Bits of Joy in March

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #13! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

My coffee share today includes two recent walks and a monthly review:

  1. Early spring flowers – Shared with Becky’s #BrightSquare, Cee’s FOTD.
  2. St. Andrew’s church – Shared with Dan’s #ThursdayDoors, Patti’s #Lens-Artists 141.
  3. March at a glance – Shared with Denyse’s #LifeThisWeek.

1. Early Spring Flowers

Tuesday March 30, 2021 was sunny with daytime high 17C (63F) and ideal for my walk in the Toronto Music Garden. A variety of bright and cheerful early spring flowers made me smile. Here’s my selection.

Croci

2. St. Andrew’s Church

A second walk was to St. Andrew’s Church, a large and historic Presbyterian church in downtown Toronto. St. Andrew’s was founded in 1830 as the first Church of Scotland congregation in the Town of York. It was first located at the southwest corner of Church and Adelaide Streets but this building was abandoned when it became too small for the expanding congregation.

William George Storm was chosen to be the architect for a larger building. The present building at King and Simcoe Streets was opened for worship in 1876 and is built in the Romanesque Revival style. The geometry of the church’s facade is amazing.

St. Andrew's Church.
St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andrew’s today is a living church. The church interior includes rich and handsomely carved wood, the Gallery Organ and choir loft, and beautiful stained glass windows.

St. Andrew’s manse, located south of the church, is in the Second Empire style with a Mansard roof. Again, the geometry of this building makes it attractive.

St. Andrew’s Manse

3. March At A Glance

We had a mild March with plenty of sunny days and warmer than normal temperatures. Daylight saving started on March 14. Spring arrived on March 20 with clear blue skies and sunshine. The nice weather was ideal for my outdoor explorations.

Health

In March, I cycled, walked, did body weight workouts, practiced meditation and yoga regularly. I started playing disc golf as the weather warmed up.

March was also the month when Ontario entered Wave 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic while the vaccination rollout made small progress. Toronto has been in lockdown since November 2020. I continue the 3Ws to stay safe and healthy: Wash my hands, wear my mask, and watch my distance.

Home

In March, I celebrated virtually with two family members and one longtime friend on their birthdays. I baked a blueberry banana loaf, first of 2021.

To support local businesses, I ordered Pad Thai and curry dishes from Salad King, a new-to-me eatery. The delivery was quick. The food arrived hot and tasty. I got a break from cooking. Win-win-win!

Leisure

Architecture – I visited Campbell House and Osgoode Hall, before St. Andrew’s Church, to satisfy my interest in architecture and history.

Art – I saw amazing ice sculptures at the IceFest 21 A Trip Around The World event, colourful portraits at Femme de Fleur exhibit and attractive art items outside the Gardiner Museum.

Blogs – I hosted four Weekend Coffee Share blog link-ups and participated in several other fun link-ups in March. Great turnout each weekend kept me actively reading blogs and writing comments.

Books – I enjoyed reading 9 books from 5 authors. I’d definitely read more of their books:

  1. Ridgerunner – Gil Adamson. *
  2. Just Listen – Sarah Dessen.
  3. The Moon & More – Sarah Dessen.
  4. This Lullaby – Sarah Dessen.
  5. What Happened To Goodbye – Sarah Dessen.
  6. An Ocean of Minutes – Thea Lim. *
  7. The Suspect – Michael Robotham. *
  8. The Chalk Man – C.J. Tudor. *
  9. The Hiding Place – C.J. Tudor.

Asterisk indicates new-to-me author. I keep track of what I’ve read on my Books in 2021 page. Year-To-Date Reading Totals: 25 books, 10 new authors, and 10 categories.

Languages – I continued taking French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo. They’re fun exercises.

I’m grateful for the bits of joy in March. I look forward to exploring more local places in April.

Happy Easter to those of you celebrating. Enjoy the weekend and keep safe. I’d love to hear your comments.

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The 9 Gifts of February

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #8! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

In spite of the lockdown in Toronto until at least March 8 and wintry days, there were gifts in February. These 9 are mine:

1. Natural Light

We have some bright sunny days and longer daylight time this month. When I walk on the fantastic Waterfront Trail to the shores of Lake Ontario, the sunshine gives me our best natural source of vitamin D and boost my mood.

Sunny day with white clouds, ice and snow.
Sunny day with white clouds, ice and snow.

2. Beautiful Scenery

February delivers more cold days and snow than January. Still, downtown Toronto hasn’t had as much snow as other areas in Ontario. I embrace the quiet beauty of winter, perfect to practice mindfulness outside.

