4 Years of Blogging | Thanksgiving Musings

Hello blog friends! How are things going? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space for a coffee or tea and let’s chat. The weather was typical autumn this past week, mainly sunny and cool, with some showers and strong winds mid-week.

I had a good week with my usual cycling, walking, workouts, yoga, meditation, house work, language lessons, blogging, and reading. I also got in touch with my family and friends by phone and text. This weekend I’m celebrating my blog anniversary and Thanksgiving holiday.

4 Years of Blogging: Some Thoughts

  • A milestone: I reached a blogging milestone, 4 years of blogging, on October 10th. I started my blog with Blogger in October 2016 and then switched to WordPress in June 2019. Same blog name Natalie the Explorer on both platforms. I didn’t move my old Blogger blog posts over to WordPress yet and probably won’t.
  • A good habit: I like the rhythm and habit of thinking and writing. This year I’ve been posting once a week. My blog is where I record some of what I’ve been up to, write down some thoughts, share some of my photos, and interact with my blog readers and other bloggers.
  • Friendships: I had the pleasure to meet several blogger friends IRL on Vancouver Island last September. I hope to meet them again and meet new blogger friends in the future.
  • Ongoing learning: One of the reasons for my platform switch was to learn something new. I jumped “cannonball” style into using WordPress block editor right away. I think all bloggers would agree with me that there’s always something new to learn from blogging, whether it’s new technology or general blog improvements or from readers’ comments.
  • Thank You: I want to thank everyone who reads my blog and everyone who takes the time to leave a comment. Blogging has been a fun ride for me. Your comments and friendship make it more fun and they motivate me to continue blogging. I hope you continue sharing your thoughts here.

Thanksgiving Musings: 10 Personal Gains

Currently, Canada is in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto public health officials have urged residents not to invite anyone over for Thanksgiving dinner this year, and to mark the holiday with only members of their immediate household. So it’s a quiet Thanksgiving at my place.

I made donations to the local food drive. I contacted my family and friends to chat and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I spent some time thinking about what I’ve personally gained in the last seven months since COVID-19 restrictions started in mid-March.

Ten personal gains in no particular order:

  1. Health Focus: I’ve always been active, however, this pandemic brings a laser focus for me to continue being physically active, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and stay mentally healthy.
  1. Time: I gain time from not getting ready to go somewhere, not commuting, not attending cultural and social events, and not traveling. This allows me to spend more time outdoors, linger when and where I want to, and read a lot more books.
  1. Money: I save more, mainly from not traveling. I’ve redirected some of my travel budget to recreation which is still a fraction of my usual travel budget. At this rate of saving, I may be able to upgrade or extend my trip next time I travel.
  1. Childhood Favourite: I resume and enjoy one of my favourite childhood activities, i.e. Cycling. When I was a child, I taught myself how to ride a bicycle using my mom’s adult bike. No training wheels for this kid. I’ve been cycling a lot more this year than previous year.
  1. A Quiet City: Toronto is the largest city in Canada. With event cancellations, business closures, online schools, and working from home arrangements, the city centre has been much quieter than normal. Less car and people traffic makes it relaxing and easier for me to maintain physical distancing when I go outside.
  1. Local Beauty: I’m grateful to have easy access to the Waterfront trail, Lake Ontario, local beaches, parks, gardens, Toronto Harbour, and the Toronto islands. This year I have more time to explore my home city by bike or on foot, and did a lot of paddling around the beautiful Toronto islands.
  1. New Discoveries: The more flexible and resourceful I am, the more fun and less stress I bring to myself. Examples: Closures of indoor gym, art galleries, concert halls, library branches? Do workouts at home, go digital, and switch to e-books. Jasmine rice unavailable? Buy Basmati rice. In the process of substitution, I discovered new videos, web sites, authors, brands, etc. Some substitutes have met or exceeded my expectations.
  1. New Skills: I use some of the extra time on hand to learn how to bake. I’ve baked several recipes and they all turned out well. I approached this as a learning experiment and proved to myself that yes, I can bake. I also improved my paddling skills by canoeing, kayaking, and stand up paddling this summer.
  1. Simple Living: The pandemic restrictions simplify life down to the essentials like staying at home and going out for exercises, groceries or medicine only. So my typical day involves going outside for fitness activities, grocery shopping, making meals at home, doing house chores, keeping in touch with family and friends by phone or text, and relaxing with books, films, and music.
  1. Life Experience: Even though I wish the pandemic would be over right now, it’s still part of our reality. Living through COVID-19 Wave 1 has given me the experience to prepare for Wave 2. Unlike Wave 1 which occurred during Spring and Summer here, Wave 2 is in Autumn and possibly Winter when it’s darker and colder. I know I need to step up my game and ride this out.

How did your week go? What personal gains have you experienced during the pandemic? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

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.

