’m listing two guest posts and one page that I’ve written before:

Staying Fit While Physical/ Social Distancing

Steps at Toronto Music Garden

Working out, meditating, and practicing yoga are three of the few things we can do at home and they’re great for our physical and mental health. In my city, during the lockdown phase, we can go outside for walks to exercise so here’s what I’ve been doing for my wellness since mid-March:

  • Smile greeting and meditation at home: daily.
  • Walking outdoors: Monday to Friday. Sunday is optional. No walking on Saturday as it’s the busier day in my neighbourhood.
  • Strengthening workouts at home: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
  • Yoga at home: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

The good news is we can get a good workout including strength training with minimal or no equipment. I allocate a small area in my home for my workouts and yoga practice. I use a chair, a resistance band, my own body weight, and my yoga mat.

If you recently start or resume doing exercises and you have your doctor’s approval to proceed, my suggestion is to start off small, build up over time, and track your progress. The gradual process prevents injuries and soreness. It also builds your confidence and good healthy habits for the long term.

If you’ve been good at regular exercising, keep it interesting. Complacency and repetition lead to boredom or plateau and make our workouts less effective. Some of the ways to spice up our workouts include: increase number of repetitions, change the sequence of exercises or the exercises themselves or the play list or the video, or add something new. The possibilities are endless.

Having Fun While Staying Fit

Daffodils

The Fun factor is important to keep me committed to my wellness routine. When I walk outside, I change my route frequently, I look at public art or nature and enjoy my time outdoors. I make it count.

I recently tried Chloe Bent’s Dance Cardio Workout video. Chloe is a CanFitPro certified Group Fitness Instructor in Canada. The video is one of five videos in the Fit Class Live series released in 2018.

What I like about this dance cardio workout is that it’s 20 minutes long, it’s fun, there is no rule, no equipment required, I learn something new, I do it at my own pace, I make up some moves, I enjoy the music, and I smile. Chloe is clear, energetic, and friendly, and one of her teammates shows the low impact version.

There are no affiliated links on my blog. If you’re looking for something fun to freshen up your fitness routine, click here to try Chloe Bent’s Dance Cardio workout on YouTube. Skip the ad and dance like no one is watching!

When was the last time you danced and smiled? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join the May 2020 Wellness Weekend link-up.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

How Would You Answer These 5 Questions?

Tulips

I am delighted to be a guest on Denyse Whelan’s blog, as part of her Women of Courage Series. I answered these questions in March 2020. We agreed to set a publishing date for May 13, 2020. Denyse is in Australia and I am in Canada so we are really connecting across the continents.

In my post I am sharing three of my life experiences where I have had to be courageous. I have drawn on them again and again whenever I need to be resilient and strong. The near death health-related experience gives me a greater appreciation for life in general.

Click here to read the interview. I would be delighted if you could drop by, read the interview, and leave a comment. I look forward to meeting you there!

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Life and Advice From A Tree

Trees

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. Last Sunday it was sunny here with the high temperature reached 21C (70F). Then during the week, it was cooler than normal which made my walks relaxing. Cooler weather and walking in non-peak hours mean less effort required to keep physical distancing from people.

Life This Week

If we were having coffee, I’d share that Ontario, my province, started allowing a few seasonal businesses to reopen on May 4. All other non-essential business closures continue so my mostly stay-at-home routine continues. Every day is full of simple pleasures that make me feel positive and grateful.

I take time to appreciate sunrise, deep breathing, quiet meditation, a bowl of warm oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon for breakfast, ripe-just-right fruit, a good cup of coffee, OK two cups of coffee, birds chirping outside, cheerful spring flowers, lots of daylight, moving at my own pace, a walk to the lake, a hot lunch, getting things done, a cup of tea, hand clapping with neighbours for carers, dinner at home, sunset, relaxation, and rest.

Cherry blossoms

Some of the things that I got done this week made me smile:

  • Congratulated my nephew who graduated from university with honours this month and promptly accepted a very good full-time job offer in his field of study.
  • Completed my daily meditation, 5 outdoor walks, 4 yoga sessions, and 3 workouts.
  • Tried a dance workout on YouTube to spice up my fitness routine and had fun.
  • Walked to the Toronto Music Garden and saw many beautiful spring flowers, including cherry blossoms and trillium.
  • Did my grocery shopping in non-peak hours and got most items on my list.

