Gratitude and Balance

Hello blog friends! How are things going? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space and let’s catch up on our news over a cup of coffee or tea. Before I get to the topics of Gratitude and Balance, let me share one of my fun outings this week.

Stand Up Paddling

Summer week 13, from September 13 to 19 inclusive, was mainly sunny and cool. Daytime high temperatures ranged from 14C to 26C (57F to 79F). I enjoyed cycling and walking every weekday morning and squeezed in my third Stand Up Paddling (SUP) excursion of summer 2020 yesterday.

Swan in Toronto harbour.

It was a gorgeous morning to be on the water with swans swimming ahead of my SUP board. I checked out a number of floating houses, some are nicely decorated, and talked to people who live on a boat full-time. One of the sailboat captains offered to take me sailing around Toronto Islands so I may take up that offer on another day.

Gratitude

When I reflect on the thirteen weeks of summer 2020, every week exceeds my expectations. Let’s see how I did with my summer fun plan that I posted on June 21:

Eat a lot of summer fruits: Yes, especially blueberries, strawberries, and peaches from farms in Ontario.

Enjoy ice cream: Yes, I stayed with classic chocolate and natural vanilla flavours and enjoyed them on hot and humid days.

Explore local gardens or parks: Yes, I explored several local parks and gardens. Some of my favourites include Coronation Park, Trillium Park, Marilyn Bell Park, and the Toronto Music Garden.

Go cycling on the Waterfront trail: Yes, during the thirteen weeks of summer, I cycled 5 or 6 trips per week. The Waterfront trail is scenic and it’s for cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians so I feel safe cycling on it.

A section of the Waterfront Trail.
A section of the Waterfront Trail

Have a picnic by the lake: Yes, every time I went cycling, I had a picnic by the lake. I also had coffee chats by the lake when my siblings and nieces visited this summer.

Look for wildlife in the city: Yes, I saw many birds, butterflies, dragonflies, cormorants, ducks, fish, geese, swans, toads, terns, turtles, beavers, minks, squirrels, etc. My favourites are the grey herons, snowy egrets, and monarch butterflies.

Paddle within Toronto Islands: Yes, I went canoeing twice, stand up paddling three times, and kayaking six times in thirteen weeks. Way better than I expected and I loved every paddling trip that I took.

Read light novels: I read 55 novels from June 1 to September 20 and love reading every day! This is what I can do when COVID-19 prevents me from going to movie theatres, concerts, restaurants, or shopping centres.

A quiet beach
A quiet beach

Relax at a lake beach: Yes, I spent lots of relaxing time at the beaches on Toronto Islands, Cherry Beach, and Ontario Place.

Walk on the boardwalk: Yes, I walked along the board walks at Marilyn Bell Park, Gibraltar Point, and Harbourfront.

I’m grateful that I’m in good health and I’m free to explore and enjoy life even with restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. My family and friends are all well. I wake up every morning with gratitude and intend to make the most of every day. I look forward to enjoying Autumn 2020!

Balance

Today is the 9th Wellness Weekend link up and the optional prompt is Balance. I hope you join in and share your thoughts in the Comments on how you achieve your life balance.

I take actions to stay balanced and I work at it. Here’s my list of actions:

Emotional health: Make time for fun every day. Treat myself to whatever that makes me laugh or smile.

Intellectual health: Expand my awareness and explore the world via arts, blogs, books, language lessons, music, movies, nature, travel, etc. I choose the activities I like and mix them up.

Mental health: Focus on relationships that matter. Have some solitude time to reflect and relax every day. Minimize toxicity from negative people, news, and social media. I scan the news for my awareness but don’t spend hours on it.

Physical health: Include balance exercises to strengthen the muscles that keep us balanced (e.g. Tree pose in yoga, single leg dead lifts in workout session). Alternate high intensity workout day with a less intense activity the next day. Alternate the side that I start at each workout (Left, Right). Try to eat a balanced diet with grains, lean meat, fruit, and vegetables. Drink water for hydration. Get enough sleep (for me 7-8 hours per night).

