My 10 Favourites This Summer

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #35! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or a cold drink at my coffee station and let’s chat.

It was a week of sunny days with less heat and humidity. There were thunderstorms, lightning and rain last weekend although the rain volume was less than what I expected. I had a good week doing health activities in the morning, house chores in the afternoon, and reading and writing in the evening.

September, a new month, just began. After sharing what made June joyful, I intentionally skipped a July wrap-up and waited until August is over to write a two-in-one wrap-up post. Here are my ten favourites in July and August:

1. Family Celebrations

After a long lockdown, Ontario re-opened in three phases that allow social gatherings with increasing capacity limits. I enjoyed a tasty pasta in July and mostly meatless meals in August while celebrating family birthdays and graduations.

2. Health

I give myself the gift of health by doing strength training three times per week and yoga three times per week. I also continue my daily meditation and online French and Spanish lessons.

Mixed fresh fruit.
Eating healthy is easy in the summer with many fresh fruit and vegetable choices.

3. Paddling

Canoes and kayaks.
Weekly canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddling and wildlife sightings exceeded my expectations.

4. Cycling

Cyclist painting by Ghazaraza, 2019.
I had so much fun cycling most mornings to explore various neighbourhoods…
Clear lake water.
…and take in nature’s beauty.

5. Disc Golf

Disc golf course and lake views.
I played disc golf twice weekly, partly because I love walking on the grass and the views.

6. Walking

Purple hibiscus.
I took many walks and stopped for the gorgeous flowers in various parks and gardens such as Berczy Park, St. James Park, the Rose garden, and Toronto Music Garden.

7. Photography

I was pleased to photograph and catalogue the garage door murals at Euclid-Palmerston laneway (first batch here, second batch here), the stunning Fleurs de Villes Rosé floral designs and these five eye-catching art stations.

Princess Margaret fountain.
Princess Margaret fountain on a gorgeous summer day was one of the many objects and moments that I captured.

8. Music

Concert in St. James Park.
The sounds of live music in public parks brought me joy.

9. Reading

10. Blogging

I had fun writing five blog posts in July and four posts in August for my weekly Weekend Coffee Shares. I also did something new, i.e. Guest hosting the Sunday Stills photography challenge while host Terri is on a blogging break.

Thank you to everyone who shared their in the garden and afloat-themed photos. I’ll be hosting the Sunday Stills photography challenge on September 5. The theme is ‘Colourful Murals’. I look forward to seeing your beautiful photos.

Gratitude

July and August were enjoyable and wonderful. I’m grateful for all the good things that happened. While I’m aware of COVID-19 surge, natural disasters, and other bad craziness that’s happening, I choose to focus on what’s good and continue taking steps to live a healthy and enriched life with gratitude every day.

How was August for you?

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Tasty Meal and St. James Park

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #31! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, hot chocolate or a cold drink at my coffee station and let’s chat.

It was a week of sunny days with fluffy clouds and fun activities. In this post, I’d like to share a new-to-me recipe and my walk in St. James Park.

Asparagus and Sausage Penne

This tray bake by chef Adam Liaw is a winner. I substituted asparagus for broccolini and penne for spaghetti. I skipped the optional anchovies and the red chili. It was an easy-to-make, quick and tasty meal. Sharing for #WhatsOnYourPlate challenge, hosted by Donna at Retirement Reflections and Deb at The Widow Badass.

Asparagus and sausage penne

A Walk in St. James Park

St. James Park is located at the intersection of King and Jarvis Streets in downtown Toronto. From spring 2018 to spring 2021, the park has undergone improvements and is a beautiful space to stroll and relax. The park layout has four entry plazas, one central plaza, plenty of benches and a formal garden. On the west side of the park is St. James Cathedral.

St. James Cathedral: The Cathedral Church of St. James is an Anglican cathedral. It is the location of the oldest congregation in Toronto, with the parish being established in 1797. The cathedral, with construction beginning in 1850 and opening for services in 1853, was one of the largest buildings in the city at that time. It was designed by Frederick William Cumberland and is a prime example of Gothic Revival architecture.

Click on any image in the gallery to see it in full view. Sharing for #ThursdayDoors.

Arbour: The clematis covered wrought-iron arbour at the northeast entry plaza was added to St. James Park in the early 1980’s.

Lighting feature: The new lighting feature at the northeast entry plaza is a sculptural abstract interpretation of the St. James Cathedral in silhouette. It looks better at night when the lights are on.

Sculpture: The Robert Gourlay bust welcomes visitors coming into the park from the northwest entry plaza. Robert Fleming Gourlay (1778 – 1863) was a Scottish-Canadian writer, political reform activist, and agriculturalist. The bronze bust was created by Toronto sculptor, Adrienne Alison.

Robert Gourlay sculpture by Adrienne Alison.

Playground: Families with young children enjoy the new market-themed playground that features elements such as the asparagus climber, giant-sized produce, a tower made of stacked farmer’s baskets, a merry go-round, a flexible seating platform under a tree perfect for story time and a small water-play area.

