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.

Peace by Grenadier Pond

Hello blog friends! Over here, the good weather continued this past week. We had plenty of sunshine and warm daytime high temperatures that ranged from 18C to 24C (66F to 75F). We broke record on Tuesday and are now back to about 12C (54F) this weekend.

It was a pleasant week. I went cycling and walking every morning, except Saturday. I got all my fitness-at-home sessions done. I had long phone conversations with my friends who live abroad. My order for grocery home delivery came on time with everything in good condition. I did my daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo, read and enjoyed two fiction novels, which bring my year-to-date total of books read to ninety seven (97).

Today is the 11th Wellness Weekend link-up of 2020. The optional prompt is Peace. I think we all yearn for a more peaceful time after what’s been happening around the world this year. Feel free to join in the link up here and visit other blogs.

Grenadier Pond in Autumn
Grenadier Pond in Autumn

With Peace in mind, on one of the sunny mornings this past week, I cycled to Grenadier Pond, located in the south west end of the city. It is named after the local Town of York garrison of the 1800s and their use of the pond for fishing. Grenadier Pond is about 1 kilometre long and 0.5 kilometre wide. It’s a calm natural body of water and provides lovely vistas.

Trail along the shoreline of Grenadier Pond

A beautiful trail follows its shoreline leading to occasional lookouts and finally to a marsh at the northern end of the pond. The views are stunning especially on a sunny day.

Views of Grenadier Pond
Views of Grenadier Pond

Interpretive signs are available along the trail to provide more information about the wildlife and plants at the pond. Several notable wetland plant species are present, including sweetflag, broad-leaved cattail, common arrowhead and blue-flag iris.

Ducks in Grenadier Pond
Ducks in Grenadier Pond

Grenadier Pond and its restored shoreline provides habitat to a wide assortment of water birds, fish, turtles, dragonflies, damselflies, and other wildlife. I saw several groups of ducks that paid no attention to me even when I got close to the water’s edge.

Fishing is permitted along a designated section of the Grenadier Pond shoreline. Common fish found here include largemouth bass, Northern pike, sunfish, brown bullhead, and carp.

Views of Grenadier Pond
Views of Grenadier Pond

It was peaceful to walk along the trail while listening to the soft sounds of water and rustling leaves. I found it pleasant to have the pond pretty much to myself on a weekday morning.

Hillside trails by Grenadier Pond
Hillside trails by Grenadier Pond

On the east side of Grenadier Pond, hillside trails lead into High Park, an amazing, beautiful, and large park in Toronto, that deserves a separate blog post.

During the week and on Remembrance Day, I visited the Victory-Peace Monument at Coronation Park. The City of Toronto commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Second World War in Coronation Park as part of Remembrance Week (November 5 -11, 2020). I remembered our veterans and those who have served and continue to serve our country in the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as those who help maintain peace.

Canadian flags at Victory-Peace Monument on Remembrance Day 11.11.2020
Canadian flags at the Victory-Peace Monument on Remembrance Day 11.11.2020

Canadian flags were planted around the Victory-Peace Monument by the Mayor, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Legion and Youth to memorialize the 3,452 Torontonians who fell during the War. November 11, 2020 marks 100 years of Remembrance in Toronto.

After a lovely bicycle ride and walk, on my way home I was rewarded with a mirrored view of the clouds on Lake Ontario on a calm day. I continue to be grateful for all the pristine areas around the city that I have to choose from.

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

Linking here.

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

Fun Walk | Autumn Colours

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope your day is going well and you have a few minutes to stay for a chat with me over a cup of coffee or tea.

Today is the 10th Wellness Weekend link up. The optional prompt is Walking, which is one of my favourite activities. If you’ve recently gone for a walk, feel free to join in, meet new friends, and share your walk here.

For those who are new to my blog, I’ve been living without a car for many years. I walk to exercise and to get from A to B in all four seasons. I’m sharing one of my recent walks and some photos of autumn scenery along the way.

Preparing for an enjoyable walk

I check the weather before I head outside. Whenever I see a sunny forecast, I smile and do my happy dance. I wear comfortable clothes, sun protection, and sturdy shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel and thick flexible soles, to cushion my feet and absorb shock.

Waterfront trail

Since I walk outdoors, in cooler weather I wear layers that I can take off when I get warm. For my 5K walks, I bring water and snacks in my day pack. I also choose to walk where the path surface is fairly even, and during the day when visibility is good.

