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.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

Last month my sister and I made a trip to Ecuador, a country on the Pacific side of South America. Our itinerary included visits to Quito, Otavalo, Papallacta, the Amazon, Banōs, and Patate. We had a wonderful time with numerous memorable moments.

I love so many things about Ecuador and it’s tough to name my ten favourite experiences. Nevertheless, I’m listing ten for now and plan to write more details in the next few posts.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

1. Visit Quito and its historic centre: Quito, founded in 1534, is the capital city of Ecuador. The historic centre of Quito was one of the first centers of its kind to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. A good place to see the panoramic view of Quito is at Itchimbia Park.

Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park

We walk the cobblestone streets in Quito’s historic centre and visit some of the beautifully restored colonial-era churches, palaces, and public plazas, such as the Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace, La Compañia de Jesus Church with its beautiful gilded interior, and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco with its impressive facade and atrium.

Independence Plaza in Quito
Independence Plaza in Quito

2. Straddle the Equator at the Middle of the World Monument: The country is called Ecuador as the Equator passes right through it. We visit the Middle of the World Monument which commemorates the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences. This is where Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer, and Charles Marie de La Condamine first determined the equatorial line in 1736.

Even though GPS measures later proved that their magnetic measurements were flawed, and the actual equator is located 250 meters from the monument, it’s still a nice place to visit and to stand at a latitude of 0º0’0” with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.

Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0'0''
Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0’0”

3. Hike and hike some more: We hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo, and the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall near Baños. The landscape that we see along the Pan-American Highway is breathtaking. The most strenuous hike for us, however, is in the Amazon rainforest.

Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Peguche waterfall
Peguche waterfall

4. Shop at the Otavalo market: The Otavalo market is one of the largest in South America run by the local Otavaleños. Here, we enjoy the lively market atmosphere and browse the various stalls for traditional goods such as handwoven cloth and rugs, Panama hats, art work, jewelry, and more.

Otavalo main square
Otavalo main square

The Panama hats, by the way, are made in Ecuador, and not Panama. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. From Panama the hat was internationally known and people began to call it “Panama Hat” even though the place of origin is Ecuador.

Art for sale at Otavalo market
Art for sale at Otavalo market

5. Relax at the Papallacta hot springs: Ecuador has many volcanoes hence hot springs are plentiful. We enjoy the thermal hot pools and our overnight stay at Termas Papallacta hotel and spa. It’s a beautiful place to relax and recharge before we go to the Amazon rainforest.

Papallacta hot springs
Papallacta hot springs

6. Explore the Amazon rainforest: We stay at a lodge in a lush tropical and tranquil setting on the banks of the Napo river in the Amazon Basin. Birds, flowers, and sounds of nature and nocturnal animals fill our senses. We go on a guided and challenging hike for approximately two hours while viewing many species of tropical plants and insects up close.

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle

7. Visit beautiful colonial-Spanish haciendas: We stay at Hacienda Leito which provides a fabulous mix of old and new. The original ranch building, with its original cobblestone driveway, central fountain, and antique artworks and furnishings, is a classic example of a colonial-Spanish hacienda. The up-to-date rooms and free Wi-Fi let you know you’re in the 21st century.

Hacienda Leito entrance
Hacienda Leito entrance

On another day, we lunch at Hacienda La Cienega, one of the oldest and most historical haciendas in Ecuador, dating back to the 17th century, with a view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, in the background.

The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega
The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega

8. Try Ecuadorian food: We try various dishes in Ecuador and like most of them such as ceviche, quinoa soup, potato soup, shrimps and grilled fish. We did not try cuy (guinea pig). There are also lots of fresh and inexpensive fruit such as bananas, plantains, papayas, and chirimoyas. Ecuador cacao and chocolate taste divine in their desserts and hot chocolate drinks.

Cacao-based desserts
Cacoa-based desserts

9. Tour a beautiful rose plantation: Although roses are not native to Ecuador, the country has a perfect environment for rose cultivation and is presently one of the world’s major producers. On the plantation tour, we learn about the farming process, from planting to exporting, and admire numerous rose varieties.

Rose plantation
Rose plantation

10. Watch nature, local fauna and flora: While in Ecuador, we are surrounded by nature and innumerable varieties of fauna and flora. I take in the lush vegetation, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest, and cloud forests as much as I can. Below is a sample. I hope you see the hummingbird on the right of the red flower.

Hummingbird by a red flower
Hummingbird by a red flower
Tungurahua volcano at dusk
Tungurahua volcano at dusk

Many tourists come to Ecuador and jump from Quito or Guyaquil to the Galapagos Islands. There is much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. I’m happy with what I’ve experienced on my first visit to beautiful Ecuador: culture, history, nature, food and its people. I hope you enjoy seeing Ecuador through my lens.

Have you been to Ecuador? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

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