Summer Week 8: Gone Canoeing

Toronto Islands scenery

Hello blog friends! How are things going? I hope all is well with you. Come on in to my blog space and let’s share our news over a cup of tea or coffee.

The weather during Summer week 8, from August 9 to 15 inclusive, was warm and pleasant. The high temperatures ranged from 26C to 32C (79F to 90F). I’ve got all my planned activities done. The highlights? A canoe outing, my siblings’ visit, and several good reads.

Canoe Outing

My friend and I rented a canoe that came with two paddles, two life jackets, and a return trip on a pontoon boat to the islands where the canoes are stored. We spent about six hours paddling on the Toronto islands with a lunch break around mid-day.

Sunlight-dappled canoes
Sunlight-dappled canoes

The weather on the day of our excursion was perfect with sunny skies, light wind, low humidity, and high temperature around 26C. We paddled in the calm and clear water and had so much fun exploring the wetlands and the islands. Here’s some of my photos:

Canada geese
Canada geese and island scenery
Water lily
Water lily
Painted turtle on a tree trunk
Painted turtle on a tree trunk
Canoe paddling on Toronto Islands
Canoe paddling on Toronto Islands

It was a beautiful day and a wonderful excursion. Nature, sunshine, peace, and friendship…All “addictive” ingredients for a good life. I have high hope to go canoeing again later this month, weather permitting.

Family Visit

Coconut loaf

My sister and brother came for a visit so I baked a coconut loaf for them. The recipe is a winner because both my siblings liked the loaf.

We sat outside to chat and enjoy a glorious afternoon by the lake. I was happy to see my siblings in person with uninterrupted time to talk and laugh together.

Reading

I’ve eagerly continued my “bookworm” status, reading seven books: two by Jojo Moyes, two by K.A. Tucker, one young adult fiction by Katie Cotugno, one psychological thriller by Gillan Flynn, and one spy fiction by Lauren Wilkinson.

The spy fiction titled American Spy, a debut novel by Lauren Wilkinson, was on Barack Obama’s 2019 Recommended Reading List. The story covers a lot more than spy missions, such as human emotions, relationships, ideology, and social issues.

American Spy prompted me to learn more about Thomas Sankara, his family, and his presidency in Burkina Faso, a country in Africa, before he was assassinated.

It also took me to Martinique, an island located in the eastern Caribbean Sea and a place that I wanted to visit.

This novel led me to more exploring and learning something new. I’d recommend it.

Summer week 8 was excellent. I’m grateful for all the good things that happened. I look forward to making the most of summer week 9.

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

I link up here.

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

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.

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.

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.