Happy New Year 2021

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had some rest and relaxation leading up to and including New Year’s Day. I celebrated New Year’s Eve virtually with the City of Toronto’s live Celebration of Light & Sound at the CN Tower. It was beautiful and safe fun.

In the last two weeks, I enjoyed a quiet holiday at home. I baked a batch of tasty Parmesan shortbread biscuits, a Magical Coconut Pie, had phone chats with my family and friends, made online donations to charities, finalized my Books in 2020, and organized new files for 2021.

Mother Nature delivered snow for a white Christmas and clouds on New Year’s Day. While cycling and walking outside, I enjoyed watching many birds, especially hawks, red cardinals, and flocks of long-tailed ducks. Their antics made me smile.

Blog News

During the holiday break, I cleaned up my blog and media library behind the scene and did a back-up. I keep most things the same. Here’s a short list of what’s updated on my blog and what’s new.

What’s updated?

  • The Menu bar and the content of the Pages at the top of my blog.
  • My Copyright statement on the bottom right widget and at the end of each post.

What’s new?

On January 1, 2021, Alli at Eclectic Alli blog decided to step away from hosting the weekly Weekend Coffee Share. I volunteered to continue hosting it.

My guidelines starting on January 8:

  • Everyone is welcome to join in the Weekend Coffee Share in any and every week.
  • Topics are open – e.g. What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about? Mid-life musings? Wellness goals? etc.
  • Leave the link to your Weekend Coffee Share post in a comment below my Coffee Share post. No InLinkz button or code required at this time.
  • You can link to your post any time between 8 a.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday (both Toronto time).
  • I’ll be flexible in the way I title my Weekend Coffee Share posts.
  • I’d ask that participants be social. Read my post and two posts from other Coffee Share participants and leave a comment so we know you’ve dropped by.
  • I’ll merge the monthly Wellness series that I hosted in the last 2-3 years with the weekly Coffee Share.

Life Focus

In 2021 I continue to focus my energy on three main areas, Health, Home, and Leisure, to live a healthy and enriched life. In lieu of a Word of The Year or a list of resolutions, I choose to allocate time for at least one activity in each of the three areas every day. My typical day is generally spent on Health (morning), Home (afternoon), and Leisure (evening).

Health

I continue my self-care routine to maintain good mental and physical health. It includes meditation, yoga, cycling, walking, body weight training, rest days, and health check-ups. I add seasonal sports when possible (e.g. paddling in the summer). I like to keep my fitness routine fun and I’m open to try new things.

Home

Home to me is about the physical space where I live and the relationships with my family, friends, and community. I continue to practice the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) to keep my home tidy and low maintenance. I use technology to stay connected with my family and friends who live in different time zones.

In 2021 with the rollout of vaccines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I anticipate adjustments to gradually return to pre-pandemic level of activities. I intend to give back to my community and contribute to the recovery.

Leisure

This area is about fun activities that satisfy or expand my curiosity and interests. Examples include arts, languages, movies, music, nature, photography, reading, writing, travel, wandering, etc. There is no shortage of activities or topics that I’d like to explore. The main challenge has been time.

Looking Forward

At present, the lockdown in Toronto that started on November 23, 2020 remains in place until at least January 23, 2021. I continue to follow public health measures to stay safe and well. During a lockdown, life is simplified because only the essentials are available and everything else is either closed or available online.

I feel organized going into this year with new days waiting to be filled with explorations and enrichment. I look forward to 2021 with gratitude and optimism. I hope to see you at my Weekend Coffee Share starting January 8.

How did you celebrate New Year’s Day? What’s the top priority for you in 2021? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Wrapping Up 2020

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Today is the last Wellness Weekend link up in 2020. The optional prompt is Wrapping Up. I hope you join in on the fun right here.

We’ve all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020. Personally, it started in mid-March for me. Since March, I’ve lived through two waves of the pandemic and two lockdowns in Toronto: The first lockdown from March to June and the second lockdown from November 23 to January 4, 2021 at least.