Snow on evergreen trees and the ground.
Snow on evergreen trees and the ground.

3. Personal Trainers

The snow-covered steps at the Toronto Music Garden reminds me of the Mountain Climber exercise. This month I use a different fitness instructor’s video series to refresh my body weight training at home. I also keep up with my meditation and yoga practice.

It’s fantastic to have access to workout videos on YouTube. I like how my intense body weight workouts and my relaxing yoga flow compliment each other. The instructors are my virtual personal trainers and fitness motivational coaches.

Snow-covered steps at Toronto Music Garden.
Snow-covered steps at Toronto Music Garden.

4. Happy Celebrations

Mid-February, my family had virtual celebrations on Lunar New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Family Day. Two family members had their happy birthdays. I had several phone chats with my longtime friends. Everyone is in good health and that is well worth celebrating.

Family Day fun: Build a snow fort.
Family fun activity: Build a snow fort.

5. Colourful Arts

Textile artist Amanda McCavour creates a colourful collage within the treetops with hundreds of pieces of hand-cut fabric for her Sketch, Sample, Sew exhibit. This creative display makes me look up and appreciate various colours including white.

Colourful Sketch, Sample, Sew art exhibit.
Colourful Sketch, Sample, Sew art exhibit against white clouds and snow.

6. Thoughtful Comments

This month I enjoy writing 4 blog posts, 1 guest post here, and host 4 Weekend Coffee Share blog link-ups.

While I receive many thoughtful comments from my blog readers every week, those left for this post stood out. Thank you, everyone, who took the time to write and share your thoughts.

Winter birds in the harbour.
Winter birds dotted the harbour with white clouds, ice and snow in the horizon.

7. Good Books

I use the Toronto Public Library Reading Challenge 2021 categories to read more widely and discover new books, authors, and genres. I read 9 good books in February:

  • Daylight – David Baldacci.
  • Minute to Midnight – David Baldacci.
  • Older, But Better, But Older – Caroline De Maigret. *
  • Saint Everything – Sarah Dessen.
  • The Rest of The Story – Sarah Dessen.
  • Empire of Wild – Cherie Dimaline. *
  • The Searcher – Tana French. *
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan.
  • The Summer Book – Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal. *

Asterisk indicates new-to-me author. I keep track of what I’ve read on my Books in 2021 page. Year-To-Date Reading Totals: 16 new books, 6 new authors, and 9 categories.

White Muskoka chairs with a view.
White Muskoka chairs: My book nook with a view.

8. Fun Challenges

Aside from the Reading Challenge, I enjoy entering photography challenges weekly: Thursday Doors, Rosy Red, Birds and all things that are white in this post are for Terri’s #SundayStills photography challenge this weekend.

Samples of my February photo challenge entries.

9. New Learning

I learned from Trent at Trent’s World blog and a few longtime Weekend Coffee Share participants that the Weekend Coffee Share link up started in 2014. It had four hosts in the six years before I started being the 5th host this year.

I continued French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo daily in February. I learned more about plants and birds in my area. I look forward to seeing Spring flowers soon.

White trillium flower.
White trillium is Ontario’s provincial flower.

I’m grateful for the gifts of February.

What stood out to you in February? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking with Life This Week.

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Why My January Is Great

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #4! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

The lockdown in Ontario continues until at least February 10. Still, good things do happen. I’m grateful for them all. Here’s 9 reasons why my January is great.

1. Awesome Parties

It’s my pleasure to host the awesome Weekend Coffee Share parties this month: 25 bloggers at party #1, 30 bloggers at party #2, 35 bloggers at party #3, and here we are at party #4. Thank you, everyone, for your participation.

I adjusted the InLinkz setting to display all thumbnails on one page. Plus, as requested, I’m now closing the weekly party on Sunday at midnight Toronto time.

2. Cool Arts

The Sonic Runway and Iceberg art installations are cool to see at night. Their modern designs, lights, and music enrich my senses.

Eastbound entrance to the Sonic Runway light structure.

The Sonic Runway converts audio signals into patterns of light, shooting up and down a corridor of LED-lined arches more than 100-metres long at the speed of sound.

3. Fun Challenges

My 3 square photos of the Sonic Runway and Iceberg arch entrances are my entries to Becky’s Square Up (my first time) and Dan’s Thursday Doors. These photography challenges stretch my creativity.

Westbound entrance to the Sonic Runway light structure.
Westbound entrance to the Sonic Runway arches. Upon leaving the Sonic Runway, turn right to reach the Iceberg light structure.
Iceberg light structure.

