It was my first week back from Portugal and back to the familiarity of home. I resumed my exercise routine, chatted with family and friends, booked coffee and walk dates, restocked the refrigerator, did laundry, and caught up on emails and blogs.
It was also a week with plenty of sunshine and unusually warm temperatures. The daytime high temperatures reached 29C (84F) on Wednesday and 31C (88F) on Thursday. I was happy to cycle to some of my favourite places in the city. I also took daily walks, met friends and together we enjoyed spotting spring flowers and watching birds and turtles.
Seven Fun Outings
Here’s a selection of my nature photos from Toronto, taken in the past seven days.
To continue my floral theme, for the Photographing Public Art Challenge (PPAC) this week, here’s a mural painted by Alexandra. It was on the side of a flower stall in Rossio Square in Lisbon, Portugal. Obrigado means thank you.
Weekend Coffee Share
How was your week? I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #114 InLinkz below.
I’ve got five sources of inspiration for this post: 1) February is Heart Month in Canada, 2) Valentine’s Day is coming up, 3) Marsha’s Wednesday Quotes challenge, 4) Terri’s Sunday Stills February Red colour challenge, and 5) My Photographing Public Art Challenge (PPAC). So, I had fun selecting my digital images and created the following galleries with some quotes.
A walk in the Distillery District yielded four heart displays: A bubbly heart made of fabric by Designs by the Yard, a soft heart made with red and some blue thread (unknown artist), a big red heart and a Love sign by artist Mathew Rosenblatt. The first two displays were temporary and the last two were permanent. The Love sign is full of locks.
“The locks are a symbol of love and that is emotional and beautiful. When people walk by they see, symbolically by all these locks left here, all this love.”
“We are all artists. We can express in different ways but our life, at the end of day, is our biggest sculpture. Each day we take brush strokes with our actions.”
Another walk in Yorkville led me to discover paintings by artist Anthony Ricciardi. The information sheet at these paintings stated that the artist is colour blind and self-taught. He left the comfort and clout of the corporate finance world to pursue his true passion and lifelong dream: Art. His collections have been showcased worldwide in Toronto, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, London, and Brazil.
“Incredible things happen when you Follow Your Heart.”
Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest times for florists. I have many red flower photos to enjoy. I look forward to Spring when red camellias, peonies and roses bloom in outdoor gardens and I can touch their lovely soft petals.
Some cars give the driver and the passenger heart-pumping or heart-stopping effects.
If you could drive one of the cars, which one would you pick?
Weekend Coffee Share
I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week, and/or favourite public art around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #106 InLinkz below.
Have a wonderful weekend and however you choose to spend February 14th, happy Valentine’s Day!
Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here. It’s week 41 in 2022 and I’m hosting Weekend Coffee Share linkup #91. Come on in for a coffee or tea, and let’s catch up.
October 10, 2022 marked the 6th anniversary of my first post on the Natalie the Explorer blog. The milestone inspires me to share some of my thoughts on blogging, hosting and participating in blog linkups and photo challenges.
I started the blog on Blogger in October 2016. I moved from Blogger to WordPress in May 2019. The move to WordPress is good for me as most of the bloggers I connect with are on WordPress, and it’s convenient to read blogs and leave comments when you’re on the same platform.
What I enjoy about blogging:
Having a hobby, a creative outlet and a digital record of my adventures.
Sharing the beauty and wonders of our planet Earth by text and pictures.
Connecting with and learning from other bloggers and blog readers around the world. I’ve had the pleasure to meet several bloggers in real life.
Thank you to everyone who visits Natalie the Explorer. I appreciate all the visits, likes, comments and shares over the years. I value each and every one of my blogging friends and everyone who took the time to leave a comment. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement through the years.
I experimented with hosting the monthly Wellness Wednesday linkup in 2018-2019 and the monthly Wellness Weekend linkup in 2020. I’ve been hosting the weekly Weekend Coffee Share linkup since January 2021. I hope to reach the 100th linkup soon. 100 sounds like a nice milestone.
What encourages me to host:
Receiving comments from linkup participants who take time to read my blog and leave a comment.