To wrap up the year, I reflect on what I’ve accomplished and how I spent my days in 2020. Here’s the ten things that stand out for me.

Cycling on the Waterfront Trail.
Cycling on the Waterfront Trail.
  1. Self-care – On the Health front, I’ve done well in 2020. I practice the 3Ws (wash my hands, watch my distance, and wear my mask) to keep myself and others safe from COVID-19. I meditate daily, cycle, exercise, practice yoga, and walk most days. The physical activities and being outside close to nature keep me in good spirits.
Kayaking around Toronto Islands in summer 2020.
Kayaking around Toronto Islands in summer 2020.
  1. Trying new and healthy things – When the gym and swimming pool are closed, I find several body weight training videos on YouTube. I learn new exercises and do workouts at home. In the summer, I go canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling. I focus my time and energy more on healthy or useful activities and less on news and social media.
Baking banana bread.
Baking banana bread.
  1. Enjoying home comforts – For the first time in many years, I stay home the entire year without traveling. I keep my home tidy and designate space for my workouts and my leisure activities. I embrace the quietude, stock up on essential items, bake new recipes, and make all meals at home.
Keeping a distance of 2m or the length of 3 geese from others.
Keeping a distance of 2m or the length of three geese from others.
  1. Socializing outside – In the summer when the first lockdown is lifted, I meet with my family and friends outdoors. We practice physical distancing, stay at least 2m (6 feet) apart, and bring our own drinks and snacks to our coffee dates.
Nice park for socializing outside.
Nice park for socializing outside.
  1. Using technology – The second lockdown requires Torontonians to limit contacts to the people we live with and the cold weather makes meeting outdoors less inviting so I rely on my phone, email, and FaceTime to stay connected with my family and friends. The important thing is we are all well.
Visiting the Our Game bronze sculpture.
Visiting the Our Game bronze sculpture.
  1. Continuing cultural fun – During the pandemic, I go almost 100% digital with my cultural activities. I learn French and Spanish on Duolingo, listen to concerts online as opposed to at indoor venues, visit outdoor public art installations as opposed to indoor art galleries, and watch virtual shows or movies at home as opposed to in the theatres.
Toronto's skyline from Toronto Islands.
Toronto’s skyline from Toronto Islands.
  1. Exploring – 2020 is the year when all my trip reservations are cancelled with full refunds. Since I’ve been to many countries, some several times, I feel fine to wait until it’s safe to travel again. The pause of travel this year is an opportunity for me to explore wonderful places in Toronto, and to prioritize my international travel in the future.
Switching from books to e-books in 2020.
Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Pexels.com
  1. Reading – I read a lot of books in 2020. My current count is 111 fiction novels and memoirs from more than 70 authors. This is my best annual reading record to date. A tough one for me to repeat. I switch from books to e-books in the summer. To my surprise, I love this change.
My first entry in the Thursday Doors photo challenge in 2020.
My first entry in the Thursday Doors photo challenge in 2020.
  1. Writing – I enjoy writing 55 blog posts and one guest post in 2020. I’m still having fun after four years of blogging. I’m thrilled when my blog readers find my story and photos interesting or inspiring. The best is when I make you smile.
Grateful for the great outdoors in 2020.
Grateful for the great outdoors in 2020.
  1. Gratitude – I feel grateful every day for many things, such as a new day, my good health, my family and friends, comfortable home, good food, amazing technology, excellent library system, well-maintained city parks, beautiful Lake Ontario, fantastic Waterfront Trail, and more.

I’d like to thank all of you who read my blog and share your thoughts. Your blogging friendships and comments are my awards. I wish everyone a healthy holiday season and a happy New Year 2021.

I’d love to hear your summary for 2020.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

November Smiles

Hello blog friends! After a few cloudy weekdays with occasional showers, the sun returns 100% this weekend. The daytime high temperature reaches 9C (48F) which is good for this time of the year where I live. The clear blue sky and beautiful tree branches make me smile.

