4 Years of Blogging | Thanksgiving Musings

Hello blog friends! How are things going? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space for a coffee or tea and let’s chat. The weather was typical autumn this past week, mainly sunny and cool, with some showers and strong winds mid-week.

I had a good week with my usual cycling, walking, workouts, yoga, meditation, house work, language lessons, blogging, and reading. I also got in touch with my family and friends by phone and text. This weekend I’m celebrating my blog anniversary and Thanksgiving holiday.

4 Years of Blogging: Some Thoughts

  • A milestone: I reached a blogging milestone, 4 years of blogging, on October 10th. I started my blog with Blogger in October 2016 and then switched to WordPress in June 2019. Same blog name Natalie the Explorer on both platforms. I didn’t move my old Blogger blog posts over to WordPress yet and probably won’t.
  • A good habit: I like the rhythm and habit of thinking and writing. This year I’ve been posting once a week. My blog is where I record some of what I’ve been up to, write down some thoughts, share some of my photos, and interact with my blog readers and other bloggers.
  • Friendships: I had the pleasure to meet several blogger friends IRL on Vancouver Island last September. I hope to meet them again and meet new blogger friends in the future.
  • Ongoing learning: One of the reasons for my platform switch was to learn something new. I jumped “cannonball” style into using WordPress block editor right away. I think all bloggers would agree with me that there’s always something new to learn from blogging, whether it’s new technology or general blog improvements or from readers’ comments.
  • Thank You: I want to thank everyone who reads my blog and everyone who takes the time to leave a comment. Blogging has been a fun ride for me. Your comments and friendship make it more fun and they motivate me to continue blogging. I hope you continue sharing your thoughts here.

Thanksgiving Musings: 10 Personal Gains

Currently, Canada is in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto public health officials have urged residents not to invite anyone over for Thanksgiving dinner this year, and to mark the holiday with only members of their immediate household. So it’s a quiet Thanksgiving at my place.

I made donations to the local food drive. I contacted my family and friends to chat and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I spent some time thinking about what I’ve personally gained in the last seven months since COVID-19 restrictions started in mid-March.

Ten personal gains in no particular order:

  1. Health Focus: I’ve always been active, however, this pandemic brings a laser focus for me to continue being physically active, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and stay mentally healthy.
  1. Time: I gain time from not getting ready to go somewhere, not commuting, not attending cultural and social events, and not traveling. This allows me to spend more time outdoors, linger when and where I want to, and read a lot more books.
  1. Money: I save more, mainly from not traveling. I’ve redirected some of my travel budget to recreation which is still a fraction of my usual travel budget. At this rate of saving, I may be able to upgrade or extend my trip next time I travel.
  1. Childhood Favourite: I resume and enjoy one of my favourite childhood activities, i.e. Cycling. When I was a child, I taught myself how to ride a bicycle using my mom’s adult bike. No training wheels for this kid. I’ve been cycling a lot more this year than previous year.
  1. A Quiet City: Toronto is the largest city in Canada. With event cancellations, business closures, online schools, and working from home arrangements, the city centre has been much quieter than normal. Less car and people traffic makes it relaxing and easier for me to maintain physical distancing when I go outside.
  1. Local Beauty: I’m grateful to have easy access to the Waterfront trail, Lake Ontario, local beaches, parks, gardens, Toronto Harbour, and the Toronto islands. This year I have more time to explore my home city by bike or on foot, and did a lot of paddling around the beautiful Toronto islands.
  1. New Discoveries: The more flexible and resourceful I am, the more fun and less stress I bring to myself. Examples: Closures of indoor gym, art galleries, concert halls, library branches? Do workouts at home, go digital, and switch to e-books. Jasmine rice unavailable? Buy Basmati rice. In the process of substitution, I discovered new videos, web sites, authors, brands, etc. Some substitutes have met or exceeded my expectations.
  1. New Skills: I use some of the extra time on hand to learn how to bake. I’ve baked several recipes and they all turned out well. I approached this as a learning experiment and proved to myself that yes, I can bake. I also improved my paddling skills by canoeing, kayaking, and stand up paddling this summer.
  1. Simple Living: The pandemic restrictions simplify life down to the essentials like staying at home and going out for exercises, groceries or medicine only. So my typical day involves going outside for fitness activities, grocery shopping, making meals at home, doing house chores, keeping in touch with family and friends by phone or text, and relaxing with books, films, and music.
  1. Life Experience: Even though I wish the pandemic would be over right now, it’s still part of our reality. Living through COVID-19 Wave 1 has given me the experience to prepare for Wave 2. Unlike Wave 1 which occurred during Spring and Summer here, Wave 2 is in Autumn and possibly Winter when it’s darker and colder. I know I need to step up my game and ride this out.

