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, coffee shops, and restaurants can offer 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’m linking this post to Su’s The Changing Seasons at Zimmerbitch blog for the first time and my regular link-ups 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.

Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. Forrest Gump’s expression “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” came to my mind this week. If we were having coffee or tea, I’d share what made me smile and feel positive since my Trumpeter swan sightings last week.

It’s also time for the fourth Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020. The optional prompt is Water Sports. I hope you join me and my blogger friend, Leslie, to share what helps you stay healthy these days.

Family and Friends

I did my round of calls, email, and texts to my family, friends, and neighbours. Everyone has a story and I’m listening. Sharing our thoughts and updates was like sharing a box of chocolates. We were able to make each other smile or laugh out loud. I feel grateful that I’m with a group of optimistic people and everyone is well so far.

Three crocus colours

Family members and friends who are working shared their experience of working from home or how their employers arranged for physical distancing in the workplace. My nieces and nephews who are students shared their online learning experience and social life while schools are still closed. Friends who care for elderly parents shared how they’re managing it. My neighbours shared their early “senior hour” shopping experience.

Health

I’ve been diligent about my fitness routine to keep me emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. Here’s what I do to stay calm and feel positive:

  • Daily meditation, 15 minutes/ day.
  • Deep breathing at meditation, yoga, bedtime, or any time.
  • Outdoor walks with physical distancing 5-6x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Strengthening workouts 3x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Yoga 3x/ week, one hour each time.
Gulls by the lake

My outdoor walks are like a box of decadent chocolates. I love my time by the lake where I see open space, hear the sounds of water and bird life, and feel what the weather brings. The birds and waterfowl are very active. Their antics and conversations made me smile.

Nature

Tulips

Nature continues to show her best in spring time and delight me with her transformation from one day to the next. Daffodils and tulips started to bloom this week, adding more colours to the existing crocuses and hyacinths. I feel grateful to be able to walk outdoors with my senses all engaged.

A bunny

Oh, I spotted a bunny in a bush. S/he moved slowly around for a while before hopping away. I live near the centre of the busiest city in Canada so seeing bunny in the wild is a rare sighting that made me smile. I usually see them in the suburbs or more rural areas.

Shopping

Grocery shopping has been like a box of chocolates. The grocery stores continue to tweak their directional signs, the queue location, and in-store procedures so every trip is a mini-adventure. The stock inventories are inconsistent. I never know what I’m going to bring home with me.

Basmati rice bag

Example: No long grain rice from Thailand? Buy Basmati rice from India. I’ve never had such a colourful rice bag with a zippered top before. Now I own one. The rice was good, and I have two rice brands to choose in the future. I feel grateful to be home in my familiar surroundings while having opportunities to try food products from faraway places.

Water Sports

Being close to one of the Great Lakes means I’m close to popular outdoor water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing, power boating, and stand-up paddling. The season usually starts in May and ends in late September.

Canoes and kayaks

The bright colours of the canoes and kayaks made me smile. They look like cheerful chocolate wrappings. Even though it’s still chilly to be out in the lake at this time of the year, the canoes and kayaks lying in the sun are like a promise of the summer fun to come. Something to look forward to.

How did your week go? What helps you stay healthy? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join the Wellness Weekend link up and share your wellness updates.

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

Life and Trumpeter Swan Sightings

Trumpeter swans

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. In my March Wrap-Up post, I wrote about keeping a routine. This week I took a few cues from nature and mapped out a number of activities that made me smile and feel positive.

Family and Friends

Three sparrows

Nature: Three sparrows stood on a wooden handrail and chirped almost non-stop to share their news. They were so busy “talking”, they let me take a group photo. Their brown feathers blend them well with their habitat.

Me: I made my round of phone calls and texts to touch base with my family and friends. Wished one of my dear friends a happy birthday. Sent an email to my friend in Finland. Had a fun virtual party with my extended family, and a good phone conversation with my cousin who lives in France to share updates. Also did hand clapping every evening at 7 PM to show my support for the essential health care professionals and front line workers.

Health

Canada geese and ducks

Nature: Two Canada geese and two ducks swam happily in the calm harbour. They are exercising or meditating while physical distancing, LOL.

Me: I did my daily meditation, three yoga sessions, and three workouts at home using my own body weight and a Theraband resistance band. Also did short walks outdoors by the lake when there was no one around, just the birds.