How did your week go? How do you find your balance? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

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

Summer Week 12: Marilyn Bell Park

Hello blog friends! How are things going? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space for a chat over a cup of tea or coffee.

Summer week 12, from September 6 to 12 inclusive, was half cloudy and half sunny. Daytime high temperatures ranged from 19C to 24C (66F to 76F). It certainly feels like the end of summer is near and autumn is on her way.

I took advantage of the fair weather to be outside cycling and walking as much as possible. One of my fun destinations was Marilyn Bell Park. Let me share with you a brief history and what I like about this park.

Park location and history

Marilyn Bell Park is located at 1095 Lake Shore Blvd. West at British Columbia Road. It’s west of Ontario Place, along the lake shore, and includes part of the Waterfront Trail.

Marilyn Bell Park history.

The park is named after Marilyn Bell, a local Toronto girl who was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario on September 9, 1954. She was only sixteen at the time and she made the 51.5 km (32 miles) swim in 20 hours and 59 minutes. The park was dedicated to her on the 30th anniversary of her swim in 1984.

Park features

At a glance, Marilyn Bell Park may look like a simple park until visitors take time to explore and pay attention to what it offers. Below are my favourites at this park.

Beautiful green space with lots of trees, grassy fields, picnic tables, and benches.
Beautiful green space with lots of trees, grassy fields, picnic tables, and benches.
Stunning lake view from the Lookout and along the boardwalk.
Stunning lake view from the Lookout and along the boardwalk.
Biking and walking trails with view of the breakwater wall and cormorants.
Biking and walking trails with view of the breakwater wall and cormorants.
One of the disc golf baskets at Marilyn Bell Park disc golf course.
Disc golf course: Here’s one of the baskets. Play a game with a view!
Outdoor gym using the three benches. Tennis courts on the right of the photo.
Outdoor gym using the three benches. Tennis courts on the right of the photo.

I welcome the Bench fit exercises displayed at the three benches in the park. Some of the exercises are part of my strengthening workouts at home. These benches form a triangle and are numbered from 1 to 3. All three face the lake so I do my workout, move from one bench to the next, while enjoying a great view.

Each bench has four exercises. Total 12 exercises. The information panel at each bench displays pictures and instructions for the exercises:

  • Bench 1: Step up, Incline frontal plank, Incline push up, and Lunge with front foot on bench.
  • Bench 2: Incline frontal plank, Touch squat, Bench toe tap, and V-Up abs.
  • Bench 3: Calf raise, Isometric squat, Mountain climber, and Bench dip.
Working out at Marilyn Bell Park with a great view!
Working out at Marilyn Bell Park with a great view!

If I had my yoga mat with me, I could practice yoga on the grassy field, or bring a book and sit in one of the big comfy chairs to read. I’m grateful for this open green space and clean air. My thoughts are with my relatives, friends, and everyone else, who have been affected by the devastating fires and the poor air quality on the West Coast in the USA.

I love that for a simple park, one can enjoy a number of activities here. On this excursion, I cycled to Marilyn Bell Park, locked my bike, walked the lengths of the park, did the twelve Bench Fit exercises, and had a picnic by the lake before cycling home. It was a beautiful morning and I came home smiling and feeling energized for my afternoon activities.

How did your week go? Which local park is your favourite and why? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

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

Summer Week 11: August Smiles

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? Hope all is well with you. Come on in to my blog space so we can share our news over a cup of coffee or tea.

Summer Week 11

Summer week 11, from August 30 to September 5 inclusive, delivered another stretch of good weather. Daytime high temperatures ranged from 22C to 27C (72F to 82F) with mainly sunny days and some rain mid-week.

Beach Visit

I cycled to Cherry Beach early one morning to get my quiet beach time. Cherry Beach typically achieves annual Blue Flag certification where water quality is safe for swimming. It was nice to walk along the beach and listen to the sounds of water and birds.