The Iceberg is made up of a series of illuminated metallic arches that tell the story of an iceberg. The CN Tower lights up the night sky.

4. The Great Outdoors

In January, I cycle and walk outdoors most days to keep me mentally and physically healthy. It’s my first time cycling in a winter month and I enjoy every outing. I love the Waterfront Trail and Lake Ontario.

5. Self-Care

At home, I meditate every morning for 15 minutes, followed by either body weight workouts (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) or Hatha yoga (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) for an hour. I complete all sessions in January and feel fit.

6. Happy News

This month one of my nieces got a new job. Three family members and a longtime friend had their happy birthdays. Another niece and two friends of my family, who are front-line healthcare professionals, received their COVID-19 vaccines.

7. Global Connections

I changed my blog posting day from Sunday to Friday and wrote five posts. January 8, 2021 was my first time hosting the weekly Weekend Coffee Share blog party using InLinkz.

I enjoy reading all participants’ blogs from five continents and provide comments. I greatly appreciate bloggers who take the time to read my blog and share their comments.

8. New Learning

I continue my French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo daily in January. For my Host role, I did a quick self-study to familiarize myself with InLinkz. I learn new information from blogs and books.

9. Good Reads

I read 7 books this month. It’s the first time I read Barack Obama’s book and finished his first presidential memoirs, 1177 pages in e-book format, in 7 days. Here’s my book list by author’s last name:

  • Long Road to Mercy – David Baldacci.
  • Redemption – David Baldacci.
  • Walk The Wire – David Baldacci.
  • Once and For All – Sarah Dessen.
  • An Abundance of Katherines – John Green.
  • You Had Me At Hello – Mhairi McFarlane.
  • A Promised Land – Barack Obama.

What word(s) would best describe your January? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking with Life This Week, The Weekly Smile, The Changing Seasons, Sentence A Day.

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September Smiles and 2020 Reading Update #3

Greetings blog friends! How are you doing? I hope your week is going well. October is off to a great start chez Natalie. We had rain and thunderstorms on the last day of September then the sun returned to welcome the first day of October.

Autumn leaves have been showing off their yellow, orange, and red colours in downtown Toronto. On a sunny day, they look brilliant. The air is cool, especially in the morning, just right for cycling and walking.

Red maple.

There are still a lot of late summer flowers, berries, and monarch butterflies around. The variety of colours in parks and gardens now is astounding and makes me want to paint.

Monarch butterfly.

I love that when I cycle along the Waterfront trail, the lake views are always changing. On calm days, I can see what’s beneath the clear water. On windy days, the waves roar and splash as they hit the breakwater walls or the rocks along the shore line. The familiar landscape includes water, open space, rock boulders, and trees.

Anyway, today I’m reflecting on my month of September and summarizing the books that I read in the third quarter of 2020.

September Smiles

September was a wonderful month when I enjoyed a mix of health-related activities, i.e. cycling, exercising, meditation, stand up paddling, walking, and yoga. I wrote my weekly blog posts, completed daily language lessons on Duolingo, listened to digital concerts, and read many novels.

Here’s my September in numbers:

  • 1 family meet-up with my sister and nieces.
  • 1 stand up paddling excursion.
  • 3 digital concerts.
  • 4 blog posts.
  • 4 rest days.
  • 13 strengthening workouts.
  • 14 yoga sessions.
  • 18 books (see list below).
  • 18 walks.
  • 22 cycling trips.
  • 30 meditation sessions.
  • 30 French and Spanish sessions.

2020 Reading Update #3

Back in March this year, I wrote a post to share my Reading First Update for the first quarter of the year. Once I started that, it feels logical to continue with Reading Update #2 for the second quarter, and today’s Reading Update #3 for the third quarter.

At a glance, I read 15 books in July, 20 books in August, and 18 books in September. Social distancing due to COVID-19 pandemic means more staying at home than normal and this gives me time to read.

The list of the novels that I read in July is here, in August is here, and in September is below by author’s last name:

  1. Woman On The Edge by Samantha M. Bailey.
  2. The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister.
  3. The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely.
  4. 500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan.
  5. Fireworks by Katie Cotugno.
  6. How To Love by Katie Cotugno.
  7. Top Ten by Katie Cotugno.
  8. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.
  9. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella.
  10. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul.
  11. The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda.
  12. The Switch by Beth O’Leary.
  13. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.
  14. He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker.
  15. In Her Wake by K.A. Tucker.
  16. Keep Her Safe by K.A. Tucker.
  17. One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker.
  18. Wild At Heart (sequel to The Simple Wild) by K.A. Tucker.