Today I share my monthly review for November and three outdoor sculptures in downtown Toronto. I did an art walk to visit about a dozen outdoor art installations. I include three of them in this post and hope you find them interesting.

Health

Mountains aluminum sculpture by Anish Kapoor
Mountains aluminum sculpture by Anish Kapoor

The Mountains aluminum sculpture by Anish Kapoor is located at Front and Simcoe streets. It reminds me of strength, base, mountain ranges, height, the Canadian Rockies…In yoga the Mountain pose (Tadasana) is one of the foundational poses. To me, good health is the foundation or prerequisite to enjoy life.

Throughout November, I meditate daily, cycle and walk outdoors most mornings, and alternate body weight workouts and yoga at home. I use Lunden Sousa’s videos for my targeted workouts on different muscle groups. New instructor and new exercises require focus to learn the correct forms and create new mind-muscle connections. I get to make incremental changes and do a range of motions. It’s all good.

The regular fitness activities help me feel stable and strong like the mountains. Here’s my numbers for November:

  • 30 meditation sessions
  • 21 targeted workouts
  • 19 cycling trips
  • 19 walks
  • 13 full body workouts
  • 12 yoga sessions

Home

Our Game bronze sculpture by Edie Parker
Our Game bronze sculpture by Edie Parker

The Our Game sculpture by Edie Parker shows five excited young hockey players climbing over the boards ready for action. It’s located outside the Hockey Hall of Fame building at the northwest corner of Yonge and Front streets.

The exuberant looks and smiles of the young hockey players make me think of happy times with my family and friends, and hockey reminds me of Canada where my home is. With COVID-19 still around, it will be a while before I meet my family and friends face-to-face or attend a hockey game in person.

Starting on November 23, the Ontario government prohibits indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household, for 28 days. I’m grateful for technology to stay connected and share laughs with my family and friends while being apart.

Leisure

Dream Ballet stainless steel sculpture by Harvey Valentine
Dream Ballet stainless steel sculpture by Harvey Valentine

The Dream Ballet sculpture by Harvey Valentine consists of three stainless steel statues polished to a mirrored finish. They’re installed next to Meridian Hall, a major performing art venue, at the southeast corner of Yonge and Front streets.

In November, I got to enjoy interesting public art installations, blogs, books, films, and language lessons:

  • 30 French and Spanish sessions
  • 12 outdoor public art sculptures
  • 11 books (see list below)
  • 5 blog posts
  • 1 film: Still Alice (Academy Award and Golden Globe winner)

November Reading

The e-books that I read in November range from 305 to 460 pages each. They are all very good with detailed plots and many twists and turns. The first three books are Baldacci’s detective Amos Decker series. Once I started reading book #1, I wanted to read the next two books in the series. Mission accomplished! The remaining books are well written by authors that I’ve read before and two new-to-me authors (Giffin and Miller).

  1. Memory Man by David Baldacci.
  2. The Fix by David Baldacci.
  3. The Last Mile by David Baldacci.
  4. Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of A Life Less Ordinary by Liesbet Collaert.
  5. You Say It First by Katie Cotugno.
  6. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.
  7. Paper Towns by John Green.
  8. The Sight of You by Holly Miller.
  9. Everything I Never Told You by Celest Ng.
  10. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
  11. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.

Book Review

A shout out to my blogger friend, Liesbet Collaert at Roaming About blog who just launched her debut travel memoir Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of A Life Less Ordinary. I’ve connected with Liesbet for a few years via blogging. I’ve enjoyed reading her blog and the Advance Reader Copy of her travel memoir.

Plunge book cover

Plunge – One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary is a captivating and candid book where Liesbet shares her life events and travel adventures when she was in her 30s. Her overland and sailing adventures with her husband, Mark, and their two dogs, take her readers to many exotic locations such as Central America, the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, and more.

Life at sea is not always easy. Liesbet shares the challenges they faced, not only the logistics of nomadic living but also their relationship and well-being over the years while sharing a small space and being far away from their families. Liesbet’s choice to live a life less ordinary requires her to be flexible, resilient, and resourceful. I highly recommend this memoir.