Seeing a good number of bloggers join weekly and connect with other bloggers via comments.
A linkup becomes stale when bloggers join in without leaving comments for the host and other participants. It’s like having a party with no conversation and no social connection.
Some blog hosts use InLinkz. Some hosts have participants leave their links in the Comments and the host does the roundup of participants. I’ve been using InLinkz for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share linkup, however, I’m thinking about using the Comments and roundup in the new year. I’ll let you know when I decide to change how I host my linkup.
Thank you to everyone who actively participates in my weekly Weekend Coffee Share linkup. I appreciate all the comments, contributions, link-backs and pingbacks.
Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here. It’s week 25 in 2022 and I’m hosting Weekend Coffee Share linkup #75. Come on in for a coffee or tea, and let’s catch up.
This week I welcomed summer arrival in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21. As if on cue, Toronto had a heat event on June 21 and 22 with maximum temperatures reached 33C (91F), and felt like 39C (102F) with humidity. It was sunny and warm the rest of the week.
To pay tribute to a beautiful spring that I had, I’m taking you on an easy stroll in the Toronto Music Garden in spring. Aside from the gorgeous tall trees, let’s see colourful flowers, listen to birdsong, and smell the gentle floral scent.
The Toronto Music Garden springs from the imagination of renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and garden designer Julie Moir Messervy. Inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, the garden is made up of six “movements” whose forms and feelings correspond to that suggested in the music: Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuett, and Gigue.
Click on any image in the gallery to see its bigger version and image name.
This section imparts the feeling of a flowing river. Granite boulders that came from the Canadian Shield represent a stream bed. Low-growing plants soften its banks. Circular designs on the ground and at the edge of the boulders represent the water movements. The trees with straight trunks are native Hackberry trees. This is the only section in the garden that is not a dance form.
This section imparts the feeling of a forest grove of wandering trails. The allemande is an ancient German dance. The trails swirl inward and move higher and higher up the hillside. A circle of dawn redwood trees and a small birch forest provide shades to the various contemplative sitting areas that look over the harbour.
This section imparts the feeling of a swirling path through a wildflower meadow. The courante is an exuberant Italian and French dance form. The trails swirl upward in a spiral form, through a lush field of grasses and brightly-coloured perennials that attract bees, birds, and butterflies. At the top of the swirling path is the maypole, with Celtic-patterned spirals and iron wheel, designed by Anne Roberts.
This section is envisioned as a poet’s corner with a centerpiece. The sarabande is based on an ancient Spanish dance form. The trails go in an inward-arcing circle that is enclosed by tall needle-leaf evergreen trees. Japanese maple trees are also grown here. The centerpiece is a huge stone that acts as a stage for readings, and holds a small pool with water that reflects the sky.
This section imparts the feeling of a formal parterre garden of flowers. The menuett is a French dance movement. Its formality and grace are reflected in the symmetry and geometry of a circular pavilion. The pavilion is hand-crafted with ornamental steel by Tom Tollefson. It is designed to shelter small musical ensembles or dance groups.
Gigue section imparts the feeling of a series of giant grass steps that offer views onto the harbour. The gigue, or “jog”, is an English dance. The steps form a curved amphitheatre that focus on a stone stage set under a weeping willow tree.
In spring, the Toronto Music Garden is a wonderful place to stroll, check out what’s blooming, watch birds, listen to birdsong, and reconnect with nature. Benches are available throughout the garden to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you are here. It’s week 23 in 2022 and I’m hosting Weekend Coffee Share linkup #73. Come on in for a coffee or tea, and let’s chat.
Today I have two lovely walks and a few beautiful peonies to share. The walks can be combined to get in more steps and to see distinct landscapes.
1. Corktown Common
Corktown Common park is a versatile place for either an easy walk on flat surfaces or a cardio workout using the stairs. The trails go in sort of a spiral pattern. Beautiful redbud trees and other native flowers bloom in spring.
Lots of birds to watch in this park, especially the red-winged black birds that fly back and forth across the curved boardwalk, and cute duck families in the ponds. Benches are available to rest and enjoy the park.