Cherry Beach.
Cherry Beach

There are picnic sites, restroom facility, parking lots, and dogs off-leash area outside the beach entrance which make this beach popular, especially on summer weekends.

Cherry Beach picnic site.
Cherry Beach picnic site

Family Visit

My sister and nieces came to visit on Tuesday. We sat outside 2 meters apart by the lake to chat and catch up on our news. My nieces resume their university studies next week so I was glad to see them before they get busy with school.

Lake view.

Park Visit

On another beautiful day, I went for a long walk and paused at Larry Sefton Park. The United Steel Workers of America funded this park creation in 1977 to honor the memory of their director, Larry Sefton. I liked how the deep terra cotta wall provides a nice backdrop to the steel sculpture.

Larry Sefton Park

August in Numbers

August ended a few days ago so this week I completed my usual monthly review and month-end digital file back-ups. How did I do in August? Let’s see what the numbers have to say:

  • 1 family visit (and a repeat baking success: a coconut loaf).
  • 1 stand up paddling excursion.
  • 2 canoe excursions here and here.
  • 2 coffee meet-ups with friends.
  • 2 movies: Cake and The Boy Downstairs.
  • 3 digital concerts.
  • 5 blog posts.
  • 12 yoga sessions.
  • 13 strengthening workouts.
  • 20 books (see list below).
  • 21 cycling trips.
  • 24 walks.
  • 31 French and Spanish online sessions.
  • 31 meditations sessions.

Overall August was an excellent month for me. I enjoyed the good weather, had coffee chats with my siblings and friends outdoors, did a lot of cycling, paddling, walking, exercising, learning, reading, and writing.

Reading in August

By switching to e-books and not visiting the library, I gained time to read and enjoyed twenty fiction novels in August. These novels are all really good page-turners and once I start, I want to read to the end. During the day, I’m active and on my feet a lot so by evening time, I’m happy to sit down and get lost in a book.

Here’s my list in order of preference:

  1. The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes.
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
  4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
  5. American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson.
  6. 99 Days by Katie Cotugno.
  7. 9 Days and 9 Nights (sequel to 99 Days) by Katie Cotugno.
  8. After You (sequel to Me Before You) by Jojo Moyes.
  9. Still Me (sequel to After You) by Jojo Moyes.
  10. One Day in December by Josie Silver.
  11. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware.
  12. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.
  13. Becoming Rain by K.A. Tucker.
  14. Surviving Ice by K.A. Tucker.
  15. Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker.
  16. Until It Fades by K.A. Tucker.
  17. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.
  18. Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton.
  19. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory.
  20. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.

Novel #1: The Sense of An Ending blew my mind. I read this e-book in one evening as the story is engaging and it’s just 160 pages long. When I finished, my reaction was “Whoa, I didn’t see it coming“.

Novels #1 to #5: Even though love shines in all the novels I read, the deaths of bright and young people in my top five novels made me feel really sad after I finished the books. I had to do long bicycle rides and long walks to clear my head of thoughts about grief and unnatural deaths.

Novels #6 to #16: I usually don’t read sequels or multiple books from the same author in one month. Breaking my own rule, I read and enjoyed the young adult fiction sequel by Katie Cotugno, the trilogy by Jojo Moyes, and the series by K.A. Tucker. Novels #11 and 12 are good thrillers.

Novels #17 to #20: Just because I place the books last on my list, it doesn’t mean #17 to #20 are not good reads. I like all the 20 novels that I read in August. I’m glad to discover new-to-me authors and appreciate all the hard work that these authors put in to write their books. I hope my reading contributes to the overall encouragement for them to write more.

Conclusion

I’m grateful for all the good things that happened. My family and friends are safe and well. I continue to follow public health measures to stay safe and well, too. I look forward to making the most of September.

How did your week go? How was your August? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

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

Summer Week 10: I Did It Again

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.

Summer week 10, from August 23 to 29, delivered a mix of sunny days and brief showers. The daytime high ranged from 22C to 33C (70F to 92F). The week started off with my second canoe trip to the beautiful 13 Toronto Islands. Yes, I did it again! I was so happy to pull it off before this summer ends.