Looking forward

I’m looking forward to December when the city centre is beautifully decorated. It’s a wonderful sensory experience to walk around and take it all in. My holiday plan is simple, especially this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope to share it with you in the next couple of blog posts before the year ends.

How did November go for you? Which of the three sculptures do you like? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

October Smiles

Waterfront Trail

Hello blog friends! Over here, Daylight saving time ended on Sunday November 1, at 2 o’clock in the morning. Clocks are turned backward one hour. Today I’m writing my monthly review for October. I hope you have a few minutes to pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s chat.

Family and Friends

As I type this, Toronto currently sits in Modified Stage 2 of Ontario’s Covid-19 restrictions. This means indoor dining, gyms, and movie theatres that were allowed to re-open in the summer are closed again. We are advised to limit close contact to people living in our household and maintain 2 metres physical distance from everyone else.

Park in autumn

I continue to connect with my family and friends by phone, text, and email. The main thing I’m grateful for is that no one in my circle of family and friends has contracted Covid-19. We are all well. We are able to stay in touch and to meet in person outside.

Health

Trail in autumn

I took advantage of nice weather conditions in October and did a lot of cycling and walking to lovely parks as shown in my photos. Beautiful Fall foliage is everywhere. I continue to do my meditation, full body workouts, and yoga at home. A consistent fitness routine is the best strategy for me to stay healthy mentally and physically during this pandemic.

Here’s my numbers in October:

  • 31 meditation sessions
  • 22 new targeted workouts (see below)
  • 18 cycling trips
  • 16 walks
  • 15 yoga sessions
  • 13 full body workouts
  • 5 rest days

New Targeted Workouts

To keep my fitness routine fresh, fun, and challenging, I make some changes to it every month. YouTube has been a good resource for fitness videos during this pandemic. I added two series to my workout routine: Chloe Bent’s Fit Class series in October and Lunden Souza’s Runtastic series in November.

In both series, on weekdays, I complete 20 minutes of exercises that target a variety of muscle groups. These exercises use body weight and require no equipment. I enjoy both series and may either alternate them weekly in December or find a new series to try.

Home

Fruits and Vegetables

I go to the supermarkets once or twice a week for fruits and vegetables. Most of them are from Ontario, Canada, except bananas are usually from Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Honduras, red and green grapes from Chile, Peru or California, USA, and clementines from Morocco, South Africa, or Spain. I’m thankful to be able to buy and enjoy fruits from other countries.

In the supermarkets here, prices are displayed both in imperial and metric units. I’m sharing a sample of items at regular price in the table below, with the last column showing the price equivalent in US dollars. The local supermarkets have weekly sales on selected items so with some planning, one can spend less on groceries.

ItemPrice in Canadian dollarsPrice in US dollars
Bananas$1.52/ kg or $0.69/ lb$0.52/ lb
Green grapes, Plum tomatoes, Golden delicious apples, and Barlett pears$4.39/ kg or $1.99/ lb$1.51/ lb
Red grapes, Green peppers, Red peppers, Broccoli crowns, and Clementines$6.59/ kg or $2.99/ lb$2.27/ lb

Grocery Home Delivery

I experimented with grocery home delivery service for the first time in October, just in case I need it in the future. For comparison purposes, I ordered dry food items and household products from two local service providers. Overall, both offered satisfactory services on my first order so I’d use them again. I’m glad to have the home delivery option for a small fee.

Leisure

Boardwalk on a sunny day

I keep myself entertained by observing nature, visiting outdoor public art installations, blogging, reading novels, listening to music, and completing my daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo. I’m thankful to have access to excellent digital services. Here’s my numbers in October:

  • 31 French and Spanish sessions
  • 13 e-books (see list below)
  • 10 public art installations
  • 4 blog posts
  • 2 digital concerts and many playlists

October Reading

I read thirteen e-books that I’d rate 3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars. Most of the authors were new to me. Here’s the list by author’s last name:

  1. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen.
  2. The Guest List by Lucy Foley.
  3. Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory.
  4. 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand.
  5. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.
  6. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren.
  7. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren.
  8. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord.
  9. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.
  10. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid.
  11. Landline by Rainbow Rowell.
  12. One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London.
  13. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne.