I lucked out again with the fiction novels I borrowed to read in September. They’re all really good books written by authors from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I look forward to reading more novels from the same authors again.

Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, October 10 to 12, is coming up. I know I have a lot to be grateful for. If you’re celebrating the holidays, Happy Thanksgiving to you! Stay safe and well.

How did your week go? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Summer Week 11: August Smiles

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? Hope all is well with you. Come on in to my blog space so we can share our news over a cup of coffee or tea.

Summer Week 11

Summer week 11, from August 30 to September 5 inclusive, delivered another stretch of good weather. Daytime high temperatures ranged from 22C to 27C (72F to 82F) with mainly sunny days and some rain mid-week.

Beach Visit

I cycled to Cherry Beach early one morning to get my quiet beach time. Cherry Beach typically achieves annual Blue Flag certification where water quality is safe for swimming. It was nice to walk along the beach and listen to the sounds of water and birds.

Cherry Beach.
Cherry Beach

There are picnic sites, restroom facility, parking lots, and dogs off-leash area outside the beach entrance which make this beach popular, especially on summer weekends.

Cherry Beach picnic site.
Cherry Beach picnic site

Family Visit

My sister and nieces came to visit on Tuesday. We sat outside 2 meters apart by the lake to chat and catch up on our news. My nieces resume their university studies next week so I was glad to see them before they get busy with school.

Lake view.

Park Visit

On another beautiful day, I went for a long walk and paused at Larry Sefton Park. The United Steel Workers of America funded this park creation in 1977 to honor the memory of their director, Larry Sefton. I liked how the deep terra cotta wall provides a nice backdrop to the steel sculpture.

Larry Sefton Park

August in Numbers

August ended a few days ago so this week I completed my usual monthly review and month-end digital file back-ups. How did I do in August? Let’s see what the numbers have to say:

  • 1 family visit (and a repeat baking success: a coconut loaf).
  • 1 stand up paddling excursion.
  • 2 canoe excursions here and here.
  • 2 coffee meet-ups with friends.
  • 2 movies: Cake and The Boy Downstairs.
  • 3 digital concerts.
  • 5 blog posts.
  • 12 yoga sessions.
  • 13 strengthening workouts.
  • 20 books (see list below).
  • 21 cycling trips.
  • 24 walks.
  • 31 French and Spanish online sessions.
  • 31 meditations sessions.

Overall August was an excellent month for me. I enjoyed the good weather, had coffee chats with my siblings and friends outdoors, did a lot of cycling, paddling, walking, exercising, learning, reading, and writing.

Reading in August

By switching to e-books and not visiting the library, I gained time to read and enjoyed twenty fiction novels in August. These novels are all really good page-turners and once I start, I want to read to the end. During the day, I’m active and on my feet a lot so by evening time, I’m happy to sit down and get lost in a book.

Here’s my list in order of preference:

  1. The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes.
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
  4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
  5. American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson.
  6. 99 Days by Katie Cotugno.
  7. 9 Days and 9 Nights (sequel to 99 Days) by Katie Cotugno.
  8. After You (sequel to Me Before You) by Jojo Moyes.
  9. Still Me (sequel to After You) by Jojo Moyes.
  10. One Day in December by Josie Silver.
  11. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware.
  12. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.
  13. Becoming Rain by K.A. Tucker.
  14. Surviving Ice by K.A. Tucker.
  15. Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker.
  16. Until It Fades by K.A. Tucker.
  17. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.
  18. Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton.
  19. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory.
  20. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.

Novel #1: The Sense of An Ending blew my mind. I read this e-book in one evening as the story is engaging and it’s just 160 pages long. When I finished, my reaction was “Whoa, I didn’t see it coming“.

Novels #1 to #5: Even though love shines in all the novels I read, the deaths of bright and young people in my top five novels made me feel really sad after I finished the books. I had to do long bicycle rides and long walks to clear my head of thoughts about grief and unnatural deaths.

Novels #6 to #16: I usually don’t read sequels or multiple books from the same author in one month. Breaking my own rule, I read and enjoyed the young adult fiction sequel by Katie Cotugno, the trilogy by Jojo Moyes, and the series by K.A. Tucker. Novels #11 and 12 are good thrillers.

Novels #17 to #20: Just because I place the books last on my list, it doesn’t mean #17 to #20 are not good reads. I like all the 20 novels that I read in August. I’m glad to discover new-to-me authors and appreciate all the hard work that these authors put in to write their books. I hope my reading contributes to the overall encouragement for them to write more.