Canoe Excursion #2

After the fun canoe excursion in summer week 8, my friend and I wanted a repeat so we quickly booked our canoes and kept our fingers crossed for good weather. The stars aligned and we got a sunny day with high temperature around 30C.

Island scenery

The water on the Toronto Islands was calm and clear. We paddled, swam, explored secluded beaches, bird sanctuaries, many waterways, and played canoe rescues while enjoying beautiful nature around us. Around mid-day, we pulled our canoes on a wooden dock and relaxed to have lunch in the shade.

Canoe docked for lunch

I saw ducks, Canada geese, fish, a snowy egret, swans, and turtles in the water, plus nice flower plants on the islands, like black-eyed Susan and cone flowers.

A splash of bright colours: Black-eyed Susan.

It was a fun-filled day. On our way back to the city side, we got to see a beautiful panoramic view of the city’s skyline. It always takes my breath away.

City's skyline seen from Toronto Islands

My Waterproof Gear

My friends and other people have asked me about my waterproof gear when I go on my paddling excursions so I thought I’d share my gear here. You can get them in sports stores or on Amazon web site.

My AiRun Tech set of four waterproof items comes with a lifetime warranty:

  • one 10L roll top compression sack with removable shoulder straps.
  • one 20L roll top compression sack with removable shoulder straps.
  • one clear waterproof waist pouch with adjustable strap.
  • one clear waterproof phone case with lanyard.

The 10L and 20L dry sacks come with an inner pocket designed for cell phone and tablet to avoid getting wet and screen scratching. I can operate my phone or tablet through the clear window during my trips. These bags float in water. I leave a small amount of extra room for air in my dry bag, and it will stay above water.

The 10L dry bag is perfect for small personal items I’d like to protect from the elements: cell phone, wallet, keys, mask, small first aid kit, lunch, snacks, toiletries, small towel, water bottles, etc. Even after I put all of these items in the bag, I still have lots of room to roll the top and snap it close.

The 20L dry bag is big enough to carry everything I need for a longer trip. The shoulder straps make it easy to carry this bag like a backpack.

The waterproof waist pouch is useful when I want to carry just a few small items with me. It keeps my hands free while I can easily retrieve my items from the pouch.

The waterproof phone case locks my phone inside and comes with a lanyard to wear on my neck. When I’m on the water, I can take photos without taking my phone out of the case.

My 10L dry bag on the SUP board. I took this photo with my phone in the waterproof case.

I’ve seen stand up paddlers suddenly fall into the water and soak their phones many times, or a big wave splashes water all over the paddle board, kayak, or canoe. If you plan to be outdoors in wet conditions or ponder a gift for outdoor lovers, consider getting waterproof gear.

Aside from the full day canoe trip, I did a bit of cycling, walking, exercising, yoga, meditation, language lessons, and a lot of reading during the week.

Summer week 10 was fantastic. I look forward to making the most of summer week 11.

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

I link up here.

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

Summer Week 9: Spontaneous Outings

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

Summer week 9, from August 16 to 22 inclusive, delivered a beautiful stretch of good weather, sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. Daytime high ranged from 24C to 29C (75F to 84F).

I received a couple of quick messages and phone calls from my friends. My spontaneous response “Yes, let’s do this!” rounded my week with two in-person coffee chats and one Stand Up Paddling afternoon on Toronto islands.

Coffee Chat #1

Friend #1 who lives in the suburb and who has been working from home had to go into the city centre for business on Tuesday. I was flexible with my time so we met up for coffee and catch up. I walked to our meeting place and back home, got 5K done before and after our coffee chat, two birds one stone.

We sat outside on a beautiful day, 2 meters (6 feet) apart, and in a nice public square with plants and flowers. Our chat was non-stop with laughs and smiles. After our meeting was over, I got a photo of this pretty monarch butterfly. Not bad for a cell phone!