St. James Park playground.

Pavilion: A new open-air park pavilion located on the east side of the enlarged central plaza. The pavilion, made of heavy timber columns and a trellis canopy with recessed lighting, is in part, inspired by the Gothic arches of the cathedral’s architecture. It’s suitable for a variety of community events.

St. James Park Michael Comstock Pavilion.

The pavilion was officially named Michael Comstock Pavilion this summer. After a long lockdown, live music at an outdoor concert in St. James Park brought me tremendous joy. Below is the north view of the pavilion and the garden.

Garden: Walking trails traverse the grass and tree dotted area. The St. James garden in Victorian garden style was renovated in 2003 by landscape designer Wendy Shearer. It has several rose beds, shrubs, ornamental stone statues, and a fountain.

Seat Wall: The seat wall in the southwest plaza near the cathedral features a bronze silhouette of the architectural skyline of the area through several historic periods by Canadian artist Scott Eunson.

Bronze silhouette by Scott Eunson.

Linked with #LifeThisWeek, #PPAC8.

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BeaverTails and Red Roses

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #6! 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.

This is a long weekend of celebrations here: Lunar New Year’s Day, the year of the Ox, on February 12, Valentine’s Day on February 14, and Family Day on February 15. I have a sweet treat and rosy or red images to share.

1. BeaverTails

Have you ever had a beavertail? I ate my first delicious beavertail in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, a long time ago. No, not the tail of a beaver. I’m talking about Canadian pastries, called Beavertails or Queues de Castor in French. They are fried dough pastries, individually hand stretched to resemble beaver’s tails, topped with either sweet or savoury ingredients.

One of the BeaverTails stores is located in Pier 6 building, the oldest building in Toronto’s Harbourfront area. I think its red exterior and doors are suitable entry to the Thursday Doors and Sunday Stills photography challenges this week.

Pier 6 building entrance.

The glass panes of the front door are half covered with BeaverTails menu, notices of store opening hours, and covid-19 protocols. The plaque on the right of Pier 6 building explains its architecture and history since 1907.

Pier 6 plaque.

I like how an ordinary storage shed, on the left side of Pier 6 building, is transformed into something eye-catching with a coat of red paint and a few Canadian symbols: Moose antlers, beavers, a heart, oars, rolling pins, apples, evergreen trees, and leaves.

The back of Pier 6 building is mostly glass doors and windows. They are open in nice weather and are glass for a good reason.

Pier 6 back doors and windows.

The reason is this view of the Toronto Harbour and the boats that dock along the pier. In a few weeks, boat crews will start cleaning up and getting their boats ready for boat tour customers.

The boats will be in pristine conditions, especially their doors and windows, so passengers can have a good view of Toronto from the water. Rentals of bigger boats are also available for special events.

Views from Pier 6.

If you haven’t had a BeaverTails pastry, I recommend to try it at least once. I have no affiliation with the company. Currently, there are eleven BeaverTails choices. They’re big and inexpensive treats, perfect for sharing with your Valentine.

Plus for about US$5, you can claim that you’ve had a Canadian BeaverTails pastry, like this fun fact about President Obama’s visit, and tick off this item on your bucket list.

2. Red Roses

Terri’s Sunday Stills Rosy Red prompt also reminded me of my visit to a rose plantation in Ecuador before the pandemic. Although roses are not native to Ecuador, the country has a perfect environment for rose cultivation and is one of the world’s major producers. Here’s a small sample of about 500 rose varieties in Ecuador:

Roses ready for shipment from Ecuador.

Ecuadorian roses have long stems with perfect petals. They come in so many colours and names that it would be hard to choose which to buy. Take a look at this exquisite arrangement of real red roses or a single rosy red rose. Both say Happy Valentine’s Day loud and clear.

Red Ecuadorian roses.
Pink Ecuadorian rose.

All flowers are shared on Cee’s Flower of The Day.

3. Finding Calm

My guest post 21 Quick Ideas To Find Calm went live on Min’s Write of the Middle blog in Australia on Monday February 8. Give yourself the gift of health by finding calm and taking care of yourself everyday. I hope you find at least one of my 21 quick ideas useful. Have a great weekend!

I’d love to hear your comments.

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The Best Markets and Blog Parties

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #5! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself with a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station, and let’s chat.

1. The Best Indoor Food Markets

One of my recent bicycle rides was to St. Lawrence Market, which was constructed in 1803, and was named the best food market in the world by National Geographic in 2012.

The St. Lawrence Market Complex consists of the South Market (Main market), the North Market (Saturday Farmers’ market), and St. Lawrence Hall (Offices and rental venue).

St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, Canada since 1803.
St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, Canada since 1803.
St. Lawrence Market doors.
St. Lawrence Market doors.

St. Lawrence Market reminds me of the Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall, the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest, Hungary, built in 1897.

Great Market Hall, Budapest, Hungary since 1897.
Great Market Hall, Budapest, Hungary since 1897.