Walking a scenic route

I do many of my walks along the scenic shore of Lake Ontario and the Waterfront trail which is reserved for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists. I walk different routes for variety. I usually walk without listening to music or an audio book or a podcast because I want all my senses to focus on what’s in nature.

Yellow leaves
Yellow leaves

This month, for example, I see plenty of beautiful trees showing off their yellow, orange, red and even deep eggplant hues. There are evergreen trees as well which provide a nice backdrop for the autumn colours. Birds, butterflies, squirrels, sea gulls, and Canada geese are common sights.

Orange to red leaves
Orange to red leaves

Autumnal themes continue in gardens, parks, and planters in the neighbourhood. Examples: Light purple asters, potted mums, ornamental cabbage or kale plants, and a lot of pumpkins. I bet there will be a lot of pumpkin carvings to decorate for Halloween on October 31.

Warm up, Cool down, and Stretch

I start my walk slowly for five to ten minutes to warm up my muscles and prepare my body for exercise. Then I pick up my pace for a brisk walk to make it count. At the end of my walk, I walk slowly for five to ten minutes to help my muscles cool down. After I cool down, I pick a scenic spot for a view while gently stretch my muscles.

Stretching after a long walk with a view

Keeping track

Even though I walk year-round, I keep track of how many walks I do in a month as part of my Health maintenance routine. I don’t use an app or an electronic device, just a simple spreadsheet where I keep track of all my key activities. This helps me see where I started from, how many walks I’ve made, and serve as a source of motivation.

Knowing the benefits

I’m grateful for easy access to the lake shore and many parks and gardens. After breakfast, I usually go outside to explore nature, open space, fresh air, the lake, plants, and animals. I come home feeling good and ready for the rest of the day.

I know my regular brisk walking helps me:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Strengthen my bones and muscles
  • Boost my energy and immune function
  • Improve my balance and coordination
  • Improve my mood and keep me mentally healthy
  • Let my creative thinking flow

There is no need to complicate physical activity. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help us live a healthier life. We can really walk our way to fitness.

How did your week go? Do you do brisk walks regularly? 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 4: Trillium Park

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

Summer Week 4

Summer week 4, from July 12 to 18 inclusive, was warm with the high temperatures ranged from 27C to 32C (80F to 90F). The humidity returned from Tuesday on, making it felt like 32C to 40C (90F to 104F). The rain on Thursday provided some relief from the heat.

Similar to Summer Week 3, I cycled, walked, exercised, went kayaking twice, meditated, practiced yoga, took language lessons, read four novels, listened to online concerts, and watched one movie. Also had picnic lunches by the lake, ate lots of summer fruit, and enjoyed cold drinks.

I visited several beautiful parks and gardens along the lake shore by bike and on foot. On my kayaking trips to Toronto Islands, a few duck families swam right next to my kayak and the cormorants showed off their perfect dives. In the gardens, lovely hydrangeas and lily flowers are dominant this week.

Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail

Today is the 7th monthly Wellness Weekend link-up. The optional prompt is A Fun Activity. So I choose to walk along the scenic William G. Davis Trail in Trillium Park at Ontario Place as my fun activity. I hope you join me on this virtual walk.

About The Trail

  • Trail name: William G. Davis Trail, in honour of Bill Davis, who was the Premier when Ontario Place first opened in 1971.
  • Trail entrance: 955 Lake Shore Boulevard West, in Trillium Park, at Ontario Place East entrance.
  • Trail length: 1.3 km. It’s in the green area from the top right to bottom right of the map below.
  • Trail surface: asphalt/ concrete.
  • Trail rating: Easy.
Source: Ontario Place
Source: Ontario Place

Trail Highlights

The Ravine walls with Moccasin Identifier: Once we enter Trillium Park, two beautiful stone walls connected by a bridge frame our first glimpse of Lake Ontario. Developed in collaboration with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Ravine walls celebrate First Nations’ heritage and culture with the moccasin identifier engraved into the stone, a visual reminder to recognize and honour the past.

The Lake views from the trail: On one side, the trail hugs the spectacular waterfront. The vistas around the bends are amazing.

View from William G. Davis Trail
View from William G. Davis Trail
View towards Toronto's city centre
View towards Toronto’s city centre
Around the bend on William G. Davis Trail
Around the bend on William G. Davis Trail
View from William G. Davis Trail
View from William G. Davis Trail

The Park views on the trail: On the other side, the trail is surrounded by thousands of native trees, plants, flowers and beautiful sedimentary rocks and boulders.