Leisure

Nature: A variety of spring flowers are showing up in different colours, shapes, and sizes. Each is pretty on their own. The skies change daily, from clear and sunny to clouds and short showers. Why not try different leisure activities?

Me: Nature is my endless source of art and inspiration for sure. What else did I do from home and all for free?

  • Visited art exhibits at the Virtual Museum of Canada.
  • Wrote one blog post to wrap up March.
  • Read the thought-provoking Dear Life book by Alice Munro.
  • Took daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo.
  • Watched Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterwork in The Gold Rush movie.
  • Watched the amazing Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet The Nutcracker at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre (Russia’s most famous theatre).
  • Watched an incredible Cirque du Soleil Premier show at CirqueConnect.

Trumpeter Swan Sightings

About ten days ago, when I was at the Toronto lakefront, I saw two Trumpeter swans flew by and heard their call to each other. This week I got to see them up close in the marina, right under my feet. Their black bills distinguish them from other species. I saw the tags, P24 and T63, on their wings.

The bright yellow numbered wing tags mean the Trumpeters are from Ontario. They are tagged by volunteers, often when on their winter feeding grounds. The two swans lingered near me for a while then swam away gracefully.

Two Trumpeter swans

Did you know that the Trumpeter swan is North America’s largest wild waterfowl and that it was almost driven to extinction early in the 20th century? The All About Birds web site gives an excellent overview of Trumpeter swan and clear audio of their unique sound.

Biologist Harry Lumsden began a provincial reintroduction program in the early 1980’s to re-establish the Trumpeter swan population in Ontario. With a lot of staff and volunteer efforts, the restoration of the Trumpeter swan in its former habitat and range has yielded good results.

I consider myself fortunate to be so close to these magnificent birds and to spend a few moments captivated by the sights and sounds of a pair of Trumpeter swans. They made me smile and gave my week a nice ending.

How did your week go? What wildlife have you seen recently? I’d love to hear your comments.

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

March Wrap-Up

Hello blog friends

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. March started smoothly for me for the first twelve days, then on Friday March 13, things started to change rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the grim news unfolded around the world, I felt grateful to be home with my family. We made adjustments to our routine and prepared to stay in for the long haul.

I chose my photo of a row of colourful Muskoka chairs in the sun as the header image for this post. The sunshine is welcoming, and these chairs provide relaxation. Imagine we’re gathering in a wide circle for a coffee chat and it’s my turn to share my month of March with you.

Family and Friends

I’m grateful that my family is well, I’m well, and my friends are all well so far. We stay in touch by phone, text, or email as usual. There were two family birthdays and my friend’s mother turned 94 in March. I made sure to say happy birthday to all three.

Keeping A Routine

On or around March 13, we started receiving daily updates and urgent news about the virus spread in Canada, Ontario, and Toronto. The government started closing public schools, libraries, community centres, borders, etc. and advised people to stay home and keep a safe physical distance from others to slow the spread of the virus. More restrictions came as March progressed.

Since I had planned to be in Spain for the last two weeks of March, my home calendar from March 16 to 31 was blank. After my flights were cancelled, I decided to keep the routine that I had before the pandemic, with some adjustments due to the circumstances. I feel that this structure gives the day purpose, adds positivity to the day, makes it possible to manage time, and gives me a sense of achievement.

Lake view

Health

Throughout March, I continued with my health activities and felt good. This included daily meditation, outdoor walks, strengthening workouts, and yoga. I also kept my bedtime to get about 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and greeted each morning with a smile.

When the gym, yoga classes, and swimming pool were closed, I moved my exercises to my living room and alternated the dates: Strength workouts on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Yoga on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I used my body weight and a resistance band for my workouts. I did shorter walks outdoors while practicing physical distancing and stayed closer to home.

Arts

Before March 13, I viewed three interesting glass art exhibits by Nadira Narine, Jared Last, Rob Raeside, and one clay and porcelain exhibit by Amber Zuber.

After all non-essential businesses were closed, I viewed public art that are available on my outdoor walks. Spring has arrived and nature provides subtle beauty everywhere I look.

Purple croci

Blogs

I wrote five blog posts in March, hosted the March Wellness Weekend link-up, and maintained my usual blogging connections. I also did the monthly back-up of my blog content and media. What’s new was an interview that I did for one of my blogger friends. It’s to be published in May so watch this space.