How did your week go? What personal gains have you experienced during the pandemic? I’d love 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.

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.

What Are Your Plans for 2020?

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and you’ve gotten off to a great start on this new year and new decade. It’s exciting to have a brand new year ahead of us and a fresh calendar to pencil in upcoming events and activities.

2019 was an amazing year for me. It’s going to be a hard year to top. I’m thankful for all the good things that I either achieved or received in 2019. Now I’m planning to make 2020 a fantastic year.

Plans for 2020

I see this year and the new decade as part of my “go go” phase. I intend to stay active while I can. This doesn’t mean that I fill my calendar with all kinds of events. On the contrary, I’m selective with what I add to it and there is blank space for relaxation and spontaneity.

For blogging purposes, I group my plans under Health, Leisure, and Travel. Embedded in them are time with my family and friends and new learning. I like the simplicity of having three items for each group and add a bonus item under Travel to round up my list of ten.

Health

  1. Greet every new day with a smile.
  2. Continue to maintain good health by doing meditation (15 minutes daily), outdoor walks (6x/ week), strength workouts (3x/ week), yoga (2x/ week), and swimming (1x/ week).
  3. Try a new fitness activity.

Leisure

  1. Continue to enrich my life with arts (3 exhibits/ month), books (3x/ month), concerts (3x/ month), movies (3x/ month), and lessons of French and Spanish (30 minutes daily).
  2. Volunteer at a fun event in the city.
  3. Try one local dish at each new travel destination.

Travel

  1. Do four fun trips in Canada with my family.
  2. Revisit wonderful countries like Spain and Iceland.
  3. Attend a reunion with my longtime friends in California, USA.
  4. Explore one Canadian province and three countries that are new to me.

I use a simple spreadsheet to track my activities and goals. Stay tuned for my progress updates in my monthly wrap-up blogs.

Wellness Weekend link-up

A friendly reminder that I’ve changed the title of last year’s Wellness Wednesday series to Wellness Weekend and it’s now on the 3rd Sunday of every month. The first Wellness Weekend link-up is on Sunday, January 19. The optional prompt is Warm up. You’re invited to join in on the fun with your wellness-related post.

So what are your plans for 2020? I’d love to hear your comments.

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

2019 Wrap-Up

Holiday greetings to you all from Natalie the Explorer! I took the above photo at the Winter Flower show where the poinsettias were bright and beautiful. Today I’m wrapping up 2019 and reflecting on the highlights of my year.

Highlights of 2019

Blogging
Health
  • I reached all my health goals as written here. I feel healthy and happy. Thankfully, my family members are in good health, too. I channel some of my positive energy and stamina into leisure activities and travels.
Leisure
  • Lots of enriching leisure activities! I keep track of the numbers which add up to 50 art exhibits seen, 62 books read (see the lists here and here), 48 concerts heard, 44 movies watched, and daily French and Spanish lessons done on Duolingo. I’ve also enjoyed taking photos and I’ve shared some of them on my blog.
Travel
  • Lots of travels in Canada and abroad! Some trips were with my family, some were to visit family and friends, and some were solo adventures. I wrote about them on my blog so feel free to check out my Travel page. All of them are amazing destinations to explore.
  • I marveled again and again at Canada’s beauty during my family trips to Kingston, Regina, Sault Ste. Marie, and solo trip to Vancouver Island.
  • My sister and I took two trips together. We had a fantastic time exploring Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia in March and Ecuador in December.
  • I enjoyed visiting my cousins and met up with one of my longtime friends in June in Germany. We did sightseeing in and around Munich, visited the beautiful Heidelberg Castle, and took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria.
  • I traveled solo to Guatemala in January, Malta in June, and Vancouver Island, BC in September. At each destination, I met new friends, saw beautiful sights, and learned something new.