Your Turn

  1. How was your October?
  2. How do my grocery regular prices compare to those in your location?
  3. What book(s) have you read recently?

I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Time To Switch Up

Greetings blog friends! Autumn officially arrived here on September 22 as per my wall calendar. The weather from September 20 to 26 inclusive was good, with mainly sunny skies and some rain on one of the afternoons. Daily high temperatures ranged from 16C to 26C (62F to 79F). A nice transition from summer to autumn.

Autumn arrival

When I go cycling and walking around my neighbourhood, the grassy fields and many trees are still green. Some of the late summer flowers are in full bloom. Look at these pink cosmos and dahlias. Aren’t they gorgeous?

The maple trees are changing colours though. Every morning I see more and more of the yellow, orange, and red hues that are part of the Canadian autumn splendour. It’s like Mother Nature has done her painting overnight and touched a dab of red here and a dab of orange there.

More signs of autumn are at the grocery stores: Potted mums in assorted colours and pumpkins in orange and white. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten white pumpkin yet, have you?

Potted mums and pumpkins.

I love having four seasons. Every time a new season arrives, it’s a reminder for me to review and switch things up in my daily routine. Each season lasts about 13 weeks. That’s a nice period of time to try something new and see results.

Haircut

I started making changes at the top, literally, my head. I went for a haircut. First time since COVID-19 pandemic started here in mid-March. Same hair salon, same hairstylist, new procedures: Temperature check, hand sanitizer, masks, bigger space between chairs, contact tracing sign-in sheet, and less talking.

I was the only customer in the salon at the time. After having a few inches of my hair cut off, I feel lighter and ready for the new season. My hair length is now the same as in my profile photo.

Fitness

  • Swimming: The long range forecast is calling for a nice autumn season so I anticipate to continue my cycling and walking outdoors. Paddling on the water is going to end soon. I may resume indoor swimming as a substitute for paddling since the pools are open.
  • Resistance bands: My resistance band broke after I’ve got so much good use out of it. I replaced it with a 4-pack resistance band set that comes with a door anchor and different resistance levels: Light, Medium, Heavy, and X-Heavy. I love that resistance bands are light, portable, inexpensive, and good tools for home workouts or when I travel.
  • Boxing: I’m going to add no-equipment boxing workouts to my fitness routine to spice it up. I tried boxing before and liked it so this autumn is time for me to bring boxing back into my life. I’ve seen some good boxing workout videos on YouTube. I’m saying Yes to jab, cross, hook, keep moving, stay focused, and have fun while doing it.

Reading

It’s a coincidence that while I’m thinking about switching things up, I received a Skip the Line notification that one of the e-books I put on hold became available. This novel is titled The Switch, written by Beth O’Leary. The Skip the Line option lets me jump the queue and borrow the book for 7 days only, as opposed to the usual 21 days.

The Switch book cover.

The Switch is a story of generational location swapping. It showcases how it’s never too late to change your life and pursue your dreams.

The Switch is funny, positive, warm, an easy and enjoyable read from beginning to end.

I had read O’Leary’s debut novel, The Flatshare, and enjoyed it a lot, too.

Overall a good first week of Autumn. It’s time to switch up a few things in my daily routine to keep me active and happy. No drastic changes, just a dash of spices here and there to challenge my mind and body.

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

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

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.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 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.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

June Smiles and Summer Week 2

Pink poppies.

Hello blog friends! How are things going? I hope all is well with you. Come on in to my blog space for a coffee (or tea) chat and catch up on our news.

If we were having coffee (or tea), I would share that Toronto had a full week of sunny and warm days. We said goodbye to June and the first half of 2020. We welcomed July with a Happy birthday to Canada on July 1. Life in Ontario continues to evolve with some good news on the COVID-19 front.