Conclusion

I’m grateful for all the good things that happened. My family and friends are safe and well. I continue to follow public health measures to stay safe and well, too. I look forward to making the most of September.

How did your week go? How was your August? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

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Summer Week 6: July Smiles

Butterfly

Hello blog friends! How are you? Hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space, make yourself at home with a coffee or tea, hot or iced, and let’s chat.

Summer Week 6

Summer week 6, from July 26 to August 1 inclusive, was sunny and warm. The high temperatures ranged from 28C to 33C (82F to 91F). We had heat warning on Sunday and Monday, brief showers on Wednesday, and the rest of the week was beautiful.

I enjoyed plenty of outdoor time cycling and walking on the waterfront trail or in parks by the lake. The flowers in the gardens continue to be amazing. So many colours, shapes, textures, and lovely fragrance that keep bees and butterflies busy.

My new activity of the week was Stand Up Paddling (SUP). I did SUP for about three hours on Toronto islands with my small ‘social bubble’. We paddled and had so much fun. The water was calm and warm. I saw a great blue heron, dragonflies, Eastern kingbirds, pretty water lilies, idyllic sailboats, and more.

Sailboat

July Smiles

Since we’ve just finished July and are now at the beginning of August, I thought of summarizing my fun in July in simple numbers:

  • 1 stand up paddling trip
  • 2 movies (see titles below)
  • 4 blog posts
  • 6 digital concerts (see performers below)
  • 6 kayaking trips
  • 13 yoga sessions
  • 14 strengthening workouts
  • 15 books (see list below)
  • 24 cycling trips
  • 26 walks
  • 31 online French and Spanish sessions
  • 31 meditation sessions

The two movies were both based on true stories and great performances. I gave each movie 4 stars out of 5:

  • The Big Short (Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling).
  • The Whole Wide World (Renée Zellweger and Vincent D’Onofrio).

The six concerts were performed beautifully by:

On the COVID-19 front, case numbers in Toronto have been on the downward trends so as of July 31, the City allows more businesses to re-open, now including indoor gyms, dine-in restaurants, and movie theatres that meet public health guidelines. Masks are required in indoor public spaces and people are advised to continue social distancing.

July Beach Reads

Glorious books and e-books! I was in the mood for reading and set a new personal best reading record in a month: 15 books. I enjoyed every single one of them, about half were e-books and the other half physical books. I re-read some of the chapters in each of the books. They were that good!

15 books read in July 2020

All of the authors were new to me, except Jenny Colgan and John Grisham. Although I read Neil Pasricha‘s articles and listened to him on TED Talks before, this was the first time I read one of his books. I’m glad to discover K.A. Tucker who lives in a small town outside of Toronto.

Most of the 15 books are contemporary romance, with adventures, suspense, or thriller twists. Most, not all, have happy endings. They transported me to faraway places such as Bora Bora, England, Israel, Italy, Scotland, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and various states in the USA.

I group the books into my Top 5 Picks, Next 5 Picks, and Last 5 Picks, based on how much I liked the story and the writing style. They are in alpha order by author’s last name below.

My Top 5 Picks:
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
  • Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
  • The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha.
  • The Simple Wild by K. A. Tucker.
My Next 5 Picks:
  • The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom.
  • Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks.
  • Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman.
  • Burying Water by K. A. Tucker.
  • Ten Tiny Breaths by K. A. Tucker.
My Last 5 Picks:
  • The Cafe by The Sea by Jenny Colgan.
  • Gray Mountain by John Grisham.
  • The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo.
  • Be The Girl by K. A. Tucker.
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong.

Conclusion

July was an enriching and fabulous month with fitness, family, friends, and fun while social distancing. I look forward to making the most of August.

How was your July? What are you reading? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Summer Week 1 and 2020 Reading Update #2

Hello blog friends! How are you? I hope your day is going well. Come on in to my blog space so we can share a coffee or tea and catch up on our news.

If we were having coffee, I would share my first week of summer 2020 in pictures and what I’ve been reading in the second quarter of 2020. How have your reading habits been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Did you find yourself unable to finish a book or did you read more than usual?

Summer Week 1

The first week of summer brought warm temperatures, mostly sunny, brief periods of rain, heat and humidity. I got all my exercises done (meditation, language lessons, strengthening workouts, yoga) and enjoyed my walks by the lake or in a park.

My sister met me for another coffee date on Friday. We sat outside chatting, sipping coffee, listening to bird songs, smelling the light fragrance of flowers in the air, and relaxing on a beautiful sunny day with some clouds and a light breeze.