Monarch butterfly on a butterfly brush flower
Monarch butterfly on a butterfly brush flower

Coffee Chat #2

Friend #2 who lives in the west end of the city and who has been busy taking care of an elderly parent was available on Thursday. So we agreed to meet at Humber Bay Arch Bridge. I rode my bike there and back, enjoyed my ride on the scenic waterfront trail, got 20 kilometers done before and after our coffee chat, two birds one stone again.

Humber Bay Arch Bridge
Humber Bay Arch Bridge

We sat outside at Sheldon Lookout, 2 meters (6 feet) apart, on another gorgeous day, with stunning views of Humber Bay. Part of the bay, where the sun light hit the water, sparkled like a million diamonds.

The view from Sheldon Lookout
The view from Sheldon Lookout

Our chat was full of news exchange, laughs, and smiles. On this sunny day by the lake and with nice green space around us, we focused on the present and the good things in life.

A view from Sheldon Lookout
A view from Sheldon Lookout

Stand Up Paddling (SUP)

Friend #3 was asking me about my Stand Up Paddling excursion in July. So we booked to rent two SUP boards. Each rental includes a return trip on a pontoon boat to where the SUP boards are stored on the islands, a board, a paddle, a life jacket, and a flexible leash with Velcro straps to keep the board attached to our ankles. We did stand up paddling on Toronto islands for about 2.5 hours.

My cherry red SUP board...Love the starfish!
My cherry red SUP board…Love the starfish!

The lake water will be cooler in September and SUP season will be over soon so I was glad to squeeze in this SUP outing. The photos from this trip are a bit unclear because I took them while my phone was secured in a clear waterproof case!

We saw many swans and ducks during our paddling. The cherry-on-top for me was a great blue heron that stood quietly by the water as we left the islands to head home, and the fiery sunset over Toronto Harbour, signaling the end of another stunning day.

Great blue heron on Toronto Islands
Great blue heron on Toronto Islands
Sunset over Toronto Harbour
Sunset over Toronto Harbour

Spontaneity and Flexibility

These outings came together on different days with different people and minimal planning. They gave me many joyful moments. One ordinary week became extra-ordinary. I’m glad I have the flexibility in my day to say Yes, let’s do this!

After all the physical activities, I’m ready to sink into one of these big comfy Muskoka chairs and read a good book. Care to join me? I’m about half way through The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Muskoka chairs and lake view
Muskoka chairs and lake view

Once again, nature, sunshine, exercises, friendship, and good books are my not-so secrets to a healthy and enriched life. Summer week 9 was fantastic. I look forward to making the most of summer week 10.

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

I link up here.

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

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.

Summer Week 7: Coronation Park

Hello blog friends! How are things going? Hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space, feel free to have a coffee or tea, hot or cold, and let’s catch up on our news.

Summer week 7, from August 2 to 8 inclusive, means we just passed the half point of summer here. We had heavy rainfall on Sunday, rain on Monday afternoon and Tuesday then sunny weather the rest of the week. The high temperatures ranged from 24C to 29C (75F to 85F).

Cycling

I cycled along the Waterfront trail from one to two hours most mornings this week. One of the parks that I stopped by is Coronation Park. Coronation Park was built in 1937 to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI. It’s located at Lake Shore Blvd West & Fort York Blvd, just east of Ontario Place or Trillium Park.

Coronation Park highlights

Beautiful oak and maple trees: The park design consisted of grouping trees around a central Royal Oak, symbolizing the King. An inner ring of oak trees, known as the “Empire Circle”, represents the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and the Crown Colonies.

To the north, the Imperial Service triangle of trees represented the Royal Navy, Air Force and Army. On either side of the ring are separate groves of maple trees representing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Canadian divisions, Siberian troops, and Corp Troops to the east and west.

Royal Oak in the centre of the Empire Circle of oak trees.
Royal Oak in the centre of the Empire Circle of oak trees

Lake view: The south side of Coronation Park offers stunning views of Lake Ontario and the marina. It is a beautiful spot to sit along the shoreline of Lake Ontario and enjoy a picnic on a warm summer day. Coronation Park also has three softball diamonds on the north side and a nice-sized dog off-leash area on the east side.