Click on any image in the gallery to see its bigger version.
It was a blissful walk in glorious sunshine to get in my steps, enjoy nature, and be grateful for the little things that make life better.
2. Don River Trail
The Lower Don River Trail is a beautiful, serene trail that follows the Don River. The trail is perfect for a peaceful walk or bike ride, and offers stunning views of the river and its surroundings. Coming to the trail on a sunny weekday, I had the place almost to myself.
Green trees, green grass, the dappled shade, and the reflections on the river were pleasant to see. Several bridges contribute to the uniqueness of this trail. Birdsong filled the air as I walked. Sunshine and a gentle breeze were ideal conditions to stay out longer. I cycled home feeling light and relaxed.
3. Beautiful Peonies
I was delighted to see peonies in three different colours: yellow, hot pink and red. I look forward to seeing them in a local garden every spring. These blooms are huge, almost the size of a dinner plate. There were many of them so the branches just bent over with the weight. I love their layers of petals and gentle fragrance.
Spring walks are my favourites as the weather is mostly sunny, temperatures are usually cool, the landscape is fresh green, and flowers bloom everywhere. I hope to have more beautiful outings this weekend.
Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here. It’s week 21 in 2022 and I’m hosting Weekend Coffee Share linkup #71. Come on in for a coffee or tea and let’s chat.
May is almost over and we’ve had a few warm days that felt more like Summer than Spring. The last weekend of May is a good time for me to reflect on my 2022 focus on Health, Home and Leisure to live a healthy and enriched life. Here’s my monthly update.
In May, I continued my indoor exercises (meditation, language lessons, strength training and yoga) and outdoor activities (cycling, walking and playing disc golf). I’ve been cycling more often and longer distance.
I also took many walks to enjoy sunny spring days and May flowers. They make my heart sing and delight me with their beauty, colours, scents, shapes, textures and varieties.
Family: I took the regional GO train to visit my sister. We had a good time together. It was my first time taking public transit since the pandemic started. I traveled during non-peak time and had the clean and comfortable car to myself. Currently, mask is mandatory and hand sanitizer is provided on the GO trains.
Friends: I continued my Tour of Indie Cafés in downtown Toronto. In May, my friends joined me at Boxcar Social at Harbourfront and Café 23 on Queen Street West. Both locations are wonderful for a stroll before or after coffee.
Boxcar Social: Cool interior designs and nice outdoor patio overlooking the skating rink/ pond and Lake Ontario beyond that. Quick service, delicious cappuccino. They use Subtext coffee roasters. In the area where the skating rink usually is during the winter, there’s a huge mural on the ground by artist Amanda McCavour based on her “Spirograph” art, consisting of joyful, colourful, and circular images.
Café 23: Behind the simple exterior is a stylish, Parisian-style café with chandeliers, artworks, books, mirrors, reading/ coffee nooks, and a charming two-level garden patio. Parisian-born owner Vanessa Sansonetti’s background in architecture, eye for design and love for plants influenced her choice of decor. Friendly, quick service, good selection of pastries sourced from local bakeries and delicious cappuccino. They use De Mello and Hale coffee roasters.
Photography – I love exploring and photographing Toronto’s neighbourhoods, parks and the waterfront. Nature shows that changes are constant. I experience delightful moments and something new every outing. One example is this Canada geese family with fourteen fuzzy goslings!
Reading – I read six books (five easy and engrossing fiction books and one children’s book in the Dora the Explorer series). Here’s my list by author’s last name:
May has been an outdoorsy and social month. Most pandemic restrictions have been lifted and the nice weather continues. I’m grateful for all the good things that happened in May. It’s also the month to firm up my summer plans. I’ll probably have less time to blog. I’m looking forward to enjoying June.
Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here. It’s week 19 in 2022 and I’m hosting Weekend Coffee Share linkup #69. Come on in for a cup of coffee or tea and let’s chat.
May is mid-spring in Toronto and beautiful flowers are in bloom everywhere. This week has been sunny with daytime high temperatures ranging from 16C to 24C (60F to 75F). I enjoyed some lovely walks and two stunning floral events: Sakuras and Fleurs de Villes.