June was a month full of stunning sights and fragrance from flower blooms. Birds continued to be active and they filled my mornings with beautiful sounds. The lake shone like diamonds in the sun. I took many photos and included some samples in this post.

June in Numbers

I feel grateful to wake up every day with a new set of 24 hours to live. We all had 30 full days or 720 hours in June. Of the 720 hours, I spent about 240 hours for Sleep, another 240 hours for Home Life, and 240 hours for Fun.

I kept track some of my fun activities in simple numbers. Every one of the following items made me smile:

  • 1 new baking success: Banana blueberry loaf. Recipe below. I used blueberries instead of cranberries.
  • 2 coffee dates with my sister.
  • 3 bicycle rides.
  • 3 online jazz and piano concerts: Miles Davis jazz at Lincoln Centre, Diana Krall on YouTube, and John Legend’s live streaming from his home studio.
  • 4 blog posts.
  • 4 movies: Election, Margot at the Wedding, Keep the Change, and One Week. All four were good although I liked One Week the most.
  • 6 books: They were included in my Reading Update #2.
  • 13 strengthening workouts.
  • 13 yoga sessions.
  • 26 walks to where I could see beautiful flower plants and fish-themed art.
  • 30 online French and Spanish sessions.
  • 30 meditation sessions.

Some good news on the COVID-19 front, mainly easing of restrictions and re-opening of businesses. Here’s what’s of interest to me:

  • up to 10 people allowed for social gathering.
  • up to 10 people allowed in social bubbles.
  • library curb-side pickup by appointment.
  • dental clinics, hair salons, farmers’ markets, ferry service to Toronto Islands, malls, and restaurant patios although I’m in no rush to go to these places yet.

Summer Week 2 in Pictures

The second week of summer continued to be sunny and hot with a heat wave that lasted several days. The high temperatures ranged from 27C to 33C (81F to 95F) plus humidity so it felt a few degrees hotter. Not a drop of rain the entire week.

My day went something like this:

  • Morning: Breakfast, meditation, cycling, walking, and strengthening workouts or yoga. I usually take photos during my walk.
  • Afternoon: Lunch, checking in with family and friends, home maintenance, and language lessons. Kayaking in the late afternoon if lake is calm.
  • Evening: Dinner, reading, writing, movie or music, and sleep.

A sample of what filled up my senses one morning last week:

Another sample to show more water, some Canada geese and aquatic plants, with a pop of red colour from my kayak:

On July 1, to do something special on Canada Day, I went kayaking with my best friend within the Toronto Islands for about three hours. It was a beautiful time while being in peaceful company with cormorants, egrets, ducks, fish, swans, turtles, lots of green plants, and fresh water.

Great egret within Toronto Islands.
Great egret within Toronto Islands

Conclusion

I was so happy and grateful for how June turned out for me. Week 2 of summer 2020 was amazing. Words are not adequate to describe the beauty that I see every day. The weather forecast for the coming week is sunny and warm again. I look forward to making the most of it.

How was June for you? How did your week go? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

3 Fun Lists To Share

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. Come on in to my blog space so we can have a coffee or tea and catch up since I last shared my imaginary fishing expedition with you.

If we were having coffee, I’d say that I hope you like lists. I use them to capture key points when they’re still fresh in my mind and I can expand them into more details later. I have three fun lists to share in this post: The Extras, Mind Exercises, and Summer Fun. Feel free to read all three, or skip to the list that may be of interest to you.

The Extras

Orange flowers.

My first list is the extras that make my ordinary days extra-ordinary. They bring me many smiles this week:

  • Chats with my family members online.
  • Chats with my girlfriends by phone.
  • Chat with my neighbour: in-person, outdoors, and 2 metres apart.
  • Blue skies and sunshine all week long, high 30C on summer solstice.
  • Booked and anticipating a kayak outing next week.
  • Home-baked banana blueberry loaf: My new baking success.
  • New books from the library.
  • New sightings of urban wildlife: Birds, toads, and river otter pups.
  • Outdoor walks in the sunshine.
  • Scents of lilacs, roses, and blends of other flowers.