The Bluff, Trillium Park, William G. Davis Trail
The Bluff, made up of stacked boulders and rocks, replicates the natural landscape throughout the province, and also offers a long communal sitting area to enjoy the beautiful views out over the lake.
Hough's Glade: This hidden gathering place is a tribute the original Ontario Place landscape architect, Michael Hough.
Hough’s Glade: This hidden gathering place is a tribute the original Ontario Place landscape architect, Michael Hough. Four rocks are arranged in a circle and surrounded by medicinal plants, butterfly bushes and a wild flower meadow. It’s a wonderful place to sit and share stories with friends.

There is also a Fire Pit to hold bonfires when permitted, and the Summit located at the southern tip of the park provides gentle slopes and lush rolling hills to sit on and look out to the lake. Vista Eatery is open with outdoor seating for a quick snack or a leisure meal while gazing at sailboats.

Even though the William G. Davis Trail is only 1.3 km long, it’s a trail that invites a few laps. The rest of the Trillium Park is on 7.5 acres of public green space on a spectacular part of Toronto’s waterfront so there’s much more to explore and enjoy.

View towards Humber Bay
View towards Humber Bay

Conclusion

Summer week 4 was fun and wonderful. I’ve cycled and walked in Trillium Park and on the William G. Davis Trail a few times this summer. I hope you enjoy the virtual walk with me. The weather forecast for week 5 is hot and humid. I look forward to making the most of week 5.

How did your week go? What fun activity did you do? I’d love to hear your comments.

I’m linking up this post to Wellness Weekends 2020 and other link-ups as listed 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.

Committing to Stay Fit and Have Fun

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope you’re doing well. Today is time for the 5th monthly Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020. The optional prompt is Commitment.

In this post, I’m sharing how I keep my commitment to stay fit and have fun before and during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. Yes, the Fun factor keeps the commitment alive. Let’s start with what Commitment means.

The Definition of Commitment

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Commitment means:

  • a promise or firm decision to do something.
  • willingness to give your time and energy to a job, activity, or something that you believe in.
  • something that you must do or deal with that takes your time.

Committing to a Wellness Journey

Hiking trail

I make a commitment to carry out a balanced wellness routine for my mind and body because I believe good health is essential to enjoy life. I have many ideas to live an enriched explorer’s life. I want to realize as many of them as possible.

I adjust my wellness routine whenever it is necessary such as when I travel, or as I age, or during the current physical/ social distancing situation. All along, I make sure to have fun in my routine.

In case you’re interested in knowing more about me and my wellness journey, I’m listing two guest posts and one page that I’ve written before:

Staying Fit While Physical/ Social Distancing

Steps at Toronto Music Garden

Working out, meditating, and practicing yoga are three of the few things we can do at home and they’re great for our physical and mental health. In my city, during the lockdown phase, we can go outside for walks to exercise so here’s what I’ve been doing for my wellness since mid-March:

  • Smile greeting and meditation at home: daily.
  • Walking outdoors: Monday to Friday. Sunday is optional. No walking on Saturday as it’s the busier day in my neighbourhood.
  • Strengthening workouts at home: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
  • Yoga at home: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

The good news is we can get a good workout including strength training with minimal or no equipment. I allocate a small area in my home for my workouts and yoga practice. I use a chair, a resistance band, my own body weight, and my yoga mat.

If you recently start or resume doing exercises and you have your doctor’s approval to proceed, my suggestion is to start off small, build up over time, and track your progress. The gradual process prevents injuries and soreness. It also builds your confidence and good healthy habits for the long term.

If you’ve been good at regular exercising, keep it interesting. Complacency and repetition lead to boredom or plateau and make our workouts less effective. Some of the ways to spice up our workouts include: increase number of repetitions, change the sequence of exercises or the exercises themselves or the play list or the video, or add something new. The possibilities are endless.

Having Fun While Staying Fit

Daffodils

The Fun factor is important to keep me committed to my wellness routine. When I walk outside, I change my route frequently, I look at public art or nature and enjoy my time outdoors. I make it count.

I recently tried Chloe Bent’s Dance Cardio Workout video. Chloe is a CanFitPro certified Group Fitness Instructor in Canada. The video is one of five videos in the Fit Class Live series released in 2018.

What I like about this dance cardio workout is that it’s 20 minutes long, it’s fun, there is no rule, no equipment required, I learn something new, I do it at my own pace, I make up some moves, I enjoy the music, and I smile. Chloe is clear, energetic, and friendly, and one of her teammates shows the low impact version.