Here’s a look at my Summer 2020 Week 1 in pictures:

Gull by Lake Ontario.
Hello gull! It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away.
Sailboats, lake view and maple trees.
Watching the sailboats in the harbour from under shades of maple trees.
Bright and showy daisy.
Bright and showy daisy.
Mother duck and two young ducks.
Mother duck and two young (teenager) ducks. Did the other 4 to 6 ducklings survive?
Beautiful green space, perfect for a picnic by the lake.
Beautiful green space, perfect for a picnic by the lake.
Fragrant rose bushes.
Fragrant rose bushes attract many bees. Watch out for the bees and the thorns.
Lake view with clouds and sailboats in the distance.
Lake view with clouds and sailboats in the distance.
Bright red flower.
Bright red flower.
A patch of pretty white daisies.
A patch of pretty white daisies.
Another beautiful day with white clouds and a light breeze.
Another beautiful day with white clouds and a light breeze.
These pretty peachy roses brighten up any day.
These pretty peachy roses brighten up any day.

Library Curb-side Pickup

In my 2020 Reading First Update in March, I mentioned that Toronto library branches have been closed since March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The library has been offering excellent digital services during the lockdown. Fast forward 12 weeks later, starting on June 8, Toronto Public Library re-opened for curb-side pickups by appointment.

My first curb-side pickup appointment went well. I was the only person there. The library staff wore a mask and asked me to place my library card on a table then step back to maintain a safe distance. He verified my account, delivered two brown bags of books to the table and stepped away. I picked up my library card and the book bags to go. All in less than one minute. Nice!

Books Read in 2nd Quarter of 2020

Here’s what I read from April to June 2020 by author’s last name:

  1. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt.
  2. Lucky Man a memoir by Michael J. Fox.
  3. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory.
  4. An Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renée Lavoie, translated by Arielle Aaronson.
  5. Angela’s Ashes a memoir by Frank McCourt.
  6. How To Be A Good Creature: A memoir in thirteen animals by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Rebecca Green.
  7. Dear Life by Alice Munro.
  8. Say You Still Love Me by K. A. Tucker.
  9. Embers One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese.
  • Number of books read: 9 books in the second quarter of 2020. This brings my Year-to-date total to 27 books from January to June 2020. My goal for 2020 is 36 books in various genres. I’m getting there.
  • A book by an Indigenous author: Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese is an excellent book to celebrate June which marks National Indigenous History Month. The book is full of wisdom packed in 176 pages.
  • A book that made me laugh: An Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renée Lavoie and The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. Two totally different novels, each with brilliant comedic moments.
  • A book by a Canadian writer and Nobel Prize winner: Dear Life by Alice Munro who illumines the moment a life is shaped in this collection of short stories.
  • A book about a real person: Lucky Man a memoir by Michael J. Fox who has been living with Parkinson’s Disease since his diagnosis in 1991, and Angela’s Ashes a memoir by Frank McCourt, a Pulitzer Prize winner.
  • A book I picked because I liked the cover: How To Be A Good Creature: A memoir in thirteen animals by Sy Montgomery and nice illustrations by Rebecca Green.
  • A book about romance with strong-willed female lead character: Say You Still Love Me by K. A. Tucker and The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory. Both authors are new to me even though they’ve each written several novels.

Other readings

  • In addition to physical books, I also listened to actors’ readings of Chapters 1 to 11 of Harry Potter The Philosopher’s/ Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling on Wizarding World web site.
  • May was Short Story month so I switched gear and read the first ten of the 73 short stories available free online. I hope to find time to read more of these short stories. I like the variety of writing styles and the stories themselves.

Week 1 of summer 2020 was beautiful. The weather forecast for the coming week is sunny and warm. I look forward to spending more time outdoors and doing something fun to celebrate Canada Day on July 1st.

How did your week go? What book(s) are you reading? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

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2020 Reading: First Update

Greetings! I hope everyone is staying safe and keeping a healthy routine. While at home this week, I took an inventory of what I’ve read in the first three months of 2020. I use the Toronto Public Library 2020 Reading Challenge as a guideline to read more widely and add a few categories on my own to make my reading more interesting.

Last year I read thirty two books in the first half and thirty books in the second half of 2019, or 62 books in total. This year I had set a modest reading goal of 36 books because I was planning to travel frequently. Well, with the COVID-19 pandemic and travel cancellations, I may be able to read more than 36 books after all.