Sakuras (Cherry Blossoms)
Sakura trees have a long history in Toronto as written here. Since Sakura peak bloom only lasts about a week, I was happy to see the beautiful and delicate flowers before they’re gone. Just walking under the trees and enjoying spring weather is a wonderful experience.
The easiest way to spot the difference between a cherry, plum, or peach flower is by observing the petal’s natural shape. Cherry blossoms have a unique cleft at the tip of their petals, which add to their pretty features and incredible popularity.
Cherry blossoms also have long stems that attach them to the branch from a single bud. One bud can produce more than one flower and you see whole branches of trees covered in pink, pale pink, or white.
Since April 1959 when the first 2000 Somei-yoshino sakura trees were presented to the citizens of Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo, Toronto has planted many Sakura trees in different parts of the city for its residents to enjoy every spring. I feel fortunate to see Sakuras close to home.
Fleurs de Villes 2022
The Fleurs de Villes event returned to Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood from May 4 to 8, 2022. This year’s theme is Femmes to celebrate remarkable women and raise funds for breast cancer research. The trail displayed over thirty stunning fresh floral designs by incredibly talented florists.
My slideshow below includes ten pictures of the fourteen incredible floral mannequins inspired by a remarkable woman – each with a unique story, and each making a profound impact. Click on the arrows or swipe to see the images.
There are fun floral designs as well, such as a bike, a phone booth, a swing, a heart, a heart-shaped frame and Mom since the event ended on Sunday May 8th which was Mother’s Day in Canada. The fresh flowers were gorgeous to see up close and their scent was lovely.
I enjoyed my walks and all the fresh flowers that I’ve seen this week.
Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #67! 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.
Week 17/ 52
On January 2, 2022, I wrote that this year, I continue to focus my energy on Health, Home, and Leisure to live a healthy and enriched life. The last weekend of April is a good time for me to reflect on how I’ve aligned my actions with my intentions in April. There were a few fun ‘firsts’.
In April, aside from my regular exercises at home, I started a new season of playing disc golf. I’m loving it for two main reasons:
On days when I play disc golf, I get to do three of my favourite activities in one go: Cycling to and from the golf course, walking on the course to play, and playing disc golf. It’s a fantastic three-in-one combo.
I play on weekday mornings. There is no queue, just a beautiful and peaceful golf course, birds, squirrels, geese, lake views and sounds of nature. By noon, I’ve got plenty of fresh air, my nature ‘fix’, and good exercises for my mind and body.
I also did many walks in parks and gardens. Since spring arrival, it’s been delightful to see and photograph emerging blooms every week. I created a slideshow of pretty flowers that carpet the ground beneath trees and shrubs in April. Click on the arrows or swipe to see the slides.
Spring inspired me to start my Tour of Indie Cafés of 2022 and invited my family and friends to join me when they’re available. The plan is to visit up to two indie cafés per month, from April to September, in downtown Toronto. We’ll sit outdoors to enjoy the nice weather and a coffee or tea.
My intentions are three-fold:
To enjoy social time with my family and friends
To support small indie cafés and coffee roasters
To refresh my knowledge of the indie café scene
To start out strong, in April, we met at Arvo and Balzac’s. Both are located in the Distillery District, a National Historic Site and a wonderful place to stroll before or after coffee. Both cafés offered friendly and quick service, interesting and unique interior designs, and delicious cappuccinos.
Arvo: Good vibes. Interiors display Become A Legend light art. They primarily use Phil and Sebastian coffee, roasters from Calgary.
Balzac’s: Beautiful building. Grand Parisian style interior with a chandelier and interesting displays. The company was founded in Stratford, Ontario in 1996. They’re proudly Canadian coffee roasters.
Birding – Two Canada geese are back to nest in the same spot that they used last spring. I’ve been checking in on them and other bird nests.
Reading – I read one inspiring biography and five entertaining fiction books. Here’s the list by author’s last name:
April has been amazing with a few fun ‘Firsts of 2022′: First disc golf game, first cappuccino at Arvo, first signs of spring, and first time reading Anna Collins’ debut book and the Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years.