Advice From A Tree

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the trees that I’ve seen on my walk this week inspired me to think about Ilan Shamir’s poem Advice From A Tree and the Tree pose in my yoga practice. I’m sharing the poem (text in italic) and some of my photos below:

Dear Friend,

Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings

Willow trees

Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures

Trees with yellow flowers

Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!

Lake view on a sunny day

I enjoy my walk so much. I always come home with a smile and feel renewed. Nature inspires me to think about the Advice From A Tree poem and the Tree pose in my yoga practice. If you practice yoga, you know the Tree pose requires and improves our focus, balance, and strength.

During these uncertain times, I choose to focus on the positives, work on finding a balance in my day, be flexible, and stay strong. Once in a while, when anxious thoughts occur, I take a few deep breaths and think about the trees. This week is another good week. Thank you for coming along with me. I hope you enjoy our virtual walk.

Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day weekend!

Tulips

How did your week go? What good things happened? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

April Smiles

Orange tulips and daffodils

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope you’re well. Come on in so we can share a coffee or tea and our news. If we were having coffee, I’d share with you what made me feel positive and gave me five big smiles since I mentioned my Gratitude list. Heads up that there are lots of spring flowers in this post.

Smile #1 – Family and Friends

My family and friends are well. We stay in touch by phone, text, email, and the occasional virtual meetings. Most of my family members who are working are essential workers so they’re actually busier and under more stress than usual. Knowing that everyone in my circle is safe and in good health makes me smile.

Smile #2 – Health

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I was diligent about my health routine in April. I meditated every day, practiced deep breathing and yoga three times per week, and did strengthening workouts three times per week. I also walked outdoors five or six times per week, about one hour each time.

I’m mindful of keeping a safe distance from everyone else. Most of the time, it’s easy to do physical distancing because there is no one in my path when I go. My 5K walks let me see Lake Ontario, beautiful spring flowers, wildlife, and interesting murals and sculptures. They keep me in good spirits.

Smile #3 – Home

If we were having coffee, I’d share that in April, I baked my first Blueberry Coffee Cake. It would go well with our coffee or tea. I used Jean Paré’s easy-to-follow recipe from her Muffins and More book. She’s a Canadian and author of the Company’s Coming cookbook series that has sold over 30 million copies since 1981.

The cake was a success so I’d make it again in the future. The topping has cinnamon which smells very nice when I bake the cake. I included the recipe. Note that I used blueberries instead of cranberries. Raspberries work, too.

Smile #4 – Leisure

During this global pandemic, there is a huge amount of arts and entertainment available online 24/7 without extra cost. With my library card, I have access to more leisure materials than time to explore them all. In April, here’s some of what I enjoyed:

  • Books: I was happy to spend time away from the screen and read over 1,000 pages from three compelling books, Dear Life by Alice Munro who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, Angela’s Ashes, a memoir and Pulitzer Prize winner by Frank McCourt and The Sisters Brothers, finalist of several literary prizes in 2011, by Patrick deWitt.
  • Films: My library card gives me access to a great collection of films and documentaries. I chose to watch three films in April: The Gold Rush, Modern Times, and Call Me by Your Name. The first two are Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterworks. The third film won several awards in 2018 and its location reminded me of my wonderful time in Italy.
  • Languages: French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo are my fun brain exercises, 30 minutes/ day. I chose two languages that have similarities to challenge myself. They also remind me of my many trips to France and Spain. The happy memories make me smile.
  • Music: I listened to Andrea Bocelli: Music for Hope, One World: Together At Home, and Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble concerts, plus numerous classical concerts online at the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall, and music played by professional DJs on the radio.
  • Shows: The Cirque du Soleil Premier show on CirqueConnect and The Nutcracker ballet at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre were incredible to watch. Pre-pandemic I wouldn’t be able to watch them from front row seats. In April I could watch them in close details from home for free.