Here’s a look at my year-to-date reading listed by author’s last name:

  1. Celestial Bodies, Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth.
  2. Wherever She Goes, K.L. Armstrong.
  3. Bad Move, Linwood Barclay.
  4. Elevator Pitch, Linwood Barclay.
  5. Stand On The Sky, Erin Bow.
  6. Love Walked In, Marisa De Los Santos.
  7. Bone Black, Carol Rose GoldenEagle.
  8. At The Mountain’s Edge, Genevieve Graham.
  9. Comics Will Break Your Heart, Faith Erin Hicks.
  10. And The Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini.
  11. The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary.
  12. A Better Man, Louise Penny.
  13. Daisy Jones & The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid.
  14. Snowmen, Mark Sedore.
  15. The Art of Racing in The Rain, Garth Stein.
  16. 26 Knots, Bindu Suresh.
  17. A Delhi Obsession, M.G. Vassanji.
  18. Starlight, Richard Wagamese.

Number of books read: Eighteen books from January to March 2020.

A book originally written in a language other than my first language: Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth. Altharthi makes literary history as the first female Omani author to be translated into English and as author of the first novel written in Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize 2019. She shares that extraordinary success with translator and Oxford professor Booth.

A book by an Indigenous author: Bone Black by Carol Rose GoldenEagle, and Starlight by Richard Wagamese.

A book that made me laugh: Bad Move by Linwood Barclay. Barclay is a former columnist for the Toronto Star, a Canadian daily newspaper. I used to read his column and enjoy his humourous writing style.

A book under 200 pages long: 26 Knots by Bindu Suresh at 151 pages and Snowmen by Mark Sedore at 170 pages.

A book over 450 pages long: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay at 453 pages.

A book for young adults: Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks and Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow.

A book to be made into a mini TV series: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

A book with a dog’s view of life: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

A book written in three days: Snowmen by Mark Sedore. This is Sedore’s first published novel and the winner of the 32nd Annual International 3-Day Novel Contest.

A book that took me to other places in Canada:

  • British Columbia: Starlight by Richard Wagamese.
  • Nova Scotia: Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks.
  • Quebec: 26 Knots by Bindu Surash and A Better Man by Louise Penny.
  • Saskatchewan: Bone Black by Carol Rose GoldenEagle.
  • The Arctic Circle from Canada to Russia: Snowmen by Mark Sedore.
  • The Yukon: At The Mountain’s Edge by Genevieve Graham.

A book that took me overseas:

  • Afghanistan: And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.
  • India: A Delhi Obsession by M.G. Vassanji.
  • Mongolia: Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow.
  • Oman: Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi.
  • The United Kingdom: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto library branches have been closed since March 13 until further notice. I look forward to picking up a few books that have been on hold for me when the library reopens. In the meantime, I have a few books at home waiting to be read. Knowing that makes me smile.

What about you? Any recommendations? I’d love to hear your comments.

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What Have You Been Reading? Part 2

Back in June this year, I wrote about the thirty two books that I read in the first half of the year. Now that we’re in mid-December and 2019 is coming to a close, I thought I’d write another update to share the books I read in the second half of the year.

Books Read in 2nd Half of 2019

From July 1 to December 15 29, I read twenty eight thirty books. Not bad considering that I was traveling frequently during this time period. I list them by author’s last name as follows:

  1. The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom.
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou.
  3. The Christmas Train, David Baldacci.
  4. The Suspect, Fiona Barton.
  5. The Life Lucy Knew, Karma Brown.
  6. The Favourite Game, Leonard Cohen.
  7. Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan.
  8. The Bookshop on the Shore, Jenny Colgan.
  9. The Endless Beach, Jenny Colgan.
  10. The Moroccan Girl, Charles Cumming.
  11. Crimson Lake, Candice Fox.
  12. Less, Andrew Sean Greer.
  13. All Things Consoled, Elizabeth Hay.
  14. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway.
  15. The Chai Factor, Farah Heron.
  16. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gayle Honeyman.
  17. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini.
  18. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini.
  19. And Then You Were Gone, RJ Jacobs.
  20. Elevation, Stephen King.
  21. The Matchmaker’s List, Sonya Lalli.
  22. Happy People Read & Drink Coffee, Agnes Martin Lugand.
  23. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  24. Full Disclosure, Beverley McLachlin.
  25. Becoming, Michelle Obama.
  26. Dual Citizens, Alix Ohlin.
  27. The Black Jersey, Jorge Zepeda Patterson.
  28. Kingdom of the Blind, Louise Penny.
  29. Call Me Evie, J.P. Pomare.
  30. The Vanishing Season, Joanna Schaffhaussen.