Happy 3 Years of Blogging

I’m co-hosting the Wellness Wednesday October 9th link up with my blogger friend, Leslie. The optional prompt is Gratitude. October 10th marks my 3rd full year of blogging so this is a 2-in-1 post to say happy three years of blogging to me and to express my blogging-related gratitude in no particular order 🙂

I’m Grateful For…

  • Free templates on Blogger and WordPress: I can try something new without spending money up front. Without the free templates, I probably wouldn’t start blogging in the first place. I started on Blogger in October 2016 and moved to WordPress in June 2019.
  • Easy-to-use blogging tools: I find both Blogger and WordPress easy to use. The move from Blogger to WordPress is simple. I’ve been using the WordPress block editor (Gutenberg) for all my blog posts from June to date without any issue so far.
  • The digital nature of a blog: It allows me to write and keep a digital record which is a lot lighter in weight than a paper journal. Less paper used, less physical storage needed, less to dust. Win, win, win.
  • The first comment that I received on my blog: It came from a blogger in February 2017, four months after I started blogging. We’re both still blogging and linking up. Do you remember the first comment you received on your blog?
This group of totem poles made me think of the blogging community: unique and together
  • Friends who blog: I started reaching out to meet up with bloggers in my third year of blogging. It was a pleasure to meet Ann, Joanne, Donna, Sue, and Jude in real life. Have you met a blogger and started a new friendship?
  • The link-up hosts: Especially the hosts who reply to comments on their blog and visit linked-up participant’s blog to comment. I appreciate your time and efforts. You’re building a blogging community and I think that’s cool.
  • The readers who leave comments on my blog: I appreciate your time and thoughtful comments. If you have a blog, I try to visit it and leave a comment, too. Your kind comments brighten my day and enrich the blog conversation.
  • The time to blog for leisure: Every blogger knows that blogging is time-consuming and time is one of our most precious resources. I’m grateful to have a small chunk of time to blog for leisure and at my own pace.
  • The freedom to blog: How wonderful is it that I’m free to type and publish my thoughts? My blog is a canvas where I create, edit, save, share, and connect with people across the miles. I’m enjoying the journey!

I hope you have a wonderful week. Happy Thanksgiving weekend to my Canadian friends and readers!

Click here to join in on the Wellness Wednesday link-up.

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

September Wrap-Up

Hello October and goodbye September! September was abnormal in a good way. First, there was one week of hosting our relatives who visited us from Germany and the USA. Then another week of travelling to Vancouver Island, meeting friends, and sightseeing. The rest of September was about catching up, enjoying local events, and chipping away at home projects. Let me share my highlights and I invite you to tell me yours.

September 2019

Arts

I revisited some of my favourite outdoor public artworks while showing my relatives around Toronto. I also saw amazing Canadian Native artworks on Vancouver Island. Since September was full of fun times with our extended family, I chose to feature the Immigrant Family bronze sculpture by Tom Otterness in this post.

Immigrant Family sculpture by Tom Otterness

Blogging

I wrote four blog posts to wrap up August and to share some of my fun experiences in Toronto and Kingston:

Just before I traveled to Vancouver Island, I received a message from Bree (3sistersabroad) who nominated my blog for the Leibster Award and the Sunshine Blogger Award. Thank you, Bree, for the nominations.

While on Vancouver Island, I met up with four blogger friends in Victoria and Parksville: Donna (Retirement Reflections), Sue (Sizzling towards Sixty and Beyond), Jude (Dr Sock Writes Here), and Ann (TheUnretired.life).

Beautiful smiles, stimulating conversations, good food, fun outdoor boardwalk, a tour of Qualicum Beach and Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, and more. Thanks, Donna, Sue, Jude, Ann, Richard (Donna’s husband) and Mike (Sue’s husband) for a wonderful weekend!

Books

I read just three books due to being “on the go” half of the month:

  • The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown
  • The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

Concert

I attended one wonderful concert titled Beginnings and performed by the Gryphon Trio (violin, cello, and piano). I cancelled a few concerts to spend more time with my relatives.

Family

Since it was my relatives’ first time to Toronto, at their request, the week was full with visits to the main attractions in Toronto, including one of my favourite go-to spots and the Island. The weather was good so we had BBQs a few times and took them to a winery in the Niagara region and the mighty Niagara Falls as well.

Toronto skyline
Toronto skyline

Friendship

My friends and I did our catch-ups while we attended the Toronto Dragon Festival and the 35th annual Veg Food Festival. Who can resist a festival that says “Make Friends. Eat Food.”? It’s North America’s largest plant-based food festival with over 160 vendors and full programs for three consecutive days.

When I was in Victoria, I met up with a former colleague for lunch at the Flying Otter Grill restaurant. It was great to catch up with her while enjoying local fish and chips right by the waterfront.

Health

When I was at home, I completed my meditation and walk every day. Also got in three swimming sessions, four yoga classes, and ten strengthening workouts in the gym.