I’m grateful that my family and friends are all well. To date, no one in my social circle is sickened by the COVID-19 virus. Summer is officially here and nature continues to show off her seasonal beauty that makes my time outdoors wonderful.

10 Fun Mind Exercises

My second list shows ten fun exercises that I do to keep my brain sharp. The 6th Wellness Weekend link-up of 2020 is on today. The optional prompt for June is Mind Exercises. Please join in on the fun. All links are at the bottom of this post.

When we’re young, most of us are not concerned about our health. As we age, we know we need to do something to stay healthy. I assume that my blog readers all know we need to take care of our mind (the brain), just like any other part of the body.

When it comes to brain health, I refer to the Alzheimer Society Canada web site. It has plenty of helpful information and resources such as: A page on brain health, a printable brochure titled Heads Up for Healthier Brain, and a short video on “What can you do to keep your brain healthy?”.

I do several fun mind exercises on a regular basis and try new things to keep my brain as healthy as possible as I age. I also try to eat healthy, stay socially active, get enough sleep, and go for my regular health check-ups.

Here’s my list of 10 Fun Mind Exercises:

  • Bake a new recipe: Baking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all involve different parts of the brain.
  • Do math in my head without the aid of calculator, or pencil and paper.
  • Do physical exercises that involve switching sides, counting steps, sets, repetitions, and focusing on different muscle groups.
  • Learn foreign languages: French and Spanish. The listening and hearing involved stimulates the brain, and more efforts required to differentiate the two similar languages.
  • Learn new skills: Baking, blogging, learning a new 20-minute dance workout with various dance moves, and photography.
  • Meditate: Of all the mental exercises, meditation may be the most challenging. It takes practice to quiet our mind.
  • Play with words: Write blog posts, play word games or Scrabble.
  • Practice yoga: Many yoga poses require focus and good co-ordination of mind and body.
  • Read widely, study directions, and maps.
  • Test my recall: Make a list, memorize it, recall it an hour or so later to see how many items I can recall.

My Summer 2020 Fun List

My blogger friend, Leslie at Once Upon A Time Happily Ever After, has invited me and other bloggers to join in her Summer Fun List link-up so the third and last list in this post is my Summer 2020 Fun List.

My Summer 2020 Fun List

My Summer 2020 Fun List focuses on summer in the city. It has a number of outdoor activities that take advantage of the warm weather and the natural amenities by Lake Ontario. These activities are inexpensive and require minimal preparation on my part.

Here’s my list of 10 Summer Fun Activities:

  • Eat a lot of summer fruits.
  • Enjoy ice cream.
  • Explore local gardens or parks.
  • Go cycling on the waterfront trail.
  • Have a picnic by the lake.
  • Look for wildlife in the city.
  • Paddle within Toronto Islands.
  • Read light novels.
  • Relax at a lake beach.
  • Walk on the boardwalk.

I hope to share some of these activities with my family and friends as the government eases restrictions on social gatherings, and to check off all ten items on my summer fun list in the next thirteen weeks, before the first day of Autumn hits.

How did your week go? What fun mind exercises do you do? What’s on your summer fun list? I’d love to hear your comments.

I’m linking up this post to Wellness Weekends 2020, Summer 2020 Fun List, and other link-ups as listed here.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

March Wrap-Up

Hello blog friends

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. March started smoothly for me for the first twelve days, then on Friday March 13, things started to change rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the grim news unfolded around the world, I felt grateful to be home with my family. We made adjustments to our routine and prepared to stay in for the long haul.

I chose my photo of a row of colourful Muskoka chairs in the sun as the header image for this post. The sunshine is welcoming, and these chairs provide relaxation. Imagine we’re gathering in a wide circle for a coffee chat and it’s my turn to share my month of March with you.

Family and Friends

I’m grateful that my family is well, I’m well, and my friends are all well so far. We stay in touch by phone, text, or email as usual. There were two family birthdays and my friend’s mother turned 94 in March. I made sure to say happy birthday to all three.