Lake view from Coronation Park.
Lake view from Coronation Park

Victory-Peace Monument: It’s a permanent war memorial built in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. There are two sets of bronze walls, arranged like ship prows. Between the walls are maple leaves. One is engraved “Sacrifice” and the other “Hope”. The walls surrounding it has artwork depicting information about Canada’s involvement in World War II.

Victory-Peace Monument designed by artist John McEwan at Coronation Park.
Victory-Peace Monument designed by artist John McEwan at Coronation Park

Reading

Coronation Park is also a perfect spot for reading. There are benches, Muskoka chairs, grassy field, and picnic tables. The lake views, however, may be a distraction. I finished five books this week and really liked the funny dialogues and heart-breaking love story in Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

Walking

I got to see so many beautiful flowers on my morning walks. Some of them attract more bees and butterflies than others. The colour choices are amazing and they brighten my day. I’m sharing two photos here even though I took many more.

Pink thistle
Pink thistle
A monarch butterfly
A monarch butterfly

Considering everything, it was a beautiful and enjoyable week.

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

I link up here.

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

Summer Week 6: July Smiles

Butterfly

Hello blog friends! How are you? Hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space, make yourself at home with a coffee or tea, hot or iced, and let’s chat.

Summer Week 6

Summer week 6, from July 26 to August 1 inclusive, was sunny and warm. The high temperatures ranged from 28C to 33C (82F to 91F). We had heat warning on Sunday and Monday, brief showers on Wednesday, and the rest of the week was beautiful.

I enjoyed plenty of outdoor time cycling and walking on the waterfront trail or in parks by the lake. The flowers in the gardens continue to be amazing. So many colours, shapes, textures, and lovely fragrance that keep bees and butterflies busy.

My new activity of the week was Stand Up Paddling (SUP). I did SUP for about three hours on Toronto islands with my small ‘social bubble’. We paddled and had so much fun. The water was calm and warm. I saw a great blue heron, dragonflies, Eastern kingbirds, pretty water lilies, idyllic sailboats, and more.

Sailboat

July Smiles

Since we’ve just finished July and are now at the beginning of August, I thought of summarizing my fun in July in simple numbers:

  • 1 stand up paddling trip
  • 2 movies (see titles below)
  • 4 blog posts
  • 6 digital concerts (see performers below)
  • 6 kayaking trips
  • 13 yoga sessions
  • 14 strengthening workouts
  • 15 books (see list below)
  • 24 cycling trips
  • 26 walks
  • 31 online French and Spanish sessions
  • 31 meditation sessions

The two movies were both based on true stories and great performances. I gave each movie 4 stars out of 5:

  • The Big Short (Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling).
  • The Whole Wide World (Renée Zellweger and Vincent D’Onofrio).

The six concerts were performed beautifully by:

On the COVID-19 front, case numbers in Toronto have been on the downward trends so as of July 31, the City allows more businesses to re-open, now including indoor gyms, dine-in restaurants, and movie theatres that meet public health guidelines. Masks are required in indoor public spaces and people are advised to continue social distancing.

July Beach Reads

Glorious books and e-books! I was in the mood for reading and set a new personal best reading record in a month: 15 books. I enjoyed every single one of them, about half were e-books and the other half physical books. I re-read some of the chapters in each of the books. They were that good!

15 books read in July 2020

All of the authors were new to me, except Jenny Colgan and John Grisham. Although I read Neil Pasricha‘s articles and listened to him on TED Talks before, this was the first time I read one of his books. I’m glad to discover K.A. Tucker who lives in a small town outside of Toronto.

Most of the 15 books are contemporary romance, with adventures, suspense, or thriller twists. Most, not all, have happy endings. They transported me to faraway places such as Bora Bora, England, Israel, Italy, Scotland, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and various states in the USA.