When I traveled to Vancouver Island, I was able to keep up my fitness routine except swimming. In Victoria, for example, Beacon Hill Park is a beautiful place for walking. I actually walked more every day when I was out sightseeing. For strengthening exercises, I used my resistance band and my body weight. For meditation and yoga, I practiced in the quiet space where I stayed.

Beacon Hill Park

Learning

I continued my daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo. I learned about the new-to-me artists, book authors, and their work. I learned new things from the four blogger friends and the international travelers I met on my trip.

Movies

I watched only one movie (Rocketman). The annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was on from September 5 to 15. I took my relatives to King Street where the red carpet for film celebrities and celebration zone was located. It was great to feel the energy and the buzz in the city from the festival attendees.

TIFF sign

Travel

I travelled to Vancouver Island on Canada’s West Coast, about five hours by plane from Toronto. My itinerary included Victoria, Parksville, and Tofino. It was a wonderful trip. More details with photos to follow 🙂

Overall

September was full of fun activities and movements. I look forward to October when autumn colours are at their peak and we celebrate our Thanksgiving on October 12-14th long weekend.

How was your September? What good things happened? I’d love to hear your comments.

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

A Walk with Joanne

I wrote in May that I had my first blogger date with Ann, a fellow Canadian blogger from the West Coast. Following that fun date, I reached out to Joanne, another fellow Canadian blogger in Toronto. We agreed to meet on a Friday in July for a walk along the waterfront. A heat wave derailed our initial plan and made us postpone our date to the following week. Our second attempt was a go!

Even though we’ve just recently followed each other’s blog, we recognized each other in person right away. The weather was sunny and warm so after our introduction hug and smiles, we started heading west, making brief stops along the way to explore some of Toronto’s gems:

Toronto Book Garden
Toronto Book Garden features Toronto Book Award winners. The names of authors and winning book titles are engraved in paving stones.
Rees Wavedeck by HTO Park offers a glimpse of Toronto Harbour and Islands.
Toronto Music Garden where we saw a bird sipping water from the rock fountain.
Ireland Park
Ireland Park, the memorial to the Irish Famine migrants’ arrival in Toronto from 1846-1849. Behind the trees is the Kilkenny limestone sculptural wall containing the names of those who perished during the Famine. The five statues from back to front include The Orphan Boy, Woman on Ground, Pregnant Woman, Pius Mulvey, and The Jubilant Man.
Little Norway Park
Little Norway Park was built on the same site where a training camp for Norway’s Air Force was located during World War II. The park was officially opened by His Majesty King Olav V of Norway on Nov. 20, 1987. The Memorial Stone is a gift from Norway to Canada. The stone was shaped by nature through glacier action. The bronze plaque and text were completed in Norway before shipment to Toronto.
View from Coronation Park
View from Coronation Park

By the time we reached Coronation Park, it was getting warmer and close to lunch time so we turned around. A quick consultation with Joanne prompted me to suggest Gonoe Sushi for lunch. Aside from its location being on our route, I had a good meal there before and both of us haven’t had sushi recently.

Gonoe Sushi interior was nice and cool with the air conditioning humming. We got a table right away. Our food orders arrived shortly after. I had a sushi and maki roll combo while Joanne went for a dynamite sushi combo. Her verdict: “This was a good choice!“.

Sushi and maki rolls

After lunch, we walked to Union Station before saying goodbye. Altogether we completed five kilometers under sunny skies, chatted about our blogging experiences, blogger’s meet-ups, family, fitness tips, future plans, outdoor activities, travel stories, and solved our hunger with a nice sushi lunch…All within three hours 🙂

The two explorers
Feature photo by Joanne Sisco

If you haven’t followed Joanne, I recommend that you visit her two blogs: https://mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com/ and https://followingaboldplan.wordpress.com/

My special thank you to Joanne for a fun walk and chat along the waterfront. I enjoyed sharing the trail with you. Talk to you soon!

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

My First Blogger Date

My first date with a blogger happened in a spontaneous fashion. I read a post about ‘a blind date’ on Erica’s Behind The Scenery blog, left a comment, and saw Ann’s comment that she was going to be in Toronto the following week and would be interested in meeting a blogger.

So I contacted Ann at The Unretired.life blog and we agreed to meet for lunch at Bangkok Garden restaurant. This eatery has been around for over thirty years. They offer an all-you-can-eat Thai buffet lunch or à la carte options. I think the food and service there are pretty good and the price is reasonable.

Ann and I both chose the buffet lunch. We talked about blogging, travel, adventures at home and abroad, and so on. It was a fun conversation and the ninety minutes went by in a flash. Then we parted ways and followed up by sending each other some more blog URLs.

I think our first date went well. No nervousness or awkward moments. I informed Ann that I was planning a trip to Vancouver Island in September. I asked if she’d be available to meet me again while I’m there. She said yes!

Thank you to Erica for writing that post, and to Ann for a fun first blogger date. Talk to you again soon 🙂

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