Keeping A Routine

On or around March 13, we started receiving daily updates and urgent news about the virus spread in Canada, Ontario, and Toronto. The government started closing public schools, libraries, community centres, borders, etc. and advised people to stay home and keep a safe physical distance from others to slow the spread of the virus. More restrictions came as March progressed.

Since I had planned to be in Spain for the last two weeks of March, my home calendar from March 16 to 31 was blank. After my flights were cancelled, I decided to keep the routine that I had before the pandemic, with some adjustments due to the circumstances. I feel that this structure gives the day purpose, adds positivity to the day, makes it possible to manage time, and gives me a sense of achievement.

Lake view

Health

Throughout March, I continued with my health activities and felt good. This included daily meditation, outdoor walks, strengthening workouts, and yoga. I also kept my bedtime to get about 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and greeted each morning with a smile.

When the gym, yoga classes, and swimming pool were closed, I moved my exercises to my living room and alternated the dates: Strength workouts on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Yoga on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I used my body weight and a resistance band for my workouts. I did shorter walks outdoors while practicing physical distancing and stayed closer to home.

Arts

Before March 13, I viewed three interesting glass art exhibits by Nadira Narine, Jared Last, Rob Raeside, and one clay and porcelain exhibit by Amber Zuber.

After all non-essential businesses were closed, I viewed public art that are available on my outdoor walks. Spring has arrived and nature provides subtle beauty everywhere I look.

Purple croci

Blogs

I wrote five blog posts in March, hosted the March Wellness Weekend link-up, and maintained my usual blogging connections. I also did the monthly back-up of my blog content and media. What’s new was an interview that I did for one of my blogger friends. It’s to be published in May so watch this space.

Books

I read six books in March: Celestial Bodies, Bad Move, Elevator Pitch, Love Walked In, A Better Man, and Snowmen. The list of the eighteen books I read in the first quarter of 2020 is here.

Home

Since I had planned to be in Spain for the last half of March, I didn’t do grocery shopping before mid-March. As a result, after my trip was cancelled, it took me several visits to the different supermarkets to get our usual groceries. Fresh produce was fine while some dry goods were sold out.

My local grocery stores started adding more sanitizing stations, redirecting incoming shoppers, placing markers on the floors for physical distancing, more frequent disinfecting of common surfaces, and reducing opening hours.

With the extra time gained from not going to any event, I experimented with two recipes: clafoutis and sugar-free banana muffins. I used blueberries for the clafoutis instead of cherries. Both recipes turned out delicious and I’d make them again. My thank-you to Suzanne and Malcolm at Picture Retirement blog for sharing the banana muffin recipe.

Learning

I continued my daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo. It’s part of my “keeping a routine” strategy. There is no excuse to lose my streak of daily lessons while I’m healthy at home.

Movies

Before March 13, I watched one good movie, Jojo Rabbit, with my neighbours. After March 13, we postponed our movie nights until further notice. Surprisingly, I haven’t had to reach out for any movie DVDs yet.

Music

Before concert halls were closed, I attended two wonderful classical piano recitals, one by the highly-gifted 9 year-old Sunny Ritter from Austria and the other by Lisa Tahara, Jayne Abe, and Victoria Yuan who played amazing two hands, four hands, and six hands piano.

Sunny Ritter

Travel

I had five trip cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Spain in March, two in Ontario in April, Iceland in May, and California also in May. No sadness though because the best place to be during these turbulent times is Home.

The airlines, hotels, and rail company that I dealt with have been great with updates and automated cancellation process on their web sites. I’m grateful to receive either full refunds or travel credits for all five trips via electronic means with no phone call or in-person wait times.

Volunteering

Earlier this year I had signed up to volunteer at two running race events, one in March and one in early May. The organizers had to cancel both events. After the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, I volunteered to call my elderly neighbours to chat. We’ve also been doing hand clapping or pot banging from our homes at 7 PM every evening to show our support for front line health care and other essential workers.

So that was my March. Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2021 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.