I group the books into my Top 5 Picks, Next 5 Picks, and Last 5 Picks, based on how much I liked the story and the writing style. They are in alpha order by author’s last name below.

My Top 5 Picks:
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
  • Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
  • The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha.
  • The Simple Wild by K. A. Tucker.
My Next 5 Picks:
  • The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom.
  • Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks.
  • Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman.
  • Burying Water by K. A. Tucker.
  • Ten Tiny Breaths by K. A. Tucker.
My Last 5 Picks:
  • The Cafe by The Sea by Jenny Colgan.
  • Gray Mountain by John Grisham.
  • The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo.
  • Be The Girl by K. A. Tucker.
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong.

Conclusion

July was an enriching and fabulous month with fitness, family, friends, and fun while social distancing. I look forward to making the most of August.

How was your July? What are you reading? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

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

Summer Week 5: A Grand Day Out

Kayaks at Trout Pond

Hello blog friends! Glad to see you. Come on in to my blog space, make yourself comfortable with tea or coffee (hot or iced) and let’s have a chat.

Summer week 5, from July 19 to 25 inclusive, was mostly sunny and warm. The high temperatures ranged from 26C to 31C. With humidity, it felt like 30C to 36C (86F to 97F). We had severe thunderstorm and lightning on Sunday afternoon and intermittent showers on Wednesday. The rain water turned the grass in the parks from yellow to green again.

Kayaking to and within Toronto Islands

On a hot and sunny day of the week, I had a grand day out kayaking with my small social bubble. We paddled from the city side towards Hanlan’s Point (lower right on the map) and weaved our kayaks to Trout Pond (top right).

Source: City of Toronto, Toronto Island Park map

We explored the aquatic plants and bird life in and around Trout Pond and Lighthouse Pond. I saw white water lilies, baby turtles, small fish, ducks and ducklings, geese, swans, dragonflies, terns, and many other birds. We kayaked and swam in the ponds for a while as the water was so nice.

White water lily on Toronto Islands

Around 1 PM, we left our kayaks by the shore and had a nice picnic lunch on a grassy area under a few big trees. There was a lovely light breeze all afternoon. After lunch, we walked to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, Gibraltar Point Beach, and Gibraltar Point Sand Dune.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

The Gibraltar Point lighthouse, which now stands inland because of shifting land masses, was built in 1808 to protect ships coming into Toronto harbour from washing ashore during storms. It’s the oldest landmark in Toronto, the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Great Lakes, and the second oldest surviving lighthouse in Canada.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

It is said that the Gibraltar Point lighthouse is haunted. Its first lighthouse keeper J.P. Radan Muller, was murdered by two soldiers from Fort York. The ghost of of J.P. Radan Muller returns every summer, and on hot summer nights, his howls can be heard from one end of the island to the other.

Gibraltar Point Beach

With a blue sky and a sandy beach, it’s hard to believe we’re only 15 minutes from downtown Toronto. Gibraltar Point Beach is perfect for taking a swim during the hot summer. The City of Toronto has advised people to practice physical distancing at a beach or park (or can receive a $1,000 ticket).

Path to Gibraltar Point Beach
Path to Gibraltar Point Beach. The water was clear and felt great on a hot summer day.

Gibraltar Point Sand Dune

The Toronto Island Sand Dunes are home to several rare plant species and have been classified as an Environmentally Significant Area by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Dunes are fragile so visitors must stay on designated trails and boardwalks, and respect vegetated areas.

Boardwalk at Gibraltar Point Sand Dune.
Boardwalk at Gibraltar Point Sand Dune

Egrets and Herons

Late afternoon, we got back to our kayaks and paddled to Long Pond, then towards Centre Island and Ward’s Island before heading back from Royal Canadian Yacht Club marina to the city side.

I spotted two snowy egrets and two great blue herons in various areas of the islands. Click on the photos below to enlarge them. Can you see the egrets and herons?