There are no affiliated links on my blog. If you’re looking for something fun to freshen up your fitness routine, click here to try Chloe Bent’s Dance Cardio workout on YouTube. Skip the ad and dance like no one is watching!

When was the last time you danced and smiled? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join the May 2020 Wellness Weekend link-up.

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

Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. Forrest Gump’s expression “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” came to my mind this week. If we were having coffee or tea, I’d share what made me smile and feel positive since my Trumpeter swan sightings last week.

It’s also time for the fourth Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020. The optional prompt is Water Sports. I hope you join me and my blogger friend, Leslie, to share what helps you stay healthy these days.

Family and Friends

I did my round of calls, email, and texts to my family, friends, and neighbours. Everyone has a story and I’m listening. Sharing our thoughts and updates was like sharing a box of chocolates. We were able to make each other smile or laugh out loud. I feel grateful that I’m with a group of optimistic people and everyone is well so far.

Three crocus colours

Family members and friends who are working shared their experience of working from home or how their employers arranged for physical distancing in the workplace. My nieces and nephews who are students shared their online learning experience and social life while schools are still closed. Friends who care for elderly parents shared how they’re managing it. My neighbours shared their early “senior hour” shopping experience.

Health

I’ve been diligent about my fitness routine to keep me emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. Here’s what I do to stay calm and feel positive:

  • Daily meditation, 15 minutes/ day.
  • Deep breathing at meditation, yoga, bedtime, or any time.
  • Outdoor walks with physical distancing 5-6x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Strengthening workouts 3x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Yoga 3x/ week, one hour each time.
Gulls by the lake

My outdoor walks are like a box of decadent chocolates. I love my time by the lake where I see open space, hear the sounds of water and bird life, and feel what the weather brings. The birds and waterfowl are very active. Their antics and conversations made me smile.

Nature

Tulips

Nature continues to show her best in spring time and delight me with her transformation from one day to the next. Daffodils and tulips started to bloom this week, adding more colours to the existing crocuses and hyacinths. I feel grateful to be able to walk outdoors with my senses all engaged.

A bunny

Oh, I spotted a bunny in a bush. S/he moved slowly around for a while before hopping away. I live near the centre of the busiest city in Canada so seeing bunny in the wild is a rare sighting that made me smile. I usually see them in the suburbs or more rural areas.

Shopping

Grocery shopping has been like a box of chocolates. The grocery stores continue to tweak their directional signs, the queue location, and in-store procedures so every trip is a mini-adventure. The stock inventories are inconsistent. I never know what I’m going to bring home with me.

Basmati rice bag

Example: No long grain rice from Thailand? Buy Basmati rice from India. I’ve never had such a colourful rice bag with a zippered top before. Now I own one. The rice was good, and I have two rice brands to choose in the future. I feel grateful to be home in my familiar surroundings while having opportunities to try food products from faraway places.

Water Sports

Being close to one of the Great Lakes means I’m close to popular outdoor water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing, power boating, and stand-up paddling. The season usually starts in May and ends in late September.

Canoes and kayaks

The bright colours of the canoes and kayaks made me smile. They look like cheerful chocolate wrappings. Even though it’s still chilly to be out in the lake at this time of the year, the canoes and kayaks lying in the sun are like a promise of the summer fun to come. Something to look forward to.

How did your week go? What helps you stay healthy? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Looking Forward to Spring

Hello and welcome to the third Wellness Weekend link-up of 2020! I hope that despite the grim COVID-19 pandemic news, the new season entices you to do something that brings you joy. The link-up optional prompt is Spring Forward so I’m sharing the 5 things that I look forward to in Spring.

5 things I look forward to in Spring

1) Sunny days, longer daylight hours, and milder temperatures: On Sunday March 8, we started daylight saving time and moved our clock forward an hour. We had some gorgeous sunny days this week, with high temperatures reached 14C (57F). Although it was still on the cool side for the rest of the week, it felt very nice for outdoor walks.

A sunny day by Lake Ontario
A sunny day by Lake Ontario

2) Spring flowers in local florist shops and gardens: During one of my walks this week, I saw potted camellias, daffodils, forsythia, and tulips for sale at some of the local shops. Soon we’ll have pansies, cherry blossoms, and more spring flowers in our local gardens and parks. They bring cheerful colours to the city which has been mostly white or in muted colours throughout the winter.