I look forward to enjoying May. As always, I’m thankful for my good health, my family, my friends, all good experiences and joyful moments.
Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #65! 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.
Week 15/ 52
It was a week of sunny days, periods of showers, and above normal temperatures that reached 18C (64F) on Wednesday afternoon. I’m thinking of good things that happened this week.
One of my longtime friends lives in the suburbs, about an hour drive from me. She had appointments downtown yesterday so we arranged to meet for coffee. It was a happy reunion because even though we’ve been in touch, we haven’t seen each other for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Garden walks
I took several lovely garden walks this week. In any garden, especially in spring, a walk is a sensory and therapeutic experience. At least, I see flowers, hear bird songs, smell the freshly churned soil, and feel the coolness in the air and the warmth of sunlight.
My neighbourhood looks more and more beautiful every day as we get further into spring. Sunlight, rain, and warmer temperatures have sped up plant growth. I enjoy looking out for early spring flowers in gardens. They are emerging and showing off their cheerful colours.
I saw beautiful red cardinals, American robins, European starlings, and red-winged blackbirds. They were all singing their wonderful bird songs. Toronto is on one of the major bird migration paths so we have many bird species year-round. I feel fortunate to hear the sounds of nature so clearly while living in a big city. I also found four new cute birdhouses.
I went through my pictures taken at Allan Gardens Conservatory and had fun creating an Orchid slideshow. I’ve seen most of these orchid varieties in stores, except the Bell orchid tree from tropical Africa. Their beauty brightens my day and transports me to faraway places. Click on the arrows or swipe to see the images.
Three e-books that I requested from the library arrived. They were new releases in January and February 2022. Two of the books are from familiar authors, and one is a debut novel from a new-to-me author. I’m excited to read new books and discover new authors. I love my library’s digital services and the convenience of e-books. I keep track of what I’ve read here.
That wraps up Week 15 of 2022. In spite of mixed weather, it was a lovely week. Trees are in bloom, birds are singing, good coffee and new books are waiting. I look forward to a relaxing weekend with my family and Week 16 coming up. I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend.
Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #64! 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.
Week 14/ 52
While waiting for more spring flowers to show up outdoors, I cycled to Allan Gardens Conservatory, located in downtown Toronto, to see what’s blooming. I had so much fun exploring the Conservatory. The first two pictures in this post are from my archive. The remaining pictures are new from the visit.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
The domed Allan Gardens Conservatory was initially built in 1909 by Robert McCallum in a neo-Classicaland Edwardian style. It was expanded several times during the 1920s, in 1956, 1957, and in 2004 with the addition of six greenhouses.
Behind the ordinary white doors, in total, the Conservatory’s six greenhouses cover approximately 1,500 square metres (16,000 sq ft). Each with its own distinct climate and associated plant collection:
Arid House for cacti and succulents such as barrel cactus, jade plant, agave and aloe.
Orchid House for a stunning collection of orchids and bromeliads mixed with a variety of flowering tropical plants and vines.
Palm House also known as ‘The Dome’ contains palms, bananas and other tall plants.
Temperate House for citrus, olive trees, and seasonal floral displays.
Tropical Landscape House for plants like cycads, gingers, hibiscus and a jade vine.
Children’s Conservatory is closed to the public but offers horticultural programs for children.
Inside the Conservatory, from floor to ceiling and on both sides of the pathways, are numerous plants, some with stunning flowers and some with fruits.
Two small ponds with soft sounds of water and distinct features add to the charms of the gardens.
Below is a sample of what’s blooming during my visit. I save the cacti and orchids for future posts. Click on the arrows or swipe to see the slides.
It was a wonderful visit to see so many gorgeous plants and landscape designs in a charming setting. Allan Gardens once again gave me warmth and a mood booster. I’m thankful for nature’s leafy beauty worlds away yet close to home.
Allan Gardens Conservatory is open year round. Admission is free. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conservatory provides a few spectacular flower shows annually. I hope the flower shows resume this year as I look forward to revisiting the Conservatory.
Was any of the flowers in my slideshow new to you? How has your week been?