Snowy egret on Toronto Islands
Snowy egret on Toronto Islands
Great blue heron on a tree trunk on Toronto Islands
Great blue heron on a tree trunk on Toronto Islands

It was tricky to paddle quietly to get as close to the birds as possible, then got my phone out from the pocket of my life jacket, and balanced myself in my kayak to take some photos before they flew away.

The egret and heron sightings filled me with a sense of awe and ended my grand day out with a big smile.

Snow egret on Toronto Islands
Snowy egret on Toronto Islands
Grey heron on Toronto Islands
Great blue heron on Toronto Islands

Conclusion

Summer week 5 was fantastic. I got all my outdoor and indoor activities done. I broke my own ‘personal best’ record of the number of books I read in a month in 2020. Eleven books so far with five days left in July. The weather forecast predicts sunny and warm days for this coming week. I look forward to making the most of summer week 6.

How did your week go? What made you smile? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

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

Summer Week 3: The Heat Is On

Hello blog friends! How are things going? I hope all’s well with you. Come on in to my blog space for a chat, make yourself comfortable, and let’s catch up on our news.

From where I am, the heat continued during the third week of summer, from July 5 to 11 inclusive. The high temperatures ranged from 30C to 38C. With humidity, it felt like 36C to 42C (97F to 108F). We had some relief from a flash thunderstorm on Wednesday afternoon and short showers on Saturday.

Similar to my Summer Week 2, I got all my exercises, yoga, meditation, and language lessons done, plus a lot of fun and sun in week 3. I’m sharing a few of my favourite moments from my outdoor activities below.

Cycling

I cycled on the Waterfront trail five mornings this past week. The trail hugs the shoreline of Lake Ontario and passes by many parks so I’m never far from the lake and green space, as well as local landmarks.

One favourite section of the trail is the Humber Bay Arch Bridge, a 130-metre long, pedestrian and bicycle through arch bridge over the mouth of the Humber River. The view from the Sheldon Lookout, steps from the bridge, is amazing.

Humber Bay Arch Bridge built in 1994, 130 metres long (430 feet).
Humber Bay Arch Bridge built in 1994, 130 metres long (430 feet)
Lake view at Sheldon Lookout.
Lake view from Sheldon Lookout

Kayaking

I enjoyed two kayaking trips to Toronto Islands on Tuesday and Thursday. The paddling from the city side to the Toronto Islands was challenging due to boat traffic, i.e. Ferries, water taxis, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, etc. but I made it safely across the harbour and stayed paddling within the islands for about three hours each trip.

The water within the islands was calm. I was happy to see more egrets, cormorants, ducks, birds, and new sightings this week: A beaver and a few very cute baby swans. On my way back, the sunset over Toronto’s skyline created beautiful reflections. These moments made me pause paddling and just take it all in.

A great egret on Toronto Islands.
A great egret on Toronto Islands
Great egret flew away.
And then s/he flew away…
Toronto skyline at sunset.
Toronto skyline at sunset

Walking

I walked every day this past week, except Saturday. It’s wonderful to walk along the waterfront boardwalk while listening to the sound of water touching the edge of the boardwalk, the sound of my steps on the wooden planks, watching the birds take off and land, and viewing the vast body of water spread out as far as the eyes can see.

Lake Ontario.
Lake Ontario

Aside from the lake, a few favourite sightings in the local gardens were the tall spires of violet delphiniums, black-eyed susans, and purple coneflowers. Their bright colours and happy faces made me smile. I couldn’t resist taking photos.

What Else?

I wrapped up the week with blogging, listening to one online jazz concert, reading four books, and watching two movies. The four books were three romance novels and one book on Happiness. The two movies, The Whole Wide World and The Big Short, were based on true stories. Also enjoyed ice cream, locally-grown peaches and strawberries. Yum!

Conclusion

I was a happy camper in summer week 3. The weather forecast for week 4 is warm with chance of showers on Thursday or Friday. The rain will be very good for the thirsty-looking grass in the parks. I look forward to making the most of week 4.

How did your week go? What were your favourite moments? I’d love to hear your comments.

I link up here.

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