Smile #5 – Blogs

I wrote five blog posts in April and the “Oscar” goes to Life is Like A Box of Chocolates with the highest number of comments I received to date. Your comments brighten my day, thank you! Please keep them coming. I have fun reading your blogs and leaving my comments, too. Check out this page to see where I link up.

Tulips

Stay Safe and Healthy

So I had many good reasons to smile and feel grateful for in April. The recipe for me to be well emotionally, mentally, and physically is to stick to my health routine and spice up my day with a variety of leisure activities.

I expect to continue staying at home most of the time in May, except to go out for exercise walks and groceries. I hope this 3-geese sign brings you a smile. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

How was your April? What makes you smile? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

5 Circular Art Works To See

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope you’re well and in the mood to see something new. Remember last month I took you on a virtual walk to see several Wave-themed art works? This week on one of my walks, I looked for art works with a Circular theme or a ripple effect to make my walk more interesting.

I’m sharing five sculptures and murals in alpha order of the artist’s last name. Let’s see if you can spot the circles or circular motion in the photos below.

Toronto Twister from A Series of Whirlpool Field Manoeuvres

Toronto Twister, 2017, Alice Aycock.

Designed by Alice Aycock, the Toronto Twister from A Series of Whirlpool Field Manoeuvres for Pier 27 (2017) is one of my favourite sculptures. It’s made of aluminum powder coated white structural steel. The white colour stands out against the blue backdrop of the lake on a sunny day.

The Toronto Twister from A Series of Whirlpool Field Manoeuvres for Pier 27, 2017, Alice Aycock.

The Twister is 25 feet tall at its highest point. Behind it is a series of whirlpool field manoeuvres that look like giant flowers. I love the sense of strength and movements in this installation.

Between the Eyes

Between The Eye, 1990, Richard Deacon.

Designed by Richard Deacon, the giant Between the Eyes sculpture (1990) is made of zinc sprayed steel, stainless steel, cement, and granite face base. I used to think of it as two whisks joined in the middle.

Between the Eye, 1990, Richard Deacon.

For a hard steel structure, the curves did give me a sense of plasticity. On this sunny day, I approached the sculpture from two different angles, looking south to the lake and looking east through the end circle.

Metropolis

Metropolis nail mural, 1977, David Gerry Partridge.

Designed by David Gerry Partridge, the Metropolis nail mural (1977) is one of the most popular attractions in the lobby of Toronto City Hall. The mural consists of nine panels made of aluminum sheathing over plywood, with over 100,000 copper and galvanized nails. Yes, nails!

Side view of Metropolis nail mural, 1977, David Gerry Partridge.

I love Partridge’s unique sculpture technique using nails to design the Metropolis mural. Partridge passed away at age 87 in 2006 so this mural is one of his legacy art works in Canada.

Nautilus Gateway

The Nautilus Gateway, 1992, Judith Schwarz.
Shadow of the Nautilus Gateway, 1992, Judith Schwarz.

Designed by Judith Schwarz, the Nautilus Gateway (1992) is a steel and bronze sculpture. Schwarz, a Canadian visual artist, has created public commissions in both Vancouver and Toronto, Canada. I like both the sculpture and its shadow on the sidewalk.

Heavenly Waters

Heavenly Waters mural, 1997, Wyland.

Designed by the artist Wyland, the Heavenly Waters mural (1997) was #70 in Wyland’s Whaling Wall series of outdoor art. He started painting the series in the 80s and finished his 100th mural in June 2008 to share his love of marine life with 100 communities around the world.

I’m thrilled that Toronto has one of Wyland’s murals at an unusual location. It’s on the side of the Redpath Sugar Factory. On the left of the above photo is where big ships dock to load or unload sugar.

I love the circular movements of the whales and how the water colour gets darker in the depth of the ocean. The Heavenly Waters mural reminded me of the real whales I saw on Canada’s West Coast last September. Very happy memories!

Whales in British Columbia.

I’m grateful for a sunny day, a nice walk, and interesting visual arts. The experience makes me smile and feel positive. Thank you for coming along with me. I hope you enjoy the circular-themed art works through my lens.

How did your week go? What makes your day interesting? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.