Both markets have similar interior layouts. St. Lawrence South Market has two levels: The main and lower levels of St. Lawrence South Market contain over 120 specialty vendors, known for the variety and freshness of their fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, grains, baked goods and dairy products, as well as for the uniqueness of the non-food items for sale.

Side view of the South Market two levels.
Side view of the 2-storey St. Lawrence South Market.

The Great Market Hall has three levels: Most of the stalls on the ground floor offer produce, meats, pastries, candies, spices, and spirits. The second mezzanine floor has eateries and tourist souvenirs. The basement contains fishmongers, vegetables stalls, and a few specialized butcher shops.

Inside the Great Market Hall.
Inside the Great Market Hall.

Both St. Lawrence Market and the Great Market Hall are amazing indoor markets to explore, browse or buy and savour fresh food.

Now that we’ve got our fresh pastries from the market, let me tell you about my upcoming guest post and my blog party wondering.

2. Guest Post

I’m excited to share my guest post titled 21 Quick Ideas To Find Calm in 2021 on Min’s Write of the Middle blog on February 8, Brisbane time, in Australia. Min is passionate about health and well-being, self-investment, and mindfulness. Her Gems of Zen series is about lifestyle choices to achieve a sense of Zen.

I’ve known Min in the blog world for some time now as we both link up with some of the same blog parties. I’d like to thank Min for the opportunity to share my ideas on her blog. It’s cool that my blogging voice gets to travel to Australia before I visit the country IRL. See how blog parties open doors to new adventures?

3. What Attracts You to A Blog Party?

Coffee Share party #4 was well-attended with 35 bloggers. Thank you for your participation! Now that we’ve had four blog parties in January, I wonder what attracts bloggers to a blog link-up. Is it simply a nice place to hang out with other bloggers or is there more that attracts you to it? Such as:

  • The blogs at the link-up.
  • The dates and time when the link-up is open.
  • The new visitors and comments that you receive.
  • The reciprocity among participants: You visit a blog, leave a comment, and the blogger visits your blog.
  • By word of mouth from a blogger you follow.
  • The host’s responsiveness to reply to comments on his/ her blog and leave comments on your blog.

Perhaps the best blog parties are those that keep bringing you back.

Your turn

I’d love to hear your comments on:

  1. The best indoor markets.
  2. Writing guest post.
  3. What attracts you to a blog link-up/ party.

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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.

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Checking Off My Holiday Fun List

Greetings! It’s December 21st, time to share how I did on my holiday fun list that I wrote here. I had five items and wanted to have free or low cost, and environmentally-friendly fun. So here we go:

1) View the holiday light displays: I walked with my family in the downtown core to see beautiful holiday light displays. In Eaton Centre, the tallest Christmas tree was quite a centrepiece. Big banks and major department stores also set up amazing decorations.

Christmas tree at Toronto Eaton Centre
Christmas tree at Toronto Eaton Centre

2) Listen to live holiday music: My friends and I walked to see the Cavalcade of Lights at City Hall. This event marked the official start of the holiday season in Toronto. The 53rd annual celebration featured the first lighting of Toronto’s 15-metre (50-foot) Christmas tree, live musical performances, a skating party and a spectacular fireworks display. I love the hundreds of dazzling lights that hang above the ice rink and all around Nathan Philips Square.

Cavalcade of Lights in Toronto
Cavalcade of Lights in Toronto

3) Bake a Ration cake: I baked a Second World War Ration cake with the recipe found here while listening to music. It was an easy and relaxing activity. The kitchen smelled good. The cake turned out well even though I used an 8-inch round pan instead of a square pan. My family and I enjoyed the yummy treats. Success!

A slice of Ration cake
A slice of home made ration cake

4) Give food and hope: The local Metro grocery store creates convenient, ready-to-go food bank bags. Metro will make a donation of $1 to Feed Ontario for each bag purchase. I bought a few bags of food items to let the recipients know that I care.

Food donation
Food donation at Metro grocery store

5) Walk to show the Earth some love: I walked outdoors with my family through the Financial District to the main shopping centre (see item 1 above) and with my friends to City Hall (see item 2 above). Each time we stopped to watch the Hudson’s Bay Christmas window displays. Here’s a snapshot of what’s behind the five windows and the toy soldiers on guard (click on the photos to enlarge them):

So I checked off my holiday fun list. We enjoyed the lights, the live music, the cake, and the outdoor walks. It felt good to donate food to help less fortunate people in the city. All of these activities were either free or low cost, and I’d say environmentally friendly.

What I love most is how Mother Nature displays a simple and beautiful decoration for the season: Fresh pine cones on the tree.

Coming up next week: My sister is hosting our annual family holiday get-together. Three generations in my family will be there, plus a few family friends. We’ve coordinated the dinner menu and each of us will bring food and drinks to share. I’m looking forward to this party!

Wishing you peace, joy, and good health for this holiday season and in the New Year 2020.

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