Pink and highly fragrant Camellia Lutchuensis
Pink and highly fragrant Camellia Lutchuensis

3) Bird watching: We have a lot of mallards, ducks, swans, and Canada geese in Toronto Harbour. The long-tailed ducks are fun to watch as they dip and stay under water for a long time before popping up. The red-winged blackbirds have returned with their vocal chorus. Soon they’ll be nesting and become aggressive to anyone who goes near their nests. Bird watching will then take on a slightly different meaning 🙂

Mallards and American black ducks
Mallards and American black ducks

4) Spring outdoor activities: Time to swap skates and skis for wheels like bicycles or roller blades. I look forward to cycling and heading out on one of the dedicated bike paths in the city. Spring is an excellent time for cycling before the hot and humid summer weather arrives.

Bike Share Station
Bike Share Station

5) Syrup, the sweetest sap, as in Maple Syrup: As winter wanes, maple trees’ sap starts to flow and the maple syrup harvest can begin. Throughout March we have festivals to celebrate one of Canada’s tastiest exports – maple syrup. Many public events unfortunately got cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, I look forward to enjoying one of the maple lattes at Second Cup Coffee, a Canadian coffee retailer and roaster.

Maple Fresh Coffee Brew, Maple Latte, and Maple White Hot Chocolate
Maple Fresh Coffee Brew, Maple Latte, and Maple White Hot Chocolate

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Hiking to Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall

Welcome to the second Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020! I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s weekend and your wellness plans for 2020 have been going well. The optional prompt for February is Hiking so I’m sharing a moderate hike to the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. My sister and I completed this hike when we were in Baños, Ecuador.

Where is Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall?

Baños (full name Baños de Agua Santa) is located about 180 km (112 miles) south of Quito. This town is known for its waterfalls, hiking trails, and hot springs. The Devil’s Cauldron waterfall (El Pailon del Diablo) is 18 km from the town centre. It’s one of Ecuador’s most powerful waterfalls and one of the top rated attractions in Baños.

How challenging is this hike?

I classify this hike as Moderate because although the path is clearly marked, it has uneven surfaces. It also involves stairs and a suspension bridge. As long as you watch your step and are not afraid of heights or suspension bridges, the hike is rewarding.

Let’s hike together!

We started following the Green River (Rio Verde) to the Isla del Pailon entrance. While there are other entry points, this entrance lets us see the full height of the waterfall. Entry fee was $2 per adult and $1 per child.

Green River (Rio Verde) in Banos, Ecuador
The Green River (Rio Verde) in Baños, Ecuador

The water flow was strong, rushing by the black volcanic rocks seen along the river banks. On the right of the photo below, the walking path is behind the low lichen-covered stone wall. We soon understood why the wall is essential for our safety.

The Green River flows towards a cliff
The Green River flows towards a cliff

We followed the stone path and reached the suspension bridge. On the left, we saw the side views of the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall which plunges some 80 meters (263 feet) over a sheer cliff to the rocks below.

Side view of Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Side view of Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

It’s necessary to cross the suspension bridge to see the full view of the waterfall and to understand why it’s called the Devil’s Cauldron. The maximum capacity of the bridge is 50 people. Of course it swayed as people got on it. Crossing the suspension bridge was stepping outside my comfort zone but I did it!

Suspension bridge at Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Suspension bridge at Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

At the other end of the suspension bridge, we faced the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. It is beautiful and powerful. Its appearance and sheer force are mesmerizing. People who stood at the Lookout platforms below looked so small next to the waterfall.

Devil's Cauldron waterfall, Baños, Ecuador
Devil’s Cauldron waterfall, Baños, Ecuador

We continued to descend the path to the lower level. When we stood at the Lookout place, we could feel the mists, see the curtains of water, and hear the thundering sounds of the powerful waterfall plunging straight down to the bottom.

Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

We could see the rocky bottom where water was churning before it settled into a smoother flow and another suspension bridge looking like a thin stick at a distance.

It’s amazing that the stone path was carved out of the cliff side to allow visitors to get close to the waterfall. The surrounding scenery was also beautiful with cascades running down the mountain sides.

Cascades near Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Cascades near Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

We walked back to cross the suspension bridge and exited the same way that we came in. On our way out, we stopped to admire a variety of pretty flowers grown along the path. I’m sharing a small sample below.

Gratitude moment

I’m grateful for another amazing day and another wonderful hike in Ecuador with my sister. Altogether we did about 3 km return trip with stairs and suspension bridge crossings. We learned something new about the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. The hike and nature gave me new energy. I’m looking forward to our next hike.

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