Books

I read six books in March: Celestial Bodies, Bad Move, Elevator Pitch, Love Walked In, A Better Man, and Snowmen. The list of the eighteen books I read in the first quarter of 2020 is here.

Home

Since I had planned to be in Spain for the last half of March, I didn’t do grocery shopping before mid-March. As a result, after my trip was cancelled, it took me several visits to the different supermarkets to get our usual groceries. Fresh produce was fine while some dry goods were sold out.

My local grocery stores started adding more sanitizing stations, redirecting incoming shoppers, placing markers on the floors for physical distancing, more frequent disinfecting of common surfaces, and reducing opening hours.

With the extra time gained from not going to any event, I experimented with two recipes: clafoutis and sugar-free banana muffins. I used blueberries for the clafoutis instead of cherries. Both recipes turned out delicious and I’d make them again. My thank-you to Suzanne and Malcolm at Picture Retirement blog for sharing the banana muffin recipe.

Learning

I continued my daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo. It’s part of my “keeping a routine” strategy. There is no excuse to lose my streak of daily lessons while I’m healthy at home.

Movies

Before March 13, I watched one good movie, Jojo Rabbit, with my neighbours. After March 13, we postponed our movie nights until further notice. Surprisingly, I haven’t had to reach out for any movie DVDs yet.

Music

Before concert halls were closed, I attended two wonderful classical piano recitals, one by the highly-gifted 9 year-old Sunny Ritter from Austria and the other by Lisa Tahara, Jayne Abe, and Victoria Yuan who played amazing two hands, four hands, and six hands piano.

Sunny Ritter

Travel

I had five trip cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Spain in March, two in Ontario in April, Iceland in May, and California also in May. No sadness though because the best place to be during these turbulent times is Home.

The airlines, hotels, and rail company that I dealt with have been great with updates and automated cancellation process on their web sites. I’m grateful to receive either full refunds or travel credits for all five trips via electronic means with no phone call or in-person wait times.

Volunteering

Earlier this year I had signed up to volunteer at two running race events, one in March and one in early May. The organizers had to cancel both events. After the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, I volunteered to call my elderly neighbours to chat. We’ve also been doing hand clapping or pot banging from our homes at 7 PM every evening to show our support for front line health care and other essential workers.

So that was my March. Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your comments.

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

31 Things I’m Grateful For in March

Duck in a calm lake

March was such a turbulent month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Where I live, event cancellations, business closures, and school closures have been happening since March 13 to slow the spread of the virus.

The Province of Ontario has ordered all non-essential businesses to close since March 25 until further notice. The City of Toronto has cancelled all events and festivals until June 30. This means my family and I are prepared to live our new “normal” in a much quieter city for the long haul.

I had planned a trip to Spain, leaving on March 16. Fortunately, the airlines cancelled my flights on March 12 and gave me full refunds. I was able to cancel my hotel bookings without penalty. I’ve been feeling grateful every day.

Since March has thirty one days, I thought I’d list 31 things that I’m grateful for:

  1. Being at home.
  2. Being healthy.
  3. My family: Everyone is well.
  4. My friends: Everyone is well.
  5. Access to clean water, fresh food, and a warm home.
  6. Access to a phone, a computer, electricity, and internet service.
  7. Quiet time to reflect.
  8. Opportunities to cheer up my friends.
  9. Opportunities to help my elderly neighbours.
  10. The first signs of Spring, a new season.
  11. The trail by Lake Ontario.
  12. Outdoor walks to exercise.
  13. The changing weather: sun, clouds, and rain.
  14. The clear blue skies.
  15. The sounds from birds, ducks, and swans.
  16. The warmth of the sun on my back.
  17. The soft petals of spring flowers.
  18. Meditation time.
  19. My resistance band for strengthening exercises.
  20. Yoga practice time.
  21. Free public art to view.
  22. My blogging community.
  23. Books to read.
  24. Free online concerts to listen to.
  25. Free online shows to watch.
  26. Free online courses to take.
  27. New recipes to try.
  28. Home-made meals with my family.
  29. Being an introvert.
  30. My morning coffee.
  31. My afternoon tea.

Every item on my list makes me feel calm and smile.

Thank you, my blog friends, for reading. I hope you and your loved ones are in good health and are adjusting well to the current situation. I’d love to hear from you.

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