So those are my 2019 highlights. I’m thankful for an incredible year with good health, many enriching cultural experiences, fun travel adventures, and happy times with my family and friends.

I’m looking forward to a new year just as amazing as this year and continuing my blogging connections with you all. Wishing you good health, joy, and peace in 2020!

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

Reviewing Health Goals: What Went Well?

At the beginning of 2019, my overall plan for the year is to create nice memories with my family and friends, to stay healthy, and to enjoy life. I have nineteen specific goals and group them in three categories: Family & Friends (five goals), Health (six goals), and Leisure (eight goals).

We’re now in the second week of December. I’m gently wrapping up the year 2019, starting with a review of my six Health goals in this post. They were on my Blogger blog so I’m copying them over in a table format and adding my results next to each goal.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Health Goals in 2019

GoalResults
Meditate 15 minutes dailyDone daily. Meditation clears my mind and sets a positive tone for the day.
Find humour to smile or laugh dailyDone daily. 2019 has been an amazing year for me and I find it easy to smile or laugh.
Walk 6x/ week, 45 minutes each timeDone and some more. I continue to live a car-free lifestyle. I’ve been walking longer distance in the Fall.
Strength workouts 3x/ week, 1 hour each timeDone consistently. I feel fit and healthy. The exercises improve my balance, focus, stamina, and strength.
Yoga 2x/ week, 1 hour each timeDone consistently. My body is flexible and I can do a range of motions without pain or difficulty. The deep breathing practice helps me sleep well.
Swim 1x/ week, 1 hourDone consistently. Swimming relaxes me and builds endurance at the same time.

What Went Well?

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

I’m committed to maintaining good health and as such I’ve designed my health routine to suit me. Here’s what went well:

1) Enjoyment: I choose activities that I like and that I can do year-round. This increases the chance that I look forward to doing them, and I can do them regularly without any significant gap.

2) Variety: I have six activities and goals for each. I do a different set of activities each day and make changes to keep the routine fresh and engaging. My yoga instructor also delivers a unique class every time.

3) A mix of structure and flexibility: The structured activities are my yoga class which is on Tuesday and Thursday, from 9 to 10 AM. The remaining activities are on my own time although I usually complete them in the morning.

4) A mix of group and solo activities: In my yoga class, we have anywhere from 12 to 22 participants in each class. My other health activities are solo although I do work out in the gym with one of my friends every few weeks and I do see other people in the gym and at the pool.

5) Self-care time: Some of my walks are with my family or friends. The rest of my health activities are by myself (gym, meditate, swim, walk) or in a class (yoga) so I have that time just for me.

Where does all this lead?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Life Quality: I’d say my life quality is excellent this year. I’ve enjoyed several health activities, a variety of leisure pursuits, and frequent travels. I’ve made new friends from my yoga class, as well as through blogging, and travelling.

Gratitude: I’m very thankful for having my good health. It enables me to enjoy life with my family and friends. I can be of help to them when needed.

My thank-you to everyone who has participated and/ or supported the Wellness Wednesday link-up with your comments. I also want to thank Leslie for joining me on this journey and for setting up the monthly link-up codes.

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

What went well health-wise in 2019 for you? Would you do anything differently in the New Year? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join in the last Wellness Wednesday link-up of 2019. I look forward to continuing our blogging connections with you all.

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