P.S. I updated the above image and the list of books on December 29, 2019 to include two additional books that I read between December 15 and 29 (The Chai Factor and The Matchmaker’s List).

My Reading Goal for 2019

My reading target was three books per month or 36 books in 2019. My actual reading was 62 books in 2019 (32 in the first half plus 30 in the second half of 2019). I’ve unexpectedly exceeded my reading goal (yay me!).

Top Picks?

In case you’re looking for my “top picks”, it’s difficult for me to short list the books I’ve read this year. Each of the sixty two books that I read is a good read, many of them are award winners or bestsellers. The authors come from various countries around the world. Their bios, stories, and story settings are quite interesting.

Try Something New

I think reading choices, like music, depend on our mood. My suggestion is if you find one of the above book titles intriguing, look up the brief summary of the book on the internet and see if it appeals to you. Also be open to branching out from your usual book genres.

I’m thankful to have access to the excellent Toronto Public Library (TPL) system. I find the TPL 2019 Reading Challenge fun to do. The proposed categories introduce me to new book genres, new topics, and new authors. They make me read more widely. I look forward to reading more in the New Year.

What have you been reading in 2019?

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What Have You Been Reading?

I just got back from a two-week trip to Malta and Germany. My trip was part new exploration, to see the sights in Malta and Germany, and part family and friends, to see my cousins near Munich, and my longtime friend near Stuttgart.

I had an amazing time in both countries. The weather was sunny and warm, some days got to 37C (or 99F). I did a lot of talking with my family and friends, a lot of walking, sightseeing, eating, drinking (mostly water to stay hydrated and a few beers), and of course taking photos. More trip details to follow once I get myself organized.

In the mean time, in the Northern hemisphere we welcomed the first day of summer on June 21. Summer brings the promise of many outdoor activities, as well as easy living and reading. This prompted me to reflect on what I’ve been reading this year.

In January, I started using the proposed categories from the Toronto Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge as a guide to read more widely. This has led to getting me to read a bit beyond my usual mysteries and fiction.

What I’ve Enjoyed Reading: From January to date, I’ve enjoyed reading thirty two books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I had fun putting the thirty two book cover images into a photo collage. The books are listed by author’s last name below:

  1. A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
  2. The Widow, Fiona Barton
  3. Family & Other Catastrophes, Alexandra Borowitz
  4. The Rough Guide to Croatia, Jonathan Bousfield
  5. Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton
  6. Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
  7. The Choice, Dr. Edith Eva Eger
  8. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, Nathan Englander
  9. 419, Will Ferguson
  10. Gone Girl, Gillan Flynn
  11. Panic Room, Robert Goddard
  12. Scrublands, Chris Hammer
  13. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
  14. Before the Fall, Noah Hawley
  15. A Brief History of Oversharing, Shawn Hitchins
  16. Sea Prayer, Khaled Hosseini
  17. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
  18. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  19. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King
  20. Defending Jacob, William Landay
  21. The Bishop’s Man, Linden MacIntyre
  22. Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
  23. Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
  24. In Pursuit of Excellence, Terry Orlick
  25. Love Dishonor Marry Cherish Perish, David Rakoff
  26. Bellevue Square, Michael Redhill
  27. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland
  28. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  29. Adèle, Leila Slimani
  30. The Perfect Nanny, Leila Slimani
  31. Ru, Kim Thúy
  32. Book Love, Debbie Tung

Book Categories: The Toronto Public Library proposed fourteen categories in the Reading Challenge. I’ve read all of them, and at least one book in each category, hence the total of thirty two books. When a book qualifies for more than one category, I count it in one category only.

Reading Habits: During the day, I prefer to be out and about so I save my book reading for the evening. I read most days but not every day. I usually read one book at a time to pay my full attention to the book. I’ve also been more careful with my book selection since I want to spend my time on good quality books.

Gratitude: I’m grateful to have access to one of the best public library systems in the world. Thanks to the library’s proposed book categories, I’ve been reading many new-to-me and award-winning authors from different countries. I’ve also read more book genres and learned more about international literary awards. I love that I’ve been reading these books without accumulating them in my home.

What’s Next: I enjoy the Reading Challenge and plan to continue for the rest of this year. I may use the additional eleven categories in the Advanced Reading Challenge to make my reading even more interesting. It would be a “wide” success for me if I could finish reading sixty books in more than fourteen categories in 2019.

Your Turn: What have you been reading? What are your reading habits? I’d love to hear your book recommendations.

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